About sriaurobindostudies

studying the integral yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother since 1971, this blog is meant to systematically review the writings of Sri Aurobindo.

The Origin of Joy

There is a difference between ‘joy’ and ‘enjoyment’. Enjoyment is a more or less passive state, such as when we enjoy some form of entertainment. Joy, on the other hand, is an active status, which rises spontaneously through involvement and action. If we observe children, we see that they experience a true state of joy when they are able to ‘do’ something, whether it is learning how to jump for the first time, or helping their mother in some activity, or simply running, playing and experiencing life actively. Those who have this spontaneous ability to simply participate and act have a welling up of joy internally. Similarly, when we set out to work on some project, achieve or accomplish some action, we have the joy of the action, which is much more real and intense than the enjoyment of adulation or success that follows when others appreciate the result.

The Mother writes: “It is only effort, in whatever domain it be — material effort, moral effort, intellectual effort — which creates in the being certain vibrations which enable you to get connected with universal vibrations; and it is this which gives joy. It is effort which pulls you out of inertia; it is effort which makes you receptive to the universal forces. And the one thing above all which spontaneously gives joy, even to those who do not practice yoga, who have no spiritual aspiration, who lead quite an ordinary life, is the exchange of forces with universal forces. People do not know this, they would not be able to tell you that it is due to this, but so it is.”

“There are people who are just like beautiful animals — all their movements are harmonious, their energies are spent harmoniously, their uncalculating efforts call in energies all the time and they are always happy; but sometimes they have no thoughts in their head, sometimes they have no feelings in their heart, they live an altogether animalish life. I have known people like that; beautiful animals. They were handsome, their gestures were harmonious, their forces quite balanced and they spent without reckoning and received without measure. They were in harmony with the material universal forces and they lived in joy. They could not perhaps have told you that they were happy — joy with them was so spontaneous that it was natural — and they would have been still less able to tell you why, for their intelligence was not very developed. I have known such people, who were capable of making the necessary effort (not a prudent and calculated effort but a spontaneous one) in no matter what field: material, vital, intellectual, etc., and in this effort there was always joy. For example, a man sits down to write a book, he makes an effort which sets vibrating something in his brain to attract ideas; well, suddenly, this man experiences joy. It is quite certain that, whatever you do, even the most material work like sweeping a room or cooking, if you make the necessary effort to do this work to the maximum of your ability, you will feel joy, even if what you do is against your nature. When you want to realise something, you make quite spontaneously the necessary effort; this concentrates your energies on the thing to be realised and that vies a meaning to your life. This compels you to a sort of organisation of yourself, a sort of concentration of your energies, because it is this that you wish to do and not fifty other things which contradict it. And it is in this concentration, this intensity of the will, that lies the origin of joy. This gives you the power to receive energies in exchange for those you spend.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Disturbances of the Vital, Boredom and Lack of Energy, pp. 53-56

Addressing and Overcoming Boredom

As long as we remain bound to the ego-personality, we are caught in the play of the three gunas, or qualities of nature. Every individual is subject to all three, and their constant interchange. Thus, there will be times and circumstances where tamas, the quality of indolence and darkness comes to the forefront. With tamas in the ascendant, we can experience a sense of emptiness, a sense of being at “loose ends” and a lack of interest in doing anything or concentrating. The question then is how the spiritual seeker can, or even should, respond, when these tamasic states are in the forefront. Wallowing in tamas, with various forms of distraction, or self-medication with drugs or alcohol, does not, obviously, provide any solution. The Mother’s prescription invokes bringing the powers of sattwa and rajas to bear to uplift the tamasic force with light, and positive energetic action.

The Mother notes: “There is nothing more contrary to the very reason of existence than this passing wave of boredom. If you make a little effort within yourself at that time, if you tell yourself: ‘Wait a bit, what is it that I should learn? What does all that bring to me so that I may learn something? What progress should I make in overcoming myself? What is the weakness that I must overcome? What is the inertia that I must conquer?’ If you say that to yourself, you will see the next minute you are no longer bored. You will immediately get interested and you will make progress! This is a commonplace of consciousness.”

