Skip to Content

Ego & Dualities

                                                                                                                  Feb. 15, 1999

We know all is Satchidananda. But we see around us death, suffering, evil and limitation. How did they come to be created? They must have been created by a fall. Satchidananda is knowledge of the total. It is a unifying knowledge. Something must have fallen from it. It would be an error of division and partial experience. Maybe this fallen consciousness created these evils. The Hebrew Genesis speaks of this. Its poetic parable typifies it.

Man should accept God purely. The acceptance must be pure. He must accept God in himself. Man's deviation from this is the fall. Fall leads to divided consciousness. Otherwise he and his consciousness are one. Division brings dualities. Life and death; good and evil; joy and pain; completeness and want are the dualities. Dualities are the result of a divided being. Adam and Eve are Purusha and Prakriti, the soul tempted by Nature. Adam ate the forbidden fruit. Man was originally a part of the universal. Now he has lost it. When he recovers it, there will be redemption. There is spirit in his physical consciousness. Man is unaware of it, now. His awareness of it will remove the dualities.

Man, then, can eat the fruit of the tree of life. He will be the Divine. He becomes immortal. God descended into the material consciousness. That purpose will be fulfilled then. Human soul will thus recover the higher knowledge. It combines the opposites and takes man to the universal. Thus the division is transformed into divine Unity.

We can extend Satchidananda to its widest commonalty. We can do so, to its impartial universality. Then we see the luminous points turn into their opposites. They will be death, suffering, evil and limitation. In our feelings they are notes of discord. In this extension, unity is changed into separation. Miscomprehension issues out of understanding. The orchestral whole needs the self-adaptations of its notes. Here there is an attempt at independent harmonies. Totality can be attempted among jarring opposites. It reverts the discord to harmony. This is true even in one scheme of the universal vibrations. It may be only in the physical consciousness. It may exclude all that is beyond and behind. It is still true. Satchidananda is beyond forms of the universe. There are dual terms of opposites. These cannot be applied to Satchidananda. Transcendence transfigures. It does not reconcile. It transmutes the opposites. Thus the opposition is effaced. The transformation surpasses their opposition.

Let us relate the individual to the harmony of the totality. The values of the universe are received by us in a particular way. It is done according to our consciousness. This is not the only way. Nor is it complete. We cannot say this is the only right way or the final way. Human understanding is justified by the human purpose and human experience. Otherwise the problem cannot be solved. We see the world by our sense capacity and through sense organs. There are other sense organs and sense capacity. They see the world more completely. Their seeing is better. Their seeing is different. So, there may be other mental capacities. Or it may be supramental capacities which are better than our own. To them the universe may look different. Ours is not the only status of consciousness. There are others. To them death is only a change in immortal life. To them pain is delight. Only that it is a violent backwash. It sees limitation as the turning back of the Infinite on itself. To us, evil is horrible. To them evil is good itself. Even it is the perfection of good circling itself. This is not philosophy or abstract. It is seen in actual vision. That experience is substantial. Self-Perfection requires we arrive at those states. It is important for the individual.

The realities of the world are concrete. They are the standards of ordinary life experience. It is the sense mind that brings it to us. They come as dualities. They are the practical values given to us. We await a larger harmony. It can enter our sense experience and transform them. Till then, it is safe to hold on to the old values. There is a higher knowledge. It can give a right interpretation to the old sense values. It is from the new standpoint. This can enlarge the old sense values. To enlarge the sense values before that is not right. The ends of practical life will not be thus served. Nor the orderly, disciplined use of reason is possible. World's relativities enjoy an established order. This exists in the experience of egoistic dualities. It is an unregulated unity. It has some form of total consciousness. Mental consciousness functions in this context. This is a precarious context. To enlarge the mental consciousness here will lead to confusion. It will render one incapable of active life. Of course, this is the injunction of Gita too. The ignorant has a knowledge base and life basis. It is not to be disturbed. They might be inspired by a higher example. They may not comprehend the principle of action. If they do so, they would lose what they have, but will not acquire the values for a higher foundation.

