People in modern society are confused about the meaning, purpose, significance and value of their lives. The society sets goals for them that involve for the most part, material satisfactions through acquisition of wealth, family, and enjoyment, without any further insight provided as to why one should be doing these things. At some point, many people become disillusioned with these objectives and face a crisis and reach a turning point where they either move towards mindless enjoyment of the proffered objects of the senses, or through some intermediate goal of gaining power and influence in society, or, in some cases, when they recognise the transitory nature of these things, they turn away from the entire programme and seek to take up the practice of self-finding, whether through meditation, prayer, or some type of spiritual practice or vision quest. In the West, in particular, the objectives of the life of society are not clearly defined and people may wander aimlessly through their lives. In the Hindu tradition, the ordinary human life was defined by set goals and stages, as Sri Aurobindo briefly describes here. Further, the stage leading to spiritual realisation was included as one of the objectives when the individual had reached the pinnacle of human success, or determined the illusory nature of that success.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “…Apart from external things there are two possible inner ideals which a man can follow. The first is the highest ideal of ordinary human life and the other the divine ideal of yoga. . . . . The ideal of human life is to establish over the whole being the control of a clear, strong and rational mind and a right and rational will to master the emotional, vital and physical being, create a harmony of the whole and develop the capacities whatever they are and fulfil them in life. In the terms of Hindu thought, it is to enthrone the rule of the purified and sattwic buddhi, follow the dharma, fulfilling one’s own svadharma and doing the work proper to one’s capacities, and satisfy kama and artha under the control of the buddhi and the dharma. The object of the divine life, on the other hand, is to realise one’s highest self or to realise God and to put the whole being into harmony with the truth of the highest self or the law of the divine nature, to find one’s own divine capacities great or small and fulfil them in life as a sacrifice to the highest or as a true instrument of the divine Shakti.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Disturbances of the Body and Physical Consciousness, Healing the Nerves, pp. 101-107

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at and podcast at 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.