It is human nature to want to categorize and pigeon-hole what happens and make developments fit into definitions of our choosing. This same thing occurs when we look at openings of the spiritual nature and the development of or transformation of consciousness. Not only do we want to define and categorize, but we want to overlay our own preferred view and methods onto other people and use that template to try to understand and judge others, their spiritual practice and their inner development.

Sri Aurobindo reminds us that each individual has his own way to the realisation and we cannot thereby either judge that individual’s progress, nor force them to accept our definitions. Endless disputes can thus be avoided! Sri Aurobindo provides the example of how we understand “Divine Grace”. Those who do not accept intellectually any form of personal divinity will not accept the concept of ‘divine grace’. Looked at from their viewpoint, however, Sri Aurobindo finds a way to reconcile the viewpoint of those who accept a personal form of the Divine and those who do not. The important thing here is not the label, the definition, the framework of understand, but the reality of an opening and a transformation of consciousness. However it occurs, through whatever method attained, the change is welcomed and recognised as part of the evolutionary development within which all are involved.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “Each mind can have its own way of approaching the supreme Truth and there is an entrance for each as well as a thousand ways for the journey to it. It is not necessary to believe in the Grace or to recognise a Godhead different from one’s highest Self — there are ways of yoga that do not accept these things. Also, for many no form of yoga is necessary — they arrive at some realisation by a sort of pressure of the mind or the heart or the will braking the screen between it and what is at once beyond it and its own source. What happens after the breaking of the screen depends on the play of the Truth on the consciousness and the turn of the nature. There is no reason, therefore, why X’s realisation of his being should not come in its own way by growth from within, not by the Divine Grace, if his mind objects to that description, but, let us say, by the spontaneous movement of the Self within him.”

“For, as to this ‘Grace’, we describe it in that way because we feel in the infinite Spirit or Self-existence a Presence or a being, a Consciousness that determines, — that is what we speak of as the Divine, — not a separate person, but the one Being of whom our individual self is a portion or a vessel. But it is not necessary for everybody to regard it that way. Supposing it is the impersonal Self of all only, yet the Upanishad says of this Self and its realisation: ‘This understanding is not to be gained by reasoning nor by tapasya nor by much learning, but whom this Self chooses, to him it reveals its own body’. Well, that is the same thing as what we call the Divine Grace; we can call it the Self within choosing its own hour and way to manifest to the mental instrument on the surface; we can call it the flowering of the inner being or inner nature into self-realisation and self-knowledge. As something in us approaches it or as it presents itself to us, so the mind sees it. But in reality it is the same thing and the same process of the being in Nature.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter V Growth of Consciousness, Means and Methods, pp. 105-106

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.