Sri Aurobindo's Light
Sri Aurobindo's Light

                          The Principle of the Integral Yoga

The Principle of Yoga is the turning of one or of all powers of our human existence into a means of reaching a divine Being. In an ordinary Yoga one main power of being or one group of its powers makes the means, vehicle, path. In a synthetic Yoga all powers will be combined and included in the transmuting instrumentation. In Hathayoga the instrument is the body and life. All the power of the body is stilled, collected, purified, heightened, concentrated to its utmost limits or beyond any limits by Asana and other physical processes; the power of the life too is similarly purified, heightened, concentrated by Asana and Pranayama. This concentration of power is then directed towards that physical  center in which the divine consciousness sits concealed in the human body. The power of Life, Nature-power, coiled up with all its secret forces asleep in the lowest nervous plexus of the earth-being, —for only so much escapes into waking action in our normal operations as is sufficient for the limited uses of human life, —rises awakened through century after century and awakens, too, in its ascent and passage the forces of each successive nodes of our being, the nervous life, the heart of emotion and ordinary mentality, the speech, sight, well, the higher knowledge, till through and above the brain it meets with and it becomes one with the divine consciousness. In Raja yoga the chosen instrument is the mind. Our ordinary mentality is first disciplined, purified and directed towards the divine Being, then by a summary process of Asana and Pranayama the physical force of our being is stilled and concentrated, the life-force released into a rhythmic movement capable of cessation and concentrated into a higher power of its upward action, the mind, supported and strengthened by this greater activity and concentration of the body and life upon which it rests,  is itself purified of all its unrest and emotion and its habitual thought-waves, liberated from distraction and dispersion, given its highest force of concentration, gathered up into a trance of absorption. Two objects, the one temporal, the other eternal, are gained by this discipline. Mind-power develops in another concentrated action abnormal capacities of knowledge, effective will, deep light of the reception, powerful light of thought-radiation which are altogether beyond the narrow range of our normal mentality; it arrives at the Yogic or occult powers around which there has been woven so much quite dispensable and yet perhaps salutary mystery. But the one final end and the one all-important gain is that the mind, stilled and cast into a concentrated trance, can lose itself in the divine consciousness and the soul be made free to unite with the divine Being. The triple way takes for its chosen instruments the three main powers of the mental soul-life of the human being. Knowledge selects the reason and the mental vision and it makes them by purification, concentration and a certain discipline of a Goddirectedseeking it means for the greatest knowledge and the greatest vision of all, God-knowledge and God-vision. Its aim is to see, know and be the Divine. Works, action selects for its instrument the will of the doer of works; it makes life an offering of sacrifice to the Godhead and by purification, concentration and a certain discipline of subjection to the divine Will a means for contact and increasing unity of the soul of man with the divine Master of the universe. Devotion selects the emotional and aesthetic powers of the soul and by turning them all Godward in a perfect purity, intensity, infinite passion of seeking makes them a means of God-possession in one or many relations of unity with the Divine Being. All aim in their own way at a union or unity of the human soul with the Supreme Spirit. Each Yoga in its process has the character of the instrument it uses; thus the Hathayogic process is psycho-physical, the Rajayogicmental and psychic, the way of knowledge is spiritual and cognitive, the way of devotion spiritual, emotional and aesthetic, the way of work's spiritual and dynamic by action. Each is guided in the ways of its own characteristic power. But all power is in the end one, all power is really soul-power. In the ordinary process of life, body and mind this truth is quite obscured by the dispersed, dividing and distributive action of Nature which is the normal condition of all our functions, although even there it is in the end evident; for all material energy contains hidden the vital, mental, psychic, spiritual energy and in the end it must release these forms of the one Shakti, the vital energy conceals and liberates into action all the other forms, the metal supporting itself on the life and body and their powers and functioningscontains undeveloped or only partially developed the psychic and the spiritual power of the being. But when by Yoga any of these powers is taken up from the dispersed and distributive action, raised to its highest degree, concentrated, it becomes manifest soul-power and reveals the essential unity. Therefore the Hathayogic process has to its pure psychic and spiritual result, the Rajayogic arrives by psychic means at a spiritual consummation. The triple way may appear to be altogether mental and spiritual in its way of seeking and its objectives, but it can be attended by results more characteristic of the other paths, which offer themselves in a spontaneous and involuntary flowering, and for the same reason, because soul-power is all-power and where it reaches its height in one direction its other possibilities also begin to show themselves in fact or in incipient potentiality. This unity at once suggests the possibility of a synthetic Yoga. Tantric discipline is in its nature a synthesis. It has seized on the larger universal truth that there are two poles of being whose essential unity is the secret of existence, Brahman and Shakti, Spirit and Nature, and that Nature is the power of the spirit or rather is spirit as power. To raise nature in man into manifest power of spirit is its method and it is the whole nature that it gathers up for the spiritual conversion. It includes in its system of instrumentation the forceful Hathayogic process and especially the opening up of the nervous centers and the passage through them of the awakened Shakti on her way to her union with the Brahman, the subtler stress of the Rajayogic purification, meditation and concentration, the leverage of will-force, the motive power of devotion, the key of knowledge. But it does not stop short with an effective assembling of the different powers of these specific Yogas. In two directions it enlarges by its syntheticturn the province of the Yogic method. First, it lays its hand firmly on many of the mainsprings of human quality, desire, action and it subjects them to an intensive discipline with the soul’s mastery of its motives as a first aim and their elevation to a diviner spiritual level as its final utility. Again, it includes in its objects of Yoga not only liberation, 1 which is the one all mastering preoccupation of the specific systems, but a cosmicenjoyment2 of the power of the Spirit, which the others may take incidentally on the way, in part, casually, but avoid making a motive or object. It is a bolder and larger system.  


