The Need to Rise Above the Modes of Nature to Achieve Liberation

An intensive examination of even the most high and refined human actions, leads us to see that they remain fully subject to the action of the modes of Nature, the 3 Gunas. An increase in the element of Sattva creates a higher and purer intelligence and understanding, but it is still subject to being clouded over or overrun by the inevitable uprush of Tamas or Rajas. The sattwic ego is considered to be an especially tenacious form of ego because of the self-delusion that the sattwic personality has that fails to see the egoism that has a deep hold on him.

Sri Aurobindo discusses the ongoing interaction of the Gunas even in a predominantly sattwic personality: “When we think that we are acting quite freely, powers are concealed behind our action which escape the most careful self-introspection; when we think that we are free from ego, the ego is there, concealed, in the mind of the saint as in that of the sinner. When our eyes are really opened on our action and its springs, we are obliged to say with the Gita …’it was the modes of Nature that were acting upon the modes.’ ”

The true liberation only can come about when we go beyond the action of the Gunas: “Only when we cease to satisfy the ego, to think and to will from the ego, the limited “I” in us, then is there a real freedom. In other words, freedom, highest self-mastery begin when above the natural self we see and hold the supreme Self of which the ego is an obstructing veil and a blinding shadow. And that can only be when we see the one Self in us seated above Nature and make our individual being one with it in being and consciousness and in its individual nature of action only an instrument of a supreme Will, the one Will that is really free. For that we must rise high above the three Gunas, become trigunatita; for that self is beyond even the sattwic principle. We have to climb to it through the Sattwa, but we attain to it only when we get beyond Sattwa; we reach out to it from the ego, but only reach it by leaving the ego. We are drawn towards it by the highest, most passionate, most stupendous and ecstatic of all desires; but we can securely live in it only when all desire drops away from us. We have at a certain stage to liberate ourselves even from the desire of our liberation.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, First Series, Chapter 21, The Determinism of Nature, pp. 212-213