What is Yoga

Om (great logotype)Yoga means union with the Divine, or for those who are afraid of the word, union with the eternal Perfection that is enclosed within and discloses itself over long unending Time. All creation is in fact a slow unfolding of this ‘Perfection’ that hides in our depths and as our seed and core, Source and Base. We search in through the events and experiences of our life, we seek through all our longings and hopes and aspirations. It is a slow and laborious process stretching through many centuries of earth-time and many lives lived in and experienced in different bodies, countries and climes. Through the slow march of time and the many vicissitudes of life we still subconsciously strive for this long hoped for terrestrial perfection that yet eludes us. So deep is this need in man that no failure can eventually dim this impulse. Obstacles and periods of oblivion and darkness only end up secretly strengthening this urge and mankind springs back after every recoil towards its ancient seekings as if it were programmed for this. Sri Aurobindo reveals this beautifully in the very opening passage of the Life Divine:

The earliest preoccupation of man in his awakened thoughts and, as it seems, his inevitable and ultimate preoccupation,—for it survives the longest periods of scepticism and returns after every banishment,—is also the highest which his thought can envisage. It manifests itself in the divination of Godhead, the impulse towards perfection, the search after pure Truth and unmixed Bliss, the sense of a secret immortality. The ancient dawns of human knowledge have left us their witness to this constant aspiration; today we see a humanity satiated but not satisfied by victorious analysis of the externalities of Nature preparing to return to its primeval longings. The earliest formula of Wisdom promises to be its last, —God, Light, Freedom, Immortality. (The Life Divine p. 4)

But this slow process full of much waste and suffering and struggle can be shortened and accelerated. It can be quickened as it were and the stages of evolution compressed within a short span of time. This jumping of the time-loop in which we are caught and through which we slowly move is called Yoga.

In the right view both of life and of Yoga all life is either consciously or subconsciously a Yoga. For we mean by this term a methodised effort towards self-perfection by the expression of the secret potentialities latent in the being and—highest condition of victory in that effort—a union of the human individual with the universal and transcendent Existence we see partially expressed in man and in the Cosmos. But all life, when we look behind its appearances, is a vast Yoga of Nature who attempts in the conscious and the subconscious to realise her perfection in an ever-increasing expression of her yet unrealised potentialities and to unite herself with her own divine reality. In man, her thinker, she for the first time upon this Earth devises self conscious means and willed arrangements of activity by which this great purpose may be more swiftly and puissantly attained. Yoga, as Swami Vivekananda has said, may be regarded as a means of compressing one’s evolution into a single life or a few years or even a few months of bodily existence. (The Synthesis of Yoga p. 6)

But man is not made up of a single piece and therein lies the challenge of any venture he undertakes including the journey of yoga. An oversimplified formula of life, an exclusive doctrine may satisfy a lazy mind but cannot fulfil the heart and soul and the totality of man and his many-sided, complexly intertwined earthly life. Something in man aspires for this Perfection but there is still much in him that resists the change and is happy in its inertia and refuses to step out of its comfort zones built for our dwelling by the mind and the ego-self. This creates within man an evolutionary conflict which is the chief source of struggle experienced in yogic life. It is here that we see a differentiation between the different schools of yoga. The traditional way is to concentrate on the part that is ready and which aspires for Perfection, Light, Love, Peace, Bliss, Truth or in one word, the Divine. By an exclusive concentration on this part on its goal, it gradually escapes the confines of the rest of the nature. The soul within us rises on the wings of this glorious part in us to step out of the mind and ego-driven life to discover greater horizons of Light and Freedom and Immortality. Yet as long as it is in the human body, the other parts which were not yet ready continue to throw their imperfection. The traditional yoga aspirant simply ignores these as ‘not-self’, unless they drop off or become relatively quiescent. Or else he lets them remain in their own little domain without bothering about them. The result is a division in the being, – a part that has emerged into the Light and Freedom and Joy of the Infinite while the others remain submerged below in the ocean of darkness as an iceberg that can anytime topple the ship of life in which the aspirant is journeying. Most yogins thereby stop their journey having found the Self through this escape door that have managed to cut into their nature’s walls. They increasingly reduce their contact with life until just a skeletal frame of activities remains. To go back to life means to court danger once again and suffer the risk of a fall. The history of the spiritual evolution of man is full of such stories of half-baked yogins who have fallen from the Path. Of course even their fall they remain on a station of consciousness higher than ordinary humanity. Yet the price is paid and nature has extracted its revenge of trying to dismantle her frame.

