Personal Effort In the Integral Yoga

The normal human life is characterized by action motivated primarily by the vital drives of desire and fear, attraction and repulsion. There is very little, if any, room in that life for turning the being toward the Divine and focusing on the effort needed to overcome the force of desire and the limitations of the ego-consciousness. It takes a conscious turning of the focus toward the Divine by the individual to start the path of developing a yogic life. This may come about through a variety of causes, including disappointment of desire, a recognition of the emptiness and transitory nature of the fruits of action in the world, an ambition to gain some kind of religious or occult power, or a philosophical understanding that ripens over time. There is even an instance where it happened that a thief, in attempting to hide from the authorities, took on the robes and actions of the spiritual seeker as a Sannyasin, and over time, began to have experiences that transformed his life into one of true spirituality!

Once the turn takes place, however, the next step required is the personal effort of the seeker. While it is true, ultimately, that the ego-personality is something of a fictional construct, and that “personal effort” eventually must be overcome, it is also true that the seeker starts from that point and an effort in the direction of the spiritual realisation is the impetus required to break out of the orbit of the egoistic round.

Sri Aurobindo describes this personal effort: “The first determining element of the Siddhi is, therefore, the intensity of the turning, the force which directs the soul inward. The power of aspiration of the heart, the force of the will, the concentration of the mind, the perseverance and determination of the applied energy are the measure of that intensity. The ideal Sadhaka should be able to say in the Biblical phrase, ‘My zeal for the Lord has eaten me up.’ It is this zeal for the Lord, utsaha, the zeal of the whole nature for its divine results…, the heart’s eagerness for the attainment of the Divine,–that devours the ego and breaks up the limitations of its petty and narrow mould for the full and wide reception of that which it seeks, that which, being universal, exceeds and, being transcendent, surpasses even the largest and highest individual self and nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 1, The Four Aids, pp. 51-52