Concept of the Synthesis of Yoga
The synthesis of yoga presupposes the existence of partial or specialised systems of yoga, each leading to partial or specialised results or accomplishments. A synthesis can be a combination, and there have been in the history of yoga several ways of combination. An indiscriminating combination en bloc would not be a synthesis, but confusion. A successive practice of different systems of yoga may result in some kind of synthesis. Sometimes, for example, the practice of Hatha Yoga is followed by the practice of Raja Yoga. Or, as in the life of Sri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa, we find a powerful example, even a unique example, of a colossal spiritual capacity, as a result of which the great yogin drove straight to the divine realisation, taking, as it were, the kingdom of heaven by violence, and then he seized upon one yogic method after another and extracted the substance out of it with an incredible rapidity, always to return to the heart of the whole matter, the realisation and possession of God by the power of love, by the extension of inborn spirituality into various experiences and by the spontaneous play of an individual intuitive knowledge. But it is obvious that the process of successive practice of different systems of yoga can not be generalised, since ordinarily within the short span of human life and its limited energies, one cannot expect the capacity to cross the stages and hurdles of specialised systems with the kind of rapidity that was exemplified in the life of Sri Ramakrishna. Sri
Ramakrishna was a master-soul, whose object was to exemplify in the great and decisive experience the demonstration that all sects are forms and segments of a single integral truth and all disciplines labour in their different ways towards one supreme experience. That object is imperatively necessary at the present juncture of development of humanity, since there is today a crisis of world civilisation where the problem of the conflict of jarring sects and schools has assumed critical proportions. What a master-soul could achieve with incredible rapidity can not be represented as something generally realisable.
There have been several other examples of the synthesis of yoga. There was, for example, the Vedic synthesis of yoga. In this synthesis, the psychological powers of the intellect, will, and feeling were sought to be raised up to their highest flights and widest rangings of divine knowledge, power, joy, love and glory. This process was sought to be accomplished by synthesising the individual with the cosmic powers and beings in their operations in those higher planes which are hidden from the physical senses and the material mentality. This synthesis was crowned by the experience of the transcendental and blissful divine reality and its unity with the increasing soul of the individual and the eternal divine fullness of the cosmic powers; the highest point of realisation was the manifestation of the supramental truth-consciousness in the physical consciousness up to a point where the body consciousness of the individual could become universalised This synthesis of yoga was later on broken into specialised processes of Jnana Yoga, Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Mantra Yoga and several other specialised processes. During the immediately succeeding period of Brahmanas, the great synthesis of the Vedic yoga came to be reduced to ritualistic
practice of sacrifice, and there came about an opposition between the ritualistic karma kanda and Jnana Yoga. In the next period, the synthesis of the Vedic yoga was recovered by the Upanishads which took up the crowning experience of the Vedic seers and made it their starting point for a high and profound synthesis of spiritual knowledge. The Upanishads harmonised all that had been seen and experienced by the inspired and liberated knowers of the Eternal throughout the great and fruitful period of spiritual seeking. During the subsequent period of the development of the Upanishads, the tendency towards exclusive path of jnana became more and more prominent, and by the time we come to the Gita, we witness a great conflict between the path of knowledge and the path of works. The yoga of the Gita confronted this conflict and recovered the Upanishadic and even Vedic synthesis, and it built upon the basis of the essential ideas of that synthesis another harmony and synthesis of three great means and powers, Love, Knowledge and Works, through which the soul of man can directly approach and cast itself into the Eternal. But this synthesis also broke down, and various other specialised systems of yoga developed in the subsequent period of Indian history. During the Purano-Tantric Age, however, we find another synthesis of yoga, the synthesis of the Tantric yoga. While that synthesis was developing, the Puranas continued the synthetic tendencies which were present in the Gita and developed a synthesis with increasing stress on the yoga of Divine Love. There were also other Vedantic systems of yoga, and each one of these systems reflected the synthesis of yoga of the Upanishads and the Gita, even though each one of them laid a special emphasis either on the power of knowledge or on the power of Divine Love, and these systems of synthesis often presented a scene of
conflict among themselves. That conflict has continued right up to the present time. In the Tantra, however, the synthesis that was attempted was in a certain way more bold and forceful than the synthesis of the Gita, although it was less subtle and spiritually profound. The Tantra seized upon the obstacles to the spiritual life and compelled them to become the means for a richer spiritual conquest so that the seeker could be enabled to embrace the whole of Life in the divine scope of the cosmic play of the Divine. In some directions it is more immediately rich and fruitful, for it brings forward into the foreground along with the divine knowledge, divine works an enriched devotion of divine Love, the secrets also of the Hatha Yoga and the Raja Yoga. Thus the Tantra seeks to use the body and mental askesis for the opening up of the divine life on all its planes. Moreover, the Tantra grasps at that idea of divine perfectibility of man, which was possessed by the Vedic Rishis but thrown into the background by the intermediate ages. In the Vedantic yoga which was developed by Sri Caitanya, a new element in the synthesis was added by means of which the psychic love for the divine consciousness could inundate the mind, life and the body.
