Recognising and Addressing the Complex Psychological Makeup of the Human Individual

Those who live primarily the life of the vital and material being in the outer world are subject to a relatively complex set of circumstances, opportunities and issues to which they must respond somehow, based generally on a relatively straightforward response in the vital founded on desire or avoidance, attraction and repulsion, greed and fear. Within this framework, they try to support the basic needs of their lives, build social relationships, entertain themselves and fit into the society within which they are born and raised, for the most part. Some individuals have a further bent towards mental development and apply themselves to education, science, aesthetic arts, philosophy or one of the technological arts.

The practitioner of Yoga is confronted, not solely with these external complexities, but more importantly, the internal complexity of the various parts of his being that respond to these outer impulses; and it is the role of the practitioner to begin to sort out the motive forces and impulsions and guide them toward the self-consecration required of the entire being and all its disparate parts.

Sri Aurobindo describes the basic psychological framework that must be addressed: “The practice of Yoga brings us face to face with the extraordinary complexity of our own being, the stimulating but also embarrassing complexity of our personality, the rich endless confusion of Nature. To the ordinary man who lives upon his own waking surface, ignorant of the self’s depths and vastnesses behind the veil, his psychological existence is fairly simple. A small but clamorous company of desires, some imperative intellectual and aesthetic cravings, some tastes, a few ruling or prominent ideas amid a great current of unconnected or ill-connected and mostly trivial thoughts, a number of more or less imperative vital needs, alternations of physical health and disease, a scattered and inconsequent succession of joys and griefs, frequent minor disturbances and vicissitudes and rarer strong searchings and upheavals of mind or body, and through it all Nature, partly with the aid of his thought and will, partly without or in spite of it, arranging these things in some rough practical fashion, some tolerable disorderly order,–this is the material of his existence.”

“But as soon as we go deep within ourselves,–and Yoga means a plunge into all the multiple profundities of the soul,–we find ourselves subjectively, as man in his growth has found himself objectively, surrounded by a whole complex world which we have to know and to conquer.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 2, Self Consecration, pp. 68-69