The Purushottama of the Gita

The Purushottama, the integrating standpoint that embraces and contains the individual and the universal, the manifested and the unmanifest, the silent, still existence and the changes of Nature, the impersonal and the personal, is the central conception that allows the Gita to unify and harmonize the various different paths and aims of life found in other teachings. This is the lynch-pin of the Gita’s grand synthesis, providing a basis and reality for the yoga of knowledge (in this case redirected from an other-worldly focus on renunciation), the yoga of works (redefined from being ritual works of sacrifice to embracing all action within its compass), and the yoga of devotion (redirected to embrace the Divine in all forms and beings in the universe, and expressing itself within the manifestation as a wide compassion and action for the benefit of all beings arising out of that compassion).

It is interesting to note that the teachings of Mahayana Buddhism resolve themselves into the action of the Bodhisattva, the enlightened being who chooses not to dissolve his consciousness into the vast, unmoving, silent Absolute, but rather, who remains active in the world through universal compassion until all beings have been able to achieve the consciousness of enlightenment. In practical effect, we come down to a similar result as taught by the Gita.

Sri Aurobindo discusses the Gita’s view of the Purushottama: “…the Divine who is there as the one self in our timeless immutable being, who is present too in the world, in all existences, in all activities, the master of the silence and the peace, the master of the power and the action, who is here incarnate as the divine charioteer of the stupendous conflict, the Transcendent, the Self, the All, the master of every individual being.”

“…he is the lord of all the worlds, manifested in Nature and in these beings, therefore shall the liberated man still do works for the right government and leading on of the peoples in these worlds,…; he is the friend of all existences, therefore is the sage who has found Nirvana within him and all around, still and always occupied with the good of all creatures….”

“Therefore too, even when he has found oneness with the Divine in his timeless and immutable self, is he still capable, since he embraces the relations also of the play of Nature, of divine love for man and of love for the Divine, of Bhakti.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, First Series, Chapter 23, Nirvana and Works in the World, pg. 228