For many people, the religious life or the spiritual path is considered to be extremely serious and cheerfulness is considered to be some kind of frivolity, not becoming to the serious nature of the endeavour. They make spiritual practice into a harsh discipline and struggle with difficulties and in many cases fight with their nature as they feel it responding to things differently than they want. In extreme cases, they undertake mortification of the body and may use self-flagellation or the cilice in their attempt to punish the body for its ‘sinful’ ways. They suffer from bouts of self-doubt and depression and wallow in the failures to control their wayward impulses. Many turn their attention to judging others and trying to enforce on others those things which they themselves struggle to control. It is a harsh and painful world they create for themselves and for others, with little or no joy, and a considerable amount of suffering.
This approach is however not the only way to proceed. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother recommend what they call the ‘sunlit path’. This is a path that accepts the difficulties that arise while trying to grow, adapt and even change human nature as part of the work to be done, and they can take the long view, understand the need for patience to carefully work through the habits, actions and reactions of a nature that has been formed through countless millennia. They approach the situation with a calm cheerfulness that evidences their faith in the eventual resolution of all these difficulties as the evolutionary process develops and manifests.
The Mother notes: “To realise anything one must be patient, and the vaster and more important the realisation, the greater the patience must be.”
Sri Aurobindo adds: “…progressive sadhana is enormously helped by an assured faith and confidence. Such a confidence helps to realise, for it is dynamic and tends to fulfil itself.”
“There is nothing spiritually wrong in being glad and cheerful, on the contrary it is the right thing…. There is a sunlit path as well as a gloomy one and it is the better of the two….”
Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter III Growth of Consciousness Basic Requisites, pg. 60