“And then, you know, most people when they get bored, instead of trying to rise a step higher, descend a step lower, they become still worse than what they were, and they do all the stupid things that others do, go in for all the vulgarities, all the meannesses, everything, in order to amuse themselves. They get intoxicated, take poison, ruin their health, ruin their brain, they utter crudities. They do all that because they are bored. Well, if instead of going down, one had risen up, one would have profited by the circumstances. Instead of profiting, one falls a little lower yet than where one was. When people get a big blow in their life, some misfortune (what men call ‘misfortune’, there are people who do have misfortunes), the first thing they try to do is to forget it — as though one did not forget quickly enough! And to forget, they do anything whatsoever. When there is something painful, they want to distract themselves — what they call distraction, that is, doing stupid things, that is to say, going down in their consciousness, going down a little instead of rising up…. Has something extremely painful happened to you, something very grievous? Do not become stupified, do not seek forgetfulness, do not go down into the inconscience, you must go to the end and find the light that is behind, the truth, the force and the joy; and for that you must be strong and refuse to slide down.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Disturbances of the Vital, Boredom and Lack of Energy, pp. 53-56

Fear Is Based in the Limitations of Ignorance and Unconsciousness

In The Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo describes the sevenhold ignorance which limits the human being. We live in a world about which we know very little, and we lack a complete understanding of the significance of our lives, the meaning of existence, or the processes of Time. As a result, we act as if we are separate beings living a separate existence and we react to what we do not know, or what we imagine, or what we perceive to be a threat to that individual existence with fear.

The basis of the fear reaction can be seen in the consciousness of the animal, and, as shown in The Secret Life of Plants, even in a very rudimentary way in the plant. In these cases, the perception of a vibration of threat, whether from a predator or some danger from outside, brings forth the reaction. We can see this in operation very clearly in the relation between a predator and its prey. The prey knows it is going to become food for the predator and begins to shake and exhibit all the symptoms of fear. These very basic reactions carry over into the human being, but they become accentuated through the process of our attempt to extrapolate in our ignorance by imagining what may happen, what could happen and what implications that has. This occurs not only in a true physical threat, but in virtually every circumstance of human interaction in the world.

Given the pervasive nature of fear in human existence, it is important to understand how to deal with it, so that we can not only function in our lives, but use the opportunity to grow and master this reaction. Sri Aurobindo, in his book The Mother, devotes a chapter to the question: He states: “To walk through life armoured against all fear, peril and disaster, only two things are needed, two that go always together — the Grace of the Divine Mother and on your side an inner state made up of faith, sincerity and surrender.” He explains these in depth as the chapter continues. The issue here is the shift from the ego-centric viewpoint to one that is ‘Divine-centric”. For a seeker of spiritual realisation, this is the ultimate solution to fear. As long as we remain rooted in the ego and the body-life-mind complex, we take ‘personally’ any threats to our existence or our well-being. Fear can be a paralyzing emotion, and for those not yet fully devoted to the yogic sadhana, it must still be addressed, one way or another.

The Mother observes: “Fear is a phenomenon of unconsciousness. It is a kind of anguish that comes from ignorance. One does not know the nature of a certain thing, does not know its effect or what will happen, does not know the consequences of one’s acts, one does not know so many things; and this ignorance brings fear. One fears what one does not know. Take a child, if it is brought before someone it does not know (I am not speaking of a child with an awakened inner consciousness, I am speaking of an ordinary child), — you bring it before someone it does not know, its first movement will always be one of fear. Only very rare children — and they have another consciousness — are very bold. It may also be a mixture of apprehension, a kind of instinct. When one instinctively feels that something is dangerous and hasn’t the means to remedy it, when one does not know what to do to protect himself from it, then he is afraid. There are, I believe, countless reasons for fear. But it is a movement of unconsciousness, in every case.”

