Perfection of the Chitta or Basic Human Consciousness

Yogic psychology defines the instruments of the human being differently than Western psychology. One clear difference is in the concept of “chitta” or basic human consciousness that has been found so useful in various practices of Yoga. The Chitta is the field or repository for impulses and impressions to come in, and provides a reservoir that can respond to those impressions with all the stored impulses of the past. The Chitta has been compared to a sea or large lake which can be set to vibrating when an impulse strikes it. In the science of Raja Yoga, special attention is paid to the effort to quiet the waves of the Chitta and bring it to a status of total stillness. Obviously, this cannot be the goal for the integral Yoga, although the ability to quiet the Chitta remains essential. Sri Aurobindo has provided an enhanced definition for his review of this instrument: “…within the complete meaning of this expression we may include the emotional and the pure psychical being. This heart and psychic being of man shot through with the threads of the life-instincts is a thing of mixed inconstant colours of emotion and soul vibrations, bad and good, happy and unhappy, satisfied and unsatisfied, troubled and calm, intense and dull. Thus agitated and invaded it is unacquainted with any real peace, incapable of a steady perfection of all its powers.”

The methodology for perfecting the action of the Chitta is described: “By purification, by equality, by the light of knowledge, by a harmonising of the will it can be brought to a tranquil intensity and perfection. The first two elements of this perfection are on one side a high and large sweetness, openness, gentleness, calm, clarity, on the other side a strong and ardent force and intensity. In the divine no less than in ordinary human character and action there are always two strands, sweetness and strength, mildness and force…, the force that bears and harmonises, the force that imposes itself and compels…. The two are equally necessary to a perfect world-action. The perversions of the Rudra power in the heart are stormy passion, wrath and fierceness and harshness, hardness, brutality, cruelty, egoistic ambition and love of violence and domination. These and other human perversions have to be got rid of by the flowering of a calm, clear and sweet psychical being.”

The need to remain active in the world means that the classical focus by Raja Yoga on stilling the Chitta cannot possibly be treated as the solution to the issues of the unreformed Chitta. Sri Aurobindo’s methodology raises up the action of the Chitta rather than suppresses it, and thus provides a foundation for the interaction between the individual and the world.

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 14, The Power of the Instruments, pp. 707-708