Integral Realisation For the Individual and Society At Large

To counter-balance the exclusive concentration on individual realisation of the silent, supreme Brahman, there is a theme in human development that focuses on the perfection of the social order. Whether the goal is termed “utopia” or “paradise on earth” or the “kingdom of heaven on earth” or the “city of God”, there is a persistent need within humanity to attempt the achievement of a perfected order of life.

Many of these attempts have been based on moral philosophy, or political or economic theory; others have been based on specific religious doctrines that attempt to unify everyone in the society under one uniform banner. Sri Aurobindo makes it clear that this aspiration speaks to an inner reality and is part of the larger realisation that is sought by the integral yoga. The perfection and harmonious integration of this perfection into the social order cannot be achieved through politics, economics or uniformity of doctrine. It can only be achieved through an inner realisation achieved by the individual and translated into action in the world; as each individual grows inwardly and gains the true spiritual insight and illumination, the opportunity arises for society itself to take on the character of that spiritual force, and thus, we can achieve unity with diversity and the perfection of the social order of life, with harmony and balance.

“The divinising of the normal material life of man and of his great secular attempt of mental and moral self-culture in the individual and the race by this integralisation of a widely perfect spiritual existence would thus be the crown alike of our individual and of our common effort. Such a consummation being no other than the kingdom of heaven within reproduced in the kingdom of heaven without, would be also the true fulfilment of the great dream cherished in different terms by the world’s religions.”

“The widest synthesis of perfection possible to thought is the sole effort entirely worthy of those whose dedicated vision perceives that God dwells concealed in humanity.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Introduction: The Conditions of the Synthesis, Chapter 5, Synthesis, pg. 44

An Integral Beatitude and Perfection

The divine realisation and liberation, when not confined to the abstract heights, but incorporating all our energies of life and action, leads to an all-embracing transformation of our being. This leads to the harmonious development of knowledge, will and love in a form that reaches into the transcendent, embraces the universal and fulfils itself through the individual. Sri Aurobindo describes the implications: “But since the attaining consciousness is not limited by its attainment, we win also the unity in Beatitude and the harmonised diversity in Love, so that all relations of the play remain possible to us even while we retain on the heights of our being the eternal oneness with the Beloved. And by a similar wideness, being capable of a freedom in spirit that embraces life and does not depend upon withdrawal from life, we are able to become without egoism, bondage or reaction the channel in our mind and body for a divine actino poured out freely upon the world.”

Inevitably, as each aspect of our being is taken up and transformed through this process, the action that takes place and the energy that pours out becomes purified and harmonised with the larger truth of our existence. This can make us perfected instruments of the divine action in the world when fully manifested. “Its result is an integral beatitude, in which there becomes possible at once the Ananda of all that is in the world seen as symbols of the Divine and the Ananda of that which is not-world. And it prepares the integral perfection of our humanity as a type of the Divine in the conditions of the human manifestation, a perfection founded on a certain free universality of being, of love and joy, of play of knowledge and of play of will in power and will in unegoistic action.”

At this point one can also look to the fruits of the other yogic paths, such as Hatha Yoga and Raja Yoga and recognize the value and benefit of incorporating their physical and mental powers and perfections into that larger, integral perfection. In the Western world, there is a concept of a “sound mind in a sound body”. The integral yoga goes beyond this by insisting on a complete soul identification with our spiritual source, a complete Oneness with the universal manifestation, and a perfected and uplifted action of mind, will, emotions, vital being, and body in our interaction with the world.

“Such a mental and physical life would be in its nature a translation of the spiritual existence into its right mental and physical values. Thus we would arrive at a synthesis of the three degrees of Nature and of the three modes of human existence which she has evolved or is evolving. We would include in the scope of our liberated being and perfected modes of activity the material life, our base, and the mental life, our intermediate instrument.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Introduction: The Conditions of the Synthesis, Chapter 5, Synthesis, pp. 43-44

An Integral Realisation and an Integral Liberation

The Upanishads teach us that the Brahman is “One without a second”. This has justified the exclusive seeking after a realisation divorced from the life in the world, a focus and concentration that was all-consuming and led to the silence of the supreme states of awareness. But the Upanishads also teach us that “All this is the Brahman.” These two concepts, when put together, re-integrate the manifested universe with the abstract “beyond” of the silent Brahman.

Sri Aurobindo takes up this theme in the formulation of the Integral Yoga. The realisation is not an isolated or aloof knowledge divorced from life. “First, an integral realisation of Divine Being; not only a realisation of the One in its indistinguishable unity, but also in its multitude of aspects which are also necessary to the complete knowledge of it by the relative consciousness; not only realisation of unity in the Self, but of unity in the infinite diversity of activities, worlds and creatures.”

This integral realisation leads to a form of liberation vastly different from the one that takes the seeker away from the manifestation and life. Liberation is not viewed as an escape from life, but a transformation of the significance of life. “Not only the freedom born of unbroken contact of the individual being in all its parts with the Divine…, by which it becomes free even in its separation, even in the duality; … but also the acquisition of the divine nature by the transformation of this lower being into the human image of the divine…, and the complete and final release of all, the liberation of the consciousness from the transitory mould of the ego and its unification with the One Being, universal both in the world and the individual and transcendentally one both in the world and beyond all universe.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Introduction: The Conditions of the Synthesis, Chapter 5, Synthesis, pp. 42-43

Three Major Aspects of the Working of the Integral Yoga

Every yogic path has its own methodology, including the integral yoga. While it is not a fixed and regimented programme, there are certain principles that it follows. Sri Aurobindo identifies three major features that characterize the integral yoga:

“In the first place, it does not act according to a fixed system and succession as in the specialised methods of Yoga, but with a sort of free, scattered and yet gradually intensive and purposeful working determined by the temperament of the individual in whom it operates, the helpful materials which his nature offers and the obstacles which it presents to purification and perfection. In a sense, therefore, each man in this path has his own method of Yoga. Yet are there certain broad lines of working common to all which enable us to construct not indeed a routine system, but yet some kind of Shastra or scientific method of the synthetic Yoga.”

“Secondly, the process, being integral, accepts our nature such as it stands organised by our past evolution and without rejecting anything essential compels all to undergo a divine change. Everything in us is seized by the hands of a mighty Artificer and transformed into a clear image of that which it now seeks confusedly to present.”

“Thirdly, the divine Power in us uses all life as the means of this integral Yoga. Every experience and outer contact with our world-environment, however trifling or however disastrous, is used for the work, and every inner experience, even to the most repellent suffering or the most humiliating fall, becomes a step on the path to perfection.”

We recognise at some point that this process of the integral yoga is therefore very much the process of the yoga of Nature, with the added input of the conscious will and the intensity that seeks to speed up the action of Nature and compress it into a much more intense and tightly woven space of Time.

“All life is a Yoga of Nature seeking to manifest God within itself. Yoga marks the stage at which this effort becomes capable of self-awareness and therefore of right completion in the individual. It is a gathering up and concentration of the movements dispersed and loosely combined in the lower evolution.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Introduction: The Conditions of the Synthesis, Chapter 5, Synthesis, pp. 41-42