How to rise above the ordinary life?

It is question we may ask ourselves at times “Why don’t we progress spiritually faster?”  Because we may meditate for fifteen minutes but, psychologically, the rest of our life remains untransformed.  The way we eat, the way we talk, the friends we keep, the desires we nurture – none of these  really change.  As long as life does not deliver any adversities which throw us off-track, we let things continue and allow ourselves to languish.  These are a couple of conversations by the Mother Mirra Alfassa on how to rise above the ordinary life that we find ourselves in.

“The unexamined life is not worth living”  (Socrates)

Image by John Fraissinet via Flickr (creative commons). Click image for source

First talk

The ordinary life is a round of various desires and greeds. As long as one is preoccupied with them, there can be no lasting progress. A way out of the round must be discovered. Take, as an instance, that commonest preoccupation of ordinary life the constant thinking by people of what they will eat and when they will eat and whether they are eating enough. To conquer the greed for food an equanimity in the being must be developed such that you are perfectly indifferent towards food. If food is given you, you eat it; if not, it does not worry you in the least; above all, you do not keep thinking about food. And the thinking must not be negative, either. To be absorbed in devising methods and means of abstinence as the sannyasis do is to be almost as preoccupied with food as to be absorbed in dreaming of it greedily. Have an attitude of indifference towards it: that is the main thing.  Get the idea of food out of your consciousness, do not attach the slightest importance to it.

This will be very easy to do once you get into contact with your psychic being, the true soul deep within you. Then you will feel immediately how very unimportant these things are and that the sole thing that matters is the Divine. To dwell in the psychic is to be lifted above all greed. You will have no hankering, no worry, no feverish desire. And you will feel also that whatever happens, happens for the best. Do not misunderstand me to imply that you must always think that everything is for the best. Everything is not for the best so long as you are in the ordinary consciousness. You may be misled into utterly wrong channels when you are not in the right state of consciousness. But once you are poised in the psychic and have made your self-offering to the Divine, all that happens will happen for the best, for everything, however disguised, will be a definite divine response to you.

Indeed the very act of genuine self-giving is its own immediate  reward – it brings with it such happiness, such confidence, such security as nothing else can give. But till the self-giving is firmly psychic there will be disturbances, the interval of dark moments between bright ones. It is only the psychic that keeps on progressing in an unbroken line, its movement a continuous ascension. All other movements are broken and discontinuous. And it is not till the psychic is felt as yourself that you can be an individual even; for it is the true self in you. Before the true self is known, you are a public place, not a being. There are so many clashing forces working in you; hence, if you wish to make real progress, know your own being which is in constant union with the Divine. Then alone will transformation be possible. All the other parts of your nature are ignorant: the mind, for instance, often commits the mistake of thinking that every brilliant idea is also a luminous idea. It can with equal vigour trump up arguments for and against God: it has no infallible sense of the truth. The vital is generally impressed by any show of power and is willing to see in it the Godlike. It is only the psychic which has a just discrimination: it is directly aware of the supreme Presence, it infallibly distinguishes between the divine and the undivine. If you have even for a moment contacted it, you will carry with you a conviction about the Divine which nothing will shake.

How, you ask me, are we to know our true being? Ask for it, aspire after it, want it as you want nothing else. Most of you here are influenced by it, but it should be more than an influence, you should be able to feel identified with it. All urge for perfection comes from it, but you are unaware of the source, you are not collaborating with it knowingly, you are not in identification with its light. Do not think I refer to the emotional part of you when I speak of the psychic. Emotion belongs to the higher vital, not to the pure psychic. The psychic is a steady flame that burns in you, soaring towards the Divine and carrying with it a sense of strength which breaks down all oppositions. When you are identified with it you have the feeling of  the divine truth – then you cannot help feeling also that the whole world is ignorantly walking on its head with its feet in the air!

You must learn to unite what you call your individual self with your true psychic individuality. Your present individuality is a very mixed thing, a series of changes which yet preserves a certain continuity, a certain sameness or identity of vibration in the midst of all flux. It is almost like a river which is never the same and yet has a certain definiteness and persistence of its own. Your normal self is merely a shadow of your true individuality which you will realise only when this normal individual which is differently poised at different times, now in the mental, then in the vital, at other times in the physical, gets into contact with the psychic and feels it as its real being. Then you will be one, nothing will shake or disturb you, you will make steady and lasting progress and be above such petty things as greed for food.

