The Role of the Emotions in the Practice of the Integral Yoga

Emotions tend to be hard to deal with. Spiritual seekers recognise that emotions can disrupt the focus and lead the seeker into undesirable vital entanglements. Many spiritual paths counsel cutting off the emotional outlets and renouncing the life in the world. They ask the seeker to abandon family, friends and career, abandon relationships in society, in order to create a calm, quiet, focused life within which the spiritual aspiration can thrive. Other spiritual paths may try to harness the emotions to provide the intensity they evoke, while redirecting the energy created to divine worship. Yet other paths, such as the tantric tradition, may try to tackle the emotions “head on” and turn them into a source of progress.

For the practitioner of the integral yoga, it is clear that the emotions cannot simply be artificially suppressed or cut off. Nor are they to be indulged with the idea of attaining some kind of mastery over the normal vital-emotional energies. Rather, the emotions need to be redirected and channeled in such a way as to provide the energy behind what could otherwise be a dry and hard path forward as one focuses on the divine fulfillment.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “It is no part of this yoga to dry up the heart; but the emotions must be turned towards the Divine. There may be short periods in which the heart is quiescent, turned away from the ordinary feelings and waiting for the inflow from above; but such states are not states of dryness but of silence and peace. The heart in this yoga should in fact be the main centre of concentration until the consciousness rises above.”

“Emotion is necessary in the yoga and it is only the excessive emotional sensitiveness which makes one enter into despondency over small things that has to be overcome. The very basis of this yoga is bhakti and if one kills one’s emotional being, there can be no bhakti. So there can be no possibility of emotion being excluded from the yoga.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 6, Sadhana Through Love and Devotion, Divine Love, The Emotions, pp. 162-164

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