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I am Thine for eternity. - The Mother

The soul of man has to go beyond to some more absolute dharma of man's spiritual and immortal nature.


Arjuna said: Thou art the supreme Brahman, the supreme Abode, the supreme Purity, the one permanent, the divine Purusha, the original Godhead, the Unborn, the all-pervading Lord.


Swabhava and Swadharma


Sri Aurobindo


  IT IS then by a liberating development of the soul out of  this lower nature of the triple gunas into the supreme divine  nature beyond the three gunas that we can best arrive at  spiritual perfection and freedom. And this again can best be  brought about by an anterior development of the predominance  of the highest sattwic quality to a point at which sattwa also  is overpassed, mounts beyond its own limitations and breaks  up into a supreme freedom, absolute light, serene power of the  conscious spirit in which there is no determination by conflicting  gunas. A highest sattwic faith and aim new-shaping what we are  according to the highest mental conception of our inner possibilities  that we can form in the free intelligence, is changed by this  transition into a vision of our own real being, a spiritual selfknowledge.  A loftiest ideality or standard of dharma, a pursuit  of the right law of our natural existence, is transformed into a  free assured self-existent perfection in which all dependence on  standards is transcended and the spontaneous law of the immortal  self and spirit displaces the lower rule of the instruments and  members. The sattwic mind and will change into that spiritual  knowledge and dynamic power of identical existence in which  the whole nature puts off its disguise and becomes a free selfexpression  of the godhead within it. The sattwic doer becomes  the Jiva in contact with his source, united with the Purushottama;  he is no longer the personal doer of the act, but a spiritual  channel of the works of the transcendent and universal Spirit.  His natural being transformed and illumined remains to be the  instrument of a universal and impersonal action, the bow of the  divine Archer.What was sattwic action becomes the free activity  of the perfected nature in which there is no longer any personal 

1 Gita, XVIII. 40-48.

limitation, any tethering to this or that quality, any bondage of  sin and virtue, self and others or any but a supreme spiritual selfdetermination.  That is the culmination of works uplifted to the  sole Divine Worker by a God-seeking and spiritual knowledge.  But there is still an incidental question of great importance  in the old Indian system of culture and, even apart from that  antique view, of considerable general importance, on which we  have had some passing pronouncements already by the Gita and  which now falls into its proper place. All action on the normal  level is determined by the gunas; the action which is to be done,  kartavyam˙ karma, takes the triple form of giving, askesis and  sacrifice, and any or all of these three may assume the character  of any of the gunas. Therefore we have to proceed by the raising  of these things to the highest sattwic height of which they are  capable and go yet farther beyond to a largeness in which all  works become a free self-giving, an energy of the divine Tapas,  a perpetual sacrament of the spiritual existence. But this is a  general law and all these considerations have been the enunciation  of quite general principles and refer indiscriminately to  all actions and to all men alike. All can eventually arrive by  spiritual evolution to this strong discipline, this large perfection,  this highest spiritual state. But while the general rule of mind  and action is the same for all men, we see too that there is  a constant law of variation and each individual acts not only  according to the common laws of the human spirit, mind, will,  life, but according to his own nature; each man fulfils different  functions or follows a different bent according to the rule of his  own circumstances, capacities, turn, character, powers. What  place is to be assigned to this variation, this individual rule of  nature in the spiritual discipline?  The Gita has laid some stress on this point and even assigned  to it a great preliminary importance. At the very start it  has spoken of the nature, rule and function of the Kshatriya as  Arjuna’s own law of action, svadharma;2 it has proceeded to lay  it down with a striking emphasis that one’s own nature, rule, 

