When one takes up the integral Yoga, there are considerations involved that were not clearly of much concern to those who followed other yogic paths in the past. For the most part, yoga has been traditionally focused on the liberation of the individual and the unification with the Absolute; the life in the world was treated either as an illusion, or at best, of secondary importance. In the integral Yoga, where the transformation of the active nature and the evolutionary development of the world manifestation are recognised essential aspects, a new level of complexity enters into the process. Abandonment of the life in the world is essentially no longer an “option” and the body, the vital being, the emotions, all need to be taken up, reconfigured and transformed.
Once the determination has been made, another debate arises; namely, whether it is better to focus on the path of Knowledge or the yoga of devotion to achieve the realisation and then try to come back later to change the outer nature; or whether the seeker should begin to integrate the development and transformation of the outer nature right from the outset.
Sri Aurobindo responds on these issues: “It is possible, indeed, to begin with knowledge or Godward emotion solely or with both together and to leave works for the final movement of the Yoga. But there is then this disadvantage that we may tend to live too exclusively within, subtilised in subjective experience, shut off in our isolated inner parts; there we may get incrusted in our spiritual seclusion and find it difficult later on to pour ourselves triumphantly outwards and apply to life our gains in the higher Nature. When we turn to add this external kingdom also to our inner conquests, we shall find ourselves too much accustomed to an actively purely subjective and ineffective on the material plane. There will be an immense difficulty in transforming the outer life and the body. Or we shall find that our action does not correspond with the inner light: it still follows the old accustomed mistaken paths, still obeys the old normal imperfect influences; the Truth within us continues to be separated by a painful gulf from the ignorant mechanism of our external nature. This is a frequent experience, because in such a process the Light and Power come to be self-contained and unwilling to express themselves in life or to use the physical means prescribed for the Earth and her processes. It is as if we were living in another, a larger and subtler world and had no divine hold, perhaps little hold of any kind, upon the material and terrestrial existence.”
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. 85-86