The Mother, Questions and Answers (1929 – 1931): The Ordinary Life and the True Soul

Second talk

You ask me what you must do. It would be better to ask what you must be, because the circumstances and activities in life have not much importance.What is important is our way of reacting towards them.

Human nature is such that when you concentrate on your body you fall ill; when you concentrate on your heart and feelings you become unhappy; when you concentrate on the mind you get bewildered.   And it’s absolutely true!

There are two ways of getting out of this precarious condition.  One is very arduous: it is a severe and continuous tapasya. It is the way of the strong who are predestined for it.

The other is to find something worth concentrating upon that diverts your attention from your small, personal self. The most effective is a big ideal, but there are innumerable things that enter into this category. Most commonly, people choose marriage, because it is the most easily available (Mother laughs). To love somebody and to love children makes you busy and compels you to forget your own self a little. But it is rarely successful, because love is not a common thing.

Others turn to art, others to science; some choose a social or a political life, etc., etc.

But here also, all depends on the sincerity and the endurance with which the chosen path is followed. Because here also, there are difficulties and obstacles to surmount.

So, in life, nothing comes without an effort and a struggle. And if you are not ready for the effort and the struggle, then it is better to accept the fact that life will be dull and unsatisfactory, and submit quietly to this fact. That’s for the complainers.

And it’s absolutely true – true at each stage, on all levels. Whatever level you have attained, even the very highest, if you concentrate on that [the body], it is finished! And all the difficulties begin, you know, with that very concentration that tries to draw down Light and Power – yogic concentration itself.

So it would seem … that if one wants to use his individuality, his body, to transform the whole – that is, if one wants to use his bodily presence to act upon the universal corporeal substance – there’s no end to it. No end to the difficulties, no end to the battle … BATTLE!

Those who try to lead a spiritual life have always been compared to warriors (there are classic writings on this subject), and one must truly be a fighter – ‘fighter’ is more exact than ‘warrior’ because you wage war against no one: everything wages war against you! Everything … (Mother makes a gesture like an avalanche falling upon her) and with such savage opposition! …

You see, as long as there are currents swirling within you – swirling in the mind or the vital – you tell yourself that these currents are the cause of all the difficulties. But when there is nothing any longer? … When there is a serene and immutable peace … but still you are relentlessly hounded – oh, with such ferocity! … You cannot imagine.

The Mother, Mother’s Agenda: February 7, 1961

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19 thoughts on “How to rise above the ordinary life?

  1. Pingback: The ability to withstand hardships in the spiritual path | Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo & The Mother

  2. Mona

    Am always amazed by the magic synchronism that one can experience at a certain level of our spiritual development or growth.
    Mother answers to all questions in our practical daily life, and we just need to open one book, or read your blog and things become clear again. The problem, obstacle, or hindrance being identified, seen, revealed by the eye of consciousness, the effort to remove it becomes easier.
    It seems that the knots or veils are removed by Mother extraordinary accuracy in describing all facts of life.
    It is as if her vision is acting like an eraser in the screen of our consciousness, may be even more powerfully now that she, they, are no longer limited by their physical vehicle.
    We will never Thank You enough for your work of creating and sustaining this Blog. It’s a mine of wealth that keeps Mother’s and Sri Aurobindo Presences alive, dear and near.

    Reply
    1. Sandeep Post author

      We will never Thank You enough for your work of creating and sustaining this Blog. It’s a mine of wealth that keeps Mother’s and Sri Aurobindo Presences alive, dear and near.

      We all play our part in the world, as part of our offering to the Divine.

      Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded”

      Reply
  3. ipi

    Look for the inner causes of disharmony much more than the outer ones.
    It is the inside which governs the outside.
    -The Mother(Words of The Mother Vol I)

    Reply
  4. ipi

    Words of the Mother- Letters to a sadhak

    Disciple: If I could detach myself entirely from this outer world, if I could be quite alone, I would master this depression which I cannot shake off.

