© Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust

Pure aspiration

22 September 1954

Sweet Mother, what is the effect of an aspiration which comes from rajasic eagerness?

The effect of an aspiration? Well, it takes away your quietude, that is the first effect. It makes you agitated, nervous, impatient and dissatisfied when you don't immediately obtain what you have asked for, and usually as vehement in your despair and dissatisfaction as in the aspiration, with a strong sense of your helplessness.

Then is it desire?

It is not quite the same thing. It is not a matter of desire, it is a question of aspiration. But aspirations can be of this kind. Desire is altogether something else. Desire is something which acts completely horizontally. [old p. 337]

In your ordinary consciousness you want something; you do not have the least idea of aspiring for some existing thing or some progress or a higher knowledge or greater realisation. You see [new p. 337]an object in a shop and want it. That's it. Or it crosses your mind that it would be good to eat a certain thing, and you want it. These are desires; they concern things on the same plane as you. Moreover, in desires also some people are obstinate, vehement, and some have fugitive and weak desires. There are both types.

But what Sri Aurobindo speaks about here is truly an aspiration, it is about someone who aspires for the spiritual life but with a vehement passion; and naturally this upsets everything. Besides, the result he obtains--if he does obtain a result at all--is very mixed; and it is muddy, as he says, altogether impure, ordinary. We must not confuse what he calls "rajasic eagerness" with intensity, because intensity can be very vast, very calm and very pure and give a considerable strength to the aspiration. But this has nothing to do either with a rajasic movement or with desire.

And, to take an example, you can understand it in this way: if you have an aspiration, say, suddenly you think of the possibility of progress and have an aspiration for progress; but if a desire is mixed with your aspiration, you will have the desire to progress for the powers this will give you or the importance it will give you or the improvement in your living conditions. You go and immediately mix all kinds of little very personal reasons with your aspiration. And to tell the truth, very few people have a very pure aspiration. An aspiration, a will to progress, just that; it stops there. Because one aspires for progress and then, there we are, let us not go farther. We want progress. But usually there get mixed up with it all kinds of desires for the results of this progress. And so desire comes in, you see; this brings exactly what he says, a consciousness which is impure and muddy, and inside this nothing higher can come. This must be completely eliminated to begin with. If one looks at [old p. 338]himself very sincerely, very straightforwardly and very severely, he very quickly perceives that very few things, very few movements of consciousness are free from being mixed with desires. Even in what you take for a higher movement, there is always... no, [new p. 338]happily not always, but most often there is a desire mixed. The desire of the sense of one's importance, if only this, that kind of self-satisfaction, the satisfaction of being someone superior.

This is of course much better than those who want to become yogis in order to astound their neighbours and exercise authority over others, and so that others may be full of admiration and of respect for them. How many things are truly pure? Pure aspiration? You must have already attained a very high level, that level I spoke of, on which one can look at himself with a smile, a slightly ironic smile, and have the feeling that he was so small, so small, so small, so petty, so insignificant and so foolish. After that things go better. But for what a long time all the movements are always turned back upon themselves! You start off in a sweep, as though you were springing forward in front of this universe, and you turn back upon yourself, expecting a small result, a small satisfaction, a very tiny satisfaction, even if it be just your own estimation: "Oh, what a fine aspiration I had!"