Sri Aurobindo, well aware of these possibilities and having realized the peak experiences of these yogas did not want to repeat this old fiasco, this partial evolution which is always fraught with dangers and is unable to create a genuine divine life upon earth. Nothing short of a perfect perfection had to be the new goal, nothing had to be allowed to labour under darkness or remain unseen and hidden like the slippery grains of a fallen nature sticking on to the consciousness of the evolved yogin. A whole-scale conversion is his aim, a total transformation of nature, the participation of each and every movement in the yogic endeavor. Therefore he termed it an Integral Yoga, a yoga that includes all the diverse elements of nature and their complex movements. Quite naturally it is a long and painstaking labour, a thorough going process that does not follow any set-pattern. The combination of different elements in each nature is far too many and too complex and defies any easy or simple classification. If we consider these combinations in the totality of human nature we may well say that each person is unique in a certain way and therefore the path of his yoga will be unique. The Force of transformation which strives to raise each element to its divine possibility has to reckon with this complexity and cannot simply ignore it or live with this fundamental division between a part that is evolved into the Light and others that struggle in the darkness, as is accepted in traditional yogas. It is a wide path wherein the aspirant walks on many ropes at the same time as the Divine Shakti works on different elements and their mutual connections at the same time. Therefore the concentration required in this yoga is an all-inclusive one and not an exclusive concentration as practiced in traditional yogas:

Nor is the seeker of the integral fulfilment permitted to solve too arbitrarily even the conflict of his own inner members. He has to harmonise deliberate knowledge with unquestioning faith; he must conciliate the gentle soul of love with the formidable need of power; the passivity of the soul that lives content in transcendent calm has to be fused with the activity of the divine helper and the divine warrior. To him as to all seekers of the spirit there are offered for solution the oppositions of
the reason, the clinging hold of the senses, the perturbations of the heart, the ambush of the desires, the clog of the physical body; but he has to deal in another fashion with their mutual and internal conflicts and their hindrance to his aim, for he must arrive at an infinitely more difficult perfection in the handling of all this rebel matter. Accepting them as instruments for the divine realisation and manifestation, he has to convert their jangling discords, to enlighten their thick darknesses, to transfigure them separately and all together, harmonising them in themselves and with each other,—integrally, omitting no grain or strand or vibration, leaving no iota of imperfection anywhere. An exclusive concentration, or even a succession of concentrations of that kind, can be in his complex work only a temporary convenience; it has to be abandoned as soon as its utility is over. An all-inclusive concentration is the difficult achievement towards which he must labour.

Concentration is indeed the first condition of any Yoga, but it is an all-receiving concentration that is the very nature of the integral Yoga. A separate strong fixing of the thought, of the emotions or of the will on a single idea, object, state, inner movement or principle is no doubt a frequent need here also; but this is only a subsidiary helpful process. A wide massive opening, a harmonised concentration of the whole being in all its parts and through all its powers upon the One who is the All is the larger action of this Yoga without which it cannot achieve its purpose. For it is the consciousness that rests in the One and that acts in the All to which we aspire; it is this that we seek to impose on every element of our being and on every movement of our nature. This wide and concentrated totality is the essential character of the Sadhana and its character must determine its practice. (The Synthesis of Yoga pages 78 – 79)

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If concentration is the key to unlock the doors of the Spirit, it is the secret of success in any venture we undertake; we cannot enter the doors unless we have as our constant companion the ‘spirit of surrender assisting us at every step. Equally we need the staff of faith to help us walk the way until we have the required knowledge and the terra firma of the Spirit to stand upon. Faith and Surrender are the twin powers that help us move deeper and deeper into the arms of the Unknown. Without these two, many turn away turning their backs upon the doors of Grace that have opened before them. Faith and surrender give us the courage needed for the journey. Without them we may well feel threatened when the walls of the ego-prison in which our soul is entrenched begin to crumble at the Divine Touch. Right now we know only a small portion of nature and that too very superficially. To confront our nature (which in fact is simply a wave from the universal nature) is not easy unless we are rooted in faith and surrender and have the courage to walk through the thick and the thin of it. Imagine the whole Himalaya standing befo0re our sight inviting us for a grand walk when we are hardly conversant with a little stroll around low-lying hills. It is inviting and exciting but also challenging, intimidating, tiring and as we negotiate through some dangerous slopes, also frightening. It is one thing to swim within the safe limits of our backyard swimming pool and quite another thing to swim against the current in the middle of a sea. And yet what seems intimidating to our limited existence becomes delightful and interesting when we discover the hand of our intimate Lover emerging as the Lord of the mountains, who knows all the routes and has the power to steer us through every storm and avalanche. All that we need then is to open to His help, follow His guidance, and learn to entrust ourselves and our little understanding to His all-knowing Omniscience.

