Spiritual progress is an ongoing process that requires patience, persistence, endurance and strength of purpose, along with the focus of energy needed to achieve any substantial realisations. Some people believe that spirituality is something weak and ineffective, that leads people to abandon the life of the world, in many cases out of fear or exhaustion, or lack of will. But in reality, spirituality requires more energy, not less, to be gathered and focused as it involves overcoming the inertia of the habitual patterns of life. An understanding of the action of the three gunas is helpful in appreciating what is needed. When tamas is in the ascendent, it brings with it darkness, torpor, laziness, tiredness, weakness of will. This is not a basis for spiritual growth! In the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna specifically admonishes Arjuna, when he indicated he would refuse to fight at the start of the battle of kurukshetra. He insisted that Arjuna give up the weakness that was taking the appearance of a higher calling to non-violence. In Arjuna’s case, the weakness was not fear of battle, but a darkness of understanding that provided Sri Krishna with the opportunity to bring true enlightenment to his disciple.

Additionally, many people who are exploring the inner landscape and psychology mistake the first glimpses for the full realisation and use this as an opportunity to rest on their laurels and accept the glimpse as the goal. In reality, the progress possible in the spiritual life is an unending series of advances, and any periods of ‘rest’ represent only an opportunity to assimilate, gather new focus and energy and then prepare oneself to move on to the next ascent.

The Mother writes: “How many times in life does one meet people who become pacifists because they are afraid to fight, who long for rest before they have earned it, who are satisfied with a little progress and in their imagination and desires make it into a marvellous realisation so as to justify their stopping half-way.”

“In ordinary life, already, this happens so much. Indeed, this is the bourgeois ideal, which has deadened mankind and made man into what he is now: ‘Work while you are young, accumulate wealth, honour, position; be provident, have a little foresight, put something by, lay up a capital, become an official — so that later when you are forty you ‘can sit down’, enjoy your income and later your pension and, as they say, enjoy a well-earned rest.’ — To sit down, to stop on the way, not to move forward, to go to sleep, to go downhill towards the grave before one’s time, cease to live the purpose of life — to sit down!”

“The minute one stops going forward, one falls back. The moment one is satisfied and no longer aspires, one begins to die. Life is movement, it is effort, it is a march forward the scaling of a mountain, the climb towards new revelations, towards future realisations. Nothing is more dangerous than wanting to rest. It is in action, in effort, in the march forward that repose must be found, the true repose of complete trust in the divine Grace, of the absence of desires, of victory over egoism.”

“True repose comes from the widening, the universalisation of the consciousness. Become as vast as the world and you will always be at rest. In the thick of action, in the very midst of the battle, the effort, you will know the repose of infinity and eternity.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, General Methods and Principles, Rest and Relaxation, pp. 9-11

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 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.