“For we mean by this term a methodised effort towards self–perfection by the expression of the secret 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.” We should come back to this definition again and again, perhaps thousand times, because the whole book being a book on yoga we shall have to come back to this word again and again. But what is important to note is that yoga is, first, a methodised effort. That is the distinguishing feature of yoga. The second is the goal of this effort is self–perfection and that this self–perfection is effectuated by development of the potentialities which are already in us. Whatever is latent in us, whatever is potential; whatever is possible you develop those potentialities to the highest perfection. This is one part of the definition, – methodised effort towards self–perfection by the expression of the potentialities latent in man. The second part of the definition is: it is a methodised effort towards the union of the human individual with the universal and transcendent existence, – When these three terms are united that is the completion of yoga. When there is an effort towards it, it is also yoga. Yoga is both the process and the result. When you unite completely, that is yoga completed, it is called yoga siddhi, but the process is also yoga. That is why Sri Aurobindo utilises the words effort towards. The word towards is very important because even the process, when you are moving towards it is also yoga. These are the words to be remembered for yoga.
Having understood this, Sri Aurobindo has used the words Integral Yoga. What is Integral Yoga? The fact is that Integral Yoga integrates different yogas. There are many systems of yoga. Every yoga has three elements in it. This is the best way of understanding the Integral Yoga on one side and other yogas on the other. Let us at least give some names to different yogas. It will be easier for us to understand.
There is a system of yoga which is called Hatha Yoga, then there is Raja Yoga (Raja means royal, it is a Royal Yoga), then there is Karma Yoga (yoga of works), then there is Jnana Yoga (the yoga of knowledge), then there is Bhakti Yoga (yoga of devotion). These are the mains systems of yogas. There are many others but we shall restrict ourselves only to five. Whenever you hear the word yoga, to understand that particular yoga best, you should ask three questions, so you can grasp every yoga very easily.
What is the goal of the yoga, the object, the aim of the yoga? This is the first question you should ask. The second question you should ask is: What is the instrument by which the goal is sought to be achieved? The third question you should ask is: What is the process by which the instrument is exercised so that the goal is achieved? If you ask these three questions with every system of yoga then you will get a precise idea without much difficulty.
What I am telling you which is so simple I took five years in my own life to arrive at this conclusion. You can see how Sri Aurobindo makes it so easy. I used to ask this question from the age of sixteen: What is yoga? And so many people I met and so many questions I put to them and such confusing answers I was given that I was totally blind in regard to this question what is yoga? Only when I came to Sri Aurobindo and read this book I found he taught us how to answer to this question, ‘what’ is yoga, in a very precise manner. And he has stated here that every yoga has three aspects. In the first place I did not even know that there are many yogas because people speak of yoga in a very general way, – That there are many systems of yoga. Everyone who speaks of yoga speaks as if there is only yoga and there are no other yogas at all. This was a big question in my mind. Somebody says yoga is this, somebody says yoga is that, and there is such confusion that it took me five years to clarify my mind on this question. You get it very easy in five minutes. That is called the progress, the benefit of coming later in life. Others have laboured and you get the fruits very easily but that is the privilege of everybody. You have now the privilege of knowing the key by which you can get a precise idea of different systems of yoga. First of all you come to know that there are different systems of yoga and then if you ask these three questions you get a precise idea.