Daily Studies Now Being Converted to Audio Podcasts on Spotify

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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. We have converted a couple 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

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“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:

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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

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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

SRI AUROBINDO’S BOOKS NOW AVAILABLE ON GOOGLE PLAY AS E-BOOKS:

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The Mother THE MOTHER
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 Life Divine THE LIFE DIVINE
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

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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.

The Nature of Inner Peace

Most of us, when we reflect on the quality of “peace” think about finding an external situation that is quiet and isolated from the activities of the social body, whether it be politics, the economy, or inter-personal relationships. Peace for us is something that exists through the absence of disturbance. We then say we are “at peace”. We also tend to relegate “peace” to the dead and departed when we say “rest in peace”. The peace of death is, for many, the ultimate description of “peace”.

For Sri Aurobindo, however, peace is a stage in the progressive evolutionary development whereby we achieve a state of quiet, calm, receptive and even joyful harmony preparatory to moving beyond the limits of the existing body-life-mind complex and opening to the next level of consciousness. Peace is the foundation for detaching ourselves from the pressures and limitations that keep us boxed into the existing framework. Developing a basis of peace implies that we have shifted the standpoint away from our reactive vital nature and the mind’s attachments and habits.

The peace that Sri Aurobindo describes is not a “negative” state in any sense, but one that can be present and active even in the midst of activity and external events. Cultivation of this status is one of the important activities to be addressed by the practitioner of the yoga, as it involves overcoming all of the demands of the body, life and mind and freeing oneself from attachment even to specific outcomes or results. There is no peace if one has expectations or demands from life that are not being met. This is, however, not intended to imply some kind of avoidance or inaction; rather, it is the inner relationship to things, events and situations that is being addressed here.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “Peace is more positive than calm — there can be a negative calm which is merely an absence of disturbance or trouble., but peace is always something positive bringing not merely a release as calm does but a certain happiness or Ananda of itself. … There is also a positive calm, something that stands against all things that seek to trouble, not thin and neutral like the negative calm, but strong and massive. … In peace there is besides the sense of stillness a harmony that gives a feeling of liberation and full satisfaction. … It is quite usual to feel an established peace in the inner being even if there is disturbance on the surface. In fact that is the usual condition of the yogi before he has attained the absolute samata in all the being.”

“When the peace is fully established everywhere in the being, these things [reactions of the lower vital] will not be able to shake it. They may come first as ripples on the surface, then only as suggestions which one looks at or does not care to look at but in either case they don’t get inside, affect or disturb at all. … It is difficult to explain, but it is something like a mountain at which one throws stones — if conscious all through the mountain may feel the touch of the stones, but the thing would be so slight and superficial that it would not be in the least affected. In the end even that reaction disappears.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 5 Bases of Yoga, Quiet, Calm, Peace and Silence, pp. 118-122

The Power of a Calm Mind

If we observe our mental space for some time, such as when we sit for meditation, the first thing to be noticed is that the mind tends to jump around from one thought, idea or perception to another, seemingly randomly and impacted by sensory data coming to us through our sense organs. Some call it the “monkey mind”. This constant churn in the mental space is an obstacle to the meditation, as it also is an obstacle to receiving knowledge and force from higher levels of consciousness. In his lectures on Raja Yoga, Swami Vivekananda provides a very clear understanding of the “mind stuff” chitta, which is the basic mental substrate that must be brought to a state of tranquility as a prerequisite to achieving deeper states of meditation.

Any higher inspiration or intuitive insight, not to speak of the higher ranges of consciousness beyond them, must enter into a receptive space that is not being distracted or busied by the normal mental process. Sri Aurobindo relates a core experience when he observed that thoughts actually enter from outside, and can be rejected leading to a ready, receptive silence as the perfect foundation for the transformation of the consciousness.

There are a number of strategies for achieving a calm, quiet mind, if not a silent mind, including active rejection of thoughts, or detachment that allows them to enter and be observed but not taken up or sanctioned, until they fall quiet of themselves.

