The Second Stage in the Development of Equality of Soul

Stoicism, even a stoicism tempered by wisdom or devotion, is not able to bring about the total equality of soul that represents a transition to the divine standpoint from the human standpoint. There is a second stage that represents a phase of “rising above” the events and actions of the world in a high and disinterested “philosophical indifference”. Sri Aurobindo describes this stage: “All things and persons and forces, all thoughts and feelings and sensations and actions, one’s own no less than those of others, are regarded from above by a spirit that remains intact and immutable and is not disturbed by these things.”

He cautions as to the specific texture of this indifference, however: “But indifference must not settle into an inert turning away from action and experience; it must not be an aversion born of weariness, disgust or distaste, a recoil of disappointed or satiated desire, the sullenness of a baffled and dissatisfied egoism forced back from its passionate aims. These recoils come inevitably in the unripe soul and may in some way help the progress by a discouragement of the eager desire-driven vital nature, but they are not the perfection towards which we labour.” This type of recoil represents the normal movement of the Gunas to fall into the mode of Tamas, inertia, darkness or depression, when Rajas, the mode of action and desire, is frustrated. The aim is not to wallow in Tamas!

“The indifference or the impartiality that we must seek after is a calm superiority of the high-seated soul above the contacts of things; it regards and accepts or rejects them but is not moved in the rejection and is not subjected by the acceptance. It begins to feel itself near, kin to, one with a silent Self and Spirit self-existent and separate from the workings of Nature which it supports and makes possible, part of or merged in the motionless calm Reality that transcends the motion and action of the universe. The gain of this period of high transcendence is the soul’s peace unrocked and unshaken by the pleasant ripplings or by the tempestuous waves and billows of the world’s movement.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 9, Equality and Annihilation of Ego, pp.214-215


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