When we take up the question of how to go about changing human nature, we are confronted with the difficulty of that attempt. Instincts, habits, trained responses, ‘nature’ and ‘nurture’ all conspire to maintain the status quo. When we attempt to make any change, we run up against the opposition of this status quo within ourselves, and the fact that the vital being can influence the mind to justify whatever it wants to do, even if those things are diametrically opposed to the evolutionary attempt.

Albert Einstein noted at one point that one cannot solve a problem with the same consciousness that created that problem. Thus, it is necessary to transcend the framework of the mind-life-body complex and its habitual patterns in order to effectuate real and lasting change. Yet, the process of transcendence is held back by the very nature that we would like to modify and transform.

This situation makes the change process one that requires patience, perseverance and a shift of standpoint. As long as we remain fixed in the normal human standpoint rooted in the body-life-mind, we cannot expect any substantive change to occur. Spiritual experiences, to the extent they show us the reality of another level or form of consciousness, are helpful to the extent they support our faith and widen our understanding. At some point, however, the consciousness needs to shift to a new basis in the soul, the psychic being, which can observe the functioning of the human instrument and guide it into new directions without attachment or involvement. The shift allows the individual to begin to exercise control over the outer nature and its habitual actions, reactions, patterns and processes.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “To change the nature is not easy and always takes time, but if there is no inner experience, no gradual emergence of the other purer consciousness that is concealed by all these things you now see, it would be almost impossible even for the strongest will. You say that first you must get rid of all these things, then have the inner experiences. But how is that to be done? These things, anger, jealousy, desire are the very stuff of the ordinary human vital consciousness. They could not be changed if there were not a deeper consciousness within which is of quite another character. There is within you a psychic being which is divine, directly a part of the Mother, pure of all these defects. It is covered and concealed by the ordinary consciousness and nature, but when it is unveiled and able to come forward and govern the being, then it changes the ordinary consciousness, throws all these undivine things out and changes the outer nature altogether. That is why we want the sadhaks to concentrate, to open this concealed consciousness — it is by concentration of whatever kind and the experiences it brings that one opens and becomes aware within and the new consciousness and nature begin to grow and come out. Of course we want them also to use their will and reject the desires and wrong movements of the vital, for by doing that the emergence of the true consciousness becomes possible. But rejection alone cannot succeed; it is by rejection and by inner experience and growth that it is done.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter VII Growth of Consciousness, Inner Experiences, pp. 137-138

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.