Daily Studies Now Being Converted to Audio Podcasts on Spotify


For those who prefer to listen rather than read the texts, who want to use their travel time to listen we have been able to use the wonder of technology to create audio podcasts for you which are published on Spotify. The podcast is now also available on Apple iTunes, Google Play and other podcast venues. We have converted a few dozen of the blog posts so far, but expect to complete many more in the coming days. You can link and bookmark the following:

Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice — Introduction


“All life is yoga”. While many believe that yoga is a series of physical exercises, or consists of specific practices taken up as part of one’s daily life, Sri Aurobindo set forth an entirely different understanding and methodology which seeks to take up every aspect of our life and existence, to bring conscious self-aware attention to every movement, feeling, emotion and thought that we experience. As we take up this yogic practice, we begin to understand that each of the paths of yoga that have heretofore been popularized focuses on a particular aspect or side of human life. Those who take up the practice of one or another of these paths are addressing a particular need or concentration, in many cases to the exclusion of other, equally essential, aspects of human life. One of the results of this exclusive concentration can be the abandonment of the normal worldly life. Another is the pigeonholing of the practice into a small segment of one’s activities, while the normal life goes on unchanged. In both of these cases, most of our existence is left untouched and unchanged.

Why practice yoga in the first place? Sri Aurobindo describes the evolution of consciousness, the limitations of our current stage in that process, and the potentiality of the human being, with self-aware and directed action, to participate in the development and manifestation of the next phase of evolutionary development. This focused action is the practice of what he terms an “integral yoga”, meaning that it takes up all of life and every aspect of human existence. Yoga is a form of applied psychology, where certain movements of consciousness work to unravel the complex and tangled actions and reactions of life, and provide coherence in the direction of greater consciousness aligned with the larger significance of the universal manifestation. Western scientists would consider this to be a separation of “signal” from background “noise” in our lives, to accentuate and emphasize the power of the signal.

The current volume explores the philosophy and principles of the integral yoga, provides clarity for how it compares to the traditional paths of yoga, and then takes up the actual implementations for the physical, vital, emotional, mental, and psychic and spiritual aspects of our human existence. As a background, Sri Aurobindo went into an intense concentrated state of his yogic practice from the mid-1920’s through 1950. During the 1930’s a number of disciples came and joined the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Sri Aurobindo corresponded with them to reply to their specific inquiries and needs. While he cautioned that advice he provided to one person for a specific situation might not necessarily apply to another in a different situation, certain major thematic views emerged which have been carefully organized and compiled in the current text.

The editors note: “This compilation consists of letters by Sri Aurobindo on various aspects of his spiritual teaching and method of yogic practice. Parts 1 to 4 deal mainly with the philosophical and psychological foundations of the teaching. Parts 5 to 11 with the method of practice, and Part 12 with elements of both. Sri Aurobindo called his system the ‘Integral Yoga’ because it proposed ‘a union (yoga) in all parts of our being with the Divine and a consequent transmutation of all their now jarring elements into the harmony of a higher divine consciousness and existence.’. “

Sri Aurobindo calls us to what he terms an “adventure of consciousness”. The current text is intended to aid in our understanding and exploration of consciousness and the entire significance of our life and human development. Humanity is struggling today with the consequences, both intended and unintended, of the development and expression of the mental consciousness. The limitations of the mental view, which remains very much in service to the physical needs and vital desires of the material and life gradations of consciousness, have pushed humanity to an existential crisis, with the earth in the throes of the sixth mass extinction, and the balance of life now placed fully at risk. The solution cannot come through technology, mental ideas or the wide variety of competing ideologies that each focus on one aspect without taking it account the complexity of life and existence. It must come through the development of a new expression of consciousness, a consciousness of oneness and interconnection, that brings a new and deeper level of harmony to all existence. Sri Aurobindo holds that self-aware human beings can consciously participate in this evolutionary process, and it is the practice of the integral yoga to help bring about this solution to the current crises.

