Introduction to Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development


Charles Darwin, in his book The Origin of Species, summarizes his observations about the evolution of forms and how this evolution came about. He explains that there is a pressure in Nature which eventually leads to the “survival of the fittest”, who then go on to reproduce and thereby pass on whatever qualities helped them survive the challenges of life. While there is much to applaud in this book, it is not without its detractors and its obvious internal weaknesses. One glaring weakness is the lack of what are seen as transitional links in the fossil record that show the steps of this evolution of forms. Another weakness is the inability to address any purpose or significance to this vast machinery of Nature.

Sri Aurobindo addresses both of these apparent issues. First, he describes, not a smooth and slow evolution of forms, but what he calls an “evolutionary saltus” at a certain stage when the underlying causative factors are prepared. Second, he identifies the causative factors as consciousness, and the evolution of consciousness in ever more powerful and complex formations. It is this evolution of consciousness which creates the needed development of forms to embody that consciousness.

By reframing the question of evolution away from a purely mechanical activity of physical nature to one of the development of consciousness, he also puts before us the proposition that man is not the final stage of evolution, but in fact is a transitional being. Further evolutionary developments are anticipated, and in fact, signs can be seen, in the human aspiration, that such developments are in fact taking place within the scope of human existence.

This provides a purpose and a focus for each individual beyond the mere acts required for existence and survival, and of more significance than simple enjoyment or entertainment. Those who are awake to a deeper aspect of life are called therefore to what Sri Aurobindo terms an ‘adventure of consciousness’.

Sri Aurobindo writes in The Life Divine: “To become ourselves is the one thing to be done; but the true ourselves is that which is within us, and to exceed our outer self of body, life and mind is the condition for this highest being, which is our true and divine being, to become self-revealed and active. It is only by growing within and living within that we can find it….”

The Mother observes: “everything turns around the consciousness, the fact of being or not being conscious. And it is only in the supreme Consciousness that you can attain the perfect expression of yourself. … For the true consciousness is the divine Consciousness. If you cut yourself off from the divine Consciousness, you become absolutely unconscious; that is exactly what has happened. And so, everything there is, the world as it is, your consciousness as it is, things in the state they are in, are the result of this separation of the consciousness and its immediate obscuration. … The minute the individual consciousness is separated from the divine Consciousness, it enters what we call the inconscience, and it is this inconscience that is the cause of all miseries. … And the conclusion is this, that the true transformation is the transformation of consciousness — all the rest will follow automatically.”

Sri Aurobindo notes further: “It is by a constant inner growth that one can find a constant newness and unfailing interest in life. There is no other satisfying way.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development


Suggestions For Optimizing the Benefit of this Blog for Your Study of Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga


The Sri Aurobindo Studies daily blog is sponsored by the Institute for Wholistic Education with a unique, self-directed and systematic study of Sri Aurobindo’s major works.  For the last 13 years, we have focused on page by page review, directed headline, commentary and citations from Sri Aurobindo’s and The Mother’s writings.  A new post is generated just about daily.  The current book under review is a compilation titled Living Within: the Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, put together by Dr. A.S. Dalal and featuring citations from both Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.  You are welcome to join us at

GENERAL ADVICE TO GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR PARTICIPATION:   We took up the daily ‘page by page’ review of the writings of Sri Aurobindo with the idea that it would provide both a comprehensive understanding of Sri Aurobindo’s work, as well as a new depth of understanding.  We have found that covering approximately one page per day, and reflecting on the subject and the citations, has enormous benefits so we encourage you to take your time, work at your own pace, and not try to rush through the process.  There is no benefit to speed.  It is much more important to let the writing sink in and begin over time to transform the view and the interpretation we have in all areas of life.   The effect is cumulative and the further one goes, the deeper the understanding becomes.  This is not so much an intellectual exercise and there is no need to strain the thought process.  Let the concepts simply be absorbed and sink in and begin to address the way all life and action is understood. 

You may also find that you prefer a different approach, such as taking up a particular idea or concept that intrigues you, and using the search box to identify all references and follow them through day by day.  We recommend a “free progress” form of learning.  It is not about ‘information’ but about widening, opening and deepening the understanding within your own being.

The resource at this blog link gives you an enormous capability to direct your own study according to your own interest and at your own pace.  We have the following resources available which you can tap into from the home page:


Essays on the Gita

Future Evolution of Man

Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice

Living Within (the current book)

Mind of Light

Rebirth and Karma

Secret of the Veda and Hymns to the Mystic Fire (includes Vedic hymns chanting and translations and commentary)

The Human Cycle: the Psychology of Social Development

The Ideal of Human Unity

The Life Divine

The Mother

The Synthesis of Yoga

The Upanishads

Upon completion of the current title Living Within, we expect to take up another compilation by Dr. A.S. Dalal titled Growing Within as the next subject.

