Purification of the Lower Nature and the Issues Involved in Its Achievement

The issue for the seeker of spiritual realisation, and more particularly for the seeker of the integral Yoga who wants to manifest the divine intention in the world, is how to realistically and effectively make the transition from focus on and reliance upon the instrumentality of body, life and mind, the “lower nature”, and the distortions that they bring to the truth of existence and its clear manifestation without the admixture of the illusory aims of the ego-consciousness, or the separative, divided understanding that is active in the lower nature.

The first step in this process is what Sri Aurobindo calls purification. The purification consists of unraveling the confused understanding and interactions between the various elements of the lower nature. This provides a foundation for the being to both gain a clear understanding of the truth of existence, and for the action of the higher spiritual consciousness to flow through the individual in a direct and undistorted manner. Without this purification, everything becomes confused, mixed up and diluted from its original meaning and power.

The process of purification, however, suffers from these very defects and thus, Sri Aurobindo has raised the issue of what is meant by purification and what process can be undertaken to achieve it in the being: “But there is also the question where we are to begin. For the entanglement is great, the complete purification of one instrument depends on the complete purification too of all the others, and that is a great source of difficulty, disappointment and perplexity,–as when we think we have got the intelligence purified, only to find that it is still subject to attack and overclouding because the emotions of the heart and the will and sensational mind are still affected by the many impurities of the lower nature and they get back into the enlightened Buddhi and prevent it from reflecting the pure truth for which we are seeking.”

Sri Aurobindo suggests a line of approach to be explored for this process: “But we have on the other hand this advantage that one important instrument sufficiently purified can be used as a means for the purification of the others, one step firmly taken makes easier all the others and gets rid of a host of difficulties.” Despite the obvious difficulties, there is a way to carry out the purification, prepare the nature for the advent of the higher spiritual knowledge and power, and implement it to make the individual a conscious participant and nexus of the divine action in the world.

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 6, Purification–the Lower Mentality, pg. 627