The Difficulties of the Path of the Integral Yoga

The integral Yoga has as one of its large goals the taking up and transformation of the entire life of the individual and the world. Sri Aurobindo points out that the seeker must have a clear sight as to what the implications of this are. There can be no “cutting of the knot” of the problem of life, the messy, difficult and obstructing energies and distractions that plague the seeker. The yogic disciplines based on knowledge may try to minimize the attention on the needs, desires and impulsions of the life-energy, to develop a one-pointed fix on the Eternal as the ultimate way and goal. Religions have also tended to place salvation in some “other” world or heaven after death, through preparation and devotion in this life, albeit coloured by compromises with the life-energy along the way.

“A way of pure Knowledge is comparatively straightforward and easy to the tread of the seeker in spite of our mortal limitations and the pitfalls of the Ignorance; a way of pure Love, although it has its stumbling-blocks and its sufferings and trials, can in comparison be easy as the winging of a bird through the free azure. For Knowledge and Love are pure in their essence and become mixed and embarrassed, corrupted and degraded only when they enter into the ambiguous movement of the life-forces and are seized by them for the outward life’s crude movements and obstinately inferior motives. Alone of these powers Life or at least a certain predominant Will-in-life has the appearance of something impure, accursed or fallen in its very essence.”

Whether we perceive the difficulty as a form of darkness or inertia, fixated solely on physical gratification or survival; or as a form of grasping for the stimulation and satisfaction of the desires of the life-force, the opportunities for distraction, flagging efforts or outright self-deception are enormous. Even when we align the life-force with higher aims set by the highest emotional and mental drives of the Nature, it is easily misled, diverted or obscured under the burden of the desire-mind and its gross or subtle insistence on its own satisfaction in opposition to the higher principles.

“All these forces the spiritual seeker grows aware of in himself and finds all around him and has to struggle and combat incessantly to be rid of their grip and dislodge the long-entrenched mastery they have exercised over his own being as over the environing human existence. The difficulty is great; for their hold is so strong, so apparently invincible that it justifies the disdainful dictum which compares human nature to a dog’s tail,–for, straighten it never so much by force of ethics, religion, reason or any other redemptive effort, it returns in the end always to the crooked curl of Nature.”

“All labour to straighten out this native crookedness strikes the struggling will as a futility; a flight, a withdrawal to happy Heaven or peaceful dissolution easily finds credit as the only wisdom and to find a way not to be born again gets established as the only remedy for the dull bondage or the poor shoddy delirium or the blinded and precarious happiness and achievement of earthly existence.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 6, The Ascent of the Sacrifice-2, The Works of Love–The Works of Life, pp. 159-162

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