The Nature and Power of Equality in the Practice of the Integral Yoga

We usually think about the term ‘equality’ in relation to society or the economy. Sri Aurobindo uses the term to describe an inner psychological state that keeps the practitioner of the yoga focused on the inner being and its spiritual practices, rather than having the attention drawn out to react to people, events and circumstances outside. This is part of the tuning and focusing process that aligns the seeker with the higher force that is manifesting, and is therefore an essential part of the practice of yoga.

We are usually easily provoked into a reaction that gets the mind churning, the emotions stirred up and the vital energies in action. This process occurs virtually automatically for most people. We then see eruptions of anger or fear or depression arising as the being reacts to the situations. The attention in this case is fixated on these outer events and thus, not focused on the inner truth or the spiritual aspiration. Through observation and practice, the seeker can begin to distance from these automatic reactions, and maintain the connection to the higher force and remain receptive to its operation through the being.

Equality in this sense is not necessarily acquiescence in “whatever happens”. It is not a passive weakness or any kind of a withdrawal or inability to respond. Rather, it is a status that allows a more complete and powerful response according to the divine intention by allowing the higher force to manifest and accomplish what it needs to do in each situation.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “Equality is the chief support of the true spiritual consciousness and it is this from which a sadhak deviates when he allows a vital movement to carry him away in feeling or speech or action. Equality is not the same thing as forbearance, — though undoubtedly a settled equality immensely extends, even illimitably, a man’s power of endurance and forbearance.”

“Equality means a quiet and unmoved mind and vital, it means not to be touched or disturbed by things that happen or things said or done to you, but to look at them with a straight look, free from the distortions created by personal feeling, and to try to understand what is behind them, why they happen, what is to be learnt from them, what is it in oneself which they are cast against and what inner profit or progress one can make out of them; it means self-mastery over the vital movements, — anger and sensitiveness and pride as well as desire and the rest, — not to let them get hold of the emotional being and disturb the inner peace, not to speak and act in the rush and impulsion of these things, always to act and speak out of a calm inner poise of the spirit. It is not easy to have this equality in any full perfect measure, but one should always try more and more to make it the basis of one’s inner state and outer movements.”

“Equality means another thing — to have an equal view of men and their nature and acts and the forces that move them; it helps one to see the truth about them by pushing away from the mind all personal feeling in one’s seeing and judgment and even all the mental bias. Personal feeling always distorts and makes one see in men’s actions, not only the actions themselves, but things behind them which, more often than not, are not there. Misunderstanding, misjudgment which could have been avoided are the result; things of small consequence assume larger proportions. I have seen that more than half of the untoward happenings of this kind in life are due to this cause. But in ordinary life personal feeling and sensitiveness are a constant part of human nature and may be needed there for self-defence, although, I think, even there, a strong, large and equal attitude towards men and things would be a much better line of defence. But for a sadhak, to surmount them and live rather in the calm strength of the spirit is an essential part of his progress.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 5 Bases of Yoga, Equality, pp. 124-127

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.