The Forgetfulness of the Purusha

It is one thing to recognize intellectually that the true Self of the individual is not the body, not the life-energy and not the mind. That recognition is the first step in the path of liberation; yet, there is still the fact of the identification that we experience with the body-life-mind to address. For most human beings, our inner experience is limited to the bodily life and we see, feel and experience ourselves to the limit of the physical body and no further. Occasionally, through some extraordinary experience of consciousness, we may temporarily go beyond this limitation in our perception, such as when an individual is suddenly confronted with an “out of body” experience and can actually observe the body from a viewpoint outside while the conscious awareness is with the individuality that is now, temporarily, separated from the body.

An implementation stage is therefore required, during which the seeker works to actually realise, not just intellectually accept, the separation from the body consciousness. Sri Aurobindo suggests that the leverage for this step is achieved by the separation of Purusha and Prakriti, which then allows the Purusha to systematically take the standpoint that it is separate and uninvolved in the action of the nature, Prakriti, and thereby remember that it is not the body, life or mind within which it has been bound by its having forgotten its true nature and freedom.

“The Purusha, the soul that knows and commands has got himself involved inn the workings of his executive conscious force, so that he mistakes this physical working of it which we call the body for himself; he forgets his own nature as the soul that knows and commands; he believes his mind and soul to be subject to the law and working of the body; he forgets that he is so much else besides that is greater than the physical form; he forgets that the mind is really greater than Matter and ought not to submit to its obscurations, reactions, habit of inertia, habit of incapacity; he forgets that he is more even than the mind, a Power which can raise the mental being above itself; that he is the Master, the Transcendent and it is not fit the Master should be enslaved to his own workings, the Transcendent imprisoned in a form which exists only as a trifle in its own being. All this forgetfulness has to be cured by the Purusha remembering his own true nature and first by his remembering that the body is only a working and only one working of Prakriti.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 7, The Release From Subjection to the Body, pg. 328

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