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