Beyond the mask
An exploration of human identity based on the work of Sri Aurobindo

Matthijs Cornelissen

PART I: SOME METHODOLOGICAL CONSIDERATIONS

Introduction

It has been argued that the post-modern developments of constructivism and social constructionism have been a shift in the direction of the Indian tradition (for example, Singh 2004). At first sight, there seems to be a point to it. By taking mainstream psychology at least partially beyond the simplistic, single-track positivist assumptions of behaviourism, these developments have created a greater openness towards cultural variety in general, and there are a number of issues that seem to point specifically to the Indian tradition: The use of constructivism in research and education introduces a certain amount of self-reflexivity, and self-reflexivity has been a hallmark of the Indian tradition since time immemorial. Similarly, the respect for the individual and his active involvement in the construction of his very own way of looking at the world, can be seen as pointing in the direction of the Indian concepts of svabhava and svadharma, which say that each individual has his own ideal way of being and his own inner law, or form of “right action”. The complementary stress of social constructionism on relationships and the influence that society has on our thinking goes, again, well with the stress in the Indian civilization on the social embeddedness of the individual.

However, from an Indian perspective, all these developments are still insufficient on at least two counts. First, because the level of self-reflexivity does not go deep enough with as result that the explanatory discourse remains limited to the physical, biological and social domains. Second, and this is arguably the cause of the first, because the enquiry is still third person. The latter is unfortunate, because it means that in mainstream psychological research, the inside story of psychological phenomena is left to members of the lay public, and the researcher has to rely on the low-quality self-reports they provide. As a result, it is exceedingly difficult for mainstream psychology to go deeper than the little bit of our surface nature that all of us human beings have a natural, immediate access to. The only two large-scale attempts at digging below these surface phenomena, introspectionism and psychoanalysis, got mired in irresolvable difficulties in terms of method of enquiry, interpretation, and extrapolation.

Within this context, the introduction of qualitative methods (for example, Braud and Anderson 1998; Denzin and Lincoln 2000; Polkinghorne 1983) can be hailed as a considerable further progress, because these methods allow, at least in principle, for subtler and more refined forms of enquiry. Participative and Collaborative forms of research (for example, Reason 1988), in which the results are consciously co-created between the researcher and the researched, are, moreover, likely to lead to more humane and better “grounded” research environments. All this is for the good, but it has not solved the real problem, the superficiality of the original data. Methodologies which rely exclusively on naïve introspection, can, in principle, produce not much more than a social demography of unskilled perceptions of surface psychological phenomena. This has its use and can even be important, for example, to give a voice to traditionally underprivileged and under-represented groups in society,1 but it is insufficient for psychology to reach the depths from where the processes on the surface are actually determined. From a classical European perspective, one could say that in spite of all its advances, our present academic understanding of human nature has not been able to move beyond what the Romans used to call the “persona”, the mask of actor. In other words, what mainstream science has not yet discovered is the actor behind the mask, the deeper, innermost Self that the philosophers and sages from ancient Greece exhorted us to know. From a classical Indian perspective, these deeper layers of the personality are the most interesting part of human nature, and what the Indian tradition can offer to academic Psychology is a sophisticated theoretical framework and a well worked-out methodology for their rigorous and intellectually coherent exploration.

In the rest of this article, I’ll indicate, in very short, how the Indian tradition has gone about its study of this inner realm and what this has led to with regard to the centre of our human identity. As representative of the Indian tradition, I’ll use the work of Sri Aurobindo.2

Science has to pierce below the surface

To make progress, science has to pierce below the surface: It has to build theories about the underlying processes that give rise to the phenomena; check these out with minute and disciplined observations executed by trained and dedicated specialists who use the best instruments available; adjust the theories to arrive at a closer match with the observed phenomena; and as an offshoot, suggest methods that can produce desirable results on a larger scale. These applications then lead, in due time, to new and better instruments as well as to further theoretical and practical questions and refinement. This is the way the hard sciences are making their phenomenal progress, and interestingly, in a somewhat more informal way, this is also the way yoga develops, at least in its earlier stages: A student accepts a theory from literature or on advice from his teacher, practises accordingly, adjusts his understanding on the basis of new experience, gradually builds up a set of personal theories that explain his experiences, and then allows these theories to guide his further inner work. Gifted yogis have a broader range of experience to start with, and in the later stages of their life, they learn not only from their own experiences but also from those of their disciples. As a result, they develop a broader understanding and on that basis, create more universal and more widely applicable theories and methods, which in due time end up being used by larger numbers.