Some who take up the spiritual life are concerned that when the mind falls quiet, they will be unable to act or they will simply become dull. A clear distinction can be made between a mind that is “vacant” and one that is “quiet”, as Sri Aurobindo notes.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “The difference between a vacant mind and a calm mind is this: that when the mind is vacant, there is no thought, no conception, no mental action of any kind, except an essential perception of things without the formed idea; but in the calm mind, it is the substance of the mental being that is still, so still that nothing disturbs it. If thoughts or activities come, they do not rise at all out of the mind, but they come from outside and cross the mind as a flight of birds crosses the sky in a windless air. It passes, disturbs nothing, leaving no trace. Even if a thousand images or the most violent events pass across it, the calm stillness remains as if the very texture of the mind were a substance of eternal and indestructible peace. A mind that has achieved this calmness can begin to act, even intensely and powerfully, but it will keep its fundamental stillness — originating nothing from itself but receiving from Above and giving it a mental form without adding anything of its own, calmly, dispassionately, though with the joy of the Truth and the happy power and light of its passage.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 5 Bases of Yoga, Quiet, Calm, Peace and Silence, pp. 118-122

Distinguishing Between the Qualities of Quiet, Calm, Peace and Silence in the Integral Yoga

Near the top of the “wish list” for most spiritual aspirants is achieving “peace”. This is generally understood however in a very personal sense to alleviate the turmoil, dissention and conflict that invariably arises in our normal circumstances living in the world. It is rarely appreciated that, as an aspect in the practice of the integral yoga, peace is actually part of the tuning and receptivity effort required to bring about the transformation from the body-life-mind complex to the supramental consciousness. The mental, vital and physical disturbances act as “noise” that tends to distort or block out the “signal” from the higher levels that are attempting to manifest through the seeker. This “noise” keeps us locked into the framework of the lower nature and thus, there is no opening for the higher forces to take charge of the nature and act freely. In order to accomplish this transition, it is imperative that the lower nature become quiet, calm, peaceful and receptive.

Peace does not occur all at once or in all parts of the being simultaneously. There are also stages in the development of peace, which Sri Aurobindo has described as an ascending series of steps starting with “quiet” and concluding with “silence”. The more these stages take over, the more they overcome the normally reactive nature that is always jumping at provocations, responding to pressures, and defending the accepted ideas, opinions, dogmas, vital preferences and desires and physical habits of the being.

This does not imply a total lack of interest in the events of life, or a dull passivity or pressured acquiescence; rather, there can be engagement based, not on the habitual patterns we have developed in the mind-life-body complex, but on the influence and action of the higher powers seeking to manifest, while responding with a wider understanding and a consistent will for the required changes to occur. The foundation for this change is based in peace and the silence of the mind. This silence is something dynamic and powerful, awake, aware, and receptive.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “Quiet is a condition in which there is no restlessness or disturbance. Calm is a still unmoved condition which no disturbance can affect — it is a less negative condition than quiet. Peace is a still more positive condition; it carries with it a sense of settled and harmonious rest and deliverance. Silence is a state in which either there is no movement of the mind or vital or else a great stillness which no surface movement can pierce or alter.”

“The first step is a quiet mind — silence is a further step, but quietude must be there; and by a quiet mind I mean a mental consciousness within which sees thoughts arrive to it and move about but does not itself feel that it is thinking or identifying itself with the thoughts or call them its own. Thoughts, mental movements may pass through it as wayfarers appear and pass from elsewhere through a silent country — the quiet mind observes them or does not care to observe them, but, in either case, does not become active or lose its quietude. Silence is more than quietude; it can be gained by banishing thought altogether from the inner mind keeping it voiceless or quite outside; but more easily it is established by a descent from above — one feels it coming down, entering and occupying or surrounding the personal consciousness which then tends to merge itself in the vast, impersonal silence.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 5 Bases of Yoga, Quiet, Calm, Peace and Silence, pp. 118-122

