Work and Spiritual Development

The goal of integral yoga is both a shift of standpoint from the individual egoistic view to the divine standpoint, and the transformation of human nature to express the divine force as it manifests new phases of the evolution of consciousness in the world. This involves thus not only a subjective inner change of the mental nature, but a change in the vital and physical expression of the being in interaction with the outer world.

Meditation on its own, however does not necessarily face and overcome the issues of how to address the physical and vital actions and reactions, many of which occur outside of mental control. There are known cases of yogis who meditated long years in the caves of the Himalayas who came out and were overcome by the urges of the vital nature, and whose accomplishments in meditation were swept aside as a result. Similarly we see crises throughout the religions of the world where sexual abuse or other forms of vital disturbance rose up when a ‘renunciate’ was confronted with the forces of the world in an immediate and direct sense.

Another aspect to be considered is the need for a balance in the psychology. Someone who sits long hours in meditation and has little opportunity for work or activity in the world may withdraw into a mental world of his own construction that seems to be advanced or perfected, but which is only a dreamlike apparition, not a real expression of the nature of the divine manifestation.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “It is not our experience that by meditation alone it is possible to change the nature, nor has retirement from outward activity and work much profited those who have tried it; in many cases it has been harmful. A certain amount of concentration, an inner aspiration in the heart and an opening of the consciousness to the Mother’s presence there and to the descent from above are needed. But without action, without work the nature does not really change; it is there and by contact with men that there is the test of the change in the nature. As for the work one does, there is no higher or lower work; all work is the same provided it is offered to the Mother and done for her and in her power.”

“It is not well to spend the whole time or the greater part of the time in meditation unless one is very strong in mind — for one gets into the habit of living in an inner world entirely and losing touch with external realities — this brings in a one-sided inharmonious movement and may lead to disturbance of balance. To do both meditation and work and dedicate both to the Mother is the best thing.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 6, Sadhana Through Work, Meditation and Love and Devotion, Work pp. 129-145

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