The basic, overall process by which yogic knowledge develops is thus quite similar to the way scientific knowledge develops, but there is one crucial difference, and it might well be the refusal of mainstream psychology to accept this one crucial difference that has prevented it from reaching the depth of understanding and making the type of cumulative progress that we see both in yoga and in the hard sciences. The crucial difference is that the deeper knowledge of the Self, which Plato enjoined and which the Upanishads acclaim as the highest good, involves different pathways to knowledge and perhaps even different types of knowledge than those that the hard sciences have used with such astounding success in the physical realm. It is useful to look at this in some more detail.

How to study consciousness: Two different types of knowledge

According to cognitive science, scientific knowledge, like all other human knowledge, is constructed by the nervous system on the basis of prior knowledge stored in the brain and fresh inputs coming in from our external sense organs. Functionally, the process is assumed to be somewhat similar to the way “artificial intelligence” builds up knowledge in computers and robots, though it is increasingly clear that the underlying physical processes must be entirely different.3The most interesting difference is, however, not mechanical or even functional, it is that human knowledge does not consist only of processed data: it is conscious. And it is here that modern science draws a complete blank. Science has ignored consciousness for a long time, and still does not make much headway with its study, for the simple reason that science limits itself to objective knowledge, while consciousness is quintessentially subjective. An exclusively objective, third-person science can study physical correlates of consciousness, but consciousness itself escapes.

Before we go further, it is important to realize that the incapacity of objective science to deal with consciousness is not just some small, trivial gap in its understanding of the world, because consciousness is, literally, all-important. Everything that really matters to us — truth, love, beauty, meaning, their derivates, their opposites, even science — all of it is inconceivable without consciousness. In a deep sense, we cannot exist without consciousness.

That science is unaware of the role consciousness plays in its own existence is not unique to science: it has this in common with our ordinary awareness of the world. Consciousness is in our normal waking state almost entirely transparent to itself: Though we have some vague sense of “being conscious”, what we are aware of is not consciousness itself but whatever our thoughts, feelings and sensations present to ourselves. In other words, in our ordinary waking state we identify our consciousness with the workings of our mind — with our thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations — and we are aware of whatever they are busy with. This is so even in introspection where we look with some part of the mind at what is happening in another part of the mind (or rather, at what did happen there a moment earlier). This identification of consciousness with the workings of the mind is the reason why it is so difficult for the modern mind to accept the idea that the whole world might be conscious: Because inanimate things have no nervous system, they cannot think the way we do, and so they can also not be conscious the way we are. What we forget is that there is no reason why there could not be other ways of being conscious than those of the thinking mind.

The Indian tradition never had this difficulty. In fact, in the Indian tradition, identification of one’s self (as the bearer of one’s consciousness) with the workings of the mind is commonly seen as the root-cause of human suffering. Accordingly, it developed ways to experience consciousness as separate from the workings of the mind. It did that through an entirely different way of knowing than the one used by science. The scientific way of knowing is made by a movement, which feels subjectively as a movement outward: one follows, and identifies with the active, constructive labour of one’s thought. In the type of psychological knowledge the Indian yogis developed, one does the opposite, one makes a movement backward: one withdraws one’s consciousness from its involvement in the workings of the mind, and one becomes a kind of silent space in which these workings take place as if on their own. It may be noted that this is an entirely different process than introspection. In introspection one turns one’s thoughts and perceptions inwards, and one observes whatever happened there a moment earlier. In other words one is still identified with one’s thoughts, though in this case with thoughts that are turned inwards rather than outwards. The practical difference between the two is that in ordinary introspection, there is judgement and a running commentary on what one sees happening inside. In the yogic self-observation things are left “as they are” and kept in silent attention without comment or judgment. It may also be noted that initially, when one has just learned to silence one’s mind, the silence has to be maintained somewhat artificially as one actually still identifies with that silent mind: the moment a thought occurs one either comments on it, or one gets carried away by it. In due time, one can, however, learn to identify instead with the intrinsically silent consciousness that surrounds and supports the mind. In that state, thoughts or images can occur without disturbing the silence one has become.

Yoga as rigorous science of the subjective reality; the role of inner silence

It is this state of an imperturbable inner silence which allows a truly effective study of psychological processes, as one has, from there, a kind of front-row view of what happens, directly from within, uncluttered by the obscuring, and often falsifying, intermediate layers of thoughts and outer behaviour on the side of the subject, and the easily misguided observation and speculative interpretation of that behaviour on the side of the researcher. Once fully established, the silence also allows the discovery and employment of a deep inner power of harmony that can effect inner change in ways inconceivable as long as one lives closer to the noisy surface of our nature.

Establishing a pure silence within is of course not easy, and even when achieved, it is still not sufficient for the development of a fully reliable, “objective” study of the inner processes that underlie human nature. The conditions that need to be fulfilled for an effective and reliable study of subjective phenomena are far from trivial, and the failure of early European and American attempts at the use of introspection in psychology can safely be attributed to a gross underestimate of the difficulties involved. Within the Indian tradition, these difficulties are, however, well-known, and though not always used properly, several effective ways to overcome them have been worked out.

Whether science can absorb elements of the Yoga tradition in order to develop a rigorous and effective science of subjective phenomena depends largely how wide or narrow we make our definition of science. If we take as our starting point that science should limit itself to data that are publicly, physically observable, then, of course, the methods of yoga have to be discarded. But by doing so, one makes a pre-scientific, philosophical choice on the nature of reality and the limits of human knowledge, and this would be a choice which closes the door to the most effective study of the field in question, for there is, in fact, good reason to presume that at least some of the most important psychological phenomena are not of a simple physical nature. Consciousness is not the least of them, and if consciousness plays as big a role in human life as I have suggested earlier, science has either to adopt appropriate methods to study it — and India has developed such methods — or accept defeat and define itself as a knowledge system with a limited scope. The latter choice would oblige society to employ other knowledge systems to fill up the lacuna in fields like education, governance, etc. Given that in our global civilization, science is the knowledge system with by far the best track record in terms of being progressive and self-correcting, this does not seem to be an attractive option.

If, on the other hand, one drops the physicalist requirement as something relevant only to the study of physical reality, and if one defines the scientific method simply as a form of rigorous, disciplined curiosity tempered by exemplary intellectual rectitude, then the answer to the question whether yoga could help in the development of a more profound and comprehensive type of psychology, can be, I think, an unambiguous “yes”. Even when one takes as the hallmark of science the rigorous application of the cycles of theory formation, testing, observation, and application, mentioned earlier, the methods of yoga not only qualify, but may prove to be, by far, the most effective way to study psychological phenomena. One can look at a large part of the literature on Yoga as a testimony to the work the Indian people have done, over several millennia, to develop effective means to arrive at detailed and reliable psychological knowledge. Especially jnānayoga can be regarded as a systematic endeavour to create an “inner instrument of knowledge”, antahkarana, suitable for psychological enquiry of the highest order.

