As the seeker becomes more and more conscious he may experience reflections of his past actions which, in retrospect, were incorrect, inaccurate or false. This frequently brings feelings of regret and soul-searching. This is however an over-reaction to an increasing sense of awareness. It is good to appreciate, through the examination of past actions, those that were supportive of the aspiration and those that were not, particularly if this review helps refine the judgment of the seeker to avoid repeating mistakes of the past. However, to the extent that the ego-sense gets involved and is either embarrassed or upset about those past actions, it is important to note that awareness and growth of consciousness is a progressive process.

Just as we do not hold a child responsible for acts that would be treated as crimes in an adult, because the child does not have the judgment or the consciousness of doing something wrong, so also, each stage of the seeker’s past lifetime is limited by the awareness of that time and circumstance.

Even those who have come a long way on the path of spiritual growth will be able, at some future time, to recognize failures, mistakes or insufficiencies of the present time. Yesterday’s failures become the stepping-stones of future success. There is no doubt that each individual has many things in his past which do not measure up to his present knowledge or state of consciousness. If one disconnects the ego-personality from it, there becomes no one to ‘beat up’ about past mistakes and no cause for recriminations. The experience is separated from the moral judgment, and one learns without taking a burden of guilt upon oneself.

If we reflect that we have a virtually unending series of past births through which consciousness has developed and grown, we can appreciate that those things we consider bad in human nature, or in our legacy from the animal lifetimes, are all there in our own past and thus, there is not only no cause for negative judgment about others, but a basis of compassion for the suffering they are undergoing and will undergo as they pass through a stage with which we have been associated at some time in our own past.

A disciple inquires: “Sweet Mother, when can one say that one is conscious?”

The Mother replies: “That is always a relative question. One is never altogether unconscious and one is never completely conscious. It is a progressive state.”

“But a time comes when instead of doing things automatically, impelled by a consciousness and force of which one is quite unaware — a time comes when one can observe what goes on in oneself, study one’s movements, find their causes, and at the same time begin to exercise a control first over what goes on within us, then on the influence cast on us from outside which makes us act, in the beginning altogether unconsciously and almost involuntarily, but gradually more and more consciously; and the will can wake up and react. Then at that moment, the moment there is a conscious will capable of reacting, one may say, ‘I have become conscious.’ This does not mean that it is a total and perfect consciousness, it means that it is a beginning: for example, when one is able to observe all the reactions in one’s being and to have a certain control over them, to let those one approves of have play, and to control, stop, annul those one doesn’t approve of.”

“Besides, you must become aware within of something like a goal or a purpose or an ideal you want to realise; something other than the mere instinct which impels you to live without your knowing why or how. At that time you may say you are conscious, but it doesn’t mean you are perfectly conscious. And moreover, this perfection is so progressive that I believe nobody can say he is perfectly conscious; he is on the way to becoming perfectly conscious, but he isn’t yet.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Our Many Selves: Practical Yogic Psychology, Chapter 4, Becoming Conscious, pp. 128-129

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.