Ascent experience

One-pointed to the immaculate Delight,
Questing for God as for a splendid prey,
He mounted burning like a cone of fire.
To a few is given that godlike rare release.

(Sri Aurobindo.  Savitri, Book I, Canto V)

The ascent experience is where the mental or vital sheaths of the being rise above the head – towards the Sahasrara Chakra – and become purified by contact with the Superconscient.   The culmination of this experience is the ability to rise above the physical body and unite  with the Infinite in Cosmic Consciousness.  Note that the most material part of the consciousness always remains associated with the physical body.

The ascent process occurs due to the Udana Prana:

Finally, the Yogin acquires at a certain stage of development the power of abandoning his body definitively without the ordinary phenomena of death, by an act of will, or by a process of withdrawing the pranic life-force through the gate of the upward life-current (udana), opening for it a way through the mystic brahmarandhra in the head.

(Sri Aurobindo, Synthesis of Yoga, CWSA vol. 23-24, p 521)

See Vital Sheath for more.

Image by Wonderful World. Click for source

Sri Aurobindo describes this experience in various letters to disciples

  • That [rising above the head] is very good. Such risings help to break down the lid between the higher and lower planes in the consciousness and prepare the wideness.
  • Chest and head rising higher are sensations of the subtle body – it means that the mind and heart consciousness (thinking mental and emotional) are rising to meet the spiritual consciousness plane above the head.
  • It is the subtle parts of the physical that go up. The external consciousness can also go up, but then there is a complete trance. There is not much utility for the complete trance in this sadhana.
  • If all went up, there would be no existence in the body. There is always some consciousness and therefore some self supporting the body.
  • No, the body itself cannot go up – how could it? The body is meant for keeping the consciousness linked to the physical world.

What you felt was not imagination at all, but the usual experience one has when the consciousness is lifted out of the body and takes its stand above the head. One is no longer bound then by the physical consciousness or the sense of the body – the body becomes only an instrument, a small part of the consciousness which has to be perfected. One enters into a larger free spiritual consciousness in place of the present bound and limited physical consciousness. If this lifting up above the body can be repeated always until it can be maintained, it will be a great landmark in your progress. It is the confinement in the physical consciousness that makes you (and everybody) narrow and selfish and miserable. Hitherto the higher consciousness with its peace etc. has been descending into you with great difficulty and fighting out the vital and physical resistance. If this release upward into the higher consciousness can be maintained, then there will be no longer the same difficulty. Much will still remain to be done, but the foundation will have been made.

It is the aim of the sadhana that the consciousness should rise out of the body and take its station above, – spreading in the wideness everywhere, not limited to the body. Thus liberated one opens to all that is above this station, above the ordinary mind, receives there all that descends from the heights, observes from there all that is below. Thus it is possible to witness in all freedom and to control all that is below and to be a recipient or a channel for all that comes down and presses into the body, which it will prepare to be an instrument of a higher manifestation, remoulded into a higher consciousness and nature.

[Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, Triple transformation]

From the Synthesis of Yoga

The conscious centre of our being, our thought, our will and action, even the original force of our sensations and emotions rise out of the body and mind and take a free station above them. No longer have we the sensation of living in the body, but are above it as its lord, possessor or Ishwara and at the same time encompass it with a wider consciousness than that of the imprisoned physical sense. Now we come to realise with a very living force of reality, normal and continuous, what the sages meant when they spoke of the soul carrying the body or when they said that the soul is not in the body, but the body in the soul. It is from above the body and not from the brain that we shall ideate and will; the brain-action will become only a response and movement of the physical machinery to the shock of the thought-force and will-force from above. All will be originated from above; from above, all that corresponds in gnosis to our present mental activity takes place.

[Sri Aurobindo, Synthesis of Yoga, The Conditions of Attainment to the Gnosis]

Another kind of ascent experience. (wikimedia commons. Click image for source)

Excerpt from the Evening Talks

NIRODBARAN: What is the significance of the experience in which the being is uplifted from the crust of the physical?

SRI AUROBINDO: It is the liberation of consciousness by its rising upwards, free from the physical crust. Ordinarily it is this physical crust that prevents the consciousness from going within or upwards. What makes you ask?

NIRODBARAN: Sahana had the experience, and she wants to know the significance. Just before Darshan she felt as if her whole being were uplifted from the physical crust which appeared like a hollow case. The experience lasted one or two days.

SRI AUROBINDO: When any descent takes place, this crust prevents one from feeling it, but when the crust is removed the ascent can take place more easily and the higher force can also be brought down. It is the physical crust that gives the most opposition. There is, of course, the vital opposition too but the physical is stronger. Did Sahana have no such experience before?