Before we proceed to what the Indian tradition arrived at in its study of identity, it may be useful to remind ourselves that at present, Yoga as a complete system of psychological knowledge is suffering from a tragic state of cultural neglect. Education in India is seriously biased towards western values, and India’s educated middle class is ambivalent about the amount of attention India’s traditional knowledge systems still deserve. In the more conservative corners where the tradition survives, it is often devotional, burdened with sectarian fragmentation, encrustation in rituals, excessive claims, and scholasticisms. Though the increasing economic wealth, with its concomitant increase in national self-confidence may change things, there is as yet much that stands in the way of dynamic new developments in this area. In India, spirituality is still “in the air”, and yoga probably survives due to the millions of practitioners who each keep some element of the collective heritage alive in their personal experience. Outside India, and in India’s metropolitan areas, hathayoga is enjoying a peculiar kind of revival in various sub-cultures, where sophisticatedly packaged, but actually simplified versions are acclaimed for their power to induce relaxation and well-being. In the process, the powerful psychological knowledge system that forms the core of the yoga tradition is ignored.

Luckily, India has spawned at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, a whole series of spiritual giants who managed to pour the very essence of the tradition into forms that are amenable to introduction into the mainstream global culture. All of them have contributed something special, but for psychology, Sri Aurobindo’s work is the most interesting, as he developed an exceptionally broad, comprehensive and intellectually coherent framework for the understanding of human nature. In the second half of this chapter, we will now have a quick look at what he has to say about the Self at the centre of human identity.

PART II. YOGA APPLIED TO THE STUDY OF IDENTITY

The surface nature

Sri Aurobindo describes what one sees during “a first look inside” in the following, perhaps not too flattering terms:

The practice of Yoga brings us face to face with the extraordinary complexity of our own being, the stimulating but also embarrassing multiplicity of our personality, the rich endless confusion of Nature. To the ordinary man who lives upon his own waking surface, ignorant of the self’s depths and vastnesses behind the veil, his psychological existence is fairly simple. A small but clamorous company of desires, some imperative intellectual and aesthetic cravings, some tastes, a few ruling or prominent ideas amid a great current of unconnected or ill-connected and mostly trivial thoughts, a number of more or less imperative vital needs, alternations of physical health and disease, a scattered and inconsequent succession of joys and griefs, frequent minor disturbances and vicissitudes and rarer strong searchings and upheavals of mind or body, and through it all Nature, partly with the aid of his thought and will, partly without or in spite of it, arranging these things in some rough practical fashion, some tolerable disorderly order, — this is the material of his existence.

Sri Aurobindo (1948/2002), p. 74

Though harsh, it is difficult to deny that this is pretty much what it boils down to.

The ego, West and East

If there is some truth in this description, then what is it in us that gives us our sense of identity, what is it that makes us feel that we are “ourselves”? In our ordinary waking consciousness, the agency that Nature seems to have provided for this purpose is quite obviously the ego, and this brings us straight to the heart of the difference between the present mainstream of psychology and the various yoga-based approaches to psychology. Though in the English language, egoistic, egocentric and egotistic all have largely negative connotations, in mainstream psychology, the ego plays an unambiguously heroic role. It is the protagonist in the human saga, and a well-developed and assertive ego is widely considered a pre-condition for psychological health and effective social functioning. In harmony with this assessment of the place of the ego, lack of ego-strength is seen as a serious developmental handicap. In yoga literature, on the other hand, the ego is generally seen as the villain of the piece. The ego symbolises everything that stands in the way of happiness and realisation, and getting rid of the ego is promoted as the quickest road to salvation. The difference is so striking that S. Kiran Kumar and his co-workers at Mysore University, have wondered whether the traditional translation of the Sanskrit word ahaṁkārawith ego actually makes sense, and they did find a considerable number of differences (Murthy & Kiran Kumar, 2002). Sri Aurobindo translates ahaṁkāra as ego-sense rather than as ego, but other than that, he does not pay much attention to the difference in meaning between the two concepts. He explains the enormous difference in their valuation and connotations mainly in terms of their utility during different stages of human development. He sees the ego as a contrivance which in the early stages of one’s development is needed to establish one’s individuality, but which should be discarded in the later stages, somewhat like a raft which can be left behind once one has crossed the river, or the scaffolding of a building which is needed during construction, but which has to be dismantled once it is finished. He writes:

