Summary of Sri Aurobindo's Synthesis of Yoga
by David Hutchinson (

These summaries were done at the same time as the chapter outlines and the essay, A View of the Heights.

Introduction, and Part 1, Chapter 1 Introduction Life and Yoga

A true synthesis of yoga must mirror nature in her method of specialisation followed by synthesis; and must embody the truth that "All life is Yoga" by reuniting god and nature -- making the yoga "coterminus with life itself."

The Three Steps of Nature

There are three steps in nature's evolution in man -- evolved, evolving, and yet to develop. These are the bodily life, the mental life, and "a divine existence which is at once the goal of the other two and returns upon them to liberate them into their highest possibilities."

The Threefold Life

The "threefold life" possible to man is a physical one (characterised by persistence), a mental (idealistic and progressive) or a spiritual (immutable, self-existent perfection.) A true synthesis seeks to use the former as means to reveal the spirit.

The Systems of Yoga

Each school of yoga selects a different aspect of the being for its goal of putting the human in contact with the divine. hathayoga -- the gross body; rajayoga -- the mental being; karma, bhakti, jnana -- some part of the mental being (will, heart, or intellect.)


We must let god (purusa) become the sadhaka in the yoga. From classical yoga we see the emphasis on purusa, from tantra emphasis on sakti. "(Nature) is the self-fulfillment of the purusa through his Energy."

Part 1, The Yoga of Divine Works The Four Aids

Yoga-siddhi comes from the combination of four instruments: sastra, effort, guru, and time. Each has several aspects.

 Chapter 2 Self-Consecration

"The effective fullness of our concentration on the one thing needful to the exclusion of all else will be the measure of our self-consecration to the One who is alone desirable.

Chapter 3 Self-Surrender in Works -- The Way of the Gita

The Gita's central secret of dynamic identity with the inner presence is approached by its three paths of "Equality, renunciation of all desire for the fruit of our works, (and) action done as a sacrifice to the supreme Lord of our nature."

Chapter 4 The Sacrifice, the Triune Path and the Lord of the Sacrifice

"A spiritual union with the Highest by sacrifice" is the heart of the Gita's teaching about works.

Chapter 5 The Ascent of the Sacrifice (1) The Works of Knowledge; The Psychic Being

The problem of the normal activities of knowledge (to accept or reject in the path of yoga) is to let them remain, but transform -- spiritualise and supermentalise -- the consciousness behind them. The only sure guide during the transition from the normal to the supermental is the soul (psychic being) which also needs to be the inspiration behind the works of the heart (rather than the false soul of desire). The soul, pushing towards the divine, seeks the divine love the most.

Chapter 6 The Ascent of the Sacrifice (2) The Works of Love; The Works of Life

In the works of love, we should not refect external symbols, but rather make each act a symbolic offering. The psychic being alone can do this correctly, but only after being raised into the full spiritual consciousness. Works of life seem impure, but are necessary, and the three conditions for the elimination of desire leading to their proper function are 1. Equality, 2. guidance by the psychic being and 3. emergence of the true spiritual person. During the transition the divine sakti opens the consciousness to our hidden aspects, and to universal forces, which we then gain some control over.

Chapter 7 Standards of Conduct and Spiritual Freedom

Of the four standards of conduct -- personal preference, collective good, an ideal law or the divine law -- only the last is absolute and free from compromise or rigidity. The individual is primary, in ethics as well as spiritual growth.

Chapter 8 The Supreme Will

We must get rid of desire, but still act. The will behind action should be that of the purusa, not the ego; an inner quietude brings us to it, and there are progressive manifestations of it in us.

Chapter 9 Equality and the Annihilation of Ego

Of the three steps in bringing about equality -- renunciation of desire for results, of the action and of the sense of being the agent -- the last is most important. When it is done one becomes an instrument of the divine will.

Chapter 10 The Three Modes of Nature

Detachment from the gunas and surrender of our egoistic action will result in a transformation of nature into a higher nature by the supreme sakti.

Chapter 11 The Master of the Work

The transcendent, the cosmic and the immanent are the original trinity; through renunciation of ego we realise these. Until our nature is transformed, the divine works through it; yet the relations between us and the divine thus set up are not mere symbols, but self-expressive realities.

Chapter 12 The Divine Work

Any action can be used for or in liberation -- it has to be decided inwardly, not by standards, but by the spiritual law of our nature, of which universal compassion is a higher aspect than desire for personal salvation.