2 II. 31. svadharmam api c¯aveks.ya.

function should be observed and followed,—even if defective,  it is better than the well-performed rule of another’s nature.  Death in one’s own law of nature is better for a man than  victory in an alien movement. To follow the law of another’s  nature is dangerous to the soul,3 contradictory, as we may say, to  the natural way of his evolution, a thing mechanically imposed  and therefore imported, artificial and sterilising to one’s growth  towards the true stature of the spirit. What comes out of the  being is the right and healthful thing, the authentic movement,  not what is imposed on it from outside or laid on it by life’s  compulsions or the mind’s error. This swadharma is of four  general kinds formulated outwardly in the action of the four  orders of the old Indian social culture, c ¯aturvarn. ya. That system  corresponds, says the Gita, to a divine law, it “was created  by me according to the divisions of the gunas and works,”—  created from the beginning by the Master of existence. In other  words, there are four distinct orders of the active nature, or  four fundamental types of the soul in nature, svabh¯ava, and the  work and proper function of each human being corresponds  to his type of nature. This is now finally explained in preciser  detail. The works of Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras,  says the Gita, are divided according to the qualities (gun. as)  born of their own inner nature, spiritual temperament, essential  character (svabh¯ava). Calm, self-control, askesis, purity, longsuffering,  candour, knowledge, acceptance of spiritual truth are  the work of the Brahmin, born of his swabhava. Heroism, high  spirit, resolution, ability, not fleeing in the battle, giving, lordship  (¯ı´svara-bh¯ava, the temperament of the ruler and leader) are the  natural work of the Kshatriya. Agriculture, cattle-keeping, trade  inclusive of the labour of the craftsman and the artisan are the  natural work of the Vaishya. All work of the character of service  falls within the natural function of the Shudra. A man, it goes  on to say, who devotes himself to his own natural work in life  acquires spiritual perfection, not indeed by the mere act itself,  but if he does it with right knowledge and the right motive, if he 

3 III. 35.

can make it a worship of the Spirit of this creation and dedicate it  sincerely to the Master of the universe from whom is all impulse  to action. All labour, all action and function, whatever it be, can  be consecrated by this dedication of works, can convert the life  into a self-offering to the Godhead within and without us and is  itself converted into a means of spiritual perfection. But a work  not naturally one’s own, even though it may be well performed,  even though it may look better from the outside when judged  by an external and mechanical standard or may lead to more  success in life, is still inferior as a means of subjective growth  precisely because it has an external motive and a mechanical  impulsion. One’s own natural work is better, even if it looks  from some other point of view defective. One does not incur  sin or stain when one acts in the true spirit of the work and  in agreement with the law of one’s own nature. All action in  the three gunas is imperfect, all human work is subject to fault,  defect or limitation; but that should not make us abandon our  own proper work and natural function. Action should be rightly  regulated action, niyatam˙ karma, but intrinsically one’s own,  evolved from within, in harmony with the truth of one’s being,  regulated by the Swabhava, svabha¯va-niyatam˙ karma.  What precisely is the intention of the Gita? Let us take it  first in its more outward meaning and consider the tinge given  to the principle it enounces by the ideas of the race and the time  —the hue of the cultural environment, the ancient significance.  These verses and the earlier pronouncements of the Gita on the  same subject have been seized upon in current controversies on  the caste question and interpreted by some as a sanction of the  present system, used by others as a denial of the hereditary basis  of caste. In point of fact the verses in the Gita have no bearing  on the existing caste system, because that is a very different  thing from the ancient social ideal of caturvarn. a, the four clearcut  orders of the Aryan community, and in no way corresponds  with the description of the Gita. Agriculture, cattle-keeping and  trade of every kind are said here to be the work of the Vaishya;  but in the later system the majority of those concerned in trade  and in cattle-keeping, artisans, small craftsmen and others are actually classed as Shudras,—where they are not put altogether  outside the pale,—and, with some exceptions, the merchant  class is alone and that too not everywhere ranked as Vaishya.  