As the seeker attempts to follow a spiritual path, he frequently finds that he struggles with old habits, desires, feelings, cravings, emotions and ideas. He believes these are part of ‘who he is’ and he thus cannot find a way to overcome them, In some cases, he is deeply attached to some of these things as expressing his unique personality. He does not have any key as to how to go about a self-exceeding in this circumstance.

Sri Aurobindo provides insights that aid the seeker in first, distancing himself from all of these things; and second, gaining mastery over them with the leverage provided by knowledge and detachment. The clue is the separation of the witness consciousness from the active nature. The seeker becomes the observer of all of these forces, energies and impulsions as they act upon his external nature. He begins to recognise that these things are not himself, but are based on a habit of acceptance and response to forces and energies that come from outside. The individual is something of a radio receiver rather than the originator of the content. At some point, when he recognises that these things therefore are not essential parts of himself, he is able to begin to reject their action within himself, and change the focus.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “Men do not know themselves and have not learned to distinguish the different parts of their being; for these are usually lumped together by them as mind, because it is through a mentalised perception and understanding that they know or feel them; therefore they do not understand their own states and actions, or, if at all, then only on the surface. It is part of the foundation of yoga to become conscious of the great complexity of our nature, see the different forces that move it and get over it a control of directing knowledge. We are composed of many parts each of which contributes something to the total movement of our consciousness, our thought, will, sensation, feeling, action, but we do not see the origination or the course of these impulsions; we are aware only of their confused and pell-mell results on the surface upon which we can at best impose nothing better than a precarious shifting order.”

“… man is not made up of one piece but of many pieces and each part of him has a personality of its own. That is a thing which people yet have not sufficiently realised — the psychologists have begun to glimpse it, but recognise only when there is a marked case of double or multiple personality. But all men are like that, in reality.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Our Many Selves: Practical Yogic Psychology, Chapter 1, Our Manifold Being, pp. 4-5

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.