People tend to underestimate the risks and difficulties attendant on the practice of yoga, with a focus on the growth of consciousness and transformation of human nature. Once the seeker begins to try to make changes in long-standing habits of action and reaction, mental predilictions, vital responses and physical expectations, all kinds of imbalances can arise and long-stable situations can suddenly erupt in new and unexpected ways, and in some cases, with enormous force, taking the seeker by surprise if there has not been sufficient preparation, purification and separation of the witness consciousness to avoid being sucked in and overwhelmed.

A case that has not been widely mooted illustrates one of the extreme reactions that can occur. A seeker studies and does intensive sadhana and develops certain powers and insights which he then determines will make him a teacher or guru. He goes to the West from India, and with his developed powers he begins to attract young people to join his Ashram. He has not, however, done the purifications needed, the necessary yamas and niyamas and begins to believe in his own superiority and the confluence of his own superior status and the teaching he is putting forward leads him to believe that anything he does in furtherance of the end result of disseminating the teaching is acceptable. He begins to entice young women into his bed, and then, after he has gained psychological control over them, he deploys them to entice and control young men to work hard and bring money and carry out his orders. He cheats suppliers to the organisation on the basis that he is doing noble work, and they would just waste the money if it was in their hands; and he cuts off family and friends from the seekers in order to create further controls. He sends people from one country to his locations in other countries and then takes control of their passports and money, effectively enslaving them. He engages in rape of certain women who were not willing to consent. Eventually he enters into sexual abuse of young children, sometimes in the presence of the child’s mother who is asked to encourage and support it. At a certain point, his misdeeds come to the notice of the authorities and he is charged and convicted of the crimes of sexually assaulting children, is imprisoned in Germany for some years before being forcibly returned to India, the country of his birth.

This individual may very well have been a sincere seeker in his youth and undertaken very serious sadhana, yet when the pressures and temptations arose as the powers unleashed by the yogic practices increased, he was unable to withstand them and had what may be considered to be a major fall.

Sri Aurobnido provides the solution and antidote. Everyone has to face difficulties, everyone will make mistakes, everyone will fall occasionally. With the right protections, the right devotion and focus, these can be overcome.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “I have never said that yoga or that this yoga is a safe and easy path. what I say is that anyone who has the will to go through, can go through. For the rest, if you aim high there is always the danger of a steep fall if you misconduct your aeroplane. But the danger is for those who allow themselves to entertain a double being, aiming high but also indulging their lower outlook and hankerings. What else can you expect when people do that? You must become single-minded, then the difficulties of the mind and vital will be overcome. Otherwise, those who oscillate between their heights and their abysses will always be in danger till they have become single-minded. That applies to the ‘advanced’ as well as the beginner. These are facts of nature; I can’t pretend for anybody’s comfort that they are otherwise. But there is the fact also that nobody need keep himself in this danger. One-mindedness, surrender to the Divine, faith, true love for the Divine, complete sincerity in the will, spiritual humility (real, not formal) — there are so many things that can be a safeguard against any chance of eventual downfall. Slips, stumbles, difficulties, upsettings everyone has; one can’t be assured against these things, but if one has the safeguards, they are transitory, help the nature to learn and are followed by a better progress.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter VI Growth of Consciousness, Difficulties and Pitfalls, pp. 111-112

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.