The Inner Struggle and the Outer Struggle

There are concurrently two levels of development taking place that interact and influence one another. The first is the individual growth and development, with an internal process of increasing understanding, widening of perspective and the struggle to master and gain control of the impulses that govern the unrefined vital nature, based on the impulsions of desire; and a second which represents the play of forces in the world which is made up of the combined actions and influences of all the individuals who interact and together create the complex web of actions and events that we call society and the collective evolution of mankind. The “outer world” influences the “inner world” and thus, any force that is active in the outer world has some amount of power to influence the actions, reactions, progress or retrogression of the individual, in principle. Similarly, as an individual progresses in the inner struggle with the forces of desire, the impulsions of division, hatred and anger, and other retrogressive movements that hold back or moderate the evolutionary development to a higher level of consciousness, that individual’s actions and responses become part of the totality of the outer world. The overall outward progress is thus something of a reflex action to the inner development of the individual and its outward expression.

Sri Aurobindo describes this interplay: “The Gita lays stress upon the struggle of which the world is the theatre, in its two aspects, the inner struggle and the outer battle. In the inner struggle the enemies are within, in the individual, and the slaying of desire, ignorance, egoism is the victory. But there is an outer struggle between the powers of the Dharma and the Adharma in the human collectivity.”

The Divine powers, represented in the ultimate sense by the action of the Avatar, work toward the upliftment of the individual and concurrently aids in the defeat of the external forces that represent darkness, aggressive and violent egoistic impulses, domination and the control of desire in all its forms. Sri Aurobindo reminds us that this struggle has been recognized all over the world, whether as a fight between the Devas and the Asuras and Rakshasas, as in the Indian tradition, or the Gods and the Titans from the ancient Greek, or the forces of Light versus the forces of Darkness in the Zoroastrian tradition, or God and the Devil in the Christian teachings.

“This outer struggle too the Avatar comes to aid, directly or indirectly, to destroy the reign of the Asuras, the evil-doers, and in them depress the power they represent and to restore the oppressed ideals of the Dharma. He comes to bring nearer the kingdom of heaven on earth in the collectivity as well as to build the kingdom of heaven within in the individual human soul.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, First Series, Chapter 17, The Divine Birth and Divine Works, pp. 165-166