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Introduction

Sri Aurobindo’s and Related Writings on Apple iTunes for IPhone and IPad:


Sri Aurobindo’s and Related Writings on Apple iTunes for IPhone and IPad:

We continue to add more titles to this list on an ongoing basis, so please check back regularly for additional titles.  We also supply a large number of titles for Amazon Kindle and Google Play which are listed separately.  Below find the links to the e-book versions available at this time on Apple iTunes:

By Sri Aurobindo:

Bases of Yoga                                      Bases of Yoga

 Essays on the Gita                              Essays on the Gita

 The Mother                                        The Mother

 Savitri: A Legend and a Symbol         Savitri: A Legend and a Symbol

 By The Mother:

 Commentaries on the Dhammapada  Commentaries on the Dhammapada

 By Sri M. P. Pandit:

 An Early Chapter in The Mother’s Life   Early Chapter in The Mother’s Life

 Art of Living                                        Art of Living

 Bases of Tantra Sadhana                   Bases of Tantra Sadhana

 Commentaries on Sri Aurobindo’s Thought, V. 1  Commentaries Sri Aurobindo’s Thought, V. 1

 Dhyana                                               Dhyana

 Heart of Sadhana                               Heart of Sadhana

 How Do I Proceed?                             How Do I Proceed?

 Introducing The Life Divine               Introducing The Life Divine

 Introducing Savitri                             Introducing Savitri

 Japa                                                    Japa

Kundalini Yoga                                   Kundalini Yoga

Readings in Savitri, V. 1                     Readings in Savitri, V. 1

 Readings in Savitri, V. 2                     Readings in Savitri, V. 2

 Readings in Savitri, V. 3                     Readings in Savitri, V. 3

 Readings in Savitri, V. 4                     Readings in Savitri, V. 4

 Readings in Savitri, V. 5                     Readings in Savitri, V. 5

 Readings in Savitri, V. 7                     Readings in Savitri, V. 7

 Readings in Savitri, V. 8                     Readings in Savitri, V. 8

Readings in Savitri, V. 9                     Readings in Savitri, V. 9

 Sri Aurobindo and His Yoga               Sri Aurobindo and His Yoga

 A Summary of Savitri                         A Summary of Savitri

 Talks on The Life Divine, V. 1             Talks on The Life Divine, V. 1

 Teachings of Sri Aurobindo               Teachings of Sri Aurobindo

Thoughts on the Gita                         Thoughts on the Gita

 By Santosh Krinsky:

Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s The Life Divine, Vol. 1  Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s Life Divine,V. 1

Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s The Life Divine, Vol. 2 Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s Life Divine, V. 2

Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s The Life Divine, Vol. 3 Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s Life Divine, V. 3

Readings in The Mother by Sri Aurobindo:               Readings in The Mother by Sri Aurobindo

Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s Rebirth and Karma:   Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s Rebirth &  Karma

Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s Essays on the Gita,V.1 Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s Essays on the Gita, V.1

Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s Essays on the Gita, V. 2 Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s Essays on the Gita, V.2

Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s The Synthesis of Yoga, V. 1  Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s Synthesis of Yoga, V. 1

Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s The Synthesis of Yoga, V. 2  Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s Synthesis of Yoga, V. 2

Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s The Synthesis of Yoga, V. 3  Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s Synthesis of Yoga, V. 3

 By Rand Hicks:

A Savitri Dictionary                            A Savitri Dictionary

Rev. 6/11/17

Sri Aurobindo’s Writings Available as E-Books for Amazon Kindle Readers or App


The Amazon Kindle is perhaps the most popular e-book reader in the world, and the APP works on desktop computers, laptops, android phones, tablets etc. The APP can be downloaded free from Amazon.com We are systematically making Sri Aurobindo’s writings available for the Kindle App and Readers. Here are a few of them, with more links to be provided soon:

Bhagavad Gita and Its Message Bhagavad Gita and Its Message
Dictionary of Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga (compiled by M P Pandit) Dictionary of Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga
Essays on the Gita Essays on the Gita
The Future Evolution of Man The Future Evolution of Man
Hidden Forces of Life (compiled by AS Dalal from writings of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother Hidden Forces of Life
The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development
The Ideal of Human Unity The Ideal of Human Unity
Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice Integral Yoga
The Life Divine The Life Divine
Looking from Within (compiled by AS Dalal from writings of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother Looking from Within
The Mind of Light The Mind of Light (The Supramental Manifestation on Earth)
The Mother The Mother
Our Many Selves (compiled by AS Dalal from writings of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother Our Many Selves
Powers Within (compiled by AS Dalal from writings of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother Powers Within
The Psychic Being (compiled by AS Dalal from writings of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother Psychic Being
Rebirth and Karma Rebirth and Karma
Savitri: A Legend and a Symbol Savitri: A Legend and a Symbol
Secret of the Veda Secret of the Veda
Sri Aurobindo on the Tantra (compiled by M P Pandit) Sri Aurobindo on the Tantra
The Synthesis of Yoga The Synthesis of Yoga
The Upanishads The Upanishads
Vedic Symbolism (compiled by M P Pandit) Vedic Symbolism
Yoga of Sleep and Dreams (compiled by AS Dalal from writings of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother Yoga of Sleep and Dreams

