Transformation of human nature is not practical from a standpoint mired within that nature. Forces push the being in one direction or another, and the individual is under the power of the divergent drives put up by the physical, the vital and the mental being, compounded by the impact of the ever-changing balance of the three Gunas, or qualities of Nature, which either depress or accentuate the response to the various forces and drives acting on one aspect or another of the external being.

Therefore, it is necessary to shift the standpoint so that one is not totally absorbed by and involved in the external nature. Shifting to the status of the witness of the nature allows the seeker to observe and not be caught up in the play of the outer nature. This is the separation of Purusha, the witness consciousness, and Prakriti, the active nature.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “Man is in his self a unique Person, but he is also in his manifestation of self a multiperson…” Dr. Dalal notes: “In this statement Sri Aurobindo makes a distinction which is fundamental in understanding his explanation of the nature of the human being — the distinction between the Person and its many personalities. This distinction is far from apparent to us in our ordinary consciousness.”

Sri Aurobindo continues: “The ordinary mind knows itself only as an ego with all the movements of the nature in a jumble and, identifying itself with these movements, thinks ‘I am doing this, feeling that, thinking, in joy or in sorrow etc.’ The first beginning of real self-knowledge is when you feel yourself separate from the nature in you and its movemetns and then you see that there are many parts of your being, many personalities each acting on its own behalf and in its own way.”

Dr. Dalal comments: “We do not possess self-knowledge because we know ourselves not as the Person but as an ego, which is an identification of the Person with the many personalities that constitute the outer nature of our being. In terms of Sankhya philosophy, we do not know ourselves as the Purusha (Person) because we are identified with Prakriti (Nature). In this state of identification with Prakriti, the complex nature of our being is hidden from our view.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Our Many Selves: Practical Yogic Psychology, Introduction, Sri Aurobindo on Our Many Selves, Planes and Parts of the Being, pg. xvii

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at and podcast at He is author of 17 books and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.