Once we recognize that the goal, or result, of the Yogic process is the transition from the human standpoint to the divine standpoint, the integration of the divine knowledge and power of action into our lives fully and integrally, we then can determine the process, methodology and steps involved in that transition. Sri Aurobindo summarizes the goal: “It is a re-seeing and therefore a remoulding of our whole existence in the light of the Divine and One and Eternal free from subjection to the appearances of things and the externalities of our superficial being.”
Since we start with the human instrument of body-life-mind, and are circumscribed by the frame within which this instrument moves, it is incumbent on us, as a first or preliminary stage, to find a way to quiet and purify the human instrument such that we can begin to attune ourselves and experience what lies outside this frame of life-action.
In the practice of Raja Yoga, Patanjali outlines the systematic steps to attain the realisation and the first two represent a type of purification stage, the purging of the impulses of desire and unrest in the being, so that, with a solid, quiet and receptive basis, we can put practices into play to break out of the normal human limits. Similarly, in the Yoga of knowledge, there is a purificatory and preparatory stage, during which the human instrument is cleansed, purged, and brought into a state of readiness and capability to respond. “Such a passage from the human to the divine, from the divided and discordant to the One, from the phenomenon to the eternal Truth, such an entire rebirth or new birth of the soul must necessarily involve two stages, one of preparation in which the soul and its instruments must become fit and another of actual illumination and realisation in the prepared soul through its fit instruments.”
The two stages are not entirely successive. The process of purification opens up opportunities for the contact between the human and the divine powers of knowledge and illumination, so that there may be glimpses, flashes and eventually more sustained states of awareness that are clearly the result of the process. The need for the solid basis becomes evident when one recognizes that greater powers and forces, coming into an unprepared vessel can cause grave distortion and harm, even destruction of the instrument. At the same time, as the process of emptying out the demands and desires occurs, and the consciousness is turned, ready and receptive, toward the voice of the Soul and the call of the Eternal, there must necessarily be opportunities for the new experience to fit itself into the instrument and begin to act upon it and within it and through it.
“For in proportion as the soul becomes fit it increases in illumination and rises to higher and higher, completer and completer realisations, and in proportion as these illuminations and these realisations increase, becomes fit and its instruments more adequate to their task: there are soul-seasons of unillumined preparation and soul-seasons of illumined growth and culminating soul-moments more or less prolonged of illumined possession, moments that are transient like the flash of the lightning, yet change the whole spiritual future, moments also that extend over many human hours, days, weeks in a constant light or blaze of the Sun of Truth. And through all these the soul once turned Godwards grows towards the permanence and perfection of its new birth and real existence.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 3, The Purified Understanding, pp. 294-295