We begin to understand the difference between the traditional Yoga of knowledge and the Integral Yoga as we reflect on the differences in focus and approach that each of them favors. In the traditional Yoga of knowledge, focus on the Eternal Transcendent, or the Self in the universe or even in the Individual, is considered to be the primary effort, with the goal to separate oneself from the illusion of the dualistic world within which we live and act. All other forms of knowledge are essentially considered to be distractions and should be minimized or avoided where possible to speed the seeker toward the ultimate result.
In the Integral Yoga, however, the goal is not dissolution of the life, nor unification in a spiritual reality divorced from life in the world; rather, the integral Yoga sees an omnipresent Reality that has its own necessary justification and which needs to be embraced, not discarded.
Sri Aurobindo describes the requirement: “But he has to take account of the world and its activities, learn what divine truth there may be behind them and reconcile that apparent opposition between the Divine Truth and the manifest creation which is the starting-point of most spiritual experience. Here, on each line of approach that he can take, he is confronted with a constant Duality, a separation between two terms of existence that seem to be opposites and their opposition to be the very root of the riddle of the universe. Later, he may and does discover that they are the two poles of One Being, connected by two simultaneous currents of energy negative and positive in relation to each other, their interaction the very condition for the manifestation of what is within the Being, their reunion the appointed means for the reconciliation of life’s discords and for the discovery of the integral truth of which he is the seeker.”
In The Life Divine Sri Aurobindo explores the opposite positions taken by those who believe the world is real, but the spiritual truth is not; and by those who believe that the spiritual existence is real, and the world is an illusion. The eventual reconciliation, which he calls “Reality Omnipresent”, is the key to the integration of both the ultimate knowledge of the spirit and the instrumental knowledge of acting and responding in the world, which Sri Aurobindo has taken up here.
Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 4, The Sacrifice, The Triune Path and the Lord of the Sacrifice, pp. 110-111