Introduction to the Paths of Knowledge, Works and Devotion

While Raja Yoga focuses on purifying and managing the mental powers at the basic level of the mental substrate and core functioning powers, the “triple paths” of knowledge, works and love each concentrate on one specific power or functionality of the more general mental level. The path of knowledge focuses on the higher reasoning intellect, the path of works on the harnessing of the will power, and the path of love focuses on the emotional forces. In each case, the power is essentially isolated, focused and concentrated and directed towards achieving unity with the Divine.

Sri Aurobindo compares them to the path of Raja Yoga: “The triple Path of devotion, knowledge and works attempts the province which Rajayoga leaves unoccupied. It differs from Rajayoga in that it does not occupy itself with the elaborate training of the whole mental system as the condition of perfection, but seizes on certain central principles, the intellect, the heart, the will, and seeks to convert their normal operations by turning them away from their ordinary and external preoccupations and activities and concentrating them on the Divine.”

Sri Aurobindo goes on to point out the defects of this triple Path with respect to the attempt to develop an integral yoga: “…it is indifferent to mental and bodily perfection and aims only at purity as a condition of the divine realisation. A second defect is that as actually practiced it chooses one of the three parallel paths exclusively and almost in antagonism to the others instead of effecting a synthetic harmony of the intellect, the heart and the will in an integral divine realisation.”

It will be useful to explore the leverage provided by each of these paths while keeping in mind the limitations as we explore Sri Aurobindo’s approach toward creating an integral “synthesis of yoga”.

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Introduction: The Conditions of the Synthesis, Chapter 4, The Systems of Yoga, pg. 32