The shift from the standpoint of the desire-soul of the ego is not something that can occur completely and all at once. There are too many persistent threads of the instincts and habits of the mind-life-body complex to expect so radical a change to happen magically. There may be, and generally are, experiences which come to the seeker that confirm the fact of another status of consciousness wherein resides peace, light, harmony, knowledge and a force that is palpable, working on the mind, working on the vital, working on the body. These experiences are like signposts along the way, and when they withdraw, the time comes for putting the subtle fruits of that experience to work in the day-to-day activity of the being.

Rejecting the vibratory force of desire when it tries to enter and take over the vital being, is one such action that tends to take time. The main point for the seeker is to avoid being either impatient or frustrated when the inevitable moments of failure come and the being is possessed by the action of desire.

There is an apocryphal story of Thomas Edison, the American inventor who was once asked why he kept repeating the very same experiments time and again in the face of hundreds of failures to achieve his intended result. His response essentially was that he had now compiled hundreds of ways not to do it! Eventually he would find the one way that would work (and he did).

Similarly, when the individual takes up the yogic sadhana, there will be many instances where the observational stance of the witness consciousness is lost in the rush of the vital energy or the physical action. And even if the witness consciousness remains, there will be times when the uprush of desire overwhelms the being. This may happen time after time, but if there is a steady, persistent, patient will, without despair caused by tamasic response to failure, and without the aggressive reactions of frustrated rajas, eventually the result eventuates.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “Everything which it hankers after is desirable to the vital — but the desire has to be rejected. ‘I won’t desire’ is quite the right thing to say, even if ‘I don’t desire’ cannot yet be said by the vital. Still there is something in the being that can even say ‘I don’t desire’ and refuse to recognise the vital desire as part of the true being. It is that consciousness which the peace and power bring that has to be recognised as the true ‘I’ and made permanent in front.”

“It is difficult to get rid of desires altogether all at once — if the right ones have the upper hand, that already makes the ultimate victory sure. Therefore don’t allow that to trouble you. A progressive change is the way these things work out — and if the progress has begun, then there can be a fundamental sense of certitude about the outcome of the sadhna and a quiet view upon what has to be done because it is sure to be done.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Disturbances of the Vital, Transforming the Vital, pp. 69-85

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 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.