January 13, 2006

A spiritual threshold

Atul Chaturvedi Indian Express: Saturday, June 12, 1999
One of the most remarkable aspects of the life and thought of Sri Aurobindo was his conviction that the way for a traditional society such as India to modernise itself was not through the rejection of its rich past and the adoption of new and alien ways. The way, for Aurobindo, lay in the systematic synthesising and modernisation of ancient practices, discarding that which was no longer appropriate. In this, Aurobindo trod the same path as Swami Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi.
This is the basis for the synthesis of Yoga which is the foundation of all of Sri Aurobindo's philosophy. However, in Sri Aurobindo's case, the need for synthesis arose from his vision of the essential uniformity of the Spirit and Nature worldwide. But this uniformity is not static, it is dynamic, constantly evolving. In Sri Aurobindo's vivid words: "All things are being cast, shredded into pieces, experimented on, combined and recombined either to perish or survive and provide the scattered materials of new forms or to emerge rejuvenated and changed for a fresh term of existence.''
For Sri Aurobindo, this ferment was rooted in his apocalyptic vision of the future of man. Sri Aurobindo was firmly convinced that during the 20th and 21st centuries, the second phase of cosmological history would begin -- the first being the moment when the transition was made from animal to man -- and man would cross the threshold into a new world. For this to take place, the dynamic elements prevailing in the world today would have to unify. Sri Aurobindo boldly asserted that the ancient Yoga of India was one of the dynamic elements which would be employed in bringing about this new world. But, he added, under the existing circumstances, it was doubtful that existing forms of Yoga would be effective. For Yoga to be effective, its true power and aim must be rediscovered, and reappropriated, keeping in view a worldview encompassing ancient and modern, East and West.
In his letters on Yoga, Sri Aurobindo observed: "I have never said that my yoga was something brand new in all its elements. I have called it the integral yoga and that means that it takes up the essence and many processes of the old yoga -- its newness lies in its aim, standpoint and the totality of its methods.'' The aim was the ultimate perfection of man.
  • The standpoint was a major departure in that Sri Aurobindo insisted that what the traditional systems took to be their end, that is, the realisation of the absolute, was only the beginning for Integral Yoga.
  • Again, Sri Aurobindo insisted that it was not necessary to abandon the world and live the life of a sanyasin in order to achieve the end of Integral Yoga.
  • Thirdly, Sri Aurobindo insisted that Integral Yoga was meant not only for individual salvation, but for achieving the breakthrough into the new era for all humankind. Sri Aurobindo challenges us: "Our yoga is not a retreading of old paths but a spiritual adventure.''
Thus, Sri Aurobindo's Integral Yoga is the totality of the existing forms of yoga. Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga, Karma Yoga and Bhakti Yoga are its constituent parts. The individual has to follow and practice all of these systems. For Sri Aurobindo, each system of yoga was not a means and an end in itself. One leads to the other, building upon the strength of its predecessor -- and integrated, and not a fragmented yoga. There is no better way to convey the ultimate goal of the synthesis of yoga than in Sri Aurobindo's own words: "To conquer the lures of egoistic existence in this world is our first victory over ourselves; to conquer the lure of individual happiness in heavens beyond is our second victory; to conquer the highest lure of escape from life and a self-absorbed bliss in the impersonal infinite is the last and greatest victory.'' # posted by Tusar N Mohapatra : 10:23 PM

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