The Basis For Harmonising the Various Systems and Paths of Yoga

Sri Aurobindo bases his understanding of the means and goals of Yoga on a deeper insight into the evolutionary developmental process of Nature. Just as each successive form and power of consciousness that manifests in Nature has its basis upon forms and powers previously manifested, so we can also recognise that the processes and powers of Yoga are based on existing capabilities available to the human practitioner of the Yoga. Each of the different paths or schools of Yoga takes hold of one or more of the basic powers within humanity, whether it is the physical (Hatha Yoga), the emotional (Bhakti Yoga), the vital impulse (Karma Yoga), or the higher mind (Jnana Yoga), or other similar correlations.

“Yet it is always through something which she has formed in her evolution that Nature thus overpasses her evolution. It is the individual heart that by sublimating its highest and purest emotions attains to the transcendent Bliss or the ineffable Nirvana, the individual mind that by converting its ordinary functionings into a knowledge beyond mentality knows its oneness with the Ineffable and merges its separate existence in that transcendent unity. And always it is the individual, the Self conditioned in its experience by Nature and working through her formations, that attains to the Self unconditioned, free and transcendent.”

Sri Aurobindo dismisses the idea that the true and final goal of Yoga is to achieve the Absolute Transcendent and thereby abandon the world and its processes as developed by Nature. The question then is to draw upon the powers developed in Nature and find a way to optimize their function, focus them on the achievement of higher forms of awareness, including the awareness of the Transcendent, and, eventually, harmonize them in such a way that all the aspects of the being are taken up and transformed. “And if we seek to combine and harmonise their central practices and their predominant aims, we shall find that the basis provided by Nature is still our natural basis and the condition of their synthesis.”

The various paths and forms of Yoga, therefore are not mutually exclusive or antagonistic to one another; rather, they provide the seeker with leverage to address each of the elements of his natural being and raise it up to its highest potential.

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Introduction: The Conditions of the Synthesis, Chapter 4, The Systems of Yoga, pg. 26

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