In the nineteenth century, Sri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa and Swami Vivekananda have provided a vast system of synthesis in the light of which the conflict of religions could find a helpful solution. The twentieth century presents a new synthesis that has been proposed in the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. That synthesis has not been arrived at either by combination en masse or by successive practice.
The foundation of the new synthesis of yoga rests on the integrating tendencies of will, knowledge and love, which are the principal three divine powers in human nature; all
these three powers can be integrated, and the union of man with the divine in its integrality unites these three divine powers. There is an organic relationship between will, knowledge and love, and the true synthesis of yoga manifests this organic relationship. Knowledge is always the foundation and ultimate basis of integration; will is always subordinate to knowledge, and will, therefore, always seeks knowledge as its basis, and the effectivity of will attains certainty and unfailing victory only when it proceeds from knowledge. Even when will is utilised as a first initial instrument of yoga, it constantly strives to find its true basis in knowledge, and it is in knowledge that will and works of will fulfil themselves. That is why we have in the Gita the famous pronouncement: sarvam karmākhilam jñāne parisamāpyati (Bhagavadgita, IV.33), — works fulfils themselves in knowledge. Divine love is always the crown, having achieved which, nothing more remains to be achieved. But divine love attains its fullness only by the luminosity of knowledge, and its basic security and foundation rest on knowledge. These three powers assert their natural and organic interrelationship in the true synthesis of yoga when knowledge is sought after as the basis, when will is sought after as an expression of knowledge and when divine love is sought after as the crown of yoga. One can begin, however, with the yoga of works and of will-power, or one can begin with knowledge as the way of access and line of contact, or else, one may begin with love as a starting-point; but as one proceeds on one of these three paths, the three paths begin to converge upon each other, and ultimately the three paths get united. In the integral yoga of Sri Aurobindo, there is a constant striving to unite the three powers, and the seeker is counselled to avoid
or throw away the misunderstanding and mutual deprecation which is often found between the followers of the three paths.
