Progress Simplified for Yearning Minds

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Editor’s note: Imagine you are a teacher facing a class of young energetic students in their late teens. A particular group of students has been consistently creating some or the other disturbance, impacting the overall harmony of the class. In a moment of frustration, you casually tell one of them – young chap, you won’t make any progress in life if you don’t change this habit! The student immediately turns around and asks – but what is progress? Why should I care about it?

How will you address this seemingly simple question?

The following piece is written by an educator with such an audience in mind – her young students who want to know what essentially is progress. In a simple manner she presents here some key aspects of progress and how every minute of life can be an opportunity for progress.


A Teacher’s Address to the Students on Progress

Progress is the law of nature. It is moving to something higher and better. Human beings also keep on continually progressing. Youth is considered as the most productive phase of human life. Though one keeps on progressing throughout life, youth is the period when maximum achievements and victories can be made.

In a limited sense, progress is understood as striving towards an aim. Young minds today generally look at progress as a movement only in one direction – towards more and more material success made in the outer world. And when sometimes a halt comes on their way or some of their plans are shattered, they get disheartened, and in worse cases even start harming themselves.

Right from their tender years, a message must be conveyed to the growing children that progress happens at multiple levels. And that outer visible progress made in a person’s life largely depends upon the inner state of the individual. The real progress is that which adds joy and sense of purpose to one’s life. 

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Broadly, the term can be divided into progress made in the outer world and progress made from within. To get over a bad habit, to inculcate a new habit in oneself, to control one’s negative thoughts and to develop greater goodwill for others – all these are forms of progress which are hundred times more meaningful than any material progress in the outer world.

Each person is born with a certain level of consciousness or awareness. Keeping lit the fire of aspiration within when one walks on the path of progress, one finds that the journey is never straight and the path unfolds in strange ways. Sometimes the pace is slow and various pitfalls may also come on the way.

This experience leads to the realization that the path to progress moves in a spiral direction and perseverance is the key to it. Without perseverance there is a risk of losing hope and falling into a depressive state.

What does it mean to progress?

It is important for youngsters to inculcate an ardent aspiration to seek a deeper meaning and aim of their lives. For life, as the Mother says is “marching forward, climbing towards future revelations and realisations.” Seeking rest is a deadly poison. The Mother says that we are on earth to progress.

Progress for a student may mean making every situation of life an occasion for learning. Modern lifestyle with its excess of comfort and luxury has made human beings lazy and tamasic. The fire which rises up and seeks an advancement in life is quickly extinguished. Progress starts with lighting this inner flame and having a yearning to grow.

The early stages of the path of progress include the realisation of one’s individuality and to create it if lacking. Becoming an individual, when not taken in a narrow literal sense, has much significance and meaning to it. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother speak at great length about what true individualisation means.

The Mother defines progress as: “to be ready, at every minute, to give up all one is and all one has in order to advance on the way.” (CWM, Vol. 15, p. 75).

While this may sound easy but a sincere reflection will show that it is very difficult to follow. It needs leonine strength to fight a conservative and orthodox mindset – one that looks only at the past with no willingness to give up the past gains to create a new future. History is replete with examples of people such as Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Joan of Arc, Shivaji Maharaj and many more who in their own unique ways carved their paths and led the world to new rungs of progress.

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Progress and Perfection: Words of the Mother

Life is meant for marching forward and for attaining victories – small and big – over oneself and over difficulties one is bound to encounter on the way. Each circumstance of life is presented to us as a challenge to learn something new or to achieve something.

Progress is a fruit that brings immense joy and ecstasy. There is no greater victory than winning over one’s wrong habit or negative thinking. Those who get the taste of this victory over themselves – even once and however small – keep on trying again and again to turn their failures into achievements, their shortcomings into strengths. Every moment of their life becomes an occasion of perfecting themselves more and more.

It is high time to realise that one’s future line of progress essentially depends upon oneself and the ideals one sets in front of oneself. One’s intense aspiration and ever-growing will are the keys to true progress.


~ Graphic design: Biswajita Mohapatra

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