The Three Stages of the Integral Yoga

Sri Aurobindo identifies three stages that occur in the process of the integral Yoga in the seeker. These are not precisely delineated levels, but will tend to flow into one another and to some degree overlap or interleave each other. The first step is the turning of the aspiration towards the Divine in one form or another, and through one or another aspect or power of the being. This stage involves the personal effort of the seeker working to establish contact with the Divine Truth. Once the contact has been firmly established, there is an inflowing of knowledge, will, emotion and force from the Divine, filling the being, transforming the reactions and the responses, providing insight and a power of effective action. The third stage uses the transformed instrument to reach out and place that power into action as part of the transforming action of the world.

The personal effort is necessary during the first stage to seek and establish a solid relation to the Divine: “So long as the contact with the Divine is not in some considerable degree established, so long as there is not some measure of sustained identity…, the element of personal effort must normally predominate.”

As the seeker begins to move more into the second stage, the personal effort gives way to the Divine response: “But in proportion as this contact establishes itself, the Sadhaka must become conscious that a force other than his own, a force transcending his egoistic endeavor and capacity, is at work in him and to this Power he learns progressively to submit himself and delivers up to it the charge of his Yoga. In the end his own will and force become one with the higher Power; he merges them in the divine Will and its transcendent and universe Force. He finds it thenceforward presiding over the necessary transformation of his mental, vital and physical being with an impartial wisdom and provident effectivity of which the eager and interested ego is not capable.”

At this point the being is ready to act as a nexus for Divine action in the world: “It is when this identification and this self-merging are complete that the divine centre in the world is ready. Purified, liberated, plastic, illumined, it can begin to serve as a means for the direct action of a supreme Power in the larger Yoga of humanity or superhumanity, of the earth’s spiritual progression or its transformation.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 1, The Four Aids, pp. 52-53