For Sri Aurobindo, truth of the spirit is to be lived, not attained by abandonment of life in the world. He looks at the evolution of body, life and mind as steps along the evolutionary process, and each one of them represents an important stage in an ongoing development. The action of these instruments is to be uplifted and perfected as new evolutionary powers enter into the world. The developed human being can participate consciously in this process, and thereby aid in bringing forth these new powers and transforming the nature and thereby the life in the world.

Sri Aurobindo recounts two primary mechanisms whereby the individual aligns himself with this development. The safest and easiest is the linking of the being with the inner psychic entity, the soul, deep within behind the heart. This brings a sense of devotion, compassion, good will and aspiration that helps to overcome all doubts, fears and uncertainties along the way. For some individuals, however, the path of development and linkage lies primarily through the mental centre. This path involves the shifting of the standpoint to one of the witness of the nature, and then exerting from there the pressure to break through the habitual patterns of the external being. Eventually, either way, there must result a harmony between the inner being, the aspiring soul, and the outer nature and actions so that the outer reflects the sense of the inner.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “The other side of discipline is with regard to the activities of the nature, of the mind, of the life-self or vital, of the physical being. Here the principle is to accord the nature with the inner realisation so that one may not be divided into two discordant parts. There are here several disciplines or processes possible. One is to offer all the activities to the Divine and call for the inner guidance and the taking up of one’s nature by a Higher Power. If there is the inward soul-opening, if the psychic being comes forward, then there is no great difficulty — there comes with it a psychic discrimination, a constant intimation, finally a governance which discloses and quietly and patiently removes all imperfections, brings the right mental and vital movements and reshapes the physical consciousness also. Another method is to stand back detached from the movements of the mind, life, physical being, to regard their activities as only a habitual formation of general Nature in the individual imposed on us by past workings, not as any part of our real being; in proportion as one succeeds in this, becomes detached, sees mind and its activities as not oneself, life and its activities as not oneself, the body and its activities as not oneself, one becomes aware of an inner Being within us — inner mental, inner vital, inner physical — silent, calm, unbound, unattached which reflects the true Self above and can be its direct representative; from this inner silent Being proceeds a rejection of all that is to be rejected, an acceptance only of what can be kept and transformed, an inmost Will to perfection or a call to the Divine Power to do at each step what is necessary for the change of the Nature. It can also open mind, life and body to the inmost psychic entity and its guiding influence or its direct guidance. In most cases these two methods emerge and work together and finally fuse into one. But one can begin with either, the one that one feels most natural and easy to follow.”

“Finally, in all difficulties where personal effort is hampered, the help of the Teacher can intervene and bring about what is needed for the realisation or for the immediate step that is necessary.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Exercises for Growth and Mastery, Awakening the Inner Consciousness, pp. 134-138

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at http://sriaurobindostudies.wordpress.com and podcast at https://anchor.fm/santosh-krinsky He is author of 16 books and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.