The Negative and Positive Methods of the Traditional Yoga of Knowledge

In order to shift the standpoint from the focus on the body-life-mind complex to which the ego-individuality normally attaches, to the divine standpoint that sees the body-life-mind complex as an instrument of its manifestation in space-time, the traditional Yoga of knowledge has developed both negative and positive methods. Sri Aurobindo observes: “The Self is an utter Being and pure existence of which all these things are becomings. From this knowledge we have to proceed; this knowledge we have to realise and make it the foundation of the inner and the outer life of the individual.”

These are psychological focus themes that remind the seeker of what he is not, and then, of what he IS.

Sri Aurobindo describes the negative method: “The negative method is to say always ‘I am not the body’ so as to contradict and root out the false idea ‘I am the body,’ to concentrate on this knowledge and by renunciation of the attachment of the soul to the physical, get rid of the body-sense. We say again ‘I am not the life’ and by concentration on this knowledge and renunciation of the attachment to the vital movements and desires, get rid of the life-sense. We say, finally, ‘I am not the mind, the motion, the sense, the thought’ and by concentration on this knowledge and renunciation of the mental activities, get rid of the mind-sense. When we thus constantly create a gulf between ourselves and the things with which we identified ourselves, their veils progressively fall away from us and the Self begins to be visible to our experience.”

This leads to the positive affirmations in this method: “Of that then we say ‘I am That, the pure, the eternal the self-blissful’ and by concentrating our thought and being upon it we become That and are able finally to renounce the individual existence and the Cosmos. Another positive method belonging rather to the Raja-yoga is to concentrate on the thought of the Brahman and shut out from us all other ideas, so that this dynamo of mind shall cease to work upon our external or varied internal existence; by mental cessation the vital and physical play also shall fall to rest in an eternal Samadhi, some inexpressible deepest trance of the being in which we shall pass into the absolute Existence.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 6, The Synthesis of the Disciplines of Knowledge, pp. 323-324