In the method of synthesis which we have been following,

another clue of principle has been pursued which is derived from

another view of the possibilities of Yoga. This starts from the

method of Vedanta to arrive at the aim of the Tantra. In the

Tantric method Shakti is all-important, becomes the key to the

finding of spirit; in this synthesis spirit, soul is all-important,

becomes the secret of the taking up of Shakti. The Tantric

method starts from the bottom and grades the ladder of ascent

upwards to the summit; therefore its initial stress is upon the

action of the awakened Shakti in the nervous system of the body

and its centres; the opening of the six lotuses is the opening up

of the ranges of the power of Spirit. Our synthesis takes man as

a spirit in mind much more than a spirit in body and assumes in

him the capacity to begin on that level, to spiritualise his being by

the power of the soul in mind opening itself directly to a higher

spiritual force and being and to perfect by that higher force so

possessed and brought into action the whole of his nature. For

that reason our initial stress has fallen upon the utilisation of

the powers of soul in mind and the turning of the triple key

of knowledge, works and love in the locks of the spirit; the

Hathayogic methods can be dispensed with,—though there is

no objection to their partial use,—the Rajayogic will only enter

in as an informal element. To arrive by the shortest way at the

largest development of spiritual power and being and divinise

by it a liberated nature in the whole range of human living is

our inspiring motive.

The principle in view is a self-surrender, a giving up of the

human being into the being, consciousness, power, delight of the

Divine, a union or communion at all the points of meeting in

the soul of man, the mental being, by which the Divine himself,

directly and without veil master and possessor of the instrument,

shall by the light of his presence and guidance perfect the human

being in all the forces of the Nature for a divine living. Here we

arrive at a farther enlargement of the objects of the Yoga. The

common initial purpose of all Yoga is the liberation of the soul

of man from its present natural ignorance and limitation, its

release into spiritual being, its union with the highest self and

Divinity. But ordinarily this is made not only the initial but the

whole and final object: enjoyment of spiritual being there is,

but either in a dissolution of the human and individual into the

silence of self-being or on a higher plane in another existence.

The Tantric system makes liberation the final, but not the only

aim; it takes on its way a full perfection and enjoyment of the

spiritual power, light and joy in the human existence, and even

it has a glimpse of a supreme experience in which liberation and

cosmic action and enjoyment are unified in a final overcoming

of all oppositions and dissonances. It is this wider view of our

spiritual potentialities from which we begin, but we add another

stress which brings in a completer significance. We regard the

spirit in man not as solely an individual being travelling to a

transcendent unity with the Divine, but as a universal being

capable of oneness with the Divine in all souls and all Nature

and we give this extended view its entire practical consequence.

