Ignorance and Knowledge

There is a basic and widely held view that there is a status of ignorance characterized by focus on the outer forms and forces in the world, as well as a status of knowledge that arises when we turn our attention inward and upward to the spiritual truth behind our existence. This paradigm has been the underlying principle that led to the paths of renunciation of the outer life by those who sought to exchange what they recognized as ignorance for a new standpoint of knowledge based on the actual truth of existence. The Gita takes up this line of understanding, both to find areas of agreement with it, and to then go about modifying it to provide a more nuanced view that recognizes that there is an essential reality, and therefore truth, to the outer world and the outer life, albeit, not what most people consider it to be.

Sri Aurobindo explains the significance of this: “All action is determined by the effective state of our being, and the effective state of our being is determined by the state of our constant self-seeing will and active consciousness and by its basis of kinetic movement. It is what we see and believe with our whole active nature ourselves to be and our relations with the world to mean, it is our faith, our sraddha, that makes us what we are.”

The issue is thus: “But the consciousness of man is of a double kind and corresponds to a double truth of existence; for there is a truth of the inner reality and a truth of the outer appearance.”

In order to make this transition, the seeker must turn his gaze from its preoccupation with the outer appearances of the world and refocus on the inner spiritual truth and the finding of his true self. “This finding of the true self, this knowledge of the Godhead within us and all is not an easy thing; nor is it an easy thing either to turn this knowledge, even though seen by the mind, into the stuff our our consciousness and the whole condition of our action.”

“According as he lives in one or the other, he will be a mind dwelling in human ignorance or a soul founded in divine knowledge.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part II, Chapter 24, The Message of the Gita, pg. 554


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