Bondage and Liberation

Sri Aurobindo has subtly redefined the classical concepts of “bondage” and “liberation”. The Indian spiritual tradition for the most part has held that bondage comes with the focus on life in the world and the attempt to find fulfillment in carrying out the desires that accompany that life. Liberation on the other hand is defined as non-attachment that leads to renunciation of the life of illusion. Many examples of given of those who have abandoned the opulence of their lives, and devoted themselves to austerities and the life of the renunciate. On the other hand, the Bhagavad Gita began the process of re-defining these terms by stressing, not the outward austerity or renunciation, but the inner renunciation with action done in a state of desireless devotion to the highest spiritual being. Sri Aurobindo continues to develop this line of approach.

“The will to the imperfect separative being, that wrong Tapas which makes the soul in Nature attempt to individualise itself, to individualise its being, consciousness, force of being, delight of existence in a separative sense, to have these things as its own, in its own right and not in the right of God and of the universal oneness, is that which brings about this wrong turn and creates the ego. To turn from this original desire is therefore essential, to get back to the will without desire whose whole enjoyment of being and whole will in being is that of a free universal and unifying Ananda. These two things are one, liberation from the will that is of the nature of desire and liberation from the ego, and the oneness which is brought about by the happy loss of the will of desire and the ego, is the essence of Mukti.”

The essential difference between bondage and liberation, then is not the abandonment of action in the world, but rather the shifting of the standpoing from the individual human ego as the central point around which all revolves to the divine standpoint which is unified with the transcendent and universal aspects of existence and carrying out in action the will of that divine Being. Bondage is an “inner” bondage of the egoistic nature. Liberation is an inner liberation in the spiritual nature.
Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 8, The Liberation of the Spirit, pg. 654