Sri Aurobindo has redefined the object of the yoga of knowledge by integrating the negative aspect, which leads toward the transcendence of the manifestation, both universal and individual, with the positive aspect which acknowledges that it is the Brahman, the Eternal, who manifests and creates and embodies all that exists. Over-emphasizing the negative aspect, we find the ascetic path of abandonment of mind, life and matter in the pursuit of spiritual transcendence. Over-emphasizing the positive aspect, we find the materialist fixation on the outer world without recognizing that there is a spiritual transcendence that is greater than the entire manifestation and not limited or bound by it.
The Taittiriya Upanishad illustrates these two poles: “One becometh as the unexisting, if he know the Eternal as negation; but if one knoweth of the Eternal that He is, then men know him for the saint and the one reality.” (Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Taittiriya Upanishad, Brahmanandavalli, Chapter 6, pg 270)
Sri Aurobindo observes further: “the culmination of the path of knowledge need not necessarily entail extinction of our world-existence. For the Supreme to whom we assimilate ourselves, the Absolute and Transcendent into whom we enter has always the complete and ultimate consciousness for which we are seeking and yet he supports by it his play in the world.”
We use the pursuit of the Transcendent, the negative aspect, to free ourselves from the bondage to the outer world’s limited forms and pursuits. We then use the positive aspect to reintegrate ourselves into the world with the freedom of the liberated soul. “Our dynamic self-fulfilment cannot be worked out so long as we remain in the egoistic consciousness, in the mind’s candle-lit darkness, in the bondage.”
“The true and divine self-fulfilment of Brahman in the manifestation is only possible on the foundation of the Brahman-consciousness and therefore through the acceptance of life by the liberated soul, the Jivanmukta.”
This knowledge is encapsulated in the Isha Upanishad: “But he who sees everywhere the Self in all existences and all existences in the Self, shrinks not thereafter from aught. he in whom it is the Self-Being that has become all existences that are Becomings, for he has the perfect knowledge, how shall he be deluded, whence shall he have grief who sees everywhere oneness?” (Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Isha Upanishad, slokas 6-7, pg. 21)
“The liberated knower lives and acts in the world not less than the bound soul and ignorant mind but more, doing all actions, …, only with a true knowledge and a greater conscient power. And by so doing he does not forfeit the supreme unity nor falls from the supreme consciousness and highest knowledge. For the Supreme, however hidden now to us, is here in the world no less than he could be in the most utter and ineffable self-extinction, the most intolerant Nirvana.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 1, The Object of Knowledge, pp. 284-285