The Relation of Purusha and Prakriti in the Desire World of the Vital Principle

When we view the intensity of the relation between Purusha and Prakriti in the framework of Matter, we can easily succumb to the idea that this is the only possible relationship and that the Purusha either becomes immersed in the world of Matter under the control of Prakriti, or else has to abandon that life by complete detachment and separation. Sri Aurobindo observes, however, that each principle of existence, Matter, Life, Mind, Supermind, as well as Sat, Chit, Ananda in the upper range, is able to make its own unique set of conditions, principle of action and corresponding relationship between the soul and Nature. What one might imagine, therefore, to be a fixed and unvarying relation between the two is actually only operative in this material universe and manifestation.

Sri Aurobindo describes the principles and operative relations that arise when the vital principle, the Life principle is actually dominant: “In this world forms do not determine the conditions of the life, but it is the life which determines the form, and therefore forms are there much more free, fluid, largely and to our conceptions strangely variable than in the material world.” Where the world of Matter appears to be inconscient, the vital world is one of evident consciousness expressing itself. It seeks for fulfilment of desire and achievement of enjoyment. “Desire and the satisfaction of impulse are therefore the first law of this world of sheer vital existence, this poise of relations between the soul and its nature in which the life-power plays with so much greater a freedom and capacity than in our physical living; it may be called the desire-world, for that is its principle characteristic.”

Due to the fluidity of the principle of life, the actual forms such a world and life can take are extremely variable, and can therefore create a series of different manifestations depending on whether it is aligned more closely to the material principle, or the higher principle of Mind, or even other principles such as the Psychic Being, or the spiritual realms of Sat-Chit-Ananda.

The principle of desire represents a separation and experience of something lacking, and in attempting to achieve the objects of desire, the soul then takes on the experience of pleasure and of pain, enjoyment and suffering. “It is here therefore that there are situated the lowest heavens and all the hells with the tradition and imagination of which the human mind has lured and terrified itself since the earliest ages. All human imaginations indeed correspond to some reality or real possibility, though they may in themselves be a quite inaccurate representation or couched in too physical images and therefore inapt to express the truth of supraphysical realities.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 19, The Planes of Our Existence, pp. 432-433

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