The Practice of the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo

The practice of Integral Yoga is mainly found in the Mother’s conversations as well as in Letters of Sri Aurobindo. The major works of Sri Aurobindo including The Life Divine and The Synthesis of Yoga primarily lay down the broad foundations of sadhana, though there are plenty of hints in the Synthesis about the actual practice. One of the reasons for this is that the Integral Yoga is not a fixed system but a fluid process that evolves and adapts as the individual evolves and adapts to the Mother’s Force that does the yoga in us. Besides, this yoga takes into account our entire nature as it stands today and moulds it towards the future that we are destined to be. The landscape therefore on which the yoga moves is as vast as the entire range of Nature itself. In a way it is a progressive unfolding of the Divine in each life until everything in us is taken up and transformed so as to become a part of this great unfolding. That is why Sri Aurobindo did not give fixed processes. However what He did give and the Mother elaborated in great detail are the fundamentals of the yogic journey, the core processes, the needed foundations. Another important thing is to remember that this yoga is primarily a psychological process. The role of mechanical processes or even psycho-physical processes such as pranayama and certain forms of strictly formulated meditations is very little in this yoga though there is nothing preventing the individual from taking them up at a given point of time if it comes naturally in the course of his spiritual evolution. But these are not the indispensable elements of this yoga.

The first and most indispensable element, its ‘central key’ as Sri Aurobindo succinctly put it, is to open to the Mother with a psychic attitude of faith, devotion and surrender. If this can be done with sufficient sincerity then nothing else may be needed. This alone is more than enough to carry one through the difficult trials and tribulations of this tremendous journey of integral yoga. Until this happens, one can prepare oneself in various ways for the opening to come. Among these methods used for self-preparation and which also help later when the yoga advances by the touch of Her Force and Grace, are activities such as reading Their works, visiting places that are charged by Her Presence such as the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, meeting with a seeking heart those who are well on the path, practicing some kind of meditation with the aid of one of the mantras such as Sri Aurobindo’s Gayatari or some other that comes naturally to the seeker. But the real work of transformation begins when we open to Her Grace and the transforming power of Her Love with faith and aspiration.

The main foundations of the integral yoga are Calm, Peace, Equanimity. These, especially equanimity have to be practiced in the everyday events of one’s life. For this one can use the daily events and circumstances of one’s life as an opportunity. One learns to step back from the whirl of circumstances and our habitual reactions motivated by desires, preferences and the ego-self. One can even ask for these things from the Divine and aspire for them. It takes long but once this foundation is laid then the rest becomes easy.

Among the core processes is the triple effort of aspiration, rejection and surrender. Aspiration is aided by a concentration in the heart on the image of the Divine Mother since it is She who ignites this fire and sustains it and makes it grow brighter and stronger like the flame of Agni in the Vedas. From our side we can feed this fire through Remembrance and Offering of all we do and have and are. Practically this means that on waking up we remember Her and offer the day to Her with an aspiration that She may govern our life and help us grow towards Her, to grow in faith and aspiration and devotion and peace and open more and more to Her. Of course this prayer accompanying our offering has to be our own spontaneous cry. Until then it is enough to remember Her Name (Maa, Maa, Maa) and offer the day to Her. Next this “Remembrance and Offering” has to be done as often as we can, whether while we are getting ready, brushing our teeth, going for work, eating food, meeting people, reading, writing, driving until the day ends when we offer our sleep to Her and rest in Her lap imagining a cocoon of Her Light wrapped around us.

Rejection is the most difficult part of the yoga and often one has to summon up one’s will, remind oneself the purpose of our life and the goal of the yoga, try engaging in healthy activities so that there is little time for certain forces to rise and sully our aspiration. However here too the most important thing is to open these parts that resist to Her Light and Grace and offer them to Her with a sincere prayer for change. This works best if there is vigilance to detect the false movements in us and a sincerity in our will to root out these movements and transform these parts.

Surrender means to live according to the Divine Will rather than one’s own egoistic desires. This too is not as easy as it appears to be. It means obedience to the Divine, to consent to the Divine working which will throw away whatever is not needed in our nature. True surrender is always accompanied with trust and confidence. While it is enough to start with a central surrender this too must grow as we grow and more and more hidden parts of nature come into the ambit and scope of our witness self.

A method, or rather the only method, if we may use the term, in this yoga is to call the Mother, to take Her Name and Sri Aurobindo’s Name as a mantra.

Since Shastra is one of the four main aids to the sadhana it is good to read something regularly from Their writings in a meditative way. It means reading in a state of inner quietude to receive and absorb the consciousness contained in the words rather than letting the analytical discursive mind churn the words in the head. Among these works, the most helpful perhaps are Sri Aurobindo’s ‘Savitri’. Savitri is itself mantric and transformative in nature; Sri Aurobindo called it as His most important work. So also, the Mother’s ‘Prayers and Meditations’ uplift and deepen our consciousness filling it with the vivifying breath of Her Love and Light and Peace and Grace.

It is always a great Help to undertake some work for the Mother through any of the many channels She has opened for mankind to engage and participate in Her Work. If one aspires to serve Her the avenues will open. It is this Divine Service that opens up our most external and instrumental parts to the workings of Her Force. One may also set aside some fixed time for meditation and concentration, preferably in the center of the chest (heart center) and the head or above the head, on Her Presence or Her Image.  It is also useful to keep the instrumental nature – the mind and the body – fit for Her Force, whose workings are may be difficult for weak nature’s to bear. That is why it is helpful to cultivate certain qualities such as endurance, intrinsic strength (physical and psychological), humility, gratitude, perseverance, sincerity among others.

Of course the progressive opening and surrender to the Mother, calling Her Name with faith and a sincere aspiration hold the key to this yoga. If this happens the rest is done by Her Grace and Love. In the last analysis though even the opening to Her Grace and Love is itself an act of Her Grace! But since we ‘need’ to do something from our side, this is a brief list of things that can be done by way of practice of the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo.

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