Understanding the Problem of Transforming the Life-Force in the Integral Yoga

The integral Yoga’s insistence on the complete taking up and transformation of all of existence, rather than some form of escape from or denial of the outer world provides unique issues and difficulties for the seeker. The yoga intends to accomplish the “straightening of the dog’s tail” which has proverbially been recognized as virtually impossible! When we examine the life energy closely, we can understand the issues. There are drives, habits, instincts built into the historical action of the life-force and the inter-relation of all the forms and beings who embody it, that are so deeply ingrained that they are virtually automatic reactions. Desire, greed, fear, hunger, all arise out of the energy of the unreformed life-energy. There is a powerful survival instinct that leads us to undertake all manner of actions, virtually without any conscious control, when we feel survival is threatened.

The idea of using the force of Knowledge or the power of Love to manage and control the Life-Force has been attempted but has failed for various reasons. An escape from life into an Absolute through the path of Knowledge does not provide the needed result in the world. The attempt to bring these powers to bear in Life has shown that the underlying instinctive and habitual patterns, built up through endless millenia has been shown to be weak and ineffective. There are also the issues of these forces being manipulated and perverted to the energy of the unreformed Life-Force.

Sri Aurobindo indicates that the true solution to the issue must lie within the native power of the Life-Force itself, which, after all, is a divine energy and thus, must contain within itself the seed of its own transformation. “In Life itself there is the seed of its own salvation, it is from the Life-Energy that we must get our leverage; for though there is a saving light of Knowledge, a redeeming and transforming force in Love, these cannot be effective here unless they secure the consent of Life and can use the instrumentation of some delivered energy at its centre for a sublimation of the erring human into a divine Life-Force.”

“Life is indispensable to the completeness of the creative spiritual realisation, but life released, transformed, uplifted, not the ordinary mentalised human-animal life, nor the demoniac or Titanic, not even the divine and the undivine mixed together. Whatever may be done by other world-shunning or heaven-seeking disciplines, this is the difficult but unavoidable task of the integral Yoga; it cannot afford to leave unsolved the problem of the outward works of life, it must find in them their native Divinity and ally it firmly and for ever to the divinities of Love and Knowledge.”

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. 162-163

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