Freedom Is Of the Soul, Not the Surface Personality

There remains within each of us a sense that we have “free will”. Close examination shows us that the actions of body, life and mind are conditioned by past causes. The sense of freedom belongs, not to the ego personality that we tend to fixate upon, but from the deeper soul sense that is part of the Spirit here in the manifestation. Sri Aurobindo describes this as follows: “…this freedom and power are influences from the soul. To use a familiar metaphysical language, they type the assent and will of the Purusha without which the Prakriti cannot move on her way. The first and greater part of this soul-influence is in the form of an assent to Nature, an acquiescence; and for good reason. For I start with the action of the universal Energy which the Spirit has set in motion and as I rise from the ignorance towards knowledge, the first thing demanded from me is to gather experience of its law and of my relations to the law and partly therefore to acquiesce, to allow myself to be moved, to see and to come to know the nature of the motions, to suffer and obey the law, to understand and know Karma.”

The famous image from the Upanishads comes to mind, wherein there are two birds sitting on a common tree. One of them eats the sweet fruit, while the other watches and provides assent. The bird which eats of the fruit is the Prakriti, the nature, consisting of body, life and mind bound together through the device of the surface personality, the ego, and this bird is bound by the law of Karma, cause and effect, through participating in eating the fruits of past actions. The bird which watches and assents is the Purusha, the deeper true personality which is free of the actions of Karma and is not bound by the fruits of the past.

Sri Aurobindo,Rebirth and Karma, Section I, Chapter 9, Karma and Freedom, pp. 84-85,