We begin our yogic efforts from the basis of our human self, with the ego-personality and the standpoint of the mind and body which are our foundation in this world. Inevitably, the limitations of those instruments, and the layers of preconceived viewpoints and ideas that come with them, as well as the prevalent ideas of the society within which one develops, create obstacles to our transition to the divine standpoint. We experience confusion, setbacks, and the obstruction of powerful forces born of desire which make it difficult for us to know whether and to what extent we are progressing on the path and which set before us illusions about the steps we need to take and the actual status of our efforts along these lines. There are also the inevitable periods of discouragement and doubt, the “dark night of the soul” that has been described by seekers throughout history.
It is for these reasons that the path of Yoga requires the assistance of what Sri Aurobindo calls the “four aids”. “There is, first, the knowledge of the truths,principles, powers and processes that govern the realisation–shastra. Next comes a patient and persistent action on the lines laid down by the knowledge, the force of our personal effort–utsaha. There intervenes, third, uplifting our knowledge and effort into the domain of spiritual experience, the direct suggestion, example and influence of the Teacher–guru. Last comes the instrumentality of Time–kala; for in all things there is a cycle of their action and a period of the divine movement.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 1, The Four Aids, pg. 47