By Sri M P Pandit:
Sri Aurobindo and His Yoga Sri Aurobindo and His Yoga
Teaching of Sri Aurobindo Teaching of Sri Aurobindo



Bases of Yoga BASES OF YOGA
Essays on the Gita ESSAYS ON THE GITA
The Human Cycle: Psychology of Social Development The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development
Ideal of Human Unity IDEAL OF HUMAN UNITY
The Mind of Light THE MIND OF LIGHT
Savitri: A Legend and a Symbol  Savitri: A Legend and a Symbol
Sri Aurobindo on the Tantra SRI AUROBINDO ON THE TANTRA
The Synthesis of Yoga THE SYNTHESIS OF YOGA

For Android Phones, Tablets, and E-Readers

Sri Aurobindo Studies


Sri Aurobindo’s integral yoga has enormous implications for the time we find ourselves in.  As we systematically destroy the basis of life on the planet, and wall off one another through ultimate fragmentation, we are left with the stark contrast of choosing between survival and destruction, life and death, growth or decline.  Sri Aurobindo recognizes the necessity of the individual within the context of the collectivity, universality and the transcendent consciousness of Oneness.  The individual is the nexus or hub of the evolutionary urge, but not separate from nor at the expense of the life of the cosmic whole.

We post the daily blog entries also to our facebook page:  www.facebook.com/sriaurobindoswritings

We also have a daily twitter feed on Sri Aurobindo’s studies at www.twitter.com/santoshk1

We have systematically worked our way through The Life Divine as well as The Mother , Essays on the Gita and Rebirth and Karma, The Synthesis of Yoga, The Ideal of Human Unity and The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development  The newest posts appear near the top.  If you want to start at the beginning, go to the oldest post and roll forward until you reach the final posts as of today.

Another option is to “search” for the chapter you would like to study and see all posts relating to that chapter. You may have to ask for “older posts” once you have the search results if you are looking for one of the earlier chapters.

We have separated the posts relating to each book into their own folder as an additional organisational tool.

Similarly you can use the search box to find specific concepts, terms or issues you are interested in. The results will show all posts that address those concepts or terms. You may have to click on “older posts” to find all the references here as well.

The next book we are taking up is The Upanshads by Sri Aurobindo, following a similar format to that we have utilised for The Life Divine , The Mother, Essays on the Gita and Rebirth and Karma, The Synthesis of Yoga, The Ideal of Human Unity and The Human Cycle: Psychology of Social Development.

You may also want to visit our information site for Sri Aurobindo at Sri-Aurobindo.Com

Sri Aurobindo’s major writings are published in the US by Lotus Press.

The systematic studies on this blog have also been published as self-standing books by Lotus Press and are available in both printed formats and as e-books. There are 3 volumes encompassing Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s The Life Divine, 2 volumes encompassing Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s Essays on the Gita, as well as 1 volume for Readings in The Mother by Sri Aurobindo, and Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s Rebirth and Karma., and 4 volumes  for the Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s The Synthesis of Yoga as well as Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s The Ideal of Human Unity and Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s The Human Cycle, Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s The Future Evolution of Man.  .You can find the Readings series at Lotus Press

Many of the major writings of Sri Aurobindo are now also accessible on the Amazon Kindle Platform as well as Apple itunes, google play, kobo, and Barnes & Noble nook as well.  Kindle e-book reader program is also available for PC, Laptop, iPad, Blackberry, Android, iPhone and many other platforms from Amazon without charge. You can find the current list of titles available by going to http://www.amazon.com , go to the “kindle store” and type in “Aurobindo” New titles are being added as they can be made ready. Many of the major books are already accessible by the Kindle Reader.  You can follow a similar procedure for the other platforms we now support for Sri Aurobindo’s writings, I-tunes, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, and KOBO.

Liberation Should Precede the Attainment of the Cosmic Consciousness

The ego-personality actually can be a form of protection for the unprepared soul in the world, as it limits the range and power of action. If a person breaks out of the framework provided by the small ego-personality, and comes into contact with and active conscious interaction with the larger universal, cosmic forces, this can result in an enlarged form of egotism and lead to devastating results due to the self-aggrandisement that can occur, combined with the greater powers at play at that level.