Agriculture, government and service are the professions of all  classes from the Brahmin down to the Shudra. And if the economical  divisions of function have been confounded beyond any  possibility of rectification, the law of the guna or quality is still  less a part of the later system. There all is rigid custom, ¯ac¯ara,  with no reference to the need of the individual nature. If again  we take the religious side of the contention advanced by the  advocates of the caste system, we can certainly fasten no such  absurd idea on the words of the Gita as that it is a law of a man’s  nature that he shall follow without regard to his personal bent  and capacities the profession of his parents or his immediate  or distant ancestors, the son of a milkman be a milkman, the  son of a doctor a doctor, the descendants of shoemakers remain  shoemakers to the end of measurable time, still less that by  doing so, by this unintelligent and mechanical repetition of the  law of another’s nature without regard to his own individual call  and qualities a man automatically farthers his own perfection  and arrives at spiritual freedom. The Gita’s words refer to the  ancient system of caturvarn. a, as it existed or was supposed to  exist in its ideal purity,—there is some controversy whether it  was ever anything more than an ideal or general norm more or  less loosely followed in practice,—and it should be considered  in that connection alone.Here too there is considerable difficulty  as to the exact outward significance.  The ancient system of the four orders had a triple aspect; it  took a social and economic, a cultural and a spiritual appearance.  On the economic side it recognised four functions of the  social man in the community, the religious and intellectual, the  political, the economic and the servile functions. There are thus  four kinds of work, the work of religious ministration, letters,  learning and knowledge, the work of government, politics, administration  and war, the work of production, wealth-making  and exchange, the work of hired labour and service. An endeavour  was made to found and stabilise the whole arrangement of society on the partition of these four functions among four  clearlymarked classes. This system was not peculiar to India, but  was with certain differences the dominating feature of a stage of  social evolution in other ancient or mediaeval societies. The four  functions are still inherent in the life of all normal communities,  but the clear divisions no longer exist anywhere. The old system  everywhere broke down and gave place to a more fluid order  or, as in India, to a confused and complex social rigidity and  economic immobility degenerating towards a chaos of castes.  Along with this economic division there existed the association  of a cultural idea which gave to each class its religious custom,  its law of honour, ethical rule, suitable education and training,  type of character, family ideal and discipline. The facts of life did  not always correspond to the idea,—there is always a certain  gulf found between the mental ideal and the vital and physical  practice,—but there was a constant and strenuous endeavour to  keep up as much as possible a real correspondence. The importance  of this attempt and of the cultural ideal and atmosphere  it created in the past training of the social man, can hardly  be put too high; but at the present day it has little more than a  historical, a past and evolutionary significance. Finally, wherever  this system existed, it was given more or less a religious sanction  (more in the East, very little in Europe) and in India a profounder  spiritual use and significance. This spiritual significance is the  real kernel of the teaching of the Gita.  The Gita found this system in existence and its ideal in  possession of the Indian mind and it recognised and accepted  both the ideal and system and its religious sanction. “The fourfold  order was created by me,” says Krishna, “according to the  divisions of quality and active function.” On the mere strength  of this phrase it cannot altogether be concluded that the Gita  regarded this system as an eternal and universal social order.  Other ancient authorities did not so regard it; rather they distinctly  state that it did not exist in the beginning andwill collapse  in a later age of the cycle. Still we may understand from the  phrase that the fourfold function of social man was considered  as normally inherent in the psychological and economic needs of every community and therefore a dispensation of the Spirit  that expresses itself in the human corporate and individual existence.  The Gita’s line is in fact an intellectual rendering of  the well-known symbol in the Vedic Purusha-Sukta. But what  then should be the natural basis and form of practice of these  functions? The practical basis in ancient times came to be the  hereditary principle. A man’s social function and position were  no doubt determined originally, as they are still in freer, less  closely ordered communities by environment, occasion, birth  and capacity; but as there set in a more fixed stratification, his  rank came practically to be regulated by birth mainly or alone  and in the later system of caste birth came to be the sole rule  of status. The son of a Brahmin is always a Brahmin in status,  though he may have nothing of the typical Brahmin qualities  or character, no intellectual training or spiritual experience or  religious worth or knowledge, no connection whatever with the  right function of his class, no Brahminhood in his work and no  Brahminhood in his nature.  