We like to think that we succeed through strenuous effort. Our ego-personality and vital nature thrive on the idea that we are the masters of our own fate, through dint of the efforts we make. We tend to picture ourselves as originating the ideas and drives that move us into action. We believe that we are exercising free will by making decisions and move forward with the sense of personal accomplishment.

At the same time, if we look carefully at the process of thought, emotion and feeling, we can observe, as Sri Aurobindo has noted, that the thoughts or feelings actually come from outside and are received and converted within into what we believe to be our own when we are receptive to them and are ready to accept them.

Modern psychology, after many years of attempting to compare the brain to a machinery or computer that manufactures thought, has begun to agree with the observation that thoughts come from outside and are received, processed and re-exported, or as a modern psychological researcher, former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today Magazine, Robert Epstein recently phrased it in an article he wrote in Discover Magazine, the brain is “not a computer, but a transducer”.

This has serious implications for the practice of sadhana in the integral yoga, as Sri Aurobindo describes it. The basics of the sadhana as Sri Aurobindo notes in his book The Mother, are aspiration, which is essentially a tuning process; rejection, which is a process of focusing the attention and separating the signal from the noise; and surrender, which is accepting the input of the forces that come as a result of the tuning and focusing action. Thus, it is a matter, not so much of arduous effort to force Peace or Silence or any other power to come, but one in which one opens to and receives the incoming force and allows it to fill the being.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “I have said that the most decisive way for the Peace or the Silence to come is by a descent from above. In fact, in reality though not always in appearance, that is how they always come; — not in appearance always, because the sadhak is not always conscious of the process; he feels the peace settling in him or at least manifesting, but he has not been conscious how and whence it came. Yet is is the truth that all that belongs to the higher consciousness comes from above, not only the spiritual peace and silence, but the Light, the Power, the Knowledge, the higher seeing and thought, the Ananda come from above. It is also possible that up to a certain point they may come from within, but this is because the psychic being is open to them directly and they come first there and then reveal themselves in the rest of the being from the psychic or by its coming into the front. A disclosure from within or a descent from above, these are the two sovereign ways of the Yoga-siddhi. An effort of the external surface mind or emotions, a Tapasya of some kind may seem to build up some of these things, but the results are usually uncertain and fragmentary, compared to the result of the two radical ways. That is why in this yoga we insist always on an ‘opening’ — an opening inwards of the inner mind, vital, physical to the inmost part of us, the psychic, and an opening upwards to what is above the mind — as indispensable for the fruits of the sadhana.”
Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 8, The Triple Transformation: Psychic, Spiritual and Supramental, The Spiritual Transformation, pp. 209-229

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at http://sriaurobindostudies.wordpress.com and podcast at https://anchor.fm/santosh-krinsky 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.