When we practice Yoga, our consciousness which is normally identified with the physical body begins to expand into subtle zones. This is a description of the various movements given by Sri Aurobindo & The Mother.
In yoga all is centred round one’s consciousness. It is the consciousness that is to be oriented and changed. There are different ways in which it is taken hold of, gathered from its normal state of dispersion and channelled in a direction that is most conducive to its development.
(Ascent above to the Sahasrara Chakra/Superconscient) One is the movement of ascent.All the threads of the consciousness are taken up one by one, brought into one focus, and then directed upward, above the mind. There is a willed concentration of attention and the whole consciousness is sought to be lifted up on the wings of a steady aspiration. The object is not only to break through the limitation of the mental bounds of our being, but to lead the consciousness to an altitude where it opens into the realms of the Spirirual, the Higher Consciousness which gradually takes up the lower in itself.
(Expansion into the cosmic planes) The second is to expand the consciousness around. Basing oneself upon the Knowledge that all life is One, that there is One Divine everywhere, one sets out to feel and experience this truth in one’s consciousness. For this purpose the consciousness is spread out beyond the confines of the body and mind and made to embrace larger and larger expanses of Existence. The individual consciousness is enlarged and extended to identify itself with the universal Consciousness. And when this union is complete one lives in the cosmic Consciousness.
(Inner being) There is a third way and that is to go down into the depths of one’s being. By steady effort and close attention one withdraws from the surface preoccupations and deliberately plunges inside. There is a feeling of descending into a well; each breath seems to take you one step deeper. The thread of consciousness goes deeper and deeper till a point is reached when nothing else seems to exist. You have arrived at the root of your being, the fount of your consciousness, the Divine substratum.
(Psychic being) Still another way is to go within the being, within the reaches of the heart. Here the picture is one of entering a Hall or a series of halls inside a building. As you concentrate and proceed in your consciousness step by step, you pass through corridors after corridors of your being till you arrive at the sanctum sanctorum, the seat of the Psychic being, the divine delegate seated within you.
The Mother observes that the imagery of the Well, the Hall etc. are not simply figures of speech. They answer to mystic experience universally and can be of definite help in sadhana. They provide a support and also the direction to the effort that is put in. The image of Doors for instance, has a concrete reality in deeper spiritual experience. Even the ancient Veda speaks of the Divine Doors (devih dwarah), swinging open to admit man to the companionship of the Gods. And of course we remember the Mother’s thrilling description of the Doors She had to hammer open on the Lord’s Day to usher in the Age of the Supramental. To conceive the barrier in the form of a closed door and concentrate upon it in one’s consciousness with a strong will and aspiration, does lead to its breaking open one day or the other, releasing a flood of change in the consciousness.
We have spoken of the four ways in which the consciousness is to be trained to pass from its human into the spiritual, divine nature. One chooses the way that is found most natural to him. But it is not that that will be his way always. As the consciousness develops and new needs arise, it may be necessary to switch on to other ways depending upon the demands of the Path. Usually the progress lies through a combination of these several ways.
- M.P. Pandit. Mother of Love, Vol 1, Page 69
Sri Aurobindo on the various movements of consciousness
All these are different actions of the Force on the ādhāra with the one intention of opening it up from above and below and horizontally also.
The action from above opens it to the descent of forces from above the Mind and the ascent of consciousness above the lid of the ordinary human mind.
The horizontal action opens it to the cosmic consciousness on all its levels.
The action from below helps to connect the superconscient with the subconscient.
Finally the consciousness instead of being limited in the body becomes infinite, rises infinitely above, plunges infinitely below, widens infinitely on every side. There is besides the opening of all the centres to the Light and Power and Ananda that has to descend from above.
- Sri Aurobindo. Letters on Yoga, Triple Transformation
Sri Aurobindo on the veil between the inner and the outer
The piercing of the veil between the outer consciousness and the inner being is one of the crucial movements in yoga. For yoga means union with the Divine, but it also means awaking first to your inner self and then to your higher self, – a movement inward and a movement upward. It is, in fact, only through the awakening and coming to the front of the inner being that you can get into union with the Divine. The outer physical man is only an instrumental personality and by himself he cannot arrive at this union, – he can only get occasional touches, religious feelings, imperfect intimations. And even these come not from the outer consciousness but from what is within us. There are two mutually complementary movements
in one, the inner being comes to the front and impresses its own normal motions on the outer consciousness to which they are unusual and abnormal.
the other is to draw back from the outer consciousness, to go inside into the inner planes, enter the world of your inner self and wake in the hidden parts of your being. When that plunge has once been taken, you are marked for the yogic, the spiritual life and nothing can efface the seal that has been put upon you.
- Sri Aurobindo. Letters on Yoga, Experiences of the Inner and the Cosmic Consciousness
Sri Aurobindo on the ascent-descent movement
There are two movements necessary for this connection (with the Divine center above the head) to be established.
One is upward; the vital rises to join with the higher consciousness and steeps itself in the light and in the impulsion of a higher force.
The other is downward; the vital remains silent, tranquillised, pure, empty of the ordinary movements, waiting, till the dynamic power from above descends into it, changes it to its true self and informs its movements with knowledge as well as power.
That is why the sadhak feels sometimes that he is rising up into a happier and nobler consciousness, entering into a brighter domain and purer experience, but sometimes, on the contrary, feels the necessity of going back into the vital, doing sadhana there and bringing down into it the true consciousness. There is no real contradiction between these two movements; they are complementary and necessary to each other, the ascension enabling the divine descent, the descent fulfilling that for which the ascension aspires and which it makes inevitable
- Sri Aurobindo. Letters on Yoga, Transformation of the Vital