This ego or “I’’ is not a lasting truth, much less our essential part; it is only a formation of Nature, a mental form of thought-centralisation in the perceiving and discriminating mind, a vital form of the centralisation of feeling and sensation in our parts of life, a form of physical conscious reception centralising substance and function of substance in our bodies. All that we internally are is not ego, but consciousness, soul or spirit. All that we externally and superficially are and do is not ego but Nature. An executive cosmic force shapes us and dictates through our temperament and environment and mentality so shaped, through our individualised formulation of the cosmic energies, our actions and their results. Truly, we do not think, will or act but thought occurs in us, will occurs in us, impulse and act occur in us; our ego-sense gathers around itself, refers to itself all this flow of natural activities. It is cosmic Force, it is Nature that forms the thought, imposes the will, imparts the impulse. Our body, mind and ego are a wave of that sea of force in action and do not govern it, but by it are governed and directed. The sadhaka in his progress towards truth and self-knowledge must come to a point where the soul opens its eyes of vision and recognises this truth of ego and this truth of works. He gives up the idea of a mental, vital, physical “I’’ that acts or governs action; he recognises that Prakriti, Force of cosmic nature following her fixed modes, is the one and only worker in him and in all things and creatures.

Sri Aurobindo, (1948/2002), p. 214

That the ego is a constructed contrivance, provided by nature to give us a sense of coherence in our mind, a kind of rallying point around which we can organise our defences against the myriads forces that try to impinge on our independent existence in nature, few modern psychologists will find fault with. Even the idea that most of what happens inside us is not our own voluntary action, but the result of autonomous forces at work in nature, of which our consciousness is only secondarily aware,4 is perhaps not easily palatable to our assertive egos, but certainly in harmony with the deterministic processes science claims to detect everywhere except, perhaps, at the quantum level. The great divide comes with the question whether this is really all there is to our individuality.

Is there a self beyond the ego?

If our ego is an artificial construct, whether laid on us, as the Indian tradition holds, by Maya,5 or arisen, as evolutionary Psychology would have it, by a Darwinian need for evolutionary survival, then the question is whether there is anything to our identity that goes beyond it, anything genuinely worth living for? The Indian tradition did not search for the answer outside, but cultivated instead the special inner “knowledge by identity”, the mystical knowledge of the innermost Self and pure consciousness, which we alluded to earlier.

The question of our innermost identity is posed in the first lines of one of the older Upanishads, the Kena. It asks, “By whom missioned falls the mind shot to its mark? By whom yoked moves the first life-breath forward on its paths? By whom impelled is this word that men speak? What god set eye and ear to their workings?” (trans. Aurobindo, 2002). It may be noted that the quest of the Kena Upanishad is for the same mystery that the temple in Delphi admonished its visitors to know, one’s innermost Self. In its answer, the Kena identifies that Self with nothing less than the Self of the Universe, Brahman. When Shankara looks for the secrets of his deepest, innermost Self, he finds that it merges with an impersonal Absolute. The Gita finds deep within an emptiness, and beyond that Silence, again a Person, the supreme conscious being, the Purushottama. When the Bhakta (the follower of the yoga of devotion) looks for the Absolute, he meets his very own Ishta Devata (the personal Divine), and when the Sufi looks for God, he finds the All-merciful wearing his own face. At the very borders of human experience, there is a mystery that is described by different traditions in very different ways, but that itself must go beyond all these mental distinctions, beyond the personal and the impersonal, beyond emptiness and fullness, beyond the dichotomy of self and world.

How to weave a coherent story out of such seemingly contradictory facts of experience? One solution, which the Vedic tradition found millennia ago, is twofold. The first part of it is, that in our deepest, innermost Self we are one with the single, transcendent Absolute, which manifests the worlds in and out of itself. The second half is, that this Absolute is in a deep sense ineffable, and that it can, as such, be described by different people differently.6 However different these descriptions may be, they are still based on the same existential experience that we are in the depth of our being an inalienable portion of the same transcendent One. According to the Vedic tradition, it is this essential oneness of the individual with the whole, which is the ultimate source of our sense of identity. In manifestation, each one of us is different, and even on a much deeper level, each individual has still his very own svabhāva and svadharma to express in the world, and yet equally, and at the same time, in our deepest essence, we are all one with the Absolute, and thus one with everything else in the universe. It may be noted that in this complex situation, the image the Absolute takes in each of us doesn’t appear to be entirely a projection, and not a purely God-given absolute either. One could perhaps call it, in good constructivist fashion, something co-created between “the Divine” and ourselves. As the Kena says, we know it, and yet we know it not.

