Hints for the Spiritual Practitioner Seeking to Eliminate the Sex Impulse

We have learned quite a bit about the sexual impulse. Young children are basically asexual, and it is only with the coming of puberty and the flooding of mood-creating chemicals in the system (hormones), that we become susceptible to responding to the sexual energy when it arises. Not everything is, however, driven by biochemistry. There is a very large component made up of peer pressure, cultural expectations, and societal manipulation of attention and awakening of desire through marketing and advertising that is based on sexual allusions. The entire process of sex in modern-day society has been removed from the pure biological forces through this influence of society and its pressures. Someone once said that the mind is the most important sex-organ! To the extent that an individual has been immersed in the sexual imagery, expectations and cultural demands, their minds and thus, the focus of their attention have been directed toward acceptance of and fulfillment of the sexual energy.

As a result, there are innumerable instances of sexual energy being freely expressed and released into the society at large, whether in social settings or in clubs or bars or nowadays, through availability on the internet. Everything has been sexualised to a high degree, and thus, it is difficult, if not virtually impossible, for anyone living in the modern world to avoid all sexual references, images or energies that are at play in the society.

It is not, then, a question of being able to shut oneself away and avoid all access to any sexual pressures from outside; indeed, there are instances where individuals who have been cloistered for many years fall prey to sexual forces when they come into contact with them, as they have not actually learned how to deal with them when they arise. The issue is more how to face the onslaught of these energies, but not be receptive to them, not to dwell on them, and not to accept them into one’s being.

Some have relied on dietary or chemical means to dampen the sexual energy, but these have a serious disadvantage of being dependent on chemistry rather than a change in consciousness, and thus, are at best temporary and somewhat unreliable measures, subject to failure when the measures are either removed or the impulse from outside is greatly increased.

Some say that the sexual impulse naturally declines with age. While this is somewhat true, particularly when specific health issues intervene, it is neither certain, complete, nor a solution to the lifetime and focus during prime active years that precede old age.

Through a process of refocusing and retuning the awareness, the practitioner can successfully shift the consciousness away from the energies of the lower chakras and channel into directions that express elsewhere in the being. We can see that when an individual is immersed in something that engages the full attention, the attraction and interest in sex is absent or declines greatly. When one channels this new focus into the psychic and spiritual transformations, there is a responsive power that actually can aid the endeavour, thus making the change far more effective than any attempt by pure mental or emotional control can accomplish.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “To think too much of sex even for suppressing it makes it worse. You have to open more to positive experience. To spend all the time struggling with the lower vital is a very slow method.”

“The idea that by fully indulging the sex-hunger it will be finished and disappear for ever is a deceptive pretence held out by the vital to the mind in order to get a sanction for its desire; it has no other raison d’etre or truth or justification. If an occasional indulgence keeps the sex-desire simmering, a full indulgence would only sink you in its mire. This hunger like other hungers does not cease by temporary satiation; it revives itself after a temporary abeyance and wants again indulgence. Neither sops nor gorgings are the right treatment for it. It can only go by a radical psychic rejection or a full spiritual opening with the increasing descent of a consciousness that does not want it and has the truer Ananda.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 10, Difficulties in Transforming the Nature, Sex, pp 299-308

The Transformation of the Sex Centre and Its Energy

For the practitioner of the integral Yoga, energy is utilized to redirect and shift the standpoint away from the ego-personality into the divine standpoint, and then to effectuate actions to carry out the divine manifestation in the world. Energy dedicated to the enhancement or satisfactions of the ego-personality is therefore ‘wasted’ for this purpose, although it may be, for those not actively engaged in the yoga, a positive effort and activity that they carry out. It is in this context that Sri Aurobindo speaks to sadhaks of the integral yoga when he counsels that the energy that flows through the sex-centre needs to be transformed in order to provide the basic energy needed for these tasks.

While the sadhak can provide the aspiration, and the rejection of movements which spill this energy in vital enjoyment or physical acts, it is only when the higher Force becomes fully active that a complete transformation can be expected. Until that time, the seeker remains within the framework of the ego and its reliance on the usual methods and actions of the physical, vital and mental beings of man.

Sri Aurobindo also clarifies that the supramental transformation is not an enhancement of the ego-personality, a la Nietzsche, but an entirely new action that is not concerned with the small needs, desire, wants, satisfactions, likings and dislikings, enjoyments of the individual personality. ,

Sri Aurobindo writes: “The transformation of the sex-centre and its energy is needed for the physical siddhi; for this is the support in the body of all the mental, vital and physical forces of the nature. It has to be changed into a mass and a movement of intimate Light, creative Power, pure divine Ananda. It is only the bringing down of the supramental Light, Power and Bliss into the centre that can change it. As to the working afterwards, it is the supramental Truth and the creative vision and will of the Divine Mother that will determine it. But it will be a working of the conscious Truth, not of the Darkness and Ignorance to which sexual desire and enjoyment belong; it will be a power of preservation and free desireless radiation of the life-forces and not of their throwing out and waste. Avoid the imagination that the supramental life will be only a heightened satisfaction of the desires of the vital and the body; nothing can be a greater obstacle to the Truth in its descent than this hope of glorification of the animal in the human nature. Mind wants the supramental state to be a confirmation of its own cherished ideas and preconceptions; the vital wants it to be a glorification of its own desires; the physical wants it to be a rich prolongation of its own comforts and pleasures and habits. If it were to be that. it would be only an exaggerated and highly magnified consummation of the animal and the human nature, not a transition from the human into the Divine.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 10, Difficulties in Transforming the Nature, Sex, pp 299-308

The Need to Master the Sex Impulse for the Sadhak of the Integral Yoga

Religious and spiritual paths throughout the world have recognised the need to gain control over the sex impulse. Similarly societies have recognised that in many cases the sex impulse can create disruption in the orderly processes of the society. Traditionally, certain mores or rules of conduct have arisen around the expression of sexual energy. In some cases, sex is considered ‘sinful’ and is a cause for guilt and shame to arise. In other cases, society uses subtle manipulation to increase the focus on the sexual energy and thereby distract people from other and higher pursuits. Some groups try to control the sexual expression through separation of genders, through dress codes or even through chemical intervention, such as the use of saltpetre in boarding schools, which tends to lessen the action of the libido. Yet all of these approaches, one way or the other, not only tend to focus and fixate the attention on the sexual energy, but in many instances lead to deleterious effects on the psychology of the members of that society, or to outbreaks of sexual aggression as needs are not met.

Sex, in and by itself, is not sinful. It is a process of Nature and has its true role in life as we see it on earth at this time. It is essential for procreation, as we always hear when the question of abstinence is raised. It is a powerful energy at the base of the physical being, and as with any energy, it can be used, or misused, or abused.

For spiritual seekers, the historical injunction against sexual expression arises from several causes. First, there has been a recognition that this powerful energy can be redirected and used for higher purposes if it is not simply squandered constantly in the act or focus on sex itself. Second, there is a concern about the atmosphere in the group or society if sexual energies are aroused and active and influencing the interactions among the members of the group. Third, there is a natural instinct of dominance related to control of sexual activity in a group which secretly acts behind the scenes and can thereby disrupt and distort the coherence of the group.

Sri Aurobindo’s position is very clear on this subject. For those who have dedicated themselves to the practice of the integral Yoga and its focus on shifting the standpoint from the ego-individuality to the divine standpoint, there is a need to tune the energetic receptivity to forces that are beyond those of the ordinary human life as we know it at this time. It is a matter of focus and tuning that requires the sadhak to shift attention away from the first chakra energy to that of the divine energies that are above the mental level, through bringing forward the action of the psychic being which orients itself automatically toward the divine, and through refocusing the attention and receptivity to energies above the mind. Sexual energy becomes in this sense a serious distraction and at the same time allows the kind of distortions to the atmosphere in a collective environment such as an Ashram that are not helpful to the entire community.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “To master the sex-impulse, — to become so much master of the sex-centre that the sexual energy would be drawn upwards, not thrown outwards and wasted — it is so indeed that the force in the seed can be turned into a primal physical energy supporting all the others, retas into ojas. But no error can be more perilous than to accept the immixture of the sexual desire and some kind of subtle satisfaction of it and look on this as a part of the sadhana. It would be the most effective way to head straight towards spiritual downfall and throw into the atmosphere forces that would block the supramental descent, bringing instead the descent of adverse vital powers to disseminate disturbance and disaster. This deviation must be absolutely thrown away, should it try to occur and expunged from the consciousness, if the Truth is to be brought down and the work is to be done.”

