The Life Force Is Not the Ultimate Creator of Existence

Bhrigu, Varuna’s son in the Taittiriya Upanishad undertook the essential analysis of distinguishing the eternal from the temporary, the underlying truth from the illusion. First he was able to conclude that Matter was the Eternal, but Varuna sent him back for further concentration. Next he concluded that the vital force of existence, prana, was the Eternal. “For from Prana alone, it appeareth, are these creatures born and being born they live by Prana and to Prana they go hence and return.” (Taittiriya Upanishad, Bhriguvalli, Chapter 3) Once again he approached his father with this conclusion and was sent back again for further concentration: “By askesis (tapas) do thou seek to know the Eternal for askesis is the Eternal.”

There is a stage in the development of awareness that emphasizes the primacy of the vital force. Western philosophers, such as Bergson have focused on this as well. Sri Aurobindo observes that this too is an intermediate realisation and thus, an illusion if one remains fixated here: “The experience of a life-force instrumentalising Matter as the foundation, source and true sum of all things, the vibrating unsteady basis of vitalism, is a delusion, a half-view taken for the whole, a tide on a near shore misconceived as all the ocean and its waters. The vitalist idea takes something powerful but outward for the essence. Life-force is the dynamisation of a consciousness which exceeds it. That consciousness is felt and acts but does not become valid to us in intelligence until we arrive at the higher term of Mind, our present summit. Mind is here apparently a creation of Life, but it is really the ulterior sense–not the ultimate–of Life itself and what is behind it and a more conscious formulation of its secret; Mind is an expression not of Life, but of that of which Life itself is a less luminous expression.”

Action based on the attempt to satisfy the promptings of the vital force or energy turns out to be an illusion as it is by nature transitory, limited and impossible to achieve. The life-force is an intermediate term of existence, and is not capable of creating Matter or Mind. It is a derivative of a higher Power that manifests all of creation, and it is thus, not the ultimate expression of the Brahman. The Kena Upanishad states it concisely: “That which breathes not with the breath, that by which the life-breath is led forward in its paths, know That to be the Brahman and not this which men follow after here.” (Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Kena Upanishad, First Part, Verse 8, pg. 102)

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 1, The Object of Knowledge, pp. 280-281