Developing Equality of Spirit By Overcoming Desire

There are a number of different moods or standpoints that can be adopted as transitional strategies for overcoming the force of desire. These may include forms of stoicism, philosophical aloofness, or a type of religious resignation or devotion. The summary of the Gita’s teachings that Sri Aurobindo is providing at this stage is not intended to recapitulate all of these methods; rather, it is intended to highlight the result of this practice:

“The result will be an absolute equality and the power of unshakable calm that the universal spirit maintains in front of its creations, facing ever the manifold action of Nature. Look with equal eyes; receive with an equal heart and mind all that comes to you, success and failure, honour and dishonour, the esteem and love of men and their scorn and persecution and hatred, every happening that would be to others a cause of joy and every happening that would be to others a cause of sorrow. Look with equal eyes on all persons, on the good and the wicked, on the wise and the foolish, on the Brahmin and the outcaste, on man at his highest and every pettiest creature. Meet equally all men whatever their relations to you, friend and ally, neutral and indifferent, opponent and enemy, lover and hater. These things touch the ego and you are called to be free from ego. These are personal relations and you have to observe all with the deep regard of the impersonal spirit. These are temporal and personal differences which you have to see but not be influenced by them; for you must fix not on these differences but on that which is the same in all, on the one self which all are, on the Divine in every creature and on the one working of Nature which is the equal will of God in men and things and energies and happenings and in all endeavor and result and whatever outcome of the world’s labour.”

This represents a change of standpoint from the human to the divine. The normal human standpoint, based in the operation of the mental consciousness is focused on analysis, division, fragmentation into separate parts, and the highlighting of distinctions and differences. The divine standpoint recognises these individual distinctions within a framework of unity and oneness. The common basis of all existence is primary–the distinctions secondary. The viewpoint is integral and from that standpoint the Oneness of all existence is the starting point, not built up as a “sum of parts” but seen as an organic whole of which the parts are essentially incidental details.

This does not eliminate the ability to see the distinctions and differences, but it changes the understanding of their significance and the response we provide to them. The essence of that response is what Sri Aurobindo terms “equality”. There are times and places where one feels a sense of peace and harmony, an atmosphere where this type of equality reigns supreme, just as there are individuals who seem to exude a vast and deep sense of peace. When this equality takes hold, it leads to such results.

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part II, Chapter 24, The Message of the Gita, pg. 564

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