The Role of Aspiration in the Spiritual Development of the Integral Yoga

Sri Aurobindo identifies aspiration as one of the important steps in the sadhana of the integral yoga. What exactly is aspiration? We can understand it by looking at the operation of a frequency tuner, such as a radio or television tuner. There are numerous channels available, and the tuner allows the user to focus the reception on a specific channel. Aspiration acts as the tuning methodology to focus the attention and awareness on the Divine. Through aspiration, we call the divine forces into our lives. It is the first step, after which receptivity and sincerity to implement the impact of the forces come into play to enliven and make the action ‘real’.

Some people feel like they need to put their aspiration into words, and this can be helpful. This takes sometimes the form of prayer, sometimes it is seen as a formulated commitment, sometimes as a formula that speaks to one’s deepest sense of meaning. But aspiration need not be put into words. In fact, it can be much more powerful if it permeates the being as a sense of consecration or dedication as it then remains active while we are otherwise engaged in the activities of life which tend to drown out the words. The aspiration then can become a constant part of one’s being that is always there, always ‘calling’ through the feeling, regardless of what one happens to be doing outwardly.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “Personal aspiration is necessary until there is the condition in which all comes automatically and only a certain knowledge and assent is necessary for the development. … Aspiration is a call to the Divine, — will is the pressure of a conscious force on Nature. … Aspiration is to call the forces. When the forces have answered, there is a natural state of quiet receptivity concentrated but spontaneous. — There is no need of words in aspiration. It can be expressed or unexpressed in words. … The aspiration need not be in the form of thought — it can be a feeling within that remains even when the mind is attending to the work.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 5 Bases of Yoga, Aspiration, pp. 107-109

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