There are both ultimate and practical realities to be addressed in undertaking the practice of yoga. This is often a source of confusion for individuals who read something and thereby believe that they are accomplishing it, when in fact, they are at a stage or in a situation that actually requires a different methodology. This is one of the reasons why serious practitioners of yoga are advised to have the support and guidance of a “guru”, a teacher who can mediate between the ultimate Truth and the day to day practical need.
Sri Aurobindo takes up this issue clearly with the following which encompasses both aspects: “In Yoga also it is the Divine who is the Sadhaka and the Sadhana; it is his Shakti with her light, power, knowledge, consciousness, Ananda, acting upon the adhara and, when it is opened to her, pouring into it with these divine forces that makes the Sadhana possible. But so long as the lower nature is active the personal effort of the Sadhaka remains necessary.”
First some definitions: Sadhaka is the person practicing yoga. Sadhana is the practice of the yoga. Shakti is the Force or Power of the Divine. Ananda is bliss or delight of existence. Adhara is the vessel of the individual consisting of the body, life and mind.
Many people read the first part of the statement and try to turn it all over to the Divine….all they have to do is be devoted and everything else will be done for them. Sri Aurobindo covered this also in the first chapter. This is called a “tamasic” surrender and it is illusory in nature, as long as the lower nature remains active and attempts to carry out its own impulsions. The second part of the statement modifies the first by ensuring that there is both the recognition of the ultimate primacy and action by the Divine Shakti, and the need for personal effort by the individual still living within the framework of the egoistic personality.
This helps further clarify the first statement in this chapter about the Divine carrying out all action, but working through the ego of the Jiva in the lower nature. The necessity then, is to achieve a balance that both recognizes the ultimate reality and begins to move the consciousness to that standpoint, as well as a recognition that until we reach that standpoint in our consciousness, we cannot simply avoid all effort.