Endurance and Persistence Is Essential for the Change of Consciousness Aimed for in the Yogic Practice

Many people have the mistaken idea that taking up a spiritual practice is somehow due to weakness or inability to deal with the tough conditions of the outer world. They envision seekers retreating from the world and living in a monastery, cloister or ashram, being sheltered from the worst things the world can throw at them, getting regular meals and a peaceful environment to live out their lives. This is however, not the reality of spiritual practice or development.

Spirituality, particularly if it is focused on transformation of life rather than on ‘liberation’ that abandons life, is not easy, not instant and not without its serious challenges. The struggles may take place inwardly, but they represent the attempt to effectuate true change in human nature, to move beyond the control of the ego-personality and the external being, and to act from a new standpoint with a new understanding of the significance of life.

Along the way, therefore, there are many setbacks, many inner pressures to withstand, and eventually, many attacks from the forces that do not want to see change take place, which gravitate to those undertaking the effort to try to discourage, deter or destroy them, so as to preserve the status quo. Seekers also find that the same issue may reoccur with a new energy when another part of the being is taken up for review and change, so it seems like the same ground has to be fought and refought, time and again.

The main qualities needed to succeed in the spiritual path are the basic aspiration to change, and the endurance to stay the course no matter how difficult things get or how long it takes to take the next or the successive steps along the way.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “Everything once gained is there and can be regained. Yoga is not a thing that goes by one decisive rush one way or the other — it is a building up of a new consciousness and is full of ups and downs. But if one keeps to it the ups have a habit of resulting by accumulation in a decisive change — therefore the one thing to do is to keep at it. After a fall don’t wail and say, ‘I’m done for,’ but get up, dust yourself and proceed farther on the right path.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter VI Growth of Consciousness, Difficulties and Pitfalls, pg. 124


The Advent of Inner Experiences and the Unpurified Vital Nature; or Be Careful What You Wish For, Because You May Get It!

The ego-personality, particularly the vital ego, feeds upon feelings of being special, having new and exciting experiences that are not part of the ordinary external consciousness. Spiritual seekers are allured by tales of meeting spiritual beings on subtle planes, traveling without the physical body through astral planes, obtaining guidance from masters who speak to one in one’s own head, or being shown visions that make the seeker believe he is specially chosen for particular lines of action or leadership. Thus, spiritual seekers will frequently focus on the “experiences” rather than the slower, arduous and less exciting process of transformation of human nature.

The shift from the mental to the spiritual standpoint does not happen in a strictly orderly, step-by-step progression. The complexity of the human nature, combined with the soul’s preparation in past lives, the challenges and difficulties of the current lifetime, and the pressures of the divine manifestation as it evolves the next stage of the evolution of consciousness, all together create a very flexible and unforeseeable set of circumstances for each individual.

In some cases, openings to what are called ‘spiritual experiences’ take place for individuals who are not actively seeking the spiritual life. Some of these so-called ‘spiritual experiences are actually openings to various vital planes, subtle physical realms or even mental planes of existence that have their own laws of action unbounded by the laws of nature we see in our external lives in this mixed world. Thus, we find the textbooks on psychology filled with case studies of things such as multiple personality disorder, schizophrenia, hearing of voices, hallucinations, delusions of grandeur, guidance or pressure to carry out certain actions, etc. Many of these cases are actually those of individuals who have had a breakthrough to one of these other planes (frequently vital planes of existence) without the necessary background, training, insight or preparation to deal with these things.

Those who take up the spiritual life are not immune to such things either. by virtue of the fact that they are shifting their awareness away from the external world and its activities and towards an inward view, they may be more susceptible to such experiences along the way, and thus, they require the needed understanding. When they first experience the consciousness moving inwards and leaving the external consciousness behind, they may experience fear of dying. Or they may have an out of body experience or a near death experience that disorients them. While not strictly spiritual experiences, they occur along the way for many people. True spiritual experiences, which break down the walls of separation between the seeker and the world, or which take one into deep states of meditation and liberate the seeker from the external nature, are potentially equally disorienting for the unprepared individual.

