The Process and Progress of the Divine Transformation of the Nature

Sri Aurobindo identifies what may be considered to be three stages in the progression of the change from the human ego-personality to the individuality acting solely as a nexus of the divine manifestation. These three stages are not absolutely sequential. Due to the complexity of the transitions and the requirements of implementation over time, there may be overlap or even something of a “dual-action” whereby one aspect of the being is responsive to what would occur in a subsequent stage, while other aspects remain mired in an earlier form of action.

The first stage is generally seen as the one involving the personal effort of the seeker. As previously noted, this personal effort involves the turning of the being and all its parts toward the divine, a filtering process to permit only the divine force and no lesser or hostile energies from taking hold of the being, and a progressive process of integration of the divine force into the action of the being, which Sri Aurobindo terms “aspiration”, “rejection” and “surrender”.

“An entire consecration of all that we are, think, feel and do will be the result of this persistence.”

The second stage is characterized as being “transitional” in nature. “In the second stage of the Yoga, transitional between the human and the divine working, there will supervene an increasing purified and vigilant passivity, a more and more luminous divine response to the Divine Force,–but not to any other; and there will be as a result the growing inrush of a great and conscious miraculous working from above.”

The third stage is one controlled by the Divine which has taken charge of the individual and the working: “In the last period there is no effort at all, no set method, no fixed Sadhana; the place of endeavour and Tapasya will be taken by a natural, simple, powerful and happy disclosing of the flower of the Divine out of the bud of a purified and perfected terrestrial nature.”

It is important to note that while many traditional practices of Yoga seek to raise up the forces from below, moving up the spinal column from the base chakra to the crown chakra, the integral Yoga is characterized by what can only be termed a descent of the Force from above, through and into the being, and moving systematically down from the crown to the lower energy centers in the being.

The seeker may become conscious of the guidance and action of the higher Force, either at times, or even consistently, particularly as the process develops. “But it is the constant and complete and uniform action of the great direct control that more and more distinguishes the transitional stage as it proceeds and draws to its close. This predominance of a greater diviner leading, not personal to ourselves, indicates the nature’s increasing ripeness for a total spiritual transformation. It is the unmistakable sign that the self-consecration has not only been accepted in principle but is fulfilled in act and power. The Supreme has laid his luminous hand upon a chosen human vessel of his miraculous Light and Power and Ananda.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 2, Self Consecration, pp. 80-81


Transitioning From Personal Effort to Divine Action In the Practice of Yoga

The seeker, starting from the consciousness of the limited and separated human individual, has to take up the practice of the integral Yoga through what he considers to be his own personal effort. Just as each form or path of yoga has specific practices or techniques, the integral Yoga also has its own techniques, which in this case are essentially psychological standpoints that will eventually aid the seeker in making the transition from the circumscribed human to the unlimited divine standpoint of action. Sri Aurobindo describes these three practices as “aspiration”, “rejection” and “surrender”.

Aspiration orients the seeker towards the Divine and the divine realisation, as a sunflower orients itself towards the sun. This practice creates the conscious link and opens the pathway for the divine response.

Rejection acts as a tuning and filtering mechanism so that the various parts of the being respond only to the divine impulsions and not the promptings of desire and ego.

Surrender is the ultimate practice that accepts the force of the divine that descends into the being through the action of the aspiration and rejection, and allows it to carry out the needed activities and make the necessary adjustments.

To the extent that one is still immersed in the ego consciousness, these three practices are necessary and constitute the core sadhana or practice of the integral Yoga. At some point, as they take hold of the being, a shift occurs that makes it clear that the divine is actually the true doer of the yogic practice, and the aspiration and rejection become perfected, as also the surrender. This involves the progressive release of the ego-personality.

“As long as the ego is at work in us, our personal action is and must always be in its nature a part of the lower grades of existence; it is obscure or half-enlightened, limited in its field, very partially effective in its power. If a spiritual transformation, not a mere illumining modification of our nature, is to be done at all, we must call in the Divine Shakti to effect that miraculous work in the individual; for she alone has the needed force, decisive, all-wise and illimitable.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 2, Self Consecration, pp. 79-80

The First Fundamental Siddhi of the Integral Yoga

The process of the self-consecration undertaken through an ever-increasing concentration on the Divine through the thought, the will and the heart, eventually brings the seeker to the point where the Divine fills his life and his focus to such a degree, that nothing else intervenes. The “something else” referred to here represents the ego-consciousness and its attempts to acquire the objects of its desire. The process must eventual lead to the extirpation of the force of desire through a perfect self-surrender of the ego-consciousness to the Divine.