The liberation of the Self from the active Nature aids the seeker in avoiding the trap of this larger ego-action and thus, provides the best foundation for expansion into the cosmic consciousness and the new powers of which the seeker becomes aware that act in that larger field.

Without that liberation, forces that work at the cosmic level can control and manipulate the individual who is not properly prepared and resistant to the lure of those forces taking advantage of the ego-motives to turn the individual into a plaything and instrument of, in some cases, very hostile actions, including demonic possession of various sorts as can be seen with the rise of Hitler in the 20th Century. The results can be catastrophic, both the for individual and for the world.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “Liberation is the first necessity, to live in the peace, silence, purity, freedom of the self. Along with that or afterwards if one wakens to the cosmic consciousness, then one can be free, yet one with all things.”

“To have the cosmic consciousness without liberation is possible, but then there is no freedom anywhere in the being from the lower nature and one may become in one’s extended consciousness the playground of all kinds of forces without being able to be either free or master.”

“On the other hand, if there has been Self-realisation, there is one part of the being that remains untouched amid the play of the cosmic forces — while if the peace and purity of the self has been established in the whole inner consciousness, then the outer touches of the lower nature can’t come in or overpower. This is the advantage of Self-realisation preceding the cosmic consciousness and supporting it.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 7, Experiences and Realisations, The Consciousness of the Self, pp. 181-184

Distinguishing the Realisation of the Atman and the Higher Planes of Consciousness

When an individual begins the spiritual quest, there can be considerable confusion about different directions, objectives and methods of attainment. In many cases, divergent goals are lumped together, while in other instances, there can be confusion about the sequence of the steps. Sri Aurobindo has provided an overview and a roadmap that can aid the seeker in understanding and clarifying these points.

The supramental transformation is not the first stage in the spiritual development; rather, it is a subsequent development, founded upon two prior transformations, the psychic transformation which brings forward the central action of the soul, and then the spiritual transformation which connects the individual with the universal and transcendent Spirit. Thus, the end goal of many traditional spiritual paths, the liberation from the bondage of the world of illusion, the transitory world of material existence, is actually a preliminary stage in the practice of the integral yoga. Freeing the being from the ego-consciousness is necessary for the spiritual transformation and the widening of the consciousness to occur.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “The realisation of the Spirit comes long before the development of overmind or supermind; hundreds of sadhaks in all times have had the realisation of the Atman in the higher mental planes, buddhehe paratah, but the supramental realisation was not theirs. One can get partial realisations of the Self or Spirit or the Divine on any plane, mental, vital, physical even, and when one rises above the ordinary mental plane of man into a higher and larger mind, the Self begins to appear in all its conscious wideness.”

“It is by full entry into this wideness of the Self that cessation of mental activity becomes possible; one gets the inner Silence. After that this inner Silence can remain even when there is activity of any kind; the being remains silent within, the action goes on in the instruments, and one receives all the necessary initiations and execution of action whether mental, vital or physical from a higher source without the fundamental peace and calm of the Spirit being troubled.”

“The overmind and supermind states are something yet higher than this; but before one can understand them, one must first have the self-realisation, the full action of the spiritualised mind and heart, the psychic awakening, the liberation of the imprisoned consciousness, the purification and entire opening of the Adhar. Do not think now of those ultimate things (overmind, supermind), but get first these foundations in the liberated nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 7, Experiences and Realisations, The Consciousness of the Self, pp. 181-184

The Need to Overcome Fear in the Realisation of the Atman

In the external world, fear plays a role that can both hinder progress, and protect from impulsive or rash action that would result in injury, loss or death. If fear is excessive, it paralyzes the individual into inaction. If it is insufficient, he may rush into circumstances far beyond his expectation and suffer the consequences. Fear is like a tripwire and a defensive wall. Depending on how sensitively it has been set, we determine the limits of our external life beyond which we do not go.

When one enters the vital domains, and leaves behind the protection of the physical body, the individual can be confronted with forces that are far more powerful and in some cases actually asuric or demonic in their nature and in this realm, fear reactions actually entice and encourage these hostile beings to attack. Fear in the vital world communicates weakness and helplessness, and thus encourages attacks. When one leaves behind the protection of the physical, external body to enter the vital realms, a fearless armor is one of the most important forms of protection, along with a steady focus on the spiritual truth and a call to the forces that guide, support and aid along the way. This is also a reason why the seeker should not rush headlong into an attempt to seize the experiences, as if he is unready and unprepared, he can suffer great harm.

