Sri Aurobindo’s Teachings and Yoga

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Sri Aurobindo’s Teachings

Sri Aurobindo’s teachings or vision of life revolves around the following three central ideas:

Evolution of Consciousness
Man is a Transitional Being
Transformation of Consciousness
Evolution of Consciousness

There is an ascending evolution in Nature which goes from stone to the plant, from the plant to the animal, from the animal to man. But this apparent Darwinian evolution of form is only the outer expression of an inner revolution of consciousness. The Supreme and Eternal Consciousness of the Spirit is the creative source of the universal and the terrestrial evolution. This evolution, which is a phenomenon of consciousness, has progressed from Matter to life and from Life to Mind. Matter, Life and Mind are the different levels of organization of the energy of consciousness. This consciousness determines the evolution of forms and not vice versa. Consciousness creates and organizes a suitable form for its manifestation.

Man is a transitional being; Mind is not the last summit of evolution; Man is destined to surpass himself into a Superman.

But evolution does not stop with Man. The rational and scientific Mind is not the last summit of human evolution. As the Mother explains:

“Because Man is, for the moment the last rung at the summit of an ascending evolution he considers himself as the final stage in this ascension and believes that there can be nothing on earth superior to him. In that he is mistaken. In his physical nature he is yet almost wholly an animal, a thinking and speaking animal, but still an animal in his material habits and instincts, undoubtedly nature cannot be satisfied with such an imperfect result; she endeavours to bring out a being who will be to man what man is to the animal, a being who will remain a man in its external form and yet whose consciousness will rise far above the mental and its slavery to ignorance.”

Thus the next step in evolution for which Nature is preparing Man is to realise the supra-mental consciousness of the Spirit involved in Mind and create a race of super-conscious gods. As Sri Aurobindo sums up the destiny of human evolution:

“The animal is a living laboratory in which Nature has, it is said, worked out man. Man himself may well be a thinking and living laboratory in whom and with whose conscious co-operation she wills to work out the superman, the god.”

Transformation of Consciousness is the key to lasting social transformation: Machinery cannot bring the millennium

The source of all perfection as well as imperfection lies in human consciousness. The state of the Society is an exact reflection of the state of human consciousness “What thou art within, that outside thee thou shalt enjoy; no machinery can rescue thee from the law of thy being”. All the products of human Mind like Science, Technology, Economics, Politics, Morality, Religion, Philosophy, Culture, failed to perfect society because they are not able to transform the nature and consciousness of Man. At worst, they have mechanized and brutalized man; at best they brought some refinement to the surface being of Man, while the deep subconscious roots of his ignorance, imperfection and suffering remained untouched. Sri Aurobindo never denied the immense utility of these mental pursuits of man in the preparation and education of human consciousness for its higher destiny; he never denied them as meaningless illusions like the traditional spiritualist. But he denies the cock-sure faith of the modern scientific and rational mind in these powers of the mind, that they can perfect Man and his Society. So the only sure path towards a lasting social transformation which Sri Aurobindo envisages is an inner psychological and spiritual discipline of consciousness, which will release and uplift the individual and collective consciousness of Man into a higher level of consciousness beyond Mind – an inherently Perfect and Integral Consciousness which can bring lasting peace, harmony and fulfilment to human life.

Sri Aurobindo’s Vision for the Future of Mankind

Sri Aurobindo’s Vision encompasses every major field of modern life. He gave a clear picture of the ideal towards which each human activity is moving. In spirituality he is the pioneer of the life-affirming spirituality which accepts life as the expression of the Spirit and endeavours to transform the individual and collective life of Man by the light and power of the Spirit. In RELIGION, he envisioned a spiritual religion of humanity as the religion of the Future. In ECONOMICS, he conceived an economic system governed by the values of beauty, simplicity and harmonious plentitude, “a simply rich and beautiful life”, and a work-culture which views Work not as a means of livelihood but as a means of inner enlightenment, spiritual progress and self-perfection. For SOCIETY, he prophesied the emergence of a Gnostic society living in a supramental consciousness governed by the principles of Unity, Mutuality and Harmony. For POLITY, he conceived as the ultimate goal of the collective life of Man, the ideal of human unity, a global Humanity becoming fully conscious of its indivisible oneness, unified in an egoless and planetary Consciousness, but expressing its Unity in a rich and harmonious diversity of national cultures. For INDIA, our beloved Motherland, he dreamed of a spiritual resurgence of India, rediscovering and manifesting her inherent spiritual genius and leading the world towards its spiritual destiny as the spiritual Guru of Nations.

Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga

Sri Aurobindo gave a cosmic and evolutionary dimension to the concept and practice of yoga. The Word “Yoga” has now become well known all over the world. But the popular conceptions of yoga conjure up images of a hatha-yogi standing upside down or an ascetic sitting in meditation in the Himalayas. The deeper psychological and pragmatic significance of yoga is not yet fully understood. “Yoga” says Sri Aurobindo, “is nothing but practical psychology”. But practical for what? For the inner psychological and spiritual development of the human being. The path of yoga is the scientific, systematic, psychological process or discipline by which the inner development of the human being is triggered and accelerated. According to Sri Aurobindo, entire life is a yoga of universal Nature. There is a slow evolutionary process of Nature that works in the mass of humanity through the normal experiences of life. Yoga speeds up the process through an intensive, conscious and concentrated application of the psychological energies of the human being.

So in Sri Aurobindo’s conception, yoga means neither the physical asanas of hathayoga nor an exclusive world-denying spirituality based on cross-legged meditation. In the integral vision of Sri Aurobindo, yoga means a path or a process or a science by which we can raise our consciousness from the ego-centric mind with reason as the highest faculty to an egoless and universal consciousness of our own highest spiritual self, beyond mind, with higher faculties beyond reason. Yoga is the process by which this ascent to the higher consciousness can be realized through a path of conscious and accelerated inner evolution.

In Sri Aurobindo’s vision this higher consciousness has to be achieved through an integral yoga which is a synthesis of the path of works, knowledge and love. The central discipline of Sri Aurobindo’s yoga involves a triple process: Aspiration, Rejection and Surrender. A constant and unceasing aspiration of our whole being for the spiritual ideal; constant, vigilant and unceasing rejection of all that is contrary or hostile to the ideal; and a total surrender of all we have, all we do and all we are to the Divine. These three principles of the discipline have to be put into practice integrally at all the levels of our being: physical, vital and mental.

However in Sri Aurobindo’s vision attaining this higher consciousness is only the first step and not the aim of yoga. The higher aim of yoga is a complete spiritual transformation of the whole being and nature of man─body, life, mind and soul─and make them into a perfect and harmonious instrument of the Divine. Thus in Sri Aurobindo’s yoga individual transformation is not an end in itself but only a means for world-transformation. The transformed individual has to become an instrument of the Divine Will for world-transformation.