At some time or another, every human being has the experience of having an opinion, thought or idea contradicted. The usual reaction is to defend one’s position, whether or not it is well-founded, and arguments tend to ensure. It is rare that one side of the argument is entirely right, and the other side entirely wrong, when looked at from a neutral perspective. Generally, there is something that can be appreciated or understood from any opposing or differing viewpoints, yet we tend to be so busy defending our own view that we fail to appreciate the positive aspects of other views.

Sri Aurobindo reminds us in The Life Divine that the apparent contradictions can be reconciled into a higher synthesis. The Mother suggests a way to accomplish this in interpersonal relationships and thereby also widen our own way of seeing and acting. First, there must be a status of quiet receptivity in the mind. Instead of the naturally reactive state that we jump into when challenged in our view, we must be prepared to appreciate that there is at least some basis in the other party’s mind to set forth their view of things. Then we need to develop a mechanism for entering into that standpoint and relating the two views together.

The Mother writes: “For instance, you are with someone. This person tells you something, you tell him the contrary (as it usually happens, simply through a spirit of contradiction) and you begin arguing. Naturally, you will never come to any point, except a quarrel if you are ill-natured. But instead of doing that, instead of remaining in your own ideas or your own words, if you tell yourself: ‘Wait a little, I am going to try and see why he said that to me. Yes, why did he tell me that?’ And you concentrate: ‘Why, why, why?’ You stand there, just like that, trying. The other person continues speaking, doesn’t he? — and is very happy too, for you don’t contradict him any longer! He talks profusely and is sure he has convinced you. Then you concentrate more and more on what he is saying, and with the feeling that gradually, through his words, you are entering his mind. When you enter his head, suddenly you understand why he is speaking to you thus! And then, if you have a fairly swift intelligence and put what you have just come to understand alongside what you had known before, you have the two ways together, and so can find the truth reconciling both. And here you have truly made progress. And this is the best way of widening one’s thought.”

“If you are beginning an argument, keep quiet immediately, instantaneously. You must be silent, say nothing at all and then try to see the thing as the other person sees it — that won’t make you forget your own way of seeing it, not at all! but you will be able to put both of them together. And you will truly have made progress, a real progress.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Exercises for Growth and Mastery, Identification, pp. 144-149

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.