“That which knows has no fear. That which is perfectly awake, which is fully conscious and which knows, has no fear. It is always something dark that is afraid.”

“One of the great remedies for conquering fear is to face boldly what one fears. You are put face to face with the danger you fear and you fear it no longer. The fear disappears. From the yogic point of view, the point of view of discipline, this is the cure recommended. In the ancient initiations, especially in Egypt, in order to practice occultism, as I was telling you last time, it was necessary to abolish the fear of death completely. Well, one of the practices of those days was to lay the neophyte in a sarcophagus and leave him in there for a few days, as though he were dead. Naturally, he was not left to die, neither of hunger nor suffocation, but still he remained lying there as though he were dead. It seems that cures you of all fear.”

“When fear comes, if one succeeds in putting upon it consciousness, knowledge, force, light, one can cure it altogether.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Disturbances of the Vital, Fear, pp. 50-53

How to Overcome Fear

A number of years ago, a crowd of anti-war protesters in Washington DC were gathered in front of a federal building and were suddenly confronted with a phalanx of heavily armed police wielding guns, batons and potentially tear gas cannisters, arriving with numerous paddy wagons, who surrounded them and began to move in. A vibration of fear went through the people assembled there, as they thought they could be beaten, arrested, or both. Then someone began to chant “OM” and the crowd picked it up. Suddenly the vibration of fear was gone and transformed into a courageous strength to face whatever would come.

Leaders of non-violent protest movements, whether Mahatma Gandhi, or Martin Luther King, or others, worked to convince their followers to accept the worst with courage and not to flinch before the beatings, the bullets, the dogs, and the arrests. They opposed fear with self-sacrifice and dedication to a higher cause.

A discipline once asked the Mother: “When one feels frightened, what should one do?”

The Mother responded: “That depends upon who you are. There are many ways of curing oneself of fear. … If you have some contact with your psychic being, you must call it immediately and in the psychic light put things back in order. This is the most powerful way.”

“When one does not have this psychic contact, but is still a reasonable being, that is, when one has a free movement of the reasoning mind, one can use it to reason with, to speak to oneself as one would to a child, explaining that this fear is a bad thing in itself and, even if there is a danger, to face the danger with fear is the greatest stupidity. If there is a real danger, it is only with the power of courage that you have a chance of coming out of it; if you have the least fear, you are done for. So with that kind of reasoning, manage to convince the part that fears that it must stop being afraid.”

“If you have faith and re consecrated to the Divine, there is a very simple way, it is to say: ‘Let Your will be done. Nothing can frighten me because it is You who are guiding my life. I belong to you and you are guiding my life.’ That acts immediately. Of all the means this is the most effective indeed, it is. That is, one must be truly consecrated to the Divine. If one has that, it acts immediately; all fear vanishes immediately like a dream. And the being with the bad influence also disappears like a dream along with the fear. You should see it running away at full speed, prrt! Voila.

“Now, there are people having a strong vital power in them and they are fighters who immediately lift up their heads and say: ‘Ah! an enemy is here, we are going to knock him down.’ But for that one must have the knowledge and a very great vital power. One must be vitally a giant. That does not happen to everyone.”

“So there are many different ways. They are all good, if you know how to make use of the one that suits your own nature.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Disturbances of the Vital, Fear, pp. 50-53

Understanding the Nature of Fear and Its Effects on the Being

Wherever we focus attention, we create a direct relationship with the object of that attention. It may be through aspiration towards a higher consciousness, devotion to an ideal or through love for a revered guide or teacher; or it may be through the reaction of fear about some person, event or circumstance. However it comes about, this focus creates a beacon or signal to the object of focus to interact with us. Thus, through aspiration we work to create a new level of consciousness within our being; and alternatively, through fear we bring toward us the very thing about which we are experiencing fear. This is the underlying and essential principle behind what is being called today ‘the law of attraction’.

