Our vision is fixated normally on the outer world because it presents itself as intensely “real”. The material world presents us with “facts” and impinges on our senses and captures our attention completely. If we look carefully at the outer world and its forms, forces and events, we cannot apprehend a soul. We become self-conscious in what we call our mind and have the power of self-reflection and abstraction, which gives us the sense of independence, self-sufficiency and free will. Upon closer examination, however, we find that the mind, too, is a manifestation of the action of Nature, and thus, is part of the very machinery that we are observing, not a truly independent actor.
Sri Aurobindo describes this viewpoint: “In its outer appearance the truth of existence is solely what we call Nature or Prakriti, a Force that operates as the whole law and mechanism of being, creates the world which is the object of our mind and senses and creates too the mind and senses as a means of relation between the creature and the objective world in which he lives. In this outer appearance man in his soul, his mind, his life, his body seems to be a creature of Nature differentiated from othes by a separation of his body, life and mind and especially by his ego-sense–that subtle mechanism constructed for him that he may confirm and centralise his consciousness of all this strong separateness and difference.”
Because the ego-sense is a construct of Nature, it is clear that it is not, of itself, exercising any true free-will. “His ego is itself a product of her workings, and as is the nature of his ego, so will be the nature of its will and according to that he must act and he can no other.”
“This then is man’s ordinary consciousness of himself, this his faith in his own being, that he is a creature of Nature, a separate ego establishing whatever relations with others and with the world, making whatever development of himself, satisfying whatever will, desire, idea of his mind may be permissible in her circle and consonant with her intention or law in his existence.”
It is no wonder then that many people look at this machinery and either declare the whole thing an illusion or else, hold out with the idea the there is no independent existence of God or Soul; that in fact, all this is purely a mechanical action of Nature with nothing else beyond or outside its working. This is a powerful viewpoint based on this initial view of the mechanism of Prakriti. The Gita obviously does not accept this, however, as the final word, any more than the teacher in the Taittiriya Upanishad accepted the first formulation of the student “Food is the Eternal” as the sum total of all meaning. We may, like the disciple Bhrigu, start here, but through deep reflection and insight, we will eventually find that there is more to existence than the dead mechanism of Matter with which we start our observations.
Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part II, Chapter 24, The Message of the Gita, pp. 554-555