The entry into a wider existence is inviting. No sacrifice is too great for that. Often great souls are willing to pay a price for it. The above disorder is one such. Nor do they mind the incapacity the disorder brings. Of course, they know it to be a temporary passage. But the right goal is always different. Such a goal for human progress must be effective. It is a synthetic reinterpretation of the law of the wider existence. What emerges is a new order of truths. That order is a working of the faculties on the life material. The senses see the sun goes round the earth. It is the centre of existence for the senses. This is a misconception. The motives of life are arranged on that basis. The truth is the very opposite. This new conception has become a centre of a new knowledge. It is a reasoned and ordered knowledge. They put this new knowledge on the senses. Without doing that, the discovery is of no use. Mental consciousness sees the personal ego as the centre. The ego judges all His works and ways. Ego perverts and inverts the truth of things. Even this perversion is useful at a certain stage of the human progress. It is, of course, a rough systematisation of values. It is valid for certain ideas and activities. But that is not the highest. 'Truth is the path, not falsehood.' The truth is not that God moves round the ego. Nor that ego is the centre of existence. The truth is not that the ego can judge God. Nor the view of dualities can pass judgment on God. The truth is that the Divine is the centre. The experience of the individual has no truth of its own. It is to be known in terms of the universal and the transcendental. The change from one status to another creates a disorder. It soon settles down as the new order. New philosophies, new religions, revolutions begin like that. We cannot think of exchanging the new right for the old wrong without an adequate base of knowledge. It will be violent. The resulting disorder too will be violent. Let us arrive at the right central conception. Let us gather a reasoned and effective knowledge around it. Let the egoistic values correct and transform themselves. That way we shall possess that new order of truths. It shall substitute a more divine life for our present existence. Our faculties will be more divinely and powerfully used on the life material of the universe.

We have our own way of conceiving the nature of divine existence. This is a translation of the great truths of life, rather our realisation of them. The power of man depends on this. The new life and new power depend on this new realisation. Ego has its false certainties. Its standpoints are based on them. They must be renounced. Having renounced the ego, it must enter into the right relations and harmony with the totalities.

The right relations are part of the totalities. They are a descent from the transcendent. Its own conventions are exceeded by a truth and law. It opens to them. That truth shall be its fulfillment. It shall also be its deliverance. The egoistic view of things has created values. To abolish those values is the goal. But that is not the crown. Limitation, ignorance, suffering, evil and death are there. To transcend them is the crown.

What are the terms of that life? Is it bound to the present egoistic conditions? If so, that transcendence is not possible here on earth. Neither of these limitations is capable of abolition here. What is the true nature of life?  It may be, in its nature, an individual phenomenon. Or it may represent a universal existence. It might be the breathing of a mighty Life-Spirit. What are the dualities? They may be the response of the individual to the contacts of life or otherwise. They may be the very essence and condition of all living. What is limitation? How does it reflect the substance of which our minds and bodies are formed? What is disintegration of death? Is it the first and the last condition of life? Is it its end and the beginning? Are pleasure and pain the inseparable dual stuff of sensation?  Are joy and grief the necessary shade of all emotion? Are truth and error the two poles of all knowledge? If so, transcendence is available only in another world. One can attain it by abandoning all human life in a Nirvana. Such a heaven is so different from our material universe.

The mind of man is accustomed to being attached to its past and present associations. It is aware of its fixed circumstances. These are human life for the mind. It cannot conceive of a radical change from these conditions. Darwin's theory spoke of the original ape in his theory of evolution. With respect to our higher evolution, we are in the position of that ape. The ape leads a forest life. It could not think of becoming the man we know of. Man uses a new faculty called reason. He uses it on outer objects and inner thoughts. He presently functions by instincts and habits. Reason dominates them. He has changed his physical life, built houses of stone. He has controlled Nature's forces, sailed the seas, conquered the air, laid down laws, developed his mind and spirit. How could the ape conceive of or foresee all of this? Supposing the ape could have conceived of it, surely he would not have thought that he himself would be that man. Man has acquired reason. He indulges his power of imagination and intuition. He can think of a higher life. He can even imagine raising himself to that higher life. He has an idea of the supreme state. To him it is totally positive and desirable. He thinks of knowledge that is error-free. Bliss for his idea is pure bliss without pain. So also, Power without its opposite incapacity. Purity and plenitude of being are to him without defect or limitation. He thinks his gods are like that. His heaven also is one such. But reason does not think so. Man's dream of God is only a dream of his own perfection. Suppose the ape was told it will be a man in future, it would have been bewildered. If man is asked to realise his dream here, he too, like the ape, would be bewildered. Man's imagination believes that dream. Even his religious aspirations hold it to be true. Not his reason. Reason asserts itself. It rejects intuition and imagination. To it, the material life is one of hard facts. This dream is a superstition to reason. Reason thinks that this dream is an inspiring vision of the impossible. To reason, knowledge is conditioned; happiness is limited; power and good are precarious.

Reason as we know, justifies order against confusion. It helps us to understand the useful right as against the unreal wrong. But, in its core, reason aims at Transcendence. It is not just trying to eliminate error, the ultimate error. It does not aim at a greater truth, but aims at the ultimate Truth. Such a truth is pre-existent. All our dualities finally lead to such a truth. Our present positive activity does not illumine reason that way. Yet, it is possible, but that illumination is inherent in its own positive activity. Man's mind, Sri Aurobindo points out, can conceive of absolute happiness. Our minds, presently, concede that suffering will persist. That is the cause of our suffering. Reason can reach behind the surface to the faith of the heart. It is a certitude. That faith can conceive of the elimination of unsatisfied want. Here lies the true role of reason. Sri Aurobindo again points out the apparent limitation of that heart when it moves to the physical plane. As it is, it is impossible for us to conceive of abolition of pain. That was why the abolition of death never occurred to anyone so far. Again, in His own inimitable way, He points out that it is our sovereign instinct. Our vitality, He says, is inherently capable of it. The limitation in the reason is that these are seen as unrealisable.

Sri Aurobindo assigns a greater role to the reason.  He is able to show it to us by sifting the practical attitude from the conceptual potentiality. Man is capable of high thinking but when it comes to acting, he falters. The practical situation, the apparent fact is so formidable that it fails one's courage. But the potentiality is profound. It can lead to its logical conclusion. After all, what we have now realised is the past potentiality. Can we not realise the present potentiality in the future? And such a potentiality exists, says Sri Aurobindo. Man trying to understand the results becomes limited. He gains mastery when he understands the causes. Let us try to understand the cause of sorrow, pain, death, and so on. We can master them. Knowledge gives us power and mastery.

In fact, we do pursue an ideal, so far as we may. We try to eliminate all these negative or adverse phenomena. We try to minimise the cause of error, pain and suffering. Science dreams of increasing our comfort. It dreams of regulating birth. Its knowledge is increasing. It tries to prolong life indefinitely. It may not conquer death. This is a negative attempt. We are not trying to eliminate the root causes. Nor do we try to transform them because we are dealing with the secondary causes. We wish to postpone the undesirable. These are external causes which science is handling. That is why this negative approach. We look at secondary perceptions because science is equipped with the process. To reach the root causes, one needs to know the essence. Science offers a more powerful manipulation of things, not essential control. All these are relative efforts, not entire. Suppose we deal with essential nature and essential cause of things, then we will arrive at a mastery over them. Thus, error, suffering, death can be mastered. Our dominant instincts are the conquest of absolute good, bliss, knowledge and immortality. It is the true and ultimate condition of the human being. It is evident to our intuitions.

The ancient Vedanta conceives of Brahman as a universal and essential fact. It sees Satchidananda as the nature of Brahman. It was their experience, too. Such a conception presents a solution to us by which we will conquer good, bliss and immortality.