In psychological fact this method translates itself into the progressive surrender of the ego with its whole field and all its apparatus to the Beyond-ego with its vast and incalculable but always inevitable workings. Certainly, this is no short cut or easy sadhana. It requires a colossal faith, an absolute courage and above all an unflinching patience. For it implies three stages of which only the last can be wholly blissful or rapid,—the attempt of the ego to enter into contact with the Divine, the wide, full and therefore laborious preparation of the whole lower Nature by the divine working to receive and become the higher Nature, and the eventual transformation. In fact, however, 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.” The intellect becomes aware of a Law that beneficently insists and a succour that upholds; the heart speaks of a Master of all things and Friend of man or a universal Mother who upholds through all stumblings. Therefore this path is at once the most difficult imaginable and yet, in comparison with the magnitude of its effort and object, the most easy and sure of all.

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 and succession as in the specialised methods of Yoga, but with a sort of free, scattered and yet gradually intensive and purposeful working determined by the temperament of the individual in whom it operates, the helpful materials which his nature offers and the obstacles which it presents to purification and perfection. In a sense, therefore, each man in this path has his own method of Yoga. Yet are there certain broad lines of working common to all which enable us to construct not indeed a routine system, but yet some kind of Shastra or scientific method of the synthetic Yoga.

Secondly, the process, being integral, accepts our nature such as it stands organised by our past evolution and without rejecting anything essential compels all to undergo a divine change. Everything in us is seized by the hands of a mighty Artificer and transformed into a clear image of that which it now seeks confusedly to present. 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 more or less distorted or imperfect figure of some element or action in the harmony of the divine Nature. We begin to understand what the Vedic Rishis meant when they spoke of the human forefathers fashioning the gods as a smith forges the crude material in his smithy.

Thirdly, the divine Power in us uses all life as the means of this integral Yoga. Every experience and outer contact with our world-environment, however trifling or however disastrous, is used for the work, and every inner experience, even to the most repellent suffering or the most humiliating fall, becomes a step on the path to perfection. And we recognise in ourselves with opened eyes the method of God in the world, His purpose of light in the obscure, of might in the weak and fallen, of delight in what is grievous and miserable. 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. (The Synthesis of Yoga pages 46 – 47)

Thus seen and experienced we discover that yoga is neither a religion nor a cult; it is neither a limited sect or an ideological belief system but a unique journey undertaken through life itself to reach out to the supremely Unique who yet is the secret soul of all. To each his own experiences, to each his own challenges, to each his own fulfilment.

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Yoga is now a popular household word in the East and the West and now with a Yoga-day being celebrated by the United Nations it has been rightly brought upon the world-stage. But the meaning of yoga is still obscure in the mind of common man. The average human being associates it with some kind of body-mind exercises, some practice of bodily contortions and mental concentration. The slightly more informed associates with the practice of meditation and some special techniques and methods of breath control and mind control. Those who have dwelt little deeper into the vast yogic literature that exists in India know that yoga is much more than body control and mind control. It is a way of life that leads the individual to eventually step out of the darkness and bondage of ignorance in which our life is presently caught. The badge of this ignorance is various forms of suffering and imperfection to which human life is so much prone. According to yoga there are higher possibilities waiting in man as waits a tree in a seed. The yogic view of life even goes on to affirm that it is only through the evolution of these now asleep higher possibilities that man can truly solve the enigma in which he finds himself trapped. This is not to say that other measures do not have their utility. They are certainly useful but are, in the end, temporary means that put a balm over the real issues rather than healing them radically. They are half way homes for the human spirit and not the highest summits man is capable of rising to. That higher possibility can only emerge through yoga. We may even say yoga is conscious evolution, an acceleration of the normal evolutionary impulsion in Nature and not an abnormal activity pursued by a section of humanity with an abnormal predisposition.

