“A Divine perfection of the human being is our aim.”1
“A divine life in a divine body is the formula of the ideal we envisage.”2
The Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother aims at the perfection of the human being with the manifestation of a divine life upon earth as the ultimate goal. Not to end with the realisation of the divine but to serve the divine will and work to manifest the divine harmonies in life is the aim of Integral yoga.
Before arriving at the practice of Integral Yoga it is necessary to understand the underlying vision of life revealed by Sri Aurobindo as it is radically different from what comes to us through traditions.
“The Spirit shall look out through Matter’s gaze
And Matter shall reveal the Spirit’s face.”3
The vision of Sri Aurobindo sees the creation as a playground for the divine play. The Transcendental has involved here, is secretly the creation, and as Nature it re-discovers itself. Nature evolves various grades of energy — Matter, Life and Mind — and with the emergence of Mind, through us humans, Nature becomes self-aware, individual and conscious of its own higher aim in life and now can accelerate the pace of evolution. Yoga forms the methodology to dynamically further the evolution, perfect the human nature and realise higher developments in the creation.
Traditional Yogas and Integral Yoga
Although, Sri Aurobindo accepts traditional methods in the practice of the Integral yoga there are key differences between the aims of Integral yoga and traditional yogas; to Sri Aurobindo Self-realisation is not the end of journey as is held high in the traditions, instead, he sees it as the primary goal and a founding step of the integral yoga; the liberation of the soul, its release from the shackles of nature, is pursued not as a means of escape from the Nature but only as the first step towards mastering it; the union with the divine is sought not only in one’s soul but also in one’s complete nature; instead of progressively withdrawing from one’s nature the practice of Integral yoga strives to gradually transform it by the influence of the higher nature so that the transformed human nature can manifest divinity.
Sri Aurobindo speaks of a life-oriented spirituality. According to him the human nature can be divinised. The Mother, explaining Sri Aurobindo, puts it this way,“The psychic [evolving soul of the individual] will be the vehicle of true and pure love, the mind that of infallible knowledge, the vital will manifest an invincible power and strength and the body will be the expression of a perfect beauty and a perfect harmony.”4
The individual human nature needs to be fully put in contact with the higher nature. An integral concentration has to be employed that can bring consciousness to all the elements of nature. The two major steps are to bring forward the innermost soul from the deeper heart region and realisation of the Self above the mind. The methods of traditional major lines of Yoga, the triple path of knowledge (Jnana), devotion (Bhakti) and works (karma) as well as Hathayoga (with Asana and Pranayam) and Tantrayoga are a harmonious part of the integral Yoga. The practitioner may use all of these or none. As such, any scientifically designed discipline that help bring consciousness to one’s mind, vital and body can be integrated with one’s practice for self-perfection. Evolving the next principle of consciousness, what Sri Aurobindo terms Supermind, is the ultimate requirement which can divinise human nature – mind, life and body, making it fit to manifest the supreme will as well as live in a perfect unity and harmony with the creation.
The Divine Mother
The Mother is the Consciousness and Force of the Divine
– or, it may be said, she is the Divine in its consciousness-force.5
The Origin, the Supreme Consciousness, the Creatrix is forever the Mother of all. And the truth of our individuality, the evolving divinity within us all, our inner souls that are an integral part of her consciousness live inwardly in the presence of the Divine Mother. To concentrate on our relation with the Divine Mother energises and brings forward our inner soul which in turn integrates our nature and turns it fully towards the Divine.
The practice consists of an all-round concentration that gradually grows towards an integral self-surrender to the Divine Mother. The practitioner aspires to serve the Divine through all the activities of life, offers one’s thoughts, feelings and life-movements as well as all works and relations to the Divine and seeks divinisation of them.
Depending on which element of one’s nature is most inspired – mind, heart or will – one can initiate the practice by any type of yoga – the path of knowledge, love or action. Or it can be any combination of these that one thinks or feels correct for oneself. Eventually, and as the practice advances, all methods have to combined for the spontaneous practice of self-perfection.
Three basic attitudes lead the way; aspiration, rejection and surrender.
Aspiration: The practitioner aspires for the experience of the Divine presence within and everywhere, for the growth in consciousness and for a willing servitude of the Divine through all life movements.
Rejection: Aspiration is complemented by a steadfast rejection of all lower temptations and nature’s extrovert movements which contradict one’s inner aspiration.
Surrender: Along with the aspiration and rejection, Surrender to the will of the Supreme Mother has to be developed so that the former two gradually become a spontaneous part of one’s practice.
