© Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust

The method of observation

19 January 1955

And your capacity for observation--it is infinitely preferable, I could say absolutely indispensable, to use it to observe your field of action, the processes you employ for your action, the results obtained, the principle you can arrive at from the experience, the knowledge you can obtain, indeed, all these things... but not to turn back on yourself and look at yourself acting. It is this movement of making oneself the object of observation which is dangerous. And this always causes unpleasantness, sometimes a very serious one. Well, most people pass their time looking at themselves, at what they are doing, how they are living, and this makes them very... what is called in English self-conscious, that is, instead of sincerely being in what they are doing and exclusively in what they are doing, they look at themselves acting and appreciate or belittle themselves, according to their particular nature. Some people look at themselves acting with great complacency and an extreme satisfaction and consider themselves truly very remarkable. Others, on the contrary, have the critical mind and pass their time criticising themselves all the while. Well, neither is better than the other. They are equally bad. The best thing is not to be occupied with oneself. If one has a work to do, the best is to see [old p. 20]to that work and naturally the best way of doing it. This of course is always good. But not to--whether one does it well or not--to look at [new p. 20]oneself doing it and appreciate oneself; that is useless.

To discover how to do the work and what is the best way of doing it is very useful. But to look at oneself doing it and admire or belittle oneself, that's not only useless but disastrous.