The Philosophical Underpinning of the Yoga of Devotion

Traditional practitioners of the yoga of knowledge have tended to treat the path of devotion as a secondary, lesser path, based on the illusion of personality and therefore, something to eventually be overpassed to achieve the higher Truth of the immutable, uninvolved Reality of peace, and inaction.

The Gita has made it clear that it does not accept this line of understanding; rather, it sees both the active and the inactive consciousness as two aspects of the higher reality which incorporates them both and overcomes their apparent contradictions, the Purushottama. As a result, the Gita accepts both a truth of Impersonality and a truth of Personality. Each of these aspects can and must be accepted and validated, without excluding the other. It is consistent, then, with the Gita’s view, that it would develop a line of understanding and practice that would bring out the truth of Personality even as it accepts the truth of Impersonality. This brings us then, to the yoga of devotion, as a validation of this truth of Personality.

Sri Aurobindo describes the integration formulated by the Gita: “But by combining the tranquil impersonality of the one self with the stress of the works of Nature done as a sacrifice to the Lord, we by this double key escape from the lower egoistic personality and grow into the purity of our true spiritual person. Then are we no longer the bound and ignorant ego in the lower, but the free Jiva in the supreme Nature. Then we no longer live in the knowledge of the one immutable and impersonal self and this mutable multiple Nature as two opposite entities, but rise to the very embrace of the Purushottama discovered simultaneously through both of these powers of our being. All three are the spirit, and the two which are apparent opposites prove to be only confronting faces of the third which is the highest.”

The Gita declaims: “I am this Purushottama who am beyond the mutable and am greater and higher even than the immutable. he who has knowledge of Me as the Purushottama, adores Me (has Bhakti for Me…), with all-knowledge and in every way of his natural being.”

“And it is this Bhakti of an integral knowledge and integral self-giving which the Gita now begins to develop.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part I, Chapter 2, The Synthesis of Devotion and Knowledge, pp. 270-271

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