In a certain sense human beings are programmed for conscious evolution. That is why perhaps, unlike every other species, it is hard to define normalcy for human beings. We are still in search for it. That is why perhaps man is ever seeking something or the other. That is why there is exploration, adventure and education. Just as an animal is driven by bodily necessities, we are driven by a will for terrestrial perfection, for a perfect life and when we with great difficulty we have achieved our own conception of a perfect life, we are driven to find and discover and achieve more. New horizons ever open before us as hills after hills to climb in an unending journey. We are never really ‘settled’ so to say. Perhaps we are never meant to be settled as we are presently constituted. It is this double sense of an inner inadequacy of all our present achievements and an ever haunting dream of a greater future that drives us relentlessly day and night. Man was indeed born to exceed himself, to transcend himself. Sri Aurobindo put it succinctly thus:

Man is a transitional being, he is not final; for in him and high beyond him ascend the radiant degrees which climb to a divine supermanhood.

The step from man towards superman is the next approaching achievement in the earth’s evolution. There lies our destiny and the liberating key to our aspiring, but troubled and limited human existence – inevitable because it is at once the intention of the inner Spirit and the logic of Nature’s process.

The appearance of a human possibility in a material and animal world was the first glint of a coming divine Light, – the first far-off intimation of a godhead to be born out of Matter. The appearance of the superman in the human world will be the fulfilment of that distant shining promise.

The difference between man and superman will be the difference between mind and a consciousness as far beyond it as thinking mind is beyond the consciousness of plant and animal; the differentiating essence of man is mind, the differentiating essence of superman will be supermind or a divine gnosis.

Man is a mind imprisoned, obscured and circumscribed in a precarious and imperfect living but imperfectly conscious body. The superman will be a supramental spirit which will envelop and freely use a conscious body, plastic to spiritual forces. His physical frame will be a firm support and an adequate radiant instrument for the spirit’s divine play and work in Matter….

Man is a being from the mental worlds whose mentality works here involved, obscure and degraded in a physical brain, shut off from its own divinest powers and impotent to change life beyond certain narrow and precarious limits. Even in the highest of his kind it is baulked of its luminous possibilities of supreme force and freedom by this dependence. Most often and in most men it is only a servitor, a purveyor of amusements, a caterer of needs and interests to the life and the body. But the superman will be a gnostic king of Nature; supermind in him even in its evolutionary beginnings will appear as a ray of the eternal omniscience and omnipotence. Sovereign and irresistible it will lay hands on the mental and physical instruments, and, standing above and yet penetrating and possessing our lower already manifested parts, it will transform mind, life and body into its own divine and luminous nature.

Man in himself is hardly better than an ambitious nothing. He is a narrowness that reaches towards ungrasped widenesses, a littleness straining towards grandeurs which are beyond him, a dwarf enamoured of the heights. His mind is a darkened ray in the splendours of the universal Mind. His life is a striving exulting and suffering wave, an eager passion-tossed and sorrow-stricken or a blindly and dully toiling petty moment of the universal Life. His body is a labouring perishable speck in the material universe. An immortal soul is somewhere hidden within him and gives out from time to time some sparks of its presence, and an eternal spirit is above and overshadows with its wings and upholds with its power this soul continuity in his nature. But that greater spirit is obstructed from descent by the hard lid of his constructed personality and this inner radiant soul is wrapped, stifled and oppressed in dense outer coatings. In all but a few it is seldom active, in many hardly perceptible. …

This imperfect being with his hampered, confused, ill-ordered and mostly ineffective consciousness cannot be the end and highest height of the mysterious upward surge of Nature. There is something more that has yet to be brought down from above and is now seen only by broken glimpses through sudden rifts in the giant wall of our limitations. Or else there is something yet to be evolved from below, sleeping under the veil of man’s mental consciousness or half visible by flashes, as life once slept in the stone and metal, mind in the plant and reason in the cave of animal memory underlying its imperfect apparatus of emotion and sense-device and instinct. Something there is in us yet unexpressed that has to be delivered by an enveloping illumination from above. A godhead is imprisoned in our depths, one in its being with a greater godhead ready to descend from superhuman summits. In that descent and awakened joining is the secret of our future.

