The goal of traditional spiritual paths is mainly to achieve individual liberation or realisation of the Self, although some, such as Mahayana Buddhism, add an element of self-giving in action by having the realised soul, the Bodhisattva, renounce full liberation until such time as all other beings are liberated. This is a recognition of the universal oneness of the entire creation, and is a clear sign of spiritual fulfillment. This realisation, however, is not intended either to bring about any transformational change in the external life of the individual, nor perfect the action of mind, life and body, nor bring about the broader manifestation and action of the next stage of evolutionary development for humanity as a whole. It is in these areas that Sri Aurobindo’ distinguishes spiritual realisation from supramental transformation.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “Spiritualisation means the descent of the higher peace, force, light, knowledge, purity, Ananda, etc., which belong to any of the higher planes from Higher Mind to overmind, for in any of these the Self can be realised. It brings about a subjective transformation; the instrumental Nature is only so far transformed that it becomes an instrument for the Cosmic Divine to get some work done, but the self within remains calm and free and united with the Divine. But this is an incomplete individual transformation — the full transformation of the instrumental Nature can only come when the supramental change takes place. Till then the nature remains full of many imperfections, but the Self in the higher planes does not mind them, as it is itself free and unaffected. The inner being down to the inner physical can also become free and unaffected. The overmind is subject to limitations in the working of the effective Knowledge, limitations in the working of the Power, subject to a partial and limited Truth, etc. It is only in the supermind that the full Truth-Consciousness comes into being.” Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 8, The Triple Transformation: Psychic, Spiritual and Supramental, The Supramental Transformation, pp. 229-237

Author's Bio: 

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