June 02, 2011

Sri Aurobindo & Hassidism

Forum :: Integral Yoga :: Vishwa Dharma Mandalam
Sri Ramakrishnananda Integral Yoga  May 28, 2011 07:25AM
The Sanskrit word purna means ‘complete’, ‘total’ or ‘integral’. Purna-yoga simultaneously opens different doors for us to discover and integrate ourselves: the doors of action, body, breathing, heart, energy, mind, sex, observation, sound and word, among others.
Through integral yoga, our different facets as human beings can be harmonized, unified, and ultimately, transcended through a process that includes the path of action, through karma-yoga; the emotional, through bhakti-yoga; the mental, through raja-yoga, the way of self-inquiry, to which jñana-yoga invites us, and many others. It can be said that purna-yoga is a synthesis of the immense and ancient wisdom of ViSva-dharma.  
Any system unconcerned with our totality, and directed only to a part or a particular aspect, will merely increase our suffering and our conflicts. Purna-yoga refers to the process of integrating each and every one of our aspects, so that we can reunite in turn with the Whole and be elevated to the plane of divine existence.
It is a movement that leads us above the intellect, allowing us to transcend the intellectual judgments executed by the prism of the mind, so that we may perceive the light of intuition. In this way, our actions, emotions and sense perceptions become “intuitivized”.  
Rather than struggling against the darkness, or investing time and energy to bring the sun into our room, this path suggests that we simply open our windows and make ourselves accessible, so that the golden rays of sunlight may enter and warm our frozen heart. There is no other way to dispel the darkness. Opening doors and windows means shedding all our defenses, to let what is impossible to achieve through effort, happen. In integral yoga, renunciation of the body is not essential to reach the soul. If enlightenment is the realization of totality, our aspiration must be inclusive; never exclusive. 
Our longing must be rooted in the integration of all values, whether classified as material or spiritual, for any such division is illusory. Matter is not the counterpart of spirit; the manifested retains within itself the unmanifested, and spirit lies in the depths of the material.
Yoga is not to flee from the earthly, but to integrate it with the divine; its intention is not only the transcendence of illusion, or mundane consciousness, but to manifest the celestial in this world, to create a paradise on earth. Into dark ignorance, yoga brings the power of light.  
Sri Aurobindo refers to his integral yoga as “having God descend to the mundane”. In Hassidism we find very similar idea, expressed in Hebrew as “laasot lo dira ba tajtonim” or “make Him a dwelling place below”. If we go deeper, we will discover that the descent of heaven to earth is actually nothing more than the revelation that any division of material from spiritual —or above from below—has no existence beyond our egoic perspective, and that there is no need to make anything descend, because heaven is much closer than we believe, and God dwells within us. 
One of the most important figures in the development of Bay Area spirituality was a giant of India who never set foot in America and died in 1950. Sri Aurobindo, whose blend of Vedantic philosophy and modern scientific insights remains a marvel of intellectual prowess, has impacted millions who never heard his name. In a sense, that includes anyone who has ever taken a workshop at Esalen. That’s because Esalen cofounder, Michael Murphy, was inspired by his reading of Sri Aurobindo and his sojourn at the Aurobindo Ashram in South India to create an institute that combines the best of East and West to explore the higher reaches of human potential. Esalen has been doing that for nearly 60 years now, and some of its earliest presenters were progressive thinkers who advanced our understanding of human development: Huston SmithJoseph CampbellRam Dass, and importantly, Abraham Maslow and other pioneers of psychology who made the Bay Area the fulcrum of the revolution that gave us humanistic and transpersonal psychologies. The gauntlet was thrown down at Grace Cathedral on January 6, 1966, when Maslow gave a lecture titled “Toward a Psychology of Religious Awareness.” 
It is no coincidence that the institutions most responsible for integrating psychology and spirituality are in the Bay Area: JFK University, Saybrook, the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, and the California Institute of Integral Studies. CIIS, it should be noted, was founded (under an earlier name) by the philosopher Haridas Chaudhuri, who also established the still-functioning Cultural Integration Fellowship across the street from Golden Gate Park on Fulton. Dr. Chaudhuri was sent by Sri Aurobindo himself to join the startup faculty of the American Academy of Asian Studies (AAAS). 
Philip Goldberg is a spiritual counselor and the author of many books, including his latest, American Veda: From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation, How Indian Spirituality Changed the West

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