Generally speaking, the Integral yoga can be seen as about the growth of higher consciousness in oneself. Concentration on the Divine Mother and her service in all things are its prime terms. Sri Aurobindo’s message of three words, “Love the Mother”, is also the ultimate emphasis of the Integral yoga. One of the main practices of the Integral yoga was summarised in a letter by him and in the early days of the ashram it was put as a reminder in various places for the practitioners of Integral yoga, “Always behave as if the Mother was looking at you; because she is, indeed, always present.”6
The following letters of Sri Aurobindo provide the gist of practice:
There are two main things to be secured as the foundations of sadhana — the opening of the psychic being [evolutionary soul within] and the realisation of the Self above. For the opening of the psychic being, concentration on the Mother and self-offering to her are the direct way. The growth of Bhakti which you feel is the first sign of the psychic development. A sense of the Mother’s presence or force or the remembrance of her supporting and strengthening you is the next sign. Eventually, the soul within begins to be active in aspiration and psychic perception guiding the mind to the right thoughts, the vital to the right movements and feelings, showing and rejecting all that has to be put away and turning the whole being in all its movements to the Divine alone. For the self-realisation, peace and silence of the mind are the first condition.7
You have only to aspire, to keep yourself open to the Mother, to reject all that is contrary to her will and to let her work in you – doing also all your work for her and in the faith that it is through her force that you can do it. If you remain open in this way the knowledge and realisation will come to you in due course.8
In this yoga all depends on whether one can open to the Influence or not. If there is a sincerity in the aspiration and a patient will to arrive at the higher consciousness in spite of all obstacles, then the opening in one form or another is sure to come. But it may take a long or short time according to the prepared or unprepared condition of the mind, heart and body; so if one has not the necessary patience, the effort may be abandoned owing to the difficulty of the beginning. There is no method in this yoga except to concentrate, preferably in the heart, and call the presence and power of the Mother to take up the being and by the workings of her force transform the consciousness; one can concentrate also in the head or between the eyebrows, but for many this is a too difficult opening. When the mind falls quiet and the concentration becomes strong and the aspiration intense, then there is a beginning of experience. The more the faith, the more rapid the result is likely to be. For the rest one must not depend on one’s own efforts only, but succeed in establishing a contact with the Divine and a receptivity to the Mother’s Power and Presence.9
…giving up of yourself freely and simply into the hands of the Divine Mother …that is the only way to succeed in the supramental Yoga. To be a Yogi, a Sannyasi [Monk], a Tapaswi [Ascetic] is not the object here. The object is transformation, and the transformation can only be done by a force infinitely greater than your own, it can only be done by being truly like a child in the hands of the Divine Mother.10
- CWSA Vol. 23-24, The Synthesis of Yoga, Page: 616
- CWSA Vol. 13, Essays in Philosophy and Yoga, Page: 536
- CWSA Vol. 33-34, Savitri, Page: 709
- CWM Vol. 12, On Education, Page: 08
- CWSA Vol.32, The Mother – with Letters, Page: 55
- CWM Vol. 13, Page: 73
- CWSA Vol. 30, Letters on Yoga-3, Page: 321
- CWSA Vol.32, The Mother: with Letters, Page: 154
- CWSA Vol. 29, Letters on Yoga-2, Page: 107
- CWSA Vol.32, The Mother: with Letters, Page: 143
Collected Works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother
Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Puducherry, India publishes all works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and through its books distribution unit, SABDA, distributes them.
SABDA on web: www.sabda.sriaurobindoashram.org
The pdf version of the collected works are also available:
Sri Aurobindo: https://www.sriaurobindoashram.org/sriaurobindo/writings.php
The Mother: https://library.sriaurobindoashram.org/mother
Although there are numerous people all around the world who practice the Integral Yoga individually, a prime feature of it is that it can be practiced as a collective yoga. Two notable places where the Integral Yoga is collectively practiced are Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Puducherry, India and Auroville, Tamil Nadu, India. Ashram is where it all began and for decades the disciples received personal guidance from Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Auroville – the spiritual township is being built based on the vision of the Mother to create a future city.
Both these places are places of high aspiration and attract spiritual seekers to experience the Integral Yoga in action, Sri Aurobindo Ashram with its emphasis on the inner work stands as an inspiration and Auroville is becoming a hub for spiritual education.
Please find below two blogs dedicated to both these places….
Article Author and Bio:
Ashesh Joshi: Former inmate of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Puducherry, India from 1987 to 2006 and Aurovilian since.Ashesh has conducted over 850 workshops and retreats at Auroville and around the world introducing the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo.
His book: An Introduction to the Integral Yoga gives a brief overview of Integral yoga.
His website about Integral Yoga: www.integralyoga-auroville.com