Sri Aurobindo explains that in fact, the true transformation of consciousness comes about when the seeker recognises that there is nothing else other than the Divine! “The effective fullness of our concentration on the one thing needful to the exclusion of all else will be the measure of our self-consecration to the One who is alone desirable. But this exclusiveness will in the end exclude nothing except the falsehood of our way of seeing the world and our will’s ignorance. For our concentration on the Eternal will be consummated by the mind when we see constantly the Divine in itself and the Divine in ourselves, but also the Divine in all things and beings and happenings. It will be consummated by the heart when all emotion is summed up in the love of the Divine,–of the Divine in itself and for itself, but love too of the Divine in all its beings and powers and personalities and forms in the Universe. It will be consummated by the will when we feel and receive always the divine impulsion and accept that alone as our sole motive force; but this will mean that, having slain to the last rebellious straggler the wandering impulses of the egoistic nature, we have universalised ourselves and can accept with a constant happy acceptance the one divine working in all things.”

“This is the first fundamental Siddhi of the integral Yoga.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 2, Self Consecration, pp. 78-79

Transmutation of the Ego-Self Into the True Spiritual Person

The consecration of the being through the leveraged action of the higher mind, the will and the heart is a powerful tool to effect the change from the standpoint of the ego-personality and the desire-soul that goes along with it to the divine standpoint and the emergence of what Sri Aurobindo calls “the true Spiritual Person”. This can take place “only when the desire-soul in us has submitted to the Divine Law….”

When this occurs we are not any longer acting for the individual satisfaction of the ego and its attendant desires. The individuality remains, but not as a limited and struggling human being separated and fragmented from the rest of creation and trying to to survive and thrive in this hostile world; rather, the individual, as the “true spiritual person” becomes a nexus or opportunity for the manifestation of the Divine Will in the universe.

“Our works will then be divine and done divinely; our mind and life and will, devoted to the Divine, will be used to help fulfil in others and in the world that which has been first realised in ourselves,–all that we can manifest of the embodied Unity, Love, Freedom, Strength, Power, Splendour, immortal Joy which is the goal of the spirit’s terrestrial adventure.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 2, Self Consecration, pg. 78

Three Stages of the Transformation of the Force of Desire

When one gets the call to take up the spiritual quest, the human personality is still in place and fully active. As a result, the first response is to engage the vital energy through the force of desire. Some spiritual disciplines counsel suppressing desire, but as Sri Aurobindo has pointed out elsewhere, this generally results in making the force even stronger. Others counsel techniques to sublimate the various forms of desire into more positive forms. Sri Aurobindo describes a process whereby desire can be systematically transformed:

“This craving life-force or desire-soul in us has to be accepted at first, but only in order that it may be transformed. Even from the beginning it has to be taught to renounce all other desires and concentrate itself on the passion for the Divine.” Thus, the powerful vital impulse of desire is first harnessed to the spiritual quest.

“This capital point gained, it has to be taught to desire, not for its own separate sake, but for God in the world and for the Divine in ourselves; it has to fix itself upon no personal spiritual gain, though of all possible spiritual gains we are sure, but on the great work to be done in us and others, on the high coming manifestation which is to be the glorious fulfilment of the Divine in the world, on the Truth that has to be sought and lived and enthroned for ever.” This stage represents a universalisation and impersonalisation of the impulse of desire, which leads to a detaching of the energy from the core ego-personality.

“But last, most difficult for it, more difficult than to seek with the right object, it has to be taught to seek in the right manner; for it must learn to desire, not in its own egoistic way, but in the way of the Divine. It must insist no longer, as the strong separative will always insists, on its own manner of fulfilment, its own dream of possession, its own idea of the right and desirable; it must yearn to fulfil a larger and greater Will and consent to wait upon a less interested and ignorant guidance.” This stage instills patience and faith in the being, and an understanding that the Divine has mapped out the steps of the manifestation, and the individual is purely at the service of that effort.

“Thus trained, Desire, that great unquiet harasser and troubler of man and cause of every kind of stumbling, will become fit to be transformed into its divine counterpart. For desire and passion too have their divine forms; there is a pure ecstasy of the soul’s seeking beyond all craving and grief, there is a Will of Ananda that sits glorified in the possession of the supreme beatitudes.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 2, Self Consecration, pp. 77-78

An Integral Consecration, an Integral Knowledge and an Integral Realisation

The power and amplitude of the individual’s yogic practice is conditioned by the wideness and height of the aspiration and the completeness of the consecration. Some focus on a specific aspect or realisation, and they orient their lives around it. The integral Yoga requires a consecration that embraces the entire manifestation, as well as the transcendent beyond. The seeker of the integral Yoga eventually finds that he must unify what are generally considered to be opposite concepts. The Upanishadic formula “One without a second”, usually interpreted to mean that the world around us is unreal, and that we should focus on the transcendent Brahman, must eventually be joined with the equally insistent formula “All this is the Brahman”. Sri Aurobindo’s viewpoint leads to what he calls “reality omnipresent” and the formulation for action based on “All life is Yoga.”

