How many times in the course of an individual’s practice of yoga do thoughts of failure and lack of capacity or ability to succeed intervene and work to create doubt and despair? If allowed to dominate the being, the quest fails, at least for the time being, or for the rest of the current lifetime, as it requires the willing and persevering dedication of the individual to stay the course. What brings these thoughts and feelings into prominence? No individual is fully competent at the beginning, or even for a great while on the path, to perfectly represent the expected results of the yogic practice. This is a progressive development, taking time and thus, defeats along the way are both to be expected and overcome by renewed efforts. Each individual has multiple different aspects to his being, some of which enthusiastically support the focus and dedication needed, while other aspects hold onto cherished ideas, ideals, emotions and vital desires. These parts continually try to convince the seeker that the focus is misguided, that there are other potential goals and avenues for success in life, and that major chances are being thrown away by the yogic process. It is not, however, just these various parts of the being which set forth contradictory goals and ideals. There is also the impact of one’s social environment, family, friends, associates, who each work to encourage the seeker to give up the quest and follow the normal path laid out by the society within which he has been born and raised. But even this is not the end of the attempt to waylay the seeker along the path. There are also larger forces which are hostile and inimical to the eventual goal of the yoga, and these forces exert tremendous pressure on those who seek to progress.

All of these opposing forces take advantage of the weaknesses and failures to imply to the seeker that he is unfit, that he can never succeed, and that what is asked of him is too hard to achieve. These all push the ego personality into a state of despondency and despair, with the goal of having the seeker leave aside the yogic process and take up another direction where success is more in line with the normal expectations of the society. It is thus necessary for the seeker to arm himself against these negative suggestions, whether they arise internally or as a pressure from outside, and make the commitment, based on his inherent faith in the truth that he soul has recognised, to continue on, no matter what failures, no matter what difficulties, no matter what obstructions stand in the way.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “To be always observing faults and wrong movements brings depression and discourages the faith.” A disciple requests clarification from the Mother: “How does it discourage the faith?”

The Mother responds: “The faith spoken about is faith in the divine Grace and the final success of the undertaking. You have begun the yoga and have faith that you will go through to the end of your yoga. But if you spend all your time looking at all that prevents you from advancing, then finally you say, ‘Ah, I shall never succeed! It is not possible. If it goes on in this way, I shall never get there.’ So this is to lose one’s faith. One must always keep the faith that one is sure to succeed.”

“Many people begin, and then after some time come and tell you, ‘Oh, I shall never be able to go through. I have too many difficulties.’ So this means not having faith. If one has started, one begins with the faith that one will reach the goal. Well, this faith should be kept till the very end. Keeping one’s faith, one attains the end. But if in the middle of the road you turn back saying, ‘No, I can’t’, then, obviously you will not reach the end. Some people start on the way and then, after some time, they find it heavy-going, tiring, difficult, and also that they themselves, their legs, don’t walk well, their feet begin to ache, etc. You see, they say, ‘Oh, it is very hard to go forward.’ So instead of saying, ‘I have started, I shall go through’, which is the only thing to do, they stand there, stop there, lamenting and saying, ‘Oh, I shall never be able to succeed’, and then they leave the path. So obviously, if they leave the path, they will never succeed. This is to lose one’s faith.”

“To keep one’s faith is to say, ‘Good, I have difficulties but I am going on.’ Despair — that’s what cuts off your legs, stops you, leaves you like this: ‘It is over, I can’t go on any longer.’ It is indeed finished, and that’s something which should not be allowed.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter III Growth of Consciousness Basic Requisites, pp. 44-45

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 17 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.