The Status of the Soul’s Subjection to the Natural Being

The Gita distinguishes between our natural being in the ordinary human existence, focused on the objects of the senses and the fulfillment of the desires that arise therefrom; and our spiritual being, free and unattached to the forms and forces of the manifestation. The liberation of the Soul from its subjection to the natural being’s focus and attachments is the effort toward which the Gita continually points.

It is important to understand the mechanism of the subjection we experience in our normal human state of consciousness. Sri Aurobindo explains the process: “In our natural life the first dominating fact is our subjection to the forms of material Nature, the outward touches of things. These present themselves to our life through the senses, and the life through the senses immediately returns upon these objects to seize upon them and deal with them, desires, attaches itself, seeks for results. The mind in all its inner sensations, reactions, emotions, habitual ways of perceiving, thinking and feeling obeys this action of the senses; the reason too carried away by the mind gives itself up to this life of the senses, this life in which the inner being is subject to the externality of things and cannot for a moment really get above it or outside the circle of its action upon us and its psychological results and reactions within us. It cannot get beyond them because there is the principle of ego by which the reason differentiates the sum of the actions of Nature upon our mind, will, sense, body from her action in other minds, wills, nervous organisms, bodies; and life to us means only the way she affects our ego and the way our ego replies to her touches. We know nothing else, we seem to be nothing else; the soul itself seems then only a separate mass of mind, will, emotional and nervous reception and reaction.”

To the extent that we widen our circle to include family, friends, or affinity groups, such as religious brethren, community or country, we do not actually break out of the hold of the ego, but simply widen its scope.

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, First Series, Chapter 24, The Gist of the Karmayoga, pp. 241-243