Purification of the Working Instruments of the Being

When the individual tries to address the functioning of the body, life, heart and mind, he frequently finds conflicting impulses, needs, desires and directions that create confusion in the mind and weaken the action that can be undertaken. Society has tried to bring about a purer relation between people by setting forth various standards of conduct, moral codes or religious principles of action. These standards are intended to help the individual overcome the impulses of desire whether they arise in the body, the vital desire-soul, or in the mind.

Practitioners of Yoga, seeking spiritual realisation have taken this purification process to a much further step of avoiding or eliminating the impulses to action by suppressing or restraining them and refocusing attention on the silent, immobile, passive spiritual reality.

Sri Aurobindo describes the resultant status: “What is ordinarily called purity of the being, is either a negative whiteness, a freedom from sin gained by a constant inhibition of whatever action, feeling, idea or will we think to be wrong, or else, the highest negative or passive purity, the entire God-content, inaction, the complete stilling of the vibrant mind and the soul of desire, which in quietistic disciplines leads to a supreme peace; for then the spirit appears in all the eternal purity of its immaculate essence. That gained, there would be nothing farther to be enjoyed or done.”

For the seeker of the integral Yoga, however, such a status cannot be the final result. The integral Yoga, in seeking an active purity in the manifested world, as well as the passive purity of the spiritual basis, must grapple with the impurity and limitations of action of the outer being of mind-life-body. “But here we have the more difficult problem of a total, unabated, even an increased and more powerful action founded on perfect bliss of the being, the purity of the soul’s instrumental as well as the spirit’s essential nature. Mind, heart, life, body are to do the works of the Divine, all the works which they do now and yet more, but to do them divinely, as now they do not do them. This is the first appearance of the problem before him on which the seeker of perfection has to lay hold, that it is not a negative, prohibitory, passive or quietistic, but a positive, affirmative, active purity which is his object. A divine quietism discovers the immaculate eternity of the Spirit, a divine kinetism adds to its the right pure undeviating action of the soul, mind and body.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 5, The Instruments of the Spirit, pg. 616-617

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