It has been seen in the history of yoga that even in some of those systems, which are synthetic in character; there are claims of the superiority of one of the chosen paths over the other paths. It is, for instance, claimed by some that even when works and love are proper means to be adopted along with the path of knowledge, the ultimate deliverance of liberation comes only by knowledge; works may lead, as it is sometimes said, to liberation but cannot give liberation; similarly, it is said that the divine love is helpful up to a certain point, but since the path of love or devotion involves the duality between seeker and the object to be attained, and since the liberation can come only by identity, the relationship of love or devotion has ultimately to be given up in order to achieve the object of the path of knowledge. On the other hand, some of those who follow the path of devotion often seem to look down upon those who follow the path of knowledge or works; even when they permit some place to these two powers of knowledge and works in some kind of synthesis, the Divine Love is considered to be the power of ultimate deliverance. There is also a similar tendency towards those who follow the path of works. There is an intensity of love, as there is intensity of knowledge, and in that state of intensity, works seem something outward and distracting. But in the new synthesis of yoga, works appear to be outward and distracting only when one has not found oneness of will and consciousness and when one has not yet seen the being of the Beloved Lord working tirelessly for the establishment of the highest welfare of all creatures. In the real synthesis, works become the very power of
expression of knowledge and the very outpouring of love. Sooner than later, the three paths grow as complements of each other, and they meet in perfect synthesis where consciousness and knowledge will be found always to be the foundation and culmination of works and for ever the secret basis for the perfection of works, where love will be always the crown of all endeavour of knowledge and works and where knowledge will perfect love and love will perfect knowledge, and they will both lend their powers for perfection and accomplishment of God's work in the world. The essential and the inalienable relationship between knowledge, will and delight will also determine the principle of the synthesis of yoga. It is that synthesis which, in Sri Aurobindo's view, has to serve the higher and the highest aims of the yoga of supramental perfection or the yoga of self-perfection. The supramental perfection implies a complete enjoyment and possession of the whole divine and spiritual nature; and it is complete lifting of the whole nature of man into its higher and highest power of divine and spiritual existence. Integrality becomes, in this context, the essential condition and content of what Sri Aurobindo calls the Supramental Yoga.
If the aim of the yoga were to be only an escape from the world to God or to the inactive Brahman or world-negating Nirvana or Nihil, synthesis is unnecessary and a waste of time. But, as Sri Aurobindo points out, if our aim is to attain a complete and harmonious integration and also the transformation of our integral being into the terms of God- Existence, then the synthesis of yoga becomes indispensable.
Again, as Sri Aurobindo points out, an integral and synthetic yoga cannot be bound by any written or traditional
Shastra; for while it improves the knowledge received from the past, it seeks to organise it anew for the present and the future. Hence, an absolute liberty of experience and of the restatement of knowledge in new terms and new combinations is a necessary condition.
In the new synthesis of yoga, Sri Aurobindo provides for an infinite liberty in the receptive human soul. Sri Aurobindo points out that Swami Vivekananda had said that the perfect state of the essential unity of all religions would come when each man had his own religion, so that one can follow freely his relations with the Supreme. In the same way, Sri Aurobindo insists, one may say that perfection of the integral yoga will come when each individual is able to follow his or her own path of yoga, pursuing the development of his or her own nature in its upsurging towards that which transcends the nature. In Sri Aurobindo's words, "Freedom is the final law and the last consummation."
It has been contented that the contemporary humanity is passing through a crisis, and according to the latest records of yogic research, it can be said that this crisis can be resolved only by increasing the study and practice of the largest possible synthesis of yoga. It is for the seeker to determine whether this conclusion of yogic research meets the demand of his or her own quest. This book only seeks to contribute to his or her quest as a possible aid.
