The time and effort needed to overcome the numerous impediments along the way for those seeking the Divine realisation imply that the seeker must have an intense inner drive to carry on through all difficulties and delays encountered. This inner drive is known as aspiration. It is called the “flame of aspiration” because of the sense of a burning need deep within the being, and because obstacles are ‘burned up’ through the intensity of the seeking. Imagery that attempts to describe the experience of the divine seeking frequently refers to the ‘mystic fire’, in spiritual traditions throughout the world.
The Rishis of the Rig Veda understood the central and essential role of aspiration. The Rig Veda has hundreds of hymns to Agni, the mystic fire, which focus on the ability of the flame of aspiration to bring forth the experiences, the powers of knowledge and action, and the eventual breakthrough in consciousness to a new status of spiritual realisation. Sri Aurobindo’s translation of the first hymn of the Rig Veda illustrates the importance of the flame of aspiration: “I adore the Flame, the vicar, the divine Ritwik of the Sacrifice, the summoner who most founds the ecstasy. The Flame adorable by the ancient sages is adorable too by the new. He brings here the Gods. By the Flame one enjoys a treasure that verily increases day by day, glorious, most full of hero-power. O Flame! the pilgrim-sacrifice on every side of which thou art with the environing being, that truly goes among the Gods. The Flame, the summoner, the Seer-Will, true and most full of richly varied listenings, may he come a God with the Gods. O Flame! the happy good which thou shalt create for the giver is that Truth and verily thine, O Angiras! To thee, O Flame! we day by day, in the night and in the light, come, carrying by our thought the obeisance. To thee, who reignest over our pilgrim-sacrifices, luminous guardian of the Truth, increasing in thy own home. Therefore, be easy of access to us as a father unto his son, cling to us for our happy state.”
The central role of the flame of aspiration is reinforced in the final verse of the Isha Upanishad, translated by Sri Aurobindo: “O god Agni, knowing all things that are manifested, lead us by the good path to the felicity; remove from us the devious attraction of sin. To thee completest speech of submission we would dispose.”
Sri Aurobindo writes: “The development of the experience in its rapidity, its amplitude, the intensity and power of its result, depends primarily, in the beginning of the path and long after, on the aspiration and personal effort of the Sadhaka. The process of Yoga is a turning of the human soul from the egoistic state of consciousness absorbed in the outer appearances and attractions of things to a higher state in which the Transcendent and Universal can pour itself into the individual mould and transform it. The first determining element of the Siddhi is, therefore, the intensity of the turning, the force which directs the soul inward. The power of aspiration of the heart, the force of the will, the concentration of the mind, the perseverance and determination of the applied energy are the measure of that intensity. The ideal Sadhaka should be able to say in the Biblical phrase, ‘My zeal for the Lord has eaten me up.’ It is this zeal for the Lord, utsaha, the zeal of the whole nature for its divine results, vyakulata, the heart’s eagerness for the attainment of the Divine, — that devours the ego and breaks up the limitations of its petty and narrow mould for the full and wide reception of that which it seeks, that which, being universal, exceeds and, being transcendent, surpasses even the largest and highest individual self and nature.”
Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter III Growth of Consciousness Basic Requisites, pg. 33 and Hymns to the Mystic Fire pp. 39-40