“It is an error too to imagine that, although the physical sexual action is to be abandoned, yet some inward reproduction of it is part of the transformation of the sex-centre. The action of the animal sex-energy in Nature is a device for a particular purpose in the economy of the material creation in the Ignorance. But the vital excitement that accompanies it makes the most favourable opportunity and vibration in the atmosphere for the inrush of those very vital forces and beings whose whole business is to prevent the descent of the supramental Light. The pleasure attached to it is a degradation and not a true form of the divine Ananda. The true divine Ananda in the physical has a different quality and movement and substance; self-existent in its essence, its manifestation is dependent only on an inner union with the Divine. You have spoken of Divine Love; but Divine Love, when it touches the physical, does not awaken the gross lower vital propensities; indulgence of them would only repel it and make it withdraw again to the heights from which it is already difficult enough to draw it down into the coarseness of the material creation which it alone can transform. Seek the Divine Love through the only gate through which it will consent to enter, the gate of the psychic being, and cast away the lower vital error.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 10, Difficulties in Transforming the Nature, Sex, pp 299-308

The Role of Sex in the Integral Yoga

When Sri Aurobindo states “all life is yoga”, he is speaking generally about the long, slow ‘yoga of nature’ which is taking place in the universe, leading to ever-greater stages of consciousness manifesting and transforming, successively, the previously manifested planes of awareness. This enormous process implies that all life is, indeed, part of that process and thus ‘all life is yoga’. On a more personal level, for those who are fixated at the level of the individual ego-personality, ‘all life is yoga’ in the sense that they can learn and grow from all experiences, and the maturation process of spiritual development will take place, possibly over a number of lifetimes.

At the same time, Sri Aurobindo has described what he terms the ‘integral yoga’, which is a specific yogic discipline that seeks to shift the seeker from the ego-standpoint to the divine standpoint. This is an intensive process of shifting the tuning of the consciousness away from the focus and motivations of the ego-nature and toward the unification with the Divine and the divine intention in the manifestation.

Within this context, the question of sex and sexual indulgence takes on an entirely different connotation and importance. Sexual focus stems from energies that are attuned to the first, root chakra, the Muladhara. When the individual is receptive to the energies that vibrate at that level, he becomes aware of and can manifest sexual energies. For most people, this is just a natural part of life, and due to the intensity of the experience, it becomes a fixation and essential part of the fulfillment of their life experience. It is a powerful force because Nature uses it as a means of both procreation and to bring people together in a powerful way, physically and emotionally. As an individual develops an increasing focus on spiritual growth, sexual energies and activities will naturally arise and be part of the process. Some paths of yoga even attempt to gain control over this energy and use it as part of their yogic discipline. In other cases, an attempt is made to channel the energy of the root chakra upwards to the higher chakras and the energy is thus transformed, through this channeling process, from sexual energy into various forms of higher vibrational expressions.

For the seeker practicing the integral yoga, however, eventually the shift of standpoint can and must occur that will make sex neither appealing nor relevant, as it holds the consciousness down at the level of the lower chakras, when the aim is to move the consciousness beyond the control of the energies active at those levels. This is not a matter of indulgence certainly, but also not suppression, nor even sublimation, but of simply transitioning from a state of vibratory receptivity at one level to a state of receptivity at another level.

Sri Aurobindo was asked repeatedly about the role of sex in the practice of integral Yoga by sadhaks who had dedicated themselves to the task. Due to confusion, and the role of the vital desire-soul to achieve its fulfillment through sex, he had to be quite direct and firm in his declarations for the practitioner of the integral yoga:

Sri Aurobindo observes:: “The whole principle of this yoga is to give oneself entirely to the Divine alone and to nobody and nothing else, and to bring down into ourselves by union with the Divine Mother-Power all the transcendent light, force, wideness, peace, purity, truth-consciousness and Ananda of the supramental Divine. In this yoga, therefore, there can be no place for vital relations or interchanges with others; any such relation or interchange immediately ties down the soul to the lower consciousness and its lower nature, prevents the true and full union with the Divine and hampers both the ascent to the supramental Truth-consciousness and the descent of the supramental Ishwari Shakti. Still worse would it be if this interchange took the form of a sexual relation or a sexual enjoyment, even if kept free from any outward act; therefore these things are absolutely forbidden in the sadhana. It goes without saying that any physical act of the kind is not allowed; but also any subtler form is ruled out. It is only after becoming one with the supramental Divine that we can find our true spiritual relations with others in the Divine; in that higher unity this kind of gross lower vital movement can have no place.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 10, Difficulties in Transforming the Nature, Sex, pp 299-308

The Sublimation and Transformation of the Sexual Energy

Western psychology has been fixated on the idea of sexual energy being at the root of all creativity. Beginning with Freud they have discussed the sublimation of sexual energy into creative pathways of art, and intellectual effort. The sexual energy stems from the root chakra and provides a powerful and basic force however it gets applied. Sublimation, if we examine the concept carefully, represents the shutting down or constricting of the expression of this energy in its original native form at the base of the being as direct sexual expression. Instead, the energy gets forced upwards into one of the higher chakras and wherever it manifests, it exhibits characteristic actions associated with that higher chakra. If it is able to be successively channeled all the way to the highest chakra, it can manifest spiritual force, converting physical sexual energy into spiritual energy. The process by which this is done is well-known in the ancient traditions of India and it is for this reason that the practice of control of the sexual energy, Brahmacharya, has been recommended for spiritual seekers.

Free expression of the sexual energy at the root chakra can lead to a very rough and difficult result, as it can take over and preoccupy the being, radiate a force that is disturbing to others and when unfulfilled, can lead to violence, rape and deterioration of the entire atmosphere around the being who is radiating such a force in its native form. In societies where we see a large imbalance, due to cultural habits or traditions, between males and females, the combination of the sexual energy in high expression with a lack of societally sanctioned outlets leads to wars, and violence against women in many cases. Sex does not differentiate between male and female in the ultimate sense, so there may also be a rise in homosexual expression and in homophobia that can result when there is a mismatch between the sexual energy and the ability to find a suitable and agreeable outlet for it in ordinary society.

Sri Aurobindo’s focus is on the spiritual practitioner and here another set of standards must apply. As the goal is the transition from the human ego-based focus to the divine standpoint, the free expression of the sexual energy is not generally helpful and needs to be channeled into the higher chakras and eventually to the highest, converting physical base energy into spiritual force.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “The sex-energy utilised by Nature for the purpose of reproduction is in its real nature a fundamental energy of Life. It can be used not for the heightening but for a certain intensification of the vital-emotional life; it can be controlled and diverted from the sex-purpose and used for aesthetic and artistic or other creation and productiveness or preserved for heightening of the intellectual or other energies. Entirely controlled it can be turned into a force of spiritual energy also. This was well known in ancient India and was described as the conversion of retas into ojas by Brahmacharya. Sex-energy misused turns to disorder and disintegration of the life-energy and its powers.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 10, Difficulties in Transforming the Nature, Sex, pp 299-308

The Nature of the Sexual Impulse

The sexual impulse and energy is one of the basic primary drives in Nature and is widespread in the animal kingdom, although there are instances of asexual reproduction. The drive is so powerful that it can drive beings to extreme lengths, even killing off rivals, or fighting to maintain dominance to control the access to breeding and the sexual activity that goes along with it. Sex is a powerful motivation that permeates virtually all aspects of human relationships, has been the subject of both scientific study, and is central to much of human creativity and imagination, including art, literature, poetry, drama and sculpture. Sex is so far involved in the society that it governs almost every access including habits, customs , dress, and relationship rituals. There are mating rituals and dating rituals that try to govern or at least direct the method of sexual expression, and yet, humanity has found that it is not so easy to govern this impulse.

For the spiritual practitioner, then, the issue of sex becomes one of importance, if only because he is tasked with finding a way to redirect the focus and direction of energies away from the action of the lower forces of Nature toward a higher evolutionary force in the development of the spiritual nature, which by its very nature, is an asexual level of consciousness.

Spiritual traditions have taken a diverse approach to the sexual energy. Some ask the aspirant to renounce sex entirely by what seems to be an act of will, or at least suppress its expression. Others take the approach that the sexual energy can in fact be utilized and turned into a mode of realisation, as in the tantric tradition. Still others acknowledge the role of sex, find ways to channel it so that it is minimized as a distraction, such as encouraging marriage and controlled sexual liaisons within the framework of the spiritual development. There are also those who believe that the sexual energy can and should be sublimated to create new powers of action at higher energetic levels of the being, the conversion of the base energy of the lowest chakras into the expressions of the higher chakras in action. There are many variations on these themes and the experience generally has been that one way or the other, the sexual impulse has won out, and found a way to focus the attention and in some cases, finds unapproved or illicit forms of expression even in the traditions that are most extreme in trying to deny sex by act of will-power.

Sri Aurobindo’s approach first starts with an understanding that the sexual impulse, as with other vital energies, is one that arises from universal Nature and is not something that belongs to or is generated solely within an individual. Thus, it is a matter of observing the impulse, changing the “channel”, and refocusing the attention away. This is not simply a matter of sublimation as others have tried, but a wholesale change of consciousness that moves beyond sex. Note that this is related to the practitioners who aspire to the realisations of the integral yoga, and has not been intended as a general prescription for humanity in its normal interactions, and thus the objections raised by those who claim that sex is a natural impulse and is needed for perpetuation of the species, are not central to this review. At the same time, a more complete understanding of the sexual impulse and how it works and how to manage it could be extremely useful within the framework of society as a whole. And it is not to be denied that with the advent of a next evolutionary principle, that sex as an instrument of procreation and propagation of the species may itself give way with changes to the physical body that would arise over time. Thus, this impulse may find its own eventual reduction and demise in the course of time.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “All movements are in the mass movements of Nature’s cosmic forces, they are movements of universal Nature. The individual receives something of them, a wave or pressure of some cosmic force, and is driven by it; he thinks it is his own, generated in himself separately, but it is not so, it is part of a general movement which works just in the same way in others. Sex, for instance, is a movement of general Nature seeking for its play and it uses this or that one — a man vitally or physically ‘in love’ as it is called with a woman is simply repeating and satisfying the world-movement of sex; if it had not been that woman, it would have been another; he is simply an instrument in Nature’s machinery, it is not an independent movement. So it is with anger and other Nature-motives.”

“In most men the sexual is the strongest of all the impulses of Nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 10, Difficulties in Transforming the Nature, Sex, pp 299-308

Primary Functions and Powers of the Major Chakras in the Integral Yoga

Practitioners of yoga are generally familiar with the usual definitions of the chakras, their forms, colors and major operative powers when they open. In the integral yoga, where evolutionary planes of consciousness are recognised, Sri Aurobindo has expanded the definitions and understanding of the chakras to include their relation to the planes of consciousness and their action in the physical, vital and mental formations of the being.

As any chakra opens, wholly or partially, it begins to impact the action of the particular plane or part of the being which it governs. In some cases new powers of understanding or action become available to the practitioner of the yoga. In other cases blockages or limitations in a part of the being are ameliorated or removed entirely thus permitting functionality that should ordinarily have been available, but was restricted for some reason. This represents one of the causes for different phases of the sadhana, as the practitioner confronts new situations, circumstances and powers that begin to act as the practice develops.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “In the process of our yoga the centres have each a fixed psychological use and general function which base all their special powers and functionings. The muladhara governs the physical down to the subconscient; the abdominal centre — svadhisthana — governs the lower vital; the navel centre — nabhipadma or manipura — governs the larger vital; the heart centre — hrtpadma or anahata — governs the emotional being; the throat centre — visuddha — governs the expressive and externalising mind; the centre between the eye-brows — ajnacakra — governs the dynamic mind, will, vision, mental formation; the thousand-petalled lotus — sahasradala — above commands the higher thinking mind, houses the still higher illumined mind and at the highest opens to the intuition through which or else by an overflooding directness the overmind can have with the rest communication or an immediate contact.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, The Integral Yoga and Other Systems of Yoga and Philosophy, pg. 32

The Process of Opening of the Chakras in Yoga

The opening of the chakras has been the subject of a tremendous amount of focus in the yoga literature, with emphasis on the awakening of the kundalini energy at the base of the spine, and the rising up of this energy through each of the chakras up to the crown of the head. The dangers associated with this process have also been described, as a sudden opening of one of the lower chakras can lead to serious psychological and physical imbalances and dangers, particularly if there is not a trusted and experienced guide to help one manage the experience.

The integral Yoga has a different process that generally starts above and provides thereby the support and balance that the open mental and emotional centers can bring. Practitioners of the integral Yoga do not focus on awakening the kundalini energy, per se, but on the higher aspiration, the purification of the motives of action of the ego-personality and the desire-soul, and the opening to the higher force as it descends to empower and simultaneously widen the consciousness of the seeker.

The focus in the tantric tradition has always been on the peak experience of the rising of the kundalini and that is much of the allure of that path. The opening of the chakras, however, is not so much about a key experience in one’s life, but in the subtle and more permanent changes that take place in the consciousness over time through the energetic flow through the chakras. The process is less dramatic and more substantive than one finds in the popular imagination.

Practitioners of integral Yoga report the descent of the higher force as a pressure starting at the top of the head, or as a consistent drip of this force into the being from above. Yet eventually, as it works its way through the being, there arises a more constant state of connectedness, receptivity, openness and aspiration that spreads through all the aspects of one’s life. As this occurs, the seeker observes changes in the way of seeing and relating to the world around himself and the events and forces with which he interacts. The seeker then frames a new relationship to everything in life based on this new standpoint and way of experience.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “One can speak of the chakras only in reference to yoga. In ordinary people the chakras are not open, it is only when they do sadhana that the chakras open. For the chakras are the centres of the inner consciousness and belong originally to the subtle body. So much as is active in ordinary people is very little — for in them it is the outer consciousness that is active.”

“In the Tantra the centres are opened and Kundalini is awakened by a special process, its action of ascent is felt through the spine. Here it is a pressure of the Force from above that awakens it and opens the centres. There is an ascension of the consciousness going up till it joins the higher consciousness above. This repeats itself (sometimes a descent also is felt) until all the centres are open and the consciousness rises above the body. At a later stage it remains above and widens out into the cosmic consciousness and the universal self. This is a usual course, but sometimes the process is more rapid and there is a sudden and definite opening above.”

“In our yoga there is no willed opening of the chakras, they open of themselves by the descent of the Force. In the Tantric discipline they open from down upwards, the Muladhar first; in our yoga, they open from up downward. But the ascent of the force from the Muladhar does take place.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, The Integral Yoga and Other Systems of Yoga and Philosophy, pp. 31-33

The Tantra and the Integral Yoga

The Tantric tradition has developed a methodology (frequently and widely misunderstood and misapplied), to bring about the opening of the subtle energy centers, called chakras, that reside within our energetic body and control the various functionality of powers of body, life and mind within our human instrument. The rising of the kundalini, the coiled serpent sleeping at the base of our being in the muladhara chakra, and opening up the higher chakras until reaching the 1000 petaled lotus at the top of the head, signifies the development and mastery of the physical body, the vital being and the mental activities of the developed human being. New powers of action develop and eventually, this process leads to the enlightenment within the world itself. A key principle is to purify the psychology to disentangle sensual, ego-gratification from the exercise of the natural forces that act through the chakra that is opening. There is a danger involved here as opening of the lower chakras, which govern powers that include sex and the will to power, among others, can drive the seeker mad or distract from the actual original goal.