The page by page review of each of these books follows in date order and provides a citation reference to the chapter and page of the book from which the citations and commentaries are drawn.


The archive is organized by month from August 2009 through the current month.  Within each month the relevant articles appear in date sequence order.  The first book taken up was The Life Divine, so study of that text will start with the August 2009 posts.


There is also a search feature which is very useful when you would like to find all references to a particular term or concept across all the books that have been covered.  For instance, if you want to find references to ‘rebirth’ or ‘supermind’ or ‘divine life’ simply type the relevant words into the search box and you will have immediate access to all posts with that reference.


There is also a link to a daily podcast which began in the winter/spring of 2021.  The podcast converts the daily posts from that time forward into audio files for those who prefer to listen rather than read the posts.


The daily posts feed to  if you prefer to use facebook for the day to day postings.   You may choose to “like” or “follow” that page if you want to get the most recent post each day when it appears.    However, all of the archive, search functions and organized presentation for past titles appear only at 

DAILY POST REMINDERS:  if you choose to “follow” this blog directly at  (go to Reader  link near top left of home page, do a search in the box for Sri Aurobindo Studies and then click on the “follow” button) you will get a reminder follow up when the daily post goes “live”.


The print editions of the books are available world-wide through various agencies or centers including S.A.B.D.A. from Puducherry.  The USA editions are published by Lotus Press through arrangement with the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Copyright Department.   You can find all the USA print editions at   Most of these titles are now also available for download as e-books through either Amazon kindle, Apple itunes, or Google play.  Some of the links to the e-books are on the home page of the daily blog.  All of the current e-book links can be found at the respective title at    Also, as each book was completed in the blog, a print and e-book edition of all relevant blog posts has been published by Lotus Press under the general umbrella of Readings in …. (and the appropriate title of Sri Aurobindo).  This may provide another convenient way to access the systematic study on your own.


You may wish to visit  to get more information about the work of Sri Aurobindo as well as annotations on many of his books


The purpose of the blog is to engage the reader in the deeper sense of Sri Aurobindo’s writings, to explore the depths and breadths of the ground he covered, and to make the books highly accessible to the reader.  We therefore encourage engagement and are happy to have participants make relevant comments to the post when they have something to add or respond to; and to bring forward questions so that we may try to assist in guiding you to the appropriate references or direction to have those questions answered.


My name is Santosh Krinsky and I have been actively studying Sri Aurobindo’s work since I was handed a copy of The Life Divine back in 1971.  I resided at Sri Aurobindo Ashram from mid 1973 through early 1974 and have been continuously involved with this work since that time.  I also act as the editor-in-chief at Lotus Press, the USA publisher of the writings of Sri Aurobindo.  I reside at this time in Honolulu, Hawaii, USA with my wife Karuna and we welcome visitors who are interested to join us for meditation, or one on one sessions.   We also maintain a library for the use of friends and devotees.   We manage the Institute for Wholistic Education, a 501©3 tax exempt organization under the local name Sri Aurobindo Center of Honolulu, Hawaii.

From time to time I have done extensive interviews with organizations such as and Cultural Integration Fellowship.  These video interviews have been recorded and are also available as follows: 

Cultural integration Fellowship:  Solving the Existential Crisis of Humanity Through the Evolution of Consciousness with Some Practical Examples (Auroville) interviews:  Solving the Existential Crisis of Humanity Through the Evolution of Consciousness   Practical Applications for Solving the Existential Crisis of Humanity (with focus on the project of Auroville)


We hope you will enjoy this process and look forward to the daily study.  The posts are relatively short in length in order to fit into just about any schedule.  We find this is best taken up either early in the day before the daily activities carry us away, or in the evening when work is done and there is some opportunity for quiet time and reflection.  Thank you for joining this program and please don’t hesitate to let us know if we may be of further service in some way during this process.  You will note that the blog is already 13 years in process, so you can make of this part of a lifelong pursuit if you so choose, as we ourselves have undertaken to do.  Personally, I find this method of approach far more beneficial than simply trying to read through any of the books in a normal somewhat hurried manner the way things are done in university courses.  Take your time, reflect, and let this be a light-filled and uplifting part of your day.  The benefit is not in the quantity of the reading and study, but in the quality and the impact it has in your life….

Daily Studies Now Being Converted to Audio Podcasts on Spotify


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:


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


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 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



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 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


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:

We also have a daily twitter feed on Sri Aurobindo’s studies at

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 , 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.

The Day and Night of the Vedic Mystics

However much we try, we find that we cannot constantly and consistently hold onto any particular focus of concentration, emotional state, mood or feeling for an extended period of time. The constant action of the 3 Gunas cycles us through periods of light and darkness, action and inaction, excitement and despondency, joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain. The dualities we recognise as inextricably tied together in our lives are the result of the changing action of the Gunas.

This same dynamic is operative for the spiritual seeker. This leads to periods of great insight, joy and aspiration followed by periods of dullness, lack of inspiration and dryness. It is important for a spiritual seeker to realise that this is the nature of our earthly existence and that these alternations are natural and must be endured without giving up. Patience and persistence are the watchwords of spiritual attainment in the end.

It is difficult for the vital nature to appreciate this when suddenly experiences on the various occult planes occur and lift up the vital enthusiasm, and then just as suddenly disappear and seem not to reoccur. During active periods there may be ecstatic upwellings of love and dedication, or deep experiences of meditation, or various occult experiences such as out of body experiences, astral travel, or experiences of various powers on the occult planes. The vital being latches on to these things and feels important, uplifted and joyful. When they are removed from the active experience, the vital being can become discouraged, sulk or revolt at having to carry out the mundane tasks assigned to the individual or which are simply part of daily life. These reactions of the ego-personality attached to the vital being and its desires can cause substantial disruption if the seeker is not properly prepared and has not effected the separation of the witness consciousness from the active, outer nature.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “The up and down movement which you speak of is common to all ways of yoga. It is there in the path of bhakti, but there are equally alternations of states of light and states of darkness, sometimes sheer and prolonged darkness, when one follows the path of knowledge. Those who have occult experiences come to periods when all experiences cease and even seem finished for ever. Even when there have been many and permanent realisations, these seem to go behind the veil and leave nothing in front except a dull blank, filled, if at all, only with recurrent attacks and difficulties. These alternations are the result of the nature of human consciousness and are not a proof of unfitness or of predestined failure. One has to be prepared for them and pass through. They are the “day and night” of the Vedic mystics.”

“Everyone has these alternations because the total consciousness is not able to remain always in the above experience. The point is that in the intervals there should be quietude, at least in the inner being, no restlessness, dissatisfaction or struggle. If that point is attained, then the sadhana can go on smoothly — not that there will be no difficulties but there will be disquietude or dissatisfaction etc. etc.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter VI Growth of Consciousness, Difficulties and Pitfalls, pg. 120

Dealing with Periods of Dryness or Dullness in the Yogic Sadhana

It is a frequent and universal experience that when an individual takes up the practice of yoga, there are periods of great enthusiasm, aspiration is active and progress is palpable. It is however virtually impossible to maintain the intensity of the sadhana all the time, so as the action of the 3 Gunas brings about changes in the inner psychology, the feeling of aspiration, the feeling of focus and commitment fades and the nidividual is left feeling empty or dry, experiences withdraw and there can be periods of time, sometimes uncomfortably long, where one feels like nothing is happening and there is no progress nor chance of progress. The famous Christian narrative, A Pilgrim’s Progress takes the devotee through various stages of discontent, despondency and despair. It is a true relation of the long, dry road that is part of the sadhana and which the seeker must be prepared to withstand and push on through until he comes out the other side. At that time, the seeker can look back and see the actual progress that has been made, as nothing is lost in the sadhana, and times of inactivity, dryness, dullness actually represent periods either for consolidation of deeper experiences, or as times when the basic tamas of the physical consciousness comes to the forefront and needs to be addressed.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “Naturally, the more one-pointed the aspiration the swifter the progress. The difficulty comes when either the vital with its desires or the physical with its past habitual movements comes in — as they do with almost everyone. It is then that the dryness and difficulty of spontaneous aspiration come. This dryness is a well-known obstacle in all sadhana. But one has to persist and not be discouraged. If one keeps the will fixed even in these barren periods, they pass and after their passage a greater force of aspiration and experience becomes possible.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter VI Growth of Consciousness, Difficulties and Pitfalls, pp. 119-120

The Yogic Practitioner and the External World

We generally live under an illusion of separateness from other beings and the rest of the world. We believe our individual personality, individual body, life, mind are independent from everyone and everything else. This fixed idea, however, is part of the confusion we experience that misleads us about the true nature of existence. In fact, everything is intimately connected. We breathe in oxygen in order to live, which is produced by the plant life of the planet. Similarly, the plant life breathes in carbon dioxide, which we produce. We are thus symbiotic, or even closer, part of one existence that cannot exist in isolation or separation from the other parts. We can recognise, if we observe closely, that our feelings, emotions, thoughts all come from our environment, whether from other people with whom we associate, or from general factors. The collective experience is understood to be contagious, such that a mob that has been whipped up will act out a sense of rage, and this can catch even individuals who are normally quite easy-going. Similarly, situations that provoke fear can infect individuals who themselves are not directly affected. We talk about sympathy, empathy, love, compassion, goodwill. All of these are expressions of relationship to others and express the sense that feels can be and are communicated back and forth.

The question then arises as to whether we experience these things only when they are consciously brought to our attention, or whether our senses respond to subtle energetic experiences. There is no doubt that we can pick up energies that are moving in our environment, and in many cases, we also recognise that we can pick up thoughts that are active in our environment. Thus, there is this subtle interchange constantly taking place where we share the vibrations of those around us and respond to them, just as they share in the vibrations we emanate.

For the practitioner of yoga, it is essential that he becomes aware of this interchange and the impact of it, as it is impossible to change his own responses and reactions purely based on the internal experience when all sorts of thoughts, ideas, emotions, feelings, perceptions are constantly entering from outside and provoking a response that is in many cases the result of long habit of human nature. Until such time as the sadhak has the power to actually effectuate change in the general nature, he needs to at least be conscious of and take steps to protect himself from the continued re-infection of these energies that pour into him at all times.

This is one of the reasons that spiritual aspirants have frequently been guided to avoid crowded circumstances and ordinary interchanges and to seclude themselves in caves or forests or deserts or high on a mountain somewhere. They are then able to focus on the immediate issues within themselves without as much stimulation from outside, with its corresponding energetic impacts, to distract, or even potentially disrupt, the inner process. Eventually however, these protective measures must give way to a wider effort that seeks to maintain the yogic poise even in the midst of all pressures from what we perceive as outside ourselves.

The Mother observes: “The whole purpose of the Yoga is to gather all the divergent parts together and forge them into an undivided unity. Till then you cannot hope to be without difficulties — difficulties, for example, like doubt or depression or hesitation. The whole world is full of the poison. You take it in with every breath. If you exchange a few words with an undesirable man or even if such a man merely passes by you, you may catch the contagion from him. It is sufficient for you to come near a place where there is plague in order to be infected with its poison; you need not know at all that it is there. You can lose in a few minutes what it has taken you months to gain. So long as you belong to humanity and so long as you lead the ordinary life, it does not matter much if you mix with the people of the world; but if you want the divine life, you will have to be exceedingly careful about your company and your environment.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter VI Growth of Consciousness, Difficulties and Pitfalls, pg. 119

Light and Shadow

Yin and Yang, dualities that are inextricably intertwined with one another, that continue to play into one another and which contain an element of the opposite quality within themselves. We live in a world characterized by duality and when we examine closely we find that we cannot have light without darkness, happiness without sadness, etc. Even those who work the hardest to achieve a status of light retain some element of shadow.

Yet we can envision an existence without duality. Many people believe in a heavenly realm characterized by unending bliss, with angels singing hymns of joy and praise. No darkness there! One explanation of this in light of our world of duality that those angels that had a contrary propensity were expelled from heaven and took up residence in a separate world of hell. Thus, the duality remains in the creation, but has been distilled out into separate worlds, each containing one side of the duality, with the earth in between as a mixture of the two.

All of this is based on our current view of things at our current stage of evolution. In particular the mind evaluates things in a framework of ‘either/or’ and the vital being is attached to the drama of joy/sorrow, good/bad, etc. What we have not recognised fully is that with the advent of a new power of consciousness, a new paradigm of seeing and understanding will necessarily accompany it, and this new paradigm may overcome the need for duality as an organising principle.

In the meantime, utilizing our existing view of things, we can find our greatest opportunities for growth and development by seeing our greatest challenges and weaknesses, and conversely, we can look at our greatest strengths to identify those areas within ourselves that represent our greatest potential failures or pitfalls. This becomes a useful tool for undertaking spiritual discipline and working towards the evolution of the next level of consciousness beyond the mind.

A disciple asks: “You have said: ‘Everyone possesses … two opposite tendencies of character, … which are like the light and the shadow of the same thing.” [‘… everyone possesses in a large measure, and the exceptional individual in an increasing degree of precision, two opposite tendencies of character, in almost equal proportions, which are like the light and the shadow of the same thing. Thus someone who has the capacity of being exceptionally generous will suddenly find an obstinate avarice rising up in his nature, the courageous man will be a coward in some part of his being and the good man will suddenly have wicked impulses. In this way life seems to endow everyone not only with the possibility of expressing an ideal, but also with contrary elements representing in a concrete manner the battle he has to wage and the victory he has to win for the realisation to become possible.” The Mother, On Education, CWM, Vol. 12, p. 19]

Why are things made in this way? Can’t one have only the light?”