The Nature and Power of Sincerity in the Practice of the Integral Yoga

For spiritual practices that seek a solution outside the life in the world, it is possible to try to “cut the knot” and simply abandon, or at least minimize, the active engagement of mind, life and body in the world. For a spiritual practice such as the integral yoga, however, which aims at a taking up and transforming of human existence and activity in the world, such a step is not feasible, and the “knot” must be “untied” rather than “cut”. This means that at each stage of the spiritual development, the physical, vital and mental being of man is active and has its influence on the focus, and the results that can occur. Sincerity represents the power of focus and tuning of the being on the transformative action, rather than allowing the being to either be distracted or waylaid by the more or less normal motives and drives of the mind, life and body.

The vital being, in particular, has the ability to influence the mind and present “arguments” that justify what it seeks to do. For the most part, it is engaged in making plausible excuses for satisfaction of its desires and wishes, and the mind tends to accept these excuses and allow the vital to achieve its aims. To the extent that these aims run contrary to the needs or focus of the transformative force, an obstruction, delay or mis-direction then takes place.

Digging into all the details of the vital impulsions and the mental acceptance of these impulses occupies a considerable amount of the seeker’s attention in the practice of the integral yoga. It is only by working through all of these hidden motivations that the transformation can actually fully take hold in the earth-nature. When the spiritual seeker begins this process, he generally finds that it is a wide-ranging and constant task and seems never to be completed. It is also quite true that the inner being begins to see these things in a magnified manner, and thus, will tend to possibly become discouraged or depressed, when, from a longer and higher view, substantial progress is indeed taking place. It is a matter of reflecting from the higher standpoint across a span of time rather than becoming overanxious about the day to day reactions.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “The most important thing for the purification of the heart is an absolute sincerity. No pretense with oneself, no concealment from the Divine, or oneself, or the Guru, a straight look at one’s movements, a straight will to make them straight. It does not so much matter if it takes time: one must be prepared to make it one’s whole life-task to seek the Divine. Purifying the heart means after all a pretty considerable achievement and it is no use getting despondent, despairful, etc., because one finds things in oneself that still need to be changed. If one keeps the true will and true attitude, then the intuitions or intimations from within will begin to grow, become clear, precise, unmistakable and the strength to follow them will grow also: and then before even you are satisfied with yourself, the Divine will be satisfied with you and begin to withdraw the veil by which he protects himself and his seekers against a premature and perilous grasping of the greatest thing to which humanity can aspire. … A sincere heart is worth all the extraordinary powers in the world.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 5 Bases of Yoga, Sincerity, pp. 115-117

Understanding the Quality of Sincerity in the Practice of the Integral Yoga

The general definition of sincerity as understood in society is the quality of unifying one’s intention with one’s words or actions. This definition is a good starting point for understanding sincerity in the yogic sense. The major difference between the two is the level of inward review and detail orientation that takes place in the process of the integral yoga. It is not sufficient to have a general alignment of intention with action; rather there must eventually be a systematic review of the motivations behind every act, however seemingly small or insignificant and the source of that motivation.

The sadhak in the integral yoga quickly learns that the vital nature is very clever at having its own desires met under the guise of supporting the ideas of the mind and the justifications it presents for any line of thought or action, and thus cleverness remains active as the yogic undertaking develops. Ambitions, desires, various types of withholding of the consent or modification of the actions to accommodate the expectations of the vital all are, in many cases in very subtle forms. Seemingly altruistic acts can actually appeal to the desire for approval of others, or to gain name, fame, wealth or position in society. Public displays of worship can also support the vital’s needs for acknowledgement or acceptance, rather than being pure acts of sincere aspiration or devotion.

Sincerity is not perfect in any individual at the beginning of the yogic process, and with the subtle influence of the vital, the seeker can usually ferret out hidden motivations if he looks for them for a long way on this journey of self-discovery. It is far easier to judge the actions of others than to spot one’s own weaknesses or failings. It is an extraordinary clue, however, that when one becomes disturbed by the actions of another individual, there is something that still resonates within oneself that bears examination.

