Finding the Balance Between Individual Effort and Surrender in the Practice of the Integral Yoga

Practitioners of the integral yoga are confronted daily with the task of balancing between the individual effort required, and the call to surrender to the divine force that actually is undertaking the changes in the nature that are required. We all start with the ego-consciousness and all of the embedded habits, desires, needs and trained ideas that permeate our society and our individual lives. We begin to understand that as long as we live within the frame of the normal functions of mind-life-body we are bound to this ego-personality and the illusion of separateness that comes with it. The issue arises as to how to go about breaking out of this framework and allowing the higher force to operate completely and in an unimpeded manner. Any personal effort, by definition, starts from the basis of the mind-life-body. Since these are not being eliminated nor replaced, they remain operative. What needs to be addressed is the distinction between the ego, the desire-soul and the Self, the true person that is a spark of the Divine. The surrender is a surrender of the ego, and it represents an opening of the human instrument to the divine Force, the divine Shakti, the Mother.

Sri Aurobindo describes the process in his book The Mother, and goes on to amplify it by setting forth the different attitudes that come into play in the course of the spiritual effort by the individual, still encumbered by the ego, yet seeking to disengage and move beyond it.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “The effort demanded of the Sadhak is that of aspiration, rejection and surrender. If these three are done the rest is to come of itself by the Grace of the Mother and the working of her force in you. But of the three the most important is surrender of which the first necessary form is trust and confidence and patience in difficulty. There is no rule that trust and confidence can only remain if aspiration is there. On the contrary, when even aspiration is not there because of the pressure of inertia, trust and confidence and patience can remain. If trust and patience fail when aspiration is quiescent, that would mean that the Sadhak is relying solely on his own effort — it would mean, ‘Oh, my aspiration has failed, so there is no hope for me. My aspiration fails, so what can Mother do?’ On the contrary, the Sadhak should feel, ‘Never mind, my aspiration will come back again. Meanwhile I know that the Mother is with me even when I do not feel her; she will carry me even through the darkest period.’ That is the fully right attitude you must have. To those who have it depression can do nothing; even if it comes it has to return baffled. That is not tamasic surrender. Tamasic surrender is when one says, ‘I won’t do anything; let Mother do everything. Aspiration, rejection, surrender even are not necessary. Let her do all that in me.’ There is a great difference between the two attitudes. One is that of the shirker who won’t do anything, the other is that of the Sadhak who does his best, but when he is reduced to quiescence for a time and things are adverse, keeps always his trust in the Mother’s force and presence behind all and by that trust baffles the opposition force and calls back the activity of the Sadhana.”

Sri Aurobindo,¬†Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 5 Bases of Yoga, Surrender, pp. 100-105

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