The mind can be a powerful tool for spiritual growth, or it can become an obstacle under certain circumstances. Many devotees take the position that aspiration, devotion, surrender to the Divine is the only way forward. For those individuals that may indeed be true. Not everyone is capable of the kind of single focused love and surrender required to tread the path of devotion, where the individuality is consumed in the love for and surrender to the Divine.
Others find that the mind, as the most highly developed level of consciousness manifesting more generally, provides a tool for focusing the aspiration, concentrating the force and using its powers of application in detail to carry the higher force that is in the process of manifesting into the rest of the being.
At some point, regardless of the path one follows, the questions of action and reaction, the vital response to life situations and physical needs and cravings come into focus for the seeker and it is at this stage that a certain amount of mental preparation can be extraordinarily beneficial. Many people find that they need to rely heavily on the power of the mind to tune the awareness and sort out the distractions, obstructions and opposing forces that are at work to restrict the progress.
“At present your experiences are on the mental plane….” Sri Aurobindo
A disciple asks: “What does ‘on the mental plane’ mean?”
The Mother responds: “Well, these are experiences concerning thought, mental activity, the understanding of things, the observation of things, thought, deduction, reasoning, the contact with teaching, knowledge, the result of this knowledge on your understanding — all these things which are purely mental. And in fact one should always begin with that.”
“If one has vital experiences — for example, visions — certain vital experiences without having a sufficient mental preparation, this may result in destroying one’s balance and, in any case, one understands nothing of what is happening and it is practically useless, if not harmful. On the other hand, if to begin with, one has developed his understanding, has studied, has understood and knows the reasons for things, and the goal of yoga, for instance, and if one has studied the methods of attaining it — indeed, the whole mental approach to the subject — then, when an experience comes one has a chance of being able to understand what it is; otherwise one understands nothing. A sufficient mental preparation is needed — if not a complete one at least a sufficient one — to be able to understand a little the experiences which come.”
Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter III Growth of Consciousness Basic Requisites, pg. 51