Violence and Spiritual Change

Through ambition or impatience, the spiritual seeker may try to rush the spiritual progress, and in many cases, this is attempted through various forms of overt or sublimated violence. The overt forms include various extreme penances or even self-punishment, while the sublimated forms may include internal reactions of self-doubt, suicidal thoughts, or inner turmoil of struggle. All of this, however, simply reinforces the focus on and strength of the ego-consciousness, and thus, does not achieve the intended result.

If the object is to transcend the ego to shift to a spiritual standpoint, the sense of struggle and the imposition of penalties or suffering on the being is not a successful approach.

On the external level, too, spiritual seekers may try to force a change on others with the intention of it being for their salvation, or to carry out a supposed mandate from God to convert the non-believers. This approach similarly has a frequent propensity for use of violence to effectuate such conversion “by the sword” or to enforce specific belief systems through some kind of “holy inquisition”. These are external forms of violence that speak to an inner struggle of violence, doubt, fear and ego-action that also do not lead to any true spiritual result.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “An inner psychic or spiritual change is not brought about by violence. It is not a change of conduct that has to be done in the sadhaks, but a change of soul and spirit governing the mind and vital and body instead of the mind and vital governing. Violence is the drastic contradiction of that; it makes mental egoism and vital passion and fury or else cruelty the rulers. Violence in ordinary Nature does not justify violence in spiritual work.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 10, Difficulties in Transforming the Nature, Anger and Violence, pp 296-299