Our double identity

This double identity consists of an ephemeral ego on the surface and an eternal soul in the deepest depths of our being that manifests differently according to the stage of development one has reached. In the most ordinary waking state, we identify with a quite arbitrary and ever-shifting centre in our surface nature. In fact, we identify with whatever feelings, thoughts, bodily sensations happen to occupy central stage in our consciousness at a given moment. As the Saṁkhya discovered millennia ago, and neuroscience increasingly admits, these mental activities themselves are unconscious and identity-less, but there is a secret ingredient that gives awareness and light to some of them. This is what the Sāṃkhya calls the puruṣa, and what in the Katha Upanishad (II. 1. 12, 13) is described as a being smaller than the thumb of man, the representative of the eternal Self in our incarnate outer nature. In Sri Aurobindo’s poetic rendering:

[The Soul] puts forth a small portion of herself,

A being no bigger than the thumb of man
Into a hidden region of the heart
To face the pang and to forget the bliss,
To share the suffering and endure earth’s wounds
And labour mid the labour of the stars.
This in us laughs and weeps, suffers the stroke,
Exults in victory, struggles for the crown;
Identified with the mind and body and life,
It takes on itself their anguish and defeat,
Bleeds with Fate’s whips and hangs upon the cross,
Yet is the unwounded and immortal self
Supporting the actor in the human scene.

This is in us the godhead small and marred;
In this human portion of divinity
She seats the greatness of the Soul in Time
To uplift from light to light, from power to power,
Till on a heavenly peak it stands, a king.
In body weak, in its heart an invincible might,
It climbs stumbling, held up by an unseen hand,
A toiling spirit in a mortal shape.

                        —Sri Aurobindo (1950/1994), pp. 526–27

In the ordinary state we are, of course, not always aware of the high origin of our sense of identity. Our identification with the surface structures tends to be so complete that it is not surprising that modern psychology describes that surface biological and social identity as all there is to us: it is certainly all that many of us are ever aware of. It is only on rare occasions that we have faint intimations of a deeper truth behind the surface, and this may then find its expression in a feeling of gratitude, of awe, of wonder, a sense of beauty, a moment of true Love. But we need not be content with that. As the Indian tradition found out, we can ferret the greater truth out from behind its coverings, and, interestingly, we can do so in virtually any direction. There are many quite different paths of yoga, and any of them, if followed to its furthest end, does lead to the Absolute, who is after all hiding behind all appearances.

Sri Aurobindo makes an interesting distinction between two pathways, or inner movements, that both, in quite different ways, could play a major role in the further development of psychology, the psychic and the spiritual. The psychic path is based on an inward movement of concentration deep behind the heart. It leads to the realisation of our inmost soul, or “psychic being”. This centre of our embodied individual consciousness, guides our lives as if from behind, and its discovery tends to go together with the sense of a deep, intimate relation with a personal form of the Divine. The other approach is based on a movement upward, leading to realisation of the immutable Atman above all manifestation. While the psychic realization tends to give a sense of direct inner guidance focused on “right action” in daily life, the spiritual realisation leads more commonly to an opening upwards to the planes of a more impersonal spiritual understanding and insight. Development in the psychic direction tends to lead, first, to a state where one still identifies with the instrumental nature, but where one begins to feel an increasingly concrete guidance from some inner source of absolute truth, love, and beauty. Later, the sense of an independent ego begins to diminish and is gradually replaced by the sense of some aspect or portion of the Divine being the only real actor. The spiritual development leads more easily to an increasingly impersonal sense of eternity and vastness, in which the individual incarnated being and its adventures in time lose their all-absorbing interest.