If people are not prepared, they tend to react from the vital ego and either experience fear or uncertainty, or else, get a sense of self aggrandisement. How many people have had a taste of a new level of insight or conscious awareness and believed they are the next great world-teacher or leader, the reincarnation of Jesus, or empowered to take charge of the lives of others and at the same time, satisfy their deepest desires? This is the reason that serious spiritual disciplines have called for an initial process of purification, taking one form or another, to ensure that when the experiences come, they do not create psychological imbalances for the seeker, or if they do, they are quickly able to be understood and remedied.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “Even before the tranquillising purification of the outer nature has been effected or before it is sufficient, one can still break down the wall screening our inner being from our outer awareness by a strong force of call and aspiration, a vehement will or violent effort or an effective discipline or process; but this may be a premature movement and is not without its serious dangers. In entering within one may find oneself amidst a chaos of unfamiliar and supernormal experiences to which one has not the key or a press of subliminal or cosmic forces, subconscient, mental, vital, subtle-physical, which may unduly sway or chaotically drive the being, encircle it in a cave of darkness, or keep it wandering in a wilderness of glamour, allurement, deception, or push it into an obscure battlefield full of secret and treacherous and misleading or open and violent oppositions; beings and voices and influences may appear to the inner sense and vision and hearing claiming to be the Divine Being or His messengers or Powers and Godheads of the Light or guides of the path to realisation, while in truth they are of a very different character. If there is too much egoism in the nature of the seeker or a strong passion or an excessive ambition, vanity or other dominating weakness, or an obscurity of the mind or a vacillating will or a weakness of the life-force or an unsteadiness in it or want of balance, he is likely to be seized on through these deficiencies and to be frustrated or to deviate, misled from the true way of the inner life and seeking into false paths, or to be left wandering about in an intermediate chaos of experiences and fail to find his way out into the true realisation. These perils were well-known to a past spiritual experience and have been met by imposing the necessity of initiation, of discipline, of methods of purification and testing by ordeal, of an entire submission to the directions of the path-finder or path-leader, one who has realised the Truth and himself possesses and is able to communicate the light, the experience, a guide who is strong to take by the hand and carry over difficult passages as well as to instruct and point out the way. But even so the dangers will be there and can only be surmounted if there is or there grows up a complete sincerity, a will for purity, a readiness for obedience to the Truth, for surrender to the Highest, a readiness to lose or to subject to a divine yoke the limiting and self-affirming ego. These things are the sign that the true will for realisation, for conversion of the consciousness, for transformation is there, the necessary stage of the evolution has been reached; in that condition the defects of nature which belong to the human being cannot be a permanent obstacle to the change from the mental to the spiritual status; the process may never be entirely easy, but the way will have been made open and practicable.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter VI Growth of Consciousness, Difficulties and Pitfalls, pp. 122-124

The External Personality and the Psychic Being

For most people, the external personality and being, the body and its needs and habits, the life-force and its desires and the mind and its particular predilections, represent “who they are”. Rarely, an individual reflects deeply on the question of ‘who am I’ and begins to understand that there is a deeper significance and reality to our lives than can be contained within this external being.

When we die, the life-force departs from the body, and the body disintegrates back into its constituent elements. If the body is the measure of our existence, then we are bounded within the period of birth and death and there is no further significance. If we identify with the life-force, we may conclude that it continues to exist after the death of the body and simply takes another body, like changing a suit of clothes, when the time for one body is finished. If that were the case, however, we would be able to identify a continuity of life-force along some specific chosen path or focus; yet, we find that there does not seem to be a coherent, organised, sustained being consisting of that life-force, but rather, that the life-force, even if it holds together for some time after death, eventually also dissolves into the constituent elements of the life-energy.

We tend to identify most closely with the mind. “I think, therefore I am.”, the famous dictum of Descartes, expresses this idea. At the time of death, what happens to the mind? Do we still identify with and ‘think’ with the mind when the life-force departs from the external being and the body dissolves? Does the mind reconstitute a new body and life-force and continue along its chosen developmental path? We have no evidence that a Shakespeare or an Einstein, or a Shankaracharya consciously continue along their specific path of mental focus and development in a new body. It appears, from what we can tell, that the mental formation that constituted a specific being and life also dissolves into its own constituent elements, or into the ‘collective unconscious’ as viewed by Jung, even if it survives the dissolution of the body for some period of time.

