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Looking from Within (A Seeker's Guide to Attitudes for Mastery and Inner Growth)

Looking from Within (A Seeker's Guide to Attitudes for Mastery and Inner Growth)
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Item Code: NAZ534
Author: Sri Aurobindo and The Mother and A.S. Dalal
Publisher: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry
Language: English
Edition: 2019
ISBN: 9789352101757
Pages: 186
Cover: PAPERBACK
Other Details: 7.00 X 5.00 inch
weight of the book: 0.2 kg
PREFACE

Three chief categories of seekers have been kept in view in selecting passages for this compilation: those who wish to obtain a greater life-mastery and self-mastery; those who, while pursuing the common goals of life, also aim at some- thing beyond the ordinary life and seek to grow towards a higher or spiritual state of being; those for whom spiritual growth is the primary purpose and preoccupation of life. The differences in interests and spiritual outlook of these three types of seekers account for the assorted nature of the con- tents of the book regarding the topics covered and the level of understanding called for.

All of the many approaches for the attainment of mastery and inner growth involve the cultivation of certain attitudes which, as explained in the Introduction to this book, are related to inner or psychological states from which we look at and react to everything in life, both within us and outside us. This book deals with such basic attitudes in the light of Sri Aurobindo’s yoga.

In order that the book may have a wider appeal, the se- lection of passages included here has been limited to those which are apt to be meaningful not only to followers of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother but also to seekers outside this circle. Special terms and concepts pertaining to Sri Aurobindo’s yoga with which the general reader may be unfamiliar have been explained in the Glossary at the end of the book.

Passages in this book have been derived from two main sources: letters of Sri Aurobindo to disciples, and talks by the Mother to the children of the Ashram. The nature of these sources accounts for the less formal style which characterises many of the passages.

The contents of the book have been classified into sections and subsections to facilitate understanding and reference. However, many passages could have been included in any of several sections — an overlapping which makes the classi- fication arbitrary to some extent. Therefore, for purposes of reference, the reader may find the Index at the end of the book to be more useful than the table of contents.

INTRODUCTION

The essential difference between an animal and a human being, states Sri Aurobindo, is that the animal "cannot get for one moment away from its origins... and become some- thing greater than its present self, a more free, magnificent and noble being’’,! whereas the human being has the poten- tial ability to exceed and even transform the basic instinctive nature which the shares with the animal. Therefore, whereas the animal always remains an animal, man can grow into a being who is as much above the human being as the human being is above the animal.

This immense difference between man and animal is due to several distinguishing features of their psychological na- tures. First, consciousness in the human being has developed the power of detachment, that is, of standing back and ob- serving things as a spectator." Human consciousness can detach itself and stand back not only from what has outside in the environment but also from internal thoughts and feel- ings, thus dividing itself into a part that observes and a part that is observed. This power of detachment makes for a reflective intelligence which a human being is capable of exercising as distinguished from the reactive intelligence of the animal. With the power of detachment and a reflective intelligence, the human being can control, modify and over- come the force of instincts and impulses, unlike the animal which cannot act contrary to its innate nature. Secondly, though all behaviour in the animal as well as in the human being is purposive, that is, directed towards the fulfilment of some purpose or goal, the human being, as distinguished from the animal, has the potential of conceiving and pursuing higher goals — moral, intellectual and aesthetic — beyond the basic ones related to physical and biological existence. Thirdly, the more highly developed human being, in contrast to the ani- mal, is discontented with what he is, and feels an urge for growth towards what he conceives to be an ideal state of being. A fourth distinguishing human characteristic — and this brings us to the subject-matter of this book — is that the human mind, unlike that of the animal, can look at something and react to it from different perspectives. In other words, the human being can adopt different attitudes to the same thing, event or circumstance. The enormous significance of this human characteristic is implicit in a statement made by William James, one of the most celebrated psychologists: "The greatest discovery of my generation is that men can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind".

What is meant by "attitude"? The phrase "‘attitudes of mind" used by James obviously implies that attitudes have some- thing to do with the mind. Thus dictionaries define attitude as "a way of thinking" or as "a mental view". A further understanding of the term is provided by psychology which defines attitude as an "internal affective orientation that would explain the actions of a person".’ This psychological defini- tion indicates that an attitude is not merely a way of thinking but also a way of feeling — an affective or emotional dis- position — which determines a person’s actions. In psycho- logical jargon, an attitude has cognitive (thinking), affective (feeling) and conative (willing) components. Therefore, a change in one’s attitude towards a thing, person, circumstance or event implies change in the way one thinks, feels and is disposed to act in relation to the thing, person, circumstance or event.

The psychology of yoga throws further light on the na- ture of attitudes. Unlike modern psychology which lumps all psychological functions into what is called "mind", the psy- chology of yoga looks upon man’s subjective nature as a composite of distinct though intermixed and interacting parts of the being, each with its own characteristic consciousness. This yoga concept of parts of the being is extremely helpful in understanding attitudes, because different attitudes are related to different parts of the being and their different types of consciousness. One’s predominant attitudes depend on the part of the being which is dominant in one’s nature. Broadly speaking, there are two divisions in the human being — the outer being, which constitutes the personality (from the Latin persona, "mask’’), and the inner being, the true Being or the Person who uses the outer mask of the personality.° The outer being is only an instrument as a means of expression; it is not one’s real self. However, ordinarily we are identified with the outer being and regard it as our self. Therefore it is the outer being that usually expresses itself in our attitudes and actions.

The outer being is made up of three parts, each with its own distinct type of consciousness, distinguishable by its characteristic traits or qualities which are reflected in the attitudes pertaining to it. A description of these parts of the being is given below, using Sri Aurobindo’s termino- logy.

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