First Steps in the Practice of Yoga

The transformation of the individual is not something that occurs magically overnight. Even if someone is awakened out of their habitual routines by some extraordinary experience, such as a sudden spiritual opening, or even a near death experience, the ongoing effort is still required to bring the vision, the light, the power and the action down into all aspects of mind, life and body, overcoming the strong habits of the past evolution and the acculturation of the society within which one lives. Sri Aurobindo noted in his epic poem Savitri: a Legend and a Symbol: A moment sees, the ages toil to express.”

There must first be a shift of the standpoint from the surface personality to the inner soul-being. This shift allows the practitioner of the yoga some distance from the actions that control and carry out the habits of the daily life. This allows the soul to express more clearly the deeper aspirations that propel the seeker forward in the yoga. As the changes take hold, there is more receptivity and clarity to tune the being toward the higher levels of knowledge and receive them into the being to carry out the needed transformations.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “This, however, cannot be done at once or in a short time or by any rapid or miraculous transformation. Many steps have to be taken by the seeker before the supramental descent is possible. Man lives mostly in his surface mind, life and body, but there is an inner being within him with greater possibilities to which he has to awake — for it is only a very restricted influence from it that he receives now and that pushes him to a constant pursuit of a greater beauty, harmony, power and knowledge. The first process of Yoga is therefore to open the ranges of this inner being and to live from there outward, governing his outer life by an inner light and force. In doing so he discovers in himself his true soul which is not this outer mixture of mental, vital and physical elements but something of the Reality behind them, a spark from the one Divine Fire. He has to learn to live in his soul and purify and orientate by its drive towards the Truth the rest of the nature. There can follow afterwards an opening upward and descent of a higher principle of the Being. But even then it is not at once the full supramental Light and Force. For there are several ranges of consciousness between the ordinary human mind and the supramental Truth-Consciousness. These intervening ranges have to be opened up and their power brought down into the mind, life and body. Only afterwards can the full power of the Truth-Consciousness work in the nature. The process of this self-discipline or Sadhana is therefore long and difficult, but even a little of it is so much gained because it makes the ultimate release and perfection more possible.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Introduction, pp. 4-5

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