Essays on the Gita -Sri Aurobindo
Second Series : Chapter 1
The Two Natures
Then, to start with and in order to found this integral knowledge, the Gita makes that deep and momentous distinction which is the practical basis of all its Yoga, the distinction between the two Natures, the phenomenal and the spiritual Nature. “The five elements (conditions of material being), mind, reason, ego, this is my eightfold divided Nature. But know my other Nature different from this, the supreme which becomes the Jiva and by which this world is upheld.” Here is the first new metaphysical idea of the Gita which helps it to start from the notions of the Sankhya philosophy and yet exceed them and give to their terms, which it keeps and extends, a Vedantic significance. An eightfold Nature constituted of the five bhutas, — elements, as it is ren- dered, but rather elemental or essential conditions of material being to which are given the concrete names of earth, water, fire, air and ether, — the mind with its various senses and organs, the reason-will and the ego, is the Sankhya description of Prakriti. The Sankhya stops there, and because it stops there, it has to set up an unbridgeable division between the soul and Nature; it has to posit them as two quite distinct primary entities. The Gita also, if it stopped there, would have to make the same incurable antinomy between the Self and cosmic Nature which would then be only the Maya of the three gunas and all this cosmic existence would be simply the result of this Maya; it could be nothing else. But there is something else, there is a higher principle, a nature of spirit, para prakrtir me. There is a supreme nature of the Divine which is the real source of cosmic existence and its fundamental creative force and effective energy and of which the other lower and ignorant Nature is only a derivation and a dark shadow. In this highest dynamis Purusha and Prakriti are one. Prakriti there is only the will and the executive power of the Purusha, his activity of being, — not a separate entity, but himself in Power.
This supreme Prakriti is not merely a presence of the power of spiritual being immanent in cosmic activities. For then it might be only the inactive presence of the all-pervading Self, immanent in all things or containing them, compelling in a way the world action but not itself active. Nor is this highest Prakriti the avyakta of the Sankhyas, the primary unmanifest seed-state of the manifest active eightfold nature of things, the one produc- tive original force of Prakriti out of which her many instrumental and executive powers evolve.