Sri Aurobindo notes: “Truth of philosophy is of a merely theoretical value unless it can be lived, and we have therefore tried in The Synthesis of Yoga to arrive at a synthetical view of the principles and methods of the various lines of spiritual self-discipline and the way in which they can lead to an integral divine life in the human existence.”
When most people take up a book about Yoga, they expect to have a specific line of practice outlined for them to follow. Sri Aurobindo has, however, taken a radically different approach. He appreciates that each form or practice of Yoga has its basis in some aspect of the being, and speaks to some part of the Nature. Thus, while an individual may find a particular path to be useful for progress, it may turn out that at some point, another aspect of the nature needs to be taken up: this may require a different approach. Therefore, Sri Aurobindo prefers to set down the principles and major lines of action while providing an overview of the major paths of Yoga, their primary modes of action and the results that can be expected along each of those lines.
Sri Aurobindo also sets forth a different objective than the specific lines of Yoga would propose. The goal of the Integral Yoga is not simply the liberation of the individual from the round of birth and death, nor the liberation from suffering, nor even the attainment of Oneness with the Absolute in an inactive, silent, formless existence. He recognizes that all existence is the manifestation of the Divine, and therefore, there is nowhere to escape from and nowhere to escape to! It is incumbent upon the seeker of the integral Yoga, therefore, to attain liberation from the bondage of the limitations of mind, life and body in order to effectuate the intention of the Divine in the world through the transformation of Nature with the evolutionary development of the supramental consciousness.
Sri Aurobindo recognizes that all life is a secret Yoga of Nature, evolving higher forms of conscious awareness from the inconscience of material existence, through the vital manifestation, the development of the mental awareness, and eventually the manifestation of the supermind in life. This Yoga of Nature takes long aeons. It is one of the objectives of the integral Yoga to bring about these transformations much more quickly through the conscious and focused participation of the individuals who awaken to this potentiality.
The effort required is all-embracing and must eventually grapple with all parts of the being, all habitual patterns developed over long millenia in the earth-nature, and all resistance caused by mental formations that have been accepted without question as they have taken shape over time. This leads to the exposition of his own unique contribution to the science of Yoga in the “yoga of self-perfection”.
The Synthesis of Yoga is Sri Aurobindo’s major exposition of the practice of yoga. With its wide perspective and all-embracing vision, it can aid the practice of any seeker of spiritual realisation.
“Intellectual, volitional, ethical, emotional, aesthetic and physical training and improvement are all so much to the good, but they are only in the end a constant movement in a circle without any last delivering and illumining aim, unless they arrive at a point when they can open themselves to the power and presence of the Spirit and admit its direct workings. This direct working effects a conversion of the whole being which is the indispensable condition of our real perfection. To grow into the truth and power of the Spirit and by the direct action of that power to be made a fit channel of its self-expression, — a living of man in the Divine and a divine living of the Spirit in humanity, — will therefore be the principle and the whole object of an integral Yoga of self-perfection.” (pg. 592)
Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga