The Issues Involved in Liberating Purusha From Prakriti

Sankhya explains our existence with the concept of Purusha and Prakriti, the one inactive, the other representing active Nature. Sri Aurobindo reminds us of the primary elements of this conceptual framework: “Purusha is inactive…; Prakriti is active…; Purusha is the being full of the light of consciousness; Prakriti is the Nature, mechanical, reflecting all her works in the conscious witness, the Purusha. Prakriti works by the inequality of her three modes, Gunas, in perpetual collision and intermixture and mutation with each other; and by her function of ego-mind she gets the Purusha to identify himself with all this working and so creates the sense of active, mutable, temporal personality in the silent eternity of the Self. The impure natural consciousness overclouds the pure soul-consciousness; the mind forgets the Person in the ego and the personality; we suffer the discriminating intelligence to be carried away by the sense-mind and its outgoing functions and by the desire of the life and the body. So long as the Purusha sanctions this action, ego and desire and ignorance must govern the natural being.”

The primary line of solution for many spiritual traditions has been to “cut the knot” of the ego by abandoning the active life in the world through withdrawal or renunciation. The Gita of course does not accept this as the only solution, or in fact the preferred solution. So a way must then be found that releases the Purusha from the identification with the ego-personality while at the same time, maintaining the sanction for the active Nature.

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, First Series, Chapter 21, The Determinism of Nature, pp. 205-206