The establishment of the witness-consciousness, separated from and observing the actions of the external nature, is an important process, not just for those taking up the practice of the integral yoga; rather, it can be a valuable tool for everyone to be more effective in directing their own lives and understanding the forces that move them. The Mother even indicates that children should be taught how to observe and understand the motive springs of their actions.

The action of the three Gunas, the qualities of Nature, also play a role, as they do in all responses and actions of the external nature, in the deformations. The Guna of Rajas in particular emphasizes the self-aggrandisement of the ego-personality and is characterized by ambition, greed, lust, seeking after fame and recognition, fulfillment of desires of all kinds. When it succeeds temporarily in achieving its objectives, it tends to create imbalances that are disruptive both internally and externally, and these can impact the physical health negatively as well as disturb the mental balance and equanimity. When it fails at its objectives it may tend to either try to force the issue with aggression, or else, it may rebound and fall into states of depression, despair and darkness. In either case, Rajas and Tamas are intimately tied to one another in a virtually unending cycle as long as the individual remains enslaved to the movements of the outer nature and ego-personality. The movements of Sattwa, while seemingly bringing balance and light to the situation will tend, particularly under the coloring influence of Rajas, to become arrogant and rigid, vain and judgmental. Thus, to the extent that the individual can learn how to detach from the external nature and observe as a neutral party, he can begin to see and understand the play of these forces and thereby gain some power to overcome their control over him. This is the basic underlying requirement for the eventual transformation of human nature.

The Mother notes: “To become conscious of the various movements in oneself and be aware of what one does and why one does it, is the indispensable starting-point. The child must be taught to observe, to note his reactions and impulses and their causes, to become a discerning witness of his desires, his movements of violence and passion, his instincts of possession and appropriation and domination and the background of vanity which supports them, together with their counterparts of weakness, discouragement, depression and despair.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Our Many Selves: Practical Yogic Psychology, Chapter 4, Becoming Conscious, pg. 125

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.