Self and Nature

When we start from the normal standpoint of the human being trying to live, work, act, strive, succeed in the world of action, we believe that the person we identify as ourselves is an independent actor, capable of deciding, determining and achieving something on its own, whether through conquering nature, compelling nature or at the very least finding ways to understand and optimize the workings of nature. The lynch-pin of this action is the consciousness of the ego. The Sankhya philosophy, after deep examination, determined that the ego is itself an instrumentality of Nature. This is confirmed by the experience of the Self when we achieve a new standpoint of quiescence, immobility, silence, in the vast, impersonal consciousness that is the goal of the seeking of the ascetic traditions.

Sri Aurobindo compares the Self and Nature: “When we live tranquilly poised in this self of impersonal wideness, then because that is vast, calm, quiescent, impersonal, our other little false self, our ego of action disappears into its largeness and we see that it is Nature that acts and not we, that all action is the action of Nature and can be nothing else. And this thing we call Nature is a universal executive Power of eternal being in motion which takes different shapes and forms in this or that class of its creatures and in each individual of the species according to its type of natural existence and the resultant function and law of its works. According to its nature each creature must act and it cannot act by anything else. Ego and personal will and desire are nothing more than vividly conscious forms and limited natural workings of a universal Force that is itself formless and infinite and far exceeds them; reason and intelligence and mind and sense and life and body, all that we vaunt or take for our own, are Nature’s instruments and creations.”

The impersonal Soul observes, sanctions even, but does not itself act. All the emotions, all the play of the dualities, all the action of the Gunas are observed with an equal eye of calm and wideness. “If we can live in this equal self, we too are at peace; our works continue so long as Nature’s impulsion prolongs itself in our instruments, but there is a spiritual freedom and quiescence.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part II, Chapter 16, The Fullness of Spiritual Action, pp. 438-439