One important conclusion that this book has put forward is that of supramental supermanhood, which is visualised as a new step in evolution. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother who have presented this vision have made it clear that the
supramental supermanhood must not be confused with the past and the present ideas of supermanhood. The supramental supermanhood would mean the manifestation of divinity at a new critical point of development of the supermind which can serve as the new instrument of the Spirit. In recent times, Nietzsche has spoken of supermanhood, but when we examine the stuff and the qualities that characterise his idea of supermanhood, one feels in it the marks of some great but undivine magnitude of Asuric or Rakshasic ego. Sri Aurobindo takes a special care to distinguish the Nietzschean idea of supermanhood from his own idea of the divine supermanhood. Sri Aurobindo, while explaining this distinction, states as follows:
"...supermanhood in the mental idea consists of an overtopping of the normal human level, not in kind but in degree of the same kind, by an enlarged personality, a magnified and exaggerated ego, an increased power of mind, an increased power of vital force, a refined or dense and massive exaggeration of the forces of the human Ignorance; it carries also, commonly implied in it, the idea of a forceful domination over humanity by the superman. That would mean a supermanhood of the Nietzschean type; it might be at its worst the reign of the "blonde beast" or the dark beast or of any and every beast, a return to barbaric strength and ruthlessness and force: but this would be no evolution, it would be a reversion to an old strenuous barbarism. Or it might signify the emergence of the Rakshasa or Asura out of a tense effort of humanity to surpass and transcend itself, but in the wrong direction. A violent and turbulent exaggerated vital ego satisfying itself with a supreme tyrannous or anarchic strength of self-fulfilment would be the type of a Rakshasic supermanhood: but the giant, the ogre or devourer
of the world, the Rakshasa, though he still survives, belongs in spirit to the past; a larger emergence of that type would be also a retrograde evolution. A mighty exhibition of an overpowering force, a self-possessed, self-held, even, it may be, an ascetically self-restrained mind-capacity and life- power, strong, calm or cold or formidable in collected vehemence, subtle, dominating, a sublimation at once of the mental and vital ego, is the type of the Asura. But earth has had enough of this kind in her past and its repetition can only prolong the old lines; she can get no true profit for her future, no power of self-exceeding, from the Titan, the Asura: even a great or supernormal power in it could only carry her on larger circles of her old orbit. But what has to emerge is something much more difficult and much more simple; it is a self-realised being, a building of the spiritual self, an intensity and urge of the soul and the deliverance and sovereignty of its light and power and beauty, — not an egoistic supermanhood seizing on a mental and vital domination over humanity, but the sovereignty of the Spirit over its own instruments, its possession of itself and its possession of life in the power of the spirit, a new consciousness in which humanity itself shall find its own self-exceeding and self-fulfilment by the revelation of the divinity that is striving for birth within it. This is the sole true supermanhood and the one real possibility of a step forward in evolutionary Nature."13
The supramental life that Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have envisaged would be the life of unity, mutuality and harmony. The synthesis of yoga that Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have put forward envisages that evolution in material nature is an evolution of being with consciousness and life as its two key-terms of power; the evolutionary process has
reached today at a point where the fullness of being, fullness of consciousness and fullness of life are struggling to manifest. This fullness will manifest at an early or later stage of the march of humanity. According to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, in spite of the problems and hurdles of the contemporary crisis, humanity will survive and arrive at the supramental manifestation at its crest of evolution and in due course of time, it would spread in larger and larger circle of humanity. This great hope which has been put forward has, as its basis, a colossal effort of yogic research and a vast store of knowledge that can be tested by anyone who cares and anyone who 'is filled with the highest aspiration to put forward the highest possible effort to test the acquired knowledge and to move forward by developing vaster efforts of yogic research.
Concept of Immortality
It would be useful, at this stage, to bring into focus, although very briefly, the theme of immortality. The word Immortality has been used in various systems of yoga, and one needs to have some precision as to what exactly is meant by this word. The earliest document of the synthesis of yoga, the Rig Veda, has spoken of the wisest forefathers who had discovered the path to immortality. When we try to understand what was the nature of the path to immortality and the nature of immortality that was attained, we find that the path consisted of the manifestation of the supramental truth by holding the truth-consciousness in the mind and diffusing it in all parts of the being (Rig Veda, 1.71.3), and the state of immortality consisted of the attainment of the universalisation of the physical consciousness as a result of the visitation of the supramental consciousness (Rig Veda,
1.72.9). In the later developments of the Indian yoga, the word immortality appears to indicate a state of consciousness in which one realises one's identity or imperishable relationship with the immortality of the imperishable ultimate Spirit, which can be variously described as Brahman, Atman, Purusha, or Ishwara or the Supreme Transcendent. It is maintained that when one attains this realisation, one feels free from the sting of death. This realisation of immortality is sought to be attained by various alternative systems of yoga. The main process in these systems of yoga is that of withdrawal from identification with the consciousness that is riddled with the ego and with the limitations of the body, life and mind. There are, however, a few more composite systems of yoga where immortality is sought to be attained not only by withdrawal from the ego and from the life and mind and the body, but there are also processes that aim at enlargement of the powers of the mind and life and body to their maximum level of perfection; in some of these systems of yoga, there has been a vision of the attainment of perfection of the mind, life and the body to such an extent that they too can attain the state of deathlessness. It appears that attempts have been made to arrive at the bodily perfection and thus to attain the state of deathlessness of the body. However, the attainment of the immortality of the body is still considered to be impossible.
