Overcoming the Enemy of the Yoga

Sri Aurobindo identifies what the seeker must overcome in order to achieve the results anticipated through the yogic practice: “At this stage of the Yoga and even throughout the Yoga this form of desire, this figure of the ego is the enemy against whom we have to be always on our guard with an unsleeping vigilance. We need not be discouraged when we find him lurking within us and assuming all sorts of disguises, but we should be vigilant to detect him in all his masks and inexorable in expelling his influence.”

The Bhagavad Gita directly addresses this issue with a series of steps or stages to systematically address the problem of desire and ego. The first step is to recognize that one should act without attachment to the fruit of the action. “To action thou hast a right but never under any circumstances to its fruit.” The fruit, the results, of any action are to be recognized as dedicated to the Lord, the Divine, with the action constituting the sacrifice and developing from the self-consecration of the being for the Divine purpose in the world.

As we thereby loosen the hold of ego and desire, there comes a stage where the seeker must recognize that even the action itself does not truly belong to the individual, but rather, we must act according to the Divine direction or guidance. “…at any moment we must be prepared to change one work, one course or one field of action for another or abandon all works if that is the clear command of the Master. Otherwise we do the act not for his sake but for our satisfaction and pleasure in the work, for the kinetic nature’s need of action or for the fulfilment of our propensities; but these are all stations and refuges of the ego.” The motive of the work will be to fulfill the Divine Will in a free and unattached manner, yet with full devotion and consecration in the act.

“In the end, as the attachment to the fruit of the work and to the work itself has been excised from the heart, so also the last clinging attachment to the idea and sense of ourselves as the doer has to be relinquished; the Divine Shakti must be known and felt above and within us as the true and sole worker.”

Through these three successive stages, the seeker leaves behind the binding and attachment to the ego-personality and becomes the desireless instrument of the universal action through the individual nexus that he represents.

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 9, Equality and Annihilation of Ego, pp.210-211