The reaction of fear results from the awareness of the ego-consciousness about its own fragility and weakness as a ‘separate being’ in the wider universal creation. This ego-consciousness is a somewhat illusory construct as we are never actually separated from the universal consciousness in its manifestation. It serves a purpose of creating a nexus or point of concentration for the manifestation, yet it is not in fact something separate and apart. When the ego-consciousness is in the forefront, we experience fears of death and dissolution, of pain, and of separation. Through our experience, our education, and our perceptions, including our consumption of information through media and inter-personal relationships, we internalize certain dangers or concerns that become the basis for fear. The very focus on these things, however, opens a connection between ourselves and the forces that we fear, and thus, we become locked into a structure that forces us to face, and either overcome or fail in the attempt, the objects we fear.

As we shift our standpoint away from the ego-personality toward the divine standpoint, we begin to recognise that there is no ultimate cause for fear. As we focus our attention on the divine creation and the next phases of its evolutionary development, we create a positive relationship with that next future and bring that towards us.

Another aspect to consider is the impact of negative and positive emotions on the vital sheath that surrounds us as an individual nexus of energy. Negative emotions, fear, sadness, depression, anger, hatred, unhappy feelings tend to open ‘holes’ and weaken the vital sheath, which normally acts as a protection of the individual from attack and destruction. Similarly, positive emotions, happiness, love, goodwill, compassion, act to strengthen this vital sheath and thus, afford more protection against forces that want to weaken, destroy or devour, as part of the dynamic of creation and destruction in the universe.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “It is true that what one fears has the tendency to come until one is able to look it in the face and overcome one’s shrinking.”

“It is a mistake to think that by fearing or being unhappy you can progress. Fear is always a feeling to be rejected, because what you fear is just the thing that is likely to come to you: fear attracts the object of fear. Unhappiness weakens the strength and lays one more open to the causes of unhappiness.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Disturbances of the Vital, Fear, pp. 50-53

Aspiration, Faith and Realisation

Aspiration in terms of the yogic process is a tuning of the consciousness towards the spiritual reality, and thereby shifting the focus away from the ego-personality to the divine. The aspiration directs the attention, but must be followed up with an attitude of receptivity so that the response, the action of the higher force, can come and be integrated into the being. To the extent that the desire-soul of the ego-personality remains active, the individual engages in all kinds of concerns, speculations and wishes for a particular result, and this creates enough disruption in the awareness that it frequently hinders the reception that has been asked for. We desire a specific outcome and result from the aspiration, without truly understanding the way, process and means of the divine intention in manifestation. Thus, we overlay our ego-expectations on the divine even as we aspire for a higher truth.

The human being tends to impatience and brings with him the expectation of immediate gratification of desire, and this reduces the purity and force of the aspiration. There are those who speak nowadays of the ‘law of attraction’. There is indeed a truth behind the ‘law of attraction’ but it is not exactly as described by those who ascribe to it the power to manifest all types of wealth, success and popularity! The underlying truth is that where we focus our attention, we open up a connection and a pathway for manifestation. If we remain receptive we keep that connection open and energy travels along that path.

Aspiration for the divine truth has, however, a further implication. We cannot, from our ego-viewpoint, truly understand the method and process of the divine realisation. We expect things to happen a certain way and in a certain time-frame, yet the divine purpose may be fulfilled through a longer and more circuitous route. Thus, we have to combine aspiration and receptivity with faith in the divine and the eventual outcome. It may be that the answer has in fact come, but we have failed to heed it as it did not meet our expectation or our desire!

The Mother notes: “When one aspires for something, if at the same time one knows that the aspiration will be heard and answered in the best possible way, that establishes a quietude in the being, a quietude in its vibrations; whilst if there is a doubt, an uncertainty, if one does not know what will lead one to the goal or if ever one will reach it or whether there is a way of doing so, and so on, then one gets disturbed and that usually creates a sort of little whirlwind around the being, which prevents it from receiving the real thing. Instead, if one has a quiet faith, if whilst aspiring one knows that there is no aspiration (naturally, sincere aspiration) which remains unanswered, then one is quiet. One aspires with as much fervour as possible, but does not stand in nervous agitation asking oneself why one does not get immediately what one has asked for. One knows how to wait. I have said somewhere: ‘To know how to wait is to put time on one’s side.’ That is quite true. For if one gets excited, one loses all one’s time — one loses one’s time, loses one’s energy, loses one’s movements. To be very quiet, calm, peaceful, with the faith that what is true will take place, and that if one lets it happen, it will happen so much the quicker. Then, in that peace everything goes much better.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Disturbances of Mind, Anxiety, pp. 44-49

The Importance of the Attitude of Trust for the Yogic Practitioner

In our world today, we tend to doubt everything, question everything, trust in nothing. We recognise how much dissembling takes place, how many illusions are placed before our eyes, and we frequently have the experience that when we trust in someone or something, we tend to later see that we have been misled or manipulated. It is one of the sicknesses pervasive in the modern world, that everything breeds mistrust in us.

Yet we also find that progress in yoga, which requires us to shift our standpoint beyond the normal physical-vital-mental framework, requires a modicum of trust, or faith, in a greater reality beyond the ‘facts’ of our modern civilisation.

How could we proceed and successfully overcome the tests and challenges, the obstacles and disruptions, if we do not have trust in the inevitability and eventuality of the next stage of evolution. We have, then, to differentiate between trust in human institutions and conceptions, and the deeper, larger trust in the universal manifestation, and the divine intention in that manifestation, of which we are a part. This level of trust, or faith, is embedded in the psychic being which has a direct relation to the universal manifestation and its truth. When we once shift our standpoint from the mental to the psychic being, we recognise that all human developments, framed by the limits of mind, life and body, are subject to breakdown, but that nevertheless, the universal creation continues to roll out its meaning and purpose.

For a yogic practitioner, the focus and tuning of the consciousness towards that universal creation is essential, as otherwise, we become paralyzed in doubt and insecurity. Doubt focuses the mind on the frailty of what already exists, while the yoga must tune itself into the manifestation that is preparing to be birthed.

The Mother observes: “Children when left to themselves and not deformed by older people have such a great trust that all will be well! For example, when they have a small accident, they never think that this is going to be something serious: they are spontaneously convinced that it will soon be over, and this helps so powerfully in putting an end to it.”

“If the trust is there, spontaneous, candid, unquestioning, it works better than anything else, and the results are marvelous. It is with the contradictions and doubts of the mind that one spoils everything, with this kind of notion which comes when one is in difficulties: ‘Oh, it is impossible! I shall never manage it. And if this is going to be aggravated, if this condition I am in, which I don’t want, is going to grow still worse, if I continue to slide down farther and farther, if, if, if, if…’ like that, and one builds a wall between oneself and the force one wants to receive. The psychic being has this trust, has it wonderfully, without a shadow, without an argument, without a contradiction. And when it is like that, there is not a prayer which does not get an answer, no aspiration which is not realised.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Disturbances of Mind, Anxiety, pp. 44-49

Comparing Thought and Intuition as Problem-Solving Methodologies

The West, in particular, believes in the power of thought to solve problems. The educational system focuses its attention on analysis and categorization, and eventually adds the precepts of logical thought as a methodology to work through problems step by step. The scientific method, as it is called, tests a hypothesis by setting up experiments and systematically eliminating options that do not fit, until a conclusion is reached that fits the facts to the hypothesis. The systems of logic follow a strict line of development forcing a ‘solution’ at the end of the process. The limitation of this system is that everything is framed within the parameters of the logical intellect. Thus, eventually problems are unable to be solved when they involve complex variables, sometimes in conflict with one another, within the mental realm. At some point the only solution lies in exceeding the limits of the mind and entering into a different frame of consciousness that is not bound by mental logic.

