Swabhava and Swadharma In All Nature

We tend to reflect on concepts such as Swabhava and Swadharma as if they were limited to human lives, but in reality, all of Nature follows these principles, albeit in various forms suited to the wide variation of beings and manifestations of consciousness-force that appear in them. If we look closely at the operations of Nature, we can see that there is an enormous variation of forms, and each form has its own distinct way of being and functioning in the world. There is both limitless variation and consistent patterns that reflect typal roles. An acorn yields an oak tree. There are multiple different types of oak trees, and each specific oak tree may grow somewhat differently from another one of the same type, but we can identify the sense of being that can be called an oak tree, and see that oak trees carry out a specific type of action in the world, modified by an interaction with their environment and with other beings.

Sri Aurobindo reflects on the universality of this concept: “This principle obtains throughout cosmos; there is everywhere the one Power at work, one common universal Nature, but in each grade, form, energy, genus, species, individual creature she follows out a major Idea and minor ideas and principles of constant and complex variation that found both the permanent dharma of each and its temporary dharmas. These fix for it the law of its being in becoming, the curve of its birth and persistence and change, the force of its self-preservation and self-increasing, the lines of its stable and evolving self-expression and self-finding, the rules of its relations to all the rest of the expression of the Self in the universe.”

Following its law of Nature, each form and being has a path of survival, growth and development, and its inability to adapt within its environment to the demands made upon it, and bring about necessary modifications to its environment to allow it to carry out its essential law of life, leads to death and disintegration, making way for those beings or forms that have the capacity to adapt and grow, and thus, bringing about a progressive manifestation.

“This law obtains in one form or another in all Nature; it underlies all that action of law of universality and law of variation revealed to us by Science. The same law obtains in the life of the human being, his many lives in many human bodies. here it has an outward play and an inward spiritual truth, and the outward play can only put on its full and real meaning when we have found the inward spiritual truth and enlightened all our action with the values of the spirit.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part II, Chapter 20, Swabhava and Swadharma, pp. 502-503