The Importance of Knowledge of the Self and Nature

There is much confusion surrounding the aim and realisations that are the focus of the yogic path of Knowledge, due to the dichotomy set up by the mind between Spirit and the world of manifestation. This has led to an attempt to realise the Divine by abandoning and severing connection with the world of Nature. Sri Aurobindo clears up this confusion, by clarifying the relation of the seeker of the integral Yoga to God and Nature: “…we have rejected the trenchant solutions which cut the knot of the riddle of the universe; we recognize it neither as a fiction of material appearance created by Force, nor as an unreality set up by the Mind, nor as a bundle of sensations, ideas and results of idea and sensation with a great Void or a great blissful Zero behind it to strive towards as our true truth of eternal non-existence. We accept the Self as a reality and the universe as a reality of the Self, a reality of its consciousness and not of mere material force and formation, but none the less or rather all the more for that reason a reality.”

This understanding also changes the focus of the Yoga of knowledge. The object is not to abandon the life of the world, but to gain a true understanding of the Self and its relation to the spiritual transcendence and the world of its manifestation. The same mental dichotomy that creates the confusion about the goal of the Yoga of knowledge, is active in providing us a false picture of who we are and what our purpose in life actually is. “We conceive of ourselves falsely, we see ourselves as we are not; we live in a false relation with our environment, because we know neither the universe nor ourselves for what they really are but with an imperfect view founded on a temporary fiction which the Soul and Nature have established between themselves for the convenience of the evolving ego. And this falsity is the root of a general perversion, confusion and suffering which besiege at every step both our internal life and our relations with our environment. Our personal life and our communal life, our commerce with ourselves and our commerce with our fellows are founded on a falsity and are therefore false in their recognized principles and methods, although through all this error a growing truth continually seeks to express itself. Hence the supreme importance to man of Knowledge, not what is called the practical knowledge of life, but of the profoundest knowledge of the Self and Nature on which alone a true practice of life can be founded.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 6, The Synthesis of the Disciplines of Knowledge, pp. 320-321