That the individual soul is immortal is acknowledged in a number of religions and systems of yoga, as a result of which survival of the soul after death is admitted and therefore life after death in one form or the other is also admitted. But mere survival after death can not be equated with the realisation of the immortality of the soul; it may
only mean continuation of life in other planes of existence or else travel of the soul in other planes of existence and rebirth or series of rebirth. In the yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, the individual soul, by the process of integral yoga, can be experienced as the eternal portion of the Supreme Spirit, and just as the immortality of the Supreme Spirit is an object of yogic realisation, the realisation of the immortality of the individual soul is also an object of yogic realisation.
Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, who admitted and reworked all the great achievements of the past systems of yoga have confirmed the truth and validity of the realisation of the immortality of the individual soul, as also of the realisation of the identity or the union of the soul with the immortal Supreme Spirit.
Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have distinguished between the realisation of the essential immortality of the Supreme Spirit and that of the temporal immortality of the psychic being; they have also acknowledged the possibility of the immortality of the mind, life, and body, if certain conditions are fulfilled. Immortality of the mind can come about only if the mental being of the individual comes to be so powerfully individualised on the surface consciousness and so much with the inner mind and inner mental Purusha and at the same time so open plastically to the progressive action of the Infinite that the soul no longer needs to dissolve the old form of mind and create a new one in order to progress. Similarly, the vital being can also attain immortality, if it becomes similarly individualised and integrated and at the same time becomes open on the surface consciousness to the inner vital Purusha and to the progressive action of the Infinite. The wall between the inner
self and the outer individuality would have broken down. The immortality of the mental being and the vital being would arrive at a continuous progressive expression of the soul; the permanent mental and vital being from within, the mental and vital representatives of the immortal psychic entity would govern the life. The mental personality and the life-personality would then subsist without dissolution from birth to birth; they would be in this sense immortal, persistently surviving, continuous in their sense of identity. But the immortality of the mental and vital being would still not ensure the survival of the physical body. The physical being could only endure, if by some means its physical causes of decay and destruction could be overcome and at the same time it could be made so plastic and progressive in its structure and its functioning that it would answer to each change demanded of it by the progress of the inner Person. The physical being must be able to keep the pace with the soul in its formation of self-expressive personality, its long unfolding of a secret spiritual divinity and the slow transformation of the mental into the divine mental of our spiritual existence. The immortality of the mind, life and the body, which can be termed as a triple immortality, would fulfil on the physical plane the realisation of the essential immortality of the Spirit and that of the immortality of the psychic being or soul; but even then, as Sri Aurobindo points out:
"The true immortality would still be the eternity of the Spirit; the physical survival would only be relative, terminable at will, a temporal sign of the Spirit's victory here over Death and Matter."14
It may be instructive to observe that the discovery of the Supermind (Truth-Consciousness or rIta-cit) was of capital
importance in the yoga of the Veda, as it has been in the yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. In the Vedic yoga, the method consisted of the ascent to the Supermind as also of the descent of the Supermind; in the yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, too, the method has been the same, but it underlined the Gita's method of self-surrender and applied it in fullness, as a result of which the descent of the Supermind in the physical consciousness could result in fixing the Supermind in the mind of the cells of the body, which is the precondition of the attainment of the immortality of the body. The Vedic immortality was the attainment of the universalisation of the physical consciousness by the method of the ascent to and the resulting descent of the Supermind; but this universalisation is not enough for physical immortality, although it is a necessary pre-requisite. After the attainment of the universalisation of the physical consciousness, much remains to be done, — and it is that difficult process that has been carried out and it is only when the Supermind gets fixed by full descent in the physical consciousness as a permanent step in the evolutionary process that is what Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have envisaged as the Divine Body can be gradually constructed. It is that Divine Body which will have the power of the physical immortality, — the immortality that is terminable at will, — a temporal sign of the spirit's victory in the physical world over Death and Matter.
