Humanity has struggled with the idea of an individual changing his character and becoming something more, or different, than what he was before. Numerous methods have been tried, and at the end of the day, almost everyone agrees that human nature and the individual character that expresses that human nature is bound and cannot be modified by any power that the human being possesses. Some have thus indicated that humanity is born in “original sin” and that this sin can only be overcome, or redeemed, through the action of a divine savior who takes on the burden of those sins and thereby liberates humanity through his redeeming death. Others have simply given up and embraced all the weaknesses, desires, and failures that are part of the human condition. Some have made excuses that indicate that certain ‘superior’ individuals can simply disregard the vital drives that lead ‘ordinary’ men into failure of character, while others try to off-load their character weaknesses onto another, in the form of a priest through blessings in the confessional, or to a Guru who takes charge of one’s destiny. No methods tried to date have overcome the serious obstacles of trying to change human nature. We always tend to revert back to form. Or as some say, trying to change human nature is like trying to straighten out a dog’s tail.

In the end, however, it is essential that we be able to change character, to change human behavior, if we are going to survive what we are doing to the world (and each other). So with this urgency in mind, we need to overcome the limitations, sort out the factors that prevent change and then adopt methodologies that resolve these factors. This is primarily due to several things. First, we tend to believe that character is our own and we are ‘stuck’ with ‘who we are’ and ‘what we are’. This belief increases the difficulty of effectuating any change. Second, we do not generally separate out the complex intertwined threads from the different aspects of being that together create the amalgam that we call our character or personality. Thus, we are unable to employ effective methods that work on the needed levels of consciousness that require the change.

The Mother notes: “If you really want to transform your character, it is that you must do. It has always been said that it is impossible to change one’s nature; in all books of philosophy, even of yoga, you are told the same story: ‘You cannot change your character, you are born like that, you are like that.’ This is absolutely false, I guarantee it is false; but there is something very difficult to do to change your character, because it is not your character which must be changed, it is the character of your antecedents. In them you will not change it (because they have no such intention), but it is in you that it must be changed. It is what they have given you, all the little gifts made to you at your birth — nice gifts — it is this which must be changed. But if you succeed in getting hold of the thread of these things, the true thread, since you have worked upon this with perseverance and sincerity, one fine morning you will be free; all this will fall off from you and you will be able to get a start in life without any burden. Then you will be a new man, living a new life, almost with a new nature. And if you look back you will say, ‘It is not possible, I was never like that!’ “

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Our Many Selves: Practical Yogic Psychology, Chapter 6, Some Answers and Explanations, pp. 152-153

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 19 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.