We feel most comfortable with specific directions, guidelines or steps, to be undertaken in a specific manner, in order to reach a precise goal. This is a characteristic of our human mental consciousness and it carries through even in our spiritual seeking. We thus appreciate it when the path is laid out clearly, neatly and directly for us, and this gives us a certain amount of security and reduces our concerns about whether we are doing things right, or whether we can actually reach the goal.
It is thus something of a shock for most individuals to come to grips with the path and method of the integral Yoga, which, while having certain broad framework stages, nevertheless does not prescribe a fixed regimen for everyone to follow mechanically, but rather varies from individual to individual based on their own nature, their starting point, their strengths and weaknesses and the nature of the call, as well as the Divine intention for that individual.
Sri Aurobindo explains: “In the spiritual domain the essence is always one, but there is yet an infinite variety and, at any rate in the integral Yoga, the rigidity of a strict and precise mental rule is seldom applicable; for, even when they walk in the same direction, no two natures proceed on exactly the same lines, in the same series of steps or with quite identical stages of their progress.”
The broad framework still applies and provides some general guidance about what the seeker can expect in terms of progress along this path: “First, there is a large turning in which all the natural mental activities proper to the individual nature are taken up or referred to a higher standpoint and dedicated by the soul in us, the psychic being, the priest of the sacrifice, to the divine service; next, there is an attempt at an ascent of the being and a bringing down of the Light and Power proper to some new height of consciousness gained by its upward effort into the whole action of the knowledge.”
Sri Aurobindo advises that this stage may involve some complete or relative withdrawal from attachment to and involvement in the things of the outer world, while the concentration is focused on this process. At various stages, outer activities may be once again brought forward, either to test the new standpoint or to implement it. The result of this stage is that the impulsion no longer comes from the ordinary motives of desire and worldly success, but from the Divine and the focus on the Divine as the one essential reality, the one thing that matters. When the outer forces are once again taken up, the Divine impulsion may lead, not to a withdrawal from life and action, but to an even more intense and effective outpouring of energy into shaping the Divine intention in the world. “…there may be an opening of new capacities of mental creation and new provinces of knowledge by the miraculous touch of the Yoga-Shakti.”
“…whatever may be the method or the course of development chosen by the hidden Master of the Yoga, the common culmination of this stage is the growing consciousness of him above as the mover, decider, shaper of all the movements of the mind and all the activities of knowledge.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 5, The Ascent of the Sacrifice-1, The Works of Knowledge–The Psychic Being, pp. 136-137