The Deeper and Wider Meaning of Purification in the Integral Yoga

For most people, when they consider the concept of purification of the nature, the issue turns on various moral and ethical precepts that should be inculcated in the being. This however, is only one limited aspect of the greater purification that Sri Aurobindo describes as the fundamental necessity for the practitioner of the integral Yoga. The essence of this greater purification is the shift from the human standpoint of action to the divine standpoint, and when one reflects on all this implies, it becomes possible to understand the scope and magnitude of what turns out to be a radical change in the way the seeker sees, thinks and acts in the world.

“Ethics deals only with the desire-soul and the active outward dynamical part of our being; its field is confined to character and action. It prohibits and inhibits certain actions, certain desires, impulses, propensities,–it inculcates certain qualities in the act, such as truthfulness, love, charity, compassion, chastity. When it has got this done and assured a base of virtue, the possession of a purified will and blameless habit of action, its work is finished.”

Sri Aurobindo proposes a status of being “beyond good and evil”. He does not mean, as some moral philosophers have meant, a status of unconcern or a viewpoint of non-discrimination between good and evil; rather, he recognizes that in the world of action, in the relations to the social order, there is a real difference between the two and for someone acting in the world, and still rooted in the nature of body-life-mind, such a whitewashing of the choice between the two can lead to negative consequences.

He proceeds to define his view: “But it is meant that the Siddha of the active integral perfection will live dynamically in the working of the transcendent power of the divine Spirit as a universal will through the supermind individualised in him for action. His works will therefore be the works of an eternal Knowledge, an eternal Truth, an eternal Might, an eternal Love, an eternal Ananda; but the truth, knowledge, force, love, delight will be the whole essential spirit of whatever work he will do and will not depend on its form; they will determine his action from the spirit within and the action will not determine the spirit or subject it to a fixed standard or rigid mould of working. He will have no dominant mere habit of character, but only a spiritual being and will with at the most a free and flexible temperamental mould for the action. His life will be a direct stream from the eternal fountains, not a form cut to some temporary human pattern. His perfection will not be a sattwic purity, but a thing uplifted beyond the gunas of Nature, a perfection of spiritual knowledge, spiritual power, spiritual delight, unity and harmony of unity; the outward perfection of his works will be freely shaped as the self-expression of this inner spiritual transcendence and universality. For this change he must make conscient in him that power of spirit and supermind which is now superconscient to our mentality. But that cannot work in him so long as his present mental, vital, physical being is not liberated from its actual inferior working. This purification is the first necessity.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 5, The Instruments of the Spirit, pg. 617-618