The spiritual seeker, who is consciously delving into the inner realms and leaving the surface consciousness behind during this time, also has to confront various forms of fear, not simply the challenges in the vital arena, but even more existential fears, so long as the ego-personality remains active, organised and dominant in the seeker. An out of body experience for instance not only can subject the seeker to the vital forces, but can bring about the fear of separation or dissolution of the link to the body, and thus, death in the external world of the physical body. In order to traverse the vital worlds in the out of body experience and return, there must be a steady, calm, centred awareness that maintains the link to the physical existence.

Shifting the standpoint of the consciousness to the spiritual planes also requires the being to confront fear. For many, the first approach to the boundary separating the spiritual plane from the external world raises up an existential fear, which is, in reality, the fear of the dissolution of the ego and the individual personality. The rising up of fear during this process pulls the individual back from the boundary and into the external consciousness. Eventually, particularly with guidance from an experienced teacher or guru, the individual can face this fear, go beyond the boundary and enter fully into the spiritual planes of consciousness. If this fear is not surmounted, the individual remains rooted in the external world and its limitations and the spiritual development is limited from that point forward.

As the individual passes into the spiritual planes, an entirely new type of fear arises, in that there is a vast, immense silence that permeates the mind and the rest of the being, and the individual is afraid to release the habitual reliance on the mental processes to act in the world. However, no transformation can take place unless the habits of the lower nature in this regard are released to allow the action of the spiritual principle to take place, and this action operates through the silence of the mind.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “You must dismiss the fear of the concentration. The emptiness you feel coming on you is the silence of the great peace in which you become aware of your self, not as the small ego shut up in the body, but as the spiritual self wide as the universe. Consciousness is not dissolved; it is the limits of the consciousness that are dissolved. In that silence thoughts may cease for a time, there may be nothing but a great limitless freedom and wideness, but into that silence, that empty wideness descends the vast peace from above, light, bliss, knowledge, the higher Consciousness in which you feel the oneness of the Divine. It is the beginning of the transformation and there is nothing in it to fear.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 7, Experiences and Realisations, The Consciousness of the Self, pp. 181-184

What is the Atman? How Do We Experience the Self?

As long as we are enmeshed in the ego-life, it is essentially impossible to conceive of the status or existence of the Atman. We relate to the physical world, we relate to other individuals as if we are just this limited human existence and being, we perceive and react to everything from our own egoistic framework. We find it difficult, if not virtually impossible, to conceive of infinite and inter-related existence and universal oneness, even if our most advanced scientists and sages tell us that the entire universe is one and indivisible, with the same energy creating and running through everything. When we conceive of our death, we either believe that there is “nothing” afterwards or we accept the tenets of our religious teachings which either point to a form of rebirth, or entry into some kind of afterlife, of a heaven (or possibly a purgatory or hell) within which we will be reunited with our family and loved ones in the form that we experience ourselves and them in our current lifetime. Of course, none of this makes any sense if we take a wider view of things. When we age and die, worn and shriveled, or diseased and demented, we expect that after death we will be our young, healthy and vibrant selves of memory and join up with everyone in their best days and forms. After all, who would want to be rewarded with eternal life in heaven with friends and family if everyone was in the form they were at the time of their death?

In order to understand the Atman, we need to have an experience that takes us out of this ego-bound individuality and when such an experience comes to us, it suddenly becomes crystal clear that none of these ego-driven fantastic ideas can possibly be the end-result of the enormous and yet extremely detailed universal creation.

Lifted out of the limitations of the body-life-mind complex, we partake of a wider life. While we do not experience this wider life, we can yet use our power of visualisation to gain at least some approximate concept of what is involved. We can visualise ourselves in the vast silent realms of outer space, with no sounds that we can perceive, and vast empty stretches within which universes, galaxies, stars, planets, black holes make up a tiny fragment of the immensity. Nothing is moving in this wide space and we feel like we have spread out with a deep, unshakable peace. This space is a representation of the container within which the universal creation forms and carries out its activity. It is not disturbed by the activity but holds it without comment or response, observing, at peace and still.

We can move our standpoint from one object to another without losing the sense of unity with everything else that is created, standing apart, even while viewing from an individual perspective, experiencing the individual as a portion of that larger existence.

We can visualize each cell in our bodies as having its own level of awareness and existence, separately living, yet part of a larger unity that we call ourselves. The cells cannot exist without the larger being, the larger being does not manifest without the cells. The energy that enlivens both is the same energy, which itself comes from another aspect of the universal creation.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “The self is felt either as universal, one in all, or as universalised individual the same in essence as others, extended everywhere from each being but centred here. Of course centre is a way of speaking, because no physical centre is usually felt — only all the actions take place around the individual.”

“Everything acts in the self. The whole play of Nature takes place in the self, in the Divine. The self contains the universe.”

“The Self or Atman is inactive; Nature (Prakriti) or Shakti acts. When the Self is felt it is first an infinite existence, silence, freedom, peace that is felt — that is called Atman or Self. What action takes place in it is according to the realisation either felt as forces of Nature working in that wideness, as the Divine Shakti working or as the cosmic Divine or various powers of them working. It is not felt that the Self is acting.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 7, Experiences and Realisations, The Consciousness of the Self, pp. 181-184

The Self — the Atman and Individual Liberation

One of the primary objectives of traditional paths of yoga has been the liberation from the bondage of the world of illusion, the phantasmagoria of the creation and the individual’s fixation on success and failure, gain and loss, pleasure and pain, happiness and despair that occurs as a result of the ego-personality’s attachment to these transitory results. Historically this has been carried out through an abandonment of the life in the world, adoption of a life of seclusion and acceptance of the circumstances that arise while focusing intensely on freeing the consciousness from the outer attachments and joining the larger Self of the universal creation. A prime example can be seen in the practice of Tibet’s renowned yogi, Milarepa, who practiced intensive meditation in caves in the Himalayas, for the most part naked, and without regular food, subsisting on eating nettles.

For the integral yoga, the liberation from the ego-personality and the snares of attachment remains an important step, although the kind of exclusive abandonment practiced historically is not the preferred path, since this yoga focuses on eventual transformation of the life. True transformation cannot occur, however, when the ego dominates the consciousness and controls the understanding and action of the being.

The experience of the liberation of the consciousness is palpable and creates a new standpoint and sense of union that is not there in the normal life and awareness of the individual. From this standpoint, the life in the world can seem, particularly in the beginning, as a form of illusion or maya, a show or external play that is ephemeral and ever-changing, while the experience of the Self is one of infinity, a deep sense of peace and wide embracing of the entire existence as one.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “It is an experience of the extension of consciousness. In yoga experience the consciousness widens in every direction, around, below, above, in each direction stretching to infinity. When the consciousness of the yogi becomes liberated, it is not in the body, but in this infinite height, depth, and wideness that he lives always. Its basis is an infinite void or silence, but in that all can manifest — Peace, Freedom, Power, Light, Knowledge, Ananda. This consciousness is usually called the consciousness of the Self or Atman, for it is a pure existence or self that is the source of all things and contains all things.”

“The Self is being, not a being. By Self is meant the conscious essential existence, one in all.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 7, Experiences and Realisations, The Consciousness of the Self, pp. 181-184

Understanding the Inner Being

As long as we remain on the surface of our being, and rely entirely on the physical senses and the nervous system of the vital being and the mental processes focused on these outer sensations, actions and phenomena, the inner depths of our being remain hidden from us, occult, and not quite treated as real.

Western researchers, including notable C.G. Jung, dedicated their life work to coming into contact with the inner realms of being and identifying how these inner planes impacted our outer life. As a result of his research, Jung determined there was a ‘collective unconscious’ that had a storehouse of images and experiences which secretly acted upon the outer nature. There are many in traditional cultures who go on what are sometimes called “vision quests” where they seek to leave behind the surface perceptions and experience realms that operate to influence and control the outer life, but which remain, for the most part, unseen. Yogis and sages, through the processes of meditation and yogic practices, have sought to contact this inner realm of being and shift the standpoint there.

