Introduction to Living Within: the Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth by Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, compiled by Dr. A.S. Dalal

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What is psychological health and growth? Western psychology tends to define psychological health as the absence of various forms of extreme disturbance or disruption. ‘Normal” levels of dissatisfaction, upset-ness, are considered to be both acceptable and part of everyday life. It is only when someone experiences a psychological state that drifts into total disorientation, violence, suicidal thoughts, or disassociation from the expectations of society that psychology labels the behavior as unhealthy or harmful.

There is, however, another way to look at the issue of psychological health and growth, and that is to affirm the development of positive attributes as representing health. Thus, the individual can find and implement measures to create forward looking and positive directions in his life, and contextualize the obstacles or issues that arise as challenges to be met and overcome along the way.

Western psychology has a very rudimentary view of human psychology, perhaps due to the fact that as a science it has been around for a very short period of time and has not yet had the opportunity to look into the vast ranges of human psychology and the complexity of the various aspects of our being and their interaction with one another. Nowadays, as Western psychology has developed, more emphasis is being placed on the wider field of human growth and empowerment, and thus, Western psychology is entering a field long known to the yogic practitioners of India who long ago codified the actions of mind, life and body and found ways to enhance the developmental powers of existence. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras set forth a systematic approach to psychological development, for instance. Many yogic practices are based in a deep understanding of human psychology.

In the present volume, Dr. A.S. Dalal bridges the gap between Western psychology and Eastern spirituality as he explores the detailed inner workings of human life and provides at the same time a way of understanding, based on the ground-breakiing work of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, which puts the human potential for self-exceeding front and center.

Dr. Dalal has compiled this book from the writings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother after first providing a detailed introduction and outline of their approach to facing issues, overcoming disturbances and enhancing peace, creativity, growth and satisfaction in life. He calls upon the principles of yogic psychology to show us the way beyond reactions of anger, fear, anxiety and depression, as well as how to achieve positive mental health and psychological growth.

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth

Daily Studies Now Being Converted to Audio Podcasts on Spotify

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For those who prefer to listen rather than read the texts, who want to use their travel time to listen we have been able to use the wonder of technology to create audio podcasts for you which are published on Spotify. The podcast is now also available on Apple iTunes, Google Play and other podcast venues. We are creating a new podcast daily, with an archive already built up of several hundred sessions.. You can link and bookmark the following:

Sri Aurobindo’s and Related Writings on Apple iTunes for IPhone and IPad:

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Sri Aurobindo’s and Related Writings on Apple iTunes for IPhone and IPad:

We continue to add more titles to this list on an ongoing basis, so please check back regularly for additional titles.  We also supply a large number of titles for Amazon Kindle and Google Play which are listed separately.  Below find the links to the e-book versions available at this time on Apple iTunes:

By Sri Aurobindo:

Bases of Yoga                                      Bases of Yoga

 Essays on the Gita                              Essays on the Gita

 The Mother                                        The Mother

 Savitri: A Legend and a Symbol         Savitri: A Legend and a Symbol

 By The Mother:

 Commentaries on the Dhammapada  Commentaries on the Dhammapada

 By Sri M. P. Pandit:

 An Early Chapter in The Mother’s Life   Early Chapter in The Mother’s Life

 Art of Living                                        Art of Living

 Bases of Tantra Sadhana                   Bases of Tantra Sadhana

 Commentaries on Sri Aurobindo’s Thought, V. 1  Commentaries Sri Aurobindo’s Thought, V. 1

 Dhyana                                               Dhyana

 Heart of Sadhana                               Heart of Sadhana

 How Do I Proceed?                             How Do I Proceed?

 Introducing The Life Divine               Introducing The Life Divine

 Introducing Savitri                             Introducing Savitri

 Japa                                                    Japa

Kundalini Yoga                                   Kundalini Yoga

Readings in Savitri, V. 1                     Readings in Savitri, V. 1

 Readings in Savitri, V. 2                     Readings in Savitri, V. 2

 Readings in Savitri, V. 3                     Readings in Savitri, V. 3

 Readings in Savitri, V. 4                     Readings in Savitri, V. 4

 Readings in Savitri, V. 5                     Readings in Savitri, V. 5

 Readings in Savitri, V. 7                     Readings in Savitri, V. 7

 Readings in Savitri, V. 8                     Readings in Savitri, V. 8

Readings in Savitri, V. 9                     Readings in Savitri, V. 9

 Sri Aurobindo and His Yoga               Sri Aurobindo and His Yoga

 A Summary of Savitri                         A Summary of Savitri

 Talks on The Life Divine, V. 1             Talks on The Life Divine, V. 1

 Teachings of Sri Aurobindo               Teachings of Sri Aurobindo

Thoughts on the Gita                         Thoughts on the Gita

 By Santosh Krinsky:

Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s The Life Divine, Vol. 1  Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s Life Divine,V. 1

Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s The Life Divine, Vol. 2 Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s Life Divine, V. 2

Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s The Life Divine, Vol. 3 Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s Life Divine, V. 3

Readings in The Mother by Sri Aurobindo:               Readings in The Mother by Sri Aurobindo

Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s Rebirth and Karma:   Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s Rebirth &  Karma

Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s Essays on the Gita,V.1 Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s Essays on the Gita, V.1

Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s Essays on the Gita, V. 2 Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s Essays on the Gita, V.2

Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s The Synthesis of Yoga, V. 1  Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s Synthesis of Yoga, V. 1

Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s The Synthesis of Yoga, V. 2  Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s Synthesis of Yoga, V. 2

Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s The Synthesis of Yoga, V. 3  Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s Synthesis of Yoga, V. 3

 By Rand Hicks:

A Savitri Dictionary                            A Savitri Dictionary

Rev. 6/11/17

Sri Aurobindo’s Writings Available as E-Books for Amazon Kindle Readers or App

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The Amazon Kindle is perhaps the most popular e-book reader in the world, and the APP works on desktop computers, laptops, android phones, tablets etc. The APP can be downloaded free from Amazon.com We are systematically making Sri Aurobindo’s writings available for the Kindle App and Readers. Here are a few of them, with more links to be provided soon:

Bhagavad Gita and Its Message Bhagavad Gita and Its Message
Dictionary of Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga (compiled by M P Pandit) Dictionary of Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga
Essays on the Gita Essays on the Gita
The Future Evolution of Man The Future Evolution of Man
Hidden Forces of Life (compiled by AS Dalal from writings of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother Hidden Forces of Life
The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development
The Ideal of Human Unity The Ideal of Human Unity
Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice Integral Yoga
The Life Divine The Life Divine
Looking from Within (compiled by AS Dalal from writings of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother Looking from Within
The Mind of Light The Mind of Light (The Supramental Manifestation on Earth)
The Mother The Mother
Our Many Selves (compiled by AS Dalal from writings of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother Our Many Selves
Powers Within (compiled by AS Dalal from writings of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother Powers Within
The Psychic Being (compiled by AS Dalal from writings of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother Psychic Being
Rebirth and Karma Rebirth and Karma
Savitri: A Legend and a Symbol Savitri: A Legend and a Symbol
Secret of the Veda Secret of the Veda
Sri Aurobindo on the Tantra (compiled by M P Pandit) Sri Aurobindo on the Tantra
The Synthesis of Yoga The Synthesis of Yoga
The Upanishads The Upanishads
Vedic Symbolism (compiled by M P Pandit) Vedic Symbolism
Yoga of Sleep and Dreams (compiled by AS Dalal from writings of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother Yoga of Sleep and Dreams

By Sri M P Pandit:
Sri Aurobindo and His Yoga Sri Aurobindo and His Yoga
Teaching of Sri Aurobindo Teaching of Sri Aurobindo

SRI AUROBINDO’S BOOKS NOW AVAILABLE ON GOOGLE PLAY AS E-BOOKS:

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The Mother THE MOTHER
Bases of Yoga BASES OF YOGA
Essays on the Gita ESSAYS ON THE GITA
The Human Cycle: Psychology of Social Development The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development
Ideal of Human Unity IDEAL OF HUMAN UNITY
The Life Divine THE LIFE DIVINE
The Mind of Light THE MIND OF LIGHT
Savitri: A Legend and a Symbol  Savitri: A Legend and a Symbol
Sri Aurobindo on the Tantra SRI AUROBINDO ON THE TANTRA
The Synthesis of Yoga THE SYNTHESIS OF YOGA

For Android Phones, Tablets, and E-Readers

Sri Aurobindo Studies

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Sri Aurobindo’s integral yoga has enormous implications for the time we find ourselves in.  As we systematically destroy the basis of life on the planet, and wall off one another through ultimate fragmentation, we are left with the stark contrast of choosing between survival and destruction, life and death, growth or decline.  Sri Aurobindo recognizes the necessity of the individual within the context of the collectivity, universality and the transcendent consciousness of Oneness.  The individual is the nexus or hub of the evolutionary urge, but not separate from nor at the expense of the life of the cosmic whole.

We post the daily blog entries also to our facebook page:  www.facebook.com/sriaurobindoswritings

We also have a daily twitter feed on Sri Aurobindo’s studies at www.twitter.com/santoshk1

We have systematically worked our way through The Life Divine as well as The Mother , Essays on the Gita and Rebirth and Karma, The Synthesis of Yoga, The Ideal of Human Unity and The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development  The newest posts appear near the top.  If you want to start at the beginning, go to the oldest post and roll forward until you reach the final posts as of today.