Sincerity reflects the qualities of aspiration, combined with rejection of those movements and motives that smother the aspiration, and a surrender of the entire being to the higher Force at work, which then works through the vital’s wiles and the mind’s justifications and the body’s resistances to align the entire being in a total harmony of focus on the spiritual realisation.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “Men are always mixed and there are qualities and defects mingled together almost inextricably in their nature. What a man wants to be or wants others to see in him or what he is sometimes on one side of his nature or in some relations can be very different from what he is in the actual fact or in other relations or on another side of his nature. To be absolutely sincere, straightforward, open, is not an easy achievement for human nature. It is only by spiritual endeavour that one can realise it — and to do it needs a severity of introspective self-vision, an unsparing scrutiny of self-observation of which many sadhaks and yogis even are not capable and it is only by an illumining Grace that reveals the sadhak to himself and transforms what is deficient in him that it can be done. And even then only if he himself consents and lends himself wholly to the diving working.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 5 Bases of Yoga, Sincerity, pp. 115-117

Understanding the Nature and Role of Spiritual Experiences in the Yogic Process

We bring to the spiritual quest all kinds of mental ideas, emotional expectations and preconceived notions about what is supposed to happen, how it is supposed to happen and what it signifies. All of these things, however, are based in the mind-life-body complex and act as limiting factors in the development of the spiritual growth of the individual. We want to create the next phase of the evolutionary process in the comforting image of what we already know and experience.

Add to this the impatience of our vital nature and we tend to make demands on the spiritual force to manifest in certain ways and with a certain intensity that satisfies our desire for vital stimulation and for a sense of self-importance. We therefore tend to minimize and disregard the first small shoots of spiritual growth that sprout up as we begin to follow the path. We crave excitement, color, emotional intensity, vital movement and when the spiritual transformation begins with a quiet sense of calm, or a gentle sense of unity with our surroundings, or a quiet inward sense of joy, we do not recognise the breath of the spirit as it changes who we are and how we react to our lives.

When we occasionally have a major, transformative experience, such as the palpable upward force of the rising kundalini energy, or perhaps a near-death experience or out of body experience, the sudden expression of powers of intuition, inspiration, clairvoyance, telepathy or levitation, or when we are overwhelmed by a vision or force of absolute clarity, power and joy, we want to treat these peak experiences as the touchstone of our spiritual progress and we seek repetition of such events, although they do not, in truth, necessarily provide us any true mile-markers along the way. The subtle, daily, almost invisible changes that take place in our ways of thinking, relating to events and people, our moments of outreach and compassion, our vital reactions to circumstances and our ways of responding to habitual actions or desires turn out to be the most significant aspects of our spiritual sadhana.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “What I meant about experiences was simply this that you have created your own ideas about what you want from the yoga and have always been measuring what began to come by that standard and because it was not according to expectations or up to that standard, telling yourself after a moment, ‘It is nothing, it is nothing’. That dissatisfaction laid you open at every step to a reaction or a recoil which prevented any continuous development. The yogin who has experience knows that the small beginnings are of the greatest importance and have to be cherished and allowed with great patience to develop. He knows, for instance, that the neutral quiet so dissatisfying to the vital eagerness of the sadhak is the first step towards the peace that passeth all understanding, the small current or thrill of inner delight the first trickling of the ocean of Ananda, the play of lights or colours the key of the doors of the inner vision and experience, the descent that stiffens the body into a concentrated stillness the first touch of something at the end of which is the presence of the Divine. He is not impatient; he is rather careful not to disturb the evolution that is beginning. Certainly some sadhaks have strong and decisive experiences at the beginning, but these are followed by long labour in which there are many empty periods and periods of struggle.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 5 Bases of Yoga, Patience and Perseverance, pp. 113-115

Realisations in the Development of the Yogic Sadhana

Many who take up the practice of yogic sadhana find that they receive some signs of encouragement either prior to starting consciously down the path, through some kind of experience that opens other dimensions and opportunities for growth for them, or through some spiritual experiences in the early stages of the sadhana. Thereafter, it is quite usual for the experiences to recede and the slow, steady, patient work of aspiration, receptivity and dedication to the process takes over. For the seeker, the peak spiritual experiences are important stages that give confidence and reinforce the needed faith to continue on the journey; yet if they become the goal of the seeking, or get captured by the vital ego seeking to assert itself, they actually can be a hindrance.

