Whenever an individual has any kind of powerful emotion or experience, he tends to “lose himself” in that experience. He becomes angry, or lustful, or ecstatic, or joyful and the feeling takes over his entire being and for a time, he “is” that force. The same thing can, and does, tend to happen with spiritual experiences, particularly those that are intense and which demand attention when they occur. The experience fills the body-life-mind of the external being.

As the spiritual seeker cultivates the growth of consciousness beyond the limits of the body-life-mind complex, however, he becomes aware of a separation between the true inner being, the psychic being or soul-nature, and the external being; or else, he finds that he takes a separate standpoint as a ‘witness’ of the nature. Either way, he is able to observe the action without losing himself entirely in the experience. It is through this shift of standpoint that one also realizes that there are always further heights to scale, greater experiences, and larger opportunities as the consciousness continues to grow and evolve.

It is also helpful if the seeker is able to hold this separation of awareness, so that he does not become imbalanced and lose all sense of proportion and the varying needs that arise to interact with the world, and deal with time, place and circumstances in a realistic and practical way, something that may not occur if the seeker becomes too attached to a particular experience and what he believes it signifies.

For instance, there are individuals who experience the oneness of all existence and therefore say “I am God”. As long as they recognize that everyone else, and each event and circumstance is also ‘God’ they can find a way to maintain balance; however, if they fail to maintain that balanced view, they may put themselves, or others, in harm’s way or otherwise do things which are not in keeping with the harmony in their surroundings.

The Mother comments on the statement ‘One must always be greater than one’s experience.’

The Mother observes: “Whatever may be the nature, the strength and wonder of an experience, you must not be dominated by it to such an extent that it governs your entire being and you lose your balance and your contact with a reasonable and calm attitude. That is to say, when you enter in some way into contact with a force or consciousness which surpasses yours, instead of being entirely dominated by this consciousness or force, you must always be able to remind yourself that it is only one experience among thousands and thousands of others , and that, consequently, its nature is not absolute, it is relative. No matter how beautiful it may be, you can and ought to have better ones: however exceptional it may be, there are others still more marvellous; and however high it may be, you can always rise still higher in future. So, instead of losing one’s head one places the experience in the chain of development and keeps a healthy physical balance so as not to lose the sense or relativity with ordinary life. In this way, there is no risk.”

“The means?… One who knows how to do this will always find it very easy, but for one who doesn’t know it is perhaps a little… a little troublesome. … There is a means. … It is never to lose the idea of the total self-giving to the Grace which is the expression of the Supreme. When one gives oneself, when one surrenders, entrusts oneself entirely to That which is above, beyond all creation, and when, instead of seeking any personal advantage from the experience, one makes an offering of it to the divine Grace and knows that it is from This that the experience comes and that it is to This that the result of the experience must be given back, then one is quite safe. … In other words, no ambition, no vanity, no pride. A sincere self-giving, a sincere humility, and one is sheltered from all danger. There you are, this is what I call being greater than one’s experience.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter VII Growth of Consciousness, Inner Experiences, pp. 143-144

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 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.