The Way Out Of the Human Riddle

At a certain point in his development, the thinking human being confronts the riddle of life in the world. On the one hand, there is the involvement with the life of action in the world, and its eventually unsatisfying and partial solutions to the questions of life and the apparently insoluble contradictions that he must face. We see a type of malaise settle on those who come to understand the emptiness of the world’s fruits in terms of these ultimate questions. Then we see people undertake the question of self-finding or God-seeking, or they fall into cynicism, despair, or hopelessness and either try to escape the world in some manner, or fall into a round of meaningless enjoyments and entertainments that do not truly provide any lasting joy.

Some of those who come to the point of understanding the emptiness undertake the seeking for a higher meaning, a goal or process that exceeds and transcends the perceived meaningless round of a habitual, unchanging daily life. These individuals become the seers, yogis, mystics who reach for the higher knowledge and then try to realize it and make it real in a life infused with new meaning.

Sri Aurobindo describes these two approaches to the question we face: “He has been shown that there are two opposed ways of working and living, one in the ignorance of the ego, one in the clear self-knowledge of a divine being. He may act with desire, with passion, an ego driven by the qualities of the lower Nature, subject to the balance of virtue and sin, joy and sorrow, preoccupied with the fruits and consequences of his works, success and defeat, good result and evil result, bound on the world machine, caught up in a great tangle of action and inaction and perverse action which perplex the heart and mind and soul of man with their changing and contrary masks and appearances. But he is not utterly tied down to the works of the ignorance; he may do if he will the works of knowledge. He may act here as the higher thinker, the knower, the Yogin, the seeker of freedom first and afterwards the liberated spirit.”

“To perceive that great possibility and to keep his will and intelligence fixed on the knowledge and self-vision which will realize and make it effectual, is the path of escape from his sorrow and bewilderment, the way out of the human riddle.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part I, Chapter 4, The Secret of Secrets, pp. 288-289

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