Most of us act from the standpoint that we are a distinct and separate individuality that has both a consistency and a measure of free-will. This standpoint arises due to the coordinating function of the mind and the centralizing sense provided by the ego-consciousness. Sri Aurobindo points out that in order to truly gain mastery of our being and to effect the processes of the Yoga, it is essential that we gain a more detailed and comprehensive understanding of the real complexity and the illusory nature of our sense of being a single separate individuality.
He takes up two themes. First, that the ego-sense masks the fact that each part of our being, mind, emotions, vital force and physical being, acts from its own sense of what it needs and wants and that these are generally not in agreement or coordinated at all. Second, that there is also an illusory sense of separateness that masks the reality that we are part of a universal manifestation and ideas, emotions, desires, feelings, and sensations actually are constantly moving in and through us from outside and either determining or influencing what we think, experience and respond to.
“The most disconcerting discovery is to find that every part of us–intellect, will, sense-mind, nervous or desire self, the heart, the body–has each, as it were, its own complex individuality and natural formation independent of the rest; it neither agrees with itself nor with the others nor with the representative ego which is the shadow cast by some central and centralising self on our superficial ignorance.”
“Moreover, we find that inwardly too, no less than outwardly, we are not alone in the world; the sharp separateness of our ego was no more than a strong imposition and delusion; we do not exist in ourselves, we do not really live apart in an inner privacy or solitude. Our mind is a receiving, developing and modifying machine into which there is being constantly passed from moment to moment a ceaseless foreign flux, a streaming mass of disparate materials from above, from below, from outside. Much more than half our thoughts and feelings are not our own in the sense that they take form out of ourselves; of hardly anything can it be said that it is truly original to our nature. A large part comes to us from others or from the environment, whether as raw material or as manufactured imports; but still more largely they come from universal Nature here or from other worlds and planes and their beings and powers and influences; for we are overtopped and environed by other planes of consciousness, mind planes, life planes, subtle matter planes, from which our life and action here are fed, or fed on, pressed, dominated, made use of for the manifestation of their forms and forces.”
This complexity makes the task set before the seeker of the Yoga that much more difficult. The first step is to gain an understanding of the true state of things. Then we need to begin to work on creating order out of the disorganized and contradictory forces and influences that shape the outer being we call our selves.
Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 2, Self Consecration, pp. 69-70