The Dualities and the Liberation of the Soul

The interplay of the three Gunas leads to the expression of the dualities, the pairs of opposites, which the observing soul then responds to with attraction and repulsion, depending on whether the particular formation is accepted by the soul as a “positive” or a “negative” event. Attachment by the ego-personality to the impulses and results of actions in the outer world is what holds the soul bound to the play of the dualities. Sri Aurobindo notes: “The knot of this duality is an ignorance which is unable to seize on the spiritual truth of things and concentrates on the imperfect appearances, but meets them not with a mastery of their inner truth, but with a strife and a shifting balance of attraction and repulsion, capacity and incapacity, liking and disliking, pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow, acceptance and repugnance; all life is represented to us as a tangle of these things, of the pleasant and the unpleasant, the beautiful and the unbeautiful, truth and falsehood, fortune and misfortune, success and failure, good and evil, the inextricable double web of Nature. Attachment to its likings and repugnances keeps the soul bound in this web of good and evil, joys and sorrows.”

For the seeker of liberation, the attachment and bondage to the dualities experienced by the ego-self must be removed. The simplest method seemed to be cutting the knot of this bondage with the knife of non-attachment, rejection and avoidance. This in turn led to the abandonment of life in the world and a distancing of the soul from the nature. “The seeker of liberation gets rid of attachment, throws away from his soul the dualities, but as the dualities appear to be the whole act, stuff and frame of life, this release would seem to be most easily compassed by a withdrawal from life, whether a physical withdrawal, so far as that is possible while in the body, or an inner retirement, a refusal of sanction, a liberating distaste, vairagya, for the whole action of Nature. There is a separation of the soul from Nature. Then the soul watches seated above and unmoved,…the strife of the gunas in the natural being and regards as an impassive witness the pleasure and pain of the mind and body. Or it is able to impose its indifference even on the outer mind and watches with the impartial calm or the impartial joy of the detached spectator the universal action in which it has no longer an active inner participation. The end of this movement is the rejection of birth and a departure into the silent self, moksa.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 9, The Liberation of the Nature, pp. 662-663

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