This was an inevitable evolution, because the external signs  are the only ones which are easily and conveniently determinable  and birth was the most handy andmanageable in an increasingly  mechanised, complex and conventional social order. For a time  the possible disparity between the hereditary fiction and the  individual’s real inborn character and capacity was made up or  minimised by education and training: but eventually this effort  ceased to be sustained and the hereditary convention held absolute  rule. The ancient lawgivers, while recognising the hereditary  practice, insisted that quality, character and capacity were the  one sound and real basis and that without them the hereditary  social status became an unspiritual falsehood because it had  lost its true significance. The Gita too, as always, founds its  thought on the inner significance. It speaks indeed in one verse  of the work born with a man, sahajam˙ karma; but this does  not in itself imply a hereditary basis. According to the Indian  theory of rebirth, which the Gita recognises, a man’s inborn  nature and course of life are essentially determined by his own  past lives, are the self-development already effected by his past actions and mental and spiritual evolution and cannot depend  solely on the material factor of his ancestry, parentage, physical  birth, which can only be of subordinate moment, one effective  sign perhaps, but not the dominant principle. The word sahaja  means that which is born with us, whatever is natural, inborn,  innate; its equivalent in all other passages is svabh¯avaja. The  work or function of a man is determined by his qualities, karma  is determined by gun. a; it is the work born of his Swabhava,  svabha¯vajam˙ karma, and regulated by his Swabhava, svabha¯vaniyatam  ˙ karma. This emphasis on an inner quality and spirit  which finds expression in work, function and action is the whole  sense of the Gita’s idea of Karma.  And from this emphasis on the inner truth and not on the  outer form arises the spiritual significance and power which the  Gita assigns to the following of the Swadharma. That is the  really important bearing of the passage. Too much has been  made of its connection with the outer social order, as if the  object of the Gita were to support that for its own sake or to  justify it by a religio-philosophical theory. In fact it lays very little  stress on the external rule and a very great stress on the internal  law which the Varna system attempted to put into regulated  outward practice. And it is on the individual and spiritual value  of this law and not on its communal and economic or other  social and cultural importance that the eye of the thought is  fixed in this passage. The Gita accepted the Vedic theory of  sacrifice, but gave it a profound turn, an inner, subjective and  universal meaning, a spiritual sense and direction which alters  all its values. Here too and in the same way it accepts the theory  of the four orders of men, but gives to it a profound turn, an  inner, subjective and universal meaning, a spiritual sense and  direction. And immediately the idea behind the theory changes  its values and becomes an enduring and living truth not bound  up with the transience of a particular social form and order.  What the Gita is concerned with is not the validity of the Aryan  social order now abolished or in a state of deliquescence,—  if that were all, its principle of the Swabhava and Swadharma  would have no permanent truth or value,—but the relation of a man’s outward life to his inward being, the evolution of his  action from his soul and inner law of nature.  And we see in fact that the Gita itself indicates very clearly  its intention when it describes the work of the Brahmin and the  Kshatriya not in terms of external function, not defined as learning,  priest-work and letters or government, war and politics,  but entirely in terms of internal character. The language reads  a little curiously to our ear. Calm, self-control, askesis, purity,  long-suffering, candour, knowledge, acceptance and practice of  spiritual truth would not ordinarily be described as a man’s  function, work or life occupation. Yet this is precisely what the  Gita means and says,—that these things, their development,  their expression in conduct, their power to cast into form the  law of the sattwic nature are the real work of the Brahmin:  learning, religious ministration and the other outer functions  are only its most suitable field, a favourable means of this inner  development, its appropriate self-expression, its way of fixing  itself into firmness of type and externalised solidity of character.  War, government, politics, leadership and rule are a similar field  and means for the Kshatriya; but his real work is the development,  the expression in conduct, the power to cast into form  and dynamic rhythm of movement the law of the active battling  royal or warrior spirit. The work of the Vaishya and Shudra is  expressed in terms of external function, and this opposite turn  may have some significance. For the temperament moved to  production and wealth-getting or limited in the circle of labour  and service, the mercantile and the servile mind, are usually  turned outward, more occupied with the external values of their  work than its power for character, and this disposition is not so  favourable to a sattwic or spiritual action of the nature. That too  is the reason why a commercial and industrial age or a society  preoccupied with the idea of work and labour creates around it  an atmosphere more favourable to thematerial than the spiritual  life, more adapted to vital efficiency than to the subtler perfection  of the high-reaching mind and spirit. Nevertheless, this  kind of nature too and its functions have their inner significance,  their spiritual value and can be made a means and power for perfection. As has been said elsewhere, not alone the Brahmin  with his ideal of spirituality, ethical purity and knowledge and  the Kshatriya with his ideal of nobility, chivalry and high character,  but the wealth-seeking Vaishya, the toil-imprisoned Shudra,  woman with her narrow, circumscribed and subject life, the  very outcaste born from a womb of sin, p¯apayonayah., can by  this road rise at once towards the highest inner greatness and  spiritual freedom, towards perfection, towards the liberation  and fulfilment of the divine element in the human being.  Three propositions suggest themselves even at the first view  and may be taken as implicit in all that the Gita says in this passage.  First, all action must be determined from within because  each man has in him something his own, some characteristic  principle and inborn power of his nature. That is the efficient  power of his spirit, that creates the dynamic form of his soul in  nature and to express and perfect it by action, to make it effective  in capacity and conduct and life is his work, his true Karma: that  points him to the rightway of his inner and outer living and is the  right starting-point for his farther development. Next, there are  broadly four types of nature each with its characteristic function  and ideal rule of work and character and the type indicates the  man’s proper field and should trace for him his just circle of  function in his outer social existence. Finally, whatever work a  man does, if done according to the law of his being, the truth of  his nature, can be turned Godwards and made an effective means  of spiritual liberation and perfection. The first and last of these  propositions are suggestions of an evident truth and justice. The  ordinary way of man’s individual and social living seems indeed  to be a contradiction of these principles; for certainly we bear a  terrible weight of external necessity, rule and law and our need  for self-expression, for the development of our true person, our  real soul, our inmost characteristic law of nature in life is at  every turn interfered with, thwarted, forced from its course,  given a very poor chance and scope by environmental influences.  Life, State, society, family, all surrounding powers seem  to be in a league to lay their yoke on our spirit, compel us into  their moulds, impose on us their mechanical interest and rough immediate convenience. We become parts of a machine; we are  not, are hardly allowed to be men in the true sense, manus.ya,  purus.a, souls, minds, free children of the spirit empowered to  develop the highest characteristic perfection of our being and  make it our means of service to the race. It would seem that we  are not what we make ourselves, but what we are made. Yet the  more we advance in knowledge, the more the truth of the Gita’s  rule is bound to appear. The child’s education ought to be an  outbringing of all that is best, most powerful, most intimate and  living in his nature; the mould into which the man’s action and  development ought to run is that of his innate quality and power.  He must acquire new things, but he will acquire them best, most  vitally on the basis of his own developed type and inborn force.  And so too the functions of a man ought to be determined by his  natural turn, gift and capacities. The individual who develops  freely in this manner will be a living soul and mind and will have  a much greater power for the service of the race. And we are  able now to see more clearly that this rule is true not only of the  individual but of the community and the nation, the group soul,  the collective man. The second proposition of the four types and  their functions is more open to dispute. It may be said that it  is too simple and positive, that it takes no sufficient account of  the complexity of life and the plasticity of human nature, and,  whatever the theory or its intrinsic merits, the outward social  application must lead precisely to that tyranny of a mechanical  rule which is the flat contradiction of all law of Swadharma.  But it has a profounder meaning under the surface which gives  it a less disputable value. And even if we reject it, the third  proposition will yet stand in its general significance. Whatever  a man’s work and function in life, he can, if it is determined  from within or if he is allowed to make it a self-expression  of his nature, turn it into a means of growth and of a greater  inner perfection. And whatever it be, if he performs his natural  function in the right spirit, if he enlightens it by the ideal mind, if  he turns its action to the uses of the Godhead within, serves with  it the Spirit manifested in the universe or makes it a conscious  instrumentation for the purposes of the Divine in humanity, he can transmute it into a means towards the highest spiritual  perfection and freedom.  But the Gita’s teaching here has a still profounder significance  if we take it not as a detached quotation self-contained in  meaning, as is too often done, but as we should do, in connection  with all that it has been saying throughout the work and  especially in the last twelve chapters. The Gita’s philosophy of  life and works is that all proceeds from the Divine Existence, the  transcendent and universal Spirit. All is a veiled manifestation  of the Godhead, Vasudeva, yatah. pravr.ttir bhu¯ ta¯na¯m˙ yena sarvam  idam˙ tatam, and to unveil the Immortal within and in the  world, to dwell in unity with the Soul of the universe, to rise in  consciousness, knowledge, will, love, spiritual delight to oneness  with the supreme Godhead, to live in the highest spiritual nature  with the individual and natural being delivered from shortcoming  and ignorance and made a conscious instrument for the  works of the divine Shakti is the perfection of which humanity  is capable and the condition of immortality and freedom. But  how is this possible when in fact we are enveloped in natural  ignorance, the soul shut up in the prison of ego, overcome,  beset, hammered and moulded by the environment, mastered by  the mechanism of Nature, cut off from our hold on the reality  of our own secret spiritual force? The answer is that all this  natural action, however now enveloped in a veiled and contrary  working, still contains the principle of its own evolving freedom  and perfection. A Godhead is seated in the heart of every man  and is the Lord of this mysterious action of Nature. And though  this Spirit of the universe, this One who is all, seems to be turning  us on the wheel of the world as if mounted on a machine by the  force of Maya, shaping us in our ignorance as the potter shapes a  pot, as the weaver a fabric, by some skilful mechanical principle,  yet is this spirit our own greatest self and it is according to the  real idea, the truth of ourselves, that which is growing in us  and finding always new and more adequate forms in birth after  birth, in our animal and human and divine life, in that which  we were, that which we are, that which we shall be,—it is in  accordance with this inner soul-truth that, as our opened eyes will discover, we are progressively shaped by this spirit within us  in its all-wise omnipotence. This machinery of ego, this tangled  complexity of the three gunas, mind, body, life, emotion, desire,  struggle, thought, aspiration, endeavour, this locked interaction  of pain and pleasure, sin and virtue, striving and success and  failure, soul and environment, myself and others, is only the  outward imperfect form taken by a higher spiritual Force in  me which pursues through its vicissitudes the progressive selfexpression  of the divine reality and greatness I am secretly in  spirit and shall overtly become in nature. This action contains  in itself the principle of its own success, the principle of the  Swabhava and Swadharma.  The Jiva is in self-expression a portion of the Purushottama.  He represents in Nature the power of the supreme Spirit, he is  in his personality that Power; he brings out in an individual  existence the potentialities of the Soul of the universe. This Jiva  itself is spirit and not the natural ego; the spirit and not the form  of ego is our reality and inner soul principle. The true force of  what we are and can be is there in that higher spiritual Power  and this mechanical Maya of the three gunas is not the inmost  and fundamental truth of its movements; it is only a present  executive energy, an apparatus of lower convenience, a scheme  of outward exercise and practice. The spiritual Nature which has  become this multiple personality in the universe, par¯a prakr.  tir  jı¯va-bhu¯ ta¯ , is the basic stuff of our existence: all the rest is lower  derivation and outer formation from a highest hidden activity  of the spirit. And in Nature each of us has a principle and will of  our own becoming; each soul is a force of self-consciousness that  formulates an idea of the Divine in it and guides by that its action  and evolution, its progressive self-finding, its constant varying  self-expression, its apparently uncertain but secretly inevitable  growth to fullness. That is our Swabhava, our own real nature;  that is our truth of being which is finding now only a constant  partial expression in our various becoming in the world. The  law of action determined by this Swabhava is our right law of  self-shaping, function, working, our Swadharma.  This principle obtains throughout cosmos; there is every where the one Power at work, one common universal Nature,  but in each grade, form, energy, genus, species, individual creature  she follows out a major Idea and minor ideas and principles  of constant and complex variation that found both the permanent  dharma of each and its temporary dharmas. These fix for  it the law of its being in becoming, the curve of its birth and  persistence and change, the force of its self-preservation and selfincreasing,  the lines of its stable and evolving self-expression  and self-finding, the rules of its relations to all the rest of the  expression of the Self in the universe. To follow the law of its  being, Swadharma, to develop the idea in its being, Swabhava, is  its ground of safety, its right walk and procedure. That does not  in the end chain down the soul to any present formulation, but  rather by this way of development it enriches itself most surely  with new experiences assimilated to its own law and principle  and can most powerfully grow and break at its hour beyond  present moulds to a higher self-expression. To be unable to  maintain its own law and principle, to fail to adapt itself to  its environment in such a way as to adapt the environment to  itself and make it useful to its own nature is to lose its self,  forfeit its right of self, deviate from its way of self, is perdition,  vinas.t.  i, is falsehood, death, anguish of decay and dissolution  and necessity of painful self-recovery often after eclipse and  disappearance, is the vain circuit of the wrong road retarding  our real progress. This law obtains in one form or another in  all Nature; it underlies all that action of law of universality and  law of variation revealed to us by science. The same law obtains  in the life of the human being, his many lives in many human  bodies. Here it has an outward play and an inward spiritual  truth, and the outward play can only put on its full and real  meaning when we have found the inward spiritual truth and  enlightened all our action with the values of the spirit. This  great and desirable transformation can be effected with rapidity  and power in proportion to our progress in self-knowledge.  