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Consciousness as Freedom

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Consciousness is liberty, unconsciousness is slavery. When you are unconscious you are a prey to all kinds of forces and beings outside yourself and over which you have no control. You are a plaything in the hands of any power or influence that seeks to possess you and when you are in such a state it is the undesirable powers that seek and secure hospitality in you. It is only when you become conscious that you begin to react to the outside forces that try to control you or utilise you.

In the lower creation it is always a play of divergent forces and the individual being is only a field, a passive field for the play of cosmic or collective forces. It is in man, with the awakening of an individual consciousness in him, that a movement of self-assertion, of willed reaction has started in nature, that is to say, one is no more content with playing the role of a slave executing helplessly what is demanded of him by an external agent but is now making his own terms and propositions. That is how man is man because he is creating his own self and his own environment.

Consciousness, however, is not mere consciousness, that is to say, awareness; it is also power, power for organisation and execution. It is unconsciousness that invariably leads to disorderliness, disorganisation and confusion. It is the light of consciousness that brings order out of chaos, gives an orga­nised direction to forces moving at random and with no pur­pose. Man has started organising his life since he acquired the light of consciousness. He has been doing the yoga of the intelligent will (Gita’s buddhi-yoga) since his advent upon earth. But even in man this force of light, the energy of consciousness is not fully operative because man is not fully conscious, he is only partially so. His mind is conscious and has developed into intelligence (a little strayed into intellectuality); but there are large domains in him that are wholly unconscious, that is to say, move in mechanical rounds, a passive slave of external impacts. I am referring to his vital being and his physical being. Even like the mind these too must admit into themselves the light of the consciousness in order to free themselves from the influence of other external forces and attain the sense of their own truth and self-fulfilment.

Indeed each part, even each constituent element of our being, has an individuality of its own, a personal being and consciousness. And it is because it is not aware of that inner reality, because it has fallen unconscious, therefore it has entered into this life of bondage and slavery and mechanical existence. When life becomes conscious, the life-energy be­comes luminous, the vital being gradually gains self-control and self-direction. Instead of being moved about by irresponsible and irrepressible desires and impulses it attains a clarity as to what it should desire and what it should effectuate; and along with that light secures the strength also to act up to the direc­tions of that light.

The body too similarly can be filled with light and light­ energy; instead of being wholly at the mercy of the physical environment, the natural conditions around or even subject to its own innate or atavistic suggestions, it can be aware of its true reality, its inner nature, its higher potentials.

I have spoken of the light in the mind, the consciousness that has awakened there and has organised its activities as an autonomous unit. But we must not forget that it is only partially so. The autonomy is very limited, for a good part of the human mind is far from being conscious, there is a part half-conscious and a part almost wholly unconscious. This hemisphere so to say is under the influence of the vital and the physical being with their unconscious and ill-organised influence. The true light comes from elsewhere, the mind in so far as it receives the light becomes conscious and propor­tionately autonomous. The light is always the spiritual light, the consciousness of the spirit which is above and beyond mind. Not only the mind but the vital, and the physical too, in order to be consciously organised and free and autonomous must know how to take in that light beyond the mind and bathe in its liberating influence.

In fact, education means precisely this instilling of the consciousness into the part that is sought to be educated. Usually the thing is done in a different way which is wrong, at least an inefficient way. By education we usually mean exercising, that is teaching some exercises mostly of memory on some subject in which one seeks education. It is more or less an exercise of mechanical repetition. Whether it is of the mind or of the body the procedure is the same. As the muscles of the body are sought to be strengthened and developed through repetitive exercises, the mental faculties too are put under a training that consists of similar repetitive exercises. To store the mind with as many kinds of information as pos­sible, hammer all ingredients of knowledge into the brain cells – learning by rote as it is termed, this is what education normally means; but as I said, it is consciousness that is to be evoked in the mind and it is not done by mere mechanical exercises. Even the body does not reach its true perfection unless the exercises are attended with consciousness, awareness, a play of light into the movements of the body, into the limbs that participate in the play of the exercises. Naturally the vital does not need any exercise for its development, it is naturally exercised, much exercised. It has to be not exercised but exorcised, that is to say, purified and controlled. And that means the introduction of the pure light of consciousness into it.

I have laid stress on consciousness, but consciousness has three facets or steps. The first is simple consciousness, the next is self-consciousness and the last supra-consciousness. First you become conscious of a thing, next you become con­scious that you are conscious of the thing, last something else is conscious in and through your consciousness.

Nolini Kanta Gupta

(Nolini Kanta Gupta was a revolutionary, linguist, scholar, critic, poet, philosopher and a man of deep spiritual realisation. Author of nearly 60 books he was a Trustee of  Sri Aurobindo Ashram.)