Chapter 13 The Supermind and the Yoga of Works

We must not be misled, by either lower powers or higher experiences, into taking them for the supermind.

Chapter 1 Part 2, The Yoga of Integral Knowledge The Object of Knowledge

The object of our knowledge is the absolute; to reach it we must initially use the mind, but ultimately use supramental faculties; traditionally the mind, life, and body are rejected, while here only the ignorance is, and extinction of our worldly existence is not necessary, because this Brahman is manifest as it, also.

Chapter 2 The Status of Knowledge

The status of yogic knowledge is one which is only facilitated by the intellect,, and needs to pass through the stages of vision, experience, and identity.

Chapter 3 The Purified Understanding

Purification of the buddhi involves freeing it from mixture with desire, the sense-mind, and an improper, biased will to know. Then intellectual passivity allows the self to be known through it.

Chapter 4 Concentration

Concentration is a method the soul uses to identify itself with any form; when this has gained unity with the superconscient, the necessity for strenuous and ideational concentration ceases.

Chapter 5 Renunciation

Even though external renunciation is useful at times, inward renunciation, above all of egoism, is required. Attachment to anything -- action, inaction, peace, silence -- must be given up.

Chapter 6 The Synthesis of the Disciplines of Knowledge

Although the ancient methods of knowledge, positive and negative, are useful and lead to the realisations of the self as the absolute, or lord, or lord and master, the "truth of His unity" demands that we do not limit ourselves by any one aspect.

Chapter 7 The Release from Subjection to the Body

Through adopting the attitude of the purusa in the mind, one detaches oneself from the body and masters it; calm and inaction are useful states that follow from this stance.

Chapter 8 The Release from the Heart and the Mind

To purify the sense, emotional and thought minds from the confusions of the prana and enable them to function properly, the separation of the mental purusa from each is necessary.

Chapter 9 The Release from the Ego

The fundamental ego-sense which rests on the mental purusa is abolished by our purified consciousness reflecting and then absorbing the jivatman; to secure this status, the jivatman rises into the Brahman.

Chapter 10 The Realisation of the Cosmic Self

The realisation of the self as the container, indweller and fabric of all existences must accompany that of the eternal self, because the self and the world form a continuous scale, not a gulf.

Chapter 11 The Modes of the Self

There are three modes to the self -- ksara, aksara and purusottama (Gita 15:16, 17) -- our relations to which determine our realisation as non-dual, dual, personal, or impersonal; only by entering into the highest can all be unified.

Chapter 12 The Realisation of Sachchidananda

Sachchidananda is our true self, it is the one substantial mode, it is the three inseparable divine terms. The cit modified itself to become the supermind, mind and life on these lower planes.

Chapter 13 The Difficulties of the Mental Being

The difficulties of integrating the human and the divine are not solved by quiescent trance, nor a quiescent reflection of the divine in the mind, but through rising into higher divine mental planes in the waking state.

Chapter 14 The Passive and the Active Brahman

The gulf between the active and the passive Brahman that is set up when one rests in the passive must be bridged by extending the realisation into the multiplicity of the active.

Chapter 15 The Cosmic Consciousness

Buy dwelling in the cosmic consciousness we can dissolve the personality in the universal, but to do this perfectly is difficlut for the mental being. It may also arrive at a cosmic consciousness through the cosmic mind, life, or body. Freedom from cosmic reactions comes only in the supermind.

Chapter 16 Oneness

The integral knowledge unifies all in sachchidananda; the practice of this oneness in difference is the whole yoga; and only the awakening of the supermind can reveal sachchidananda, and transform our lower nature.

Chapter 17 The Soul and Nature

The soul (an expression of sat) must rise out of nature (an expression of cit) and successively assuming its roles as witness, giver of the sanction, and master, fulfill and unite itself with nature in the ananda on the level of sachchidananda.

Chapter 18 The Soul and its Liberation

The soul's true liberation is not in absolute independence, but in a state of mutual inclusiveness with god and the world; our sense of separateness is lost, but individuality remains.

Chapter 19 The Planes of Our Existence

Sri Aurobindo uses the sevenfold arrangement of sachchidananda, vijnana, mind, life and body to describe the various planes, which are essentially a settled poise between the soul and nature. It is our vital and mental sheaths which are aware of the corresponding vital and mental planes, where there are different laws, beings, forces.