The integral yoga recognizes the locked forces held within the blocked chakras and the need to open up these energies for a higher and more powerful action. By starting generally above and opening to the divine force, the Mother, the opening of the Chakras can occur with potentially far less risk than if suddenly there is an outburst of powers emanating from the lowest chakras without any moderating influence from higher centers already partially or wholly open. Additionally, while the goal of the rising of the kundalini is the eventual liberation of the human individual into the divine consciousness, there is no focus in the tantra on the transformation of life on earth through the descent and action of the next evolutionary level of consciousness; whereas in the integral yoga, this is a primary consideration.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “Veda and Vedanta are one side of the One Truth; Tantra with its emphasis on Shakti is another; in this yoga all sides of the Truth are taken up, not in the systematic forms given them formerly but in their essence, and carried to the fullest and highest significance. But Vedanta deals more with the principles and essentials of the divine knowledge and therefore much of its spiritual knowledge and experience has been taken bodily into the Arya. (A philosophical journal (1914-21), in which most of Sri Aurobindo’s major prose writings first appeared.) . Tantra deals more with forms and processes and organised powers — all these could not be taken as they were, for the integral yoga needs to develop its own forms and processes; but the ascent of the consciousness through the centres and other Tantric knowledge are there behind the process of transformation to which so much importance is given by me — also the truth that nothing can be done except through the force of the Mother.”

“The process of the Kundalini awakened rising through the centres as also the purification of the centres is a Tantric knowledge. In our yoga there is no willed process of the purification and opening of the centres, no raising up of the Kundalini by a set process either. Another method is used, but still there is the ascent of the consciousness from and through the different levels to join the higher consciousness above: there is the opening of the centres and of the planes (mental, vital, physical) which these centres command; there is also the descent which is the main key of the spiritual transformation. Therefore, there is, I have said, a Tantric knowledge behind the process of transformation in this yoga.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, The Integral Yoga and Other Systems of Yoga and Philosophy, pg.31

The Integral Path Combines the Vedantic and the Tantric Approaches to Divine Realisation

At a certain point we come to the conclusion that our minds cannot finally determine the truth or the meaning of our existence. We recognise that many of our daily perceptions and assumptions about the world and, in fact, all of existence, are simply inaccurate. We see the sun rise in the East and set in the West, and assume the sun moves across the sky, with our world at the center of the process, when in fact, an entirely different set of circumstances apply. The realisation that perception and mental determination based on that perception does not define the truth of existence is a first step towards attaining knowledge.

This leads to the idea that the world and all its names, forms, events and circumstances are an illusion and that to discover the reality we must abandon all we experience and find out what lies beyond. The experience of the illusion of the world and the reality of a transcendent Absolute, is the basis of the Vedantic understanding. The Vedantic works to disentangle himself from each name and form in the world, with the idea that it is “not this, not that”. As the process unfolds, the seeker gives up all ambition for achieving the things of the world, all attachment to fame and fortune, social status and family, eventually even giving up the identification with the individual ego-personality. This brings the seeker eventually to the experience of the substrate, the foundation of pure Existence, “Sat”, “one without a second.”

But what about the world? Is it entirely unreal, or do we simply misinterpret and misunderstand and thereby distort the meaning of the reality? Can we achieve a status whereby we recognise the illusory nature of our normal standpoint, yet still accept the reality and necessity, from the divine standpoint, of the manifested universal action? At a certain point we may recognise that the Eternal is not bound by his transcendence, and that the world is also an expression of the Divine. “All this is the Brahman”, is not a statement of illusion, but a statement of inclusiveness. This brings us to the experience of the Tantra, which attempts to find and recognise the Divine in the manifestation. “Chit-Shakti”, consciousness-force, is the reality co-equal with the pure Existence “Sat”. The tantric practitioner seeks to overcome the entanglement of the ego in the forms and forces of the world and to thereby attain realisation of the divine nature of the entire creation.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “Unless one realises the Supreme on the dynamic as well as the static side, one cannot experience the true origin of things and the equal reality of the active Brahman. The Shakti or Power of the Eternal becomes then a power of illusion only and the world becomes incomprehensible, a mystery of cosmic madness, an eternal delirium of the Eternal. Whatever verbal or ideative logic one may bring to support it, this way of seeing the universe explains nothing; it only erects a mental formula of the inexplicable. It is only if you approach the Supreme through his double aspect of Sat and Chit-Shakti, double but inseparable, that the total truth of things can become manifest to the inner experience. This other side was developed by the Shakta Tantriks. The two together, the Vedantic and the Tantric truth unified, can arrive at the integral knowledge.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, The Integral Yoga and Other Systems of Yoga and Philosophy, pp.30-31