Questions & Answers
If you recollect what I said last time, we had considered different ways in which the bondage of the soul was conceived. I spoke of the Buddhist explanation, the Advaitic explanation, and several others but the main point that was made was that none of them explains how the bondage takes place. They had a solution as to how to come out of the bondage, how to be liberated, how to become mukta, but how one really came into bondage was not explained and I thought that before we proceed further we shall dwell a little on this question because that is very much connected with what follows in the text. When I said that none of them explains how the bondage takes place, it is not entirely true. There is an answer which says that this is inexplicable, that is one answer that is given. How the soul comes to be in bondage, that question, it is declared, is inexplicable. Or else it is said that it happens by some kind of mistake on the part of the soul. Or else it is said that while playing with bondage, it forgets it is playing and then it enters into bondage as if it is real and then all the misery comes about. So you might say there are three answers to this question as to how the soul enters into bondage. But basically none of these answers is very satisfying. To say that it is inexplicable is to admit that there is no answer to this question. To say that it has come about by mistake seems to be inconsistent with the nature of the soul. If the soul is luminous in character it would not commit a mistake, so it does not satisfy. Thirdly if it is said that in the beginning the soul was playing with bondage and then suddenly forgets that it is playing and then it becomes serious about the bondage and then the misery is resulted; this answer also is similar to the second answer but somehow it is suggested that there is a forgetfulness and there is some kind of accident and a mishap takes place. So you might say that these three answers are really not satisfying answers. Is there at all a satisfying answer anywhere? That is the question that we should ask. This is also connected with a question, a deeper question: who is bound, who becomes ignorant, who is feeling the bondage and who wants to become free and who is it that wants to become free?
According to the Advaitic answer to this question, there is none bound, none to be freed. That which is bound and that which is to be freed is a pure illusion. But how did this illusion come about? The Advaitic answer is that this is not explicable. In the Buddhistic answer that which is bound is the sense of ego. Every one of us has a sense of ego and this ego feels bound in a situation from which it wants to come out. According to this answer ego is in bondage and, when the ego comes out of the bondage, ego no more remains ego, it is dissolved. So you might say ego is bound, ego is freed but when ego is freed there is nothing remaining which enjoys the freedom. As against that, there is a great Upanishadic statement which says: avidyaya mrityum tirtva vidyaya amritam ashnute. This is a statement from Isha Upanishad that says that by avidya, by ignorance, one crosses over death and by knowledge, by vidya one enjoys immortality. Here you have a clear statement that there is something which at one stage was in a state of suffering and there is a further stage where he really comes out of suffering and there is an enjoyment of immortality. So this differs from both the answers that you are given so far. According to Advaitic answer none suffers, none is bound, none is freed, none needs to be freed, because Brahman is always free and what is bound is always an illusory sense and when that is dissolved, then one finds it was never there, it was like an illusion, and an illusion never exists. If you ask the question, "Who enjoys that freedom after coming out of the bondage?" then the answer is that there is none. But the Upanishad says that one enjoys immortality, that there is one who was in bondage, when he comes out of bondage, one enjoys immortality. So that means that there is some kind of bondage.
So the question is who is it that gets bound, who is it that is suffering the bondage and who is it that enjoys immortality? The Veda, the Upanishad, the Gita, these three great works of India do seem to have an answer to this question, but if you read them the answer is not sufficiently visible, the answer is given but you might say there are hints here and there but we cannot discover them very easily.
Question: Does the Advaitic theory come from the Veda?
All these Advaitic theories are certainly from the Veda but you might say it is one of the interpretations of the Vedas. In the historical process the distance between the Advaitic theory and the Vedas is about 4000 years. The Vedas were written let us say 4000 years ago and the Advaitic theory came into real prominence only in about 700 A D. This is their difference historically. So if you go to the Veda directly you will read statements of the kind, that I made just now, that by vidya you enjoy immortality – (this is from the Veda and the Upanishads) – and this statement is interpreted in many ways in later times. Advaita is one such interpretation. Although you might say that Advaita is in the Veda, a distinction has been made that there is Veda itself as a text, and then there are many interpretations of that text of which Advaita is one and there are many others who dispute that Advaita is the real explanation of the Veda. There is for example the theory of Vishishtadvaita which says that Advaita is not a correct interpretation of the Veda, then there is Dvaitavada which also says that both Advaitavada and Visbisbtadvaitavada do not represent the real Veda, so there are controversies of this kind. Leaving aside these controversies if you go straight to the Veda you find over there an answer to this question but this answer is not so easily visible.
One of the special features of "The Life Divine" which we are now reading is that a good deal of this book is devoted to this very question, "How does one get bound, and how does one get really free from it?" And without understanding this to some extent, the rest of the chapter that we are reading will not be so very easy to grasp, that is why I thought I should first dwell a little on this question. The answer that Sri Aurobindo gives is that it is the individual who gets bound, it is the individual who suffers, it is the individual who seeks liberation, it is the individual who gets liberation. The word "individual" is used by Sri Aurobindo to distinguish it from several other terms with which very often people confuse it. The word individual is to be distinguished from ego. Sri Aurobindo's answer is that it is not the ego that gets bound. He says that the individual gets bound, the individual feels the bondage and the individual gets liberated. Sri Aurobindo makes a distinction between the individual and the ego.
Question: Is bondage a necessary factor? Do we have to come to get bound?
It is not necessary, but for a certain purpose the individual gets bound. It is not necessary that the individual must get into bondage but if a certain purpose is to be fulfilled, then this becomes a necessary instrument and that purpose being set forth, the individual enters into the bondage. In other words the individual enters into bondage not by a mistake as many people believe it to be. But it is not necessary that individual should get bound.
Q: So in order to seek liberation the individual has got to be bound ...
No, according to this theory the individual originally is free already – originally – but then for a certain specific purpose it deliberately enters into the state of bondage, and then having entered into the state of bondage, having worked out a few things that had to be done, then it seeks liberation and then it enters into the state of liberation.
The individual is to be distinguished from the ego on the one side, and the individual is to be distinguished from the Universal on the other. The answer is: Universal does not get bound; it is the individual that gets bound. Individual is also distinguished from the Transcendental, so there are two other terms: the Transcendental and the Universal. The individual is to be distinguished on one side from the ego and from the other side from the Transcendental and from the Universal. If you want to put the whole answer in a comprehensive manner, it may be said that the Transcendental does not get bound, the Universal does not get bound, it is the individual that gets bound and the ego is only a consequence of the bondage. When the individual gets bound, the resultant is a production of ego.