The Focus on Spiritual Development or Attachment to Family Life: the Choice for the Spiritual Aspirant

From childhood we are acculturated with the idea of family and family life as a primary function and goal of our existence. This becomes a habit in our vital being and in our minds. At some point, through some seminal experience or through a growing inner conviction, certain individuals become aware of a deeper spiritual need and purpose to life, and they begin to take up spiritual practices to try to bring about the realisation and the fulfillment that they perceive. This, however, is not something that ordinarily transforms the entire being overnight, so there are aspects of our physical being, our vital being and our mental being which still remain fixated on the habitual needs, desires, and objectives that have such a deep hold on the human psyche.

The most radical changes in perspective may come through a near death experience or some other unexpected opening of the consciousness under pressure. Some individuals who have this type of opening to spirituality recognise that they were returned to life with a new focus and purpose and for them, the idea of family ties becomes much less of a concern.

Some find that as they take up the spiritual life, they meet opposition from their family and friends who want them to follow the more ‘normal’ path of life, as well as the inner promptings of their vital being. In such cases, there is a tension between the two aspects of the being and the individual may go through a period of hesitation or oscillation of focus until they become very clear on the commitment, one way or the other. Not everyone can simply take up the spiritual quest and not look back at all, Given the intensity of the commitment needed to succeed in the yogic path, it is best for individuals who do not feel ready to not artificially push it. When the readiness is there, they can naturally turn in that direction.

Once the seeker recognises the need and is ready for the spiritual path, the old forms, habits and activities need to be released, so that the focus can be directed entirely toward the realisation. Some mistakenly believe that the statement ‘all life is yoga’ is meant to be a justification for continuation of the old habits, desires and forms. In reality it is a much more general statement about the universal evolutionary process of the entire creation, and the inherent oneness of all existence; and from the individual seeker’s standpoint, the need to bring the yogic focus and consciousness to bear on any activities they undertake.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “It is necessary if you want to progress in your Sadhana that you should make the submission and surrender of which you speak sincere, real and complete. This cannot be as long as you mix up your desires with your spiritual aspiration. It cannot be as long as you cherish vital attachment to family, child or anything or anybody else. If you are to do this Yoga, you must have only one desire and aspiration, to receive the spiritual Truth and manifest it in all your thoughts, feelings, actions and nature. You must not hunger after any relations with anyone. The relations of the Sadhak with others must be created for him from within, when he has the true consciousness and lives in the Light. They will be determined within him by the power and will of the Divine Mother according to the supramental Truth for the divine life and divine work; they must not be determined by his mind and his vital desires.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 11, Human Relationships in Yoga, Family Ties, pp 330-331

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