Comparing the Methods of Yoga and the Methods of the Mind in the Acquisition of Knowledge

No matter how many facts we acquire, how much we study the outer world, and how much mental effort we put into the acquisition of knowledge of the material universe and its functioning, we eventually have to recognize that this knowledge is partial, limited, fragmented, and indirect and inferential. The yogic process of knowledge, in contrast to what we ordinarily consider to be the development of knowledge, focuses on the inner reality and the attempt to break through the barriers of separation between the mental consciousness and the divine consciousness.

Sri Aurobindo describes the differences, focusing on the unique methodology of the practitioners of Yoga: “[Yoga] begins by using knowledge, emotion and action for the possession of the Divine. For Yoga is the conscious and perfect seeking of union with the Divine towards which all the rest was an ignorant and imperfect moving and seeking. At first, then, Yoga separates itself from the action and method of the lower knowledge. For while this lower knowledge approaches God indirectly from outside and never enters his secret dwelling-place, Yoga calls us within and approaches him directly; while that seeks him through the intellect and becomes conscious of him from behind a veil, Yoga seeks him through realisation, lifts the veil and gets the full vision; where that only feels the presence and the influence, Yoga enters into the presence and fills itself with the influence; where that is only aware of the workings and through them gets some glimpse of the Reality, Yoga identifies our inner being with the Reality and sees from that the workings. Therefore the methods of Yoga are different from the methods of the lower knowledge.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 25, The Higher and the Lower Knowledge, pg. 493