The human soul’s individual liberation and enjoyment of union

with the Divine in spiritual being, consciousness and delight

must always be the first object of the Yoga; its free enjoyment of

the cosmic unity of the Divine becomes a second object; but out

of that a third appears, the effectuation of the meaning of the

divine unity with all beings by a sympathy and participation in

 the spiritual purpose of the Divine in humanity. The individual

Yoga then turns from its separateness and becomes a part of

the collective Yoga of the divine Nature in the human race. The

liberated individual being, united with the Divine in self and

spirit, becomes in his natural being a self-perfecting instrument

for the perfect outflowering of the Divine in humanity.

This outflowering has its two terms; first, comes the growth

out of the separative human ego into the unity of the spirit,

then the possession of the divine nature in its proper and its

higher forms and no longer in the inferior forms of the mental

being which are a mutilated translation and not the authentic

text of the original script of divine Nature in the cosmic individual.

In other words, a perfection has to be aimed at which

amounts to the elevation of the mental into the full spiritual and

supramental nature. Therefore this integral Yoga of knowledge,

love and works has to be extended into a Yoga of spiritual and

gnostic self-perfection. As gnostic knowledge, will and ananda

are a direct instrumentation of spirit and can only be won by

growing into the spirit, into divine being, this growth has to be

the first aim of our Yoga. The mental being has to enlarge itself

into the oneness of the Divine before the Divine will perfect

in the soul of the individual its gnostic outflowering. That is

the reason why the triple way of knowledge, works and love

becomes the key-note of the whole Yoga, for that is the direct

means for the soul in mind to rise to its highest intensities where

it passes upward into the divine oneness. That too is the reason

why the Yoga must be integral. For if immergence in the Infinite

or some close union with the Divine were all our aim, an integral

Yoga would be superfluous, except for such greater satisfaction

of the being of man as we may get by a self-lifting of the whole

of it towards its Source. But it would not be needed for the

essential aim, since by any single power of the soul-nature we

can meet with the Divine; each at its height rises up into the

infinite and absolute, each therefore offers a sufficient way of

arrival, for all the hundred separate paths meet in the Eternal.

But the gnostic being is a complete enjoyment and possession

of the whole divine and spiritual nature; and it is a complete

lifting of the whole nature of man into its power of a divine

and spiritual existence. Integrality becomes then an essential

condition of this Yoga.

At the same time we have seen that each of the three ways

at its height, if it is pursued with a certain largeness, can take

into itself the powers of the others and lead to their fulfilment. It

is therefore sufficient to start by one of them and find the point

at which it meets the other at first parallel lines of advance and

melts into them by its own widenings. At the same time a more

difficult, complex, wholly powerful process would be to start, as

it were, on three lines together, on a triple wheel of soul-power.

But the consideration of this possibility must be postponed till

we have seen what are the conditions and means of the Yoga

of self-perfection. For we shall see that this also need not be

postponed entirely, but a certain preparation of it is part of and

a certain initiation into it proceeds by the growth of the divine

works, love and knowledge. 

- The Synthesis of Yoga ( Sri Aurobindo)



Chapter II


The Integral Perfection


A Divine perfection of the human being is our aim. We


must know then first what are the essential elements


that constitute man’s total perfection; secondly, what we


mean by a divine as distinguished from a human perfection of


our being. That man as a being is capable of self-development


and of some approach at least to an ideal standard of perfection


which his mind is able to conceive, fix before it and pursue,


is common ground to all thinking humanity, though it may be


only the minority who concern themselves with this possibility


as providing the one most important aim of life. But by some the


ideal is conceived as a mundane change, by others as a religious




The mundane perfection is sometimes conceived of as something


outward, social, a thing of action, a more rational dealing


with our fellow-men and our environment, a better and more


efficient citizenship and discharge of duties, a better, richer,


kindlier and happier way of living, with a more just and more


harmonious associated enjoyment of the opportunities of existence.


By others again a more inner and subjective ideal is


cherished, a clarifying and raising of the intelligence, will and


reason, a heightening and ordering of power and capacity in


the nature, a nobler ethical, a richer aesthetic, a finer emotional,


a much healthier and better-governed vital and physical being.


