The Liberated Eye of the Spiritual Knowledge

As we live our daily lives, we see around us all the different beings and forms, we see their opposing interests and actions, and the conflict that arises therefrom, and we believe that this is the basis for the truth of our existence. At the same time, we see the sun rising in the east and setting in the west, and we believe, until corrected by a knowledge of science, that the earth is at the center of the universe and the sun rotates around it! Sri Aurobindo describes this viewpoint: “If we perceive only the apparent outward fact of our nature and others’ nature, we are looking with the eye of the ignorance and cannot know God equally in all, in the sattwic, the rajasic, the tamasic creature, in God and Titan, in saint and sinner, in the wise man and the ignorant, in the great and in the little, in man, animal, plant and inanimate existence.”

Sri Aurobindo explains the 3 things that make up the view of the liberated soul: “First and foremost it sees the divine Prakriti in all, secret, present, waiting for evolution; it sees her as the real power in all things, that which gives its full value to all this apparent action of diverse quality and force, and it reads the significance of these latter phenomena not in their own language of ego and ignorance, but in the light of the divine Nature.”

The second: “…it sees, too, secondly, the differences of the apparent action in Deva and Rakshasa, man and beast and bird and reptile, good and wicked, ignorant and learned, but as action of divine quality and energy under these conditions, under these masks. It is not deluded by the mask, but detects behind every mask the Godhead….it discovers, even in the perversion and imperfection self-blinded, struggling to find itself, groping through various forms of self-expression and experience towards complete self-knowledge, towards its own infinite and absolute.”

“Finally, it sees the upward urge of the striving powers of the Will-to-be towards Godhead; it respects, welcomes, encourages all high manifestations of energy and quality, the flaming tongues of the Divinity, the mounting greatnesses of soul and mind and life in their intensities uplifted from the levels of the lower nature towards heights of luminous wisdom and knowledge, mighty power, strength, capacity, courage, heroism, benignant sweetness and ardour and grandeur of love and self-giving, pre-eminent virtue, noble action, captivating beauty and harmony, fine and godlike creation. The eye of the spirit sees and marks out the rising godhead of man in the great Vibhuti.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part I, Chapter 9, The Theory of the Vibhuti, pp. 358-359

The Soul and the Limitations of the Lower Nature

While possessing the divine Nature, the soul manifested in the world nevertheless concentrates its attention on specific forms and forces and thereby loses sight of the reality of its divine origin and nature, and the Oneness of all forms and forces. This “exclusive concentration” allows the soul to experiment with and develop to a high degree, the specific formulations and applications of power and opportunity that otherwise would not be possible if the complete knowledge was always in the forefront.

Sri Aurobindo explains the process in some detail: “But in this inferior Prakriti in which we live, the Jiva follows the principle of selection and finite determination, and there whatever nexus of energy, whatever quality or spiritual principle he brings into birth with him or brings forward as the seed of his self-expression, becomes an operative portion of his Swabhava, his law of self-becoming, and determines his Swadharma, his law of action.”

What prevents this from being a straightforward self-discovery process and “self-unfoldment” of the divine Nature are the limitations of the lower nature within which this occurs. “But this lower energy of our world is a nature of ignorance, of egoism, of the three Gunas.” This has consequences that need to be addressed as the soul attempts to grow in knowledge and power, and expand itself into a wider sense of being.

“Because this is a nature of egoism, the Jiva conceives of himself as the separative ego: he works out his self-expression egoistically as a separative will to be in conflict as well as in association with the same will to be in others.”

“Because this is a nature of ignorance, a blind seeing and an imperfect or partial self-expression, he does not know himself, does not know his law of being, but follows it instinctively under the ill-understood compulsion of the world-energy, with a struggle, with much inner conflict, with a very large possibility of deviation.”

“Because this is a nature of the three Gunas, this confused and striving self-expression takes various forms of incapacity, perversion or partial self-finding.”

“To escape from this tangle, to rise beyond the ignorance, the ego and the Gunas is the first real step towards divine perfection. By that transcendence the Jiva finds his own divine nature and his true existence.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part I, Chapter 9, The Theory of the Vibhuti, pp. 357-358