Becoming a Conscious Instrument and Power Of the Godhead

Human beings have a unique position in the world of manifestation as a transitional being. While we remain very much bound by the limitations of our animal nature, we also have a self-reflective capability, as well as an intuition of freedom and mastery. Through an error in placement we attribute this sense of freedom and mastery to the ego personality. Sri Aurobindo clarifies that the idea that the outer personality is the part of our being that has this freedom is incorrect, the sense of this freedom and mastery is not totally erroneous, but should be attributed to the inner divine portion, the soul within us.  “There is a godhead there concealed from himself, subliminal to his consciousness, immobilised behind the obscure veil of a working that is not wholly his own and the secret of which he has not yet mastered.”

The error of attribution affects our entire perception of life, the world and our action and role within it.  “What is true of his spirit he attributes to his ego-personality and gives it a false application, a false form and a mass of ignorant consequences.”. 

The outer person is actually created and driven by the impulsion of Nature working through the modality of the three Gunas. So long as we remain bound by the ego-person, we remain subject to this universal force and impulsion. “For the freedom and mastery of man over his nature are hardly even real and cannot be complete until he becomes aware of the Divinity within him and is in possession of his own real self and spirit other than the ego…..   It is that which Nature is labouring to express in mind and life and body; it is that which imposes on her this or that law of being and working, Swabhava; it is that which shapes the outward destiny and the evolution of the soul within us. It is therefore only when he is in possession of his real self and spirit that his nature can become a conscious instrument and enlightened power of the godhead.”



<p>&lt;/p&gt;&lt;p&gt;&amp;lt;p&amp;amp;gt;href=”; title=”Essays on the Gita”&amp;amp;amp;gt;Essays on the Gita&amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;amp;gt;, Second Series, Part II, Chapter 22, The Supreme Secret, pp. 533-535 gt;&amp;lt;/p&amp;gt;&lt;/p&gt;</p>


Overcoming the Limitations Of Action Centered In the Ego

The Bhagavad Gita was set in a predicament that is representative of the human condition. Arjuna represents all of us in his attempt to understand and apply a jumble of conflicting standards, feelings and demands in order to determine the correct course of action and manner of its implementation. Sri Krishna cuts through the consequent confusion with a call for him to abandon all these mental and emotional ideas that govern normal human decision-making and, by transcending the ego, achieving a new standpoint and basis of action.  

Sri Aurobindo reviews Arjuna’s confusion in some depth:.”The refusal of Arjuna to persevere in his divinely appointed work proceeded from the ego sense in him, ahamkara. Behind it was a mixture and confusion and tangled error of ideas and impulsions of the sattwic, rajasic, tamasic ego, the vital nature’s fear of sin and its personal consequences, the heart’s recoil from individual grief and suffering, the clouded reason’s covering of egoistic impulses by self-deceptive specious pleas of right and virtue, our nature’s ignorant shrinking from the ways of God because they seem other than the ways of man and impose things terrible and unpleasant on his nervous and emotional parts and his intelligence.”

Sri Krishna has responded by providing Arjuna not only the knowledge required for transcending the limitations of the ego, but also vouchsafing for him the vision and spiritual realisation of seeing the entire universal manifestation as one unified whole developing under the impulsion of the Supreme. “He has been admitted to a higher consciousness, a new self-realisation, he has been shown the possibility of a divine instead of an egoistic action; the gates have been opened before him of a divine and spiritual in place of a merely intellectual, emotional, sensuous and vital life.He is called to be no longer a great blind instrument, but a conscious soul and an enlightened power and vessel of the Godhead.”




</p><p>&lt;/p&gt;&lt;p&gt;&amp;lt;p&amp;gt;href=”; title=”Essays on the Gita”&amp;amp;gt;Essays on the Gita&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;gt;, Second Series, Part II, Chapter 22, The Supreme Secret, pp. 532-533 gt;&amp;lt;/p&amp;gt;&lt;/p&gt;</p>

The Supreme Mystery

The Gita focuses our attention on a spiritual experience of consciousness that it holds to be both higher and more comprehensive as to the significance of our existence that the vast impersonal and silent experience normally considered to be the ultimate spiritual status.   The experience incorporates all of the diverse parts of our being and brings about a comprehensive and integral affirmation of existence.   This is the experience of the entire universal manifestation as a supreme divine Person.

Starting from our egoistic standpoint we experience the reality of our life as somehow being distinct and separated, fragmented from all other forms and beings. Our first widening beyond this experience of the ego brings us eventually to the status of the impersonal vast that dissolves our ego-personality. The Gita then takes us to the next level of experience that both recognises the truth of the universal impersonality and simultaneously brings us to the recognition of the Purushottama, the Divine Person.  

