The Limitations of Religious Emotions For an Integral Yoga

When we look at the spiritual paths that focus on the heart, we find a somewhat common theme. They generally recommend that worldly emotions, passions and vital desires or emotional attachments be rejected and that only those emotions that are directly related to the divine worship be accepted. Eventually we then come to the result that the seeker of those paths must strive toward sainthood, and rearrange his action in the world in such a way that any kind of dynamic action in worldly affairs will be seen as a distraction or an obstruction; or else, they can hide underlying dynamics that obscure the purity of those emotions and potentially lead to fanaticism or narrow judgmentalism.

Sri Aurobindo comments on this issue in relation to the wider aim of the integral Yoga to transform all fields of life: “Thus a division can be made between religious emotions and mundane feelings and it can be laid down as a rule of spiritual life that the religious emotions alone should be cultivated and all worldly feelings and passions must be rejected and fall away from our existence. This in practice would mean the religious life of the saint or devotee, alone with the Divine or linked only to others in a common God-love or at the most pouring out the fountains of a sacred, religious or pietistic love on the world outside. But religious emotion itself is too constantly invaded by the turmoil and obscurity of the vital movements and it is often either crude or narrow or fanatical or mixed with movements that are not signs of the spirit’s perfection. It is evident besides that even at the best an intense figure of sainthood clamped in rigid hieratic lines is quite other than the wide ideal of an integral Yoga. A larger psychic and emotional relation with God and the world, more deep and plastic in its essence, more wide and embracing in its movements, more capable of taking up in its sweep the whole of life, is imperative.”

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. 141-142

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