By Life Positive
Revolutionary, poet, yogi, spiritual teacher, visionary—Sri Aurobindo was all this and much more. A leading member of the so-called ‘extremist’ group in India’s struggle for independence from British rule, he was thrown into Calcutta’s Alipore jail in 1909 for ‘terrorist activities’. It was here that he had his first spiritual experiences and, in his own words, ‘it was no longer by its (the jail’s) high walls that I was imprisoned; no, it was Vasudeva who surrounded me’.
This marked the beginning of a new path in Aurobindo’s life, which would later lead to Pondicherry and creation of the Aurobindo Ashram there, climaxing in a decisive spiritual realization in 1926. This phase also introduced the Mother, the yogi’s ‘regent and shakti’ and the administrative brain behind the Ashram at Pondicherry.
A scholar of India’s spiritual-philosophical tradition, Sri Aurobindo also developed an original philosophy, which contained an evolutionary dimension. Humanity’s destiny, according to him, is to evolve towards a higher state of consciousness that would fundamentally alter life, as we know it. To accomplish this, Sri Aurobindo synthesized various traditions of ancient spirituality and offered the instrument of integral Yoga. This prophet of the New Age not only predicted the perfectibility of the human condition but also assured that the day is not far when man’s Supramental consciousness achieves its fullest fruition on earth. Following is an excerpt from Sri Aurobindo’s Synthesis of Yoga.
There exists in India a remarkable Yogic system, which is in its nature synthetical and starts from a great central principle of nature; but it is a yoga apart, not a synthesis of other schools. This system is the way of the tantra. Tantra has fallen into discredit with those who are not tantrics, especially owing to the development of its left-hand path, the Vamamarga, which, not content with exceeding the duality of virtue and sin, seemed to make a method of self-indulgence.
Tantra, however, was founded upon ideas, which were at least partially true. Even its twofold division into the right-hand and left-hand paths started from a profound perception. In the ancient symbolic sense of the words ‘Dakshina‘ and ‘Vama‘, it was the distinction between the way of Knowledge and the way of Ananda—Nature in man liberating itself through power and practice of its own energies, elements and potentialities either by right discrimination or by joyous acceptance. But both paths led to a deformation of symbols and a fall.
If, however, we leave aside the actual practices and seek the central principle, we find, first, that tantra expressly differentiates itself from the Vedic methods of yoga. In a sense, all the other schools are Vedantic in their principle; their force is in knowledge—if not through discernment by the intellect then through the knowledge of the heart expressed in love and faith, or a knowledge in the will expressed through action. In all, the lord of the yoga is purusha, the conscious soul that knows, observes, attracts, governs.
But tantra is governed by prakriti, the nature-soul, the energy, the will-in-power in the universe. It was by learning and applying the intimate secrets of this will-in-Power that the tantric yogin pursued the aims of his discipline—mastery, perfection, liberation, beatitude. Instead of drawing back from manifested nature and its difficulties, he confronted them, seized and conquered. But in the end, as is the general tendency of prakriti, tantric yoga largely lost its principle in its machinery and became a thing of formulae and occult mechanism.
Tantra works with one side of the truth, the worship of the energy, the shakti, as the sole effective force. Vedanta is the other extreme. Here, shakti is perceived as the power of illusion and liberation lies in the search for the silent, inactive purusha. But in the integral conception, the conscious soul is the lord, the nature-soul is his executive Energy. Purusha is of the nature of sat, conscious self-existence pure and infinite; shakti or prakriti is of the nature of chit—it is power of the purusha’sself-conscious existence, pure and infinite. The relation of the two exists between the poles of rest and action. When the energy is absorbed in the bliss of conscious self-existence, there is rest; when the purusha pours itself out in the action of its energy, there is action, creation and the enjoyment or ananda of becoming. But if ananda is the creator of all becoming, its method is tapas or force of the purusha’s consciousness dwelling upon its own infinite potentiality in existence. This produces real ideas or vijnana which, proceeding from an omniscient self-existence, have the surety of their own fulfillment and contain in themselves the nature and law of their own becoming in the terms of mind, life and matter. The eventual omnipotence of tapas and the infallible fulfillment of the Idea are the very foundation of all yoga.
