Most men are, like animals, driven by the forces of Nature: whatever desires come, they fulfil them, whatever emotions come they allow them to play, whatever physical wants they have, they try to satisfy. We say then that the activities and feelings of men are controlled by their Prakriti, and mostly by the vital and physical nature. The body is the instrument of the Prakriti or Nature — it obeys its own nature or it obeys the vital forces of desires, passion etc.
But man has also a mind and, as he develops, he learns to control his vital and physical nature by his reason and by his will. This control is very partial: for the reason is often deluded by vital desires and the ignorance of the physical and it puts itself on their side and tries to justify by its ideas, reasonings or arguments their mistakes and wrong movements. Even if the reason keeps free and tells the vital or the body, “Do not do this”, yet the vital and the body often follow their own movement in spite of the prohibition — man’s mental will is not strong enough to compel them.
When people do sadhana, there is a higher Nature that works within, the psychic and spiritual, and they have to put their nature under the influence of the psychic being and the higher spiritual self or of the Divine. Not only the vital and the body but the mind also has to learn the Divine Truth and obey the divine rule. But because of the lower nature and its continued hold on them, they are unable at first and for a long time to prevent their nature from following the old ways — even when they know or are told from within what to do or what not to do. It is only by persistent sadhana, by getting into the higher spiritual consciousness and spiritual nature that this difficulty can be overcome; but even for the strongest and best sadhaks it takes a long time.
Sri Aurobindo – Letters on Yoga – IV : CWSA, Vol. 31, p. 251
The distinction between Purusha and Prakriti is according to the Sankhya System— the Purusha is the silent witness consciousness which observes the actions of Prakriti—Prakriti is the force of Nature which one feels as doing all the actions, when one gets rid of the sense of the ego as doer. Then there is the realisation of these two entities….
Sri Aurobindo – Letters on Yoga – I : CWSA, Vol. 28, p. 82
X told me that whatever we do, it is the Divine who acts through us. But it seems to me that the Divine cannot be behind all we do, because we do not always do the right thing. Is there any truth in what X says?
There is this much truth that the cosmic Force works out everything and the Cosmic Spirit (Virat Purusha) supports her action. But this cosmic Force is a Power that works under the conditions of the Ignorance,—it appears as the lower nature and the lower nature makes you do wrong things. The Divine allows the play of these Forces so long as you do not yourself want anything better. But if you are a sadhak, then you do not accept the play of the lower nature, you turn to the Divine Mother instead, and ask her to work through you instead of the lower Nature. It is only when you have turned entirely in every part of your being to the Divine Mother and to her alone that the Divine will do all actions through you.
Sri Aurobindo – The Mother with Letters on The Mother : CWSA, Vol. 32, pp. 62-63
Existence is composed of Prakriti and Purusha, the consciousness that sees and the consciousness that executes and formalises what we see. The one we call Soul, the other Nature. When we come to look in at our selves instead of out at the world and begin to analyse our subjective experience, we find that there are two parts of our being which can be, to all appearance, entirely separated from each other, one a consciousness which is still and passive and supports, and the other a consciousness which is busy and creative and is supported. The passive and fundamental consciousness is the Soul, the Purusha, Witness or sakshi, the active and superstructural consciousness is Nature, Prakriti, processive or creative energy of the sakshi. But the two seem at first to stand apart and distinct as if they had no share in each other.
The Purusha, still and silent witness of whatever Prakriti chooses to create, not interfering with her works, but reflecting only whatever forms, names and movements she casts on the pure mirror of his eternal existence and the Prakriti restlessly creating, acting, forming and effecting things for the delight of the Purusha, compose the double system of the Sankhyas.
The Purusha and Prakriti are therefore not only the Witness and the Activity witnessed, but the Lord and his executive energy. The Purusha is Ishwara, the Prakriti is His Shakti. Their play with each other is both the motive and the executive force of all existence in the universe.
