Philosophy and Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and other Essays - Yoga And Knowledge

Yoga And Knowledge




Yoga And Knowledge

Yoga And Knowledge

Knowledge may be regarded as the most fundamental aim of Yoga. Even Hathayoga, which utilises the body as its instrument and aims at its perfection, lays down that the enjoyment of knowledge of our liberated being which brings us into unity or union with the Supreme, is its consummation. A complete mastery of the body and the life and a free and effective use of them established upon a purification of their workings serves as a basis for the more important matter of the psychical and spiritual effects to which that base can be turned. At this stage, Hathayoga takes its stand on the connection between the body and the mind and the spirit and between the gross and the subtle body, and it comes into the line with Rajayoga. A point is then reached at which a transition from the one to the other can be made. And Rajayoga, with its psycho-physical science taking account of the psychical or mental body of which the physical is a sort of reproduction in gross form, aims at the awakening of the Kundalini, the Supreme energy, lying coiled up and slumbering like a snake in the lowest chakra, ganglionic centre, in themuladhara, so that it may rise upward breaking open each lotus as it ascends until it meets the Purusha in brahmarandhra, with the aid of various stages of concentration, in a deep samadhi of union marked with knowledge. In Karmayoga, works fulfil themselves in knowledge; all totality of works, says the Gita, finds its rounded culmination in Knowledge, sarvam

Yoga And Knowledge

Yoga And Knowledge

karmakhilam jnane parisamapyate.l In Bhaktiyoga, where love is fulfilled, it brings Knowledge, and the completer the Knowledge, the richer the possibility of love. "By Bhakti", says Lord Sri Krishna in the Gita, "shall a man know Me in all my extent and greatness and as I am in the principles of my being, and when he has known Me in the principles of my being, then he enters into Me."2 In Jnanayoga, the attainment of the highest and integral Knowledge is obviously its ultimate aim.

Validity of Yogic Knowledge

The knowledge that yoga affirms is a self-revelation in consciousness where subjectivity and objectivity are discovered to be not independent realities, but as inter- dependent; they are the Being, through consciousness, looking at itself as subject on the object and the same Being offering itself to its own consciousness as object to subject. There is, indeed, a view which concedes no substantive reality to anything which exists only in the consciousness, or to anything to which the inner consciousness or sense bears testimony but which the outer physical senses do not provide with a ground or do not substantiate. But the outer senses can bear a reliable evidence only when they refer their version of the object to the consciousness and that consciousness gives a significance to their report, adds to its externality its own internal intuitive interpretation and justifies it by a reasoned adherence; for the evidence of the senses is always by itself imperfect, not altogether reliable and certainly not final, because it is incomplete and constantly subject to error. Actually, we are obliged to argue that we have no means of knowing the objective universe except


1 Gita, 4.33

2 Ibid., 11.54

Yoga And Knowledge

Yoga And Knowledge

by our subjective consciousness of which the physical senses themselves are instruments; as the world appears not only to that but in that, so it is to us. If we deny reality to the evidence of this universal witness for subjective or for supraphysical objectivities, there is no sufficient reason to concede reality to its evidence for physical objectivities; if the inner or the supraphysical objects of consciousness are unreal, the objective physical universe has also every chance of being unreal.

It is true that in each case understanding, discrimination, verification are necessary; but the subjective and the supraphysical must have another method of verification than that which we apply successfully to the physical and external objective. Subjective experience cannot be referred to the evidence of the external senses; it has its own standards of seeing and its inner method of verification;  so also supraphysical realities by their very nature cannot be referred to the judgment of the physical or the sense-mind except when they project themselves into the physical, and even then that judgment is often incompetent or subject to caution; they can only be verified by other senses and by a method of scrutiny and affirmation which is applicable to their own reality, their own nature.

It may be admitted that all reality, all experience must, to be held as true, be capable of verification by a same or similar experience. In fact, yoga affirms that all human beings can have a spiritual experience and follow it out and verify it in themselves. But just as not every untrained mind can follow the mathematics of relativity or other difficult truths or the physical world such as those of the fourth dimension or judge the validity either of their result or their process, even so, the truth of the yogic knowledge can be followed and verified only when the required capacity is acquired by training and methodical practice.

