Reconciling the Passive and the Active Status of Brahman

Sri Aurobindo addresses the objection that the direction and result of focus on either the “passive Brahman” or the “active Brahman” is totally different,–one leading to immobility, silence and dissolution of active participation in the life of the world; and the other leading to action and outpouring of energy, creative effort, and worldly development.

“…let us observe that this distinction arises by a movement of the individual soul form one poise to another, from the poise of Brahman-consciousness in the world, where it is a fulcrum of universal action, to or towards the poise of Brahman-consciousness beyond the world, where it is a power for the withholding of energy from the universal action. Moreover, if it is by energy of Tapas that the dispensing of force of being in the world-action is accomplished, it is equally by the energy of Tapas that the drawing back of that force of being is accomplished.”

What we see here are two “poles” of action of the one integral consciousness of Brahman. The passive side supports and upholds the active side. In both cases, the concentration of conscious force (tapas) is involved to either expend energy or withhold energy. Even in the action, part of the being and its energy are reserved.

Sri Aurobindo continues his discussion, extrapolating from our human experience to the universal truth of action: “we discover that it is our whole being which stands behind any particular act or sum of activities, passive in the rest of its integrality, active in its limited dispensation of energy; but that passivity is not an incapable inertia, it is a poise of self-reserved energy. A similar truth must apply still more completely to the conscious being of the Infinite, whose power, in silence of status as in creation, must also be infinite.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 12, The Origin of the Ignorance

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