Conclusions

We have completed our review of the third section of Sri Aurobindo’s The Synthesis of Yoga, focused on the Yoga of Love and Devotion, having previously reviewed the Yoga of Knowledge and the Yoga of Works. Each of the three primary paths of Yoga utilizes a particular capacity of the human being as the lever for the spiritual evolutionary action. Due to the differences in the capacity relied upon in each path, there is a different core focus and a different set of criteria for each one. We cannot say that any one of the three is “better” than the other two for spiritual realisation. In fact, a particular individual may find that there are various stages in the progress that call forth the focus and capacities of one or the other of these paths to achieve a particular step along the way.

Sri Aurobindo has clearly described the practice of the Yoga of love and devotion and has shown that someone starting with this path will eventually need to incorporate both knowledge and the will in works to achieve an integral development of the entire being and achieve unification, not only with the static, unmoving Impersonal but also with the Personal manifestation of the Divine. He has also described the power of this path to achieve complete realisation. Just as Sri Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita treats total devotion as the “supreme secret”, Sri Aurobindo concurs and elaborates on this path in terms of the intensity and intimacy it develops as the seeker works to achieve union with the Divine in all ways and aspects of his being.

The fourth and final section of The Synthesis of Yoga takes up one of Sri Aurobindo’s unique contributions to the science of Yoga when it focuses on the “Yoga of Self Perfection”. That section builds upon the capacities of each of the traditional paths of Yoga to bring about a total transformation of the individual within the framework of the universal manifestation. The world is not treated as a pure “illusion” from which one needs to escape, but is treated as “reality omnipresent” that embodies the Divine in all names, forms and forces, and treats the individual as a unique aspect of this Divine manifestation.

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Three: The Yoga of Divine Love, Conclusions

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The Way of Love and the Supreme Liberation

In the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna declares the “supreme secret” to be total devotion to the Supreme in all ways and aspects of the being: “Become my-minded, my lover and adorer, a sacrificer to Me, bow thyself to Me, to Me thou shalt come, this is my pledge and promise to thee, for dear art thou to Me. Abandon all dharmas and take refuge in Me alone. I will deliver thee from all sin and evil, do not grieve.” (Sri Aurobindo, Bhagavad Gita and Its Message, ch. 18, v. 65-66, pg. 286)

The way of the Bhakta is able to bring about the highest forms of liberation from the bondage of action. Sri Aurobindo elaborates: “Thus universalised, personalised, raised to its intensities, made all-occupying, all-embracing, all-fulfilling, the way of love and delight gives the supreme liberation.”

“We have the absolute union of the divine with the human spirit…; in that reveals itself a content of all that depends here upon difference,–but there the difference is only a form of oneness,–Ananda too of nearness and contact and mutual presence,… Ananda of mutual reflection, the thing that we call likeness,…, and other wonderful things too for which language has as yet no name. There is nothing which is beyond the reach of the God-lover or denied to him; for he is the favourite of the divine Lover and the self of the Beloved.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Three: The Yoga of Divine Love, Chapter 8, The Mystery of Love, pg. 579

Love As the Central Foundation of Divine Realisation

Those who practice the traditional Yoga of devotion eventually reach a stage where the passionate and intense embrace of the Divine Lover is the central focus of their life and action. This element is also true for the seeker of the integral Yoga; however, the integral practitioner will naturally incorporate the elements of knowledge and works into his development. This implies a certain less intense and exclusive nature of the relationship of love, as these other elements claim time, attention and focus as well. The central foundation of the development of knowledge and works in the seeker who starts from love and devotion remains the intensity of the personal relationship developed through the aspect of love.

Sri Aurobindo elaborates: “The growing of the love of God must carry with it in him an expansion of the knowledge of God and of the action of the divine Will in his nature and living. The divine Lover reveals himself; he takes possession of the life. But still the essential relation will be that of love from which all things flow, love passionate, complete, seeking a hundred ways of fulfilment, every means of mutual possession, a million facets of the joy of union. All the distinctions of the mind, all its barriers and “cannot be”‘s, all the cold analyses of the reason are mocked at by this love or they are only used as the tests and fields and gates of union. Love comes to us in many ways; it may come as an awakening to the beauty of the Lover, by the sight of an ideal face and image of him, by his mysterious hints to us of himself behind the thousand faces of things in the world, by a slow or sudden need of the heart, by a vague thirst in the soul, by the sense of someone near us drawing us or pursuing us with love or of someone blissful and beautiful whom we must discover.”

We may even find that “…the lover whom we think not of, may pursue us, may come upon us in the midst of the world and seize on us for his own whether at first we will or no.” All of the possible relations, including those of the enemy, may open the door for the development of love. All human emotions related to the experience of love, including stages of jealousy, confusion, misunderstanding, and feelings of abandonment or separation, may arise at one time or another in the process.

“We throw up all the passions of the heart against him, till they are purified into a sole ecstasy of bliss and oneness. … Our higher and our lower members are both flooded with it [love], the mind and life no less than the soul: even the physical body takes its share of the joy, feels the touch, is filled in all its limbs, veins, nerves with the flowing of the wine of the ecstasy, amrta. Love and Ananda are the last word of being, the secret of secrets, the mystery of mysteries.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Three: The Yoga of Divine Love, Chapter 8, The Mystery of Love, pp. 578-579

Aspects of the Personal Relationship of the Seeker with the Divine

The relationship between the individual and the Divine is not limited to one particular form in the Yoga of love and devotion. There are a number of relations, any of which may be predominant at one time or another. They all enter into the complex and rich tapestry of love and intimacy which the human individual has with the Divine Personality. These aspects represent the deepening and widening of the Yoga of love and devotion.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “He is the friend, the adviser, helper, saviour in trouble and distress, the defender from enemies, the hero who fights our battles for us or under whose shield we fight, the charioteer, the pilot of our ways. And here we come at once to a closer intimacy; he is the comrade and eternal companion, the playmate of the game of living. But still there is so far a certain division, however pleasant, and friendship is too much limited by the appearance of beneficence. The lover can wound, abandon, be wroth with us, seem to betray, yet our love endures and even grows by these oppositions; they increase the joy of reunion and the joy of possession; through them the lover remains the friend, and all that he does, we find in the end, has been done by the lover and helper of our being for our soul’s perfection as well as for his joy in us. These contradictions lead to a greater intimacy. He is the father and mother too of our being, its source and protector and its indulgent cherisher and giver of our desires. He is the child born to our desire whom we cherish and rear. All these things the lover takes up; his love in its intimacy and oneness keeps in it the paternal and maternal care and lends itself to our demands upon it. All is unified in that deepest many-sided relation.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Three: The Yoga of Divine Love, Chapter 8, The Mystery of Love, pp. 577-578

Devotion and Works

The underlying principle of the traditional Yoga of works is obedience to the Divine Will in works. This approach may, however, be one of long-suffering carrying of a burden if it is not modified by the spirit of love and devotion. It may also emphasize a difference between the Master and the servant which accentuates the apparent separation and division between the human being as instrument of divine action and the Divine Master who appoints the practitioner to the chosen effort.

Sri Aurobindo describes the modified relationship that can eventuate when the seeker approaches the way of works from the side of devotion: “He is the Master; but in this way of approach all distance and separation, all awe and fear and mere obedience disappear, because we become too close and united with him for these things to endure and it is the lover of our being who takes it up and occupies and uses and does with it whatever he wills. Obedience is the sign of the servant, but that is the lowest stage of this relation, dasya. Afterwards we do not obey, but move to his will as the string replies to the finger of the musician. To be the instrument is this higher stage of self-surrender and submission. But this is the living and loving instrument and it ends in the whole nature of our being becoming the slave of God, rejoicing in his possession and its own blissful subjection to the divine grasp and mastery. With a passionate delight it does all he wills it to do without questioning and bears all he would have it bear, because what it bears is the burden of the beloved being.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Three: The Yoga of Divine Love, Chapter 8, The Mystery of Love, pg. 577

Devotion and Knowledge

Traditionally, the Yoga of devotion has been seen as separate from the Yoga of knowledge, and as leading to a different resolution of the spiritual quest. The integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo acknowledges that each traditional path of Yoga has its own starting point based in different aspects of the human being, but at a certain point in the process, each path can merge into a more comprehensive approach and bring forth the fruits of the other paths.

Sri Aurobindo describes the development of knowledge from a starting point of devotion: “That which in the end contains, takes up or unifies them all, is the relation of lover and beloved, because that is the most intense and blissful of all and carries up all the rest into its heights and yet exceeds them. He is the teacher and guide and leads us to knowledge; at every step of the developing inner light and vision, we feel his touch like that of the artist moulding our clay of mind, his voice revealing the truth and its word, the thought he gives us to which we respond, the flashing of his spears of lightning which chase the darkness of our ignorance. Especially, in proportion as the partial lights of our mind become transformed into lights of gnosis, in whatever slighter or greater degree that may happen, we feel it as a transformation of our mentality into his and more and more he becomes the thinker and seer in us. We cease to think and see for ourselves, but think only what he wills to think for us and see only what he sees for us. And then the teacher is fulfilled in the lover; he lays hands on all our mental being to embrace and possess, to enjoy and use it.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Three: The Yoga of Divine Love, Chapter 8, The Mystery of Love, pp. 576-577

Developing a Constant Inner Communion Is Key to Transforming the Life

Because the integral Yoga takes up all of life, the seeker cannot rest content with a sense of union, adoration or joy that comes through abandonment or renunciation of the outer life of action in the world. Sri Aurobindo describes “a constant inner communion” as the leverage to begin to transform all one’s thoughts, feelings and actions into an expression of the Divine.

“All our thoughts, impulses, feelings, actions have to be referred to him for his sanction or disallowance, or if we cannot yet reach this point, to be offered to him in our sacrifice of aspiration, so that he may more and more descend into us and be present in them all and pervade them with all his will and power, his light and knowledge, his love and delight. In the end all our thoughts, feelings, impulses, actions will begin to proceed from him and change into some divine seed and form of themselves; in our whole inner living we shall have grown conscious of ourselves as a part of his being till between the existence of the Divine whom we adore and our own lives there is no longer any division. So too in all happenings we have to come to see the dealings with us of the divine Lover and take such pleasure in them that even grief and suffering and physical pain become his gifts and turn to delight and disappear finally into delight, slain by the sense of the divine contact, because the touch of his hands is the alchemist of a miraculous transformation. Some reject life because it is tainted with grief and pain, but to the God-lover grief and pain become means of meeting with him, imprints of his pressure and finally cease as soon as our union with his nature becomes too complete for these masks of the universal delight at all to conceal it. They change into the Ananda.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Three: The Yoga of Divine Love, Chapter 8, The Mystery of Love, pg. 576