The distinction between soul and Nature is spoken of in the Sankhya Yoga. Though in the ultimate Truth this distinction would vanish since both Purusha and Prakriti are two poises of the One Reality, yet this distinction has its practical importance and hence we find it endorsed by Sri Krishna as well as Sri Aurobindo. Practically what it means is that there is within us a part that is always pure and unsullied. It is immune from everything, nirdosh, so to say. It is the immutable immortal element in us even though it seems to die with the body’s death. It holds the secret of all the essence of our previous lives as well as the blue-prints of the future. It has within it the secret of what is its ultimate Destiny but this destiny has to be realized through vistas of lives and unfold with the complex workings of time that would arrange events and circumstances based on the need to grow. It is to have its various experiences that it brings out of itself its nature that will develop the instruments and weave around it a field of forces which will condition the soul and through which it will move.
It is here that we find the unique relation between the Soul and Nature. The soul itself is pure but it is conditioned by nature that rises in a hierarchical manner from the most tamasic through rajasic to sattwic states. It creates for the soul this threefold illusion wherein it feels that it believes itself to be the doer of deeds and hence experiences the dualities of life as results and consequences. It is here that we may say that is a slave of prakriti, bound by her and believes whatever she would make it believe, perceives whatever she makes him perceive, is carried along the roads that she chooses for him, does what she compels him to do. During this state wherein the soul is in complete subjection to prakriti and knows not itself as master, it is regarded as anisa. But the truth is that prakriti has emerged out of the soul and draws forces of universal nature according to the need of the kind of experience it must have. This decision is taken before it assumes birth. But once the plunge is takes it has to helplessly follow the curve marked out for it by its own need and nature. It is like the baby in the womb and infancy is carried wherever the mother goes. Through all these experiences terrible and sweet it grows until a time comes when it has grown sufficiently enough to turn upon itself and wonder who is this slave laboring in this dungeon subject to all these myriad workings of nature and fate?
Then it takes the poise of a witness, Sakshi. It becomes a student of itself and starts turning towards the fields that lie beyond the arc and magic fence of nature. It is here that yoga begins. But still the fence of nature and its illusions are not easy to shake off. Even though most people will take to the spiritual aspiration when they are already in the sattwic mode of nature yet even sattwa binds, often much more strongly by all its ideas and conceptions of duty, self-righteousness, moral and ethical notions about good and bad. A double struggle then ensues, one with one’s own lower tendencies since sattwa discourages rajas. But also, since a nascent spiritual flame has awakened there is also a tussle between this flame that seeks to go towards the Divine leaving behind everything else there is a tussle between the soul and nature. It is here that the witness state helps since not only one studies one’s nature but also learns to step back and not act under the past momentum of habits and conditioning. The actions continue under the past tendencies but due to the refusal of the soul, the Purusha their strength gets diminished over time. After a while nature concedes and hands herself to the Purusha, the soul within us.
With this a new phase begins. The soul knows itself as the master of nature, Isa, lord of nature. Nature now follows its dictates and the slave of yesterday becomes crowned as her king. It is here that the soul gets a choice. It can withdraw out of the world-play since it has completed its initial schooling. It leaves the field of nature to her own fate and escapes into the silence of nirvana. But the heroic souls seek to come back but now no more for their own personal mukti but to release other souls. They once again enter the field with knowledge of course as a doctor enters the hospital after completing his own studies. But since this time, they enter a larger field and engage with universal nature the forces that try to act upon such a free soul are tremendous. They have to battle against the opposition of the gods as well as bear the attacks of the titans. But the Grace walks with them and never leaves them anymore. That is the further path of a collective yoga and the even more difficult task of terrestrial transformation that Sri Aurobindo has opened for humanity. It is a most difficult venture hut the heroic souls cannot be satisfied with anything lesser. This is a venture still going on and will take some time for the souls to arrive at such an intended divine perfection where the soul and nature now fully transformed and divinized would dance in perfect rhythms of the eternal, no more as slave and master but as partners and mate, as equals in the great game of life. That is how we see revealed towards the end of the Canto:
Although she drives him on her fancy’s roads,
At play with him as with her child or slave,
To freedom and the Eternal’s mastery
And immortality’s stand above the world,
She moves her seeming puppet of an hour.
Even in his mortal session in body’s house,
An aimless traveller between birth and death,
Ephemeral dreaming of immortality,
To reign she spurs him. He takes up her powers;
He has harnessed her to the yoke of her own law.
His face of human thought puts on a crown.
Held in her leash, bound to her veiled caprice,
He studies her ways if so he may prevail
Even for an hour and she work out his will;
He makes of her his moment passion’s serf:
To obey she feigns, she follows her creature’s lead:
For him she was made, lives only for his use.
But conquering her, then is he most her slave;
He is her dependent, all his means are hers;
Nothing without her he can, she rules him still.
At last he wakes to a memory of Self:
He sees within the face of deity,
The Godhead breaks out through the human mould:
Her highest heights she unmasks and is his mate.
Till then he is a plaything in her game;
Her seeming regent, yet her fancy’s toy,
A living robot moved by her energy’s springs,
He acts as in the movements of a dream,
An automaton stepping in the grooves of Fate,
He stumbles on driven by her whip of Force:
His thought labours, a bullock in Time’s fields;
His will he thinks his own, is shaped in her forge.
Obedient to World-Nature’s dumb control,
Driven by his own formidable Power,
His chosen partner in a titan game,
Her will he has made the master of his fate,
Her whim the dispenser of his pleasure and pain;
He has sold himself into her regal power
For any blow or boon that she may choose:
Even in what is suffering to our sense,
He feels the sweetness of her mastering touch,
In all experience meets her blissful hands;
On his heart he bears the happiness of her tread
And the surprise of her arrival’s joy
In each event and every moment’s chance….
As long as Nature lasts, he too is there,
For this is sure that he and she are one;
Even when he sleeps, he keeps her on his breast:
Whoever leaves her, he will not depart
To repose without her in the Unknowable.
There is a truth to know, a work to do;
Her play is real; a Mystery he fulfils:
There is a plan in the Mother’s deep world-whim,
A purpose in her vast and random game.
This ever she meant since the first dawn of life,
This constant will she covered with her sport,
To evoke a Person in the impersonal Void,
With the Truth-Light strike earth’s massive roots of trance,
Wake a dumb self in the inconscient depths
And raise a lost Power from its python sleep
That the eyes of the Timeless might look out from Time
And the world manifest the unveiled Divine.
For this he left his white infinity
And laid on the spirit the burden of the flesh,
That Godhead’s seed might flower in mindless Space.