Spiritual Equality

Sri Aurobindo makes it clear that even the sattwic form of equality is not the same as spiritual equality, as per the teaching of the Gita. Sattwic equality is still involved in the play of the gunas and thus, subject to being overthrown by any number of forces. It is an intellectual or mental control being exercised, and while this can be of enormous aid in the process of growth into the spiritual consciousness, in the end, it is uncertain, unstable and insufficient to provide the firm spiritual footing that the Gita has as its goal.

” ‘Even the mind of the wise man who labours for perfection is carried away by the vehement insistence of the senses.’ Perfect security can only be had by resorting to something higher than the sattwic quality, something higher than the discerning mind, to the Self,–not the philosopher’s intelligent self, but the divine sage’s spiritual self which is beyond the three Gunas.”

The characteristics of spiritual equality are founded in the sense of Oneness of the divine consciousness: “He has realised his unity with all and his equality is therefore full of sympathy and oneness. He sees all as himself and is not intent on his lonely salvation; he even takes upon himself the burden of their happiness and sorrow by which he is not himself affected or subjected. The perfect sage, the Gita more than once repeats, is ever engaged with a large equality in doing good to all creatures and makes that his occupation and delight…The perfect Yogin is no solitary musing on the Self in his ivory tower of spiritual isolation, but…a many-sided universal worker for the good of the world, for God in the world. For he is a bhakta, a lover and devotee of the Divine, as well as a sage and a Yogin, a lower who loves God wherever he finds Him and who finds Him everywhere; and what he loves, he does not disdain to serve, nor does action carry him away from the bliss of union, since all his acts proceed from the One in him and to the One in all they are directed. The equality of the Gita is a large synthetic equality in which all is lifted up into the integrality of the divine being and the divine nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, First Series, Chapter 19, Equality, pp. 189-190

The Characteristics of a Sattwic Equality

The sattwic personality of the philosopher, sage or wise elder has its own unique type of equality. The sattwic equality recognizes the motive springs of both the tamasic equality, and its abandonment of the objects of the outer life as unobtainable, unsatisfying and painful; and the rajasic equality with its goal to attain self-mastery through force of will, once again, by suppressing the force of desire. The Taittiriya Upanishad in a remarkable passage compares the crowning levels of bliss achievable by any living being with the “bliss of the veda-wise, whose soul the blight of desire touches not.”

The sattwic approach does not get caught up in the emotional despair or defeat so characteristic of the abandonment of the outer life in the tamasic equality; nor does it get caught up in the rajasic reaction that can use pain and struggle to achieve its results; rather it maintains a calm, tranquil view of the issues involved, and deliberately steers a middle course that tries to maintain balance and harmony while nevertheless working to achieve the goal of liberation from desire.

Sri Aurobindo clarifies the standpoint of the sattwic personality in this regard: “The enjoyments born of the touches of things are causes of sorrow, they have a beginning and an end; therefore the sage, the man of awakened understanding, budhah, does not place his delight in these.” and “The self in him is unattached to the touches of external things; he finds his happiness in himself.”

“He becomes satisfied with knowledge, master of his senses, a Yogin by sattwic equality,–for equality is Yoga, samatvam yoga ucyate,–regarding alike clod and stone and gold, tranquil and self-poised in heat and cold, suffering and happiness, honour and disgrace. He is equal in soul to friend and enemy and to neutral and indifferent, because he sees that these are transitory relations born of the changing conditions of life.”

“He is equal-souled to all men, to the sinner and the saint, to the virtuous, learned and cultured Brahmin and the fallen outcaste.”

Sattwic equality prepares the soul for the yet greater equality beyond the control of the gunas, but it is not yet itself free of the gunas, and tends to remain attached and stuck in its learning, its progress, and its superiority, when left on its own, with a vision that is mental and intellectual fueling this form of equality.

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, First Series, Chapter 19, Equality, pp. 188-189