Most people do not understand why it is they are alive, what it is they are here to do in the world. Many simply think that ‘eat, drink and be merry’ is the sum of their purpose; in other words, they do not recognise a life purpose or mission in that sense, and just want to find a way to enjoy their lives, satisfy their physical needs and cravings, enjoy their desires and relationships and then seek entertainment to avoid boredom, loneliness and ennui. Some people who have a developed emotional being, aesthetic sense or mental capacity, see a purpose in dedicating their lives to some kind of artistic or literary pursuit, or following some line of mental research or development, or some kind of work of creative effort. Others, who have a developed vital and physical being seek the challenges of sports or adventure, pushing themselves past their former limits and achieving new goals.

Yet all of this only touches the external being, and it is only when the individual has the contact with the psychic being that he understands that there is actually a deeper significance that underpins all these outer activities and developments. The development of the psychic being through many lifetimes provides a thread of growth that weaves through all actions and life-situations. Most of this development takes place unconsciously, until the seeker awakens and begins the practice of yoga.

Sri Aurobindo points out that the conscious practice of yogic spiritual development can actually speed up the evolutionary changes so that when an individual reaches the stage of conscious participation, the changes that occur move much more swiftly than in the long, slow process of Nature. It is the leverage provided by this conscious participation that provides hope that humanity can evolve out of the existential crisis it now faces, as the forces of destruction that have been unleashed through haphazard development of physical, vital and mental powers without a guiding light to manage them, are threatening our very existence.

A disciple asks: “Mother, does an individual’s life depend on the experience his psychic being wants to have?”

The Mother answers: “Very much! … I was speaking about just this with someone today, and I said this, that if one can become fully conscious of his psychic being, at the same time one understands, necessarily, the reason of his present existence and the experience this psychic being wants to have; and instead of having it somewhat half-consciously and more than half unconsciously, one can shorten this experience and so help his psychic being to cover in a limited number of years the experiences it would perhaps take several lifetimes to go through. That is to say, the help is reciprocal. The psychic, when it has an influence on the outer life, brings to it light, order and quietude and the joy of the divine contact. But also the physical being, the body-consciousness, if it is identified with the psychic consciousness, and through that learns what kind of experience the psychic being wants to have, it can help it to have these experiences in a very brief time, and not only save time but save many lives for the psychic being. It is a mutual help.”

“In brief, this is what yoga means. Yoga helps you to become fully conscious of your destiny, that is, your mission in the universe, and not only at the present moment but what it was in the past and what it will be in the future. And because of this knowledge you can gather by a concentration of the consciousness all these experiences in a very short time and gain lives, do in a few years what could take a fairly considerable number of lives to achieve. The psychic being goes progressively through all these experiences towards its full maturity and complete independence, its liberation — in the sense that it no longer needs any new life. If it wants to come back to the physical world, it returns, because it has something to do there and it chooses freely to return. But till then, till this liberation, it is compelled to return to have all the experiences it needs. Well, if it happens that once the physical being is developed and conscious enough and has enough goodwill to be able to become fully aware of the psychic being, it can then and there create all the circumstances, the outer experiences necessary for the psychic being to attain its maturity in this very life.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Our Many Selves: Practical Yogic Psychology, Chapter 2, Planes and Parts of the Being, pp. 95-97

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.