Collaboration - Journal of the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother

Summer 1995, Vol. 21, No. 1


Internet "yoga": Viable or not?

The following comments were made in response to Arvind Habbu's letter in the last issue of NexUS. The comments were posted to Aurodiscuss, a Synthesis of Yoga study group conducted via the Internet (see p. 10), and are reprinted with permission.

Reading Arvind's letter in NexUS, I believe that his comments that "an intense applied silent personal sadhana . . . does not need discussion, nor networking" is in the context of a larger point, that there are altogether too many distractions from the central task of yoga, which is an inner work. He appears to be commenting on the growing number of "sidelights" to the yoga, including the commercialization of spirituality and people advertising their personal paths to transformation. David Hutchinson's article on the Internet and my plug for America Online (which I was asked to write) look to Habbu to be intended to sell people on networking, rather than an invitation to simply "join in if you choose."

If I take Arvind's point correctly, he is saying that you don't need networking, you don't need this one and that one telling you how to transform; what you need is to simply and quietly focus in on "the work"--and there is plenty of that to be found.

Which is not to say that I agree completely with what he says about e-mail and Internet--he may not be qualified to judge, since since he's never been part of any of the "aurolists." I also think that his point of view ignores the whole rationale behind the founding of Auroville--to spread the work out beyond those who wish to do a private sadhana.

I do, however, think he has a point to make--though it is amusing to read his ranting and raving about Silence.

--Will Moss,

The point to start from is I think the varied and different attitudes that people have with regard to communication in itself and in general. The means of communication is in this respect largely irrelevant, though many people in this yoga show a kind of hatred for technology. There will always be people arguing that communication is better avoided, and there will be people arguing that it's needed. It is more a matter of personal preference than anything else. Both an excess of communication and its utter lack have their own pitfalls. It is possible to spend one's life in talking about yoga, without ever actually doing it. It is also possible to create an isolated world of one's own with less and less contact with reality.

Neither discussion nor networking are strictly needed, but what is needed then? I think communication is more or less like action in the Gita, just inevitable. It is another field of this yoga, like our bodies and our lives. Why should one make a rule? I don't expect that all the people in this yoga show an interest in its collective side. But why should those who feel that the collective aspect is important give up and limit themselves to just "an intense applied silent personal sadhana"? Is the equation "discussion = useless gossip" always necessarily true?

Though it is true that some support for Habbu's viewpoint can be found in Sri Aurobindo's letters, we are in a different position than that which is described there: we do not live in an ashram, we are not surrounded by other sadhaks, we do not have Sri Aurobindo or Mother in a physical body to answer our questions. If I decide not to accept any Sri Aurobindo substitute, then there is no one to write a letter to with my questions and get a precise, reliable (meaning more reliable than inner voices), and authoritative answer. I think this makes a great difference.

In my experience I have seen that blindly applying "silence rules" may lead to a solitude that may be stern and solemn (and proud), but often sad and useless. I very often felt that people arguing against any form of communication are those who use yoga as a kind of armor from the rest of the world.

A good question could be: What do we expect from communicating with other sadhaks? I personally expect at least to gain a better intellectual understanding and to learn how to communicate with more awareness, but it's just the very beginning. Hasn't this group undergone an undeniable evolution by the use of conferencing?

--Carlo Chiopris,

To the extent that this electronic interchange succeeds, it becomes less of a discussion of yoga and more of the practice of yoga. It is a practice that involves discussion.

Sri Aurobindo's sadhana involved writing the Arya, evening talks with disciples, and a prolific correspondence. If Sri Aurobindo had been born in 1962 instead of 1872--would not he and his disciples utilize contemporary forms of communication?

The goal and methods of this yoga impel us to explore new frontiers and embrace new modes of the self. Even here in cyberspace we meet the Beloved.


As Sri Aurobindo points out in the chapter "The Four Aids" (Synthesis of Yoga), the written word can serve as a pointer to awaken the inner understanding, just as can the spoken word--or in our time, the e-mail word.

Yes, talk (and much more commonly, voracious reading) can be used as a substitute for real inner work. The mind wants to believe that ideas are the same as experiences, which is patently untrue.

Yet the solution to mental superficiality is not to lock up all your books (and modem) but rather to see that something else is needed.

It is not required in the Integral Yoga to own a modem, any more than it is required to have visited India. The spirit is wider than that. And communication, like action, happens whether we will it or not. It is a part of being in nature, prakriti, the interchange between beings on every level. To single out one type of communication (the written word) and one implementation of it (e-mail) is a denial of life. Nobody expects all those who aspire to Integral Yoga to be online. Neither do all have to live in the Ashram or Auroville, or to have read a certain book, or chant a certain mantra. The spirit is wider than that.