[Nirodbaran. Evening Talks, 29 NOVEMBER 1939]

Another excerpt from the Evening Talks

SRI AUROBINDO: In the usual experience, it is one’s habitual consciousness that rises: it may be any part of the being, the mental, vital or physical, that goes up to the higher planes above the mind and stays there for a time; some organisation takes place and then the consciousness comes down with some result. In the ascent and descent about which I have written in The Life Divine, the whole being—you may call it the Self—goes up, say, to the Overmind, settles there and meets the Divine and then the descent of the Divine takes place. Obviously this is more difficult.

SATYENDRA: Is descent easier than ascent?


NIRODBARAN: I thought it was through the head alone that both happen.

SRI AUROBINDO: It is usually through the mind, when the mental consciousness goes up, but it can happen otherwise also, the vital or physical consciousness directly going up without passing through the mental.

NIRODBARAN: Sahana’s experience of ascent and her feeling of nothingness and then her return with the sense of a flame in the heart —is it an experience of an ascent through the heart?

SRI AUROBINDO: I don’t remember well. In her case it wouldn’t be through the mind. But all the same it is a major ascent into the spiritual consciousness.

SATYENDRA: I had also the experience of ascent through the Muladhara Chakra before doing any Yoga.

SRI AUROBINDO: That is the physical consciousness ascending.

NIRODBARAN: It would be nice to have this experience of ascent and descent.

[Nirodbaran. Talks with Sri Aurobindo, 9 March, 1940]

See Also

  1. Explaining the Ascent-Descent in Integral Yoga
  2. Kundalini in ancient Greek and other non-Indian cultures
  3. Various ways in which the Kundalini rises
  4. Why does Yoga give you a “high”?
  5. The subtle sounds which indicate progress in Yoga
  6. The Triple Cord which has to be sundered
  7. The Golden Lid or Hiranmaya Patra which has to be ruptured
  8. Explaining out-of-body and near-death experiences

21 thoughts on “Ascent experience

  1. mike

    So, when The Force Descends into the body does it open all the chakras and does it awaken the sleeping kundalini at the base???

    1. Sandeep Post author

      Yes, one by one, all have to open in order to attain perfection. Opening the last one purges sexual urges.

      Gorakhnath says in the Goraksha-Sataka:
      Shat-cakram shodasadharam tri-lakshyam vyoma-pancakam
      Swa-dehe ye na jananti katham sidhyanti yoginah.

      translation: Six Cakras, sixteen Adharas, three Lakshyas and five Vyomas, how can those yogis, who do not know these in their body, attain perfection?

      Theon spoke of two more Chakras below the spine (see Chakras page) which correspond to the subconscious worlds (i.e. the seven worlds of Patala in Hindu literature). In order to enter those worlds, your consciousness has to concentrate on those points.

  2. mike

    l assume that when it passes through these chakras we attain the spiritual/occult abilities of those centres too, or can the Divine Force simply pass though without fully activating them???

    1. Sandeep Post author

      Mishaps can happen.
      Gopi Krishna
      in his book Living with Kundalini describes his painful experience. It seems the Kundalini awakened but went up the wrong channel (ida or pingala, I don’t recall) instead of sushumna. He had no Guru to guide him so he suffered for a few months, before it reawakened properly.

  3. Sandeep Post author

    A technology-assisted “ascent experience” to supplement our crazy world

    Yehuda Duenyas is an MFA student in Rensselaer ‘s MFA program. His project, Ascent, uses EEG controlled performer flight as its centerpiece. It controls a person’s “levitation” by reading the brain using an Emotive EEG headset.

    Read the New York Times article on this technology

    And here’s the video

  4. mike

    Yes, interesting. Not sure how useful it will be though, except as a thrill in some amusement park lol.

    What l don’t understand about the ‘opening of the chakras’ is how it happens. ls it the Descending Force that opens each chakra as it passes through them on the way down or are they only activated [start spinning] when the ascending Kundalini rises through each one?
    ln SA’s letters on Yoga a lot of disciples were having Spiritual experiences with the Descent of Force but apparently the chakras were’nt activated – otherwise all the ‘siddhi’s’ or ‘powers’ associated with them would have developed as well [full-blown clairvoyance etc…]. So, l’m assuming the Descending Force clears the way [purifies our being] for the Ascending Kundalini to rise and fully open each chakra on the way up. lf not, what decides when the ‘chakra’s’ become fully ‘ACTIVE’ ? if you see what l mean…

    l remember reading about people practicing Tai Chi who had sent their CHI into the wrong channels and suffered quite bad results. l think CHI is possibly the same as the Kundalini Shakti… One man wrote a book on this, and said one of the simplest method’s of curing the problem was to place the tongue at the roof of the mouth.

