Most of the attention and focus of yogic paths has traditionally been on the inner growth of the individual seeker, the spiritual development. This has generally been accompanied by a drawing away from or outright abandonment of the life in the world, to the extent possible while still having to live, breathe and eat! Aside from those who have undertaken spiritual disciplines, there are also other individuals who have what we might call a true “inner life” that acts as the fulcrum of their action in the world in some serious degree. Philosophers, sages and seers, scientists and serious artists obviously have considerable inner direction. For the vast mass of humanity however, almost the entire life is lived on the service and in interaction with the outer world and could be considered to be “outer-directed”. Even for those with a true inner life, it does not control all their actions and responses.
The goal of the integral Yoga requires that a new basis of harmony be found whereby the inner-direction of the life takes up and is able to transform the outer life, not just be forced to accept it or compromise with it.
Sri Aurobindo discusses the issue: “But it is not either of these sides separated from the other, but rather a harmony of the inner and the outer life made one in fullness and transfigured into a play of something beyond them which will create the form of a perfect living.”
“A Yoga of works, a union with the Divine in our will and acts–and not only in knowledge and feeling–is then an indispensable, an inexpressibly important element of an integral Yoga. The conversion of our thought and feeling without a corresponding conversion of the spirit and body of our works would be a maimed achievement.”
Once we accept the idea that the spiritual achievement is not restricted to an individual’s sole salvation, but is part of a total transformative and evolutionary process that takes up and eventually transforms all life and outer action, the Yoga of works, addressing the way we express our energy into the world, becomes essential.
Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 3, Self-Surrender in Works–The Way of the Gita, pp. 84-85