The surface consciousness has very little, if any, direct appreciation of the occult forces at work to shape its perceptions and actions. It is influenced by forces that work indirectly in many cases. The inner being is in touch with these forces and has the ability to see them at work and respond to them directly. Some people, who are sensitive and attuned to the inner being, can sense other beings nearby, can sense vital forces impinging upon them, and can experience thoughts entering from outside. The practice of yoga, which is a form of applied psychology, can open the individual to an appreciation of these inner realms.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “The inner being is composed of the inner mental, the inner vital, the inner physical. The psychic is the inmost supporting all the others. Usually it is in the inner mental that this separation first happens and it is the inner mental Purusha who remains silent, observing the Prakriti as separate from himself. But it may also be the inner vital Purusha or inner physical or else without location simply the whole Purusha consciousness separate from the whole Prakriti. Sometimes it is felt above the head, but then it is usually spoken of as the Atman and the realisation is that of the silent Self.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 7, Experiences and Realisations, The Witness Consciousness, pp. 179-181

The Transitional Stage of Shifting from the Outer Surface Consciousness to the Inner Consciousness

At a certain stage of spiritual development, seekers tend to go through a phase where the world, its actions, objects, goals and results seem to be an illusion. The philosophical path of Mayavada resulted from just such an insight and experience. The seeker sees that everything is transitory and ephemeral in nature, that the objects of our desires and the fruits of our actions all crumble into dust and are not permanent. Everything changes and dies. There is nothing one can hold onto in the world that is not subject to death and dissolution. Buddhism has also clearly enunciated a similar position in the exposition of the four noble truths, which, when contemplated, are intended to liberate the individual from attachment to the world.

Mayavada did not arise from some abstract reasoning process, but from an experience of the transitory nature of existence. Sri Aurobindo has added his insight to show that this is part of a process of moving the consciousness inwards from the surface being, and at a certain stage the feeling and experience makes the outer world seem unreal. This temporary stage allows the development of non-attachment to the objects of the world, and thereby provides an opening for the inner connection to be developed. At a later stage, this new standpoint can provide the guidance to the outer nature and manage the transformation process.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “The condition in which all movements become superficial and empty with no connection with the soul is a stage in the withdrawal from the surface consciousness to the inner consciousness. When one goes into the inner consciousness, it is felt as a calm, pure existence without any movement, but eternally tranquil, unmoved and separate from the outer nature. This comes as a result of detaching oneself from the movements, standing back from them and is a very important movement of the sadhana. The first result of it is an entire quietude but afterwards that quietude begins (without the quietude ceasing) to fill with the psychic and other inner movements which create a true inner and spiritual life behind the outer life and nature. it is then easier to govern and change the latter.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 7, Experiences and Realisations, The Witness Consciousness, pp. 179-181

The Emergence of the Witness Purusha

The recognition of the separation of the Purusha, the inner witness consciousness and the Prakriti, the active nature that operates in the mind, life and body, is an important step in the practice of yoga, whether for total abandonment of the outer world and liberation of the being, or as an essential phase in the eventual transformation of the nature to take up and manifest the divine intention without the distortions caused by the ego-consciousness.

Sri Aurobindo describes the experience of the emergence of the Purusha, and its potential to change the direction and scope of action of the Prakriti. He also reminds the seeker that the transformation process is not one that can occur overnight, as the body-life-mind complex is bound by habitual patterns of long-standing nature, and this is actually amplified by the corresponding habits in the society and in material nature itself. All of these embedded patterns were developed for a reason over time, and they have an incredible amount of inertia that makes them hard to shift into a new direction or mode of action.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “The consciousness you speak of would be described in the Gita as the witness Purusha. The Purusha or basic consciousness is the true being or at least, in whatever plane it manifests, represents the true being. But in the ordinary nature of man it is covered up by the ego and the ignorant play of the Prakriti and remains veiled behind as the unseen Witness supporting the play of the Ignorance. When it emerges, you feel it as a consciousness behind, calm, central, unidentified with the play which depends upon it. It may be covered over, but it is always there. The emergence of the Purusha is the beginning of liberation. But it can also become slowly the Master — slowly because the whole habit of the ego and the play of the lower forces is against that. Still it can dictate what higher play is to replace the lower movement and then there is the process of that replacement, the higher coming, the lower struggling to remain and push away the higher movement. You say rightly that the offering to the Divine shortens the whole thing and is more effective, but usually it cannot be done completely at once owing to the past habit and the two methods continue together until the complete surrender is possible.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 7, Experiences and Realisations, The Witness Consciousness, pp. 179-181

Understanding the Witness Consciousness — the Separation of Purusha and Prakriti

We tend to identify with the perceptions, sensations, desires, feelings and thoughts we experience and through the ego-consciousness, we take ownership of them and believe that they are what makes up our unique individuality. When we sit quietly, and turn our attention away from the outer world, we experience the internal dialogue that takes place as we process all of these impinging forces and their impact on our brain and nervous system. We remain identified with them. Those who tend to be less outgoing, whom we call introverted, remain focused on the external world and its pressures, and their internal process remains very much the same, focused on the thoughts, feelings, etc. related to their ego-personality. None of this represents the ‘witness consciousness’ that Sri Aurobindo describes.and which develops from the separation of Purusha and Prakriti as found in the traditional teachings of the Sankhya.

