The Importance and Interdependence of Matter and Life-Force

Sri Aurobindo translates Taittiriya Upanishad, Bhriguvalli, Chapter 7: “Thou shalt not blame food; for that is thy commandment unto labour.  Verily Prana also is food, and the body is the eater.  The body is established upon Prana and Prana is established upon the body.  Therefore food here is established upon food.  He who knoweth this food that is established upon food, getteth his firm base, he becometh the master of food and its eater, great in progeny, great in cattle, great in the radiance of holiness, great in glory.”

It is characteristic for human beings to create black and white divisions and undertake an exclusive focus on one aspect to the exclusion of others.  This is very much in line with the nature of the mind.  Thus, when we take up the spiritual life, we tend to want to abandon or de-emphasize the life of the world.  There are short-term advantages to this approach, as an exclusive focus can advance progress in the desired direction; however, in an ultimate sense, this strategy has its serious limitations as it denies the truth that resides in the material world and the meaning and purpose of the creation.  Thus, the Upanishad cautions that “thou shalt not blame food, for that is thy commandment unto labour.”  We are asked to participate fully in the creation and its development.

Sri M. P. Pandit notes:  “The Upanishad then proceeds to warn the aspirant that in his zeal for attaining to Brahman in His utter purity or absoluteness, the universe around, the material formulation of His creative Consciousness-Force is not to be despised; in the flight of the soul, the body is not to be rejected.”

“So too Prana, the Life-force and the other principles in creation.  They are all put forth on purpose from the One Source and are mutually interdependent..  Anna, Matter is to be accepted, fathomed, its truth vis a vis the other manifestations of Brahman to be realised, and its potentialities fully developed … Matter, the physical form depends upon the life-force to animate and sustain it even as Prana depends upon the physical organism for its individual station and action and feeds upon it as a fire consuming its fuel.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads,  Taittiriya Upanishad, Bhriguvalli, pp.275-281, M. P. Pandit, Upanishads: Gateways of Knowledge, pp. 169-182