If we are looking for the development of a new form of consciousness, the next phase in the evolutionary cycle, we must eventually recognize that the mind can neither fully understand nor judge the functioning of that next evolutionary phase. In fact, the mind must fall into a state of silent receptivity if a new and more powerful movement of consciousness is to manifest.

We find, if we examine the statements of individuals who are recognised as leading seers, thinkers, and developers, people such as Nikola Tesla, Albert Einstein, and Sri Aurobindo, that they do not rely on the logical intellect to gain insight into the nature of reality and the developments that are possible. They speak of a process of intuition that takes the place of logical thought through cultivation of silence and receptivity. The intuitive process that represents the first openings to a higher formation of consciousness can be seen operative in such individuals who are hailed as geniuses in today’s world, simply because they already have insight and the power to access these higher ranges, as forerunners for the rest of humanity. The Mother explains that development in this direction is possible for virtually anyone who is willing to move beyond the stumbling limits of the mental process.

Albert Einstein described his ‘process’: “I think 99 times and find nothing. I stop thinking, swim in silence, and the Truth comes to me.” Einstein has been recognised for his unique insight into the physical universe. He was clearly not limited by the framework of the mental structures that keep us hemmed into pre-digested ideas and solutions. Using a similar process, it is possible to identify and implement new ways of looking at problems we face, and thereby solving issues that have very few, if any, favorable outcomes on the level of thought and logical reasoning process.

The Mother writes: “To learn to be quiet and silent… When you have a problem to solve, instead of turning over in your head all the possibilities, all the consequences, all the possible things one should or should not do, if you remain quiet with an aspiration for goodwill, if possible a need for goodwill, the solution comes very quickly. And as you are silent you are able to hear it.”

“When you are caught in a difficulty, try this method: instead of becoming agitated, turning over all the ideas and actively seeking solutions, of worrying, fretting, running here and there inside your head — I don’t mean externally, for externally you probably have enough common sense not to do that! but inside, in your head — remain quiet. And according to your nature, with ardour or peace, with intensity or widening or with all these together, implore the Light and wait for it to come.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Disturbances of Mind, Anxiety, pp. 44-49

Dealing with Difficulties and Setbacks Along the Way

We tend to judge things, events, opportunities, setbacks, obstacles and directions from the standpoint of our individual ego-personality. When we take up a spiritual path, we expect that our efforts, and our devotion to the guide or master in whom we rely, will smooth the path in front of us and make for a straight, steady development in our yogic pursuits.

What actually occurs, however, is rarely, if ever, a straight undeviating progress. There are twists and turns. Periods of difficulty come along, unexpected obstructions, whether internal or external, are raised up, and we struggle with, on one side, the expectation of a glide-path to yogic success and, on the other side, the reality of the issues we are facing.

The methods of Nature, the universal creation, are, however, not so simple or straightforward. We may make strong progress in one direction, which opens up an area of residual weakness that needs to be addressed before further progress can occur. At that point, the forward momentum appears to stop while we have to go back and deal with things we thought we had long left behind. The next round of upward or forward movement then can begin, with a more solid foundation, on what looks like a cyclical process rather than a direct process.