This is not a new line of inquiry. The Tibetan Book of the Dead, sets forth a detailed review of the stages of dissolution, successively, of the body, the life-energy and the mind of an individual who dies. What is left is the essence of the being which eventually, after shedding the body, life and mind of one being or external personality, takes a new birth and a new life without carrying forward the specific personality that existed in the prior lifetime.

The ancient Greeks held that souls that took birth had to pass through the waters of Lethe and thus, not bring with them into a new life the memories and details of the past life.

The Taittiriya Upanishad explores this question and eventually recognises that the body, the life-energy and the mind are not our true selves. There is a causal being and a being of bliss that are more central to the truth of our existence, that by which we are born, that by which we exist, and that by which we survive death. This is the true inner being that utilizes the body, life and mind for its manifestation, growth and development. The Bhagavad Gita describes this deeper true being which uses the mind, life and body as its machinery but which is not either bound by them or defined by them.

This bifurcation between the external being and the true inner spark, which is termed the Atman, the psychic being, or the soul, and the need to shift the identification from the external personality to the true inner being, and the consequent disruptions this can create for an individual based primarily in the external being initially, are the underlying issues that cause the alternations of consciousness as we become aware of and shift our standpoint to the true being and away from the external being.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “The real reason of the difficulty and the constant alternation is the struggle between the veiled true being within and the outer nature, especially the lower vital full of desires and the physical mind full of obscurity and ignorance. The struggle is inevitable in human nature and no sadhak escapes it; everyone has to deal with that obscurity and resistance and its obstinacy and constant recurrence; for the lower nature is not only persistent in its repetitions and returns, but even when it is on the point of changing, the general Powers of that plane in universal Nature try to keep up the resistance by bringing back the old movements at each step in order to prevent the progress from being confirmed for good and made final. It is true therefore that a constant sadhana persistent and unceasing is necessary if one wants to go quickly — though even otherwise one will arrive if the soul within has the call, for the soul will persist and after each obscuration or stumble will bring back the light and drive one on on the path till it feels that it is at last secure of a smooth and easy march to the goal.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter VI Growth of Consciousness, Difficulties and Pitfalls, pp. 121-122

Addressing Alternations in Spiritual Progress Over Time

When Milarepa approached Marpa, requesting liberation in one lifetime, he was haunted by the misdeeds he recognised in his own recent past and the harm he had caused many people. He had justified the harm based on the misdeeds of those individuals towards his family, but eventually he understood that his own fate was on the line. Instead of granting him the teachings, Marpa set him to work with hard physical labor for an extended period of time. What thoughts were going through Milarepa’s mind as he carried out the seemingly meaningless, back-breaking work? He eventually broke down with a fit of despair and felt like there was no way he could go on any longer. And it was only after that occurred that the teachings were granted to him. This illustrates just one of the various potential causes for an apparently empty period for the spiritual seeker.

When the youth, whose tale was told in the Upanishads, was given several cattle and told by the teacher to take them into the forest and create a massive herd of cattle in order to get the teachings, he did not despair despite an obviously long period of effort and physical privation, and the need to overcome the difficulties of living in the forest, caring for and raising a large herd of cattle, and learning how to deal with all the external circumstances that could have sidetracked his effort. Instead of meditation, he had to herd cows….. for years. He clearly reached out for the teacher initially due to some intense inward calling which drew him away from family, friends and the life in society.

While most seekers do not have such a pressure or such an intense background that motivates them to take up spiritual practice, they nevertheless undergo periods of time where nothing is seemingly taking place, and if this occurs after a particularly fruitful time of opening and growth of consciousness, they feel the lack very acutely.

Spiritual seekers who have various experiences all find that at some point the ‘headline’ experience recedes and they are left with dealing with the difficulties and obstacles of their nature, or the pressures placed by the outer world with which they have to interact.