And first we have to see that the Swabhava means one thing  in the highest spiritual nature and takes quite another form and  significance in the lower nature of the three gunas. There too it acts, but is not in full possession of itself, is seeking as it were for  its own true law in a half light or a darkness and goes on its way  through many lower forms, many false forms, endless imperfections,  perversions, self-losings, self-findings, seekings after norm  and rule before it arrives at self-discovery and perfection. Our  nature here is amixed weft of knowledge and ignorance, of truth  and falsehood, of success and failure, of right and wrong, of finding  and losing, of sin and virtue. It is always the Swabhava that  is looking for self-expression and self-finding through all these  things, svabh¯avas tu pravartate, a truth which should teach us  universal charity and equality of vision, since we are all subject  to the same perplexity and struggle. These motions belong, not  to the soul, but to the nature. The Purushottama is not limited  by this ignorance; he governs it from above and guides the soul  through its changes. The pure immutable self is not touched  by these movements; it witnesses and supports by its intangible  eternity this mutable Nature in her vicissitudes. The real soul  of the individual, the central being in us, is greater than these  things, but accepts them in its outward evolution inNature. And  when we have got at this real soul, at the changeless universal  self sustaining us and at the Purushottama, the Lord within us  who presides over and guides the whole action of Nature, we  have found all the spiritual meaning of the law of our life. For we  become aware of the Master of existence expressing himself for  ever in his infinite quality, anantagun. a, in all beings.We become  aware of a fourfold presence of the Divinity, a Soul of selfknowledge  and world-knowledge, a Soul of strength and power  that seeks for and finds and uses its powers, a Soul of mutuality  and creation and relation and interchange between creature and  creature, a Soul of works that labours in the universe and serves  all in each and turns the labour of each to the service of all others.  We become aware too of the individual Power of the Divine in  us, that which directly uses these fourfold powers, assigns our  strain of self-expression, determines our divine work and office  and raises us through it all to his universality in manifoldness  till we can find by it our spiritual oneness with him and with all  that he is in the cosmos. The external idea of the four orders of men in life is concerned  only with the more outward working of this truth of  the divine action; it is limited to one side of its operation in the  functioning of the three gunas. It is true that in this birthmen fall  very largely into one of four types, the man of knowledge, the  man of power, the productive vital man, the man of rude labour  and service. These are not fundamental divisions, but stages of  self-development in our manhood. The human being starts with  a sufficient load of ignorance and inertia; his first state is one  of rude toil enforced on his animal indolence by the needs of  the body, by the impulsion of life, by necessity of Nature and,  beyond a certain point of need, by some form of direct or indirect  compulsion which society lays upon him, and those who are still  governed by this tamas are the Shudras, the serfs of society who  give it their toil and can contribute nothing or very little else in  comparison with more developed men to its manifold play of  life. By kinetic action man develops the rajasic guna in him and  we get a second type of man who is driven by a constant instinct  for useful creation, production, having, acquisition, holding and  enjoying, the middle economic and vital man, the Vaishya. At  a higher elevation of the rajasic or kinetic quality of our one  common nature we get the active man with a more dominant  will, with bolder ambitions, with the instinct to act, battle, and  enforce his will, at the strongest to lead, command, rule, carry  masses of men in his orbit, the fighter, leader, ruler, prince, king,  Kshatriya. And where the sattwic mind predominates, we get  the Brahmin, the man with a turn for knowledge, who brings  thought, reflection, the seeking for truth and an intelligent or  at the highest a spiritual rule into life and illumines by it his  conception and mode of existence.  There is always in human nature something of all these  four personalities developed or undeveloped, wide or narrow,  suppressed or rising to the surface, but in most men one or the  other tends to predominate and seems to take up sometimes  the whole space of action in the nature. And in any society we  should have all four types,—even, for an example, if we create  a purely productive and commercial society such as modern times have attempted, or for that matter a Shudra society of  labour, of the proletariate such as attracts the most modern  mind and is now being attempted in one part of Europe and  advocated in others. There would still be the thinkers moved  to find the law and truth and guiding rule of the whole matter,  the captains and leaders of industry who would make all this  productive activity an excuse for the satisfaction of their need of  adventure and battle and leadership and dominance, the many  typical purely productive and wealth-getting men, the average  workers satisfied with a modicum of labour and the reward  of their labour. But these are quite outward things, and if that  were all, this economy of human type would have no spiritual  significance. Or it would mean at most, as has been sometimes  held in India, that we have to go through these stages of development  in our births; for we must perforce proceed progressively  through the tamasic, the rajaso-tamasic, the rajasic or rajasosattwic  to the sattwic nature, ascend and fix ourselves in an  inner Brahminhood, br¯ahman. ya, and then seek salvation from  that basis. But in that case there would be no logical room for  the Gita’s assertion that even the Shudra or Chandala can by  turning his life Godwards climb straight to spiritual liberty and  perfection.  The fundamental truth is not this outward thing, but a force  of our inner being in movement, the truth of the fourfold active  power of the spiritual nature. Each Jiva possesses in his spiritual  nature these four sides, is a soul of knowledge, a soul of strength  and of power, a soul of mutuality and interchange, a soul of  works and service, but one side or other predominates in the  action and expressive spirit and tinges the dealings of the soul  with its embodied nature; it leads and gives its stamp to the  other powers and uses them for the principal strain of action,  tendency, experience. The Swabhava then follows, not crudely  and rigidly as put in the social demarcation, but subtly and  flexibly the law of this strain and develops in developing it the  other three powers. Thus the pursuit of the impulse of works and  service rightly done develops knowledge, increases power, trains  closeness or balance of mutuality and skill and order of relation. Each front of the fourfold godhead moves through the enlargement  of its own dominant principle of nature and enrichment  by the other three towards a total perfection. This development  undergoes the law of the three gunas. There is possible a tamasic  and rajasic way of following even the dharma of the soul of  knowledge, a brute tamasic and a high sattwic way of following  the dharma of power, a forceful rajasic or a beautiful and noble  sattwic way of following the dharma of works and service. To  arrive at the sattwic way of the inner individual Swadharma  and of the works to which it moves us on the ways of life is a  preliminary condition of perfection. And it may be noted that  the inner Swadharma is not bound to any outward social or  other form of action, occupation or function. The soul of works  or that element in us that is satisfied to serve, can, for example,  make the life of the pursuit of knowledge, the life of struggle  and power or the life of mutuality, production and interchange  a means of satisfying its divine impulse to labour and to service.  And in the end to arrive at the divinest figure and most  dynamic soul-power of this fourfold activity is a wide doorway  to a swiftest and largest reality of the most high spiritual perfection.  This we can do if we turn the action of the Swadharma  into a worship of the inner Godhead, the universal Spirit, the  transcendent Purushottama and, eventually, surrender the whole  action into his hands, mayi sannyasya karm¯an. i. Then as we  get beyond the limitation of the three gunas, so also do we  get beyond the division of the fourfold law and beyond the  limitation of all distinctive dharmas, sarvadharm¯an parityajya.  The Spirit takes up the individual into the universal Swabhava,  perfects and unifies the fourfold soul of nature in us and does  its self-determined works according to the divine will and the  accomplished power of the godhead in the creature.  The Gita’s injunction is to worship the Divine by our own  work, sva-karman. ¯a; our offering must be the works determined  by our own law of being and nature. For from the Divine all  movement of creation and impulse to act originates and by him  all this universe is extended and for the holding together of  the worlds he presides over and shapes all action through the Swabhava. To worship him with our inner and outer activities,  to make our whole life a sacrifice of works to the Highest is  to prepare ourselves to become one with him in all our will  and substance and nature. Our work should be according to  the truth within us, it should not be an accommodation with  outward and artificial standards: it must be a living and sincere  expression of the soul and its inborn powers. For to follow out  the living inmost truth of this soul in our present nature will  help us eventually to arrive at the immortal truth of the same  soul in the now superconscious supreme nature. There we can  live in oneness with God and our true self and all beings and,  perfected, become a faultless instrument of divine action in the  freedom of the immortal Dharma.


Sri Aurobindo

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