When we begin to conduct self-examination as part of our spiritual growth, we find that what we consider to be our being, actually our ego-personality, is made up of a large number of disparate energies, drives, desires and habits. Most of these are embedded in the nature and conditions of the physical and vital life that has developed over many millenia, and are thus either what we would term “instincts” or “fixed habits” of action in the world. Added to this are the habits that our society, social order and relationships develop and impose upon us, through education and cultural influence. Then we have the unique set of habits that we develop as individuals through our experience in the world and our relations with others that color the fixed habitual patterns with the palette of our individuality. The normal life in the world is therefore very much fixated upon the goals and achievements that this long history has set before us. Just because we have chosen to adopt a spiritual ideal, we have not overcome the power and influence of these habitual patterns.
The actual practice of the Yoga requires us to begin to substitute our spiritual goal in place of the more mundane material and vital goals that occupy so much of the life of humanity. Sri Aurobindo explains: “And since Yoga is in its essence a turning away from the ordinary material and animal life led by most men or from the more mental but still limited way of living followed by the few to a greater spiritual life, to the way divine, every part of our energies that is given to the lower existence in the spirit of that existence is a contradiction of our aim and our self-dedication.”
“It is the difficulty of this wholesale conversion that is the source of all the stumblings in the path of Yoga. For our entire nature and its environment, all our personal and all our universal self, are full of habits and of influences that are opposed to our spiritual rebirth and work against the whole-heartedness of our endeavour. In a certain sense we are nothing but a complex mass of mental, nervous and physical habits held together by a few ruling ideas, desires and associations,–an amalgam of many small self-repeating forces with a few major vibrations.”
“What we propose in our Yoga is nothing less than to break up the whole formation of our past and present which makes up the ordinary material and mental man and to create a new centre of vision and a new universe of activities in ourselves which shall constitute a divine humanity or a superhuman nature.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 2, Self Consecration, pp. 65-66