There is a complete reversal of consciousness that occurs when the inner being opens and the awareness shifts inward. It may be experienced as a separation of an observer watching all the actions and events in the outer world, including the thoughts, feelings, perceptions and outer stimuli that impinge upon the being. Suddenly one might feel transported into a different state of awareness where the outer actions seem to be somewhat illusory or unreal. This seems to be one of the experiences that led to the development of the concept of the illusion of the world. Or one may be transported into a psychological space of peace or intense devotion.

For some people it comes when they experience a crisis, such as a near death experience. Suddenly they awaken into the world with new senses, and they experience the Divine consciously within them, around them, surrounding and supporting everything that exists, and they are at peace. Sometimes the inner doors open through meditation, through various practices of chanting or pranayama, or devotional intensity as well. There is a long history of seekers going on vision quests to break free of the bondage of the outer world and its calls to experience a deeper reality.

However the experience comes, it has the power to transform the life of the individual who has been granted that grace. While one lives constantly in the outer reality of the world the idea is that these experiences are simply dreams or hallucinations. But once the experience of the inner consciousness opens, it becomes clear that there is an even greater sense of reality that abides with it than with the things of the outer world.

We see many people who become disillusioned with their seeking after wealth, enjoyment, power in the world and begin to recognise that there is a deeper significance to their lives. They respond to the inner call, and get glimpses, initially, and then, over time, the consciousness, the awareness shifts to the inner being and a new sense of purpose, joy and connectedness takes over the being. Some reject the consciousness of the external world at this point and work towards liberation. Sri Aurobindo’s yoga calls for an integration and a transformation of the experience of the outer world through application of this new standpoint and consciousness.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “There are always two different consciousnesses in the human being, one outward in which he ordinarily lives, the other inward and concealed of which he knows nothing. When one does sadhana, the inner consciousness begins to open and one is able to go inside and have all kinds of experiences there. As the sadhana progresses, one begins to live more and more in this inner being and the outer becomes more and more superficial. At first the inner consciousness seems to be the dream and the outer the waking reality. Afterwards the inner consciousness becomes the reality and the outer is felt by many as a dream or delusion, or else as something superficial and external. The inner consciousness begins to be a place of deep peace, light, happiness, love, closeness to the Divine or the presence of the Divine, the Mother. One is then aware of two consciousnesses, the inner one and the outer which has to be changed into its counterpart and instrument — that also must become full of peace, light, union with the Divine.” Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Planes of Consciousness and Parts of the Being, pp. 48-51

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's work since 1971 and is author of a daily blog on the subject at He is author of 16 books of Readings in Sri Aurobindo's writings and is editor in chief at Lotus Press. Santosh is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.