Sri Aurobindo took up yoga, not for individual salvation or to abandon the life of the world, but to aid in transforming life, for action in the world. He developed a deep background and understanding of the major lines of thought and development of the West, including his studies of Greek and Latin as well as his mastery of English, and then, upon his return to India and taking up a role in the battle for liberation from the British colonization and subsequently in his practice of yoga, his intense study and efforts at understanding and validating the ancient texts of the Rishis, the Rig Veda, the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. Out of this basis of understanding coupled with an intense practice of sadhana, evolved the integral yoga.
Integral yoga was not intended to set forth a specific and rigid set of practices for everyone to follow; rather, it was developed to understand the specific needs of each individual at each stage of development and to employ those methods and practices that would best aid in the further progress for the individual seeker. It also was not targeted at abandoning life. The integral yoga first focuses on achieving the necessary liberation from the fixed habits of body, life and mind that create a framework around each person’s life, and then, on bringing down into the being a higher status of consciousness and aiding its transformation of the being in all its aspects.
The eventual objective of the integral yoga was to provide conscious support to the natural process of evolution of consciousness, and thereby speed up its advent. Sri Aurobindo recognised that the evolution of life out of physical matter, and of mind out of life could not occur if they were not, in fact, already involved in matter. The evolution of forms follows the needs of the evolution of consciousness. He also recognised that the emergence of the mental being was nothing more than a transitional phase and that there would be a further development, which he called ‘supramental’, that would transform life for the individual and through individuals the life of the world in a similar but more powerful manner to the way that life transformed matter, or that mind transformed life.
Humanity has taken the mental evolution to such an extent that it has now become an obstacle and has resulted in an evolutionary crisis that threatens all of human existence on the planet. Either we need to evolve and transform our action, or face extinction. It is one of the principles of Nature that in preparation for a needed evolutionary leap, a crisis ensues which requires successfully transitioning to the next phase in order to solve the riddle of existence. The evolutionary crisis clearly puts a sense of urgency to the manifestation of this next phase of consciousness.
The evolution and manifestation of the supramental consciousness is not dependent upon any particular creed, cult, religion, philosophy, scientific standpoint, cultural background, race, gender or economic outlook. Sri Aurobindo himself pointed out that it was not his goal to start a new religion or creed, but to make possible a true transformation of human consciousness, independent of the mental standpoint that individuals hold based on their culture and education.
The book Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice was compiled and organised from among the thousands of letters on yoga that Sri Aurobindo wrote to disciples and others over a number of years. It outlines his philosophical outlook, the background and basis of the integral yoga, and delves into a vast array of details which aid the sincere seeker in understanding the inner workings of consciousness, and helps the seeker to work through the difficulties, obstacles and resistances of nature to truly bring about a transformation of consciousness in all parts of his being.
Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Summary and Conclusions