Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice — Introduction

“All life is yoga”. While many believe that yoga is a series of physical exercises, or consists of specific practices taken up as part of one’s daily life, Sri Aurobindo set forth an entirely different understanding and methodology which seeks to take up every aspect of our life and existence, to bring conscious self-aware attention to every movement, feeling, emotion and thought that we experience. As we take up this yogic practice, we begin to understand that each of the paths of yoga that have heretofore been popularized focuses on a particular aspect or side of human life. Those who take up the practice of one or another of these paths are addressing a particular need or concentration, in many cases to the exclusion of other, equally essential, aspects of human life. One of the results of this exclusive concentration can be the abandonment of the normal worldly life. Another is the pigeonholing of the practice into a small segment of one’s activities, while the normal life goes on unchanged. In both of these cases, most of our existence is left untouched and unchanged.

Why practice yoga in the first place? Sri Aurobindo describes the evolution of consciousness, the limitations of our current stage in that process, and the potentiality of the human being, with self-aware and directed action, to participate in the development and manifestation of the next phase of evolutionary development. This focused action is the practice of what he terms an “integral yoga”, meaning that it takes up all of life and every aspect of human existence. Yoga is a form of applied psychology, where certain movements of consciousness work to unravel the complex and tangled actions and reactions of life, and provide coherence in the direction of greater consciousness aligned with the larger significance of the universal manifestation. Western scientists would consider this to be a separation of “signal” from background “noise” in our lives, to accentuate and emphasize the power of the signal.

The current volume explores the philosophy and principles of the integral yoga, provides clarity for how it compares to the traditional paths of yoga, and then takes up the actual implementations for the physical, vital, emotional, mental, and psychic and spiritual aspects of our human existence. As a background, Sri Aurobindo went into an intense concentrated state of his yogic practice from the mid-1920’s through 1950. During the 1930’s a number of disciples came and joined the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Sri Aurobindo corresponded with them to reply to their specific inquiries and needs. While he cautioned that advice he provided to one person for a specific situation might not necessarily apply to another in a different situation, certain major thematic views emerged which have been carefully organized and compiled in the current text.

The editors note: “This compilation consists of letters by Sri Aurobindo on various aspects of his spiritual teaching and method of yogic practice. Parts 1 to 4 deal mainly with the philosophical and psychological foundations of the teaching. Parts 5 to 11 with the method of practice, and Part 12 with elements of both. Sri Aurobindo called his system the ‘Integral Yoga’ because it proposed ‘a union (yoga) in all parts of our being with the Divine and a consequent transmutation of all their now jarring elements into the harmony of a higher divine consciousness and existence.’. “

Sri Aurobindo calls us to what he terms an “adventure of consciousness”. The current text is intended to aid in our understanding and exploration of consciousness and the entire significance of our life and human development. Humanity is struggling today with the consequences, both intended and unintended, of the development and expression of the mental consciousness. The limitations of the mental view, which remains very much in service to the physical needs and vital desires of the material and life gradations of consciousness, have pushed humanity to an existential crisis, with the earth in the throes of the sixth mass extinction, and the balance of life now placed fully at risk. The solution cannot come through technology, mental ideas or the wide variety of competing ideologies that each focus on one aspect without taking it account the complexity of life and existence. It must come through the development of a new expression of consciousness, a consciousness of oneness and interconnection, that brings a new and deeper level of harmony to all existence. Sri Aurobindo holds that self-aware human beings can consciously participate in this evolutionary process, and it is the practice of the integral yoga to help bring about this solution to the current crises.

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Introduction

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