Most of us live our lives in what Sri Aurobindo calls our surface being or surface consciousness. Our gaze is focused outward, and we spend our time dealing with outward facts and circumstances, such as the details of our lives and actions, family, friends, events, jobs, entertainment and the rest of the myriad forces and facts of the world we live in, including political, religious, scientific, philosophical or other forms of engagement with the world’s “reality”.
The type of spiritual transformation described by Sri Aurobindo is “impossible without an inward living.”
“…they cannot be reached by remaining in an external consciousness turned always outwards, active only on and from the surface. The individual being has to find himself, his true existence; he can only do this by going inward, by living within and from within: for the external or outer consciousness or life separated from the inner Spirit is the field of the Ignorance; it can only exceed itself and exceed the Ignorance by opening into the largeness of an inner self and life.”
“…on the surface there is only an ephemeral being of nature, made by limit and circumstance. If there is a self in us capable of largeness and universality, able to enter into a cosmic consciousness, that too must be within our inner being: the outer consciousness is a physical consciousness bound to its individual limits by the triple cord of mind, life and body: any external attempt at universality can only result either in an aggrandisement of the ego or an effacement of the personality by its extinction in the mass or subjugation to the mass. It is only by an inner growth, movement, action that the individual can freely and effectively universalise and transcendentalise his being.”
“In men, says the Upanishad, the Self-Existent has cut the doors of consciousness outward, but a few turn the eye inward and it is these who see and know the Spirit and develop the spiritual being. Thus to look into ourselves and see and enter into ourselves and live within is the first necessity for transformation of nature and for the divine life.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 28, “The Divine Life”