Practitioners of yoga are not exempt from the play of the gunas, the qualities of Nature, and thus, are from time to time, subject to bouts of discouragement and depression when tamas is in the ascendent. It may happen when a particular goal or ambition is thwarted or delayed, as the frustration of rajas tends to push the individual into the mode of tamas.

Sri Aurobindo counseled sadhaks on the causes and methods of addressing the rise of depression in the course of the yogic development. As long as the individual remains rooted in the ego-personality of the individual seeker, it is necessary to find ways to separate oneself from the reactions of depression and discouragement, through adopting the right attitude that will allow sattwa to rise and the energy to return. Once the shift is made to the divine-standpoint, the vicissitudes of the ego-personality are no longer front and center.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “To yield to depression when things go wrong is the worst way of meeting the difficulty. There must be some desire or demand within you, conscious or subconscious, that gets excited and revolts against its not being satisfied. The best way is to be conscious of it, face it calmly and steadily throw it out.”

“If the lower vital (not the mind only) could permanently make up its mind that all desire and demand are contrary to the Truth and no longer call for them, these things would lose very soon their force of return.”

“Remorse, repentance, is the natural movement of the vital mind when it sees it has done a mistake. It is certainly better than indifference. Its disadvantage is that it disturbs the vital stuff and sometimes leads to depression or discouragement. For that reason what is usually recommended to the sadhak is a quiet recognition of the mistake with a sincere aspiration and will that it should not be repeated or at least that the habit of making such mistakes should soon be eliminated. At a higher stage of development when the inner calm is established, one simply observes the defects of the nature as defects of a machinery that one has to put right and calls down the Light and Force for its rectification. In the beginning, however, the movement of repentance even helps provided it does not bring discouragement or depression.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Disturbances of the Vital, Depression, pp. 56-58

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 16 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.