Being and Becoming Are One

When we reflect on the nature of our existence, we frequently treat the universe as something inconscient and mechanical, a stage for our conscious action. To the extent we reflect further on how this seemingly mechanical universe came about, we tend to posit some kind of external “Creator”, to whom we attribute qualities such as Infinite, All-Knowing, All-Powerful, while somehow this creator is outside the manifested universe. Upon further reflection, we recognize the contradiction of some Being who is Infinite being limited to the extent that the Universe is outside this Creator! Some try to avoid this conflict by positing that the entire universe is a machinery created by “chance” out of a “big bang” without going to the ultimate step of “where did the Matter that created the ‘big bang’ arise?, and some even posit a Creator who then “abandoned” the universe to its own devices and it is now a “dead machine” acting on pure momentum.

The Bhagavad Gita however, posits a solution that actually resolves the conflicts and this is the concept of the Purushottama, the conscious Being who holds within his existence both the Unmanifest and the Manifest, the Unmoving and the Moving, the Akshara Purusha and the Kshara Purusha. Sri Aurobindo takes up this approach by recognizing that the entire universe is Conscious, the manifestation of a conscious Being who is in fact ONE. “The Eternal is the one infinite conscious Existence, Purusha, and not something inconscient and mechanical; it exists eternally in its delight of the force of its own conscious being founded in an equilibrium of unity; but it exists also in the no less eternal delight of its force of conscious being at play with various creative self-experience in the universe.”

He points out that the human individual can experience the Timeless, Silent, Infinity of Existence, and also the multiplicity and the dynamic of duality (although the limited individual tends to experience these things sequentially and separately, moving from one status to the other), and similarly, the One Eternal can experience, concurrently, simultaneously and as one experience, the Unity and the Multiplicity, but without leaving the one to experience the other. “He does not, like us bound prisoners of the mind, conceive of His being as either a sort of indefinite result and sum or else a high contradiction of self-experience. The old philosophical quarrel between Being and Becoming is not possible to the eternal self-knowledge.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 18, The Soul and Its Liberation, pg. 418

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