September 16, 2009

Sri Aurobindo emphasizes the need not only for strength but also for grace, beauty, and harmony

Patanjali And Sri Aurobindo By Dr K V Raghupathi, June 2009

Sri Aurobindo says: When we reach this degree of perfection which is our goal, we shall perceive that the truth we seek is made up of four major aspects: Love, Knowledge, Power and Beauty. These four attributes of the Truth will express themselves spontaneously in our being. The psychic will be the vehicle of true and pure love the mind will be the vehicle of infallible knowledge, the vital will manifest an invincible power and strength and the body will be the expression of a perfect beauty and a perfect harmony. 1

The physical is as important as the mental. Sri Aurobindo’s yoga begins with the physical, whereas Patanjali’s begins with character-building [...]

In Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy the body is taken to be the starting point of sadhana; diligent effort ought to be made to train it appropriately and make it a fit instrument for a perfect life. The body should be kept healthy by cultivating good habits of food, sleep, hygiene, and physical exercise. The objective is not only to develop physical stamina but also to command life energy at any required time by regulating the various functions of the body. Sri Aurobindo emphasizes the need not only for strength but also for grace, beauty, and harmony. Beauty is the very spirit of the physical world. The ancient Greeks upheld this idea. A mastery of bodily reflexes--wonderful and quick--is desirable. Self-mastery and discipline, courage and confidence, impartiality and fairness in dealing with others are all products of proper physical training. This physical culture has positive impact on the vital and mental being too. [...]

In Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy apart from the building up of character, the aesthetic element is also stressed. The senses should be properly trained to attain precision and power. The student, he writes, ‘should be shown, led to appreciate, taught to love beautiful, lofty, healthy and noble things, whether in Nature or in human creation. This should be a true aesthetic culture, which will protect him from degrading influences’.5

The Divine encompasses purity as well as beauty and it is by the cultivation of both the ethical and the aesthetic that the heart’s needs can be really fulfilled. The highest aim of art is to find the Divine through beauty. But this discovery has its laws, says Sri Aurobindo, and the first endeavor should be ‘to see and depict man and Nature and life for their own sake, in their own characteristic truth and beauty; for behind these first characters lies always the beauty of the Divine in life and man and nature and it is through their just transformation that what was at first veiled by them has to be revealed’.6 In this way the aesthetic being will rise to its divine possibilities. [...]

Sri Aurobindo accepts the primacy of the supreme, all pervading Reality, which the Isha Upanishad this exhorts us to view: ‘Isha vasyam-idam sarvam yat kincha jagatyam jagat; all this – whatsoever moves on the earth-should be covered by the Lord’. Consciousness pervades not only the manifest cosmos but also the unmanifest; it is transcendent yet realizable. This basic reality if immanence and transcendence Sri Aurobindo accepts in toto. And it is on this basic premise that this integral yoga rests.

The first movement in integral yoga is involution: the process of Creation in which the supreme Reality descends in stages, finally plunging into the most inconsistent, deep and dense matter. After involution begins an upward spiral-this is the spiritual evolution, the ascent. In Aurobindo’s philosophy the human being is not the end being of creation or the crown of evolutionary process. It holds that humans are intermediate creatures, though they do mark the essence of evolution of consciousness. Humans have the capacity to reach upwards into the Supramental, which is ready to cooperate in the process of evolution.

Then comes the third movement, as this is a very important component of Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy. It is the return of the supramental consciousness, along with its light and power, to the terrestrial plane, with the purpose of divinizing the whole of humanity. Sri Aurobindo does not accept the idea of enjoying the bliss of supremental power leaving the rest of the world as wretched as it was before. These three movements together constitute integral yoga. The sadhaka’s goal is not to seek salvation for oneself, or for a community, or a race, a total transformation of terrestrial life is the goal. This very world is to be transformed into the Supramental. [...]

According to Sri Aurobindo, the special methods of raja yoga and hatha yoga may be useful in certain stages of spiritual progress, but are not indispensable to integral yoga. This yoga rejects the exclusiveness of the old systems while reaffirming the reality matter; it repudiates the denial of the ascetic while affirming the reality of the Spirit; it reconciles matter, life, life, mind and Supermind. It is the philosophy of integral monism as distinct from pure monism or qualified monism. It avoids every right determinism; it is idealism that realistic and a realism that is idealistic.

Beyond Philosophy and Religion According to Sri Aurobindo the age of philosophy and religion is over. We are now in the age of realization. This age insists on the deepest, widest, and highest realizations that can be attained by the methods of yoga. Philosophy aims at discovering the highest reality through critical rational thought, while religion explores the same by way of belief and rituals. Both these are found inadequate in meeting contemporary human needs. Sri Aurobindo maintains that that we need is a comprehensive, all-inclusive, scientific method that can bring about a radical change in human consciousness. And yoga fulfills this need as it is a ‘methodized effort towards self-perfection by expression of the potentialities latent in the being and a union of the human individual with the universal and transcendent Existence we see partially expressed in man and in the Cosmos’ 11.

Integral yoga is an integral realization of the Divine: ‘Not only the freedom born of unbroken contact of the individual being in all its parts with the Divine, sayujyamukti, not only the salokyamukti by which the whole conscious existence dwells in the same status of being as the Divine, 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’ (42-3). Transformation is the key word in integral yoga, as much as in Patanjali’s yoga. And it carries a deep connotation.

Sri Aurobindo explains: By transformation I do not mean some change of nature –I do not mean, for instance, sainthood or ethical perfection or yogic siddhis (like the Tantrik’s) or a transcendental (cinmaya) body. I use transformation in a special sense, a change of consciousness radical and complete and of a certain specific kind which is so conceived as to bring about a strong and assured step forward in the spiritual evolution of the being of a greater and higher kind and of a large sweep and completeness than what took place in a mentalized being first appeared in a vital and material animal world. A partial realization, something mixed and inconclusive, does not meet the demand I make on life and yoga. 12

Sri Aurobindo does not regard the spirit in man as ‘solely an individual being travelling to a transcendental unity with the Divine, but as a universal being capable of oneness with the Divine in all is souls and all Nature’. 13

Integral yoga involves three major transformations: one human soul seeks liberation and enjoys union with the Divine; two, it freely shares in the cosmic unity of the Divine; three, it effectuates the divine purpose by being an instrument of the divine Will in its movements through humanity. The complete process of transformation is described by Sri Aurobindo as being threefold – psychic, spiritual and supramental. The individual yoga than transcends its separateness and become part of the collective yoga of the Divine, in nature and in humanity. The liberalized individual thus becomes a self-perfecting instrument for the perfect flowering of the Divine.

References 1. Mother, On Education, 8. 2. Sri Aurobindo, The Supramental Manifestation, 8 3. Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, 508. 4. Sri Aurobindo, A System of National Education. 5. On Education, 21 6. Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle, 229. 7. Synthesis of Yoga, 303. 8. On Education, 30. 9. Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, 925-6. 10. On Education 32. 11. Synthesis of Yoga, 2. 12. Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, 2 vols, 2.94. 13. Synthesis of Yoga, 587. Courtesy and Copyright Prabuddha Bharata. Visit HOME ABOUT ESAMSKRITI ESSAYS You are here : Home >> Essays >> Philosophy And Spirituality

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