What is Yogic Samatā?: Sri Aurobindo Explains

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Editor’s note: Sri Aurobindo explains the true meaning of equality. His letter dealing with samatā and loyalty to truth is especially relevant for our present times. We have made only a few formatting changes for the purposes of this digital presentation. No alteration to the text has been made.


Equality of Soul

Yogic Samatā is equality of soul, equanimity founded on the sense of the one Self, the one Divine everywhere—seeing the One in spite of all differences, degrees, disparities in the manifestation.

The mental principle of equality tries to ignore or else to destroy the differences, degrees and disparities, to act as if all were equal there or to try and make all equal. It is like Hriday, the nephew of Ramakrishna, who when he got the touch from Ramakrishna began to shout, “Ramakrishna, you are the Brahman and I too am the Brahman; there is no difference between us”, till Ramakrishna, as he refused to be quiet, had to withdraw the power.

Or like the disciple who refused to listen to the Mahout and stood before the elephant, saying, “I am Brahman”, until the elephant took him up in his trunk and put him aside. When he complained to his Guru, the Guru said, “Yes, but why didn’t you listen to the Mahout Brahman? That was why the elephant Brahman had to lift you up and put you out of harm’s way.” In the manifestation there are two sides to the Truth and you cannot ignore either.

~ Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 29, p. 129

Equality – Chief Support of the True Spiritual Consciousness

Equality is the chief support of the true spiritual consciousness and it is this from which the sadhak deviates when he allows a vital movement to carry him away in feeling or speech or action.

Equality is not the same thing as forbearance,—though undoubtedly a settled equality immensely extends, even illimitably, a man’s power of endurance and forbearance.

Equality means a quiet and unmoved mind and vital;

  • it means not to be touched or disturbed by things that happen or things said or done to you but to look at them with a straight look, free from the distortions created by personal feeling, and to try to understand what is behind them, why they happen, what is to be learnt from them, what is it in oneself which they are cast against and what inner profit or progress one can make out of them;
  • it means self-mastery over the vital movements, anger and sensitiveness and pride as well as desire and the rest, not to let them get hold of the emotional being and disturb the inner peace, not to speak and act in the rush and impulsion of these things, always to act and speak out of a calm inner poise of the spirit.

It is not easy to have this equality in any full and perfect measure, but one should always try more and more to make it the basis of one’s inner state and outer movements.

Equality means another thing—to have an equal view of men and their nature and acts and the forces that move them; it helps one to see the truth about them by pushing away from the mind all personal feeling in one’s seeing and judgment and even all mental bias.

Personal feeling always distorts and makes one see in men’s actions, not only the actions themselves, but things behind them which, more often than not, are not there. Misunderstanding and misjudgment which could have been avoided are the result; things of small consequence assume large proportions. I have seen that more than half of the untoward happenings of this kind in life are due to this cause.

But in ordinary life personal feeling and sensitiveness are a constant part of human nature and may be needed there for self-defence, although, I think, even there, a strong, large and equal attitude towards men and things would be a much better line of defence.

But, for a sadhak, to surmount them and live rather in the calm strength of the spirit is an essential part of his progress.

The first condition of inner progress is to recognise whatever is or has been a wrong movement in any part of the nature,—wrong idea, wrong feeling, wrong speech, wrong action,—and by wrong is meant what departs from the Truth, from the higher consciousness and higher self, from the way of the Divine.

Once recognised it is admitted,—not glossed over or defended,—and it is offered to the Divine for the Light and Grace to descend and substitute for it the right movement of the true consciousness.

~ Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 29, pp. 130-131

Passive and Active Equality

. . . the complete and perfect equality. . . has two sides. It must therefore be arrived at by two successive movements. One will liberate us from the action of the lower nature and admit us to the calm peace of the divine being; the other will liberate us into the full being and power of the higher nature and admit us to the equal poise and universality of a divine and infinite knowledge, will of action, Ananda.

The first may be described as a passive or negative equality, an equality of reception which fronts impassively the impacts and phenomena of existence and negates the dualities of the appearances and reactions which they impose on us.

The second is an active, a positive equality which accepts the phenomena of existence, but only as the manifestation of the one divine being and with an equal response to them which comes from the divine nature in us and transforms them into its hidden values.

The first lives in the peace of the one Brahman and puts away from it the nature of the active Ignorance. The second lives in that peace, but also in the Ananda of the Divine and imposes on the life of the soul in nature the signs of the divine knowledge, power and bliss of being.

It is this double orientation united by the common principle which will determine the movement of equality in the integral Yoga.

The effort towards a passive or purely receptive equality may start from three different principles or attitudes which all lead to the same result and ultimate consequence,—endurance, indifference and submission.

The principle of endurance relies on the strength of the spirit within us to bear all the contacts, impacts, suggestions of this phenomenal Nature that besieges us on every side without being overborne by them and compelled to bear their emotional, sensational, dynamic, intellectual reactions.

~ CWSA, Vol. 24, p. 709

Active or Positive Equality

. . . a Yoga of positive and active. . . equality. . . requires, first, a new knowledge which is the knowledge of unity,—to see all things as oneself and to see all things in God and God in all things.

There is then a will of equal acceptance of all phenomena, all events, all happenings, all persons and forces as masks of the Self, movements of the one energy, results of the one power in action, ruled by the one divine wisdom; and on the foundation of this will of greater knowledge there grows a strength to meet everything with an untroubled soul and mind.

