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In the Synthesis of Yoga, Sri Aurobindo analyzes the various systems of Yoga and synthesizes them into his conception of Integral Yoga. As he points out, every system of Yoga stresses some part of the psychological division of human consciousness as the basis for realization and union with the Divine. In the words of Sri Aurobindo…
- Hathayoga selects the body and the vital functionings as its instruments of perfection and realisation; its concern is with the gross body. The chief processes of Hathayoga are asana and pranayama. By its numerous Asanas or fixed postures it first cures the body of that restlessness which is a sign of its inability to contain without working them off in action and movement the vital forces poured into it from the universal Life-Ocean, gives to it an extraordinary health, force and suppleness and seeks to liberate it from the habits by which it is subjected to ordinary physical Nature and kept within the narrow bounds of her normal operations. Pranayama, for the Hathayogin, serves a double purpose. First, it completes the perfection of the body. The vitality is liberated from many of the ordinary necessities of physical Nature; robust health, prolonged youth, often an extraordinary longevity are attained. On the other hand, Pranayama awakens the coiled-up serpent of the Pranic dynamism in the vital sheath and opens to the Yogin fields of consciousness, ranges of experience, abnormal faculties denied to the ordinary human life while it puissantly intensifies such normal powers and faculties as he already possesses. These advantages can be farther secured and emphasised by other subsidiary processes open to the Hathayogin.
- Rajayoga selects the mental being in its different parts as its lever-power; it concentrates on the subtle body. It aims at the liberation and perfection not of the bodily, but of the mental being, the control of the emotional and sensational life, the mastery of the whole apparatus of thought and consciousness. It fixes its eyes on the citta, that stuff of mental consciousness in which all these activities arise, and it seeks, even as Hathayoga with its physical material, first to purify and to tranquillise. The preliminary movement of Rajayoga is a careful self-discipline by which good habits of mind are substituted for the lawless movements that indulge the lower nervous being. By the practice of truth, by renunciation of all forms of egoistic seeking, by abstention from injury to others, by purity, by constant meditation and inclination to the divine Purusha who is the true lord of the mental kingdom, a pure, glad, clear state of mind and heart is established. This is the first step only. Afterwards, the ordinary activities of the mind and sense must be entirely quieted in order that the soul may be free to ascend to higher states of consciousness and acquire the foundation for a perfect freedom and self-mastery.
- The triple path of Will (Karma), Love (Bhakti), and Knowledge (Jnana) outlined in the Bhagavad Gita takes for its chosen instruments the three main powers of the mental soul-life of the human being.
- (a) Knowledge selects the reason and the mental vision and it makes them by purification, concentration and a certain discipline of a God-directed seeking its means for the greatest knowledge and the greatest vision of all. God-knowledge and God-vision. Its aim is to see, know and be the Divine.
- (b) Works (or action) selects for its instrument the will of the doer of works; it makes life an offering of sacrifice to the Godhead and by purification, concentration and a certain discipline of subjection to the divine Will a means for contact and increasing unity of the soul of man with the divine Master of the universe.
- (c) Devotion selects the emotional and aesthetic powers of the soul and by turning them all Godward in a perfect purity, intensity, infinite passion of seeking makes them a means of God-possession in one or many relations of unity with the Divine Being. All aim in their own way at a union or unity of the human soul with the supreme Spirit.
-Sri Aurobindo, Synthesis of Yoga, Chap IV Systems of Yoga
Sri Aurobindo isolated the central psychological principles of all these methods and synthesized them into the first three sections of the Synthesis of Yoga as the “Yoga of Divine Works“, “Yoga of Divine Knowledge” and “Yoga of Divine Love“. Sri Aurobindo stressed that all these methods are based on Vedanta, because in each case the lord of the Yoga is the Purusha, the Conscious Soul that knows, observes, attracts, governs.
In the last section “Yoga of Self-Perfection“, he integrated all the above Vedantic methods with the goals of Tantra. While Vedanta recognizes the phenomenal world as Conscious Soul or Purusha, Tantra tries to realize the phenomenal world as Shakti or Creative Energy as an aspect of the Divine Mother. While Vedanta seeks liberation of the soul, Tantra seeks Bhukti or Cosmic Enjoyment of the powers of the Spirit for the liberated soul. Integral Yoga integrates the goal of Tantra – Bhukti – but seeks to achieve it using the methods of Vedanta instead of the methods of Tantra.
Therefore, Integral Yoga has four goals : Suddhi (purification), Mukti (liberation), Siddhi (realization) and Bhukti (cosmic enjoyment). The first three are aims of Vedanta while the fourth has been incorporated from Tantra.
- Talks by M.P. Pandit on the Yoga of Works (audio files)
- Study Guide by David Hutchinson
- Talks by Debashish Banerji on the Synthesis of Yoga
Books summarizing the Synthesis of Yoga
- M.P. Pandit Yoga of Love (SABDA)
- M.P. Pandit Yoga of Knowledge (SABDA)
- M.P. Pandit Yoga of Works (SABDA)
- M.P. Pandit Yoga of Transformation (SABDA)
- History of revision and publishing the Synthesis of Yoga
- Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual program : Sapta Chatusthaya