In his epic poem Savitri: a Legend and a Symbol, Sri Aurobindo writes: “Heavy unchanged weighs still the imperfect world; The splendid youth of Time has passed and failed; Heavy and long are the years our labour counts, And still the seals are firm upon man’s soul And weary is the ancient Mother’s heart.” (pp. 344-345)

All serious practitioners of spiritual disciplines, all seekers trying to exceed the current human limitations of the mind, the vital energies and the physical body, at some point come to appreciate that the progress they can make within the framework of the mind-life-body complex and the normal human capacities is both limited and subject to dilution or weakening. The reasons are numerous, but one of the primary causes is the fact that we are not distinct individuals, separate and protected from other, outside, influences; rather, we constantly are bombarded with ideas, energies, emotions, feelings that are circulating in our environment and from the people with whom we interact, and thus, the vibration patterns arise in us and we occasionally, or frequently, succumb to those patterns.

Another major cause is the limitations of the frame within which we attempt to resolve issues or effectuate change. As long as we are bound within the capacity levels of mind, life and body, we do not truly either fully understand, nor have the leverage to create radical change in human nature. We remain fixed within the ego-personality, even when we are most focused on effectuating change. We must find a standpoint outside this framework, shift to a platform of consciousness that has new powers of understanding and action, in order to truly change human nature. This is why Sri Aurobindo refers to the evolution of consciousness as the key to the needed changes. Just as life effectuated radical changes in material nature, and just as the advent of the mind effectuated radical changes in material nature and vital nature, it requires a shift to a new form of consciousness to effectuate the changes needed in physical nature, vital nature and the mental nature. This is what Sri Aurobindo calls the advent of the supramental consciousness, that next evolutionary level beyond the mental level. Until that time, we can aspire, we can prepare, we can work on change, but we also have to recognise the limits of this effort and the need for a total shift away from the normal human to a new standpoint from which understanding and action can flow.

“… we have only accomplished weakness and effort and a defeated victory….” (Sri Aurobindo, Thoughts and Glimpses, Centenary Library, Vol. 16, p. 379)

The Mother notes: “Through a very assiduous labour one succeeds in overcoming a weakness. a limitation, a bad habit, and one believes this is a definitive victory; but after some time or at times immediately one realises that nothing is completely done, nothing is definitive, that what one thought to have accomplished has to be done again. For only a total change of consciousness and the intervention of a new force, a reversal of consciousness can make the victory complete.”

“In the old Chaldean tradition, very often the young novices were given an image when they were invested with the white robe; the were told: ‘Do not try to remove the stains one by one, the whole robe must be purified.’ Do not try to correct your faults one by one, to overcome your weaknesses one by one, it does not take you very far. The entire consciousness must be changed, a reversal of consciousness must be achieved, a springing up out of the state in which one is towards a higher state form which one dominates all the weaknesses one wants to heal, and from which one has a full vision of the work to be accomplished.”

“I believe Sri Aurobindo has said this: things are such that it may be said that nothing is done until everything is done. One step ahead is not enough, a total conversion is necessary.”

“How many times have I heard people who were making an effort say, ‘I try, but what’s the use of my trying? Every time I think I have gained something, I find that I must begin all over again.’ This happens because they are trying to go forward while standing still, they are trying to progress without changing their consciousness. It is the entire point of view which must be shifted, the whole consciousness must get out of the rut in which it lies so as to rise up and see things from above. It is only thus that victories will not be changed into defeats.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter IX Reversal of Consciousness: The New Birth, pp. 166-167

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.