The Truth of Individual Fulfillment and its Interdependence with the Universal Fulfillment

So long as the individual feels and experiences his life as separate and distinct from others, he does not recognise the true and deep interdependence of all existence; rather, he tries to fulfill his own individual desires, needs or cravings regardless of their impact on the environment, on other people, or any other factor of existence.  There is a truth of individuality which needs to be respected; and there is a truth to the universal collectivity which also must be valued, honored and supported.  The individual is the actor who has the capability of transcending the norms and conventions of the society and ushering in new insights, thoughts, ways of living, etc.  Yet the individual does not live in a vacuum, but arises from his time, from his interaction with others in the society and with the pressures and directions shown by the collective life of society.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “The second psychic truth the individual has to grasp is this, that he is not only himself, but is in solidarity with all of his kind, — let us leave aside for the moment that which seems to be not of his kind.  That which we are has expressed itself through the individual, but also through the universality, and though each has to fulfil itself in its own way, neither can succeed independently of the other.  The society has no right to crush or efface the individual for its own better development or self-satisfaction; the individual, so long at least as he chooses to live int he world, has no right to disregard for the sake of his own solitary satisfaction and development his fellow-beings and to live at war with them or seek a selfishly isolated good.  And when we say, no right, it is from no social, moral or religious standpoint, but from the most positive and simply with a view to the law of existence itself.  For neither the society nor the individual can so develop to their fulfilment.  Every time the society crushes or effaces the individual, it is inflicting a wound on itself and depriving its own life of priceless sources of stimulation and growth.  The individual too cannot flourish by himself; for the universal, the unity and collectivity of his fellow-beings, is his present source and stock; it is the thing whose possibilities he individually expresses, even when he transcends its immediate level, and of which in his phenomenal being he is one result.  Its depression strikes eventually at his own sources of life, by its increasing he also increases.  This is what a true subjectivism teaches us, — first, that we are a higher self than our ego or our members, secondly, that we are in our life and being not only ourselves but all others; for there is a secret solidarity which our egoism may kick at and strive against, but from which we cannot escape.  It is the old Indian discovery that our real ‘I’ is a Supreme Being which is our true self and which it is our business to discover and consciously become and, secondly, that that Being is one in all, expressed in the individual and in the collectivity, and only by admitting and realising our unity with others can we entirely fulfil our true self-being.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 5, True and False Subjectivism, pp. 47-48