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The Genesis of Pain in the Matrix of Consciousness

Dr. Soumitra Basu

Pain is the first disharmony felt by the body, the first anguish felt by the mind and the first recoil from the Ānanda of existence. It comes in myriad ways, warns us of dangers that attack us, makes us aware of our internal malfunctioning and instils in us the seed of caution. But it also motivates us to be free from its clutches and paves the way from disharmony to harmony.

From the perspective of the evolution of consciousness, pain is an ancient phenomenon. It can be traced to the time when the Life-Energy or Vital Force impinged on inert Matter. At first Matter evolved from the Inconscience but this was a consciousness that was inert, non-responsive and inanimate. Matter of course was divided into forms for the hallmark of the material consciousness, was “accomplished divisibility (1).” Yet, without being energised, Matter would always remain in its quiescent status.

The first friction

At the next stage of evolution of consciousness, the Vital Force or Life-Energy impinged on Matter to animate it. It must have initially resulted in a tremendously violent reaction. The inertia of the original physical substrate that was the first to emerge from the Inconscience was a mighty slumber and carried the stain and stigma of the Inconscience. Moving it was not an easy task. There must have been a violent friction when the Life-Energy infiltrated the inert matrix of material consciousness to produce spectacular changes. That friction resulted in a riot of variety, colours, and odours; it catapulted in a diversity of creative out flowerings that spanned from the amazing variety in nature to the myriad potentialities of the manifestation. The friction produced a change of gigantic proportions which is still out of our ordinary bounds to understand. That was the first friction in the matrix of evolutionary consciousness.

The memory of the friction in diseases

However that friction which resulted in the manifestation of the vital-physical plane of consciousness is still carried in our being as a terrestrial evolutionary memory. It is there, dormant and submerged in our bodily systems, in our organs, in our cells. It can surge up at any time, much like a surging up of past traumatic anxieties that happen in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (2)! That is the memory of the original pain which we carry in the matrix of consciousness.

It is not only pain but the first mismatch between Life-Energy and the material consciousness that is also carried in the depths of our being, for it took time, albeit ages, for the Life-Energy to be smoothly harmonised with the physical matrix. At first there was a lingering quiver when the momentum of vital energy forced the physical consciousness to get adjusted to it. That ancient quiver still persists in the vital-physical, resulting in symptoms like nervous irritability and diseases like irritable bowel syndrome.

The dominance of the vital

When Life-Energy had to animate the inert, lifeless, featureless matrix of Matter, it had to dominate over Matter. That dominance was necessary to arouse Matter from its dull repose and slumber so as to produce a world of variegated multiplicities that spanned from the exuberance of flowers to the exaggeration of human emotions. And this led not only to wondrous capacities that allowed the human to aspire to great heights, it also led to a distortion of the trend towards domination. Thus if human nature is endowed with love, beauty, generosity and compassion, it is also susceptible to desire, hatred, jealousy and aggression.

The resurgence of the hidden memory of the primal friction coupled with the deviation of the vital into the realm of emotional disharmony perhaps sowed the seeds of a new pattern of diseases called psychosomatic disorders, where behind the somatic symptoms, lurks the psychological factors.

The vital-physical

No wonder Sri Aurobindo described that the vital-physical is responsible for many diseases of the body and is especially involved in the disorder of the nerves.

“The nervous part of the being is a portion of the vital — it is the vital-physical, the life-force closely enmeshed in the reactions, desires, needs, sensations of the body (3).”

“The vital-physical governs all the small daily reactions to outward things — reactions of the nerves and the body consciousness and the reflex emotions and sensations; it motives much of the ordinary actions of man and joins with the lower parts of the vital proper in producing lust, jealousy, anger, violence etc. In its lowest parts (vital-material) it is the agent of pain, physical illness etc (4).”

The Ānanda factor

The friction produced by the leap of the Life-Energy on the bosom of inert Matter was not a stand-alone phenomenon. It was sanctioned by the Supreme Reality which decreed the manifestation. The Supreme Reality is Sachchidananda, a triune principle in three poises. There is the Existential poise of Sat that is represented as the essence of everything as the Self. There is the dynamic poise of Cit or Cit-Śakti which commissions the multiverses. And there is the value aspect in the poise of Ānanda or Bliss which motivates the manifestation intrinsically.

This Ānanda or Bliss-principle, that motivated the Life-Energy to jump into the bosom of Matter, was there to awaken it to participate in the orchestra of creation. So the friction which vibrates to pain can also in a different denouement, in a different octave, vibrate to the sensation of pleasure. That is how yogis could turn pain into pleasure. In a way that is also the reason that even without the knowledge of yoga, medical science aims to alleviate pain so that pleasure can be achieved.

As Sri Aurobindo poignantly describes:
“There is something in the being that enjoys illness, it is possible even to turn the pains of illness like any other pain into a form of pleasure; for pain and pleasure are both of them degradations of an original Ananda and can be reduced into the terms of each other or else sublimated into their original principle of Ananda (5).”

Modulating the vital-physical

The first task for a harmonious life must be to invoke the Force and Light into the vital-physical so that it can be properly modulated. “The peace and force must be called down into this vital-physical (nervous) part and the whole body until you feel the atmosphere and force pervading you and in you always in all the body and not only upon or around you. If you still find a difficulty, it is because of the past habit of reaction in the nervous being and a certain weakness there; but persevere, do not consent to the invasion of the old forces. The habit will lessen and disappear and the true Force occupying the body will remove the weakness (6),”

At an optimal point in the journey of personal growth, the vital-physical can be offered for transformation. That will usher in the reign of Ānanda and the flowering of superconscient values in the matrix of terrestrial consciousness. It would simultaneously usher a new level of harmony needed for perfect health.


1. Sri Aurobindo. Birth Centenary, Volume 18. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust; 1970, p. 253.

2. Basu S. Consciousness Based Counselling based on Sri Aurobindo’s Integral World-View. Indian Journal of Clinical Psychology, 2021; 48 (2): 180-89.

3. Sri Aurobindo. SABCL, Volume 22; 1970, p. 345.

4. Ibid., p. 344.

5. Sri Aurobindo. SABCL, Volume 24; 1970, p. 1566.

6. Ibid., p. 1574.

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