Changing human nature is not a matter of peak experiences, but a matter of day to day effort and receptivity to let the higher forces work to change, in many cases quite gradually, one’s outlook, focus, and ways of responding to situations. True progress cannot be measured in terms of these experiences, but when one looks back over a number of years of the process, one can in many cases see substantial changes to the trend of the being. One may become more peaceful, with a basic equanimity that was not there earlier in life. There may be different values about what is important and there come about as a result, changes in direction of the life-effort. One may see dietary and lifestyle changes as well as changes in the way one reacts to events in life, all of which show a process of maturity in the yogic sadhana actually working on the basic interactions of human life.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “In a more deep and spiritual sense a concrete realisation is that which makes the thing realised more real, dynamic, intimately present to the consciousness than any physical thing can be. Such a realisation of the personal Divine or of the impersonal Brahman or of the Self does not usually come at the beginning of a sadhana or in the first years or for many years. It comes so to a very few. But to expect and demand it so soon would be taken in the eyes of any experienced yogi or sadhak as a rather rash and abnormal impatience. Most would say that a slow development is the best one can hope for in the first years and only when the nature is ready and fully concentrated towards the Divine can the definitive experience come. To some rapid preparatory experiences can come at a comparatively early stage, but even they cannot escape the labour of the consciousness which will make these experiences culminate in the realisation that is enduring and complete. It is not a question of liking or disliking, it is a matter of fact and truth and experience. It is the fact that people who are cheerful and ready to go step by step, even by slow steps, if need be, do actually march faster and more surely than those who are impatient and in haste. it is what I have always seen.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 5 Bases of Yoga, Patience and Perseverance, pp. 113-115

Patience and Perseverance Are Need for the Practice of the Integral Yoga

We live in an age that expects instant success, immediate gratification and results that occur with a minimum of effort. It is difficult, therefore, to appreciate that the spiritual path, whether the integral yoga, or any other path that assumes a change to human nature or a redirection of the focus and energies that so naturally keep our attention from the physical-vital-mental complex that we inhabit, is not something that can be achieved in a day. The greater and more far-reaching the goal, the less likely it is to occur “overnight”. The integral yoga, which focuses on a change of human nature based on the integration of a new, supramental consciousness into our lives, certainly requires a serious commitment and persistence of effort, with the full results not likely to occur in any one individual’s lifetime. It is a process that requires generations, and in the scope of evolutionary change on the planet, we can consider it to be an extremely ‘fast’ result!

If we become upset and angry at not reaching the result quickly, or if we alternatively become depressed or question the goal or the process on that ground, we are under the control of the gunas of rajas and tamas, respectively. Neither of these gunas provides a solid basis for spiritual growth and progress in the long-term.

The ancient Rishis understood the need for patience and perseverance and there are stories in the Upanishads that indicate that one must be prepared to wait for very long periods of time to achieve the results. One such story is of a young disciple who approached a Guru for teaching and was told to take two cattle into the forest and return when he had developed a herd of 1000 cattle. The young aspirant followed this advice and had to learn how to deal with animal husbandry, but also the privations of living in the forest for many years, how to deal with wild beasts, feeding and caring for himself and the animals, and dealing with the internal issues that arose from his isolation, his physical well-being, and the task that had been set before him. Eventually, after many years of working away at this project with no guidance or overt support from anyone, he achieved the result and returned to the Guru with the 1000 cattle. The Guru saw the radiance and wisdom in the eyes and face of the young child and came down off his seat and bowed down and indicated that he recognized the realisation the boy had achieved and now treated him as a teacher worthy of his respect.