Another option is to “search” for the chapter you would like to study and see all posts relating to that chapter. You may have to ask for “older posts” once you have the search results if you are looking for one of the earlier chapters.

We have separated the posts relating to each book into their own folder as an additional organisational tool.

Similarly you can use the search box to find specific concepts, terms or issues you are interested in. The results will show all posts that address those concepts or terms. You may have to click on “older posts” to find all the references here as well.

The next book we are taking up is The Upanshads by Sri Aurobindo, following a similar format to that we have utilised for The Life Divine , The Mother, Essays on the Gita and Rebirth and Karma, The Synthesis of Yoga, The Ideal of Human Unity and The Human Cycle: Psychology of Social Development.

You may also want to visit our information site for Sri Aurobindo at Sri-Aurobindo.Com

Sri Aurobindo’s major writings are published in the US by Lotus Press.

The systematic studies on this blog have also been published as self-standing books by Lotus Press and are available in both printed formats and as e-books. There are 3 volumes encompassing Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s The Life Divine, 2 volumes encompassing Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s Essays on the Gita, as well as 1 volume for Readings in The Mother by Sri Aurobindo, and Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s Rebirth and Karma., and 4 volumes  for the Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s The Synthesis of Yoga as well as Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s The Ideal of Human Unity and Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s The Human Cycle, Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s The Future Evolution of Man.  .You can find the Readings series at Lotus Press

Many of the major writings of Sri Aurobindo are now also accessible on the Amazon Kindle Platform as well as Apple itunes, google play, kobo, and Barnes & Noble nook as well.  Kindle e-book reader program is also available for PC, Laptop, iPad, Blackberry, Android, iPhone and many other platforms from Amazon without charge. You can find the current list of titles available by going to http://www.amazon.com , go to the “kindle store” and type in “Aurobindo” New titles are being added as they can be made ready. Many of the major books are already accessible by the Kindle Reader.  You can follow a similar procedure for the other platforms we now support for Sri Aurobindo’s writings, I-tunes, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, and KOBO.

How to Deal With Anger and Other Strong Vital Reactions

There is an idea, prevalent in some aspects of Western psychology, both mainstream and ‘pop’ psychology, that it is unhealthy to internalize and hold in strong reactions or emotions such as anger. They counsel letting it out and thereby saving oneself from the psychological and physical effects of suppressed anger and other strong emotions. There are even groups that support the idea of “scream-therapy” as a way to express one’s inner rage.

Clearly there is an issue if one is bottling up such strong feelings and suppressing them, as this can, indeed, have negative impacts mentally, emotionally and physically. The question, however, is whether such an unleashed expression as is recommended actually does anything to defuse or resolve the underlying cause, or, in fact, if such expressions simply make the repeated experience much more likely.

When we understand the impact of where we focus attention on what forces arise within us, and as we learn more about the ‘holes’ that can be created in our protective vital sheath or energetic ‘envelope’, it becomes clear that giving vent to the anger or other strong feelings simply creates and reinforces a pathway for that force to establish itself in the being on an ongoing basis.

Sri Aurobindo goes to the root of the issue in his treatment of anger. The goal is not to accept the anger within oneself and suppress it, but to understand the pathway of entry and find ways to deny it access to one’s being. This can be done with a systematic and disciplined approach to one’s inner psychological viewpoint and response.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “I think you have always had an idea that to give expression to an impulse or a movement is the best way or even the only way to get rid of it. But that is a mistaken idea. If you give expression to anger, you prolong or confirm the habit of the recurrence of anger; you do not diminish or get rid of the habit. The very first step towards weakening the power of anger in the nature and afterwards getting rid of it altogether is to refuse all expression to it in act or speech. Afterwards one can go on with more likelihood of success to throw it out from the thought and feeling also. And so with all other wrong movements.”

“All these movements come from outside, from the universal lower Nature, or are suggested or thrown upon you by adverse forces — adverse to your spiritual progress. Your method of taking them as your own is again a wrong method; for by doing that you increase their power to recur and take hold of you. If you take them as your own, that gives them a kind of right to be there. If you feel them as not your own, then they have no right, and the will can develop more power to send them away. What you must always have and feel as yours is this will, the power to refuse assent, to refuse admission to a wrong movement. Or if it comes in, the power to send it away, without expressing it.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Disturbances of the Vital, Anger, pp. 58-60

Yogic Sadhana and Depression

Practitioners of yoga are not exempt from the play of the gunas, the qualities of Nature, and thus, are from time to time, subject to bouts of discouragement and depression when tamas is in the ascendent. It may happen when a particular goal or ambition is thwarted or delayed, as the frustration of rajas tends to push the individual into the mode of tamas.