The Mother writes: “Yes, if one eliminates the shadow. But it must be eliminated. That does not happen by itself. The world as it is is a mixed world. You cannot have an object which gets the light from one side without its casting a shadow on the other. It is like that, and indeed it is the shadows which make you see the lights. The world is like that, and to have only the light one must definitely go through the entire discipline necessary for eliminating the shadow. This is what I have explained a little farther; I have said that this shadow was like a sign of what you had to conquer in your nature in order to be able to realise what you have come to do. If you have a part to play, a mission to fulfil, you will always carry in yourself the main difficulty preventing you from realising it, so that you have within your reach the victory you must win. If you had to fight against a difficulty which is everywhere on earth, it would be very difficult (you would need to have a very vast consciousness and a very great power), while if you carry in your nature just the shadow or defect you must conquer, well, it is there, within your reach: you see all the time the effects of this thing and can fight it directly, immediately. It is a very practical organisation.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter VI Growth of Consciousness, Difficulties and Pitfalls, pp. 117-119

The Greatest Difficulties Signal the Greatest Strength for the Yogic Practitioner

When an individual is called to the yoga of transformation, he comes with all of his strengths, weaknesses, developed and latent capacities, and habitual ways of dealing with things, as well as his familial, social, economic and educational background. These frame the starting point for the individual’s yogic practice. As he begins to shift to the standpoint of the witness of the nature, he begins to identify issues, patterns, concerns and obstacles to the practice. Some of these may be physical limitations, nervous disturbances, or emotional or mental blockages. Some may be preconceived ideas or emotional relations that shut him off in some way from a wider view and a more powerful action. Eventually he may come to recognise that in actual fact, there are deep and very specific issues that confront him and hinder his progress. For some it is vanity or ambition, for others, greed, for still others sexual pressures, for others a form of laziness or lack of dedication and concentration. It turns out that these things can be seen as the greatest opportunity for the individual and represent the unique set of circumstances that individual is called to work out as the road to the full realisation.

The Mother notes: “The nature of your difficulty indicates the nature of the victory you will gain, the victory you will exemplify in Yoga. Thus, if there is a persistent selfishness, it points to a realisation of universality as your most prominent achievement in the future. And, when selfishness is there, you have also the power to reverse this very difficulty into its opposite, a victory of utter wideness.”

“When you have something to realise, you will have in you just the characteristic which is the contradiction of that something. Face to face with the defect, the difficulty, you say, ‘Oh, I am like that! How awful it is!’ But you ought to see the truth of the situation. Say to yourself, ‘My difficulty shows me clearly what I have ultimately to represent. To reach the absolute negation of it, the quality at the other pole — this is my mission.”

“Even in ordinary life, we have sometimes the experience of contraries. He who is very timid and has no courage in front of circumstances proves capable of bearing the most!”

“To one who has the aspiration for the Divine, the difficulty which is always before him is the door by which he will attain God in his own individual manner: it is his particular path towards the Divine Realisation.”

“There is also the fact that if somebody has a hundred difficulties it means he will have a tremendous realisation — provided, of course, there are in him patience and endurance and he keeps the aspiring flame of Agni burning against those defects.”

“And remember: the Grace of the Divine is generally proportioned to your difficulties.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter VI Growth of Consciousness, Difficulties and Pitfalls, pp. 116-117

Change of Human Nature Requires the Advent of a New Power of Consciousness

The attempt to change human nature using the powers of consciousness and tools of action developed within the framework of current human evolutionary development winds up having limits set by that very framework. Albert Einstein once famously stated that it requires a new way of thinking to solve problems. By accepting the limits and methods of the existing human consciousness, we prevent a new solution, based in another form or power of awareness from providing us the resolution needed. We continue to go round and round without achieving any breakthrough. Thus, when we have reached the limits of the physical, vital and mental capacities, we must be prepared to open up to as yet unmanifested levels of consciousness which are available to us, but beyond our ‘event horizon’ at the moment. This requires something of a ‘leap of faith’ when we find we cannot go any farther in the old ways of response. All kinds of rules, customs, mores, mental ideas and resolutions have failed to change human nature, precisely because they are based in that framework. The evolutionary pressure of a new consciousness, beyond the mental level, provides the direction for solving this issue.

The Mother observes: “You must become more and more conscious. You must observe how the thing happens, by what road the danger approaches, and stand in the way before it can take hold of you. If you want to cure yourself of a defect or a difficulty, there is but one method: to be perfectly vigilant, to have a very alert and vigilant consciousness. First you must see very clearly what you want to do. You must not hesitate, be full of doubt and say, ‘Is it good to do this or not, does this come into the synthesis or should it not come in?’ You will see that if you trust your mind, it will always shuttle back and forth: it vacillates all the time. If you take a decision it will put before you all the arguments to show you that your decision is not good, and you will be tossed between the ‘yes’ and ‘no’, the black and white, and will arrive at nothing. Hence, first, you must know exactly what you want — know, not mentally, but through concentration, through aspiration and a very conscious will. That is the important point. Afterwards, gradually, by observation, by a sustained vigilance, you must realise a sort of method which will be personal to you — it is useless to convince others to adopt the same method as yours, for that won’t succeed. Everyone must find his own method, everyone must have his own method, and to the extent you put into practice your method, it will become clearer and clearer, more and more precise. You can correct a certain point, make clear another, etc. So, you start working…. For a while, all will go well. Then, one day, you will find yourself facing an insurmountable difficulty and will tell yourself, ‘I have done all that and here is everything as bad as before!’ Then, in this case, you must, through a yet more sustained concentration, open an inner door in you and bring into this movement a force which was not there formerly, a state of consciousness which was not there before. And there, there will be a power, when your own personal power will be exhausted and no longer effective. When the personal power runs out ordinary people say, ‘That’s good, I can no longer do anything, it is finished.’ But I tell you that when you find yourself before this wall, it is the beginning of something new. By an obstinate concentration, you must pass over to the other side of the wall and there you will find a new knowledge, a new force, a new power, a new help, and you will be able to work out a new system, a new method which surely will take you very far.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter VI Growth of Consciousness, Difficulties and Pitfalls, pp. 115-116

The Play of the Gunas and the Difficulty of Effecting True Change in Human Nature

We do not generally recognise that it is virtually impossible to hold one thought, one idea, one form of concentration, one energetic status for long periods of time. As time goes on, the balance of the Gunas changes and we lose the intensity, shift our focus to something else, and we find that the fear, the anger, the desire, the despair, or the concentration or aspiration we held earlier has attenuated or disappeared for the time being.

The theory that indulgence in a particular movement or reaction will eventually lead to its demise has been unfortunately proven to be incorrect. While it is true that after indulgence a period of distaste may occur (rajas giving way to tamas), when the energy recovers, the individual finds that the indulgence has actually strengthened the propensity by smoothing out the energetic and neural pathways for that particular action or reaction to occur. This same mechanism is operative when we study a subject, or undertake physical training of any sort, and through repetition, we increase the ease of understanding the subject and create what is called “muscle memory” that makes it easier to repeat. We thus cannot rely on indulgence which is the mechanism of learning and training, to magically remove the unwanted reaction.

On the other extreme is the attempt to suppress the undesired action. If the suppression is done with intensity of force, it is under the impulsion of Rajas. When the rajasic energy recedes, the individual usually has an uprising of Tamas, which is the perfect opportunity for the energy to re-emerge. In fact, suppression tends, as with the compression of a spring, to actually store the energy in a more concentrated form, so that once the pressure is released, a more energetic result will tend to emerge.

The Mother writes: “You aspire for a change, perhaps for a specific change; but the answer to your aspiration will not come immediately and in the meantime your nature will resist. Things happen like this: at a given moment the nature seems to have yielded and you think you have got the desired result. Your aspiration diminishes in intensity because you think you have the desired result. But the other fellow, who is very cunning and is waiting quietly in his corner, when you are off your guard, he springs up like a jack-in-the-box, and then you must begin all over again.”

A disciple asks: “But if one can tear out completely the root of the thing?”

The Mother continues: “Ah! one must not be so sure of that. I have known people who wanted to save the world by reducing it so much that there was no longer a world left! This is the ascetic way — you want to do away with the problem by doing away with the possibility of the problem. But this will never change anything.”

“No, there is a method — a sure one — but your method must be very clear-sighted and you must have a wide-awake consciousness of your person and of what goes on there and the way in which things happen. Let us take the instance of a person subject to outbursts of rage and violence. According to one method he would be told: ‘Get as angry as you like, you will suffer the consequences of your anger and this will cure you.’ This could be discussed. According to another method he would be told: ‘Sit upon your anger and it will disappear.’ This too could be discussed. In any case, you will have to sit upon it all the time, for if ever you should get up for a minute you will see immediately, what happens! Then, what is to be done?”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter VI Growth of Consciousness, Difficulties and Pitfalls, pp. 114-115

The Intense Opposition of Basic Human Nature to Any Attempt to Change or Grow into a New Status and the Need to Persevere

Until an individual takes up the issue of inner growth and development, whether this is for spiritual progress, mental development, emotional growth, vital discipline or some kind of physical control, he tends to take very little notice of any inner conflict or struggle. He just acts ‘naturally’ according to his own idea of what his life is about. This all changes when an individual attempts to undertake any manner of change in some part of his being. This may be a very physical activity, such as an attempt to lose weight, to carry out a resolution to exercise, to overcome an addiction such as to drugs, alcohol or caffeine, or it may be on the vital level, for instance, to resolve to overcome a tendency to anger, or restrain impulses of desire in some form; or it may be an attempt to remain calm under provocation or restrain impulsive thinking or behavior. The individual immediately begins to recognise the difficulty as the old habits try to assert themselves, or the reactive nature simply responds contrary to the will. The dieter will find himself bingeing and a struggle to restrain the impulse to eat ensues. Addictions create psychological dependency as well as physical dependency and thus, there is an intense internal conflict from any attempt to stop the addiction.

For the spiritual seeker, the situation becomes more acute as he begins to actively witness these actions from a viewpoint that rejects them and desires to embody a new consciousness that seems to run counter to the basic embedded instincts and habits of human nature. Thus, the spiritual seeker finds himself in a constant struggle as each element of basic human nature, so freely accepted as part of the human situation, comes up for review and change within the context of the evolution of consciousness and the shifting of the basic standpoint from which human behavior derives.

The constant and overwhelming nature of this multifarious opposition to the spiritual growth makes the seeker believe, in many cases, that he is destined to fail, when in actuality what is taking place is that he has a more precise view and insight into the human condition and has taken on a challenge that goes far beyond any individual aspect addressed in the course of ordinary life. The need to observe, deny support of the will, and shift the focus to the spiritual aim are the method to be employed. While the struggle may be continuous and involve all the elements of human life, it is only taken up by those who are called to this path, and they are individuals who inherently have the inner fortitude and the support of the Divine Grace to succeed, as long as they do not give in to the despair or depression and simply persevere.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “… the experience which so alarms you, of states of consciousness in which you say and do things contrary to your true will, is not a reason for despair. It is a common experience in one form or another of all who try to rise above their ordinary nature. Not only those who practice yoga, but religious men and even those who seek only a moral control and self-improvement are confronted with this difficulty. And here again it is not the yoga or the effort after perfection that creates this condition, — there are contradictory elements in human nature and in every human being through which he is made to act in a way which his better mind disapproves. This happens to everybody, to the most ordinary men in the most ordinary life. It only becomes marked and obvious to our minds when we try to rise above our ordinary external selves, because then we can see that it is the lower elements which are being made to revolt consciously against the higher will. There then seems to be for a time a division in the nature, because the true being and all that supports it stand back and separate from these lower elements. At one time the true being occupies the field of the nature, at another the lower nature used by some contrary Force pushes it back and seizes the ground…. If there is the firm will to progress, this division is overpassed and in the unified nature, unified around that will, there may be other difficulties, but this kind of discord and struggle will disappear.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter VI Growth of Consciousness, Difficulties and Pitfalls, pp. 113-114

How to Change Human Nature

Many people are skeptical about the possibility of true change to human nature. This skepticism is supported by the long experience humanity has had in trying various ways of changing and overcoming habits, atavisms and what are considered to be the ‘natural’ forms of expression and action of the body, the life-force and the mind. Humanity has tried suppression, self-torture, extreme pressure exerted from outside or inwardly, as well as attempts at isolation and abandonment of active involvement in the external life. Humanity has tried development of moral codes, religious doctrines, education, socialization and many other forms of developing a ‘civilizing’ effect on the individual’s nature and relationship to the world. All of these attempts have provided some amount of insight into the difficulty of the task, but at some point, each of them has failed to effectuate radical change, although some of the mechanisms or processes developed may wind up having a positive, even necessary, role in farther reaching attempts at human development. Some have wound up disguising the deeper instinctual actions with a veneer of civilization, through a process that psychologists call ‘sublimation’. Suppression of the natural urges and pathways of expression lead to either various forms of internal breakdown or imbalance, or in some cases, explosive release that overwhelms the inner control mechanisms. Some deny it is even possible and recommend ‘eat, drink and be merry’ as the purpose of life.

There are several common themes that can be gleaned from these past attempts and their noted results. Changing human nature is not something that occurs overnight. Countless millennia were needed to develop the evolution of life, and eventually the evolution of mind into the physical world. During this time-span, instincts, habits and automatic reactions were developed which underpin life today, even for those who are most highly advanced in the mental evolution.

