One of the great obstacles to the reception and activation of the higher forces of consciousness are the pre-existing habits of action and reaction in the mind-life-body complex. We are constantly pulled in one direction or another, we react to events and circumstances from our narrow ego-standpoint, and try to enforce our desired results on people and activities. There is no room, in this reactive state, for a new focus and action of consciousness to occur. Thus arises the need to bring the reactive psychology to a state of quiet and receptivity. The achievement of an inner status of equality is essential for shifting the center of action from the mind-life-body to the higher levels and planes.

When we consider the concept of equality of reaction, we generally try out different methodologies internally. Sometimes we attempt a form of stoicism, the ability to withstand the intensity and pressure of events or circumstances through exercise of will. Other times, we try to avoid the events through a form of external renunciation, the withdrawal from the society and its activities in favor of the forest, the cave, the monastery, the desert retreat, etc. Some try to cultivate a sense of non-attachment while actively indulging in the fulfillment of the forces of life and meeting the desires head-on.

Sri Aurobindo has indicated that yoga is ‘applied psychology’ and it is the inner psychology of the seeker that takes up the process and undergoes the changes. After all the various attempts to achieve equality in the mind, emotions, vital reactions and physical body, eventually the seeker must find with the aid of the divine forces that are attempting to manifest, a balanced relationship to the world that allows full and free action, while removing the limitations of desire and attachment that come with the normal human psychology. The establishment of a higher consciousness does not result in a lowering of either awareness or involvement in life; rather it should lead to an increase in conscious participation. For some there may even be a period where the inner experience is at odds with the outer circumstances, so that events that would ordinarily cause reactions are perceived from the inner vision in a totally different manner and thus, the reactions do not occur.

The Taittiriya Upanishad makes this point when it describes the successively higher levels of bliss (Ananda) that are to be attained by the “veda-wise, whose soul the blight of desire touches not.” To act without desire, in a pure, powerful and engaged manner, is a basis of yogic development. This message is reinforced strongly in the Bhagavad Gita as well.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “Not to be disturbed by either joy or grief, pleasure or displeasure by what people say or do or by any outward things is called in yoga a state of samata, equality to all things. It is of immense importance in sadhana to be able to reach this state. It helps the mental quietude and silence as well as the vital to come. It means indeed that the vital itself and the vital mind are already falling silent and becoming quiet. The thinking mind is sure to follow. … Equality is to remain unmoved within in all conditions. … There can be no firm foundation in sadhana without equality, samata. Whatever the unpleasantness of circumstances, however disagreeable the conduct of others, you must learn to receive them with a perfect calm and without any disturbing reaction. These things are the test of equality. It is easy to be calm and equal when things go well and people and circumstances are pleasant; it is when they are the opposite that the completeness of the calm, peace, equality can be tested, reinforced, made perfect. Samata does not mean the absence of ego, but the absence of desire and attachment. The ego-sense may disappear or it may remain in a subtilised or dense form — it depends on the person.” 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.