Man’s greatness is not in what he is but in what he makes possible. His glory is that he is the closed place and secret workshop of a living labour in which supermanhood is made ready by a divine Craftsman. But he is admitted to a yet greater greatness and it is this that, unlike the lower creation, he is allowed to be partly the conscious artisan of his divine change. His free assent, his consecrated will and participation are needed that into his body may descend the glory that will replace him. His aspiration is earth’s call to the supramental Creator.

If earth calls and the Supreme answers, the hour can be even now for that immense and glorious transformation.

(Essays Divine and Human: pages 157 – 160)

The path that leads us to the unfolding of that next evolutionary step concealed within the depths of Nature as a blueprint of the Future is termed variously as ‘the Integral Yoga’, ‘the Supramental Yoga’ or very simply ‘the Mother’s Yoga’. The first term refers to the nature of the yoga and hints at its process as well. The second refers to the accomplishment towards which this yoga moves. But the third holds the key to the change, this leap from Man to Superman which cannot be accomplished without the Divine Mother’s intervention and Grace.

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But the change takes time and is not easy to establish and stabilize amidst the countless resistances of our present earth-nature. It is not easy for our human nature as it is presently constituted to bear and endure the exacting process of the supramental change. Though, at the apex of evolutionary journey, we are still too weak and frail in our body and mind to go through the process of transformation. We enjoy the warmth of the transforming power but detest its purifying heat. We enjoy a glimpse of what lies beyond the human but hesitate to take the leap towards the future. We are glad to hear the tidings of a happy future approaching man and would love to be part of it but are not ready to pay the price. The price is nothing else but our very humanity which we love and to which we cling inspite of its many imperfections. We cling to the past that is fleeing before our eyes, we cling to our present formation of nature that is dying so as to give birth to the future possibility, but seldom and only in some rare moments we cling to the future that we have glimpsed or to which we aspire. That is the great paradox of life, the difficulty and the challenge through which we need to negotiate with the Help of the Divine Mother’s Grace and Love. For at the end it is by clinging to Her that we escape this predicament for She not only has the key to the future but also understands fully well and better than us our past knots and present constitution. She alone can unravel the knots that hold our nature in past grooves and She alone can undo our present formation and utilize its material and energies for reshaping our future. Opening to the Mother is therefore the central key to this yoga. If this is rightly done then all the rest is assured, – rightly because one may turn to Her for purely personal purposes that has nothing to do with an aspiration for yoga. The Divine Mother responds to every call and cry that arises from this sphere of sorrow and gives to each one what is best for the person’s progress. Of course She does not act according to our human caprice or wishes and fancies but by another vision and a transcendent Wisdom. And yet through all Her outpourings of Love She prepares us for the real work we are here to do and awaits the day when man the animal will wake up to the call of the Divine that rings in the heart of creation and turn into a seeker of the divine way of living. Sri Aurobindo reminds us:

Man cannot by his own effort make himself more than man; themental being cannot by his own unaided force change himself into a supramental spirit. A descent of the Divine Nature can alone divinise the human receptacle.

For the powers of our mind, life and body are bound to their own limitations and, however high they may rise or however widely expand, they cannot rise above their natural ultimate limits or expand beyond them. But, still, mental man can open to what is beyond him and call down a supramental Light, Truth and Power to work in him and do what the mind cannot do. If mind cannot by effort become what is beyond mind, supermind can descend and transform mind into its own substance.

If the supramental Power is allowed by man’s discerning assent and vigilant surrender to act according to its own profound and subtle insight and flexible potency, it will bring about slowly or swiftly a divine transformation of our present semi-perfect nature.

This descent, this working is not without its possibility of calamitous fall and danger. If the human mind or the vital desire seizes hold on the descending force and tries to use it according to its own limited and erring ideas or flawed and egoistic impulses, – and this is inevitable in some degree until this lower mortal has learned something of the way of that greater immortal nature, – stumblings and deviations, hard and seemingly insuperable obstacles and wounds and suffering cannot be escaped and even death or utter downfall are not impossible. Only when the conscious integral surrender to the Divine has been learned by mind and life and body, can the way of the Yoga become easy, straight, swift and safe.

