Few are those individuals who can focus their lives with the constancy and intensity required to overcome the pull of the outer life of fulfillment of physical needs or vital desires. Such individuals have generally been those who have renounced attachment to family and society and gone off to find their deeper fulfillment whether in the realm of the spirit, or in the pursuit of knowledge, expression of art or music, or in the devotional intoxication of the true devotee. For most, the life of need and desire comes first, and the other pursuits take on a secondary role of garnishing the life with something special. Some number of individuals are caught in a middle ground where they aspire to something extraordinary and greater than the life of the world, but they feel caught in the meshes of what they call “samsara” or “maya’ or the life of illusion.
Sri Aurobindo notes, with respect to that ordinary life: “That life is practical and not idealistic; it is concerned not with good, beauty, spiritual experience, the higher truth, but with interests, physical needs, desires, vital necessities. This is real to it, all the rest is a little shadowy; this belongs to its ordinary labour, all the rest to its leisure; this to the stuff of which it is made, all the rest to its parts of ornament and dispensable improvement. To all that rest society gives a place, but its heart is not there. It accepts ethics as a bond and an influence, but it does not live for ethical good; its real gods are vital need and utility and the desires of the body. If it governs its life partly by ethical laws because otherwise vital need, desire, utility in seeking their own satisfaction through many egoistic individuals would clash among themselves and destroy their own aims, it does not feel called upon to make its life entirely ethical.”
Similarly the call to beauty, knowledge, spiritual fulfillment is treated as a hobby or pastime, not the burning central need of the being.
“A more complete effort in any one of these directions it leaves to the individual, to the few, and to individuals of a special type, the saint, the ethical man, the artist the thinker, the man of religion; it gives them a place, does some homage to them, assigns some room to the things they represent, but for itself it is content to follow mainly after its own inherent principle of vital satisfaction, vital necessity and utility, vital efficiency.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 16, The Suprarational Ultimate of Life, pp. 155-156