The Human Will and the Divine Will

The ultimate spiritual source of our human will is the Divine Will, which governs the world. We can immeasurably enhance the power and effectiveness of our human will by aligning it with the Divine Will.

Key Perspectives

Beyond human will; personal will and God’s Will; how to yoke our human will with the divine will; how to receive divine help when you are placed in a situation or forced to do a work which is contrary to your conscience and values.

Will is not mental effort, it is not the vital push which men use in general to satisfy their desires. It is not strong wishing either; will is not a struggling, striving and unquiet thing. It is calm. When it is calm it is really a call for the Higher Power to come down and act. There is a will which works by dominating over Nature. Another kind of will does not so much dominate as aspires in a prayerful mood for the Higher Power to come down. The highest will is the Divine Will. It is that which is indispensable to all success, it acts automatically.

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If everything is God’s will, what is the use of personal will?

In the universe and more particularly upon earth everything is part of the divine plan executed by Nature and everything is necessary for its fulfilment. Personal will is one of Nature’s means of action and indispensable for her working. So personal will is in a way part of God’s will.

However, to understand properly, we must first agree on the meaning that is given to the word “will”.

Will, as it is usually conceived, is the elaboration of a thought, to which is added a force, a power of fulfilment accompanied by an impulse to carry it out. That is the description of human will. Divine will is quite another thing. It is a vision united with a power of realisation. Divine will is omniscient and omnipotent, it is irresistible and immediate in its execution.

Human will is uncertain, often wavering, always in conflict with opposing wills. It is effective only when for some reason or other it is in accord with the will of Nature – itself a transcription of the divine will – or with the divine will itself, as a result of Grace or Yoga.

So one can say that personal will is one of the means that God uses to bring us back to Him.

You can at every minute make the gift of your will in an aspiration – and an aspiration which formulates itself very simply, not just “Lord, Thy will be done”, but “Grant that I may do as well as I can the best thing to do.”

You may not know at every moment what is the best thing to do or how to do it, but you can place your will at the disposal of the Divine to do the best possible, the best thing possible. You will see it will have marvellous results. Do this with consciousness, sincerity and perseverance, and you will find yourself getting along with gigantic strides. It is like that, isn’t it? One must do things with all the ardour of one’s soul, with all the strength of one’s will; do at every moment the best possible, the best thing possible. What others do is not your concern – this is something I shall never be able to repeat to you often enough.

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But if one wants to do something, it means personal effort, doesn’t it? What then is the will?

There is a difference between the will and this feeling of tension, effort, of counting only on oneself, having recourse to oneself alone which personal effort means; this kind of tension, of something very acute and at times very painful; you count only on yourself and you have the feeling that if you do not make an effort every minute, all will be lost. That is personal effort.

But the will is something altogether different. It is the capacity to concentrate on everything one does, do it as best one can and not stop doing it unless one receives a very precise intimation that it is finished. It is difficult to explain it to you. But suppose, for example, through a concurrence of circumstances, a work comes into your hands. Take an artist who has in one way or another got an inspiration and resolved to paint a picture. He knows very well that if he has no inspiration and is not sustained by forces other than his own, he will do nothing much. It will look more like a daub than a painting. He knows this. But it has been settled, the painting is to be done; there may be many reasons for that, but the painting has to be done. Then if he had the passive attitude, well, he would place his palette, his colours, his brushes, his canvas and then sit down in front of it and say to the Divine: “Now you are going to paint.” But the Divine does not do things this way.

The painter himself must take up everything and arrange everything, concentrate on his subject, find the forms, the colours that will express it and put his whole will for a more and more perfect execution. His will must be there all the time. But he has to keep the sense that he must be open to the inspiration, he will not forget that in spite of all his knowledge of the technique, in spite of the care he takes to arrange, organise and prepare his colours, his forms, his design, in spite of all that, if he has no inspiration, it will be one picture among a million others and it will not be very interesting. He does not forget. He attempts, he tries to see, to feel what he wants his painting to express and in what way it should be expressed. He has his colours, he has his brushes, he has his model, he has made his sketch which he will enlarge and make into a picture, he calls his inspiration. There are even some who manage to have a clear, precise vision of what is to be done. But then, day after day, hour after hour, they have this will to work, to study, to do with care all that must be done until they reproduce as perfectly as they can the first inspiration…. That person has worked for the Divine, in communion with Him, but not in a passive way, not with a passive surrender; it is with an active surrender, a dynamic will. The result generally is something very good. Well, the example of the painter is interesting, because a painter who is truly an artist is able to see what he is going to do, he is able to connect himself to the divine Power that is beyond all expression and inspires all expression. For the poet, the writer, it is the same thing and for all people who do something, it is the same.

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What is the place of training or discipline in surrender? If one surrenders, can he not be without discipline? Does not discipline sometimes hamper?

Maybe. But a distinction must be made between a method of development or discipline and a willed action. Discipline is different; I am speaking of willed action. If you surrender you have to give up effort, but that does not mean that you have to abandon also all willed action. On the contrary, you can hasten the realisation by lending your will to the Divine Will. That too is surrender in another form.

What is required of you is not a passive surrender, in which you become like a block, but to put your will at the disposal of the Divine Will.

You have a will and you can offer that will. Take the example of becoming conscious of your nights. If you take the attitude of passive surrender, you would say, “When it is the Divine Will that I should become conscious, then I shall become conscious.” On the other hand, if you offer your will to the Divine, you begin to will, you say, “I will become conscious of my nights.” You have the will that it should be done; you do not sit down idle and wait. The surrender comes in when you take the attitude that says, “I give my will to the Divine. I intensely want to become conscious of my nights, I have not the knowledge, let the Divine Will work it out for me.” Your will must continue to act steadily, not in the way of choosing a particular action or demanding a particular object, but as an ardent aspiration concentrated upon the end to be achieved. This is the first step. If you are vigilant, if your attention is alert, you will certainly receive something in the form of an inspiration of what is to be done and that you must forthwith proceed to do. Only, you must remember that to surrender is to accept whatever is the result of your action, though the result may be quite different from what you expect. On the other hand, if your surrender is passive, you will do nothing and try nothing; you will simply go to sleep and wait for a miracle.

Now to know whether your will or desire is in agreement with the Divine Will or not, you must look and see whether you have an answer or have no answer, whether you feel supported or contradicted, not by the mind or the vital or the body, but by that something which is always there deep in the inner being, in your heart.

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How to receive divine guidance and help when you are placed in a situation or forced to do a work, which is contrary to your conscience and values?

I have been working for a year in a laboratory where research is being done for the improvement of the quality of the wine and other alcoholic drinks. Where I am, in the South of France, the majority of the population derive their livelihood from the cultivation of the vine and the wine trade. As I am quite sure that alcohol does a great deal of harm to men in general, I do not drink. Therefore, because of my work my conscience is in conflict. I am a sort of conscientious objector and ask myself: ‘Can I continue to work and collaborate in this environment’?

Here are a few hints which may help you to find a solution to your problem.

I could tell you, as many an advisor would, that it is up to you alone to solve it, for there is no rule in black and white which can say what you should do. Each case is different, each individual is different, and even for a particular individual the right action, the thing to be done varies with the inner state of consciousness, the stage of development attained.

But it is not likely that this would help you to find a satisfactory solution. Your mind would turn round and round all aspects of the question, all the advices and examples, often contradictory, given by one person or another, without arriving at the knowledge of what ought truly to be done. The only way to extricate yourself is to hand over the problem itself and its solution to the Divine. Let your aspiration be only that of fulfilling at each moment the Divine Will, to do the thing to be done in the way in which it must be done.

“But how to do the Divine Will if I do not know it?” you will ask.

The problem which presents itself to me is exactly to know it, to know what I ought to do. After that all will be easy.

No, the Divine Will is not like the order of a chief which you have merely to execute. What is required is not obedience; it is much more than that – and much more difficult. It is a matter of giving up to the Divine the whole shaping of your life instead of wanting to shape it yourself (even though it be in accordance with the Divine Will). If you can keep intense and constant the aspiration of which I have just spoken and, with this inner attitude, do the work which comes to you, the circumstances themselves will become what they ought to be. If you ought to change your occupation, the circumstances will change and will of themselves lead you to the right occupation, to the work to be done.

It is a difficult attitude, very difficult, for we have been accustomed to act by ourselves, even when we accept an advice or an order. To succeed, an absolute sincerity is necessary, and absence of all vanity, and entire faith and trust in the Divine.

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother

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