“But still the greater and wider the moving idea-force behind the consecration, the better for the seeker; his attainment is likely to be fuller and more ample.”

The formulation, as it attains its ultimate wideness and all-embracing stature, avoids any narrow interpretation that would make it adhere to the strictures of any particular creed, philosophy, religious doctrine or intellectual limitation. This brings about eventually the knowledge which reconciles all of these formulations within the larger scope of the all-embracing Oneness of existence. “The dynamic conception or impelling sense with which our Yoga can best set out would be naturally the idea, the sense of a conscious all-embracing but all-exceeding Infinite. Our uplook must be to a free, all-powerful, perfect and blissful One and Oneness in which all beings move and live and through which all can meet and become one.”

In this formulation, the personal and the impersonal, the unmanifest and the manifest, the One and the Many all are reconciled, leading to an integral knowledge.

There is a seeing, a living, breathing relationship that develops. “The thought, concentrating on him, must not merely understand in an intellectual form that he exists, or conceive of him as an abstraction, a logical necessity; it must become a seeing thought able to meet him here as the Inhabitant in all, realise him in ourselves, watch and take hold on the movement of his forces.”

This One who is the All becomes the total object of our heart’s love. “To him the heart can consecrate itself, approach him as in a universal sweetness of Love and a living sea of Delight. For his is the secret Joy that supports the soul in all its experiences and maintains even the errant ego in its ordeals and struggles till all sorrow and suffering shall cease.”

“On him the Will can unalterably fix as the invisible Power that guides and fulfils it and as the source of its strength.”

The impersonal sustains the entire creation, and the personal aspect embodies all relations in the manifested All. We then also can see that it is the Divine who is actually the Guide and Master who carries out the steps of the Yoga, and we begin to understand that the result, however long-delayed, however circuitously achieved, is inevitable.

“This is the faith with which the seeker has to begin his seeking and endeavor; for in all his effort here, but most of all in his effort towards the Unseen, mental man must perforce proceed by faith. When the realisation comes, the faith divinely fulfilled and completed will be transformed into an eternal flame of knowledge.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 2, Self Consecration, pp. 76-77

Self-Consecration Is the Essential Condition for Realisation in Yoga

When we begin the path of Yoga we are faced with something of a paradox. We are asked to concentrate on the Divine, and yet we do not know or recognize the Divine upon whom we are asked to concentrate. The solution to this riddle comes from reflection that the standpoint of the ego is not, in reality, the true and essential standpoint from which actions in the universe take place. Elsewhere Sri Aurobindo has advised “He who chooses the Infinite, has been chosen by the Infinite.” Thus, before we actually know what it is we are seeking, the Divine has begun to lay out before us the path, the way and the direction. While intellectual development may be useful, it is not the essential factor. “All that the Light from above asks of us that it may begin its work is a call from the soul and a sufficient point of support in the mind. This support can be reached through an insistent idea of the Divine in the thought, a corresponding will in the dynamic parts, an aspiration, a faith, a need in the heart. Any one of these may lead or predominate, if all cannot move in unison or in an equal rhythm. The idea may be and must in the beginning be inadequate; the aspiration may be narrow and imperfect, the faith poorly illumined or even, as not surely founded on the rock of knowledge, fluctuating, uncertain, easily diminished; often even it may be extinguished and need to be lit again with difficulty like a torch in a windy pass. But if once there is a resolute self-consecration from deep within, if there is an awakening to the soul’s call, these inadequate things can be a sufficient instrument for the divine purpose.”

It must be noted here that this aspiration, this call is not restricted to any one form of knowledge or devotion, nor any particular philosophy or religious belief. “Therefore the wise have always been unwilling to limit man’s avenues towards God; they would not shut against his entry even the narrowest portal, the lowest and darkest postern, the humblest wicket-gate. Any name, any form, any symbol, any offering has been held to be sufficient if there is the consecration along with it; for the Divine knows himself in the heart of the seeker and accepts the sacrifice.”

Eventually, as the consecration develops, the seeker gains knowledge, not intellectual reasoning, but a living understanding and guidance within, and this aids in the process of concentration on the Divine that is the leverage needed to attain the complete identification and realisation in the being.

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 2, Self Consecration, pp. 74-75

The Triple Way of the Integral Yoga

The traditional yogic paths of knowledge, works and love choose the leverage of specific aspects of human capabilities to focus the being exclusively on the spiritual quest and achieve the desired result through that concentration. The choice is usually based on the particular bent or development of the individual practitioner. They follow well-developed lines of practice and for the most part, tend to be mutually exclusive, so that those who follow the path of devotion will not concurrently take up the practices of knowledge or the exercise of will in action.