They saw all life is a movement of universal and immortal existence. To them the essence of all sensation and emotion is the play of universal and self-existent delight in being. The essence of all thought and perception is the radiation of a universal and all-pervading truth. The essence of all activity is the progression of a universal and self-effecting good.

The play and movement embody themselves in a multiplicity of forms, giving rise to the variation of tendencies, an interplay of energies. The individual ego arises out of the multiplicity. Multiplicity permits interference of a deformative factor. It is determinative and temporary. The nature of ego is a self-limitation of consciousness. It is a wanton ignorance of the rest of its play. It is an exclusive absorption in one form. Ego chooses for itself one set of combination of tendencies. Among the innumerable movements of energies, ego concentrates on one and only one. Ego by its choice converts immortality into death. It generates evil by its choice of one type of good. Its limitation converts ananda into pain. It offsets knowledge by error. The eternal joy in creation is split into joy and sorrow by the selective separativeness of ego. We can recover the right relations and sorrow, pain, evil, and death will readily change into joy, bliss, good and immortality. Ego will thus be eliminated. Now the true values are restored. This recovery enables the individual to play his right role in the universe and enjoy the right relationship with the transcendent.

Later Vedanta arrived at a fresh idea. It saw the ego as the cause of the dualities. It found ego as the essential condition for the existence of the universe. We can get rid of the limitation and ignorance of the ego. Thus dualities will be removed. But our existence in the cosmos will also be eliminated. Thus we will return to the essential evil nature. It is illusory as well. Then perfection in the world will remain a vain endeavour. Here there is no self-existent good. There is only a relative good. It is always linked to evil. But, we can seek a larger and profounder idea. To that ego is only an intermediary. It represents something beyond itself. Then the consequence of evil nature is no longer there. Now Vedanta is applied to escape from the world. Vedanta can then be applied to the fulfillment of life.  The essential cause and condition of the universal existence is the Lord. The Lord is the Ishwara or Purusha. It is he who is manifesting. It is he who is occupying the individual. The individual is a form of the universe. The ego is limited. It is not necessary for the development of the universe in another line. The present manifestation needs ego.

Ego can understand it is only an intermediate phenomenon. That way it can exceed itself. Presently the ego represents life's obscurity. In the new view, the ego can represent life not as obscurity but as one of light. Ego then will dissolve creating a new centre of the Divine and the universal. Presently the individual determinations are egoistic determinations. They can be embraced, utilised, harmonised and transformed into Divine, universal determinations.

The foundation of human existence can become a manifestation of the divine Conscious Being. Such a manifestation will cover the physical Nature too. Nothing in the material universe will then be excluded. We act now for the benefit of our ego. That is not the truth of our activities. The Conscious Being is involved in life and matter. It tries to evolve out of Mind and Life. Even through Supermind it tries to emerge. Our activities are the human role in that emergence. Man is the universal Incarnation. He manifests God in the body. For this, this evolution is conceived. Man appearing in Matter is this evolution. The egoistic formation is the intermediate factor. It is decisive. It allows the One to emerge as the conscious Many. This happens in the subconscient. It is an indeterminate totality generally. Rig Veda calls this the ocean heart in things, hrdaya samudra. The first formations of the ego are the dualities of joy and pain, truth and error, good and evil. Manifestation is an artificial construction. It excludes the total truth, good, life and delight of being in the universe. Self-opening of the individual to the universe and to God dissolves the ego. It is a supreme fulfillment. Even as the animal life is a prelude to human life, egoistic life is a prelude to this fulfillment. By transforming the limited ego, we realise the All in the individual. The ego changes into a conscious centre of the divine unity and freedom. It is the condition of the divine fulfillment. Thus the divine result moves towards the absolute Existence, Truth, Good and Delight of being, on the Many. Cycles of evolution move that way. Material Nature is capable of this supreme birth. She strives to be delivered.

story | by Dr. Radut