Sri Aurobindo counseled sadhaks on the causes and methods of addressing the rise of depression in the course of the yogic development. As long as the individual remains rooted in the ego-personality of the individual seeker, it is necessary to find ways to separate oneself from the reactions of depression and discouragement, through adopting the right attitude that will allow sattwa to rise and the energy to return. Once the shift is made to the divine-standpoint, the vicissitudes of the ego-personality are no longer front and center.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “To yield to depression when things go wrong is the worst way of meeting the difficulty. There must be some desire or demand within you, conscious or subconscious, that gets excited and revolts against its not being satisfied. The best way is to be conscious of it, face it calmly and steadily throw it out.”

“If the lower vital (not the mind only) could permanently make up its mind that all desire and demand are contrary to the Truth and no longer call for them, these things would lose very soon their force of return.”

“Remorse, repentance, is the natural movement of the vital mind when it sees it has done a mistake. It is certainly better than indifference. Its disadvantage is that it disturbs the vital stuff and sometimes leads to depression or discouragement. For that reason what is usually recommended to the sadhak is a quiet recognition of the mistake with a sincere aspiration and will that it should not be repeated or at least that the habit of making such mistakes should soon be eliminated. At a higher stage of development when the inner calm is established, one simply observes the defects of the nature as defects of a machinery that one has to put right and calls down the Light and Force for its rectification. In the beginning, however, the movement of repentance even helps provided it does not bring discouragement or depression.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Disturbances of the Vital, Depression, pp. 56-58

Understanding and Overcoming Depression

In today’s world, depression is a widespread malady that affects people throughout the world. In many cases, pharmaceutical drugs are known to have potential ‘side effects’ that can cause depression, thoughts of suicide, or other dark moods that inhibit the ability of the individual to function in his life. In other cases, there is a serious mismatch between the pressures and concerns one sees in the world and the inner sense of one’s life and meaning. In many cases, there is a sense of failure, what the Mother calls a “want of vital satisfaction”, that is accentuated through peer pressure, bullying and unrealistic expectations placed on an individual through family, friends or the societal setting. Then there is the concern that everything is useless due to the wanton destruction of the environment and the careless attitude of people who are creating division, hatred, fear, pain and suffering for others, and about which one cannot do anything.

The Mother dealt with thousands of individuals as the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and the associated school developed and expanded. For the most part, this was a small, focused group of individuals who were working on their inner growth and development, and thus, not a representative group of people in relation to the question of depression at large in the world. However, the Mother’s view, even when focused on this limited set of individuals, provides us insight into both the deeper roots of depression and potential directions.

Obviously, those cases of depression either caused or accentuated through chemical imbalances caused by pharmaceutical drugs, needs must require the withdrawal of those drugs, as new methods of addressing the underlying conditions for which the drugs are prescribed, are put in place. Those caused by physical exhaustion and extreme fatigue similarly can be alleviated through balancing the life more completely with proper attention to the needs of the body for rest and recuperation, proper food and activity. Yet we see remaining a vast number of cases of depression in the world, particularly compared to past ages, due to the feeling of being overwhelmed, helpless and weak in the face of the machinery of the society and the expectations that are raised. In this case, helping people to understand the deeper significance of life, and their individual capability to address that, can help people find the way through the state of depression, as the Mother so clearly indicates. Controlled experiments with hallucinogenic drug therapy, or with shamanic ‘vision quests’ have shown that taking the individual outside of their limited ego-personality and showing them a larger, higher purpose and existence can help free them from the states of depression.

Turning then to the Mother’s specific insights, we find that she addresses those who have the inner capability of understanding and shifting their awareness either to a higher consciousness or to the inner psychic being which is in tune with the universal manifestation and participates in the consciousness that is manifesting. Instead of wallowing in the limited vital personality of the desire-soul, the individual shifts the focus and awareness toward the larger reality.

A disciple asks: “How can depression be controlled?”

The Mother observes: “Oh! there’s a very simple way. Depression occurs generally in the vital, and one is overpowered by depression only when one keeps the consciousness in the vital, when one remains there. The only thing to do is to get out of the vital and enter a deeper consciousness. Even the higher mind, the luminous, higher mind, the most lofty thoughts have the power to drive away depression. Even when one reaches just the highest domains of thought, usually the depression disappears. But in any case, if one seeks shelter in the psychic, then there is no longer any room for depression.”

