The more reactive we are to people and events, the more dispersed our awareness is and this draws away from the ability of the practitioner of the yoga to create and maintain the inner connection to the spiritual force that is pressing to manifest the next phase of the evolutionary development. Thus, it is an essential part of the sadhana to develop, cultivate and stabilize the inner being in a focused status that does not let itself be drawn out into the normal physical, vital, emotional or mental reactions that are experienced in our interactions with the outer world.

This does not imply that we do not participate in the actions in the world, but that the participation is driven by the inner being which remains in constant touch with and tuned to the needs of the spiritual purpose and development. One of the major methods used to do this is the inward separation of the ‘witness” from the ‘doer” in the being. We then begin to observe our thoughts, reactions, feelings, perceptions and all events and activities in the outer world from the status of the witness. With this standpoint, one can remain inwardly calm and dedicated regardless of what is taking place externally. The Bhagavad Gita exemplified this with a teaching that took place on a battlefield. Sri Krishna counseled Arjuna on how to maintain his focus and carry out his divinely ordained action in the world even in the midst of the worst possible conditions under the extremes of warfare, along with all the emotional issues that arose in confronting teachers, respected elders and relatives in the war. The Gita provides an allegory for the inner struggles that we face in all circumstances of life, and provides a comprehensive outline of how to achieve the poise needed to shift from the human to the divine standpoint in one’s interactions in the world.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “The inner spiritual progress does not depend on outer conditions so much as in the way we react to them from within — that has always been the ultimate verdict of spiritual experience. It is why we insist on taking the right attitude and persisting in it, on an inner state not dependent on outer circumstances, a state of equality and calm, if it cannot be at once of inner happiness, on going more and more within and looking from within outwards instead of living in the surface mind which is always at the mercy of the shocks and blows of life. It is only from that inner state that one can be stronger than life and its disturbing forces and hope to conquer.”

“To remain quiet within, firm in the will to go through, refusing to be disturbed or discouraged by difficulties or fluctuations, that is one of the first things to be learned in the Path. To do otherwise is to encourage the instability of consciousness, the difficulty of keeping experience of which you complain. It is only if you keep quiet and steady within that the lines of experience can go on with some steadiness — though they are never without periods of interruption and fluctuation; but these, if properly treated, can then become periods of assimilation and exhaustion of difficulty rather than denials of sadhana.”

“A spiritual atmosphere is more important than outer conditions; if one can get that and also create one’s own spiritual air to breathe in and live in it, that is the true condition of progress.” Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 5 Bases of Yoga, Equality, pp. 124-127

Author's Bio: 

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