"Ambition has been the undoing of many Yogis. That canker can
hide long. Many people start on the Path without any sense of it. But
when they get powers, their ambition rises up, all the more violently
because it had not been thrown out in the beginning."
Questions and Answers 1929 (14 April)
What do you call a "canker" ?
It is an image, as of a fine mango, very beautiful to look at, and when
one opens it, there is a worm inside. That is because the fly laid an
egg before the fruit was formed; outside there is no trace. Everything
seems candid, disinterested. But within, right at the bottom, there is
a great ambition, the desire to have an exceptional position, to be respected
by everybody... that is, the ego. This is the canker, it remains very
quiet, but it is there. When the power comes, instead of realising that
one is nothing, does not deserve anything and that all that one has to
do is to remain as passive as possible, one deceives oneself, feels the
need of others taking note of it also. It is this I call the canker. It
eats up all that is inside and leaves the appearance intact.
You say that it is necessary to establish "homogeneity in our
Don't you know what a homogeneous thing is, made up of all similar parts?
That means the whole being must be under the same influence, same consciousness,
same tendency, same will. We are formed of all kinds of different pieces.
They become active one after another. According to the part that is active,
one is quite another person, becomes almost another personality. For instance,
one had an aspiration at first, felt that everything existed only for
the Divine, then something happens, somebody comes along, one has to do
something, and everything disappears. One tries to recall the experience,
not even the memory of the experience remains. One is completely under
another influence, one wonders how this could have happened. There are
examples of double, triple, quadruple personalities, altogether unconscious
of themselves.... But it is not about this I am speaking; I am speaking
about something which has happened to all of you: you have had an experience,
and for some time you have felt, understood that this experience was the
only thing that was important, that had an absolute value - half an hour
later you try to recall it, it is like a smoke that vanishes. The experience
has disappeared. And yet half an hour ago it was there and so powerful....
It is because one is made of all kinds of different things. The body is
like a bag with pebbles and pearls all mixed up, and it is only the bag
which keeps all that together. This is not a homogeneous, uniform consciousness
but a heterogeneous one.
You can be a different person at different moments in your life. I know
people who took decisions, had a strong will, knew what they wanted and
prepared to do it. Then there was a little reversal in the being; another
part came up and spoilt all the work in ten minutes. What had been accomplished
in two months was all undone. When the first part comes back it is in
dismay, it says: "What!..." Then the whole work has to be started
again, slowly. Hence it is evident that it is very important to become
aware of the psychic being; one must have a kind of signpost or a mirror
in which all things are reflected and show themselves as they truly are.
And then, according to what they are, one puts them in one place or another;
one begins to explain, to organise. That takes time. The same part comes
back three or four times and every part that comes up says: "Put
me in the first place; what the others do is not important, not at all
important, it is I who will decide, for I am the most important."
I am sure that if you look at yourself, you will see that there's not
one among you who has not had the experience. You want to become conscious,
to have goodwill, you have understood, your aspiration is shining - all
is brilliant, illuminated; but all of a sudden something happens, a useless
conversation, some unfortunate reading, and that upsets everything. Then
one thinks that it was an illusion one lived in, that all things were
seen from a certain angle.
This is life. One stumbles and falls at the first occasion. One tells
oneself: "Oh! one can't always be so serious", and when the
other part returns, once again, one repents bitterly: "I was a fool,
I have wasted my time, now I must begin again......" At times there
is one part that's ill-humoured, in revolt, full of worries, and another
which is progressive, full of surrender. All that, one after the other.
There is but one remedy: that signpost must always be there, a mirror
well placed in one's feelings, impulses, all one's sensations. One sees
them in this mirror. There are some which are not very beautiful or pleasant
to look at; there are others which are beautiful, pleasant, and must be
kept. This one does a hundred times a day if necessary. And it is very
interesting. One draws a kind of big circle around the psychic mirror
and arranges all the elements around it. If there is something that is
not all right, it casts a sort of grey shadow upon the mirror: this element
must be shifted, organised. It must be spoken to, made to understand,
one must come out of that darkness. If you do that, you never get bored.
When people are not kind, when one has a cold in the head, when one doesn't
know one's lessons, and so on, one begins to look into this mirror. It
is very interesting, one sees the canker. "I thought I was sincere"
- not at all.
Not a thing happens in life which is not interesting. This mirror is very,
very well made. Do that for two years, three, four years, at times one
must do it for twenty years. Then at the end of a few years, look back,
turn your gaze upon what you were three years ago: "How I have changed!...
Was I like that?..." It is very entertaining. "I could speak
like that? I could talk like that, think like that?... But I was indeed
stupid ! How I have changed !"
Isn't it very interesting, isn't it ?
"Questions and Answers 1953"
CWM Volume 5, pages 8-11
published by Sri
Aurobindo Ashram - Pondicherry
diffusion by SABDA
Previous Talk: 25 March 1953
Next Talk: 8 April 1953