The Role of Devotion In the Yoga of Integral Self-Liberation

Traditional practices of yoga or spiritual liberation have focused on the individual, and thereby emphasized the steps to be taken by the individual in order to free himself from the bondage of the dualities, Karma and the action of the Gunas of Nature. This individual focus is understandable given that the human being begins with the experience of the ego-sense that “separates” him from all other beings and universal Nature. By exclusive focus, the individual is able to achieve a form of individual salvation and it is that goal which has preoccupied seekers for millennia. Because the Gita does not accept this as a final consummation of the human experience, but rather transcends the ego-consciousness with the idea of unifying with the wider and higher consciousness that constitutes the Being of the universal creation, the Gita cannot treat this individual liberation as a stopping point. It is necessary to gain a standpoint of separation from involvement in the ego and its play in the world of the dualities, and thus far, the two paths may appear to be quite similar. However, once some perspective is attained, the Gita then turns to the creation and recognizes it as One with the individual, and both the individual and universal as aspects contained within and created by the Supreme Divine, called herein the Purushottama. The works undertaken by the individual are the works of Nature, and these works are controlled, directed, managed and constituted by the Purushottama.

Sri Aurobindo therefore concludes: “…since his works are that Being’s, he has to give up all his actions to the Godhead in him and the world, by whom they are done in the divine mystery of Nature. This is the double condition of the divine birth of the soul, of its release from the mortality of the ego and the body into the spiritual and eternal,–knowledge first of one’s timeless immutable self and union through it with the timeless Godhead, but knowledge too of that which lives behind the riddle of cosmos, the Godhead in all existences and their workings. Thus only can we aspire through the offering of all our nature and being to a living union with the One who has become in Time and Space all that is.”

This brings in the need for devotion: “It is an adoration and aspiration towards that which is greater than imperishable self or changing Nature. All knowledge then becomes an adoration and aspiration, but all works too become an adoration and aspiration. Works of nature and freedom of soul are unified in this adoration and become one self-uplifting to the one Godhead.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part I, Chapter 4, The Secret of Secrets, pp. 292-293