Progress in Sadhana: Words of Sri Aurobindo

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Editor’s note: Featured here is some highly practical guidance by Sri Aurobindo selected from his letters about how inner nearness to the Mother and a constant opening to her force are key to making progress in sadhana. The editors have made a few formatting changes such as adding a few sub-headings and shortening the paragraph length for the ease of online readability, with no alterations to the text.


Opening to the Mother’s Force

If there is no opening, the Force may act for a long time without response—and if there is an insufficient opening then the progress will be slow and chequered by great difficulties.

Let nothing and nobody come between you and the Mother’s force. It is on your admitting and keeping that force and responding to the true inspiration and not on any ideas the mind may form that success will depend. Even ideas or plans which might otherwise be useful, will fail if there is not behind them the true spirit and the true force and influence.

~ CWSA, Vol. 32, p. 193

If you cannot advance in your sadhana, it is because you are divided and do not give yourself without reserve.

You speak of surrendering everything to the Mother but you have not done even the one thing which she asked of you and which you have promised more than once. If after having called the action of the Divine Force, you allow other influences to prevail, how can you expect to be free from obstruction and difficulties?

~ CWSA, Vol. 32, p. 194

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Disciple: Nowadays my vital nature gets excited about anything and everything, even trifles. From morning to night it is in an unhappy condition. I have my doubts whether it can be changed. I know that it is not in my power to do the work; the Mother’s Grace alone can do it. My outer mind needs some rays of hope.

It is to be assumed that you are capable of the change since you are here in the presence and under the protection of the Mother. The pressure and help of the Mother’s Force is always there.

Your rapidity of progress depends upon your keeping yourself open to it and rejecting calmly, quietly and steadily all suggestions and invasions of other forces. Especially the nervous excitement of the vital has to be rejected; a calm and quiet strength in the nervous being and the body is the only sound basis. It is there for you to receive, if you open yourself to it always.

~ CWSA, Vol. 32, p. 194

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How does the Force Work to Help the Sadhak Progress?

Disciple: When a sadhak works with the right attitude and the higher Force acts in him directly, how does the Force work to purify or remove his defects and imperfections?

It acts

  • by awakening the inner consciousness gradually or swiftly,
  • by replacing the principle of ego-service by the principle of service of the Divine,
  • by making him watch his actions and see his own defects and pushing him to rectify them,
  • by establishing a connection between his consciousness and the Mother’s consciousness,
  • by preparing his nature to be taken up more and more by the Mother’s consciousness and force,
  • by giving him experiences which make him ready for the major experiences of Yoga,
  • by stimulating the growth of his psychic being,
  • by opening him to the Mother as the Universal Being, etc. etc.

Naturally it acts differently in different persons.

~ CWSA, Vol. 32, p. 198

Disciple: In a dream yesterday I was walking in the street, carrying some kind of big flat drum. Just for fun I touched it with my fingers and very sweet musical sounds were produced. Perhaps it was a broken drum, for no one expected any music to come from it, but as I went on playing, fine music was coming out.

It is a symbol of the harmony that can be brought out of the human nature in spite of its present imperfection when one gives it the true touch, that is, puts it under the true psychic influence.

Disciple: People around me were charmed by the music. I was very happy and played more and more; many new fine tunes were coming from the drum as if they were simply ready made.

Always keep open to the Mother’s Force—let the inner consciousness develop—only that will help and deliver from all difficulties as the openness in the physical grows in you.

~ CWSA, Vol. 32, p. 196

* * * * *

Do Not Yield to Despair and Gloom, Call in the Mother’s Force

Disciple: There are some people here who remain constantly in despair and gloom because they have become conscious of their minutest imperfections, but they are unable to get rid of them.

They are unable for two reasons: (1) because they yield to despair and gloom and the illusion of impotence, (2) because they try only with their own strength and do not care or know how to call in the working of the Mother’s force.

~ CWSA, Vol. 32, p. 197

* * * * *

Inner Nearness to the Mother and Progress in Sadhana

It is the inner nearness that matters. The idea of the mind—quite natural, of course—that the outer closeness is the sign of the relation or a special favour or the means of rapid progress is not borne out by experience.

