We can relate to the difference between “ivory-tower” ideas and practical applications of them in our everyday experience. It is one thing to come up with a good idea or plan; it is another to actually address the real issues of implementation when dealing with real people and real circumstances. Similarly, the spiritual transformation of the lower nature faces more or less the same type of issues. The purity and power of the spiritual force in its own native sphere is extraordinarily effective. But the transformation of the lower planes of mind, life and body, each presenting its own characteristic action, level of development and resistances, is a totally different story.
In the Mahabharata there is a story about the teacher trying to educate young princes into higher principles of action. The teacher was giving the lesson “not to become angry”. All of the princes understood it intellectually, understood why it was important not to become angry and what the different methods of not becoming angry were, and all but one of them stated that they had understood the lesson. The last one, Prince Yudhisthira, normally the strongest intellect in the group, continually demurred, day after day, saying he had not understood it. One day the teacher, in a fit of exasperation that this student (the future king) was somehow not learning the lesson, struck the prince in a fit of anger. At that moment, the prince indicated that NOW he had understood the lesson. He was able to actually integrate the idea into his vital nature, something which had escaped even the revered and learned teacher!
What we are seeking is not an “ideal” solution imposed on the nature from above and subject to compulsion that allows it to vary when and if that outside compulsion is removed; rather, an integral transformation of the very nature of the action of each level of the lower nature. This involves a process of bringing the light, working through the obscurity and resistance, and developing an entirely new method of working for each element of our nature.
Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 25, “The Triple Transformation”