© Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust

The importance of self-obseravtion

12 May 1954

Sometimes, when I wake up in the morning or afternoon, I feel someone saying: "The time is passing, you must hurry up."

And then?... Someone?... That is to say, you feel there is a person telling you: "Get up and go quickly to do your work"?

Not a person.

An influence?


But you know from where it comes?... Do you know from where it comes?

It is not bad. I think it is not bad, so it must come from the Divine.

Ah! That is an interpretation. If, for instance, in your mind there is a formation, an idea, that you ought not to be lazy and should work--that you should be on time, should not waste your time sleeping--that is enough for this idea or formation to come up at the moment of awakening like an influence (for it is a part of your mind which has remained awake) like an influence telling you: "Hurry up, let's go, go and work, don't be lazy!" But it is perhaps just one part of yourself trying to act upon another. Or else, if you have to go to class or do some work with somebody, this may be the active thought of that person saying: "Isn't she perchance still sleeping and going to be late?"--that suffices. So, this is something perhaps which has its good side and may be useful for you as a check on your activity, but it is not at all necessarily something from the Divine. To judge that a thing comes from the Divine because you find it good may lead you into terrible mistakes. [new p. 131][old p. 131]

This is not how one should sense things. It is not by a perception of this kind of consciousness, not in this way. It comes when one has a sufficiently delicate and refined sensitivity to perceive clearly the value of a vibration; all vibrations that come from external activities, whether mental, vital or physical, or even psychic, have a particular quality, but what comes from the divine influence is of an absolutely different nature and quality. In order to be able to distinguish this, one must first of all have felt both; and even when one has felt both, one must be very calm, very attentive, indeed very still within, to be able to distinguish between them and not make a mistake. If your active thought comes in the way, it is finished, you cannot distinguish clearly any longer; you begin to question. And then you make use of your notions of good and evil to judge whether this comes from the Divine or doesn't come from the Divine. That's absurd. It is impossible.

Even when one has had this double experience and can make the distinction, there are still precautions to be taken and a check to be kept in order to be sure of not being mistaken. Only when one has flung the door of the psychic wide open, has entered consciously, and had the absolute, total, complete contact with the Divine, when one has the feeling of being born to a new life, when one is another being, does not see anything in the same way any longer, does not feel anything in the same way any more--then one knows intimately, profoundly, completely what the divine life is. And even afterwards, if the door closes again, one can keep a precise memory. And it is in this way that it is seen. It is impossible to make a mistake. It is something quite different, there is no comparison, none: one can compare nothing with this. It is unique and absolute. That is why I asked you, "Can you make the distinction?" For surely if one among you has had the experience, he knows in this way what comes from the Divine, and necessarily if he knows absolutely what comes from the Divine, he knows perforce all that does not. So there I asked you the question. For I should have [old p. 132]been very happy [new p. 132]that one among you could tell me with sincerity, "I have had the experience and I know." But it is only after this experience that one knows, not before. That is why, if one sincerely wants to progress, one must at each step inquire, be sure from where the influence comes: "Who has given me this suggestion? Is it a part of myself? Is it something external? Does this come from the Divine?"

But before having had that experience, one is not capable of judging by oneself. Naturally, if one's surrender is truly sincere and there is this constant attitude in the being, this total self-giving to the Divine, "Thy Will be done", in this way, one can, without knowing, without understanding, instinctively, choose the thing that should be done and reject the one that should not, but this becomes an instinct, a sort of automatic thing, if your surrender is perfect. And that is the very advantage of surrender, for you can do the right thing in the right way automatically, before having the knowledge.

But as Sri Aurobindo says there, you understand, one must be in a state of perfect obedience which does not question, does not discuss and obeys spontaneously, acts rightly as one is guided. Nothing in the thought or the vital must revolt or contradict or question or try to justify, to prove to oneself (and sometimes even to the Divine) that one is right, that what one has done is the right thing. All that must be done with.