Escape From Attachment to the Desire For Individual Salvation

Overcoming the idea that individual salvation is an end-goal of spiritual practice, Sri Aurobindo cites various traditions for the call of a greater evolutionary purpose and the dedication of the soul to that higher purpose. These responses provide us an insight “…the essential character of the action the liberated soul must pursue.”

Sri Aurobindo observes: “It is that which is implied in the great legend of the Amitabha Buddha who turned away when his spirit was on the threshold of Nirvana and took the vow never to cross it while a single being remained int he sorrow and the Ignorance. It is that which underlies the sublime verse of the Bhagavata Purana, ‘I desire not the supreme state with all its eight siddhis nor the cessation of rebirth; may I assume the sorrow of all creatures who suffer and enter into them so that they may be made free from grief.’ It is that which inspires a remarkable passage in a letter of Swami Vivekananda, ‘I have lost all wish for my salvation,’ wrote the great Vedantin, ‘may I be born again and again and suffer thousands of miseries so that I may worship the only God that exists, the only God I believe in, the sum-total of all souls,–and above all, my God the wicked, my God the miserable, my God the poor of all races, of all species is the special object of my worship. He who is the high and low, the saint and the sinner, the god and the worm, Him worship, the visible, the knowable, the real, the omnipresent; break all other idols. In whom there is neither past life nor future birth, nor death nor going nor coming, in whom we always have been and always will be one, Him worship; break all other idols.’ ”

Sri Aurobindo underlines the sense of these various statements: “The true salvation or the true freedom from the chain of rebirth is not the rejection of terrestrial life or the individual’s escape by a spiritual self-annihilation, even as the true renunciation is not the mere physical abandonment of family and society; it is the inner identification with the Divine in whom there is no limitation of past life and future birth but instead the eternal existence of the unborn Soul. He who is free inwardly, even doing actions, does nothing at all, says the Gita; for it is Nature that works in him under the control of the Lord of Nature.”

“Therefore attachment to the escape from rebirth is one of the idols which, whoever keeps, the Sadhaka of the integral Yoga must break and cast away from him. For his Yoga is not limited to the realisation of the Transcendent beyond all world by the individual soul; it embraces also the realisation of the Universal, ‘the sum-total of all souls’, and cannot therefore be confined to the movement of a personal salvation and escape. Even in his transcendence of cosmic limitations he is still one with all in God; a divine work remains for him in the universe.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 12, The Divine Work, pp. 257-258