And it must be a surrender and an opening to the Divine alone and to no other. For it is possible for an obscure mind or an impure life force in us to surrender to undivine and hostile forces and even to mistake them for the Divine. There can be no more calamitous error. Therefore our surrender must be no blind and inert passivity to all influences or any influence, but sincere, conscious, vigilant, pointed to the One and the Highest alone.

Self-surrender to the divine and infinite Mother, however difficult, remains our only effective means and our sole abiding refuge. Self-surrender to her means that our nature must be an instrument in her hands, the soul a child in the arms of the Mother.

(Essays Divine and Human: Page 171)

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Sri Aurobindo’s yoga is of the nature of a New Creation. It is a complete and radical change of human nature into the divine nature. Such a total and wholesale conversion has never been attempted before though we have hints and glimpses in the Vedas and other spiritual literature that there have been occasional strivings of at least a partial change. From time to time this aspiration has emerged in rare moments amidst the exceptional type of spiritual seekers but it has not endured for long and soon retired. Even in these exceptional individuals it has been largely an individual aspiration and not something to be achieved and stabilized for the race. In this way too it is a new thing for the earth. Even where on occasional aspiration is glimpsed, the key to the hoped for change had been missing. It was given to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother to find the key and open the New Path. It was given to them to discover the New Power and stabilize it here upon Earth to usher the possibility of the divine change. The Power, the Supramental Power has always existed; it is the very core and base of all creation and is hidden in the very depths of matter. But it has worked from behind concealed and hampered by the many forces that have veiled it. Now the veil has been torn, the lid broken and the Earth has begun to taste that hidden Glory.

The Path has of course been opened by the twin tapasya of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, the roadmap to the Future revealed to man, the bridge built between the old world and the new. Yet each one of us has to walk the path in our own unique way. In a sense this is true of every path. That is why even when we walk the well-established paths of traditional yogas there remains an unpredictable element. The same Future unfolds itself differently in different individuals. Even when two persons have the same realization, it creates a different impact upon each person. This is so because the cast of our personality is different through which the same experience is glimpsed. Neither Nature nor the Divine delight in monotone for, in essence the two are one, – Nature is infinity manifest whereas the Divine is Infinity Himself. That is the beauty of creation. But in this yoga the unpredictable element is even more since our nature is taken up in its totality and worked upon by the Divine Mother’s Grace. Most of all this yoga with its many-sided working for the individual and collective change eventually encompasses not only our inner life but the entire range of our outer life and activities as well. There is a pressure upon all areas and aspects to change, not only our inner consciousness, our attitudes and motive powers, our will and impulsions, our feelings and thoughts and understanding, but also what we do, the action itself. Otherwise we will remain inwardly enlightened individuals who yet perpetuate the old way of life. Such is wholesale change is yet to be realized and will slowly dawn in various activities and endeavours of humanity as it walks the way. New forces and capacities are bound to appear and change not only the way we perceive things but also the way we do them, not just in terms of attitude and motives but also in the details of execution of the action. New forms of activities will also appear to which we are presently ignorant since they are waiting in the folds of Light for their moment to manifest through instruments that are ready. In this sense it is truly a yoga of the Future. While the old yogas have perfected the paths for leaving the manifest world and entering the state of the Unmanifest Divine, this yoga aims at bringing down and manifesting the Unmanifest here in life. That is the bigger challenge awaiting our discovery. Sri Aurobindo reminds us:

The extreme solution insisted on by the world-shunning ascetic or the inward-turned ecstatical and self-oblivious mystic is evidently foreign to the purpose of an integral Yoga,—for if we are to realise the Divine in the world, it cannot be done by leaving aside the world-action and action itself altogether. At a less high pitch it was laid down by the religious mind in ancient times that one should keep only such actions as are in their nature part of the seeking, service or cult of the Divine and such others as are attached to these or, in addition, those that are indispensable to the ordinary setting of life but done in a religious spirit and according to the injunctions of traditional religion and Scripture. But this is too formalist a rule for the fulfilment of the free spirit in works, and it is besides professedly no more than a provisional solution for tiding over the transition from life in the world to a life in the Beyond which still remains the sole ultimate purpose. An integral Yoga must lean rather to the catholic injunction of the Gita that even the liberated soul, living in the Truth, should still do all the works of life so that the plan of the universal evolution under a secret divine leading may not languish or suffer. But if all works are to be done with the same forms and on the same lines as they are now done in the Ignorance, our gain is only inward and our life is in danger of becoming the dubious and ambiguous formula of an inner Light doing the works of an outer Twilight, the perfect Spirit expressing itself in a mould of imperfection foreign to its own divine nature. If no better can be done for a time,—and during a long period of transition something like this does inevitably happen,—then so it must remain till things are ready and the spirit within is powerful enough to impose its own forms on the life of the body and the world outside; but this can be accepted only as a transitional stage and not as our soul’s ideal or the ultimate goal of the passage….(The Synthesis of Yoga: page 135 – 136)

