The Freedom of the Integral Yoga
By August Timmermans
(reprinted from Collaboration summer 2012)
Sri Aurobindo does not belong to history; he is outside and beyond history. [He] has shown that the truth does not lie in running away from earthly life but in remaining in it, to transform it, divinise it, so that the Divine can manifest here, in this physical world. 1 – The Mother
Religion and yoga are not situated on the same plane of the being, and the spiritual life can exist in its purity only if it is free from all mental dogma.2 – The Mother
As the world moves forward while occasionally triggering extreme reactionary movements on its way I would never have thought that these eruptions would affect the collective of the integral yoga and the Ashram in particular. There has been the air of conservative religion if not the signs of Hindutva breezing over. One may wonder then what the true spirit is of a sadhak of the integral yoga.
I never thought that this groundbreaking integral yoga could be an extension of Hinduism or that it would relate to living a religious life that requires traditional worship of the gurus. The way I understand the life divine that Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have set out as the goal hardly reminds me of previous formulated philosophy let alone religion, but its process of supramentalization to get there does remind me of a laboratory of consciousness, as mentioned by the Mother in the Agenda. For me, the Hindu and Buddhist conclusions that life is illusion and suffering and the Christian belief of one life being followed by either heaven or hell, are shattered by Sri Aurobindo’s supramental vision. It not only surpasses the traditional yogas with their sole aim of liberation and the old belief systems that take the afterlife as one’s final destiny – but it bursts out of these confinements and enters into its own space, free from everything previously thought, envisioned and tried.
Our Yoga is not a retreading of old walks, but a spiritual adventure.3
It is not [Sri Aurobindo’s] object to develop anyone religion or to amalgamate the older religions or to found any new religion – for any of these things would lead away from his central purpose. The one aim of his Yoga is an inner self-development by which each one who follows it can in time discover the One Self in all and evolve a higher consciousness than the mental, a spiritual and supramental consciousness which will transform and divinise human nature.4
Having come free from my Christian religion at a young age when one Sunday I decided not to go to church anymore, it was not an easy decision to live with for some time. I found the institution a strange distraction in its belief system. Naturally, my father took my decision as his personal failing in raising me into a good Roman Catholic. I think it is due to the Dutch democratic society and its open education system that also my parents finally understood that religion cannot be forced on someone even if it is your own child. To come free in a society that is already individual-oriented was difficult enough for me, but to come free in a collective-based culture like India’s must be hard. I remember that I did not go to India specifically for its culture and traditions or to adopt a new religion, but to enter more fully into the integral yoga of Sri Aurobindo which addressed the human being and human life at large in the context of transformation and spiritual living. It did not particularly relate to race, nation, religion and culture but to the inmost soul and Atman which are free from such confinements.
I find it striking that Sri Aurobindo and the Mother started from other cultures, England and France, and obviously did not have the unconscious religion of Hinduism to deal with in themselves. This must have been a contributing factor that allowed them to think openly and freely about Indian religion. In the publication ‘On Himself’ Sri Aurobindo states that he built his sadhana and insights on the intrinsically profound Gita, Upanishads and Veda but proceeded in following his own spiritual experiences and insights, formed his own conclusions, and developed the integral or supramental yoga. He points to the unique goal of the supramentalization of the human being and human life, although its principle was foreseen in the Veda it was not previously pursued in the way he and the Mother had done. Maybe Sri Aurobindo was too polite to acknowledge that his vision surpassed all the fields of culture, yoga paths and religions that Hinduism covered. It also revealed entirely new insights of our existence, the evolutionary stages of the human being driven by the inmost soul that ultimately leads to a new creation, the supramental being.
One of the greater insights and genuine freedoms I find in the integral yoga relates to the delicate and complex process of the triple transformation: psychic, spiritual and supramental that incorporates the transformation of mind, vital and body, and the complex nature, character and psyche of each sadhak. They make for one of the integral yoga’s most unique aspects of practice – the freedom for each sadhak to realize the divine through one’s inherently personal way. Evidently, the integral yoga cannot be translated and codified into moral rules and rules of practice applied to all sadhaks.
Each one has his own way of doing Sadhana and his own approach to the Divine and need not trouble himself about how the others do it […].5
It is generally known of Sri Aurobindo’s projection of the supramental future that it is not to be built on the foundations of the past but from a new basis. The Ashram started with only a few rules given to its inmates, and Auroville started on an abandoned plot of land where being ‘above all creeds’ is one of the pronounced ideals for the Aurovilians. The true spirit of a sadhak of the integral yoga points to the effort to go beyond one’s religion and traditional culture, mental or otherwise – the stuff that normally forms and conditions our psyche and external life – with the focus on the change of consciousness that will lead one to the true being and into the spiritual life.
The spiritual life (adhyatma-jivana), the religious life (dharma-jivana) and the ordinary human life of which morality is a part are three quite different things and one must know which one desires and not confuse the three together. The ordinary life is that of the average human consciousness separated from its own true self and from the Divine and led by the common habits of the mind, life and body which are the laws of the Ignorance. The religious life is a movement of the same ignorant human consciousness, turning or trying to turn away from the earth towards the Divine, but as yet without knowledge and led by the dogmatic tenets and rules of some sect or creed which claims to have found the way out of the bonds of the earth-consciousness into some beatific Beyond. The religious life may be the first approach to the spiritual, but very often it is only a turning about in a round of rites, ceremonies and practices or set ideas and forms without any issue. The spiritual life, on the contrary, proceeds directly by a change of consciousness, a change from the ordinary consciousness, ignorant and separated from its true self and from God, to a greater consciousness in which one finds one’s true being and comes first into direct and living contact and then into union with the Divine. For the spiritual seeker this change of consciousness is the one thing he seeks and nothing else matters.6
Uniquely, the integral yoga stands free from history and religion and itself provides the sublime freedom for each sadhak to follow one’s own way to the realization of the divine, and the freedom for the collectivity to live and build a spiritual life that is not prescribed by artificial dogma but inspired by the higher consciousness that ultimately derives from the living supramental plane and that clings to nothing but the essential and abiding truth, – leading to the ultimate goal of the life divine.
1. The Mother, Collected Works of The Mother, On Education, pp. 210–212.
2. Mother’s Agenda, April 29,1961, Vol. II, p. 190 – 191.
3. Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, 1972, p. 109.
4. Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library, Vol.26, “Sri Aurobindo on Himself”, pp. 95-97.
5. Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, 1972, p. 485.
6. Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, 1970, p. 137.