Religion, science and spirituality

One may object that the study of these inner states belongs to the field of religion and has nothing to with science. I think this is an error. The strict division in territory between religion and science has its roots in some very specific developments in post-medieval Europe, where a newly developing, rich, and curious middle class wanted to explore the wonders of the world unfettered by the dogmatic clergy of the times. As such, this division is an artefact of an incidental series of historical events, and it cannot make any claim on universal validity. The ranges of consciousness and experience I have discussed here are exactly that, ranges of human consciousness and experience, and as such, they form a perfectly legitimate subject of psychological study. The real difference between science and religion is not one of territory, but one of method. Religion tends to be conservative, and centred in beliefs blindly accepted on the basis of established authority. The svadharma of science is a spirit of wide-open exploration, based on a continuous rigorous evaluation of theories against ever more-detailed experiential data. The Vedic tradition has provided us with excellent tools to explore these furthest ranges of human potential, and psychology would fail in its duty if it did not make full use of them. Humanity is badly in need of a psychology that is commensurate with the greatest depths and heights of consciousness available to us. We desperately need the Love and Wisdom that will flow in abundance once we reach these deeper layers of understanding our selves and our world.

Notes

1   See, for example, Frank (2000) and Ellingson (1998) (with thanks to Kumar Ravi Priya at IIT Kanpur who brought these papers to my attention).

2   I am deeply indebted to Sri Aurobindo and the many great Indian sages before him on whose work this chapter is based and I sincerely apologize for the rather drastic simplification of their work that I present in this chapter. For the full story, I recommend the interested reader to take up The Life Divine and The Synthesis of Yoga (Sri Aurobindo 2005, 1999). The former is more philosophical, the latter more psychological in style.

3   It may be noted that in spite of tremendous progress made over the last few decades, the exact way our brains process and store information is still not very well understood.

4   See Libet (1999).

5   Maya is originally the force which creates and “measures out“ the world in front of itself. In later times, this force came to be seen more and more as a trickster, who fools us into believing in realities and values that are actually not there, or at least not there in the way we see them.

6   ekam sad viprā bahudhā vadanti: There is One Truth, which the wise call by many names (Ṛg Veda I.164.46).

Rereferences

Braud, William  & Anderson, Rosemarie. (1998). Transpersonal research methods for the social sciences, London: Sage.

Denzin, N.K. & Lincoln, Y.S. (2000). Handbook of qualitative research.New York: Sage.

Ellingson, Laura L. (1998), ‘“Then you know how I feel”: Empathy, identification and reflexivity in fieldwork’, Qualitative Enquiry, 4(4): 492–514.

Frank, Arthur W. (2000), ‘The standpoint of the storyteller’, Qualitative Health Research, 10(3): 354–65.

Kumar, S. K. Kiran. (2014),  ‘Ego and ahaṁkāra’: Self and identity in modern psychology and Indian thought’, in Matthijs Cornelissen, Girishwar Misra and Suneet Varma (eds), Foundations and applications of Indian psychology, New Delhi: Pearson.

Libet, B. (1999), “Do we have free will”, Journal of Consciousness Studies, 6(8–9): 47–57. vol. 6(8–9), pp. 47–57.

Polkinghorne, Donald, (1983). Methodology for the human sciences, Albany: State University of New York.

Reason, P. (1988). Human inquiry in action. London: Sage.                  

Sing, Kundan. (2004), ‘Relativism and its relevance for Indian psychology’. In Kireet Joshi and Matthijs Cornelissen (eds), Consciousness, Indian psychology and yoga, New Delhi: Center for the Study of Civilizations (pp. 238–47).

Sri Aurobindo (1994 [1950]), Savitri, a legend and a symbol, Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust.

_________ . (1999 [1948]), The synthesis of yoga, Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust.

_________ . (2002 [1948]), The Kena and other upanishads, Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust.

_________ . (2005 [1940]), The life divine, Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust.