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Notes on counselling

Equality — a prerequisite for higher living

Dr. Soumitra Basu


Equality is not only an attitude but knowledge as well as a yoga. It is a prerequisite for a higher life. A multifaceted equality has to be cultivated at different parts of the being to culminate in a soul-equipoise.

The subject of equality is an unique factor in the arena of counselling with implications both for the client as well as the counsellor. Indeed equality is not only an attitude which has to be cultivated, it is by its own merit a subject that has to be acquired, assimilated and lived.

The word equality seems to be so simple and common and yet it is the most elusive and chimerical as a reality. This is so not only in individual life but also in collective life, not only in psychology but also in sociology, not only in inter-personal life but also in political life. We know how difficult it is to establish equality even in the most idealistic State without suppressing at least an optimal amount of liberty. If this is true in the life of a nation, one can guess how much more difficult it would be to establish a multifaceted equality in the life of an individual.

It is important to note that though equality seems to be a simple word, it has to be understood along several perspectives in the individual. Psychologically speaking, we have to deal with a multifaceted equality, making it a complex issue. It is not enough to establish equality in one’s thinking and attitudes, it is also necessary to have a poise of equality in the domain of our vital life, the life of passion, dynamism and desire. It is imperative to make equality a guiding principle in the development of all parts and planes of consciousness and not merely in the development of intellect. Finally, equality is a soul-characteristic that comes forward when the discordant parts of the being have to be harmonised and integrated around the ego-surpassing, fourth-dimensional soul-principle, the Psychic Being.

Equality in the mind

Personally, I find it strange that whenever I am confronted with students who are being trained to be counsellors, the concept of equality is rather casually received when presented. Then I have to impress upon them that just as irrespective of class, caste, gender, religion and colour of skin, they enjoy equal status as students of counselling. Similarly, somewhere in the domain of ideas, all contradictory and complementary thoughts have equal status and every idea has the right to co-exist with other ideas. This means that as counsellors they are expected to be perfectly non-judgmental in client-work. In fact, clients should not be looked down if they hold opposite world-views. The subject with HIV will have to be treated equally like the pious moralist. It is the mind which is the altar at the counselling arena and the mind of the sage enjoys equal status and importance as the mind of the psychopath in the counsellor’s therapeutic work. This implies an abandonment of the prejudices, biases, generalisations, parataxic distortions1 and stereotypes carried by the counsellor that have accrued through time, got bolstered by cultural inputs and justified by some rationale or the other.

Of course, this is too tall a thing to be expected from counsellors unless they have some exposure to yoga psychology. By rigorous practice that constantly exposes one’s shortcomings, a counsellor can cultivate some amount of equality in outlook and attitude. However if, as has been described in yoga psychology, one can shift to a status of consciousness beyond the ordinary cognitive field, one can have some true experience of equality. This is because even higher up is what Sri Aurobindo described as the Higher Mind where all contradictory and complementary ideas co-exist in harmony. One need not have to deconstruct one idea to admit a supposedly better idea but new ideas get added up without destroying the existing ones. If our educational and counselling curriculums could devise ways and means to tap the resources of the Higher Mind, we could deal more effectively with ‘exclusivism’ in individual and public life. At the end of the day, it is exclusivist thinking that nurtures inequality and facilitates dogmatic thinking and fundamentalist mindsets.

Equality in the vital

Obviously the counsellor has to have an experiential knowledge of the equality in thinking if it is to be transferred to the client. This acting and counselling from experience is a sine qua non of a counselling paradigm that acts through consciousness. Even more important is to inculcate the discipline of equality in the vital plane of consciousness, the domain of passions, desires, ambitions and dynamism. This would need a handling of one’s desires. No desire should be given precedence over other desires on the plea that there are better desires and baser desires. In fact, all desires should be equally rejected and equally surpassed for establishing true equality. Instead of forcefully suppressing the desires or succumbing to their passive repression, the energy constituting the stuff of desire has to be sublimated by aligning it with the Higher Will or Divine Will.