Which of us today looks at the practice of yoga from such a long-term standpoint of ongoing, persistent and patient effort, unruffled by the exigencies that life throws at us, and ready to continue forward ‘come what may’?

Sri Aurobindo writes: “One who has not the courage to face patiently and firmly life and its difficulties will never be able to go through the still greater inner difficulties of the sadhana. The very first lesson in this yoga is to face life and its trials with a quiet mind, a firm courage and an entire reliance on the Divine Shakti.”

“There are always difficulties and a hampered progress in the early stages and a delay in the opening of the inner doors until the being is ready. If you feel whenever you meditate the quiescence and the flashes of the inner Light and if the inward urge is growing so strong that the external hold is decreasing and the vital disturbances are losing their force, that is already a great progress. The road of yoga is long, every inch of ground has to be won against much resistance and no quality is more needed by the sadhak than patience and single-minded perseverance with a faith that remains firm through all difficulties, delays and apparent failures.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 5 Bases of Yoga, Patience and Perseverance, pp. 113-115

The Nature and Action of Faith in the Spiritual Path

One of the great reported examples of faith in the spiritual path is the inspiring story of Tibet’s great yogi, Milarepa. Briefly, his family was cheated out of their inheritance when his father died, and put into a condition of extreme suffering. He left to learn Black Magic to take his revenge on those who had created the suffering of himself along with his mother and sister. He eventually learned the art and called down a violent hailstorm on the village and many people died and suffered. He suffered remorse for his actions and determined to take up a spiritual life with the goal of achieving enlightenment in one lifetime. He was guided to a Guru who agreed to take him on as a disciple. The guru then made him do years of hard manual labor without letting him learn the teachings that he was disseminating to others. The work was backbreaking, and whenever he took any shortcut, the Guru asked him to undo it and start over. Eventually, in extreme physical and emotional distress, he even contemplated suicide as he came to conclude that he was not destined to achieve his goal in this body; nevertheless, he persisted for many years. Eventually the Guru embraced him and gave him the great teachings of enlightenment and asked him to meditate on the teachings, which he did in various caves, for years. He made some progress in his meditation but was still unable to achieve the fullness of the goal. He survived on nettles rather than waste time and energy on finding and preparing food. He eventually reached a dead end, and decided to open the note his teacher had provided him before he went to his retreat, which was to be read only in the extremest of circumstances. Reasoning that he had reached the extreme, while maintaining his faith in the path, the teaching and the Guru, he read the note and learned that his progress was now blocked by insufficient physical energy, and that he needed to nourish his body. Once he did that, he achieved full realisation and his achievements are recognised and celebrated today as the pinnacle of spiritual dedication and faith in the face of extreme hardships and tests of body, life and mind. Much of the time he received no sign or encouragement that any progress was taking place at all. He was carried along by his faith.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “Faith does not depend upon experience; it is something that is there before experience. When one starts the yoga, it is not usually on the strength of experience, but on the strength of faith. It is so not only in yoga and the spiritual life, but in ordinary life also. All men of action, discoverers, inventors, creators of knowledge proceed by faith and, until the proof is made or the thing done, they go on in spite of disappointment, failure, disproof, denial because of something in them that tells them that this is the truth, the thing that must be followed and done. … Faith is the soul’s witness to something not yet manifested, achieved or realised, but which yet the Knower within us, even in the absence of all indications, feels to be true or supremely worth following or achieving. This thing within us can last even when there is no fixed belief in the mind, even when the vital struggles and revolts and refuses. Who is there that practices the yoga and has not his periods, long periods of disappointment and failure and disbelief and darkness? But there is something that sustains him and even goes on in spite of himself, because it feels that what it followed after was yet true and it more than feels, it knows. The fundamental faith in yoga is this, inherent in the soul, that the Divine exists and the Divine is the one thing to be followed after — nothing else in life is worth having in comparison with that. So long as a man has that faith, he is marked for the spiritual life and I will say that, even if his nature is full of obstacles and crammed with denials and difficulties, and even if he has many years of struggle, he is marked out for success in the spiritual life.”

