Depression and the Influence of the Gunas in Spiritual Development

There is a strong inclination for those spiritual practitioners who particularly follow a way of devotion, regardless of religious tradition around the world, to cry out for the presence of the Divine and to lament any feeling of separation. Depending on the play of the Gunas, this can take either a tamasic, a rajasic or a sattwic form, and does so at different times and circumstances for each seeker, as the Gunas keep changing their balance and expression. Similarly, those who are actively seeing spiritual experiences within, and who then have a period where those experiences recede and they are then thrown out into the “ordinary” daily life and awareness, also react according to the Gunas, and similarly may respond with either tamasic, rajasic or sattwic energy. The tamasic response is one that can bring about a state of depression and despair, the ‘dark night of the soul’ as some call it. This is not a permanent state, and does not occur all the time. The seeker who is aware of the manner in which the Gunas shape the response can learn to stand back from these feelings and work to change the dynamic.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “Thirst for the Divine is one thing and depression is quite another, nor is depression a necessary consequence of the thirst being unsatisfied, that may lead to a more ardent thirst or to a fixed resolution and persistent effort or to a more yearning call or to a psychic sorrow which is not at all identical with depression and despair. Depression is a clouded grey state in its nature and it is more difficult for light to come through clouds and greyness than through a clear atmosphere. That depression obstructs the inner light is a matter of general experience. The Gita says expressly, ‘Yoga should be practiced persistently with a heart free from depression.’ …. Bunyan in The Pilgrim’s Progress symbolises it as the Slough of Despond, one of the perils of the way that has to be overcome. It is, no doubt, impossible to escape from attacks of depression, almost all sadhaks go through these attacks, but the principle is that one should react against them and not allow them by any kind of mental encouragement or acceptance of their suggestions to persist or grow chronic.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 10, Difficulties in Transforming the Nature, Difficulties and Depression, pp. 273-275

1 thought on “Depression and the Influence of the Gunas in Spiritual Development

  1. Pingback: Depression and the Influence of the Gunas in Spiritual Development — Sri Aurobindo Studies | IMAGINA QUE ESCRIBES

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