The human mental framework is incapable of encompassing this status short of achieving the experience itself. The best we can do is to understand an analogy within the scope of our mental capacities; namely, the human body.   We experience the seat of consciousness generally in the brain, and we recognise various body parts and organs, not as separate things, but as parts of one body.   There is thus a unified field which holds the awareness and consciousness of all of these parts as being one being.

In the experience of the Purushottama, then, all the diverse forms and beings we identify separately are parts of one unified, divine Being and Person.  

Sri Aurobindo explains:.”This highest secret is the miracle of a supreme Person and apparent cast Impersonal that are one, an immutable transcendent Self of all things and a Spirit that manifests itself here at the very foundation of cosmos as an infinite and multiple personality acting everywhere,–a Self and Spirit revealed to our last, closest, profoundest experience as an illimitable Being who accepts us and takes us to him, not into a blank of featureless existence, but most positively, deeply, wonderfully into all Himself and in all the ways of his and our conscious existence.”

This experience brings about a deep feeling of love and devotion to “…get the widest, the deepest, the most integral experience of our oneness with the Eternal.”


</p><p>&lt;p&gt;href=”; title=”Essays on the Gita”&amp;gt;Essays on the Gita&amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;gt;, Second Series, Part II, Chapter 22, The Supreme Secret, pp. 531-532 gt;&lt;/p&gt;</p>

A Soul and Spirit Of the Divine Oneness

With the dissolution of the ego in the realisation of the vast, immutable silence, there comes about the sense of liberation. This spiritual experience underlies the seeking of the sannyasi, the secluded anchorite or monk, and it is so powerful and overwhelming an experience that it seems, to those who even taste of it, to be the ultimate goal and end of the path. The Gita, however, is unwilling to convict the entire experience of the individual as an illusion. To be sure, the ego must be dissolved and in this point the Gita agrees with the renunciate disciplines. The Gita however takes up the further question, unresolved otherwise, of the significance and purpose of the individual experience.

Sri Aurobindo takes up this question: “It is true that the ego and its limited personality are even such a temporary and mutable formation of Nature and therefore it must be broken and we must feel ourselves one with all and infinite. But the ego is not the real person; when it has been dissolved there still remains the spiritual individual, there is still the eternal Jiva.”.

The Gita reminds us that even in the experience of the Infinite, it is still the individual who experiences it. “The universal action, even when it is felt as the action of one and the same energy in all, even when it is experienced as the initiation and movement of the Ishwara, still takes different forms in different souls of men,…, and a different turn in their nature.”

“This mystery of our existence signifies that what we are is not only a temporary name and form of the One, but as we may say, a soul and spirit of the Divine Oneness.”.

“This Jiva then is a portion of the Purushottama’s original divine spiritual being, a living power of the living Eternal. He is not merely a temporary form of lower Nature, but an eternal portion of the Highest in his supreme Prakriti, an eternal conscious ray of the divine existence and as everlasting as that supernal Prakriti.”.

<p>href=”; title=”Essays on the Gita”&amp;amp;amp;gt;Essays on the Gita&amp;amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;amp;gt;, Second Series, Part II, Chapter 22, The Supreme Secret, pp. 529-531 &amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;gt;&amp;lt;/p&amp;gt;&lt;/p&gt;</p>

The Gita’s Affirmation Of the Role Of the Individual Soul

The spiritual experience of the vast impersonal and transcendent existence is clearly one of the highest and most overwhelming experiences to be had by the spiritual seeker; and it is therefore understandable that traditions throughout the world have described this experience and made of it a centerpiece of their world view. Some of these traditions go on to postulate that this is in fact the ultimate truth and the experience of the individual is something ultimately unreal and illusory. It is understandable that they would attempt to solve the riddle of the individual in this manner on the basis of the experience.

The Gita shares this experience and the steps leading to its realisation with these other traditions, and certainly acknowledges the reality and power of the impersonal Existence.

At this point, however, the Gita takes a different approach. Rather than consigning the experience of the individual soul to a minor and illusory role, the Gita acknowledges both its reality and its ultimate significance.

Sri Aurobindo describes the Gita’s view: “The demand is to see all things in the self and then in ‘Me’ the Ishwara, to renounce all action into the Self, Spirit, Brahman and thence into the supreme Person, the Purushottama. There is here a still greater and profounder complex of spiritual experience, a larger transmutation of the significance of human life, a more mystic and heart-felt sweep of the return of the stream to the ocean, the restoration of personal works and the cosmic action to the Eternal Worker. The stress on pure impersonality has this difficulty and incompleteness for us that it reduces the inner person, the spiritual individual, that persistent miracle of our inmost being, to a temporary, illusive and mutable formation in the Infinite. The Infinite alone exists and except in a passing play has no true regard on the soul of the living creature. There can be no real and permanent relation between the soul in man and the Eternal, if that soul is even as the always renewable body no more than a transient phenomenon in the Infinite.”

href=”; title=”Essays on the Gita”&amp;amp;gt;Essays on the Gita&amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;gt;, Second Series, Part II, Chapter 22, The Supreme Secret, pp. 528-529 &amp;lt;/p&amp;gt;&lt;/p&gt;</p>

Reconciling the Impersonal Silence of the Nirvanic Status With Action In the World

 The Gita envisions a conscious experience that holds both the impersonal silence and the vast universal action together without division or contradiction. This realisation is similar to the Taoist way as well as the goals and methodology of the Mahayana Tantric Buddhism of Tibet.   The teaching found in chapter 9 of Santideva’s fundamental work “A Guide To the Bodhisattva Way of Life” on the concept of “emptiness” is a practical methodology used to overcome the force of the egoistic consciousness by recognising the fact of the unreality of the objects sought after or avoided through the ego’s attractions and repulsions.   At the end of this practice, which begins with cultivation of the sattwic principle as enunciated by the Gita, there is not, as commonly thought, a dissolution into nothingness, but rather a freedom from the ego personality which allow the vast, universal purpose to manifest through the individual.   The end result is a dedication of the individual to the work of compassion and love that is not self-oriented but rather done for the universal welfare.

Sri Aurobindo describes this status:.”The man who has this harmony may be motionless within and absorbed in silence, but his Self will appear free from disguises, the divine Influence will be at work in him and while he abides in tranquility and an inward inaction, naiskarmya, yet he will act with an irresistible power and myriads of things and beings will move and gather under his influence. The impersonal force of the Self takes up his works, movements no longer deformed by ego, and sovereignly acts through him for the keeping together and control of the world and its peoples….”

>/p><p>Sri Aurobindo, &amp;lt;a href=”; title=”Essays on the Gita”&amp;gt;Essays on the Gita&amp;lt;/a&amp;gt;, Second Series, Part II, Chapter 22, The Supreme Secret, pp. 527-528 &lt;/p&gt;</p>

Seeking the Way To Transcend the Action Of the Three Gunas

The Gita repeatedly exhorts the seeker to transcend and pass beyond the action of the three Gunas and further advises us to ciltivate and increase the action of sattwa as a stepping stone toward realisation of this aim.   At the same time we are warned that a sattwic disposition has its own limitations and is also not stable due to the ever-changing play of the Gunas.   The question naturally arises as to how best to go beyond the action of the Gunas. It is from this general question that the prescription to renounce the life of action and immerse oneself in the experience of the silent, ineffable, immutable and impersonal Brahman arises.  

Sri Aurobindo describes the issues involved in this attempt:.”The difficulty is that while we can feel a positive release into this impersonality in moments of the quiet and silence of our being, an impersonal activity is by no means so easy to realise.”. 

The further difficulty is related to the sattwic ego taking hold of any action decided on and using it as a cloak for the aggrandisement of the egoistic personality and its aims.  

Sri Aurobindo shows the way out of this riddle:.”This impersonal silence however is not the last word of wisdom in this matter, because it is not the only way and crown or not all the way and the last crown of self-realisation open to our endeavour. There is a mightier fuller more positive spiritual experience in which the circle of our egoistic personality and the round of the mind’s limitations vanish in the unwalled infinity of a greatest self and spirit and yet life and its works not only remain still acceptable and possible but reach up and out to their widest spiritual completeness and assume a grand ascending significance.”


>/p><p>Sri Aurobindo, &amp;lt;a href=”; title=”Essays on the Gita”&amp;gt;Essays on the Gita&amp;lt;/a&amp;gt;, Second Series, Part II, Chapter 22, The Supreme Secret, pp. 526-527 &lt;/p&gt;</p>

The Limitations of Sattwa Due To the Mixed Action Of the Three Gunas

The interaction of the 3 Gunas brings about an imperfect and constantly changing result in actual life actions.   Even those of a highly developed sattwic tendency are unable to completely or constantly maintain that status. This is a key insight that the Gita provides in order to underline the necessity of transcending the action of the Gunas.   The ideal of the saint or the wise philosopher sage simply does not go far enough to truly transform life.

Sri Aurobindo describes the issue:.”The sattwic ideals of our enlightened will and reason are either themselves compromises, subject to a constant imperfection and flux of change, or, if absolute in their character, they can be followed only as a counsel of perfection ignored for the most part in practice or successful only as a partial influence. And if sometimes we imagine we have completely realised them, it is because we ignore in ourselves the subconscious or half-conscious mixture of other powers and motives that are usually as much or more than our ideals the real force in our action.”

