There is considerable confusion about spirituality and spiritual practice. We tend to conflate “good works” with spiritual progress, when in many cases, these good works, while necessary and helpful in the world at large, actually arise from a mental or vital call to action rather than from the Divine as a direct imperative. The first goal in Yoga is to realise the Divine, to shift the consciousness from the human mental, separative and fragmented standpoint to the Divine standpoint. The realisation of the Divine then dictates the type, form and process of any action to be taken up and implemented in the world.

The danger of a mental realisation substituting for the Divine Presence is that it distracts and thereby creates obstacles to the actual needed focus and result. Eventually the mental plan or vital construct winds up in a dead end and is shown to not bring the breakthrough needed to move the Divine manifestation forward.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “To find the Divine is indeed the first reason for seeking the spiritual Truth and the spiritual life; it is the one thing indispensable and all the rest is nothing without it. The Divine once found, to manifest Him, — that is, first of all to transform one’s own limited consciousness into the Divine Consciousness, to live in the infinite Peace, Light, Love, Strength, Bliss, to become that in one’s essential nature and, as a consequence, to be its vessel, channel, instrument in one’s active nature. To bring into activity the principle of oneness on the material plane or to work for humanity is a mental mistranslation of the Truth — these things cannot be the first true object of spiritual seeking. We must find the Self, the Divine, then only can we know what is the work the Self or the Divine demands from us. … As we grow in the inner consciousness, or as the spiritual Truth of the Divine grows in us, our life and action must indeed more and more flow from that, be one with that. But to decide beforehand by our limited mental conceptions what they must be is to hamper the growth of the spiritual Truth within. As that grows we shall feel the Divine Light and Truth, the Divine Power and Force, the Divine Purity and Peace working within us, dealing with our actions as well as our consciousness, making use of them to reshape us into the Divine Image, removing the dross, substituting the pure gold of the Spirit. Only when the Divine Presence is there in us always and the consciousness transformed, can we have the right to say that we are ready to manifest the Divine on the material plane. To hold up a mental ideal or principle and impose that on the inner working brings the danger of limiting ourselves to a mental realisation or of impeding or even falsifying by a halfway formation the true growth into the full communion and union with the Divine and the free and intimate outflowing of His will in our life. … The divinisation of the material life also as well as the inner life is part of what we see as the Divine Plan, but it can only be fulfilled by an outflowing of the inner realisation, something that grows from within outwards, not by the working out of a mental principle.” Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, The Integral Yoga and the Ordinary Life, pp. 7-8

Author's Bio: 

Santosh Krinsky has been studying the writings of Sri Aurobindo since 1971. He is the author of 16 books introducing the major writings of Sri Aurobindo and he writes a daily blog at He is also editor in chief at Lotus Press and President of the non-profit Institute for Wholistic Education, focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.