Many people have the mistaken idea that taking up a spiritual practice is somehow due to weakness or inability to deal with the tough conditions of the outer world. They envision seekers retreating from the world and living in a monastey, cloister or ashram, being sheltered from the worst things the world can throw at them, getting regular meals and a peaceful environment to live out their lives. This is however, not the reality of spiritual practice or development.

Spirituality, particularly if it is focused on transformation of life rather than on ‘liberation’ that abandons life, is not easy, not instant and not without its serious challenges. The struggles may take place inwardly, but they represent the attempt to effectuate true change in human nature, to move beyond the control of the ego-personality and the external being, and to act from a new standpoint with a new understanding of the significance of life.

Along the way, therefore, there are many setbacks, many inner pressures to withstand, and eventually, many attacks from the forces that do not want to see change take place, which gravitate to those undertaking the effort to try to discourage, deter or destroy them, so as to preserve the status quo. Seekers also find that the same issue may reoccur with a new energy when another part of the being is taken up for review and change, so it seems like the same ground has to be fought and refought, time and again.

The main qualities needed to succeed in the spiritual path are the basic aspiration to change, and the endurance to stay the course no matter how difficult things get or how long it takes to take the next or the successive steps along the way.

Sri Aurobnido observes: “Everything once gained is there and can be regained. Yoga is not a thing that goes by one decisive rush one way or the other — it is a building up of a new consciousness and is full of ups and downs. But if one keeps to it the ups have a habit of resulting by accumulation in a decisive change — therefore the one thing to do is to keep at it. After a fall don’t wail and say, ‘I’m done for,’ but get up, dust yourself and proceed farther on the right path.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter VI Growth of Consciousness, Difficulties and Pitfalls, pg. 124

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 17 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.