Addressing the Confused Action of the Various Parts of the Being

Anyone who has tried to consciously manage and develop his responses to life according to spiritual precepts, religious principles or philosophical concepts has come up against the complexity and difficulty of effecting a complete change in human nature. Trying to change human nature leads to a lot of struggle and suffering as the seeker finds that his highest ideals do not necessarily prevent the emergence and action of impulses of a various and, in many cases, an unwanted nature. We find mixed in the same person in these cases, high ideals and seemingly inexplicable actions of carrying out vital cravings, impulses that do not mesh with the dictates of reason or conscience. When we find these things within ourselves we struggle with feelings of guilt, failure and remorse. When we find them in others, we frequently call them out for “hypocrisy”. In both cases, we have a failure to examine the confused interplay of the different aspects that make up the human being and his action in the world.

Sri Aurobindo explains how and why these things occur: “Our whole dynamic being is acting under the influence of unequal impulses, the manifestations of the lower ignorant nature. These urgings we obey or partially control or place on them the changing and modifying influence of our reason, our refining aesthetic sense and mind and regulating ethical notions. A tangled strain of right and wrong, of useful and harmful, harmonious or disordered activity is the mixed result of our endeavour, a shifting standard of human reason and unreason, virtue and vice, honour and dishonour, the noble and the ignoble, things approved and things disapproved of men, much trouble of self-approbation and disapprobation or of self-righteousness and disgust, remorse, shame and moral depression.”

In the evolutionary growth that moves humanity away from the purely animal reactions of the vital nature, the mental nature of reason, intelligence and refined aesthetic and emotional sense, the struggle between the varying impulses is bound to occur, and, as Sri Aurobindo notes, may be essential to the developmental process. For the spiritual seeker, who has worked to develop the higher faculties and modify the lower ones in line with the higher light he sees and seeks, there must be a methodology that can aid in accomplishing this transition of the nature:

“But the seeker of a greater perfection will draw back from all these dualities, regard them with an equal eye and arrive through equality at an impartial and universal action of the dynamic Tapas, spiritual force, in which his own force and will are turned into pure and just instruments of a greater calm secret of divine working….The eye of his will must look beyond to a purity of divine being, a motive of divine will-power guided by divine knowledge of which his perfected nature will be the engin, yantra. That must remain impossible in entirety as long as the dynamic ego with its subservience to the emotional and vital impulses and the preferences of the personal judgment interferes in his action. A perfect equality of the will is the power which dissolves these knots of the lower impulsion to works. This equality will not respond to the lower impulses, but watch for a greater seeing impulsion from the Light above the mind, and will not judge and govern with the intellectual judgment, but wait for enlightenment and direction from a superior plane of vision.”

The switch to this higher vision and will is obviously a passage fraught with difficulties of its own, misapplication or misunderstanding during the transition being just several of the potential obstacles. “The promise of the Divine Being in the Gita will be the anchor of its resolution, ‘Abandon all dharmas and take refuge in Me alone; I will deliver thee from all sin and evil; do not grieve.’ ”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 11, The Perfection of Equality, pp. 678-679