The Eternal Appears in All Forms in an Evolving Manifestation

Sri Aurobindo translates Shwetashwatara Upanishad, Chapter Five, Verses 10-11:  “Not woman is He, nor man either, not yet sexless; but whatsoever body He take, that confineth and preserveth Him.  As body is born and groweth by food and drink and plenty, so also the Spirit in body progressively attaineth to successive forms in their fit places — by the allurements of sight, by the witcheries of touch, by the magic of volition; according to his works he progresseth and his forms shape themselves to his works.”

By the indication that the Eternal is not woman, man or sexless, the Rishi is not intending to deny the Oneness of the Eternal with all forms; rather he is showing that the Eternal cannot be limited by a specific form.  This is made clear in the next part of the verse that clarifies that every body is a home for the Eternal.  The phrase “not this, not that” has been frequently misinterpreted to mean the Eternal is separate and distant from the forms, rather than, as we see here, that the Eternal cannot be limited by any single form because the Eternal is ALL.

The process of inner growth is then described.  Just as the body grows through food and drink, so the inner Spirit, the conscious awareness grows through the interactions between the individual and the other forms and beings in the universe, brought to his awareness through the action of the senses of perception, and by the application of Will to the individual’s life in the world of forms.  There is an evolving, growing understanding that develops through this process of perception and action.


Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Shwetashwatara Upanishad, pp.369-384

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