Introduction to the Yoga of Self-Perfection

Either explicitly or implicitly, the historical tendency of both yogic disciplines and many religious traditions has been focused on the concept of salvation or liberation, or a reward in some other world after death.  This focus has led to abandonment of any attempt to achieve some kind of perfection here in life, and has led to the split between the “materialist” who believes in the life of the world and its benefits, and the “renunciate” who focuses his attention on salvation at the expense of the life of the world.  It is true that many religious traditions have spoken of the eventual raising up and perfection of the outer life, yet their focus and methods have not found a way to accomplish this and thus, the reward for the religious has been deferred to some other place or circumstance, or, if attempted, it has been done through creation of a uniform religious community following strict guidelines and rules that truncate and suppress various aspects of the human being.

Sri Aurobindo unifies the two extremes in what he calls an omnipresent reality.  The solution lies not in abandonment of life, nor in the immersion in life without concern for spiritual development, but in a spiritual focus that, at the same time, embraces life and works on the perfection and enhancement of the human being and all his instruments of knowledge and action, and thereby the perfection of the society and life of man in the world.

The traditional paths of Yoga can help one attain the liberation and spiritual unity that is a necessary basis for any transformation of the life in the world.  Sri Aurobindo adds the Yoga of self-perfection as the next phase that takes up, for the spiritual being, his human instrument and works to enhance, perfect, and prepare it to receive, hold and express the higher spiritual energies of the next stage of evolution, the supramental force.

Sri Aurobindo writes:  “The divinizing of the normal material life of man and of his great secular attempt of mental and moral self-culture in the individual and the race by this integralization of a widely perfect spiritual existence would thus be the crown alike of our individual and of our common effort.  Such a consummation being no other than the kingdom of heaven without reproduced in the kingdom of heaven without, would be also the true fulfillment of the great dream cherished in different terms by the world’s religions.”

“The widest synthesis of perfection possible to thought is the sole effort worthy of those whose dedicated vision perceives that God dwells concealed in humanity.”

Robert McDermott concludes:  “The key to Sri Aurobindo’s integral vision, then, is the transformation of the lower by the higher reaches of consciousness.  According to Sri Aurobindo’s vision, this transformation, which is the cooperative work of man and the Supermind, is ‘as great as and greater than the change which we suppose evolutionary Nature to have made in its transition from the vital animal to the fully mentalized human consciousness.’  This great change celebrated by Sri Aurobindo and his followers is at once a visionary and a practical message: man can achieve a higher level of life by increased nonattachment, concentration, and liberation.  Further, this achievement is the ultimate goal and value of human and cosmic existence.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Mind of Light, Introduction by Robert McDermott, pp. 13-15

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