Shifting the Center of Reference From the Ego to the Divine

The evolution of consciousness moves from the vast, undifferentiated status of Matter, to the beginning of differentiation of awareness that comes with plant and animal life, to the full development of differentiation with the ego-consciousness in the human being. The ego looks at the world as something outside and separate, and treats itself as the center of reference for acting in the world. Thus, we essentially see the world as a repository of forms, forces and things that we wish to acquire (or avoid) and we essentially try to develop a standpoint that puts us into a survival mode which has been called “survival of the fittest”.

This standpoint can be easily understood when we recognize that for most of its history, humanity has treated the earth upon which it resided as the center of the universe, with the sun, planets and stars all rotating around the earth. It is illustrative of the type of change of consciousness that takes place in the integral Yoga to finally recognize that the earth rotates around the sun, and together they are part of a much larger universal pattern that does not treat either the earth, or the sun, as the ultimate center of reference.

The difficulty the practitioner of the Yoga faces is that the long habit of human response is based on this ego-consciousness and uses the ego as the center of reference. This is a habit that permeates all our mental, vital and physical reactions in the world, and it is this habit that must be broken and radically altered.

Sri Aurobindo discusses the issue and its resolution: “But the hold of this ego-consciousness upon our whole habit of existence is difficult to shake off when we have no longer need of the separative, the individualistic and aggressive stage of development, when we would proceed forward from this necessity of littleness in the child-soul to unity and universality, to the cosmic consciousness and beyond, to our transcendent spirit-stature.”

“It is indispensable to recognise clearly, not only in our mode of thought but in our way of feeling, sensing, doing, that this movement, this universal action is not a helpless impersonal wave of being which lends itself to the will of any ego according to that ego’s strength and insistence.”

Rather, we must begin to recognise the universal Being that exists and acts in the entire creation: “It is the movement of a cosmic Being who is the Knower of his field, the steps of a Divinity who is the Master of his own progressive force of action. As the movement is one and indivisible, so he who is present in the movement is one, sole and indivisible. Not only all result is determined by him, but all initiation, action and process are dependent on the motion of his cosmic force and only belong secondarily and in their form to the creature.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 7, Standards of Conduct and Spiritual Freedom, pp. 178-179