    1. Sandeep Post author

      Mike: What l don’t understand about the ‘opening of the chakras’ is how it happens. ls it the Descending Force that opens each chakra as it passes through them on the way down or are they only activated [start spinning] when the ascending Kundalini rises through each one?

      I think the upward and downward movement are complementary. In both cases, the body is being prepared to be plugged into the Divine Power above.

      Mike : ln SA’s letters on Yoga a lot of disciples were having Spiritual experiences with the Descent of Force but apparently the chakras were’nt activated – otherwise all the ‘siddhi’s’ or ‘powers’ associated with them would have developed as well [full-blown clairvoyance etc..

      I believe there are stages in spiritual development. You can have basic Self-realization and be a blissful being without having any major occult powers. To become a Guru, you need special dispensation from the Divine.

      Living in the Brahmic consciousness brings peace but even that could be a partial, according to this snippet

      Nirodbaran: I am a little surprised. When you said that there are five or six people in the Ashram who are living in the Brahmic consciousness, I thought X was one of them.

      Sri Aurobindo: The Brahmic consciousness? I must have used the term loosely. Peace and calm is only a part of that consciousness and not the whole of it. One may be in contact with it or able to go into it at will or there may be the reflection of it in the mind and the vital. All that is partial. One has to go further, into the higher consciousness above the head and remain there.
      (Nirodbaran. talks with Sri Aurobindo, vol. 2, 4 MARCH 1940)

      And Knowledge can come before Power, according to this excerpt

      Disciple : Advaitanand met some sadhak at Tiruvanamalai who was arguing with him that knowledge need not be accompanied by power.

      Sri Aurobindo : Yes, it is true. It depends on whether you lean on the side of witness Purusha or power or both. If a man realizes the Sad aspect, the Pure Being, he may have no power, because Pure Being does not act. On the contrary, there may be those who may know many things but have no power to act. Generally even in the mind you see that a man may have much knowledge but he may be very weak. Even in the case of those who realize the power aspect the power may not be always used.

      (A.B. Purani. Evening Talks with Sri Aurobindo, 15th June, 1940)

      Mike: If not, what decides when the ‘chakra’s’ become fully ‘ACTIVE’ ?

      All Chakras become fully active when the Kundalini is able to traverse the length of the Sushumna unhindered.

      Mike: l remember reading about people practicing Tai Chi who had sent their CHI into the wrong channels and suffered quite bad results. l think CHI is possibly the same as the Kundalini Shakti… One man wrote a book on this, and said one of the simplest method’s of curing the problem was to place the tongue at the roof of the mouth.

      Gopi Krishna also had the same problem (wrong channel). Refer to the comment above.

      Yes, Chi may be the same as Kundalini. There was extensive propagation of Buddhism in China.

      Placing the tongue at the roof of the mouth is called Khechari Mudra in the Yogic system.

  5. Pingback: Ways of navigating this blog | Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo & The Mother

    1. Arpan

      As far as I know, silver cord is the pranic connection between the viodytal body and the physical body

  6. mike

    Here is what the Mother says about the ‘silver cord’

    “Like Alma she was able to leave her gross material body, then the subtle body, then the next still more subtle body, and so on — twelve times one after the other, because each successive body consisted of the ever subtler substance of the twelve worlds gradually ascending from our material world up to the highest, outer limit of the manifestation. But always there is the silver cord or thread of life which has to keep connecting the subtle bodies with their material base on earth, for if it snaps one loses contact with the material world and dies. Once, during a working session, Théon had a terrible outburst of anger, thus cutting off Mirra’s silver thread; happily both of them were sufficiently knowledgeable to connect it again with her material body (after she had been dead for a short while!).”

    1. Satya

      Why do we discuss about the…. n didn’t sri maa herself used to avoid her children from going that path

  7. Harshvardhan Singh

    If we consider that indeed in future we all attain salvation, what is the guarantee that again the Brahman won’t descent and as a consequence, we won’t again have to bear the miseries of life?

    1. Sandeep Post author

      What do you mean by “we all attain salvation”.

      In Hinduism, Moksha is individual not collective

      this is unlike Abrahamic religions where everyone goes to heaven together

  8. mike

    Someone asked SA a similar question.

    “A correspondent has asked whether it is possible to receive spiritual initiation from you. He has heard from somebody that if one has earnestness to be your disciple, you appear in your mental body and give the initiation.

    There is no formal initiation; acceptance is sufficient, but I do not usually accept unless I have seen or the Mother has seen the person or unless there is a clear sign that he is meant for this Yoga. Sometimes those who desire to be disciples have seen me in dream or vision before acceptance.

    20 May 1937”

    If you see them regularly you’ve probably been accepted, especially if they give you some experience which can be related to the Yoga [Descent of Force, Peace, Light, Ananda, Knowledge etc..]
    Or they might just say ‘YES’. Always use your disxrimination, though.


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