There are always significant reasons why these alternations take place, and Sri Aurobindo describes several of them, and advises on the proper attitude to work one’s way through these difficult periods of time.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “The reason why there are these alternations of which you complain is that the nature of the consciousness is like that, after a little spell of wakefulness it feels the need of a little sleep. Very often in the beginning the wakings are brief, the sleeps long; afterwards it becomes more equal and later on the sleep periods are shorter and shorter. Another cause of these alternations, when one is receiving, is the nature’s need of closing up to assimilate. It can take perhaps a great deal, but while the experience is going on it cannot absorb properly what it brings, so it closes down for assimilation. A third cause comes in the period of transformation, — one part of the nature changes and one feels for a time as if there had been a complete and permanent change. But one is disappointed to find it cease and a period of barrenness or lowered consciousness follow. This is because another part of the consciousness comes up for change and a period of preparation and veiled working follows which seems to be one of unenlightenment or worse. These things alarm, disappoint or perplex the eagerness and impatience of the sadhak; but if one takes them quietly and knows how to use them or adopt the right attitude, one can make these unenlightened periods also a part of the conscious sadhana.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter VI Growth of Consciousness, Difficulties and Pitfalls, pg. 121

The Day and Night of the Vedic Mystics

However much we try, we find that we cannot constantly and consistently hold onto any particular focus of concentration, emotional state, mood or feeling for an extended period of time. The constant action of the 3 Gunas cycles us through periods of light and darkness, action and inaction, excitement and despondency, joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain. The dualities we recognise as inextricably tied together in our lives are the result of the changing action of the Gunas.

This same dynamic is operative for the spiritual seeker. This leads to periods of great insight, joy and aspiration followed by periods of dullness, lack of inspiration and dryness. It is important for a spiritual seeker to realise that this is the nature of our earthly existence and that these alternations are natural and must be endured without giving up. Patience and persistence are the watchwords of spiritual attainment in the end.

It is difficult for the vital nature to appreciate this when suddenly experiences on the various occult planes occur and lift up the vital enthusiasm, and then just as suddenly disappear and seem not to reoccur. During active periods there may be ecstatic upwellings of love and dedication, or deep experiences of meditation, or various occult experiences such as out of body experiences, astral travel, or experiences of various powers on the occult planes. The vital being latches on to these things and feels important, uplifted and joyful. When they are removed from the active experience, the vital being can become discouraged, sulk or revolt at having to carry out the mundane tasks assigned to the individual or which are simply part of daily life. These reactions of the ego-personality attached to the vital being and its desires can cause substantial disruption if the seeker is not properly prepared and has not effected the separation of the witness consciousness from the active, outer nature.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “The up and down movement which you speak of is common to all ways of yoga. It is there in the path of bhakti, but there are equally alternations of states of light and states of darkness, sometimes sheer and prolonged darkness, when one follows the path of knowledge. Those who have occult experiences come to periods when all experiences cease and even seem finished for ever. Even when there have been many and permanent realisations, these seem to go behind the veil and leave nothing in front except a dull blank, filled, if at all, only with recurrent attacks and difficulties. These alternations are the result of the nature of human consciousness and are not a proof of unfitness or of predestined failure. One has to be prepared for them and pass through. They are the “day and night” of the Vedic mystics.”

“Everyone has these alternations because the total consciousness is not able to remain always in the above experience. The point is that in the intervals there should be quietude, at least in the inner being, no restlessness, dissatisfaction or struggle. If that point is attained, then the sadhana can go on smoothly — not that there will be no difficulties but there will be no disquietude or dissatisfaction etc. etc.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter VI Growth of Consciousness, Difficulties and Pitfalls, pg. 120

Dealing with Periods of Dryness or Dullness in the Yogic Sadhana

It is a frequent and universal experience that when an individual takes up the practice of yoga, there are periods of great enthusiasm, aspiration is active and progress is palpable. It is however virtually impossible to maintain the intensity of the sadhana all the time, so as the action of the 3 Gunas brings about changes in the inner psychology, the feeling of aspiration, the feeling of focus and commitment fades and the individual is left feeling empty or dry, experiences withdraw and there can be periods of time, sometimes uncomfortably long, where one feels like nothing is happening and there is no progress nor chance of progress. The famous Christian narrative, A Pilgrim’s Progress takes the devotee through various stages of discontent, despondency and despair. It is a true relation of the long, dry road that is part of the sadhana and which the seeker must be prepared to withstand and push on through until he comes out the other side. At that time, the seeker can look back and see the actual progress that has been made, as nothing is lost in the sadhana, and times of inactivity, dryness, dullness actually represent periods either for consolidation of deeper experiences, or as times when the basic tamas of the physical consciousness comes to the forefront and needs to be addressed.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “Naturally, the more one-pointed the aspiration the swifter the progress. The difficulty comes when either the vital with its desires or the physical with its past habitual movements comes in — as they do with almost everyone. It is then that the dryness and difficulty of spontaneous aspiration come. This dryness is a well-known obstacle in all sadhana. But one has to persist and not be discouraged. If one keeps the will fixed even in these barren periods, they pass and after their passage a greater force of aspiration and experience becomes possible.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter VI Growth of Consciousness, Difficulties and Pitfalls, pp. 119-120

The Yogic Practitioner and the External World

We generally live under an illusion of separateness from other beings and the rest of the world. We believe our individual personality, individual body, life, mind are independent from everyone and everything else. This fixed idea, however, is part of the confusion we experience that misleads us about the true nature of existence. In fact, everything is intimately connected. We breathe in oxygen in order to live, which is produced by the plant life of the planet. Similarly, the plant life breathes in carbon dioxide, which we produce. We are thus symbiotic, or even closer, part of one existence that cannot exist in isolation or separation from the other parts. We can recognise, if we observe closely, that our feelings, emotions, thoughts all come from our environment, whether from other people with whom we associate, or from general factors. The collective experience is understood to be contagious, such that a mob that has been whipped up will act out a sense of rage, and this can catch even individuals who are normally quite easy-going. Similarly, situations that provoke fear can infect individuals who themselves are not directly affected. We talk about sympathy, empathy, love, compassion, goodwill. All of these are expressions of relationship to others and express the sense that feelings can be and are communicated back and forth.

The question then arises as to whether we experience these things only when they are consciously brought to our attention, or whether our senses respond to subtle energetic experiences. There is no doubt that we can pick up energies that are moving in our environment, and in many cases, we also recognise that we can pick up thoughts that are active in our environment. Thus, there is this subtle interchange constantly taking place where we share the vibrations of those around us and respond to them, just as they share in the vibrations we emanate.

For the practitioner of yoga, it is essential that he becomes aware of this interchange and the impact of it, as it is impossible to change his own responses and reactions purely based on the internal experience when all sorts of thoughts, ideas, emotions, feelings, perceptions are constantly entering from outside and provoking a response that is in many cases the result of long habit of human nature. Until such time as the sadhak has the power to actually effectuate change in the general nature, he needs to at least be conscious of and take steps to protect himself from the continued re-infection of these energies that pour into him at all times.

This is one of the reasons that spiritual aspirants have frequently been guided to avoid crowded circumstances and ordinary interchanges and to seclude themselves in caves or forests or deserts or high on a mountain somewhere. They are then able to focus on the immediate issues within themselves without as much stimulation from outside, with its corresponding energetic impacts, to distract, or even potentially disrupt, the inner process. Eventually however, these protective measures must give way to a wider effort that seeks to maintain the yogic poise even in the midst of all pressures from what we perceive as outside ourselves.

The Mother observes: “The whole purpose of the Yoga is to gather all the divergent parts together and forge them into an undivided unity. Till then you cannot hope to be without difficulties — difficulties, for example, like doubt or depression or hesitation. The whole world is full of the poison. You take it in with every breath. If you exchange a few words with an undesirable man or even if such a man merely passes by you, you may catch the contagion from him. It is sufficient for you to come near a place where there is plague in order to be infected with its poison; you need not know at all that it is there. You can lose in a few minutes what it has taken you months to gain. So long as you belong to humanity and so long as you lead the ordinary life, it does not matter much if you mix with the people of the world; but if you want the divine life, you will have to be exceedingly careful about your company and your environment.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter VI Growth of Consciousness, Difficulties and Pitfalls, pg. 119

Light and Shadow

Yin and Yang, dualities that are inextricably intertwined with one another, that continue to play into one another and which contain an element of the opposite quality within themselves. We live in a world characterized by duality and when we examine closely we find that we cannot have light without darkness, happiness without sadness, etc. Even those who work the hardest to achieve a status of light retain some element of shadow.

