Cultural values tend to vary across countries, civilizations and time. This frequently creates confusion as to which actions are spiritual in nature. Those who are raised in traditional societies prefer to conform to some ancient norms while those who are raised in secular societies tend to propound a freewheeling lifestyle. Furthermore, in the frenetic pace of life, it is difficult to distinguish the activities which please the surface personality from the activities which bring deeper joy to the soul. Which movies to watch? Which music to listen to? Which books to read? Which friends are better? The discernment required to choose correctly is often lacking because that discernment itself may not develop until one has advanced in Yoga. Often, it takes an epiphany to awaken and correct oneself after having gone down some wrong path.
The contemporary religious tendency is to divide people into believers and non-believers instead of viewing them all as souls who are part of the One Divine, to regard sin as a deviance from morality subject to punishment rather than a transient condition which can be overcome with growth of consciousness, to assume that deliverance of the soul occurs due to strong belief in God rather than sublime contemplation. These are a couple of discourses by the Mother Mirra Alfassa on how religions are formed.
The ordinary life undulates between inspired action, drudgery, boredom and leisure. Our response to the events of the day is shaped by our memory of the past. Abuse, poverty, illness and betrayal leave their mark on our consciousness making us polarized, disheartened, bitter or hard-charging. To uplift the abased life, the first goal of the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother is the practice and perfection of equanimity (Samata in the words of the Gita) in every aspect of life. Instead of renouncing everything and retiring to some cave/ashram/monastery to meditate, the secret is to live in society and absorb the impacts without inducing stress. To be equal in all circumstances is the first step in perfection because it disengages the Spirit (Purusha) from the material consciousness (Prakriti). It is from the poise of equanimity that we rise into true freedom. The rest of this article covers various aspects of equanimity.
The Divine Will is an elusive thing for sure. The religious preacher confuses his strong beliefs with the Divine Will, the despot attributes his success to it’s action, and spiritual aspirant is supposed to surrender to it. Does any such thing as the Divine Will really exist? How can one recognize it ? The Divine Will does exist because there is a teleological purpose in evolution. Every soul is being led to the Truth through a certain line of evolution, seemingly haphazardly, and it is this Divine Will which subtly goads him to progress forward. Ordinarily, the Divine Will remains concealed due to our ignorance of our true nature but it begins to unveil itself as we gradually erase the ego through Yoga and allied occult-spiritual practices.
When we fall asleep or go into a coma, the greater part of our consciousness recedes from the surface and plunges into the depths of the subliminal being. But there still persists a life-force within the body which can remember and respond when presented with an external stimulus. Writing in the early part of the twentieth century, Sri Aurobindo had outlined this condition of consciousness in his work The Life Divine. Medical science is now offering experimental validation of his observation as adduced from a couple of experiments discussed in this article.
As long as we base our relationships on mundane issues such as the need for space, need for recognition, need for affection and so on, our life remains a compromise and an accommodation with others. As long as we favour creature comforts such as the desire to make (more and more) money, to travel, to chat, to eat well, etc., we stagnate with people who live an aimless life. Two egos bound together will remain two egos if the principles by which they live are not changed. It is only those who are united in their aspiration to live to the highest ideals who can grow psychologically and spiritually through life. Therefore, the best way to have happy relationships is to organize one’s life around high ideals and find someone who wishes to live up to those same ideals. Undoubtedly, there will still be conflicts but these will have to be resolved in favour of high ideals rather than personal predilections. There is no right answer here. Life has to be lived to discover the Truth. These are some observations by the Mother Mirra Alfassa on this topic, which are worth reflecting upon.
The human consciousness in its attempt to know something divides itself into two parts : the first is the movement of identity whereby one gets to know something by becoming that thing and the second is the movement of differentiation where one stands apart as the subject and analyzes the entity as an object. Building on this observation, Sri Aurobindo outlined four epistemic modes of consciousness which differ from each other in the relative intensity of these movements of identity and differentiation .
At a certain stage of spiritual progress, when the mind acquires the ability to stay tranquil for large periods of time and the subtle body disengages itself from the bulk of the physical body and begins to extend freely in the subtle physical world, one starts having those flashes of intuition which are indicative of the working of the greater sense-mind (called Manas in Sanskrit). The mind can see things without the aid of the senses or, as the Katha Upanishad says, mind is the real sense behind the senses.  As per the Mother Mirra Alfassa, some of the esoteric traditions of antiquity recognized that man had not five but twelve senses. The rest of this article outlines the greater powers of the sense-mind with some examples from recent history followed by a method for enhancing the action of the senses.