Some believe that it is impossible to change human nature. They repeat the proverb that one cannot straighten out a dog’s tail, but it will return to its former status time and again. Some become frustrated and essentially fight with their body, vital being or mind, wherever the movement they desire to change resides. Some try to suppress the movement with force, and some through intimidation of torturing the body when an impulse arises which they do not want to accept. The hair shirt, the celise, the self-flagellation all arise out of the attempt to change human nature with violence, impatience and overpowering force. The sad thing is, these methods simply do not work, and cannot effectuate long-term real change in human nature. In many instances this leads either to depression, or turns the individual into a cold, bitter, frustrated personality who takes out his own failings on others, as he cannot deal with them as he wishes within himself. There seems to be no way out, and thus, eventually people believe human nature cannot change.

Sri Aurobindo takes a different approach. He first observes the field closely and determines in what part of the being, and under what force of impulsion the habitual movement has arisen. Then it is a matter of applying skillful means to systematically tackle the issue and make it ever less relevant to the being. Through a change of focus toward the higher realisations one is seeking, the power of any habitual movement can be reduced in both its level of occurrence and its intensity of occurrence. The mind, the mental will, can be harnessed to deny the movement full expression. This may not succeed all at once, but over time, with patient and persistent will, it eventually can, and does, succeed. The movement may remain embedded in the vital being or even in the physical being with a somewhat automatic response to a stimuli, and thus, may recur at some time when least expected simply because the guard has been reduced with the apparent success. Continued effort then drives these impulses into the subconscient layers, and from there they can erupt from time to time or at the very least, make themselves known in the dream state. The practice of psychotherapy attempts to open up what is hidden in the subconscient, but for the most part, this simply empowers these impulses and thus, may be highly counter-productive.

People believe that if they gain control over the impulses within their own individual being, that they have solved the issue, but in fact, the oneness of the energetic forces of the universal creation implies that until the movement is eliminated throughout all of Nature, it still has its existence and can attempt to infect the individual from there on any suitable occasion.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “When a habitual movement long embedded in the nature is cast out, it takes refuge in some less enlightened part of the nature, and when cast out of the rest of the nature, it takes refuge in the subconscient and from there surges up when you least expect it or comes up in dreams or sudden inconscient movements or it goes out and remains in wait in the environmental being through which the universal Nature works and attacks from there as a force from outside trying to recover its kingdom by a suggestion or repetition of old movements. One has to stand fast till the power of return fades away. These returns or attacks must be regarded not as parts of oneself, but as invasions — and rejected without allowing any depression or discouragement. If the mind does not sanction them, if the vital refuses to welcome them, if the physical remains steady and refuses to obey the physical urge, then the recurrence of the thought, the vital impulse, the physical feeling will begin to lose its last holds and finally they will be too feeble to cause any trouble.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Disturbances of the Subconscient, How to Deal with the Subconscient, pp. 108-109

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.