“It is this faith that you need to develop — a faith which is in accordance with reason and common sense — that if the Divine exists and has called you to the Path, (as is evident), then there must be a Divine Guidance behind and through and in spite of all difficulties you will arrive. Not to listen to the hostile voices that suggest failure or to the voices of impatient, vital haste that echo them, not to believe that because great difficulties are there, there can be no success or that because the Divine has not yet shown himself he will never show himself, but to take the position that everyone takes when he fixes his mind on a great and difficult goal, ‘I will go on till I succeed — all difficulties notwithstanding.’ To which the believer in the Divine adds, ‘The Divine exists, my following after the Divine cannot fail. I will go on through everything till I find him.’ “

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 5 Bases of Yoga, Faith, pp. 110-112

The Necessity of a Luminous Faith in Following the Spiritual Path

The long-standing debate between science and religion pits the rational intellect with its demand for facts, proof, and logical inference, along with rigorous testing to achieve reproducible results to dispel doubt against the religious conviction based on faith. Science looks down on faith as not being fact-based or provable, while religion dismisses science as limited within an artificial framework that does not, in fact, fully understand the creation or its meaning, and which therefore misunderstands and misinterprets what it is seeing and inferring. If we dig deep enough, we can even find that much of the scientific approach starts from faith and only later develops the facts and systems needed to validate that faith.

In the early 20th Century, the standard for electrical generation and transmission in the United States was based on “direct current” and supported by Thomas Edison. Nikola Tesla had an intuition or a vision of the ability to generate and transmit electricity more safely and efficiently using “alternating current”. Tesla’s vision was derided as being not based in fact, as being unfounded and as being a dangerous attempt. Of course, over the long-term, as we look back, we see that Tesla’s faith was rewarded and alternating current became the standard in the society for electricity.

Today we see that what we perceive is not always accurate, and thus, the logical inference we draw from those perceptions turns out to be inaccurate. “Seeing is believing” is an outmoded concept in the world of digital manipulation, but even prior to that our “seeing” frequently got things wrong. For instance, much of humanity believed the sun revolved around the earth and that the earth was flat. Science eventually corrected these misperceptions, although these things had become by that time a matter of faith in the nature and order of the universe with man at the center, so that it became (unfortunately) part of the argument of science versus religion.

Faith and reason need not be in opposition to each other, if faith is based on an intuition of something that is not yet fully visible or embodied. Faith that simply tries to hold onto the status quo at all costs in opposition to facts, developments and scientific verifiable methodology is what we may call ignorant faith. Luminous faith need not oppose itself to science, but can push science forward toward new frontiers as it intuits what has not yet come to pass. In an evolutionary world, it is certain that changes will come about that are not yet foreseen nor supported by actual facts.

All of the miracles of modern science, wireless communication, harnessing of electricity, air travel, travel to the moon or other planets, vaccines to overcome the scourge of viruses or bacteria all represent advances that relied on faith as there was no “fact based” process upon which these things were envisioned before they were built. Why then should science have any reason to deny an enlightened faith that sees the future evolutionary steps and focuses the awareness and attention to help bring it to fruition?

Sri Aurobindo observes: “Faith is a thing that precedes knowledge, not comes after knowledge. It is a glimpse of a truth which the mind has not yet seized as knowledge. … The faith in spiritual things that is asked of the sadhak is not an ignorant but a luminous faith, a faith in light and not in darkness. It is called blind by the sceptical intellect because it refuses to be guided by outer appearances or seeming facts, — for it looks for the truth behind, — and because it does not walk on the crutches of proof and evidence. it is an intuition, an intuition not only waiting for experience to justify it, but leading towards experience. If I believe in self-healing, I shall after a time find out the way to heal myself. If I have a faith in transformation, I can end by laying my hand on and unravelling the process of transformation. But if I begin with doubt and go on with more doubt, how far am I likely to go on the journey?”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 5 Bases of Yoga, Faith, pp. 110-112