The True Condition of Progress in the Spiritual Path

Sri Krishna taught Arjuna the lessons of the Bhagavad Gita on a battlefield. The setting is an important aspect of the teaching itself. The inner growth is not dependent on outer events or circumstances. Conditions will always be ‘imperfect’ if not absolutely terrible! Sri Aurobindo and the Mother developed their work during a period that spanned two world wars, a world-shaking influenza epidemic and a massive economic meltdown in the world, as well as having ushered in massive changes in colonialism and the eventual departure of the British from their colonial control of India, but not before the provocation of divisions between Hindus and Muslims and the partition of India into Pakistan and India. The conditions in the world were anything but peaceful, harmonious and supportive of spiritual practice.

Many people speak about how they ‘would’ practice more, ‘would’ meditate more, if only they had the time, or if they had a peaceful environment, or if they were not pressured to work and earn a living, or …..

Sri Aurobindo emphasizes that it is not the outer circumstances that count, nor can they be controlled. It is up to the individual to find the inner peace, the inner strength, the inner commitment, the inner aspiration, and the inner focus to carry out the spiritual practice and progress along the path. No excuses about the outer difficulties can get in the way of the spiritual aspirant who is dedicated to spiritual realisation.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “The inner spiritual progress does not depend on outer conditions as much as in the way we react to them from within — that has always been the ultimate verdict of spiritual experience. It is why we insist on taking the right attitude and persisting in it, on an inner state not dependent on outer circumstances, a state of equality and calm, if it cannot be at once of inner happiness, on going more and more within and looking from within outwards instead of living in the surface mind which is always at the mercy of the shocks and blows of life. It is only from that inner state that one can be stronger than life and its disturbing forces and hope to conquer.”

“To remain quiet within, firm in the will to go through, refusing to be disturbed or discouraged by difficulties or fluctuations, that is one of the first things to be learned in the Path. To do otherwise is to encourage the instability of consciousness, the difficulty of keeping experience of which you complain. It is only if you keep quiet and steady within that the lines of experience can go on with some steadiness — though they are never without periods of interruption and fluctuation; but these, if properly treated, can then become periods of assimilation and exhaustion of difficulty rather than denials of sadhana.”

“A spiritual atmosphere is more important than outer conditions; if one can get that and also create one’s own spiritual air to breathe in and live in it, that is the true condition of progress.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter III Growth of Consciousness Basic Requisites, pg. 58

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