Patience and Perseverance Are Need for the Practice of the Integral Yoga

We live in an age that expects instant success, immediate gratification and results that occur with a minimum of effort. It is difficult, therefore, to appreciate that the spiritual path, whether the integral yoga, or any other path that assumes a change to human nature or a redirection of the focus and energies that so naturally keep our attention from the physical-vital-mental complex that we inhabit, is not something that can be achieved in a day. The greater and more far-reaching the goal, the less likely it is to occur “overnight”. The integral yoga, which focuses on a change of human nature based on the integration of a new, supramental consciousness into our lives, certainly requires a serious commitment and persistence of effort, with the full results not likely to occur in any one individual’s lifetime. It is a process that requires generations, and in the scope of evolutionary change on the planet, we can consider it to be an extremely ‘fast’ result!

If we become upset and angry at not reaching the result quickly, or if we alternatively become depressed or question the goal or the process on that ground, we are under the control of the gunas of rajas and tamas, respectively. Neither of these gunas provides a solid basis for spiritual growth and progress in the long-term.

The ancient Rishis understood the need for patience and perseverance and there are stories in the Upanishads that indicate that one must be prepared to wait for very long periods of time to achieve the results. One such story is of a young disciple who approached a Guru for teaching and was told to take two cattle into the forest and return when he had developed a herd of 1000 cattle. The young aspirant followed this advice and had to learn how to deal with animal husbandry, but also the privations of living in the forest for many years, how to deal with wild beasts, feeding and caring for himself and the animals, and dealing with the internal issues that arose from his isolation, his physical well-being, and the task that had been set before him. Eventually, after many years of working away at this project with no guidance or overt support from anyone, he achieved the result and returned to the Guru with the 1000 cattle. The Guru saw the radiance and wisdom in the eyes and face of the young child and came down off his seat and bowed down and indicated that he recognized the realisation the boy had achieved and now treated him as a teacher worthy of his respect.

Which of us today looks at the practice of yoga from such a long-term standpoint of ongoing, persistent and patient effort, unruffled by the exigencies that life throws at us, and ready to continue forward ‘come what may’?

Sri Aurobindo writes: “One who has not the courage to face patiently and firmly life and its difficulties will never be able to go through the still greater inner difficulties of the sadhana. The very first lesson in this yoga is to face life and its trials with a quiet mind, a firm courage and an entire reliance on the Divine Shakti.”

“There are always difficulties and a hampered progress in the early stages and a delay in the opening of the inner doors until the being is ready. If you feel whenever you meditate the quiescence and the flashes of the inner Light and if the inward urge is growing so strong that the external hold is decreasing and the vital disturbances are losing their force, that is already a great progress. The road of yoga is long, every inch of ground has to be won against much resistance and no quality is more needed by the sadhak than patience and single-minded perseverance with a faith that remains firm through all difficulties, delays and apparent failures.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 5 Bases of Yoga, Patience and Perseverance, pp. 113-115

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