Yet we can envision an existence without duality. Many people believe in a heavenly realm characterized by unending bliss, with angels singing hymns of joy and praise. No darkness there! One explanation of this in light of our world of duality that those angels that had a contrary propensity were expelled from heaven and took up residence in a separate world of hell. Thus, the duality remains in the creation, but has been distilled out into separate worlds, each containing one side of the duality, with the earth in between as a mixture of the two.

All of this is based on our current view of things at our current stage of evolution. In particular the mind evaluates things in a framework of ‘either/or’ and the vital being is attached to the drama of joy/sorrow, good/bad, etc. What we have not recognised fully is that with the advent of a new power of consciousness, a new paradigm of seeing and understanding will necessarily accompany it, and this new paradigm may overcome the need for duality as an organising principle.

In the meantime, utilizing our existing view of things, we can find our greatest opportunities for growth and development by seeing our greatest challenges and weaknesses, and conversely, we can look at our greatest strengths to identify those areas within ourselves that represent our greatest potential failures or pitfalls. This becomes a useful tool for undertaking spiritual discipline and working towards the evolution of the next level of consciousness beyond the mind.

A disciple asks: “You have said: ‘Everyone possesses … two opposite tendencies of character, … which are like the light and the shadow of the same thing.” [‘… everyone possesses in a large measure, and the exceptional individual in an increasing degree of precision, two opposite tendencies of character, in almost equal proportions, which are like the light and the shadow of the same thing. Thus someone who has the capacity of being exceptionally generous will suddenly find an obstinate avarice rising up in his nature, the courageous man will be a coward in some part of his being and the good man will suddenly have wicked impulses. In this way life seems to endow everyone not only with the possibility of expressing an ideal, but also with contrary elements representing in a concrete manner the battle he has to wage and the victory he has to win for the realisation to become possible.” The Mother, On Education, CWM, Vol. 12, p. 19]

Why are things made in this way? Can’t one have only the light?”

The Mother writes: “Yes, if one eliminates the shadow. But it must be eliminated. That does not happen by itself. The world as it is is a mixed world. You cannot have an object which gets the light from one side without its casting a shadow on the other. It is like that, and indeed it is the shadows which make you see the lights. The world is like that, and to have only the light one must definitely go through the entire discipline necessary for eliminating the shadow. This is what I have explained a little farther; I have said that this shadow was like a sign of what you had to conquer in your nature in order to be able to realise what you have come to do. If you have a part to play, a mission to fulfil, you will always carry in yourself the main difficulty preventing you from realising it, so that you have within your reach the victory you must win. If you had to fight against a difficulty which is everywhere on earth, it would be very difficult (you would need to have a very vast consciousness and a very great power), while if you carry in your nature just the shadow or defect you must conquer, well, it is there, within your reach: you see all the time the effects of this thing and can fight it directly, immediately. It is a very practical organisation.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter VI Growth of Consciousness, Difficulties and Pitfalls, pp. 117-119

The Greatest Difficulties Signal the Greatest Strength for the Yogic Practitioner

When an individual is called to the yoga of transformation, he comes with all of his strengths, weaknesses, developed and latent capacities, and habitual ways of dealing with things, as well as his familial, social, economic and educational background. These frame the starting point for the individual’s yogic practice. As he begins to shift to the standpoint of the witness of the nature, he begins to identify issues, patterns, concerns and obstacles to the practice. Some of these may be physical limitations, nervous disturbances, or emotional or mental blockages. Some may be preconceived ideas or emotional relations that shut him off in some way from a wider view and a more powerful action. Eventually he may come to recognise that in actual fact, there are deep and very specific issues that confront him and hinder his progress. For some it is vanity or ambition, for others, greed, for still others sexual pressures, for others a form of laziness or lack of dedication and concentration. It turns out that these things can be seen as the greatest opportunity for the individual and represent the unique set of circumstances that individual is called to work out as the road to the full realisation.

