Purusha — Prakriti and the Play of the Gunas

When the seeker steps back from the external consciousness and consciously assumes the poise of the witness of the nature, the Purusha observing the action of Prakriti, he is able to see the ebb and flow of the three Gunas weaving their patterns and causing the events and actions in the world to take place. it is from this standpoint that one may recognise the illusory nature of the ego-consciousness which, up until that point, was assumed by the individual to be the determining factor in the life and the choices one makes. For those still enmeshed fully in the external nature, it is virtually impossible to accept the fact that the ego is not the prime mover, and that the machinery of nature is really carrying out the action.

“When the Sadhaka has once stood back from the action of Prakriti within him or upon him and, not interfering, not amending or inhibiting, not choosing or deciding, allowed its play and analysed and watched the process, he soon discovers that her modes are self-dependent and work, as a machine once put in action works, by its own structure and propelling forces. The force and the propulsion come from Prakriti and not from the creature.”

Once this realisation occurs, however, the seeker can easily fall into the opposite extreme and take the position that everything is determined and there is no role for the individual or the ego-personality at all. This is evidence of the mind’s habitual pattern of adopting seeing things in clear cut divisions rather than as complementary parts of a larger unified field.

Sri Aurobindo reminds us that Nature is not all nor ultimate; there is a Supreme Consciousness which both directs and controls the action of Nature, and the individual soul partakes of this consciousness. “And yet the determinism of Nature or Force is not all; the soul has a word to say in the matter,–but the secret soul, the Purusha, not the mind or the ego, since these are not independent entities, they are parts of Nature. For the soul’s sanction is needed for the play and by an inner silent will as the lord and giver of the sanction it can determine the principle of the play and intervene in its combinations, although the execution in thought and will and act and impulse must still be Nature’s part and privilege. The Purusha can dictate a harmony for Nature to execute, not by interfering in her functions but by a conscious regard on her which she transmutes at once or after much difficulty into translating idea and dynamic impetus and significant figure.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 10, The Three Modes of Nature, pp. 223-224

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