The Union of the Jiva and the Purushottama

Confusion in terms has led to confusion of effort and focus. We start out identifying ourselves with the ego-personality and we then try to find a way to relate to the Supreme. As we seek for a way out of the bondage of the ego, we define the solution as an extinction of all that binds the ego, and thus, we try to find a way to escape from the world of action and relationships. We reason that if we are bound on by the chain of cause and effect, rooted in the sense of “I” and “Mine”, that the solution is to break that chain and dissolve the individuality. The result, as the proverb goes, is to “throw out the baby with the bathwater.”

Sri Aurobindo clarifies the situation by distinguishing between the outer ego-personality and the inner true spiritual Person, the Jiva. The Jiva is a portion of the Eternal that takes on the form for the manifestation of the universe. Because the Jiva is a portion of the Eternal, it can shake off the bondage experienced by the ego-personality and recognise its inherent Oneness with the Eternal.

Similarly, in our attempt to separate ourselves from the binding effect of the world’s activities, we seek a dissolution in the silent, ineffable, immutable experience of consciousness. This brings about a liberation from action, to be sure, but it does not fulfill the ultimate meaning and purpose of the universal manifestation, which can only be realised when we redirect our focus toward the Purushottama, the Supreme Person, who embodies within himself both the unmoving and the moving, the unmanifest and the manifest.

“It is this central spiritual being in us who thus enters into a perfect and closely real relation of delight and union with the origin and continent and governing Self and Power of our existence. And he who receives our surrender is no limited Deity but the Purushottama, the one eternal Godhead, the one supreme Soul of all that is and of all Nature, the original transcendent Spirit of existence.”

“This union, this relation is a thing lifted beyond the forms and laws of the limiting mind, too high for all these inferior Dharmas; it is a truth of our self and spirit. And yet or rather therefore, because it is the truth of our self and spirit, the truth of its oneness with that Spirit from which all comes and by it and as its derivations and suggestions all exists and travails, it is not a negation but a fulfilment of all that mind and life point to and bear in them as their secret and unaccomplished significance.”

The Taittiriya Upanishad underlines this point: “One becometh as the unexisting, if he know the Eternal as negation; but if one knoweth of the Eternal that He is, then men know him for the saint and the one reality.” (Taittiriya Upanishad, Brahmanandavalli Chapter 6, translated by Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, pg. 270)

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part II, Chapter 22, The Supreme Secret, pp. 523-524