As we experience relationships in the world, whether family, friend or significant others, we begin to appreciate how complex, demanding and ‘messy’ they are. To cultivate and support relationships takes time, effort and understanding. When we don’t agree 100% with someone, we find that even among the closest individuals, there are potentials for misunderstanding, disharmony and disturbance, even if these are temporary in nature. But we also find that in some cases, those with whom we have shared the most and been the closest can turn into, at best, distant and cold relationships, and at worst into enemies. We see jealousy, betrayal, possessiveness, and conflict in values and actions that can bring tension into any relationship. As part of life in the world, this is considered quite normal and usual and it is part of the ‘spice of life’ that the vital nature of man so much enjoys in partaking.

When it comes to practitioners of yoga, however, where the focus needs be primarily on the divine realisation and manifestation, having the life taken up with the distractions of the vital relationships is simply not feasible. Too much time, energy and focus is lost in what is for most people ordinary, daily life.

At the same time, there is not a call to abandon all human relationships or avoid friendship; rather, there can be a new basis that starts from a common understanding and goal of the divine realisation and where individuals encourage and support one another in their growth. An ascetic approach may artificially cut off elements of harmony and goodwill that can, and should, be part of human development. In fact, if the world is to undergo a transformation, there needs to be a level of human cooperation, support, good will and harmony.

There are also certain energetic subtle bonds and links between people in many cases that attracts them to one another, and then there is the focus on a common project or activity that brings people together. True friendship can result from these links without the kind of negative results and impacts that arise in the usual forms that are based in vital expectation and attachment. The important aspect is to form the bond on the basis of the divine effort and focus, and not based on any egoistic expectations, demands or vital desires.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “Friendship or affection is not excluded from the yoga. Friendship with the Divine is a recognised relation in the sadhana. Friendships between the sadhaks exist and are encouraged by the Mother. Only, we seek to found them on a surer basis than that on which the bulk of human friendships are insecurely founded. It is precisely because we hold friendship, brotherhood, love to be sacred things that we want this change — because we do not want to see them broken at every moment by the movements of the ego, soiled and spoiled and destroyed by the passions, jealousies, treacheries to which the vital is prone — it is to make them truly sacred and secure that we want them rooted in the soul, founded on the rock of the Divine. Our yoga is not an ascetic yoga: it aims at purity, but not at a cold austerity. Friendship and love are indispensable notes in the harmony to which we aspire. It is not a vain dream, for we have seen that even in imperfect conditions, when a little of the indispensable element is there at the very root, the thing is possible. It is difficult and the old obstacles still cling obstinately? But no victory can be won without a fixed fidelity to the aim and a long effort. There is no other way than to persevere.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 11, Human Relationships in Yoga, Friendship, Affection and Love, pp 323-328

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at and podcast at He is author of 16 books and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.