Sri Aurobindo mentions the need to find the highest and most powerful aspects of the human instrument to achieve the spiritual result, and this brings us to a review of the use of the higher mentality, the higher will and the higher capacities of love and devotion that we see in the traditional paths. In the case of the integral Yoga, however, the practitioner does not have the luxury of a single focus; rather, he must take up all the higher capacities. “The concentration of an enlightened thought, will and heart turned in unison towards one vast goal of our knowledge, one luminous and infinite source of our action, one imperishable object of our emotion is the starting-point of the Yoga.”

“There must be a large, many-sided yet single concentration of the thought on the idea, the perception, the vision, the awakening touch, the soul’s realisation of the one Divine. There must be a flaming concentration of the heart on the All and Eternal and, when once we have found him, a deep plunging and immersion in the possession and ecstasy of the All-Beautiful. There must be a strong and immovable concentration of the will on the attainment and fulfilment of all that the Divine is and a free and plastic opening of it to all that he intends to manifest in us. This is the triple way of the Yoga.”

Necessarily, the practitioner of the integral Yoga needs to understand the paths of knowledge, works and love as well as determine how to harmonise their action within himself in a way that brings forth the results integrally on all levels of his unified being.

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 2, Self Consecration, pg. 74

Transitioning Consciousness from the Animal Through the Human Stage to the Divine Consummation

We generally characterize the major difference in psychology between animals and human beings as the result of the ability of the human being to utilize the Reason, a higher form of intelligence than the basic sense apparatus and physical mind that clearly is predominant in the animal consciousness. At the same time, we can see elements of the power of Reason in the animal kingdom, and cannot deny that most human beings utilize the sense and physical mind capacities as their primary tool for navigating their way through their lives.

Sri Aurobindo points out that “…reason is only a particular and limited utilitarian and instrumental activity that proceeds from something much greater than itself, from a power that dwells in an ether more luminous, wider, illimitable.” There appears to be actually a ladder of consciousness which does not provide clearly defined separate steps between the animal and man, and which has not finished its ascent with the appearance of the reasoning faculties in humanity. Man, under this view, is what Sri Aurobindo elsewhere calls “a transitional being” and true human capabilities are not fully defined simply by the power of Reason, but more by the transformational capabilities of the still higher forms of consciousness of which Reason is just a partial and early indicator.

“The true and ultimate, as distinguished from the immediate or intermediate, importance of our observing, reasoning, inquiring, judging intelligence is that it prepares the human being for the right reception and right action of a Light from above which must progressively replace in him the obscure light from below that guides the animal…. All animal perceptions, sensibilities, activities are ruled by nervous and vital instincts, cravings, needs, satisfactions, of which the nexus is the life-impulse and vital desire. Man too is bound, but less bound, to this automatism of the vital nature. Man can bring an enlightened will, an enlightened thought and enlightened emotions to the difficult work of his self-development; he can more and more subject to these more conscious and reflecting guides the inferior function of desire. In proportion as he can thus master and enlighten his lower self, he is man and no longer animal.”

“When he can begin to replace desire altogether by a still greater enlightened thought and sight and will in touch with the Infinite, consciously subject to a diviner will than his own, linked to a more universal and transcendent knowledge, he has commenced the ascent towards the superman; he is on his upward march towards the Divine.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 2, Self Consecration, pp. 73-74

The Higher Mind and the Psychic Being Are the Primary Levers of the Integral Yoga

The complexity of the human being, with all our diverse drives, forces and aspects, makes it unrealistic that we can simply accept the central principle of the Yoga and then find ourselves instantly transformed. A process is required and there must be a power of action applied to bring about this process. Normally most of us are driven primarily by the force of desire at the vital level. This desire may take the form of physical needs or vital impulsions, even coloring the mental activity of the physical mind that busies itself with the life in the outer world.

Sri Aurobindo reminds us therefore, that in order to effect the transformation required, we need to use the leverage of the highest aspects of our being, and instead of allowing the vital desires to hold sway, we need to moderate, guide and uplift the energies that we express in our lives.

“As he can use his thinking mind and will to restrain and correct his life impulses, so too he can bring in the action of a still higher luminous mentality aided by the deeper soul in him, the psychic being, and supersede by these greater and purer motive-powers the domination of the vital and sensational force that we call desire. He can entire master or persuade it and offer it up for transformation to its divine Master. This higher mentality and this deeper soul, the psychic element in man, are the two grappling hooks by which the Divine can lay hold upon his nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 2, Self Consecration, pp. 72-73