Sometimes one element is stressed, almost to the exclusion of


the rest; sometimes, in wider and more well-balanced minds, the


whole harmony is envisaged as a total perfection. A change of


education and social institutions is the outward means adopted


or an inner self-training and development is preferred as the true


instrumentation. Or the two aims may be clearly united, the perfection


of the inner individual, the perfection of the outer living.


But the mundane aim takes for its field the present life


and its opportunities; the religious aim on the contrary fixes


before it the self-preparation for another existence after death,


its commonest ideal is some kind of pure sainthood, its means


a conversion of the imperfect or sinful human being by divine


grace or through obedience to a law laid down by a scripture or


else given by a religious founder. The aim of religionmay include


a social change, but it is then a change brought about by the


acceptance of a common religious ideal and way of consecrated


living, a brotherhood of the saints, a theocracy or kingdom of


God reflecting on earth the kingdom of heaven.


The object of our synthetic Yoga must, in this respect too as


in its other parts, be more integral and comprehensive, embrace


all these elements or these tendencies of a larger impulse of self perfection


and harmonise them or rather unify, and in order to


do that successfully it must seize on a truth which is wider than


the ordinary religious and higher than the mundane principle.


All life is a secret Yoga, an obscure growth of Nature towards


the discovery and fulfilment of the divine principle hidden in her


which becomes progressively less obscure, more self-conscient


and luminous, more self-possessed in the human being by the


opening of all his instruments of knowledge, will, action, life to


the Spirit within him and in the world. Mind, life, body, all the


forms of our nature are the means of this growth, but they find


their last perfection only by opening out to something beyond


them, first, because they are not the whole of what man is,


secondly, because that other something which he is, is the key of


his completeness and brings a light which discovers to him the


whole high and large reality of his being.


Mind is fulfilled by a greater knowledge of which it is only a


half-light, life discovers its meaning in a greater power and will


of which it is the outward and as yet obscure functioning, body


finds its last use as an instrument of a power of being of which it


is a physical support and material starting-point. They have all


themselves first to be developed and find out their ordinary possibilities;


all our normal life is a trying of these possibilities and


an opportunity for this preparatory and tentative self-training.


But life cannot find its perfect self-fulfilment till it opens


to that greater reality of being of which by this development of a


richer power and a more sensitive use and capacity it becomes


a well-prepared field of working.


Intellectual, volitional, ethical, emotional, aesthetic and


physical training and improvement are all so much to the good,


but they are only in the end a constant movement in a circle


without any last delivering and illumining aim, unless they


arrive at a point when they can open themselves to the power


and presence of the Spirit and admit its direct workings. This


direct working effects a conversion of the whole being which


is the indispensable condition of our real perfection. To grow


into the truth and power of the Spirit and by the direct action


of that power to be made a fit channel of its self-expression,—


a living of man in the Divine and a divine living of the Spirit in


humanity,—will therefore be the principle and the whole object


of an integral Yoga of self-perfection.


In the process of this change there must be by the very


necessity of the effort two stages of its working. First, there will


be the personal endeavour of the human being, as soon as he


becomes aware by his soul, mind, heart of this divine possibility


and turns towards it as the true object of life, to prepare himself


for it and to get rid of all in him that belongs to a lower working,


of all that stands in the way of his opening to the spiritual truth


and its power, so as to possess by this liberation his spiritual


being and turn all his natural movements into free means of


its self-expression. It is by this turn that the self-conscious Yoga


aware of its aim begins: there is a new awakening and an upward


change of the life motive. So long as there is only an intellectual,


ethical and other self-training for the now normal purposes of


life which does not travel beyond the ordinary circle of working


of mind, life and body, we are still only in the obscure and yet


unillumined preparatory Yoga of Nature; we are still in pursuit


of only an ordinary human perfection. A spiritual desire of the


Divine and of the divine perfection, of a unity with him in all our


being and a spiritual perfection in all our nature, is the effective


sign of this change, the precursory power of a great integral


conversion of our being and living.


- The Synthesis of Yoga ( Sri Aurobindo)

To be continued from Pg 619


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