There are some who see the Mother daily and are very little advanced from what they were years ago—there were others who got worse because it fostered the vital demand in them—on the other hand there are some quite close to the Mother and forward on the path and cherished by her who come to her only very occasionally—and I could instance one case in which there is an interview only once a year, yet there is no one who has made more rapid progress or in whom the love relation has grown to a greater intensity and fervour.

In all these things it is best to have an entire confidence in the Mother and the light that guides her.

~ CWSA, Vol. 32, p. 494

* * * * *

If one has the close inner relation, one feels the Mother always near and within and round and there is no insistence on the closer physical relation for its own sake.

Those who have not this, should aspire for it and not hanker after the other. If they get the outer closeness, they will find that it means nothing without the inner oneness and closeness. One may be physically near the Mother and yet as far from her as the Sahara desert.

~ CWSA, Vol. 32, p. 495

* * *

. . . nothing can be farther from the actual and practical truth than to suppose that those who have a physical nearness to the Mother or have frequent physical approach are happier or more satisfied than others; it is not in the least true. . .

If you could only get rid of this delusion, nothing would be able to prevent the growth of the Peace and that inner nearness which alone makes people in this Asram divinely happy.

Happiness comes from the soul’s satisfaction, not from the vital’s or the body’s. The vital is never satisfied; the body soon ceases to be moved at all by what it easily or always has. Only the psychic being brings the real joy and felicity.

~ CWSA, Vol. 32, pp. 495-496

* * * * *

It is only when one is inwardly open to her that one profits by the “contact” with her, not the physical but the spiritual or inner contact, and then the mere thought of her or a mere thought from her can set right anything wrong; then the physical contact also can help, but it is not indispensable.

And as for understanding her, it is only by entering into the spiritual consciousness that one can understand her, or if not understand in the mind, at least feel and respond to what she is through an increasing oneness.

~ CWSA, Vol. 32, p. 499

* * * * *

To come physically to the Mother for getting rid of a disturbance is unnecessary and useless; it is inwardly that you must take refuge in her and throw away the wrong movement. . .  

To come physically would only create a habit of getting wrong and coming to her to get right and it would also lead to the wrong movement of throwing the difficulty on her instead of inwardly giving it up, making its surrender. But it is the general surrender that is needed which would prevent these useless disturbances over trifling matters, egoisms, insistences on one’s own point of view, anger because one does not have one’s own way or a due recognition of one’s independence or importance.

~ CWSA, Vol. 32, p. 499

Disciple: Is there any special effect of physical nearness to the Mother?

It is indispensable for the fullness of the sadhana on the physical plane. Transformation of the physical and external being is not possible otherwise.

Disciple: Is it not likely that with more outer nearness and familiarity with the Mother, there may be less inner growth of consciousness and perhaps less aspiration?

It depends on the person. Some profit, some do not. No general statement can be made.

Disciple: Is it possible to receive the Mother’s help at a great distance—say Bombay or Calcutta—almost in the same way as here in the Asram?

One can receive everywhere, and if there is a strong spiritual consciousness one can make great progress. But experience does not support the idea that it makes no difference or is almost the same.

~ CWSA, Vol. 32, pp. 493-494

* * * * *

Disciple: You have said that those who are doing sadhana outside the Asram cannot do it fully—the daily touch and nearness of the Mother, gained by living in the Asram, alone can bring a possibility of transformation. Carrying this idea a little further, it naturally follows that those who live nearer to the Mother and meet her more often are of the inner circle, and even outwardly are more intimate, that is, nearer transformation. Q.E.D.?

Living in the Asram is one thing, living with the Mother in close proximity is another. Your Q.E.D., like most mental logic, is contradicted by the facts of life.

One could argue on that basis that A who lives in the same house as the Mother is nearer perfection than B and much nearer than C or D who live outside. D never meets the Mother except at Pranam and on her birthday, so she must be an utterly backward person and E who meets the Mother daily for 5, 10, 15 or 20 minutes must be far ahead of her, well on towards perfection.

But these things are not so. So the argument breaks down at every point. Progress in sadhana or superior capacity is not dependent on one’s being near the Mother or meeting her more often. Q.E.D.

~ CWSA, Vol. 32, pp. 500-501

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