Synthesis of Science and Spirituality
We speak today of the need of the synthesis of science and spirituality. This need is promised to be fulfilled by the new synthesis of yoga that is developed by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. And this synthesis of yoga can be properly
understood both in its significance and fullness when we study the history of the synthesis of yoga, an outline of which has been sought to be presented in this book. There are two sections of humanity that are likely to study more readily the history of the synthesis of yoga, — in particular the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, — with the highest degree of earnestness. These are: seekers who are wedded to scientific knowledge and scientific method and the seekers who are wedded to the methodical quest of psychic, spiritual and supramental realisation. There are today an increasing number of scientists who have begun to open themselves, without abandoning their scientific rigour of quest, to the insights and illuminations that come to them from the spiritual seekers and spiritual quest; and there are also increasing number of those who are keen to develop scientific and illumined synthesis of science and spirituality. It may even be said that the theme of the synthesis of science and spirituality is a most important theme of the quest of our times. Fortunately, yoga has been developed in India as science, and yogic methods have, as has been noted elsewhere, something of the same relation to the customary psychological workings of man as has the scientific handling of natural forces of electricity or of steam to the operations of steam and of electricity. These methods have been formed upon a knowledge developed and confirmed by regular experiment, practical analysis and constant results. Fortunately, too, the Indian systems of yoga and the history of the development of these systems have, from time to time, maintained precise records. In the case of the latest synthesis of yoga, the yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, there are two valuable accounts available to us. These are: Sri Aurobindo's 'Record of Yoga’, and thirteen volumes of the
account of the yogic experiments and realisations of the Mother in 'Mother’s Agenda’. It can be said that these records can successfully stand the rigorous tests that can legitimately be applied in regard to the methods as also in regard to the results that have been achieved. Considering this work, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have advanced the theme of synthesis of science and spirituality to a high degree of maturity. There are, indeed, many levels of proofs, and during the course of the progression of the research conducted by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, we find various levels of proofs, philosophical, experiential and even scientific which transcend the limits of subjectivity and even of the dichotomy of subjectivity and objectivity. It is for each one to make his or her demands of proof, and, in the meantime, to continue to sharpen and sensitise oneself to higher and higher degrees of consciousness. In the pursuit of truth, there has to be no compulsion, and one has to demand the proofs that one needs. In the records of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, one will find, it may be said quite confidently, the answer that one needs for the next stage of development. Nonetheless, the rigour of the demand of proof can not be minimised, and Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have aimed at working out the fabrication of the Divine Body, the proof of which will be found when that task is accomplished; that proof will be clinching even for the one who demands material evidence of the supramental manifestation. Since the fabrication of the Divine Body is a matter of further evolution, there is the need to continue the tasks of research; these tasks of research will ultimately integrate science and spirituality at their highest level of perfection. In this context, it can be said that the summit of the synthesis of science and spirituality has not yet been
reached. The book of Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother is an open book, which demands further tasks of research.
This book has presented important landmarks of the experiences and experiments of the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother; the aim has been to present only a few glimpses, which might invite the reader to go back to the original records. Considering .that humanity is passing today through an evolutionary crisis, and considering that the theme of the synthesis of yoga, as presented in this book, is directly relevant to the solutions of the problems of this crisis, and considering, further, that evolution, as presented by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, is striving towards the mutation of human species, which is bound to be the most important preoccupation of humanity of today and of tomorrow, it is hoped that this book will be found useful to all pilgrims of progress who aim at untiring pursuit of the highest and the best.