Progressively Becoming Conscious

Everyone believes they are ‘conscious’. Spiritual seekers, especially, having awakened from the purely mechanical, habitual processes of the external life, certainly believe they are conscious. Those who believe in various religious traditions, by virtue of that belief, accept that they are conscious. This belief, however, does not change the facts of their lives, or the numerous areas where their lives are purely based in habit and a form of dull sleepwalking.

Sometimes an individual has an experience that shocks him out of the comfort zone of his daily beliefs, acts and perceptions. An intense spiritual experience can do that. Based on this experience, the seeker now believes that he is conscious. In some religious traditions he will understand that he has been “born again into the spirit”. However, the experience is a momentary phenomenon and generally the seeker quickly reverts to established patterns, habits and ways of seeing, thinking, acting and interacting.

It is possible also to be relatively conscious in one aspect or part of the being, while remaining unconscious in other parts of the being. The human being is a complex amalgam of physical, vital, mental and psycho-spiritual elements and they do not all progress in the same way or at the same time, or at the same speed.

The Mother was asked the question: When can one say that one is conscious?

The Mother responds: “That is always a relative question. One is never altogether unconscious and one is never completely conscious. It is a progressive state. … But a time comes when instead of doing things automatically, impelled by a consciousness and force of which one is quite unaware — a time comes when one can observe what goes on in oneself, study one’s movements, find their causes, and at the same time begin to exercise a control first over what goes on within us, then on the influence cast on us from outside which makes us act, in the beginning altogether unconsciously and almost involuntarily, but gradually more and more consciously; and the will can wake up and react. Then at that moment, the moment there is a conscious will capable of reacting, one may say, ‘I have become conscious.’ This does not mean that it is a total and perfect consciousness, it means that it is a beginning: for example, when one is able to observe all the reactions in one’s being and to have a certain control over them, to let those one approves of have play, and to control, stop, annul those one doesn’t approve of. … Besides, you must become aware within of something like a goal or a purpose or an ideal you want to realise; something other than the mere instinct which impels you to live without your knowing why or how. At that time you may say you are conscious, but it doesn’t mean you are perfectly conscious. And moreover, this perfection is so progressive that I believe nobody can say he is perfectly conscious; he is on the way to becoming perfectly conscious, but he isn’t yet.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter I Emergence from Unconsciousness, pp. 8-9

2 thoughts on “Progressively Becoming Conscious

    • Sri Aurobindo generally recommends whichever method works best for an individual, given their specific situation. In some cases this may be focused in the heart, in other cases above the head. This may vary for an individual from time to time and circumstance to circumstance. If you find a form of meditation that works for you, then use that one. In the book Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice a number of different practices are described. One of them is the separation of the witness consciousness from the active nature. Another is the active monitoring of the thoughts as they try to enter and refusing their entry. A third is a focus in the inner heart to contact the psychic being within. Any form of meditation can be helpful if it aids the individual in the spiritual development.


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