In The Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo describes at some length what he calls ‘the refusal of the ascetic’. This refusal is caused by the focus on the attainment of the Supreme by disregarding or even eliminating the relationship of the seeker to the life of the external world and society. He eschews all objectives or goals that do not lead directly to the Supreme. In so doing, he necessarily treats the material world, the vital powers and the mind as a form of distraction, an illusion, or at best, of being of lesser importance.

Sri Aurobindo takes issue with this approach and its underlying implied recognition of a duality of Truth versus Illusion. He maintains that oneness of all consciousness and the forms created by that consciousness mandates that we understand and respect the divine meaning and significance of the manifestation, and carry out that meaning in our search for the Divine and our adherence to the divine intention.

Dr. Dalal notes: “The traditional Path of Knowledge (Jnana Yoga) in India aims at eliminating successively the body, the life and the mind and taking a straight plunge by merging into the supracosmic Reality of Sachchidananda. However, for an integral self-knowledge, says Sri Aurobindo, it is necessary to ascend through each of the superconscient planes including the Supermind in the passage to Sachchidananda.”

Sri Aurobindo continues: “The method of the traditional way of knowledge, eliminating all these things, [body, life, mind] arrives at the conception and realisation of a pure conscious existence, self-aware, self-blissful, unconditioned by mind and life and body and to its ultimate positive experience that is Atman, the Self, the original and essential nature of our existence. Here at last there is something centrally true, but in its haste to arrive at it this knowledge assumes that there is nothing between the thinking mind and the Highest, buddheh paratastu sah, (That which is supreme over Buddhi is He) and, shutting its eyes in Samadhi, tries to rush through all that actually intervenes without even seeing these great and luminous kingdoms of the Spirit. Perhaps it arrives at its object, but only to fall asleep in the Infinite. Or, if it remains awake, it is in the highest experience of the Supreme into which the self-annulling Mind can enter, but not in the supreme of the Supreme, paratpara. The Mind can only be aware of the Self in a mentalised spiritual thinness, only of the mind-reflected Sachchidananda. The highest truth, the integral self-knowledge is not to be gained by this self-blinded leap into the Absolute but by a patient transit beyond the mind into the Truth-Consciousness where the Infinite can be known, felt, seen, experienced in all the fullness of its unending riches.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Our Many Selves: Practical Yogic Psychology, Introduction, Sri Aurobindo on Our Many Selves, Planes and Parts of the Being, pp. xxxii-xxxiii

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 17 books and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.