God, Nature and the Human Soul

The frame of reference defines for us the way we respond to our lives and the unexamined assumptions that govern our interactions. Starting with the individual soul, we relate to the world generally from the standpoint of our desires and with the assumption that it is there to please and serve us. We are thus locked into an embrace with Nature which has been described by some as a bondage or a chain of cause and effect. The Gita refers to a “machinery” of Nature, operated by the action of the three Gunas or qualities, which drives all our action.

Yoga attempts to gain leverage on this machinery in order to surpass the limitations of our ordinary lives. In order to achieve this result, it is essential that a way be found to transcend the fixed framework or standpoint that governs our human lives. This transcendent standpoint must be outside the frame of reference in order to truly provide any real and substantive leverage.

Sri Aurobindo describes this transcendent standpoint as the focus on God, the Lord of creation, or the Absolute, outside of action and reaction, outside of all human considerations. One may find an analogy in our view of life on earth. Normally we experience that our earth is the center of the universe, and that the sun, the moon and the stars all rotate around the earth. Scientists determined that the earth actually rotated around the sun, and that the solar system travels through the galaxy. But the true and radical transcendent experience that can galvanize our way of seeing and acting came about for those individuals who traveled into outer space and looked down upon the earth and recognized that all of humanity, all of life on the planet is part of one fragile eco-system and is united.

To achieve the results sought by Yoga, a similar transformative experience is required that takes us out of our normal standpoint. “In practice three conceptions are necessary before there can be any possibility of Yoga; there must be, as it were, three consenting parties to the effort,–God, Nature and the human soul or, in more abstract terms, the Transcendental, the Universal and the Individual. If the individual and Nature are left to themselves, the one is bound to the other and unable to exceed appreciably her lingering march. Something transcendent is needed, free from her and greater, which will act upon us and her, attracting us upward to Itself and securing from her by good grace or by force her consent to the individual ascension.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Introduction: The Conditions of the Synthesis, Chapter 4, The Systems of Yoga, pp. 26-27

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