Obstacles to Faith in the Yogic Path

The action of the Gunas remains a factor during the yogic process, and there are periods when the faith in the path and the realisation that ensues are tested. When Rajas is predominant, which is a normal status for the human being with a goal-orientation, there is a passionate seeking and as time stretches out and the results are not easily or immediately forthcoming, the rajasic tendency is frustrated and sinks into Tamas, with its depression and denial. Then can come periods of what seekers throughout history have known as “the dark night of the soul”, when it appears that the seeker has been abandoned, is engulfed in suffering and has no way to succeed with the quest.

Sri Aurobindo describes this interaction between the Gunas and the required faith to carry through to the end: “The vital nature of man hungers always for the fruit of its labour and, if the fruit appears to be denied or long delayed, he loses faith in the ideal and in the guidance. For his mind judges always by the appearance of things, since that is the first ingrained habit of the intellectual reason in which he so inordinately trusts. Nothing is easier for us than to accuse God in our hearts when we suffer long or stumble in the darkness or to abjure the ideal that we have set before us.”

The anguish of the feeling that the goal is illusory, or that the path is faulty, or that the human instrument is simply too weak and ignorant to actually succeed, leads to outcries against the entire process. “For we say, ‘I have trusted to the Highest and I am betrayed into suffering and sin and error.’ Or else, ‘I have staked my whole life on an idea which the stern facts of experience contradict and discourage. It would have been better to be as other men are who accept their limitations and walk on the firm ground of normal experience.’ In such moments–and they are sometimes frequent and long–all the higher experience is forgotten and the heart concentrates itself in its own bitterness. It is in these dark passages that it is possible to fall for good or to turn back from the divine labour.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 11, The Master of the Work, pg. 232