Variations in Intensity of Experience

An answer from Sri Aurobindo to a devotee on:

“The Up and Down Movement in Yoga”


The up and down movement which you speak of is common to all ways of Yoga. It is there in the path of bhakti, but there are equally alternations of states of light and states of darkness, sometimes sheer and prolonged darkness, when one follows the path of knowledge. Those who have occult experiences come to periods when all experiences cease and even seem finished forever. Even when there have been many and permanent realizations, these seem to go behind the veil and leave nothing in front except a dull blank, filled, if at all, only with recurrent attacks and difficulties. These alternations are the result of the nature of human consciousness and are not a proof of unfitness or of predestined failure. One has to be prepared for them and pass through. They are the “day and night” of the Vedic mystics.

As for surrender, everyone has his own first way of approach towards it; but if it is due to fear, “form” or sense of duty, then certainly that is not surrender at all; these things have nothing to do with surrender. Also, complete and total surrender is not so easy as some seem to imagine. There are always many and large reservations; even if one is not conscious of them, they are there. Complete surrender can best come by a complete love and bhakti. Bhakti on the other hand can begin without surrender, but it naturally leads, as it forms itself, to surrender.

The rhythm of up and down is fairly general – it is only a few who keep an even course and even these have slight though comparatively rare drops of consciousness. But the times vary – although it is true that it comes upon a few at the same time, and occasionally there is a massed general attack and shaking. It seems difficult as yet to eliminate these vicissitudes of the sadhana.

Everything once gained is there and can be regained. Yoga is not a thing that goes by one decisive rush one way or the other – it is a building up of a new consciousness and is full of ups and downs. But if one keeps to it the ups have a habit of resulting by accumulation in a decisive change – therefore the one thing to do is to keep at it. After a fall don’t wail and say, “I’m done for,” but get up, dust yourself and proceed farther on the right path.

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From: Letters on Yoga, Volume III, by Sri Aurobindo, Chapter 1, pp.57-58.


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