Carlo asks if we should give up the collective aspect and limit ourselves to (quoting Arvind) "an intense applied silent personal sadhana," and wonders if the equation "discussion = useless gossip" always true. For some, at some point, isolation is useful and important. For others, sharing and communication and support are useful. That sharing may take place by sitting around a dinner table in an ashram in Lodi, or through a series of shared letters via e-mail. Have we touched each other less?

So little is known about what collective yoga consists of--and still less of what it might consist of among a community of gnostic (i.e., supramentalized) individuals, that pronouncements in this realm seem premature.

Carlo speaks about getting reliable answers to his questions. We all look for corroboration of our views in many realms, not the least of which is yoga. Without a single authority, it is natural to turn to others for relative guidance. This doesn't imply that inner guidance is less important or should be eschewed; both can help.

Insisting on solitude and silence can be a reaction to uncontrolled vitality. The emotional nature is so strong that the only way to deal with it is to refuse all activity. Again, for some, at some times, this can be useful. But not always or for all.

And how is it bad to feel bolstered on the path through a friendship initiated and conducted electronically? These are not impersonal Usenet discussions among faceless ciphers; they are discussions among a committed group who share personal experiences, uncertainties, and knowledge.

Having an online sangha has "brought me out of the closet" in some ways, by bringing a community of sadhaks into near-daily communication with me. Here is a group of people who are pondering the same deep questions as I am at any time--is that kind of sharing bad? When someone posts a searching reflection to the group, it invites me to search with them--to pay attention to more fundamental questions than the often trivial details of life.

--David Hutchinson,

As to the question "Is the Internet useful for practitioners of Integral Yoga"? The answer seems to be a resounding YES! And this is for many reasons. The Integral Yoga is a collective yoga, and that means not just the lofty "we are all one" stuff. It also means getting to understand and know the others who walk this path, to see things as they do. This insight into others' lives is clearly helpful in many ways. It allows us to see that others' experience some things as we do, face the same problems, and may already have found solutions that they can share. It also shows us in a discreet way that there are other ways than our own, and this gives a greater wideness. This latter growth into wideness is perhaps obvious, but the Net is another means to open to it.

Then, very importantly and practically, karma yoga is an essential part of this yoga. In Auroarchive,* this is not just an idea but a practice and, I may add, a successful way for people to work together who are spread around the country and the world and who have vastly differing schedules. It also allows people to work together who otherwise could not because of the distances.

I would like to return to the "getting to know each other" aspect. This also is not a small factor of significance. Inwardly and in the future we will all be working together in many ways (especially on the central work of transformation). By coming to know each other, this is greatly facilitated.

--Prem Sobel,

* Auroarchive is an online working group dedicated to construction and maintenance of an Integral Yoga Web site on the Internet (see p. 10).

Call for papers--why?

The call for papers regarding readers' yoga practice in the world brought forth mixed thoughts and questions:

"Good. This will help satisfy my curiosity of how others practice the yoga," and, "Instead of big-time visions, this will get down and dirty with the practical applications, experiences (or not!) of the yoga, on a day-to-day basis."

But then the questioning began.

For the persons submitting such articles (indeed, many kinds of articles), what are their motives? To put it in contemporary jargon, "What is your point?"

What motivates us to go public--to spill our mental, our emotional, our yogic guts?

Can anyone claim it is a pure nonegoic act of altruism: "Perhaps this will help someone else in their practice." Why does one think so?

From those who feel they have substantial success with their yoga (by what standards?), do they want to show others how far they have advanced, how insightful they are?

Do some have the need to bare their souls to someone, anyone, because we often feel lonely in our inner work, and this is a captive audience?

Does one simply want the ego satisfaction of their name in print in a publication devoted to our greatest longing?

As readers, why do we search outward for clues toward better practice? (How tempting and endless that exercise can be.) Is it because it is so difficult, and often discouraging, to be patiently alert, to listen, to aspire, for the inner guidance that can provide us with our necessarily individual ways to practice, to be, in order to be given whatever is possible for each of us to receive in Divine Grace?

If the words and experiences of Sri Aurobindo and Mother do not suffice for our inspiration, our guidance, how can those of others help fulfill our needs?

These questions I ask of myself.

Indeed, one wants and needs communion with others in this journey. I have found that gift of communion most fulfilling in an intimate setting of quiet conversation, or even silence, with aspiring friends; or in a spontaneous telephone call or letter from or to a friend in this effort.

Articles regarding practice will satisfy both whatever motives the writers have, and the curiosity of the readers. Perhaps that is all that can be accomplished.

--Gloria DeWolfe, Minnetonka, Minnesota