The movement of nature is twofold: divine and undivine. The distinction is only for practical purposes since there is nothing that is not divine. The undivine nature, that which we are and must remain so long as the faith in us is not changed, acts through limitation and ignorance and culminates in the life of the ego; but the divine nature acts by unification and knowledge, and culminates in life divine. The passage from the lower to the higher may effect itself by the transformation of the lower and its elevation to the higher nature. It is this that must be the aim of an integral yoga.
It is always through something in the lower that we must rise into the higher existence, and each school of yoga selects its own point of departure. They choose certain aspects of the lower prakriti and turn them towards the divine. But nature’s normal action is an integral movement which is affected by and affects all our environments. The whole of life is the yogaof nature. The whole difference between the yogin and the natural man is that the yogin seeks to substitute the lower nature by the higher nature. If our aim is only an escape from the world to god, synthesis is a waste of time; for then our sole aim must be to find the shortest path to god. But if our aim be a transformation of our integral being into the terms of god-existence, then synthesis becomes necessary.
The method we have to pursue, then, is to put our whole conscious being into contact with the divine and to call him in to transform our entire being into his, so that in a sense god himself, the real person in us, becomes the sadhaka of the sadhana as well as the master of the yoga by whom the lower personality is used.
In psychological fact this method translates itself into the progressive surrender of the ego to the beyond—ego with its vast and inevitable workings. It requires a colossal faith and unflinching patience. For it implies three stages of which only the last can be wholly blissful or rapid-the attempt of the ego to contact the divine. In fact, the divine strength, often unobserved and behind the veil, substitutes itself for our weakness and supports us through all our failings of faith, courage and patience. It ‘makes the blind to see and the lame to stride over the hills’. Therefore this path is at once the most difficult imaginable and yet, in comparison with the magnitude of its effort and object, the easiest.
There are three outstanding features of this action of the higher when it works integrally on the lower nature. In the first place, it does not act according to a fixed system as in the specialized methods of yoga, but with a sort of free, yet gradually intensive and purposeful working determined by the temperament of the individual in whom it operates. In a sense, therefore, each man has his own method of yoga.
Secondly, the process, being integral, accepts our complete nature and compels all to undergo a divine change. In that ever progressive experience, we begin to perceive how this lower manifestation is constituted and that everything in it, however seemingly deformed or petty or vile, is the imperfect figure of some element in the divine nature.
Thirdly, the divine Power in us uses all life as a means of this integral yoga. Every contact with our world-environment, however trifling, is used for the work, and every inner experience, even the most repellent suffering, becomes a step on the path to perfection. And we recognize in ourselves the method of god in the world, his purpose of light in the obscure. We see the divine method to be the same in the lower and in the higher working; only in the one it is pursued tardily and obscurely through the subconscious in nature, in the other it becomes swift and self-conscious and the instrument confesses the hand of the master. All life is a yoga of nature seeking to manifest god within itself. Yoga marks the stage at which this effort becomes capable of self-awareness and therefore of right completion in the individual. It is a gathering up and concentration of the movements dispersed and loosely combined in the lower evolution.
An integral method and an integral result. First, an integral realization of divine being; not only a realization of the one in its indistinguishable unity, but also in its multitude of aspects which are also necessary to the complete knowledge.
Therefore, also, an integral liberation. Not only the freedom born of unbroken contact of the individual being in all its parts with the divine, sayujyamukti, by which it becomes free even in its separation, even in the duality; not only the salokyamukti by which the whole existence dwells in the same status of being as the divine, in the state of sachchidananda; but also the acquisition of the divine nature by the transformation of this lower being into the human image of the divine, sadharmyamukti, and the complete and final liberation of the consciousness from the transitory mould of the ego and its unification with the one Being, universal both in the world and the individual and transcendentally one both in the world and beyond all universe.
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