The evolution of consciousness within the world constituted by Matter, Life and Mind involves sorting out and reconciling somewhat different goals, objectives and operative principles at work within each of the existing stages, and in their interaction with one another. Bringing a next phase to bear involves not only shifting to the new standpoint but integrating its action within the framework of what already exists, and working out the adjustments that those earlier stages must be prepared to accept in order to fully manifest. The advent, for instance, of the supramental action on earth necessitates changes in the texture and capability of response of mind, life and matter. We can see already how slowly the changes take place, and with how much difficulty when we try to adjust anything on these lower planes. This is why endurance, patience, persistence and equanimity are required characteristics for the yogic practitioner who intends to participate in this evolutionary development. There is a proverb that encapsulates much of the attitude the seeker should have in dealing with obstacles and resistances: ‘When life gives you lemons, then make lemonade.’ Everything that occurs, whether we judge these things to be “good” or “bad” are elements in the evolutionary sequence and the need to address change at all levels, not just at the higher planes of existence.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “In the play of the cosmic forces, the will in the cosmos — as one might say — does not always work apparently in favour of a smooth and direct line for the work or the sadhana; it often brings in what seem to be upheavals, sudden turns which break or deflect the line, opposing or upsetting circumstances or perplexing departures from what had been temporarily settled or established. The one thing is to preserve equanimity and make an opportunity and means of progress out of all that happens in the course of the life and the sadhana. There is a higher secret Will transcendent behind the play and will of the cosmic forces — a play which is always a mixture of things favourable and things adverse — and it is that Will which one must wait upon and have faith in; but you must not expect to be able always to understand its workings. The mind wants this or that to be done, the line once taken to be maintained, but what the mind wants is not at all always what is intended in a larger purpose. One has to follow indeed a fixed central aim in the sadhana and not deviate from it, but not to build on outward circumstances, conditions, etc., as if they were fundamental things.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Disturbances of Mind, Anxiety, pp. 44-49

Finding a Solution that Provides Peace Without Sacrificing Progress in the Universal Manifestation

If the drive towards progress is fueled by dissatisfaction and anxiety felt by the individual, we are left with the concern that achieving peace must come at the cost of giving up the active life and the development of consciousness in the world. We either have to sink back to the level of the animal who does not worry about the past or the future, and who lives in a relatively static consciousness, or find a way to escape the world, through renunciation and entering into a form of trance state based in the highest, but not attempting to modify or update the outer consciousness. Both of these methods, however, leave the drive embedded in the very essence of the human soul unfulfilled and thus, cannot be the complete solution to carrying out the significance of our existence.

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother propose a different solution. All of the above noted attempts to achieve peace are rooted in the ego-consciousness. They propose shifting the standpoint of consciousness to a higher level, aligned with the supreme consciousness that manifests the universal creation, and from that standpoint, peace comes from an absolute trust and faith in that creation and the role the individual is intended to play in carrying out the manifestation. Once the burden of action is shifted from the ego to the universal, there is no longer the pressure, nor any cause for anxiety. Thus, peace can be achieved in the consciousness of the individual without abandoning the drive towards the evolution of consciousness inherent in the human soul.

The Mother observes: “That is why all spiritual disciplines begin with the necessity of surrendering all responsibility and relying on a higher principle. Otherwise peace is impossible. … And yet, consciousness has been given to man so that he can progress, can discover what he doesn’t know, develop into what he has not yet become; and so it may be said that there is a higher state than that of an immobile and static peace: it is a trust total enough for one to keep the will to progress, to preserve the effort for progress while ridding it of all anxiety, all care for results and consequences. This is one step ahead of the methods which may be called ‘quietist’, which are founded on the rejection of all activity and a plunging into an immobility and inner silence, which forsake all life because it has been suddenly felt that without peace one can’t have any inner realisation and, quite naturally, one thought that one couldn’t have peace so long as one was living in outer conditions, in the state of anxiety in which problems are set and cannot be solved, for one does not have the knowledge to do so.”

“The next step is to face the problem, but with the calm and certitude of an absolute trust in the supreme Power which knows, and can make you act. And then, instead of abandoning action, one can act in a higher peace that is strong and dynamic. … This is what could be called a new aspect of the divine intervention in life, a new form of intervention of the divine forces in existence, a new aspect of spiritual realisation.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Disturbances of Mind, Anxiety, pp. 44-49