The Mother notes: “The nature of your difficulty indicates the nature of the victory you will gain, the victory you will exemplify in Yoga. Thus, if there is a persistent selfishness, it points to a realisation of universality as your most prominent achievement in the future. And, when selfishness is there, you have also the power to reverse this very difficulty into its opposite, a victory of utter wideness.”

“When you have something to realise, you will have in you just the characteristic which is the contradiction of that something. Face to face with the defect, the difficulty, you say, ‘Oh, I am like that! How awful it is!’ But you ought to see the truth of the situation. Say to yourself, ‘My difficulty shows me clearly what I have ultimately to represent. To reach the absolute negation of it, the quality at the other pole — this is my mission.”

“Even in ordinary life, we have sometimes the experience of contraries. He who is very timid and has no courage in front of circumstances proves capable of bearing the most!”

“To one who has the aspiration for the Divine, the difficulty which is always before him is the door by which he will attain God in his own individual manner: it is his particular path towards the Divine Realisation.”

“There is also the fact that if somebody has a hundred difficulties it means he will have a tremendous realisation — provided, of course, there are in him patience and endurance and he keeps the aspiring flame of Agni burning against those defects.”

“And remember: the Grace of the Divine is generally proportioned to your difficulties.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter VI Growth of Consciousness, Difficulties and Pitfalls, pp. 116-117

Change of Human Nature Requires the Advent of a New Power of Consciousness

The attempt to change human nature using the powers of consciousness and tools of action developed within the framework of current human evolutionary development winds up having limits set by that very framework. Albert Einstein once famously stated that it requires a new way of thinking to solve problems. By accepting the limits and methods of the existing human consciousness, we prevent a new solution, based in another form or power of awareness from providing us the resolution needed. We continue to go round and round without achieving any breakthrough. Thus, when we have reached the limits of the physical, vital and mental capacities, we must be prepared to open up to as yet unmanifested levels of consciousness which are available to us, but beyond our ‘event horizon’ at the moment. This requires something of a ‘leap of faith’ when we find we cannot go any farther in the old ways of response. All kinds of rules, customs, mores, mental ideas and resolutions have failed to change human nature, precisely because they are based in that framework. The evolutionary pressure of a new consciousness, beyond the mental level, provides the direction for solving this issue.

The Mother observes: “You must become more and more conscious. You must observe how the thing happens, by what road the danger approaches, and stand in the way before it can take hold of you. If you want to cure yourself of a defect or a difficulty, there is but one method: to be perfectly vigilant, to have a very alert and vigilant consciousness. First you must see very clearly what you want to do. You must not hesitate, be full of doubt and say, ‘Is it good to do this or not, does this come into the synthesis or should it not come in?’ You will see that if you trust your mind, it will always shuttle back and forth: it vacillates all the time. If you take a decision it will put before you all the arguments to show you that your decision is not good, and you will be tossed between the ‘yes’ and ‘no’, the black and white, and will arrive at nothing. Hence, first, you must know exactly what you want — know, not mentally, but through concentration, through aspiration and a very conscious will. That is the important point. Afterwards, gradually, by observation, by a sustained vigilance, you must realise a sort of method which will be personal to you — it is useless to convince others to adopt the same method as yours, for that won’t succeed. Everyone must find his own method, everyone must have his own method, and to the extent you put into practice your method, it will become clearer and clearer, more and more precise. You can correct a certain point, make clear another, etc. So, you start working…. For a while, all will go well. Then, one day, you will find yourself facing an insurmountable difficulty and will tell yourself, ‘I have done all that and here is everything as bad as before!’ Then, in this case, you must, through a yet more sustained concentration, open an inner door in you and bring into this movement a force which was not there formerly, a state of consciousness which was not there before. And there, there will be a power, when your own personal power will be exhausted and no longer effective. When the personal power runs out ordinary people say, ‘That’s good, I can no longer do anything, it is finished.’ But I tell you that when you find yourself before this wall, it is the beginning of something new. By an obstinate concentration, you must pass over to the other side of the wall and there you will find a new knowledge, a new force, a new power, a new help, and you will be able to work out a new system, a new method which surely will take you very far.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter VI Growth of Consciousness, Difficulties and Pitfalls, pp. 115-116