There must be an identification of myself with the self of the universe, a vision and a feeling of oneness with all creatures, a perception of all forces and energies and results as the movement of this energy of my self and therefore intimately my own; not, obviously, of my ego-self which must be silenced, eliminated, cast away,—otherwise this perfection cannot come,—but of a greater impersonal or universal self with which I am now one.

~ CWSA, Vol. 24, p. 715

Equality in Times of Trouble

Equality is a very important part of this Yoga; it is necessary to keep equality under pain and suffering—and that means to endure firmly and calmly, not to be restless or troubled or depressed or despondent, to go on in a steady faith in the Divine Will.

But equality does not include inert acceptance.

If, for instance, there is temporary failure of some endeavour in the sadhana, one has to keep equality, not to be troubled or despondent, but one has not to accept the failure as an indication of the Divine Will and give up the endeavour.

You ought rather to find out the reason and meaning of the failure and go forward in faith towards victory. So with illness—you have not to be troubled, shaken or restless, but you have not to accept illness as the Divine Will, but rather look upon it as an imperfection of the body to be got rid of as you try to get rid of vital imperfections or mental errors.


To be free from all preference and receive joyfully whatever comes from the Divine Will is not possible at first for any human being.

What one should have at first is the constant idea that what the Divine wills is always for the best even when the mind does not see how it is so, to accept with resignation what one cannot yet accept with gladness and so to arrive at a calm equality which is not shaken even when on the surface there may be passing movements of a momentary reaction to outward happenings. If that is once firmly founded, the rest can come.

~ CWSA, Vol. 29, pp. 134-135

Equanimity in Work

Helpless acceptance [of difficulties] is no part of the Yoga of works—what is necessary is a calm equanimity in the face both of helpful and adverse, fortunate or unfortunate happenings, good or evil fortune, success or failure of effort. One must learn to bear without flinching and disturbance, without rajasic joy or grief, doing all that is necessary, but not dejected if difficulties or failure come—one still goes on doing what can be done, not sinking under the burden of life.


To keep this equanimity and absence of reactions and from that calm ground to direct the Yoga-force on things and persons (not for egoistic aims but for the work to be done) is the position of the Yogi.


You have to make yourself an instrument of the invisible Force—to be able in a way to direct it to the required point and for the required purpose. But for that samata must be entire—for a calm and luminous use of the Force is necessary. Otherwise the use of the Force, if accompanied by ego-reactions, may raise a corresponding ego-resistance and a struggle.

~ CWSA, Vol. 29, p. 243-244

Samatā and Loyalty to Truth

Editor’s note: The specific letter of Sri Aurobindo included in this section was written in response to the following query from Sahana Devi.

Among us there was a controversy or an argument that if somebody stands against the Truth, attacks the Truth, what should a sadhak do, what should his attitude be? Should one keep just a sort of equality and be indifferent to what is being said or should one take side with the Truth and fight the Falsehood?

Response from Sri Aurobindo:

No doubt hatred and cursing are not the proper attitude. It is true also that to look upon all things and all people with a calm and clear vision, to be uninvolved and impartial in one’s judgments is a quite proper Yogic attitude. A condition of perfect samatā can be established in which one sees all as equal, friends and enemies included, and is not disturbed by what men do or by what happens.

The question is whether this is all that is demanded from us. If so, then the general attitude will be one of a neutral indifference to everything.

But the Gita, which strongly insists on a perfect and absolute samatā, goes on to say, “Fight, destroy the adversary, conquer.”

If there is no kind of general action wanted, no loyalty to Truth as against Falsehood except for one’s personal sadhana, no will for the Truth to conquer, then the samatā of indifference will suffice.

But here there is a work to be done, a Truth to be established against which immense forces are arranged, invisible forces which use visible things and persons and actions for their instruments.

If one is among the disciples, the seekers of this Truth, one has to take sides for the Truth, to stand against the Forces that attack it and seek to stifle it.

Arjuna wanted not to stand for either side, to refuse any action of hostility even against assailants; Sri Krishna, who insisted so much on samatā, strongly rebuked his attitude and insisted equally on his fighting the adversary.

“Have samatā,” he said, “and seeing clearly the Truth, fight.”

Therefore to take sides with the Truth and to refuse to concede anything to the Falsehood that attacks, to be unflinchingly loyal and against the hostiles and the attackers, is not inconsistent with equality.

It is personal and egoistic feeling that has to be thrown away; hatred and vital ill-will have to be rejected.

But loyalty and refusal to compromise with the assailants and the hostiles or to dally with their ideas and demands and say, “After all we can compromise with what they ask from us”, or to accept them as companions and our own people—these things have a great importance.

If the attack were a physical menace to the work and the leaders and doers of the work, one would see this at once. But because the attack is of a subtler kind, can a passive attitude be right?

It is a spiritual battle inward and outward; by neutrality and compromise or even passivity one may allow the enemy Forces to pass and crush down the Truth and its children.

If you look at it from this point you will see that if the inner spiritual equality is right, the active loyalty and firm taking of sides is as right, and the two cannot be incompatible.

I have of course treated it as a general question apart from all particular cases or personal questions. It is a principle of action that has to be seen in its right light and proportions.

~ Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 29, pp. 131-133


~ Design: Beloo Mehra

Also read:
Equality and Relations with Others

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