The Integral Yoga Accepts Life As the Field of the Divine Transformation

One major differentiating factor between the traditions of Yoga and the Integral Yoga as described by Sri Aurobindo is that, rather than abandoning life and the universal manifestation in the pursuit of a separate divine realisation, the integral Yoga accepts life as the field and condition of the divine transformation. In this regard, the tradition of the Tantra has something in common with the integral Yoga, although in the tantra, there is not an explicit goal set before the seeker of transforming all life and the manifested world.

Sri Aurobindo explains the stance of the integral Yoga: “The hope of an integral transformation forbids us to take a short cut or to make ourselves light for the race by throwing away our impediments. For we have set out to conquer all ourselves and the world for God; we are determined to give him our becoming as well as our being and not merely to bring the pure and naked spirit as a bare offering to a remote and secret Divinity in a distant heaven or abolish all we are in a holocaust to an immobile Absolute. The Divine that we adore is not only a remote extra-cosmic Reality, but a half-veiled Manifestation present and near to us here in the universe.”

The integral Yoga looks on life and the world not as an illusion or a deception, but as “reality omnipresent” (as Sri Aurobindo calls it in The Life Divine. “Life is the field of a divine manifestation not yet complete: here, in life, on earth, in the body,—…we have to unveil the Godhead; here we must make its transcendent greatness, light and sweetness real to our consciousness, here possess and, as far as may be, express it. Life then we must accept in our Yoga in order utterly to transmute it; we are forbidden to shrink from the difficulties that this acceptance may add to our struggle.”

While the initial challenges are immense, eventually, when we have fixed the central goal and conception in our consciousness, there are also positive benefits, as the attempt to abandon life for an austere realisation certainly has its own challenges and difficulties. Instead of fighting with all of the forces and energies of life, the seeker in the integral Yoga can enlist their aid along the way and use the very powers that appear to be obstacles to further the process of the self-giving: “…Life becomes our helper. Intent, vigilant, integrally conscious, we can take every detail of its forms and every incident of its movements as food for the sacrificial Fire within us. Victorious in the struggle, we can compel Earthy herself to be an aid towards our perfection and can enrich our realisation with the booty torn from the powers that oppose us.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 2, Self Consecration, pp. 67-68