Introduction to the Integral Yoga

If intellectual knowledge cannot provide certitude and a clear path forward, then other methods of knowing are required and must thereby be developed.  Knowledge by identity, knowledge through direct experience, is therefore a necessity for the human being striving to understand himself, the world and the significance and meaning of his, and all, existence.  This direct experience can come to anyone under a variety of circumstances.  It is also possible, through the practices that have become known as Yoga, to directly participate and aid the slow evolutionary process of Nature.  When we consider Yoga, we are not primarily looking at what has taken on that meaning in the West, although that may represent a part of the yogic methodology.  Yoga encompasses a wide range of practices and disciplines, engaging each plane of consciousness active in the human being.  Thus, there is a Yoga of knowledge, a Yoga of Love and Devotion, a Yoga of Works and the Will in Action, and various specific psycho-spiritual or physical practices under the names of Raja Yoga, Tantric Yoga and of course Hatha Yoga.  Yogic practices are not restricted to one specific spiritual or religious background, and, under different names and forms, they appear in all the spiritual traditions of the world.

Sri Aurobindo provided an overview of the various paths of Yoga and the need to utilize any of them at various times to uplift the different strands of our being.  His comprehensive, experiential, non-dogmatic approach to developing the spiritual consciousness and expressing it in life and action has been called Integral Yoga.

Sri Aurobindo notes:  “On the whole, for an Integral Yoga the special methods of Rajayoga and Hathayoga may be useful at times in certain stages of the process, but are not indispensable.  It is true that their principal aims must be included int he integrality of the Yoga; but they can be brought about by other means.  For the methods of the Integral Yoga must be mainly spiritual, and dependence on physical methods or fixed psychic or psychophysical processes on a large scale would be the substitution of a lower for a higher action.”

“The object of our synthetic Yoga must … be more integral and comprehensive, embrace all these elements or these tendencies of a larger impulse of self-perfection and harmonize them or rather unify, and in order to do that successfully it must seize on a truth that is wider than the ordinary religious and higher than the mundane principle.  All life is a secret Yoga, an obscure growth of Nature toward the discovery and fulfillment of the divine principle hidden in her, which becomes progressively less obscure, more self-conscient and luminous, more self-possessed in the human being by the opening of all his instruments of knowledge, will, action, life to the Spirit within him and in the world.  Mind, life, body, all the forms of our nature are the means of this growth, but they find their last perfection only by opening out to something beyond them, first, because they are not the whole of what man is, secondly, because that other something which he is, is the key of his completeness and brings a light that discovers to him the whole high and large reality of his being.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Mind of Light, Introduction by Robert McDermott, pp. 12-13

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