Those who practice the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have developed the habit of reading their books either alone or during study circles. They claim that this activity is a meditation in itself which naturally awakens the wisdom needed to respond to the multifarious challenges of life. The Mother herself recommended that disciples read Sri Aurobindo’s books with a blank mind without discussing or explaining the writings to each other. Does this work?
When we say someone is egoistic, we often imply that the person is proud. Sri Aurobindo observed that egoistic movements are actually of three types – sattwic(illumined), rajasic(kineticism) and tamasic(indolent). The sattwic ego revels in the brilliant power of its intelligence, the rajasic ego is eager to dominate, and the tamasic ego wallows in self-pity.
The spiritual path attracts all kinds of people, each endowed with some peculiar psychological strengths and weaknesses. The Bhagavad Gita 7:16 (see Four types of Divine seekers) speaks of four types of spiritual aspirants: those who seek refuge from worldly troubles, those who seek intellectual satisfaction in spiritual knowledge, those who wish to use the Divine strength to fulfill worldly ambitions and above all, those who synthesize devotion and knowledge and seek union with the Divine without expecting anything in return. In this context, Dr Ramesh Bijlani, who is currently affiliated with the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Delhi, has written a perspicacious article detailing some pitfalls that can be observed in young, over-eager spiritual aspirants. This rest of this article is excerpted from his blog.
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.
Yoga is more than meditation and breathing exercises. It also requires cultivating an awareness of one’s own psychology – the traits that one has inherited from one’s parents, culture and environment. One must patiently trace the source of every impulse which arises before it is acted upon. (i.e. “Am I doing this for glory, out of fear, out of habit, etc”). This introspection constitutes the practice of Jnana Yoga (Yoga of knowledge and discrimination), which must be undertaken in order to cleanse the soul of its lower egoistic formations.
Once the spiritual aspirant has steadied himself(herself) in mental silence, he is faced with the next challenge and that is the surrender of the unruly vital personality. The vital (AKA life energy or pranamaya kosha) centered in the region from the heart to the navel is the reservoir of all our fears, desires, attractions and repulsions. The mental ego is easy to identify and isolate; it stamps it’s impress on the train of thoughts and begins to subside when the mind is tranquilized by mental silence. But the vital ego is much more difficult to isolate and subdue for it is stubborn and subtle in it’s working; it is the source of our self-justifications, our revolts, our feeling of self-pity and many other petty movements of our consciousness which often go unnoticed in our daily life. One such outcrop of the vital ego discussed in this post is the feeling of suffocation.
The spiritual ego (or magnified ego) develops when one gets excited by powerful spiritual experiences and begins to take pride in one’s success at Yoga. Here are some excerpts from Sri Aurobindo & The Mother on this matter: