The Desire For Personal Salvation Is Not the True Aim of Yogic Practice

One of the prime motivations for undertaking the practice of Yoga has been the liberation of the individual soul from the cycle of birth and death, and the consequent release from any work to be done while one remains alive. For the soul enamoured of the life of the world and its attractions and fruits, this is certainly a step to disentangle oneself from the bondage of desire.

Sri Aurobindo observes, however, that this goal still represents the working of the ego, and eventually must be overpassed to align oneself with the higher Divine intention in the creation. “The aim of escape from rebirth, now long fixed in the Indian mentality as the highest object of the soul, has replaced the enjoyment of a heaven beyond fixed in the mentality of the devout by many religions as their divine lure….Undoubtedly a release from the limitations of the mind and body into an eternal peace, rest, silence of the Spirit, makes a higher appeal than the offer of a heaven of mental joys or eternised physical pleasures, but this too after all is a lure; its insistence on the mind’s world-weariness, the life-being’s shrinking from the adventure of birth, strikes a chord of weakness and cannot be the supreme motive. The desire of personal salvation, however high its form, is an outcome of ego; it rests on the idea of our own individuality and its desire for its personal good or welfare, its longing for a release from suffering or its cry for the extinction of the trouble of becoming and makes that the supreme aim of our existence. To rise beyond the desire of personal salvation is necessary for the complete rejection of this basis of ego.”

As long as we are framing the seeking within the logic of individual or personal salvation or liberation, the ego is at work. The Gunas are still at work, and in this case, one senses the strong presence of Tamas, the weariness, weakness, tiredness, and desire for escape from the trouble being the operative signs.

Sri Aurobindo provides the true rationale when he states: “The pursuit of liberation, of the soul’s freedom, of the realisation of our true and highest self, of union with the Divine, is justified only because it is the highest law of our nature, because it is the attraction of that which is lower in us to that which is highest, because it is the Divine Will in us.” The standpoint of the Divine is essential to overcome the limitations of the standpoint of the human soul. From this standpoint there is then no reason to abandon life, action and work in the world if that is the impulsion of the Divine Spirit for the soul.

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 12, The Divine Work, pp. 256-257