Yoga And Knowledge

Yoga And Knowledge

Integral Knowledge

The knowledge that yoga affirms is a knowledge of the truth of all sides of existence both separately and in the relation of each to all and the relation of all to the truth of the Spirit. "That being known all will be known", such is the conclusion of the Upanishadic inquiry. The Isha Upanishad insists on the unity and reality of all the manifestations of the Absolute; it refuses to confine truth to any one aspect. It declares that Brahman is the stable and the mobile, the internal and the external, all that is near and all that is far whether spirituality or in the extension of Time and Space; it is the Being and all becomings, the Pure and Silent who is without feature or action and the Seer and Thinker who organises the world and its objects; it is the One who becomes all that we are sensible of in the universe, the Immanent and that in which he takes up his dwelling. The Upanishad affirms the perfect and the liberating Knowledge to be that which excludes neither the Self nor its creation; the liberated spirit sees all these as becomings of the Self-existent in an internal vision and by a consciousness which perceives the universe within itself instead of looking it out on it, like the limited and egoistic mind, as a thing other than itself. To live in the cosmic Ignorance is a blindness; but to confine oneself in an exclusive Absolutism of knowledge is also a blindness; to know Brahman as at once and together the Knowledge and the Ignorance, to attain to the supreme status at once by the Becoming and Non-Becoming, to relate together realisation of the transcendent and the Cosmic Self, to achieve foundation in the supramundane and a self-aware manifestation in the mundane, is the integral knowledge; that is the possession of immortality. It is this whole consciousness with its complete knowledge that builds the foundation of the Life Divine and makes its attainment possible.

Yoga And Knowledge

Yoga And Knowledge

Elementary Methods and Techniques for Integral Knowledge

The starting-point of the method and techniques that Yoga has developed and perfected to attain to the status of integral knowledge is the purification of our faculty of understanding, buddhi.

Buddhi is the true reason of human beings which is not subservient to the senses, to desire or to the blind force of habit, but works in its own right for mastery and for knowledge. It at once perceives, judges and discriminates. Normally, it is mixed with the lower half-animal action; in its purity, it should stand back from the object and observe it disinterestedly, put it in its right place in the whole by comparison, contrast, analogy, reason from its rightly observed data by deduction, induction, inference and holding all its gains in memory and in supplementing them by a chastened and rightly-guided imagination, view all in the light of a trained and disciplined judgment.

  • The first cause of impurity in the understanding is the intervention of desire in the thinking functions. When the vital and emotional desires interfere with the pure Will to know, thought becomes subservient to them, pursues ends other than those proper to itself and its perceptions are clogged and deranged. For purifying understanding, one must lift it beyond the seat of desire and emotion.

  • Secondly, the vital parts and the emotions themselves should be purified; they must be trained to rid themselves of craving and attachment.

Yoga And Knowledge

Yoga And Knowledge
  • Thirdly, the heart must be liberated from subjection to false emotions of fear, wrath, hatred and lust. The tranquillisation and mastery (shama and dama) is most important for the immunity of the understanding from ignorance and perversion.

  • Fourthly, the power of understanding should be freed from the illusion of the senses and the intervention of the sense-mind in thought-functions. For true knowledge comes by the examination of the truths of the world-force and by the examination of the principles of things which the senses mistranslate to us. The sense-mind must be stilled and taught to leave the function of thought to the mind that judges and understands.

  • Fifthly, understanding should be liberated from partiality and attachment to its own preferred ideas and opinions and its tendency to ignore the truth in other ideas and opinions. Cultivation of an entire intellectual rectitude and perfection of mental disinterestedness are the radical means of purifying understanding.

The result of this purification of understanding provide to it the capacity of true and complete a perception of the truths of the Self and the Universe.

But for pure yogic knowledge something more is necessary.

First, intellect has to be trained to recognise the faculties of the intuitive mind. This intuitive mind is also sometimes called a higher buddhi, which is not understanding through concepts but which consists of vision; it is not understanding but rather an "over-standing" in knowledge.

Yoga And Knowledge

Yoga And Knowledge

It does not seek knowledge and attain it in subjection to the data it observes but possesses already the truth and brings it out in the terms of revelatory and intuitional thought. Our ordinary human mind usually gets nearest to this power of over-standing when there is a great stress of thought and the intellect electrified by constant discharges from behind the veil and there occurs a resultant imperfect action of illumined finding. Again, usually, when one attempts to go beyond this imperfect action, and succeeds in some sort of in-streaming of the intuition and inspired faculty of knowledge, it is found that the action of intuition and inspiration in us is imperfect as well as intermittent in action. Intuition and inspiration are immediately seized upon by the intellectual understanding and dissipated or broken up so as to fit in with our imperfect intellectual knowledge or by the heart and remoulded to suit our blind or half-blind emotional longings and preferences. Therefore, secondly, there has to be a great tranquillity of the intellectual activity so that there is a clear recognition of the true intuition as distinguished from the false and a look upward without impatience and mixtures which begin to invade. Frequency of this kind of movement and the development of great stillness of the mind will create the necessary condition for the knowledge of the Self, of the Brahman.

