We bring into this life many propensities as well as genetic tendencies, which are compounded and accentuated by early learning that takes place in the family and in the society. Prenatal influences as well as learning that takes place after the birth process and in the very early childhood years all help form the individual and his actions and reactions. Many traits are locked in during this period that reverberate throughout the life of the individual, as they are stored in the subconscient, waiting for their opportunity to spring up and present themselves.

We find therefore that certain tendencies tend to carry through from one generation to the next, such as tendency toward addiction, bullying behaviour, attitudes towards others that lead to prejudice or misogyny, etc. Much of this is not a conscious process, but simply impressions that are imbibed and stored.

For most people, these things represent the legacy of the past and bring continuity from one generation to the next. It can go much further back however, as there are inbred atavistic behaviours that stretch back into the evolution of the animal consciousness in nature. Fight or flight reactions are an example.

As the individual takes up the practice of yoga, he begins to confront these deeply embedded tendencies and behaviours and finds that suppression does not eliminate them. They must be painstakingly examined, understood and the knot of the complex unraveled in order to truly free the being from these things. This is why simply rooting around in the subconscient and allowing these things to rise up is not effective. There must be a controlling and understanding light of consciousness that can master these impulses and apply appropriate means to dissolve or transform them.

The Mother writes: “One is born with a slough to clean before one begins to live. And once you have made a good start on the way to the inner transformation and you go down to the subconscient root of the being — that exactly which comes from parents, from atavism — well, you do see what it is! And all, almost all difficulties are there, there are very few things added to existence after the first years of life. This happens at any odd moment; if you keep bad company or read bad books, the poison may enter you; but there are all the imprints deep-rooted in the subconscient, the dirty habits you have and against which you struggle. For instance, there are people who can’t open their mouth without telling a lie, and they don’t always do this deliberately (that is the worst of it), or people who can’t come in touch with others without quarrelling, all sorts of stupidities — they are there in the subconscient, deeply rooted. Now, when you have a goodwill, externally you do your best to avoid all that, to correct it if possible; you work, you fight; then become aware that this thing always keeps coming up, it comes up from some part which escapes your control. But if you enter this subconscient, if you let your consciousness infiltrate it, and look carefully, gradually you will discover all the sources, all the origins of all your difficulties; then you will begin to understand what your fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers were, and if at a certain moment you are unable to control yourself, you will understand, ‘I am like that because they were like that.’ “

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, The Hidden Forces of Life, Ch. 2 Hidden Forces Within, pp. 40-41

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 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.
YouTube Channel www.youtube.com/@santoshkrinsky871
More information about Sri Aurobindo can be found at http://www.aurobindo.net
The US editions and links to e-book editions of Sri Aurobindo’s writings can be found at http://www.lotuspress.com