One of the key points in any attempt to change one’s actions or reactions, one’s behaviour or characteristic ways of responding to situations, is to determine, through careful observation, that these things are not an essential part of oneself or one’s character; rather, that they are external to oneself, and thus, can be changed or dispensed with more easily than if one accepts their centrality in one’s own being.

One of the most powerful methods is to bifurcate the being inwardly and shift the stance of observation from the surface nature to what Sri Aurobindo calls the ‘witness consciousness’, the standpoint of the Purusha, observing the actions of the nature, Prakriti. The Purusha is unmoved and does not accept these actions as its own. It thus gains the power to deny, remove or modify that is not readily available when one feels bound up and intimately connected to the actions of the nature as essential components of one’s existence.

Once one attains the standpoint of the witness, however, even further understanding results. One begins to recognise that most, if not all, that one takes as one’s own decisions or reactions actually originates outside oneself. A vibration occurs and it strikes the consciousness, perhaps in a very subtle manner, enters into the being, sets off a ‘sympathetic’ vibration internally, which then can rise to the surface and suddenly we are reacting based on that vibrational pattern.

It is through this means that one can begin to recognise the action of vital forces and beings as they attempt to take control of one’s reactions. Sometimes one feels a ripple in one’s vital envelope as the vibrations work their way into the being. Sometimes it may register as a feeling of discomfort in the physical body. In other cases, it may become a nagging thought or idea that pushes one into a certain line of action. In many cases, the vibration is contrary to one’s own normal state of being, and thus, an observant ‘witness’ can spot the anomaly and recognise the foreign nature of the pressure. This understanding may take time to develop. Through repeated inner attempts at observation,

Many people have taken up the practice of ‘mindfulness’ or vipassana. This practice requires the individual to undertake each action consciously, with full attention. it also means that every internal reaction or response needs to be observed and thus, it can potentially aid in gaining the observational leverage needed to spot the influx of the vital influences.

The Mother observes: “There it is a little easier to recognise the influence, for, if you are the least bit attentive, you become aware of something that has suddenly awakened within you. For example, those who are in the habit of losing their temper, if they have attempted ever so little to control their anger, they will find something coming from outside or rising from below which actually takes hold of their consciousness and arouses anger in them. I don’t mean that everybody is capable of this discernment; I am speaking of those who have tried to understand their being and control it. These adverse suggestions are easier to distinguish than, for instance, your response to the will or desire of a being who is of the same nature as yourself, another human being, who consequently acts on you without this giving you a clear impression of something coming from outside: the vibrations are too alike, too similar in their nature, and you have to be much more attentive and have a much sharper discernment to realise that these movements which seem to come out from you are not really yours but come from outside. But with the adverse forces, if you are in the least sincere and observe yourself attentively, you become aware that it is something in the being which is responding to an influence, an impulse, a suggestion, even something at times very concrete, which enters and produces similar vibrations in the being.”

“There, now. That is the problem.”

“The remedy?… It is always the same: goodwill, sincerity, insight, patience — oh! an untiring patience and a perseverance which assures you that what you have not succeeded in doing today, you will succeed in doing another time, and makes you go on trying until you do succeed.”

“And this brings us back to Sri Aurobindo’s sentence: if this control seems to you quite impossible today, well, that means that not only will it be possible, but that it will be realised later.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, The Hidden Forces of Life, Ch. 3 Hidden Forces Around, pp. 61-62

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 20 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.
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