Historically, the way of the ascetic, the Yogi, the renunciate, has been revered as a high and difficult path, leading away from the world and its distractions, and bringing the seeker to the heights of spiritual realisation of the Infinite, the Absolute. There is no doubt that this path presents many difficulties for anyone who takes it up out of a mental, emotional or vital conviction, or through a sense of weakness in facing the obstacles of the worldly life. It is not easy to overcome the promptings of hunger and thirst, the pressures of cold, heat and wind, the urging of desires, and all of the arguments for continued action in the world! This path is certainly not suited for all people. Those who follow it achieve a unique realisation.
Sri Aurobindo points out, however, that the evolutionary process of Nature is not intended solely to lead to the renunciation of the natural life; rather, there is an intended spiritual transformation that represents the next stage in evolution. Thus, a spiritual realisation, no matter how high and how difficult to achieve, is not the end of the path, but in a certain sense, the beginning. Once one achieves the spiritual realisation, there is still the change to be brought to the outer life in the world.
In The Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo writes: “A higher endeavour through the mind does not change this balance; for the tendency of the spiritualised mind is to go on upwards and, since above itself the mind loses its hold on forms, it is into a vast formless and featureless impersonality that it enters. It becomes aware of the unchanging Self, the sheer Spirit, the pure bareness of an essential Existence, the formless Infinite and the nameless Absolute. This culmination can be arrived at more directly by tending immediately beyond all forms and figures, beyond all ideas of good or evil or true or false or beautiful or unbeautiful to That which exceeds all dualities, to the experience of a supreme oneness, infinity, eternity or other ineffable sublimation of the mind’s ultimate and extreme percept of Self or Spirit. A spiritualised consciousness is achieved and the life falls quiet, the body ceases to need and to clamour, the soul itself merges into the spiritual silence. But this transformation through the mind does not give us the integral transformation; the psychic transmutation is replaced by a spiritual change on the rare and high summits, but this is not the complete divine dynamisation of Nature.”