    Mother: This is not at all correct; the experience of all recluses, all ascetics, proves indisputably the contrary. The difficulty comes from oneself, from one’s own nature, and one takes it along wherever one goes,whatever the conditions one may be in. There is but one way of getting out of it—it is to conquer the difficulty, overcome one’s lower nature. And is this not easier here, with a concrete and tangible help, than all alone, without anyone to shed light on the path and guide the uncertain footsteps?

    The Mother, Some Answers from the Mother: Letters to a Young Sadhak – IX

    Reply
  5. Pingback: The Aurobindonian model of Karma | Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo & The Mother

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  8. mike

    “And is this not easier here, with a concrete and tangible help, than all alone, without anyone to shed light on the path and guide the uncertain footsteps?”

    Tell me bout it.LOL.
    l wonder sometimes if we shouldn’t learn to leave our bodies at will, so that we can get a ‘concrete and tangible help’!!

    Reply
    1. mwb6119

      Sorry, no words of wisdom to offer. Toughing it out all the same. Hope this is what is intended. I read a little from K D Sentha “Our Light, Our Delight”:

      “All of us have aspired for the grace of being allowed physical nearness to the Mother. … When I complained that I was getting used to her … getting used to the marvel of marvels … I thought I was the only unfortunate one, but I soon learned that what I experienced was nothing exceptional.”

      Reply
  9. mike

    Yes, l can’t really imagine what it must have been like to be around S and M 24/7 like some of their personal attendants; who were close to them for 40-50 years. Although, some of those close disciples became quite hostile to the Mother in the end – She even said in the agenda how they saw Her as a decrepit and senile old woman. lt’s unbelievable that they were still in that ‘state of consciousness’ after close physical contact for half a century.. [you know who mean].
    When we can’t see beyond the physical lt will just remain ‘ordinary’ l suppose. Unless the Psychic is constantly in front, we could live around the most Divine Beings and still not recognise them… it’s a terrible irony..

    Reply
    1. mwb6119

      Yes, terrible. Perhaps it is better being away from such until we are ready. And perhaps that would be the ultimate indication of attainment: seeing.🙂

      Reply
  10. mwb6119

    This is a most encouraging note from The Mother as I am presently in that particular battle field right now! :

    “It is quite normal for difficulties to come back… and it is not a proof that no progress has been made. The recurrence (after one has thought on has conquered) is not unaccountable. I have explained in my writings what happens. When a habitual movement long embedded in the nature is cast out, it takes refuge in some less enlightened part of the nature, and when cast out of the rest of the nature, it takes refuge in the subconscient and from there surges up when you least expect it or comes up in dreams or sudden inconscient movements or it goes out and remains in wait in the environmental being through which the universal Nature works and attacks from there as a force from outside trying to recover its kingdom by a suggestion or a repetition of old movements. One has to stand fast till the power of return fades away. These returns or attacks must be regarded not as parts of oneself, but as invasions — and rejected without allowing any depression or discouragement. If the mind does not sanction them, if the vital refuses to welcome them, if the physical remains steady and refuses to obey the physical urge, then the recurrence of the thought, the vital impulse, the physical feeling will begin to lose its last holds and finally they will be too feeble to cause any trouble.”

    Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga – III: Difficulties of the Path – IX

    Although I am encouraged by the fact that at some point it is possible to “lose its last holds” but, at the same time, it is so hard to see where they are hiding and or when I am at fault (or not), … am I making progress (?), etc….

    Reply
    1. mwb6119

      Found this just now:

      “…for you have deep within you some thing which aspires for another life but doesn’t know how to live that other life, and which pushes from inside in order to get the conditions necessary for this other life. These are inner conditions, they are not outer conditions. But this takes its support on outside obstacles in order to strengthen itself in its will to progress; and so, if you look at it from within, you can even say that it is you yourself who create the difficulties to help you go forward.”

      The Mother, Questions and Answers (1954): 6 October 1954

      Reply
  11. mike

    “But this takes its support on outside obstacles in order to strengthen itself in its will to progress; and so, if you look at it from within, you can even say that it is you yourself who create the difficulties to help you go forward.”

    lt gives me some hope to believe this. That all our problems, troubles and challenges in life are all Divinely orchestrated from within. Once we start aspiring for the True Consciousness in ourselves, our Psychic Being will arrange all external events in order to fulfill that aspiration. At least l think that’s what the Mother is saying.

    Reply

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