June 01, 2006

Sri Aurobindo commands an incredible breadth of knowledge

Integral Yoga is the path to enlightenment put to paper by Sri Aurobindo, an Indian activist, guru and philosopher. After playing an important role in the liberation of India, he retreated to Pondicherry in the South of India to undertake his spiritual quest. What makes him different than most seekers or gurus is that instead of choosing one of the many spiritual paths, keeping his head down and ass on the cushion, he pursued many of them at the same time.
In doing so he learned that each Yoga (path to enlightenment) has virtue and is valid - he developed an hypothesis that only a Yoga which incorporates all the elements of the various paths can lead to the full experience of enlightenment. The main paths, love, will, and knowledge, each bring forth varied aspects of the Divine into being. After pursuing these paths, he developed Integral Yoga. Aurobindo examines consciousness and enlightenment, making ever so subtle differentiations in states, aspects of the Divine, etc. This uncommon precision in describing all the paths and his Integral path is what is most intriguing about him. An Eastern mystic with an ability to articulate all aspects of the Divine with the precision and detail of a Western psychologist.
What is Integral Yoga? Its a philosophy and roadmap of human evolution. That's right, our birth was not the capstone on our evolution. Our evolution is continual and can not only deliver us to closer communion with the Eternal, Infinite, Divine, also to expanded states of consciousness. These expanded levels of consciousness are not destinations, or escapes, so much as they are evolution. Little Leaguers cannot comprehend the skills required of a major league pitcher, and we cannot comprehend higher orders of consciousness, that is unless we commit to evolving ourselves to these levels and experiencing them first hand. Integral Yoga is such a method. Book Review
The Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo, by Rishabhchand, draws heavily upon Aurobindo's Life Divine and Synthesis of Yoga. The Rishabhchand book is incredibly thorough and detailed (approx. 470 pages) and can at times seem repetitive; he commands a wealth of knowledge in Eastern and Western philosophy, as well as a familiarity with and bias against Western psychotherapy. It is a really solid effort though - unfortunately, it is not available, unless ordered from the Aurobindo Society directly.
My general comments on the philosophy of Aurobindo are exceedingly positive. He makes every attempt to be comprehensive and exhaustive in his explorations, the extent to which has not been improved upon since only about 20 years ago with the advent of Ken Wilber's work. For 30 years, Aurobindo's work was untouchable in terms of comprehensiveness. He commands an incredible breadth of knowledge with respect to not only all spiritual enlightenment paths, but psychology, sociology and politics. He beautifully blends the masculine (Divine) and feminine (The Mother) aspects of spirituality providing a balanced and comprehensive insight into the nature of God. There is only one major point which I think is a bit weak, which is the somewhat overreliance on a deus maquina for areas of transformation which cannot yet be clearly articulated logically. However, if you want to get a comprehensive and systematic formula for the purpose and meaning of life, specifically with regard to human evolution going forward, Aurobindo remains untouchable.
As evidence of how powerful I believe the work of Aurobindo to be I have made a summary so that hopefully anyone can have a little taste of his work. I hope you enjoy it! Book Summary: Integral Yoga is based on the ancient spiritual traditions of India, so a background knowledge of Eastern religion, and Hinduism specifically, would be helpful, but by no means necessary in embracing Integral Yoga. There is a word that is central to IY, Hinduism, etc.; it is Sachchidananda or Sat, Chi, Ananda. This word is the descriptor of all man's qualities.


  1. Tusar - glad you dig the review/summary!

  2. 1. Review of Michael Murphy's The Future of the Body

    Brandon Peele

    Michael Murphy, Founder of The Esalen Institute, a storied organization that cultivated many of the great minds of the '60s and the human potential revolution of the '70s, put together the Institute's research on a wide variety of disciplines in The Future of the Body. This collection spans studies of physiology, philosophy, psychology, anthropology and religion, looking deeply into the question, What is possible? The logic being that if one human can attain remarkable feats in a particular realm, given the plasticity of the human mind and body, we all can if we apply the same diligence. Moreover, the book takes an evolutionary perspective of humanity, such that we begin to see humanity not just as begetting and dying, but rather more like software releases. Each version (generation) makes improvements in consciousness, integrity, and ability.

    What I found most useful in this book was the painstaking detail and diligence of the research. Up until now, I only had an intuition that anything is possible, as evidenced by the lackluster beginnings of groundbreaking individuals such as Michael Jordan, Albert Einstein, Andrew Carnegie, Bill Clinton and Ken Wilber. When I was loaned this book by my friend, a longtime spiritual seeker and devotee of Aurobindo's Integral Yoga, I knew that I was meant to read it. And now I know why. The Future of the Body is the skeptic's bridge into higher consciousness, human potential, and transformation.

    Although I remain skeptical of all unsubstantiated claims, I now have a wealth of data from which to draw upon when communicating my understanding of human potential...

    While each of these phenomena can be disputed individually, taken as a whole, a distinct appreciation for the plasticity of the human emerges and the realm of possibility indeed appears infinite. The 800 pages of research, when synthesized and looked at as a story of both individual humans and humanity, posits that the average human is achieving only a fraction of his/her potential. It's sort of like we were all given Ferraris for our birthday, but all we ve managed to figure out is how to check our hair in the side mirror.

    Murphy doesn't leave the reader with just the data, but also presents a way in which we can achieve our full potential, learn to put that Ferrari in gear and open it up on the freeway. He explores the variety of transformative practices that have been used to cultivate these great abilities and achieve these amazing feats, looking at areas spanning visualization, meditation, energy awareness training, sensory deprivation, psychotherapies, somatic disciplines, athletic training regimes, and fields of philosophical inquiry.

    The main insight that this effort produces, which may be common knowledge to some, is that of the Integral Transformative Practice (ITP). The analogy that describes this practice best is that of the cross-trainer. We can achieve x% performance increases as a freestyle sprinter; however, as documented performance research has shown, we can achieve gains of x+% when we practice not only freestyle, but butterfly, back and breast strokes. As Ken Wilber has further refined, an Integral Practice incorporates exercises which touch on the four main avenues of human development: Cognitive (creative pursuits, reading, writing, etc.), Kinesthetic (aerobic, anaerobic, flexibility, balance, coordination training), Psychodynamic (psychotherapy, Gestalt therapy, dream journals) and Contemplative (meditation, prayer, etc.). These can be loosely interpreted as Mind, Body, Soul, and Spirit...

    I recommend this book to skeptics as a transformative life-changing work, to mystics as a resource to avoid sounding crazy, and to every human interested in self-improvement.

    [Brandon Peele writes on philosophy, spirituality, psychology and economics on his blog at]


    1. Review of Michael Murphy's The Future of the Body, by Brandon Peele