Beyond the Dualism of Soul and Nature

The experience of the individual soul bound by the action of the Gunas of Nature is a real one which observant individuals have been able to confirm. Similarly the experience of the Soul immersed in the silent, immobile, immutable Self, uninvolved in Nature and not affected by the action of the Gunas is an equally real one, confirmed by those who have followed the path of Knowledge. A question arises, then, as to what is the relationship between these two experiential states, and how they are reconciled.

If there is one individual Soul, how can it be at one moment “bound” and at another moment “free”? Thus arose the idea that there are either multiple Purushas, or multiple poises of one Purusha in its relations with Nature. An issue with the concept of multiple poises is simply that there seems to be no inducement to encourage the “free” Purusha to move to involve itself in the action of Nature. Sri Aurobindo describes the paradox: “If it were so, either all works would be quite indifferent to the soul and this or that action or refraining from action would take place by some ungoverned turn of the mobile variations of the Gunas,–Arjuna would be moved to battle by rajasic impulse in the instruments or withheld from it by tamasic inertia or sattwic indifference,–or else, if it so is that he must act and act only in this way, it would be by some mechanical determinism of Nature.” The lack of any rationale for the Soul which has escaped into the silent, immobile Eternal reality is another unresolved issue here. “It is this lacuna, this impossible vacuum that compels us to suppose two Purushas or two poses of the one Purusha, one secret in the Self that observes all from its self-existence–or perhaps observes nothing, another self-projected into Nature that lends itself to her action and identifies itself with her creations.”

Sri Aurobindo points out however that “…even this dualism of the two Purushas is not the whole philosophic creed of the Gita. It goes beyond them to the supreme all-embracing oneness of a higher Purusha, Purushottama.”

There is an inherent problem with any ultimate form of dualism. Where and how does something OTHER THAN the divine consciousness and existence come about? From what can it be created? How can it exist independently of the eternal, infinite Reality and consciousness? The Gita eventually brings us to the concept of “integral non-dualism” through this process, and it is the Purushottama, the embracing, integrating consciousness that resolves the apparent contradiction between the two poises of the Purusha, Akshara and Kshara, that brings in the solution to an otherwise impossible dualistic view.

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part II, Chapter 16, The Fullness of Spiritual Action, pp. 439-440