Eliminating Society’s Needs and Expectations As a Basis for Spiritual Action

The demands and needs of society represent in the first instance an extension of the individual’s desires and physical wants and needs; and in the second instance, potentially some mental standards that begin to embody some higher principle of social interaction. Just as the seeker must abandon individual desire as the motive spring of action, eventually the demands of society must also be recognised as a limiting force and be overpassed. We see in many of the world’s religions that there is an ascetic tradition that leaves the society behind, and seeks salvation in the desert, the mountain caves or the forest or in some other remote and isolated form. This is part of the individual aspiration to exceed both the drive of desire individually and through the collective forms of the social order. Sri Aurobindo acknowledges the need to make this transition to achieve the next level of realisation, although the abandonment of society and isolation are not necessarily to be called for in that process.

“…the Sadhaka of the Karmayoga will abandon this also to the Lord of works. After he has made this surrender, his social impulses and judgments will, like his desires, only be used for their exhaustion or, it may be, so far as they are still necessary for a time to enable him to identify his lower mental nature with mankind in general or with any groupings of mankind in its works and hopes and aspirations. But after that brief time is over, they will be withdrawn and a divine government will alone abide. he will be identified with the Divine and with others only through the divine consciousness and not through the mental nature.”

“For, even after he is free, the Sadhaka will be in the world and to be in the world is to remain in works. But to remain in works without desire is to act for the good of the world in general or for the kind or the race or for some new creation to be evolved on the earth or some work imposed by the Divine Will within him.”

This places the seeker in the position of following the inner guidance, regardless of the promptings of his individual nature and its desires, or the rules and standards of the society where they may restrict or obstruct the growth and the evolutionary movement. “If any social law is obeyed, it will not be from physical necessity or from the sense of personal or general interest or for expediency or because of the pressure of the environment or from any sense of duty, but solely for the sake of the Lord of works and because it is felt or known to be the Divine Will that the social law or rule or relation as it stands can still be kept as a figure of the inner life and the minds of men must not be disturbed by its infringement.”

“If, on the other hand, the social law or rule or relation is disregarded, that too will not be for the indulgence of desire, personal will or personal opinion, but because a greater rule is felt that expresses the law of the Spirit or because it is known that there must be in the march of the divine All-Will a movement towards the changing, exceeding or abolition of existing laws and forms for the sake of a freer larger life necessary to the world’s progress.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 8, The Supreme Will, pp. 199-200