The Difficulties Of the Ego In Following the Divine Guidance

The path of a progressive turning and surrender of the egoistic consciousness to the Divine consciousness is the direct way to achieve the consummation of the integral Yoga; however, the path is beset by difficulties both in the beginning and along the way. The difficulties arise due to the fact that we start from the individual egoistic standpoint and consciousness. This starting point implies that we try to judge the action of the Unlimited through the lens of the Limited consciousness.

Sri Aurobindo describes these difficulties in great detail: “But it is difficult for the egoistic consciousness to do this at all at the beginning. And, if done at all, it is still difficult to do it perfectly and in every strand of our nature. It is difficult at first because our egoistic habits of thought, of sensation, of feeling block up the avenues by which we can arrive at the perception that is needed. It is difficult afterwards because the faith, the surrender, the courage requisite in this path are not easy to the ego-clouded soul. The divine working is not the working which the egoistic mind desires or approves; for it uses error in order to arrive at truth, suffering in order to arrive at bliss, imperfection in order to arrive at perfection. The ego cannot see where it is being led; it revolts against the leading, loses confidence, loses courage.”

Even the greatest of souls must face these difficulties as we find from the legend of Milarepa, Tibet’s great Yogi, who worked to achieve liberation in one lifetime, a feat virtually impossible to accomplish! At one stage he became totally discouraged when he saw his destined teacher giving others the secret teachings, while he had to do hard physical labor of constructing (and taking apart) various buildings. He got to the point where he was ready to commit suicide as he felt, in his heart, that he was destined to fail in his attempt and he had lost faith in everything, himself, his Guru, his destiny, his spiritual seeking. Thereafter he eventually was set straight, undertook the difficult teachings that were vouchsafed to him, and today he is revered as the greatest yogic practitioner in the Tibetan Mahayana Buddhist tradition.

The Divine support and guidance remains active, but without the active support and effort of the individual, things are slower and more painful. Sri Aurobindo points out the further dangers that can arise from our inability to see and remain focused on the Divine Presence guiding us: “As in the world, so in ourselves, we cannot see God because of his workings and, especially, because he works in us through our nature and not by a succession of arbitrary miracles. Man demands miracles that he may have faith; he wishes to be dazzled in order that he may see. And this impatience, this ignorance may turn into a great danger and disaster if, in our revolt against the divine leading, we call in another distorting Force more satisfying to our impulses and desires and ask it to guide us and give it the Divine Name.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 1, The Four Aids, pp. 57-58