Thirdly, turning of our consciousness inward for psychological self-observation and analysis is a great and effective instrument. It is only in ourselves that we can observe and know the process of Self in its becoming and follow the process by which it draws back into Self-being. Therefore, the ancient counsel "Know thy self will always stand as the first word that directs us towards true knowledge. But mere psychological self-knowledge is not enough. Fourthly, therefore, there are further levels of developments until one arrives at what is known as the

Yoga And Knowledge

Yoga And Knowledge

state of "realisation", which is making real to ourselves and in our selves of the Self, the transcendence and universe Divine and it is the subsequent impossibility of viewing modes of being except in the light of that Self and in their true aspect as its flux of becoming under the psychological and physical conditions of our world-existence.

Three Movements leading up to Realisation

According to the yogic science, this realisation consists of three successive movements, internal vision, complete internal experience and identity.

  • Internal vision or drishti is the direct perception of psychical things and of the Self. To being with, we may hold firmly the conception of the Self derived from teachers or from luminous teachings. We may fix it by an entire and exclusive concentration; we may thus use the triple operation of Jnanayoga, shravana, manana, nidhidhyasana. It is only when after long and persistent concentration that the veil of the mind is rent or swept aside, and a flood of light breaks over the awakened mentality, and conception gives place to a knowledge - vision in which the Self is as present, real, concrete, as physical object to physical eye that we possess in knowledge.  
    This experience must become more frequent till it is constant.

  • In due course, there are other internal experiences so that the vision of the Self is completed by experiences of it in all our members. All this knowledge  and experience are primary means of arriving at and of possessing identity.

Yoga And Knowledge

Yoga And Knowledge
  • One not only sees the Self or God, one even embraces Him and become that Reality. The Ishopanishad describes the great experience culminating in identity in the following terms:

यस्तु सर्वाणि भुतान्यात्मन्येवानुपश्यति ।

सर्वभुतेशु चात्मान ततो न विजुगुप्सते । ।

यस्मिन्सर्वाणि भुतान्यात्मैवाभुद्विजानत: ।

तत्र को मोह: क: शोक एकत्वमनुपश्यत: | |3

But he who sees everywhere the Self in all existences and all existences in the Self, shrinks not thereafter from anything. He in whom it is the Self-being that has become all existences that are Becomings, for he has the perfect knowledge, how shall he be deluded, whence shall he have grief who sees everywhere oneness?

With this culmination in identity, one is able to live in the supreme Vedantic knowledge, "He am I" (सोऽहमस्मि)

Such is the foundational knowledge that Yoga promises, and from this foundational knowledge, several practical capacities of knowledge and will can be developed which should lift us from what Sri Aurobindo calls seven-fold ignorance to seven-fold integral knowledge. The result for practical life would be elimination of ignorance in our thought will, sensations, actions, and prevention from returning wrong or imperfect responses to the questionings of the world, liberation from wandering in a maze of

3 Isha Upanishad, 6,7.

Yoga And Knowledge

Yoga And Knowledge

errors and desires, strivings and failures, pain and pleasure, sin and stumbling. Our crooked road of blind groping and changing goal is turned into a sunlit path.

Yoga and Science

Yoga has been rightly looked upon as practical psychology, and yogic methods have something of the same relation to the customary psychological workings of man as has the scientific handling of the natural forces of electricity or steam to the normal operations of steam and of electricity. And they, too, are formed upon a know-ledge developed and confirmed by regular experiments, practical analysis and constant results. Yoga depends upon the perception and experience that our inner elements, combinations, functions, forces can be separated or dissolved, can be new-combined and set to novel and formerly impossible workings or can be transformed or resolved into a new general synthesis by fixed internal processes. Yoga is an attempt to realise psychological and physical perfection of our being by devising self-conscious means and willed arrangement of activities and by ever- increasing expression of inner capacities in a persistent and guided effort to unite our being with the Divine Reality and Divine Nature. Indeed, Yoga is a science, which deals with ranges of the psychical and spiritual being and even discovers greater secrets of physical, psycho-physical and other higher realities and worlds. As in all true sciences, the object is an assured method of personal discovery or living repetition and possession of past discovery and a working out all the things found. There is also in it a high intention to hold the truth, the light found in our inner power or being and turn it to a power of being our psychic self, our spirit, our self of knowledge and will, our self of love and joy, our self of life and action.

Yoga And Knowledge

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