The almost universally accepted purpose of spiritual practices has been stated as the liberation of the individual soul. There have been variations in the exact terminology and sense of that liberation. Some hold that it is to dissolve the individual’s bondage to the chain of cause and effect in the outer world; some use the practice to develop powers and benefits within the world itself; some hold that it is to free oneself from the illusory nature of the external world; some say it is to become one with the Absolute in an unchanging status of Oneness; some hold it is to escape this world of growing and testing to transition into higher spheres or worlds or states of consciousness and leave this world behind. There are many other variations on this theme.
Sri Aurobindo, however, does not accept any of these as the true purpose of spiritual practice. “The truest reason why we must seek liberation is not to be delivered, individually, from the sorrow of the world, though that deliverance too will be given to us, but that we may be one with the Divine, the Supreme, the Eternal. The truest reason why we must seek perfection, a supreme status, purity, knowledge, strength, love, capacity, is not that personally we may enjoy the divine Nature or be even as the gods, though that enjoyment too will be ours, but because this liberation and perfection are the divine Will in us, the highest truth of our self in Nature, the always intended goal of a progressive manifestation in the universe. The divine Nature, free and perfect and blissful, must be manifested in the individual in order that it may manifest in the world. Even in the Ignorance the individual lives really in the universal and for the universal Purpose, for in the very act of pursuing the purposes and desires of his ego, he is forced by Nature to contribute by his egoistic action to her work and purpose in the worlds…”
Sri Aurobindo looks at this entire spiritual action from the standpoint of the Divine to see its truer, deeper and wider purposes, which the individual standpoint can scarcely be expected to comprehend. “To escape from ego and be united with the Divine is at once the liberation and the consummation of his individuality; so liberated, purified, perfected, the individual–the divine soul–lives consciously and entirely, as was from the first intended, in and for the cosmic and transcendent Divine and for his Will in the universe.”
“A divine action arising spontaneously, freely, infallibly from the light and force of our spiritual self in union with the Divine is the last state of this integral Yoga of Works.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 12, The Divine Work, pp. 262-263