Realisation of the True Self Within Is a Condition of a True Life in the World

There are certain primary tendencies of development that tend to repeat themselves in the human aspiration. There is the focus on inner spiritual practice, there is the attempt to uplift, change and perfect the outer world; there is the call of the Transcendent beckoning us to abandon all for an ultimate Truth beyond; and there are those who would integrate the spiritual development with the upliftment of the world of Nature. Each of these speaks to some aspect of ourselves that pushes for expression and its true place in human development. Sri Aurobindo focuses attention on these somewhat conflicting demands of Nature: “There is too the divided or double demand of our being of Nature which is poised between these two terms, depends on them and connects them; for it is apparently made by the world and yet, because its true creator is in ourselves and the world-instrumentation that seems to make it is only the means first used, it is really a form, a disguised manifestation of a greater spiritual being within us. It is this demand that mediates between our preoccupation with an inward perfection or spiritual liberation and our preoccupation with the outer world and its formation, insists on a happier relation between the two terms and creates the ideal of a better individual in a better world. But it is within us that the Reality must be found and the source and foundation of a perfected life; no outward formation can replace it: there must be the true self realised within if there is to be the true life realised in world and Nature.”

Sri Aurobindo’s solution to the opposition of the “refusal of the ascetic” and the “materialist denial” is here found in a nutshell: achieve spiritual realisation within, and through the creative power of that realisation transform one’s outer life and the world around one into an image of that Divine Unity that is the substance of spiritual consciousnessness and the expression of Sat-Chit-Ananda.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 28, “The Divine Life”

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The Inner Spiritual Life Creates the Outer External Life of Action

Ordinarily we look at our lives and the world from the viewpoint that the world creates us and we are more or less subject to the pressure and control that the world exercises upon us. We take the psychological position of being a “victim of circumstances” more often than not, and thereby subtly shift the responsibility for who we are and how we respond to the world away from ourselves and onto that external “machinery” (however you want to define the action of the world). “For we are given a world which is obscure, ignorant, material, imperfect, and our external conscious being is itself created by the energies, the pressure, the moulding operations of this vast mute obscurity, by physical birth, by environment, by a training through the impacts and shocks of life…”

Sri Aurobindo makes it clear however that for the spiritual evolution of consciousness, the internal spiritual life is primary and definitive; and that the internal spiritual life actually creates the circumstances and world within which we live and act.

By switching to this standpoint, we gain leverage on how we respond to the world and its circumstances and gain the power to shape our future evolutionary development.

Sri Aurobindo explains: “In the life of the Spirit it is the Spirit, the inner Reality, that has built up and uses the mind, vital being and body as its instrumentation; thought, feeling and action do not exist for themselves, they are not an object, but the means; they serve to express the manifested divine Reality within us: otherwise, without this inwardness, this spiritual origination, in a too externalised consciousness or by only external means, no greater or divine life is possible. In our present life of Nature, in our externalised surface existence, it is the world that seems to create us; but in the turn to the spiritual life it is we who must create ourselves and our world. In this new formula of creation, the inner life becomes of the first importance and the rest can be only its expression and outcome.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 28, “The Divine Life”