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In one chapter Sri Aurobindo answers an age-old question about the reality of the individual. Some traditions say the individual does not really exist, that the soul is really an illusion or temporary phenomenon. According to this view, the Purushottama is eternal, but the individual Purusha is only a temporary expression. According to another view put forth by Sankhya, both the one Purushottama and the many Purushas are real, but they are separate realities. Sri Aurobindo says very clearly that the individual is eternal. The Individual is the Eternal. By saying that He does not mean we exist independently from the Divine Being. We exist as real manifestations of that One. We are expressions and embodiments of different aspects of the One, not separate and independent existences. This is like saying I am a father to my children, a husband to my wife and a son to my parents. I am all three of these things in reality and each is a real, distinct existence, but all are also aspects of my greater, truer self. Each individual soul is a real, distinct, eternal spiritual entity, but all are aspects of the One Divine Being.

He goes on to explain the precise role and relationship between the individual and the universal. The universal represents the infinite sum of all divine aspects that are pressing for manifestation and development. The individual represents the specific points through which each of these aspects is given a field for expression and development. The universe fulfills itself in and through countless individuals. The universe fulfills itself only through the differentiation of different individuals, each with unique qualities. Each of these qualities expresses one aspect of the universal all. Among human beings, there are an infinite number of individual types. Human beings represent a billion different combinations of characteristics expressing as unique individuals. That is why each individual can have a unique set of fingerprints and each human face can be distinguished from so many thousands of other faces, all with the same general features.

At the same time, the individual can fulfil itself only by becoming universal. As individuals we fulfil ourselves only when we overcome the limitations of being separate and discover our common universality and our essential Oneness with all other human beings and all things. The universe is all the time working to help the individual distinguish itself, i.e. to develop its latent capacities in a unique manner the way a sculptor carves a figurine out of stone. The universe comes to us as Life, presenting to us the exact conditions needed to realize our inherent potentials. At the same time, the universe constantly presents us with the reality of our similarity and oneness with all other beings. It reminds us in a million ways that we cannot exist for ourselves alone, but must depend on our relationship with countless others and with our environment for our survival, growth and enjoyment. Man is a social being and cannot fully develop in isolation from other people. To fulfil ourselves as individuals, we need to be working all the time to rediscover our oneness with others and the universe around us. We have to do that because as separate people we have nothing. We have no knowledge, no power, no life, no enjoyment. We exist when we are individually poised, but we are fulfilled only when we see our oneness and relate to everyone else as aspects of ourselves. Even when we feel our oneness with others, we do not lose our individuality. We still retain the sense of being a unique person. We look out at ourselves and see our oneness in everyone else. We dwell within them. We find out that our Self is much greater than we thought it was. It is one with the universal and cosmic Self.

Later on, after we have been universalised, if we keep going, we discover not only that we are an individual soul and universal soul too, but we are also one with the Parameshwara, the Transcendental One. Because there was a belief that the individual was inferior, traditional yoga was meant to abandon or dissolve that individuality and merge it back into the transcendent. But for a divine life, that will never work. We cannot take this exit route. We have to take the route of realizing our full potential by becoming the Divine here on earth, in the body and in harmonious relationship with all our other selves who are also equally manifestations of the One.

book | by Dr. Radut