Sri Aurobindo – The Hour of God
…. The Prakriti itself is divided into the lower and higher, – the lower is the Prakriti of the Ignorance, the Prakriti of mind, life and Matter separated in consciousness from the Divine; the higher is the Divine Prakriti of Sachchidananda with its manifesting power of supermind, always aware of the Divine and free from Ignorance and its consequences. Man so long as he is in the ignorance is subject to the lower Prakriti, but by spiritual evolution he becomes aware of the higher Nature and seeks to come into contact with it. He can ascend into it and it can descend into him – such an ascent and descent can transform the lower nature of mind, life and matter.
Sri Aurobindo – Letters on Yoga – I : CWSA, Vol. 28, p. 44
The Mother does not make people commit mistakes; it is the Prakriti that makes them do it — if the Purusha does not refuse his consent. The Mother here is not this lower Prakriti, but the Divine Shakti and it is her work to press on this lower Nature to change. You can say that under the pressure, the Prakriti stumbles and is unable to reply perfectly and makes mistakes. But it is not the Mother who makes you do wrong movements or does the wrong movements in you….
Sri Aurobindo – The Mother with Letters on The Mother : CWSA, Vol. 32, p. 224
Free yourself from all exaggerated self-depreciation and the habit of getting depressed by the sense of sin, difficulty or failure. These feelings do not really help, on the contrary, they are an immense obstacle and hamper the progress. They belong to the religious, not to the Yogic mentality. The Yogin should look on all the defects of the nature as movements of the lower prakriti common to all and reject them calmly, firmly and persistently with full confidence in the Divine Power—without weakness or depression or negligence and without excitement, impatience or violence.
Sri Aurobindo – Letters on Yoga – IV : CWSA, Vol. 31, p. 763
…. Our Yoga can succeed only if the external man too changes, but that is the most difficult of all things. It is only by a change of the physical nature that it can be done, by a descent of the higher light into this lower part of Nature. It is here that the struggle is going on. The internal being of most of the sadhaks here, however imperfect still, is still different from that of the ordinary man, but the external still clings to its old ways, manners, habits. It is when this is realised and done, that the Yoga will produce its full results in the Ashram itself, and not before.
Sri Aurobindo – Letters on Himself and the Ashram : CWSA, Vol. 35, p. 591
…. It is in our Yoga the way to devotion and surrender—for it is the psychic movement that brings the constant and pure devotion and the removal of ego that makes it possible to surrender. The two things indeed go together.
The other way, which is the way to knowledge, is the meditation in the head by which there comes the opening above, the quietude or silence of the mind and the descent of peace etc. of the higher consciousness generally till it envelops the being and fills the body and begins to take up all the movements. But this involves a passage through silence, a certain emptiness of the ordinary activities—they being pushed out and done as a purely superficial action.
The third way which is one of the two ways towards Yoga by works is the separation of the Purusha from the Prakriti, the inner silent being from the outer active one, so that one has two consciousnesses or a double consciousness, one behind watching and observing and finally controlling and changing the other which is active in front. But this also means living in an inner peace and silence and dealing with the activities as if they were a thing of the surface. (The other way of beginning the yoga of works is by doing them for the Divine, for the Mother, and not for oneself, consecrating and dedicating them till one concretely feels the Divine Force taking up the activities and doing them for one.)
If there is any secret or key of my Yoga … it lies in these methods – and, in reality, there is nothing so mysterious, impossible or even new about them in themselves. It is only the farther development at a later stage and the aim of the yoga that are new. But that one need not concern oneself with in the earlier stages unless one wishes to do so as a matter of mental knowledge.
Sri Aurobindo – Letters on Yoga – II : CWSA, Vol. 29, pp. 210-211
Purusha is the conscious Being who supports all the action of Nature. There is no fixed place, but as the central being he usually stands above the adhar—he becomes also the mental, vital, physical, psychic being.
Sri Aurobindo – Letters on Yoga – I : CWSA, Vol. 28, p. 40
Prakriti is the Force that acts. A Force may be in action or in quiescence, but when it rests, it is as much a Force as when it acts. The gunas are an action of the Force, they are in the Force itself. The sea is there and the waves are there, but the waves are not the sea and when there are no waves and the sea is still, it does not stop being the sea.
Sri Aurobindo – Letters on Yoga – I : CWSA, Vol. 28, p. 46