When the seeker becomes aware of the need for consecration and the aspiration awakens within him, he can become very impatient with the obstacles put up by the ego as it works to maintain and enhance its position. After all, the ego has developed over long periods of time as a stage toward individuation, and it does not recognise that it is now the obstruction standing in the way of the next stage of development. The transition toward the surrender of the ego to the Divine, however, is not something under the control or subject to the time-sense of the individual seeker. It is not something that happens ‘on demand’ simply because there is a desire, even an intense desire.

The evolution of consciousness, the development and manifestation of stages of consciousness of successively greater subtlety and power, is something that takes place over many millennia. The individual soul, as it goes through lifetime after lifetime of development and builds the maturity of the psychic being, has various times when the psychic comes forward with the deep aspiration to become an instrument wholly dedicated to the Divine and the divine intention in the creation. Yet the being may not be fully ready, and just as a fruit needs time to ripen before it is ready to be picked, so the individual similarly may go through long periods of preparation, even multiple lifetimes, before the Divine chooses to pluck the soul!

There is a story of the divine singer Narad who was wandering one day on earth and came across a yogi who was practicing intense austerities under a tree. The yogi took the opportunity to ask the sage when he would achieve enlightenment. Narad replied ‘in 4 lifetimes”. The yogi was upset that it would take so long!

Narad continued along the way and came across a devotee singing and dancing in an ecstatic manner under another tree. This devotee asked Narad the same question. Narad answered that as many leaves as there are on this tree, so many lifetimes will you have to go through to achieve your enlightenment. The devotee wept with tears of joy, saying that he was gratified that he would achieve his aspiration in so short a time! He was granted immediate liberation….

A disciple asks: “Sweet Mother, when does the ego become an instrument?”

The Mother writes: “When it is ready to become it.”

The disciple follows up: “How does that happen?”

The Mother continues: “How does it happen?… In each one, I believe, it happens in a different way. It may happen suddenly, in the space of a moment, by a kind of inner reversal; it may take years; it may take centuries; it may take several lives. For each one there is a moment when it happens: when he is ready.”

“And I think he is ready when he is completely formed. The purpose of existence of the ego is the formation of the individual. When the individual is ready the ego can disappear. But before that it does not disappear because it has still some work to do.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Our Many Selves: Practical Yogic Psychology, Chapter 3, Becoming an Individual, pp. 113-114

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 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.