The first step is to become the witness of the nature, so that one can observe and separate oneself from those actions and reactions that need to be changed as part of the development to the next evolutionary stage of consciousness beyond the mind. The next step is to recognise that everything moves based on attention and energy, and thus, one should begin to shift the focus away from the obsessions, goals and desires of the external being and refocus the attention on the soul’s aspiration and the higher evolutionary principles. The more one is able to refocus and not support those older aims and objectives, the weaker they become. It is not a matter of violently suppressing or actively fighting with these drives, but more a matter of growing out of them by shifting the attention, just as a child grows out of playing with certain toys and takes up new interests as he grows and develops.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “The difficulty is that in everyone there are two people (to say the least) — one in the outer vital and physical clinging to the past self and trying to get or retain the consent of the mind and the inner being, the other which is the soul asking for a new birth. That which has spoken in you and made the prayer is the psychic being expressing itself through the aid of the mind and the higher vital, and it is this which should always arise in you through prayer and through turning to the Mother and give you the right idea and the right impulse.”

“It is true that if you refuse always the action suggested by the old Adam, it will be a great step forward. the struggle is then transferred to the psychological plane, where it will be much easier to fight the matter out. I do not deny that there will be difficulty for some time; but if there is the control of the action, the control of thought and feeling is bound to come. If there is yielding, on the contrary, a fresh lease is given to the old self.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter VI Growth of Consciousness, Difficulties and Pitfalls, pp. 112-113

Risks and Difficulties Attendant on the Practice of a Yoga of Transformation

People tend to underestimate the risks and difficulties attendant on the practice of yoga, with a focus on the growth of consciousness and transformation of human nature. Once the seeker begins to try to make changes in long-standing habits of action and reaction, mental predilections, vital responses and physical expectations, all kinds of imbalances can arise and long-stable situations can suddenly erupt in new and unexpected ways, and in some cases, with enormous force, taking the seeker by surprise if there has not been sufficient preparation, purification and separation of the witness consciousness to avoid being sucked in and overwhelmed.

A case that has not been widely mooted illustrates one of the extreme reactions that can occur. A seeker studies and does intensive sadhana and develops certain powers and insights which he then determines will make him a teacher or guru. He goes to the West from India, and with his developed powers he begins to attract young people to join his Ashram. He has not, however, done the purifications needed, the necessary yamas and niyamas and begins to believe in his own superiority and the confluence of his own superior status and the teaching he is putting forward leads him to believe that anything he does in furtherance of the end result of disseminating the teaching is acceptable. He begins to entice young women into his bed, and then, after he has gained psychological control over them, he deploys them to entice and control young men to work hard and bring money and carry out his orders. He cheats suppliers to the organisation on the basis that he is doing noble work, and they would just waste the money if it was in their hands; and he cuts off family and friends from the seekers in order to create further controls. He sends people from one country to his locations in other countries and then takes control of their passports and money, effectively enslaving them. He engages in rape of certain women who were not willing to consent. Eventually he enters into sexual abuse of young children, sometimes in the presence of the child’s mother who is asked to encourage and support it. At a certain point, his misdeeds come to the notice of the authorities and he is charged and convicted of the crimes of sexually assaulting children, is imprisoned in Germany for some years before being forcibly returned to India, the country of his birth.

This individual may very well have been a sincere seeker in his youth and undertaken very serious sadhana, yet when the pressures and temptations arose as the powers unleashed by the yogic practices increased, he was unable to withstand them and had what may be considered to be a major fall.

Sri Aurobindo provides the solution and antidote. Everyone has to face difficulties, everyone will make mistakes, everyone will fall occasionally. With the right protections, the right devotion and focus, these can be overcome.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “I have never said that yoga or that this yoga is a safe and easy path. what I say is that anyone who has the will to go through, can go through. For the rest, if you aim high there is always the danger of a steep fall if you misconduct your aeroplane. But the danger is for those who allow themselves to entertain a double being, aiming high but also indulging their lower outlook and hankerings. What else can you expect when people do that? You must become single-minded, then the difficulties of the mind and vital will be overcome. Otherwise, those who oscillate between their heights and their abysses will always be in danger till they have become single-minded. That applies to the ‘advanced’ as well as the beginner. These are facts of nature; I can’t pretend for anybody’s comfort that they are otherwise. But there is the fact also that nobody need keep himself in this danger. One-mindedness, surrender to the Divine, faith, true love for the Divine, complete sincerity in the will, spiritual humility (real, not formal) — there are so many things that can be a safeguard against any chance of eventual downfall. Slips, stumbles, difficulties, upsettings everyone has; one can’t be assured against these things, but if one has the safeguards, they are transitory, help the nature to learn and are followed by a better progress.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter VI Growth of Consciousness, Difficulties and Pitfalls, pp. 111-112