While sattwa represents an essential step in our evolutionary progression it is insufficient, by itself, to solve the limiting factors of its own rigidity and the pull of our rajasic and tamasic parts and influences. There cannot be a perfect human life made up purely from sattwic principles.

“It cannot be otherwise because neither the nature of this world nor the nature of man is or can be one single piece made of the pure stuff of Sattwa.”

Sri Aurobindo, &lt;a href=”; title=”Essays on the Gita”&gt;Essays on the Gita&lt;/a&gt;, Second Series, Part II, Chapter 22, The Supreme Secret, pp. 525-526</p>

Purusha Limited By the Nature Of the Three Gunas

The three Gunas of Nature provide a key that we can use to understand the evolutionary development of the soul as it begins to awaken to self-consciousness and grows in its identification with the Jiva, the divine portion of the immortal Purusha.

We gain a clear insight into the obstacles as well as the opportunities presented to the soul at each stage. While it is clear that no individual is fixed in the status of one Guna and that they both interact and tend to move from one to the other being predominant, we may nevertheless be able to see certain characteristics of the systematic growth in consciousness and energy as the individual moves through a stage controlled by one or another of these Gunas.  

Sri Aurobindo describes these stages:.”…the tamasic man inertly obeys in a customary mechanical action the suggestions and impulses, the round of will of his material and his half-intellectualised vital and sensational nature.”

“In the middle intervenes the kinetic law or Dharma; the rajasic man, vital, dynamic, active, attempts to impose himself on his world and environment, but only increases the wounding weight and tyrant yoke of his turbulent passions, desires and egoisms, the burden of his restless self-will, the yoke of his rajasic nature.”

“At the top presses down upon life the harmonic regulative law or Dharma; the sattwic man attempts to erect and follow his limited personal standards of reasoning knowledge, enlightened utility or mechanised virtue, his religions and philosophies and ethical formulas, mental systems and constructions, fixed channels of idea and conduct which do not agree with the totality of the meaning of life and are constantly being broken in the movement of the wider universal purpose.”


To achieve the full identification with the Supreme, eventually all three of the Gunas must be overpassed.


Sri Aurobindo, <a href=”; title=”Essays on the Gita”>Essays on the Gita</a>, Second Series, Part II, Chapter 22, The Supreme Secret, pg. 525

The Ego and the Jiva

The central difficulty faced by the seeker comes down to the understanding of “who am I?”. The great sage Ramana Maharshi used this question as the basis for distinguishing the true self from the apparent self. The Gita poses this as the central question that must be resolved. The human being starts by identification with the surface personality based in the ego. We experience ourselves as separated and different from everyone and everything else. We experience a wall of separation and we act as if we are independent of the rest of the manifestation. We either treat the world as a field of self-aggrandisement or else, as a place of fear when we realize the immensity and power of the forms and beings and our own small individuality.

The Gita tells us that there is a true self, the Jiva, which is not this weak, fragmented, fearful or desire-filled ego-personality, but a portion of the supreme Divine which has taken shape here to fulfill the potential of the manifestation and carry out the Divine Purpose. This Jiva is not fragmented, weak and separate, but until we distinguish it and identify with it, it remains hidden and obscure to the surface individuality.

Sri Aurobindo explains: “The life of the ego is founded on a construction of the apparent mental, vital and physical truth of existence, on a nexus of pragmatic relations between the individual soul and Nature, on an intellectual, emotional and sensational interpretation of things used by the little limited I in us to maintain and satisfy the ideas and desires of its bounded separate personality amid the vast action of the universe. All our Dharmas, all the ordinary standards by which we determine our view of things and our knowledge and our action, proceed upon this narrow and limiting basis, and to follow them even in the widest wheelings round our ego centre does not carry us out of this petty circle. It is a circle in which the soul is a contented or struggling prisoner, orever subject to the mixed compulsions of Nature.”

The experience of the Jiva is quite different: “On the other are the vast spiritual reaches of immortal fullness, bliss and knowledge into which we are admitted through union with the divine Being, of whom we are then a manifestation and expression in the eternal light and no longer a disguise in the darkness of the ego-nature.”

The Taittiriya Upanishad makes the distinction between the two states of consciousness quite clear: “…for when the Spirit that is within us findeth his refuge and firm foundation in the Invisible, Bodiless, Undefinable and Unhoused Eternal, then he hat passed beyond the reach of Fear. But when the Spirit that is within us maketh for himself even a little difference in the Eternal, then he hath fear, yea, the Eternal himself becometh a terror to such a knower who thinketh not.” (Taittiriya Upanishad, Brahmanandavalli, Chapter 7, translated by Sri Aurobindo in The Upanishads, pg. 271)

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part II, Chapter 22, The Supreme Secret, pp. 524-525