The conquest over desires takes time; it cannot be achieved instantaneously as the subconscious is always prone to send its pernicious influences as if it has the right to hinder human progress at every step. As one gradually learns to control desires, one increasingly builds up equipoise in ordinary circumstances of life. One is not inflated by success and not demoralised by defeat. In addition, when one learns not to react to people who harbour enmity, one is immediately relieved of a huge load of anguish and revenge that one was even covertly carrying within oneself. This enables one to review things from a poise stationed above the ordinary thinking mind and to take more correct decisions. When the equipoise reaches an optimal level, one is capable of receiving intuitive insights that can solve many problems which so long had troubled and clouded the mind.

Equality in the body

It is not enough to establish equipoise in the cognitive and emotional levels of functioning, one has also to establish it in the physical consciousness, in the body. This sounds strange because we cannot directly give suggestions to the body; at best we can submit the body to a willed discipline as expert sportspersons and Hatha yogis can do. This discipline can be refined and intensified to modify the body’s reaction to any adverse situation like a disease. The Mother describes, “Suppose you have a pain somewhere; the instinct (the instinct of the body, the instinct of the cells) is to shrink and to seek to reject — that is the worst thing, that increases it invariably. Therefore, the first thing to teach the body is to remain immobile, to have no reaction; above all, no shrinking, not even a movement of rejection — a perfect immobility. That is bodily equality (1).”


A great difficulty arises when one attempts to refine one’s personality and embark on a journey of personal growth. The recalcitrant parts of the being are unequally interspersed with each other and the task of harmonising them is made more hazardous by the ego which is skewed, biased and unequal in its functioning, exaggerating one or other part of the being leading to disharmony and disequilibrium. Indeed this state of affairs leads to a mismatch between different planes of consciousness resulting in a plethora of diseases. The redemption comes by shifting the centre of the being from the superficial ego to the fourth-dimensional integrating principle, the Psychic Being poised deep in the inner recesses of the being. The Psychic Being restores the fundamental equality in the being, establishing a reign of harmony and equilibrium. Simultaneously, the deeper planes of consciousness underlying the physical vital and mental planes of consciousness have to be equally developed so as to act as perfect instruments of the Psychic Being. Only then can an ideal soul-equipoise be achieved.

Equality as yoga

It would be pertinent to pause and reflect as to why it is so laborious to cultivate and enjoy equality in both individual and collective life. Obviously this happens because of the all-pervading influence and existence of inequality in the manifestation itself. The primal equality and harmony in primeval nature was broken so that civilisation could progress in all directions. Naturally each line of progress was achieved at the cost of suppression of some other line and inequality became inevitable. Thus wherever knowledge progressed in a concentrated and focused manner to touch the pinnacles of wisdom, the strength of the warrior-self had to be subdued. Likewise, whenever the hand that strikes the sword had to be rigorously trained to be at the command of a mighty army, the pursuit of knowledge had to be subordinated. Yet without this basic breach of equality, the different lines of human progress would not have attained the superlative heights where they could finally culminate.

A time comes when the evolutionary movement gets stagnated and a new paradigm should logically emerge and take over the reign of progress. The Aurobindonian perspective shows that there is to be a change in the evolutionary paradigm and henceforth the progress of the race has to be construed in new terms of consciousness where equality, harmony and equilibrium exist spontaneously and naturally so that the evolutionary trajectory moves not from inequality to equality but from one level of equipoise to another higher level of equipoise. It is to this new call that our counselling programmes, techniques and drives have to respond and get aligned to. Equality then becomes a prerequisite for higher living.

Equality which began as an attitude becomes itself a knowledge. It finally becomes a passage to a higher Life, a link to the Supreme Reality, a veritable Yoga.

As the Gita enjoined:

“Perform action, O Arjuna, being fixed in Yoga, renouncing attachments and seated in equality in regard to success and failure. Equality is verily Yoga (2).”


1. The Mother. Collected Works of The Mother, Volume 11. Cent. ed. Pondicherrry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust; pp. 13-4.

2. Joshi K (transl.) The Gita, 2:48: Bhagavadgita and Contemporary Crisis. New Delhi: Nag Publishers; 1996, p. 311.

1Parataxic distortion refers to a general abnormality in emotionality where ideas, thoughts, feelings and attitudes are not fairly integrated.

Dr. Soumitra Basu, a practising psychiatrist and member of SAIIIHR, is the Director of a school of psychology, Integral Yoga Psychology. He is also one of the editors of NAMAH.

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Perfect immobility