The Triple Path of Yogic Sadhana

In The Synthesis of Yoga, Sri Aurobindo provides an overview of the psychological methods of yogic practice in the paths of Jnana Yoga (the yoga of knowledge), Bhakti Yoga (the yoga of love and devotion) and Karma Yoga (the yoga of works). He also provides extensive commentary to the teachings on these methods as expounded in the Bhagavad Gita in his Essays on the Gita. Each of these paths seizes on a mainspring of human activity, whether it is the mind, the heart or the life-force and directs and guides the seeker toward the realisation based on his own natural predilections and situation.

There are instances, of course, where the ego-personality becomes arrogant in the advantage of his own particular path or method, and looks down upon those who follow other paths. However, this arrogance is a deformation caused by the ego. Realisation can come through any of these methods if followed with sincerity and constancy. It must also be noted that each individual may find benefit from any one of the paths at various times in his life as he addresses the difficulties posed by his nature.

Each path has not only its advantages but its own limitations or weaknesses when mixed with the all-too-human ego. The path of knowledge can lead to a brittle and narrow form of understanding and limits on the ability to actually take on the challenges of life and the need to change human nature. The path of devotion can detour into religiosity or frivolity. The path of works can place outer accomplishment ahead of inner development. In their truest forms, however, they each lead to the desired goal and one can find at the end an integration that incorporates the fruits of each path within the results of the chosen method.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “The growth out of the ordinary mind into the spiritual consciousness can be effected either by meditation, dedicated work or bhakti for the Divine.”

“The object of the sadhana is opening of the consciousness to the Divine and the change of the nature. Meditation or contemplation is one means to this but only one means; bhakti is another; work is another.”

“Work, bhakti and meditation are the three supports of yoga. One can do with all three or two or one. There are people who can’t meditate in the set way that one calls meditation, but they progress through work or through bhakti or through the two together. By work and bhakti one can develop a consciousness in which eventually a natural meditation and realisation becomes possible.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter V Growth of Consciousness, Means and Methods, pp. 84-85

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