The Separation of Purusha and Prakriti actually implies that both the external actions and reactions, and the internal review and dialogue that occurs are seen as “external” and separate from the inner being. The Purusha observes but does not get involved nor attached to any of the actions of Prakriti. Prakriti includes both the outer and the inner activity. The Shwetashwatara Upanishad states “Two winged birds cling about a common tree, comrades, yoke-fellows; and one eats the sweet fruit of the tree, the other eats not, but watches.” This more or less describes the relation of the witness consciousness to the active external nature.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “It is not possible to distinguish the psychic being at first. What has to be done is to grow conscious of an inner being which is separate from the external personality and nature — a consciousness or Purusha calm and detached from the outer actions of the Prakriti.”

“There is a stage in the sadhana in which the inner being begins to awake. Often the first result is the condition made up of the following elements: 1. A sort of witness attitude in which the inner consciousness looks at all that happens as a spectator or observer observing things but taking no active interest or pleasure in them. 2. A state of neutral equanimity in which there is neither joy nor sorrow, only quietude. 3. A sense of being something separate from all that happens, observing it but not part of it. 4. An absence of attachment to things, people or events.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 7, Experiences and Realisations, The Witness Consciousness, pp. 179-181

The Need to Open and Bring Forward the Inner Psychic Being

Humanity has tried countless ways to solve the existential questions and crises that we face living in the world around us and interacting with all other beings who share the space with us. Religion, law, social development, economic development, technology, and others have each had their chance to uplift human existence. Yet, we find that each attempt faces limitations that prove that the solution is not in these things. Human nature itself is found to have its weaknesses and limitations, and habitual modes of acting and reacting, and we find that as long as human nature has not changed, we remain essentially the same, facing the same problems, with ever-increasing risks and stakes involved as we enhance our technological capability to effect change in the outer world.

Sages and seers throughout history have counseled that nothing can really be effectively changed without a change in human nature. But how do we go about changing human nature? As long as we live in the surface consciousness of our body-life-mind complex, controlled through the ego-personality, we are bound to remain within the limitations of that formulation.

Sri Aurobindo provides a solution and a methodology for the change of human nature that is required. He explains that there is not only our outer surface being and personality, but also an inner being which is the true central force and guide of our life trajectory. When this inner being takes up an active role and begins to make itself felt in the outer being, an aspiration arises to transcend the limits of the outer life and the true spiritual quest begins. The essential step involves a triple transformation: the psychic transformation which puts the individual in touch with his soul and the soul’s aspiration and opens the inner being; the spiritual transformation which links the individual with the universal and transcendent aspects of existence and the oneness of all creation, and the supramental transformation which brings about the shift of standpoint that releases the higher levels of consciousness into action in the human instrument and the world with which we interact.

The psychic transformation brings forth the flame of aspiration and devotion, the contact with the inner psychology, the inner mind, vital and physical that are receptive to the pure action of the forces that operate at each of these levels or planes, and reduces or eliminates the role of the ego-personality so that it no longer can control the direction of the being’s development in life and in relation to the rest of the creation.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “It is equally important for those who want that union with the Divine without which the transformation is impossible. The aspiration could not be realised if you remained bound by your external self, tied to the physical mind and its petty movements. It is not the outer being which is the source of the spiritual urge; the outer being only undergoes the inner drive from behind the veil. it is the inner psychic being in you that is the bhakta, the seeker after the union and the Ananda, and what is impossible for the outer nature left to itself becomes perfectly possible when the barrier is down and the inner self in the front. For, the moment this comes strongly to the front or draws the consciousness powerfully into itself, peace, ecstasy, freedom, wideness, the opening to light and a higher knowledge begin to become natural, spontaneous, often immediate in their emergence.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 7, Experiences and Realisations, The Inward Movement, pp. 174-179