…The Yogin’s aim in the sciences that make for knowledge should be to discover and understand the workings of the Divine Consciousness-Puissance in man and creatures and things and forces, her creative significances, her execution of the mysteries, the symbols in which she arranges the manifestation. The Yogin’s aim in the practical sciences, whether mental and physical or occult and psychic, should be to enter into the ways of the Divine and his processes, to know the materials and means for the work given to us so that we may use that knowledge for a conscious and faultless expression of the spirit’s mastery, joy and self-fulfilment. The Yogin’s aim in the Arts should not be a mere aesthetic, mental or vital gratification, but, seeing the Divine everywhere, worshipping it with a revelation of the meaning of its own works, to express that One Divine in ideal forms, the One Divine in principles and forces, the One Divine in gods and men and creatures and objects. The theory that sees an intimate connection between religious aspiration and the truest and greatest Art is in essence right; but we must substitute for the mixed and doubtful religious motive a spiritual aspiration, vision, interpreting experience. For the wider and more comprehensive the seeing, the more it contains in itself the sense of the hidden Divine in humanity and in all things and rises beyond a superficial religiosity into the spiritual life, the more luminous, flexible, deep and powerful will the Art be that springs from that high motive. The Yogin’s distinction from other men is this that he lives in a higher and vaster spiritual consciousness; all his work of knowledge or creation must then spring from there: it must not be made in the mind,—for it is a greater truth and vision than mental man’s that he has to express or rather that presses to express itself through him and mould his works, not for his personal satisfaction, but for a divine purpose….(Ibid: page 142 – 143)

…..This then is the true relation between divine and human knowledge; it is not a separation into disparate fields, sacred and profane, that is the heart of the difference, but the character of the consciousness behind the working. All is human knowledge that proceeds from the ordinary mental consciousness interested in the outside or upper layers of things, in process, in phenomena for their own sake or for the sake of some surface utility or mental or vital satisfaction of Desire or of the Intelligence. But the same activity of knowledge can become part of the Yoga if it proceeds from the spiritual or spiritualising consciousness which seeks and finds in all that it surveys or penetrates the presence of the timeless Eternal and the ways of manifestation of the Eternal in Time. (Ibid: page 144)

….Only the Divine will matter, the Divine alone will be the one need of the whole being; if there is any compulsion to activity it will be not that of implanted desire or of force of Nature, but the luminous driving of some greater Consciousness-Force which is becoming more and more the sole motive power of the whole existence. On the other hand, it is possible at any period of the inner spiritual progress that one may experience an extension rather than a restriction of the activities; there may be an opening of new capacities of mental creation and new provinces of knowledge by the miraculous touch of the Yoga-Shakti. Aesthetic feeling, the power of artistic creation in one field or many fields together, talent or genius of literary expression, a faculty of metaphysical thinking, any power of eye or ear or hand or mind-power may awaken where none was apparent before. The Divine within may throw these latent riches out from the depths in which they were hidden or a Force from above may pour down its energies to equip the instrumental nature for the activity or the creation of which it is meant to be a channel or a builder. (Ibid: page 146)

….It is not a separation of some activities, but a transformation of them all by the change of the informing consciousness that is the way of liberation, an ascent of the sacrifice of knowledge to a greater and ever greater light and force. All the works of mind and intellect must be first heightened and widened, then illumined, lifted into the domain of a higher Intelligence, afterwards translated into workings of a greater non-mental Intuition, these again transformed into the dynamic outpourings of the Overmind radiance, and those transfigured into the full light and sovereignty of the supramental Gnosis. It is this that the evolution of consciousness in the world carries prefigured but latent in its seed and in the straining tense intention of its process; nor can that process, that evolution cease till it has evolved the instruments of a perfect in place of its now imperfect manifestation of the Spirit. (Ibid: page 149)

(to be continued next week)

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