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In the teachings of Sri Aurobindo, Synthesis of Yoga (or purna yoga, Sanskrit for full or complete yoga, sometimes also called supramental yoga) refers to the process of the union of all the parts of one's being with the Divine, and the transmutation of all of their jarring elements into a harmonious state of higher divine consciousness and existence.
Sri Aurobindo defined integral yoga in the early 1900s as "a path of integral seeking of the Divine by which all that we are is in the end liberated out of the Ignorance and its undivine formations into a truth beyond the Mind, a truth not only of highest spiritual status but of a dynamic spiritual self-manifestation in the universe."
He describes the nature and practice of integral yoga in his opus The Synthesis of Yoga. As the title of that work indicates, his integral yoga is a yoga of synthesis, intended to harmonize the paths of karma, jnana, and bhakti yoga as described in the Bhagavad Gita. It can also be considered a synthesis between Vedanta and Tantra, and even between Eastern and Western approaches to spirituality.
- 1 Textual sources
- 2 No definitive method
- 3 The aim of integral yoga
- 4 Dangers on the Path
- 5 Components of the integral yoga
- 6 Triple Transformation
- 7 The goal of integral yoga
- 8 Notes
- 9 Quotes
- 10 See also
- 11 References
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The theory and practice of integral yoga is described in several works by Sri Aurobindo. His book The Synthesis of Yoga, the first version of which appeared in the Arya (a magazine that Paul Richard created and asked Aurobindo to co-write with him), was written as a practical guide, and covers all aspects of integral yoga. Additional and revised material is found in several of the later chapters of The Life Divine and in other works. Later, his replies to letters and queries by disciples (mostly written during the early 1930s) were collected into a series of volumes, the Letters on Yoga. There is also Sri Aurobindo's personal diary of his yogic experiences, written during the period from 1909 to 1927, and only published under the title Record of Yoga.
No definitive method
Sri Aurobindo and the Mother taught that surrendering to the ‘higher' consciousness was one of the most important processes of the supramental yoga. There is no definitive method for every practitioner of the yoga, else it would not be an adventure. Supramental consciousness would act and establish itself in Earthly life. Both Sri Aurobindo and the Mother always explained that how this will happen is for the divine to decide and evolve with time. The Mother decided to take this work down to the matter at the cellular level in the late 1960s.
The aim of integral yoga
Most yogas, except such paths as Natya Yoga, only develop a single aspect of the being, and have as their aim a state of liberation or transcendence. But the aim of integral yoga is the transformation of the entire being. Because of this, the various elements of one's make-up - Physical, Vital, Mental, Psychic, and Spiritual, and the means of their transformation, are described in great detail by Sri Aurobindo, who in this way formulates an entire integral psychology. The goal is then the transformation of the entire nature of one's being. Nothing is left behind.
The process...accepts our nature...and compels all to undergo a divine change...In that ever progressive experience, we begin to perceive how this lower manifestation is constituted and that everything in it, however seemingly deformed or petty or vile, is the imperfect figure of some element in the divine nature.
— Sri Aurobindo
Also distinguishing Sri Aurobindo's teaching from most other mystical paths is the need for transformation of the personal and relative nature. So the integral yoga is twofold; both a spiritual realisation of God or Transcendence or Enlightenment, and, through this, a complete change and transformation of both the inner and the outer nature. Through this double action, one is thus made able and fit to manifest a divine consciousness, and in this way becomes part of a divine work.
The Realisation of Supermind
Sri Aurobindo considered man's present mental consciousness to be a transitional stage in terrestrial evolution, and that our civilization is at the brink of an evolutionary leap or shift towards a greater or ‘supramental' experience and capacity.
‘There is an eternal dynamic Truth-consciousness beyond mind; this is what we call supermind or gnosis. For mind is or can be a truth seeker, but not truth-conscious in its inherent nature; its original stuff is made not of knowledge, but of ignorance.' 
Sri Aurobindo considered the supermind to be an all-organizing and all-coordinating principle of truth-consciousness secretly involved in the material creation and he saw its emergence as the next logical and inevitable step in terrestrial evolution.
Dangers on the Path
Sri Aurobindo also details various dangers that the sadhak (the spiritual practitioner) may encounter on the spiritual path.
The Intermediate zone
Components of the integral yoga
In Sri Aurobindo's integral psychology, and for that matter his metaphysic as a whole, the cosmos is described in terms of two major types of distinctions or dimensions. On the one hand there is an ascending dimension of physical, vital, mental, and higher, transpersonal realms. At the same time, there is the series of Outer being, the Inner being, and the inmost Psychic being. Outer, Inner, and Innermost Being form a "concentric" sequence or hierarchy, which is a counterpart to the "vertical" hierarchy of Physical, Vital, and Mental. All these faculties and levels have to be transformed through integral yoga.
Faculties ("vertical" divisions)
Like all the faculties of the being, and in contrast to the ascetic yogas, the Physical in all its aspects is not rejected, but has to be transformed and spiritualised through the practice of integral yoga. This means it is necessary not only to change Physical habits and consciousness, but also to descend into the Subconscient or Lower Unconscious, where the root of many problems lie.
The Vital refers not only to the life force but even more so to the various desires, emotions, compulsions, and likes and dislikes that strongly determine human motivation and action. In Integral yoga it is necessary to change the vital's striving away from self-centered desires and revolts, to make it an instrument for the yoga.
Types of being ("concentric" divisions)
The Outer Being
The Outer Being refers to the superficial and limited physical, vital and mental surface existence which characterises our everyday consciousness and experience. Integral Yoga involves going beyond this surface consciousness to the larger life of the Inner Being, which is more open to spiritual realisation.
The Inner Being
The Inner Being includes the inner realms or aspects of the physical, vital and mental being, which here have a larger, subtler, freer consciousness than that of the everyday consciousness, and its realisation is essential for any higher spiritual realisation.
In Integral Yoga the goal is to move inward and discover the Psychic Being, which then can bring about a transformation of the outer nature. This transformation of the outer being or ego by the Psychic is called Psychicisation; it is one of the three necessary stages, called the Triple transformation, in the realisation of the Supramental consciousness. This Psychic transformation is the decisive movement that enables a never-ending progress in life through the power of connecting to one's inner spirit or Divine Essence.
The other major topic in Sri Aurobindo's integral yoga is the Triple transformation. This refers to the process through which reality is transformed into the divine. This is described in The Life Divine part 2, ch.25, and Letters on Yoga part 4, section 1.
The Triple Transformation refers to the two-fold movement of spiritual transformation - the inward pychicisation by which the sadhak gets in contact with the inner divine principle or Psychic Being, and the spiritual transformation or spiritualisation.
The former represents the Inner Guide which is realised through the Heart, the latter can be compared to the traditional concept of Vedantic, Buddhist and popular guru Enlightenment and the descriptions of the Causal and Ultimate stages of spiritual development in the evolutionary philosophy of the integral thinker Ken Wilber.
For Sri Aurobindo, both these stages are equally necessary and important, as both serve as necessary prerequisites for the third and by far the most difficult element of change in the triple transformation, the Supramentalisation of the entire being.
...One must first acquire an inner Yogic consciousness and replace by it our ordinary view of things, natural movements, motives of life; one must revolutionise the whole present build of our being. Next, we have to go still deeper, discover our veiled psychic entity and in its light and under its government psychicise our inner and outer parts, turn mind-nature, life-nature, body-nature and all our mental, vital, physical action and states and movements into a conscious instrumentation of the soul. Afterwards or concurrently we have to spiritualise the being in its entirety by a descent of a divine Light, Force, Purity, Knowledge, freedom and wideness. It is necessary to break down the limits of the personal mind, life and physicality, dissolve the ego, enter into the cosmic consciousness, realise the self, acquire a spiritualised and universalised mind and heart, life-force, physical consciousness. Then only the passage into the supramental consciousness begins to become possible, and even then there is a difficult ascent to make each stage of which is a separate arduous achievement.
— Sri Aurobindo
Psychicisation is one of the most essential stages of the integral yoga. As described in The Life Divine (book II - chapter 25) it refers to a spiritual movement inward, so that one realises the psychic being - the psychic personality or Divine Soul - in the core of one's being, and enable this to transform the outer being, as well as serve as a spiritual Guide in the yoga.
It is thanks to this Psychic transformation that the sadhak can avoid the pitfalls of the spiritual path, such as the intermediate zone.
The three central spiritual methods here are Consecration, Moving to the Depths (Concentration), and Surrender. Consecration is to open to the Force before engaging in an activity. Moving to the Depths (or Concentration) is a movement away from the surface existence to a deeper existence within. Surrender means offering all one's work, one's life to the Divine Force and Intent. In connecting with the evolving divine soul within, the sadhak moves away from ego, ignorance, finiteness, and the limitations of the outer being
Psychicisation can serve as a prequel to spiritualisation (equivalent to "Enlightenment"), although they do not have to follow any sort of order. However, both the psychic and the spiritual transformation are equally necessary for the final stage of Supramental transformation.
As a result of the Psychic transformation, light, peace, power is drawn into and descends into the body, transforming all of its parts — physical, vital, and mental. This is the Spiritual transformation, or Spiritualisation, which refers to the bringing down of the larger spiritual consciousness or spiritual transformation.
The spiritual transformation in itself however is not sufficient to avoid pitfalls of the spiritual path, or bring about Supramentalisation. For that, the psychic transformation is needed as well.
Supramentalisation is the ultimate stage in the integral yoga. It refers to the bringing down of the Supramental consciousness, and the resulting transformation of the entire being.
The supramental transformation is the final stage in the integral yoga, enabling the birth of a new individual fully formed by the supramental power. Such individuals would be the forerunners of a new truth-consciousness based supra-humanity. All aspects of division and ignorance of consciousness at the vital and mental levels would be overcome, replaced with a unity of consciousness at every plane, and even the physical body transformed and divinised. A new supramental species would then emerge, living a supramental, gnostic, divine life on earth.
The goal of integral yoga
In integral yoga, the goal is not only a transcendent liberation, nirvana, or moksha as in other spiritual paths, but also, in addition to that, the realisation of the Divine in the physical world as well. All of which is part of the same process of integral realisation.
An integral method and an integral result. 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.
Therefore, also, an integral liberation. Not only the freedom born of unbroken contact of the individual being in all its parts with the Divine, sayujyamukti, by which it becomes free even in its separation, even in the duality; not only the salokyalmukti by which the whole conscious existence dwells in the same status of being as the Divine, in the state of Sachchidananda; but also the acquisition of the divine nature by the transformation of this lower being into the human image of the divine, sadharmyamukti, 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
- Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, p.47
- ‘Seven drafts on Supramental Yoga [for "The Path"] from 1928-1929 to late 1930s as found on ‘Bernard's Site for Sri Aurobindo and the Mother'.
- Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, pp.281-2
- Synthesis of Yoga Part I ch. II-III
- Letters on Yoga vol. II pp.585ff (3rd ed.)
- The Life Divine book II ch.27-28
- The Synthesis of Yoga, pp.47-48
- "The movement of nature is twofold: divine and undivine. The distinction is only for practical purposes since there is nothing that is not divine. The undivine nature, that which we are and must remain so long as the faith in us is not changed, acts through limitation and ignorance and culminates in the life of the ego; but the divine nature acts by unification and knowledge, and culminates in life divine. The passage from the lower to the higher may effect itself by the transformation of the lower and its elevation to the higher nature. It is this that must be the aim of an integral yoga."
- -- The Synthesis of Yoga
- What is the integral yoga?
- It is a way of complete God-realisation, a complete Self-realisation, a complete fulfillment of our being and consciousness, a complete transformation of our nature - and this implies a complete perfection of life here and not only a return to an eternal perfection elsewhere
- -- Sri Aurobindo Archives and Research, Dec 1982, p.197
- "The method we have to pursue, then, is to put our whole conscious being into contact with the divine and to call him in to transform our entire being into his, so that in a sense god himself, the real person in us, becomes the sadhaka of the sadhana as well as the master of the yoga by whom the lower personality is used. "
- -- The Synthesis of Yoga
- 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."
- -- The Synthesis of Yoga p.47
- The first word of the supramental Yoga is surrender; its last word also is surrender. It is by a will to give oneself to the eternal Divine, for lifting into the divine consciousness, for perfection, for transformation, that the Yoga begins; it is in the entire giving that it culminates; for it is only when the self-giving is complete that there comes the finality of the Yoga, the entire taking up into the supramental Divine, the perfection of the being, the transformation of the nature."
- - Sri Aurobindo 'Seven drafts on Supramental Yoga [for "The Path"] from 1928-1929 to late 1930s as found on 'Bernard's Site for Sri Aurobindo and the Mother'
- ... to do the integral yoga one must first resolve to surrender entirely to the Divine, there is no other way, this is the way. But after that one must have the five psychological virtues, five psychological perfections and we say that the perfections are
- 1.Sincerity or Transparency
- 2.Faith or Trust (Trust in the Divine)
- 3.Devotion or Gratitude
- 4.Courage or Inspiration
- 5.Endurance or Perseverance
- The Mother, Collected Works of the Mother Vol.8 p.42
- Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, fifth edition, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust 1999
- ----- Letters on Yoga, Volumes 22, 23, and 24, 1972, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust
- Anon. The integral yoga; Sri Aurobindo's Teaching and Method of Practice, 1993 Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust.
- Anon. Glossary to the Record of Yoga
- Tulsidas Chatterjee, Sri Aurobindo's Integral Yoga, Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry 1970
- Morwenna Donnelly, Founding the Life Divine: An Introduction to the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo - Hawthorn Books, 1956
- Madhav Pundalik Pandit, Sri Aurobindo and His Yoga, Lotus Press 1987 ISBN 0-941524-25-6
- ----- Dictionary of Sri Aurobindo's Yoga Lotus Press 1992 ISBN 0-941524-74-4