“Depression may come from two causes: either from a want of vital satisfaction or from a considerable nervous fatigue in the body. Depression arising from physical fatigue is set right fairly easily: one has but to take rest. One goes to bed and sleeps until one feels well again, or else one rests, dreams, lies down. The want of vital satisfaction is pretty easily produced and usually one must face it with one’s reason, must ferret out the cause of the depression, what has brought about the lack of satisfaction in the vital; and then one looks at it straight in the face and asks oneself whether that indeed has anything to do with one’s inner aspiration or whether it is simply quite an ordinary movement. Generally one discovers that it has nothing to do with the inner aspiration and one can quite easily overcome it and resume one’s normal movement. If that does not suffice, then one must go deeper and deeper until one touches the psychic reality. The one has only to put this psychic reality in contact with the movement of depression, and instantaneously it will vanish into thin air.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Disturbances of the Vital, Depression, pp. 56-58

The Origin of Joy

There is a difference between ‘joy’ and ‘enjoyment’. Enjoyment is a more or less passive state, such as when we enjoy some form of entertainment. Joy, on the other hand, is an active status, which rises spontaneously through involvement and action. If we observe children, we see that they experience a true state of joy when they are able to ‘do’ something, whether it is learning how to jump for the first time, or helping their mother in some activity, or simply running, playing and experiencing life actively. Those who have this spontaneous ability to simply participate and act have a welling up of joy internally. Similarly, when we set out to work on some project, achieve or accomplish some action, we have the joy of the action, which is much more real and intense than the enjoyment of adulation or success that follows when others appreciate the result.

The Mother writes: “It is only effort, in whatever domain it be — material effort, moral effort, intellectual effort — which creates in the being certain vibrations which enable you to get connected with universal vibrations; and it is this which gives joy. It is effort which pulls you out of inertia; it is effort which makes you receptive to the universal forces. And the one thing above all which spontaneously gives joy, even to those who do not practice yoga, who have no spiritual aspiration, who lead quite an ordinary life, is the exchange of forces with universal forces. People do not know this, they would not be able to tell you that it is due to this, but so it is.”

“There are people who are just like beautiful animals — all their movements are harmonious, their energies are spent harmoniously, their uncalculating efforts call in energies all the time and they are always happy; but sometimes they have no thoughts in their head, sometimes they have no feelings in their heart, they live an altogether animalish life. I have known people like that; beautiful animals. They were handsome, their gestures were harmonious, their forces quite balanced and they spent without reckoning and received without measure. They were in harmony with the material universal forces and they lived in joy. They could not perhaps have told you that they were happy — joy with them was so spontaneous that it was natural — and they would have been still less able to tell you why, for their intelligence was not very developed. I have known such people, who were capable of making the necessary effort (not a prudent and calculated effort but a spontaneous one) in no matter what field: material, vital, intellectual, etc., and in this effort there was always joy. For example, a man sits down to write a book, he makes an effort which sets vibrating something in his brain to attract ideas; well, suddenly, this man experiences joy. It is quite certain that, whatever you do, even the most material work like sweeping a room or cooking, if you make the necessary effort to do this work to the maximum of your ability, you will feel joy, even if what you do is against your nature. When you want to realise something, you make quite spontaneously the necessary effort; this concentrates your energies on the thing to be realised and that vies a meaning to your life. This compels you to a sort of organisation of yourself, a sort of concentration of your energies, because it is this that you wish to do and not fifty other things which contradict it. And it is in this concentration, this intensity of the will, that lies the origin of joy. This gives you the power to receive energies in exchange for those you spend.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Disturbances of the Vital, Boredom and Lack of Energy, pp. 53-56

Addressing and Overcoming Boredom

As long as we remain bound to the ego-personality, we are caught in the play of the three gunas, or qualities of nature. Every individual is subject to all three, and their constant interchange. Thus, there will be times and circumstances where tamas, the quality of indolence and darkness comes to the forefront. With tamas in the ascendant, we can experience a sense of emptiness, a sense of being at “loose ends” and a lack of interest in doing anything or concentrating. The question then is how the spiritual seeker can, or even should, respond, when these tamasic states are in the forefront. Wallowing in tamas, with various forms of distraction, or self-medication with drugs or alcohol, does not, obviously, provide any solution. The Mother’s prescription invokes bringing the powers of sattwa and rajas to bear to uplift the tamasic force with light, and positive energetic action.

The Mother notes: “There is nothing more contrary to the very reason of existence than this passing wave of boredom. If you make a little effort within yourself at that time, if you tell yourself: ‘Wait a bit, what is it that I should learn? What does all that bring to me so that I may learn something? What progress should I make in overcoming myself? What is the weakness that I must overcome? What is the inertia that I must conquer?’ If you say that to yourself, you will see the next minute you are no longer bored. You will immediately get interested and you will make progress! This is a commonplace of consciousness.”

“And then, you know, most people when they get bored, instead of trying to rise a step higher, descend a step lower, they become still worse than what they were, and they do all the stupid things that others do, go in for all the vulgarities, all the meannesses, everything, in order to amuse themselves. They get intoxicated, take poison, ruin their health, ruin their brain, they utter crudities. They do all that because they are bored. Well, if instead of going down, one had risen up, one would have profited by the circumstances. Instead of profiting, one falls a little lower yet than where one was. When people get a big blow in their life, some misfortune (what men call ‘misfortune’, there are people who do have misfortunes), the first thing they try to do is to forget it — as though one did not forget quickly enough! And to forget, they do anything whatsoever. When there is something painful, they want to distract themselves — what they call distraction, that is, doing stupid things, that is to say, going down in their consciousness, going down a little instead of rising up…. Has something extremely painful happened to you, something very grievous? Do not become stupified, do not seek forgetfulness, do not go down into the inconscience, you must go to the end and find the light that is behind, the truth, the force and the joy; and for that you must be strong and refuse to slide down.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Disturbances of the Vital, Boredom and Lack of Energy, pp. 53-56

Fear Is Based in the Limitations of Ignorance and Unconsciousness

In The Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo describes the sevenfold ignorance which limits the human being. We live in a world about which we know very little, and we lack a complete understanding of the significance of our lives, the meaning of existence, or the processes of Time. As a result, we act as if we are separate beings living a separate existence and we react to what we do not know, or what we imagine, or what we perceive to be a threat to that individual existence with fear.

The basis of the fear reaction can be seen in the consciousness of the animal, and, as shown in The Secret Life of Plants, even in a very rudimentary way in the plant. In these cases, the perception of a vibration of threat, whether from a predator or some danger from outside, brings forth the reaction. We can see this in operation very clearly in the relation between a predator and its prey. The prey knows it is going to become food for the predator and begins to shake and exhibit all the symptoms of fear. These very basic reactions carry over into the human being, but they become accentuated through the process of our attempt to extrapolate in our ignorance by imagining what may happen, what could happen and what implications that has. This occurs not only in a true physical threat, but in virtually every circumstance of human interaction in the world.

Given the pervasive nature of fear in human existence, it is important to understand how to deal with it, so that we can not only function in our lives, but use the opportunity to grow and master this reaction. Sri Aurobindo, in his book The Mother, devotes a chapter to the question: He states: “To walk through life armoured against all fear, peril and disaster, only two things are needed, two that go always together — the Grace of the Divine Mother and on your side an inner state made up of faith, sincerity and surrender.” He explains these in depth as the chapter continues. The issue here is the shift from the ego-centric viewpoint to one that is ‘Divine-centric”. For a seeker of spiritual realisation, this is the ultimate solution to fear. As long as we remain rooted in the ego and the body-life-mind complex, we take ‘personally’ any threats to our existence or our well-being. Fear can be a paralyzing emotion, and for those not yet fully devoted to the yogic sadhana, it must still be addressed, one way or another.

The Mother observes: “Fear is a phenomenon of unconsciousness. It is a kind of anguish that comes from ignorance. One does not know the nature of a certain thing, does not know its effect or what will happen, does not know the consequences of one’s acts, one does not know so many things; and this ignorance brings fear. One fears what one does not know. Take a child, if it is brought before someone it does not know (I am not speaking of a child with an awakened inner consciousness, I am speaking of an ordinary child), — you bring it before someone it does not know, its first movement will always be one of fear. Only very rare children — and they have another consciousness — are very bold. It may also be a mixture of apprehension, a kind of instinct. When one instinctively feels that something is dangerous and hasn’t the means to remedy it, when one does not know what to do to protect himself from it, then he is afraid. There are, I believe, countless reasons for fear. But it is a movement of unconsciousness, in every case.”

“That which knows has no fear. That which is perfectly awake, which is fully conscious and which knows, has no fear. It is always something dark that is afraid.”

“One of the great remedies for conquering fear is to face boldly what one fears. You are put face to face with the danger you fear and you fear it no longer. The fear disappears. From the yogic point of view, the point of view of discipline, this is the cure recommended. In the ancient initiations, especially in Egypt, in order to practice occultism, as I was telling you last time, it was necessary to abolish the fear of death completely. Well, one of the practices of those days was to lay the neophyte in a sarcophagus and leave him in there for a few days, as though he were dead. Naturally, he was not left to die, neither of hunger nor suffocation, but still he remained lying there as though he were dead. It seems that cures you of all fear.”

“When fear comes, if one succeeds in putting upon it consciousness, knowledge, force, light, one can cure it altogether.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Disturbances of the Vital, Fear, pp. 50-53

How to Overcome Fear

A number of years ago, a crowd of anti-war protesters in Washington DC were gathered in front of a federal building and were suddenly confronted with a phalanx of heavily armed police wielding guns, batons and potentially tear gas cannisters, arriving with numerous paddy wagons, who surrounded them and began to move in. A vibration of fear went through the people assembled there, as they thought they could be beaten, arrested, or both. Then someone began to chant “OM” and the crowd picked it up. Suddenly the vibration of fear was gone and transformed into a courageous strength to face whatever would come.

Leaders of non-violent protest movements, whether Mahatma Gandhi, or Martin Luther King, or others, worked to convince their followers to accept the worst with courage and not to flinch before the beatings, the bullets, the dogs, and the arrests. They opposed fear with self-sacrifice and dedication to a higher cause.

A discipline once asked the Mother: “When one feels frightened, what should one do?”

The Mother responded: “That depends upon who you are. There are many ways of curing oneself of fear. … If you have some contact with your psychic being, you must call it immediately and in the psychic light put things back in order. This is the most powerful way.”

“When one does not have this psychic contact, but is still a reasonable being, that is, when one has a free movement of the reasoning mind, one can use it to reason with, to speak to oneself as one would to a child, explaining that this fear is a bad thing in itself and, even if there is a danger, to face the danger with fear is the greatest stupidity. If there is a real danger, it is only with the power of courage that you have a chance of coming out of it; if you have the least fear, you are done for. So with that kind of reasoning, manage to convince the part that fears that it must stop being afraid.”

“If you have faith and are consecrated to the Divine, there is a very simple way, it is to say: ‘Let Your will be done. Nothing can frighten me because it is You who are guiding my life. I belong to you and you are guiding my life.’ That acts immediately. Of all the means this is the most effective indeed, it is. That is, one must be truly consecrated to the Divine. If one has that, it acts immediately; all fear vanishes immediately like a dream. And the being with the bad influence also disappears like a dream along with the fear. You should see it running away at full speed, prrt! Voila.

“Now, there are people having a strong vital power in them and they are fighters who immediately lift up their heads and say: ‘Ah! an enemy is here, we are going to knock him down.’ But for that one must have the knowledge and a very great vital power. One must be vitally a giant. That does not happen to everyone.”

“So there are many different ways. They are all good, if you know how to make use of the one that suits your own nature.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Disturbances of the Vital, Fear, pp. 50-53

Understanding the Nature of Fear and Its Effects on the Being

Wherever we focus attention, we create a direct relationship with the object of that attention. It may be through aspiration towards a higher consciousness, devotion to an ideal or through love for a revered guide or teacher; or it may be through the reaction of fear about some person, event or circumstance. However it comes about, this focus creates a beacon or signal to the object of focus to interact with us. Thus, through aspiration we work to create a new level of consciousness within our being; and alternatively, through fear we bring toward us the very thing about which we are experiencing fear. This is the underlying and essential principle behind what is being called today ‘the law of attraction’.

The reaction of fear results from the awareness of the ego-consciousness about its own fragility and weakness as a ‘separate being’ in the wider universal creation. This ego-consciousness is a somewhat illusory construct as we are never actually separated from the universal consciousness in its manifestation. It serves a purpose of creating a nexus or point of concentration for the manifestation, yet it is not in fact something separate and apart. When the ego-consciousness is in the forefront, we experience fears of death and dissolution, of pain, and of separation. Through our experience, our education, and our perceptions, including our consumption of information through media and inter-personal relationships, we internalize certain dangers or concerns that become the basis for fear. The very focus on these things, however, opens a connection between ourselves and the forces that we fear, and thus, we become locked into a structure that forces us to face, and either overcome or fail in the attempt, the objects we fear.

As we shift our standpoint away from the ego-personality toward the divine standpoint, we begin to recognise that there is no ultimate cause for fear. As we focus our attention on the divine creation and the next phases of its evolutionary development, we create a positive relationship with that next future and bring that towards us.

Another aspect to consider is the impact of negative and positive emotions on the vital sheath that surrounds us as an individual nexus of energy. Negative emotions, fear, sadness, depression, anger, hatred, unhappy feelings tend to open ‘holes’ and weaken the vital sheath, which normally acts as a protection of the individual from attack and destruction. Similarly, positive emotions, happiness, love, goodwill, compassion, act to strengthen this vital sheath and thus, afford more protection against forces that want to weaken, destroy or devour, as part of the dynamic of creation and destruction in the universe.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “It is true that what one fears has the tendency to come until one is able to look it in the face and overcome one’s shrinking.”

“It is a mistake to think that by fearing or being unhappy you can progress. Fear is always a feeling to be rejected, because what you fear is just the thing that is likely to come to you: fear attracts the object of fear. Unhappiness weakens the strength and lays one more open to the causes of unhappiness.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Disturbances of the Vital, Fear, pp. 50-53

Aspiration, Faith and Realisation

Aspiration in terms of the yogic process is a tuning of the consciousness towards the spiritual reality, and thereby shifting the focus away from the ego-personality to the divine. The aspiration directs the attention, but must be followed up with an attitude of receptivity so that the response, the action of the higher force, can come and be integrated into the being. To the extent that the desire-soul of the ego-personality remains active, the individual engages in all kinds of concerns, speculations and wishes for a particular result, and this creates enough disruption in the awareness that it frequently hinders the reception that has been asked for. We desire a specific outcome and result from the aspiration, without truly understanding the way, process and means of the divine intention in manifestation. Thus, we overlay our ego-expectations on the divine even as we aspire for a higher truth.

The human being tends to impatience and brings with him the expectation of immediate gratification of desire, and this reduces the purity and force of the aspiration. There are those who speak nowadays of the ‘law of attraction’. There is indeed a truth behind the ‘law of attraction’ but it is not exactly as described by those who ascribe to it the power to manifest all types of wealth, success and popularity! The underlying truth is that where we focus our attention, we open up a connection and a pathway for manifestation. If we remain receptive we keep that connection open and energy travels along that path.

Aspiration for the divine truth has, however, a further implication. We cannot, from our ego-viewpoint, truly understand the method and process of the divine realisation. We expect things to happen a certain way and in a certain time-frame, yet the divine purpose may be fulfilled through a longer and more circuitous route. Thus, we have to combine aspiration and receptivity with faith in the divine and the eventual outcome. It may be that the answer has in fact come, but we have failed to heed it as it did not meet our expectation or our desire!

The Mother notes: “When one aspires for something, if at the same time one knows that the aspiration will be heard and answered in the best possible way, that establishes a quietude in the being, a quietude in its vibrations; whilst if there is a doubt, an uncertainty, if one does not know what will lead one to the goal or if ever one will reach it or whether there is a way of doing so, and so on, then one gets disturbed and that usually creates a sort of little whirlwind around the being, which prevents it from receiving the real thing. Instead, if one has a quiet faith, if whilst aspiring one knows that there is no aspiration (naturally, sincere aspiration) which remains unanswered, then one is quiet. One aspires with as much fervour as possible, but does not stand in nervous agitation asking oneself why one does not get immediately what one has asked for. One knows how to wait. I have said somewhere: ‘To know how to wait is to put time on one’s side.’ That is quite true. For if one gets excited, one loses all one’s time — one loses one’s time, loses one’s energy, loses one’s movements. To be very quiet, calm, peaceful, with the faith that what is true will take place, and that if one lets it happen, it will happen so much the quicker. Then, in that peace everything goes much better.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Disturbances of Mind, Anxiety, pp. 44-49

The Importance of the Attitude of Trust for the Yogic Practitioner

In our world today, we tend to doubt everything, question everything, trust in nothing. We recognise how much dissembling takes place, how many illusions are placed before our eyes, and we frequently have the experience that when we trust in someone or something, we tend to later see that we have been misled or manipulated. It is one of the sicknesses pervasive in the modern world, that everything breeds mistrust in us.

Yet we also find that progress in yoga, which requires us to shift our standpoint beyond the normal physical-vital-mental framework, requires a modicum of trust, or faith, in a greater reality beyond the ‘facts’ of our modern civilisation.

How could we proceed and successfully overcome the tests and challenges, the obstacles and disruptions, if we do not have trust in the inevitability and eventuality of the next stage of evolution. We have, then, to differentiate between trust in human institutions and conceptions, and the deeper, larger trust in the universal manifestation, and the divine intention in that manifestation, of which we are a part. This level of trust, or faith, is embedded in the psychic being which has a direct relation to the universal manifestation and its truth. When we once shift our standpoint from the mental to the psychic being, we recognise that all human developments, framed by the limits of mind, life and body, are subject to breakdown, but that nevertheless, the universal creation continues to roll out its meaning and purpose.

For a yogic practitioner, the focus and tuning of the consciousness towards that universal creation is essential, as otherwise, we become paralyzed in doubt and insecurity. Doubt focuses the mind on the frailty of what already exists, while the yoga must tune itself into the manifestation that is preparing to be birthed.

The Mother observes: “Children when left to themselves and not deformed by older people have such a great trust that all will be well! For example, when they have a small accident, they never think that this is going to be something serious: they are spontaneously convinced that it will soon be over, and this helps so powerfully in putting an end to it.”

“If the trust is there, spontaneous, candid, unquestioning, it works better than anything else, and the results are marvelous. It is with the contradictions and doubts of the mind that one spoils everything, with this kind of notion which comes when one is in difficulties: ‘Oh, it is impossible! I shall never manage it. And if this is going to be aggravated, if this condition I am in, which I don’t want, is going to grow still worse, if I continue to slide down farther and farther, if, if, if, if…’ like that, and one builds a wall between oneself and the force one wants to receive. The psychic being has this trust, has it wonderfully, without a shadow, without an argument, without a contradiction. And when it is like that, there is not a prayer which does not get an answer, no aspiration which is not realised.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Disturbances of Mind, Anxiety, pp. 44-49