Chapter 20 The Lower Triple Purusa

Yoga is the knowledge to which religion aspires. Even after rising out of the physical self into the vital and mental (the triple purusa), we are still subject to prakriti.

Chapter 21 The Ladder of Self-Transcendence

Man has each of the bodies and souls proper to the five levels of anna, prana, manas, vijnana and anandamaya kosas, but the limitations of the first three prevent full spiritual realisation with them. Only by living in the upper two can man draw "the fullness of the infinite spiritual consciousness."

Chapter 22 Vijnana or Gnosis

The gnosis is not pure reason, nor intuition, nor consciousness of the infinite. It is best understood in contrast to the intellect; it is "truth-light full of truth force."

Chapter 23 The Conditions of Attainment to the Gnosis

Two conditions for attainment to the gnosis are a unity, which comes by freedom from ego, and universality, which comes by rising above the body and mind.

Chapter 24 Gnosis and Ananda

The gnostic soul is the first to participate in the power of the eternal, not just reflect it as the lower three can do. It includes the lower realisations in it; they are transformed. The ascent of the soul into the ananda is its last and absolute freedom; here there is not even the voluntary limitation found in the gnosis.

Chapter 25 The Higher and the Lower Knowledge

The methods of external knowledge can not enable one to attain the goal of yoga (possession of god) -- the special methods of purification, concentration and identity are needed. Still, all knowledge purifies to a degree, and lower knowledge is not rejected by knowledge of the absolute, rather it is subordinated and fulfilled.

Chapter 26 Samadhi 

The state of trance is different from the dream and sleep states; it is a useful but not the highest condition; its condition of withdrawal from the outer must be surpassed by bringing the conscsiousness of the higher planes into the waking state.

Chapter 27 Hathayoga

Hathayoga is founded on the connection between body and soul; it uses asana and pranayama to control and direct the vital energy.

Chapter 28 Rajayoga

Rajayoga, through moral purity, pranayama and concentration, opens up the cakras and leads to samadhi. Its aims, but not necessarily its methods, are part of an integral yoga.

Part 3 -- The Yoga of Divine Love

Chapter 1 Love and the Triple Path

Knowledge is the foundation and wideness, works the power, and love the crown and depths of the divine. Each is necessary, and they are equal powers.

Chapter 2 The Motives of Devotion

A personal relation to and response from the divine is necessary to a yoga of devotion; our motives in devotion need to move towards the "unique and self-existent motive of love."

Chapter 3 The Godward Emotions

Fear of god is inconsistent with love, and belongs to the man of works. Even in the master/servant relation as with prayer, it is the relation that matters. The highest love is that of lover/beloved, which seeks only for eternity and intensity.

Chapter 4 The Way of Devotion

Bhakti is essentially an inner adoration, not external worship, and it brings consecration and purification. Adoration by the mind fixes the thought on its object, and culminates in the ecstasy of union. But it can also begin with the highest love, when the heart "becomes the radiantly unfolding lotus of the spirit" in its self-expression.

Chapter 5 The Divine Personality

The intellect ends in abstraction, impersonality; the heart, in personality. A clear spiritual intuition is needed to reconcile these, to see that of the godheads, the divine "is each separately and all together."

Chapter 6 The Delight of the Divine

The delight in the divine for its own sake -- an all-embracing, imperative, perfect and complete delight, which converts all other ways of yoga to it, for which one seeks all activities, which takes the vision of beauty -- this "is the meaning of the way of bhakti."

Chapter 7 The Ananda Brahman

The ananda brahman can reveal hmself to us as the immanent or cosmic or transcendental; in each case a similar opening follows, culminating in transformation.

Chapter 8 The Mystery of Love

The divine which an integral bhakti unites itself with through the essential relation of love is personal, universal and transcendent; in it are all the types of liberation, and it includes divine knowledge and works as well.

Part 4 -- The Yoga of Self-Perfection

Chapters 1-3 The Principle of the Integral Yoga

An integral yoga uses all the powers of the soul; in its synthesis, soul becomes the secret of taking up sakti, a divine communion and perfection of the human in its method, and a collective divine yoga of the human race its culmination.

The Integral Perfection

An integral perfectin includes both the mundane and religious aims; its essence is a union with the divine, union with the universal self, and a supramental action.

The Psychology of Self-Perfection

Man is a spirit using the four instruments of supermind, mind, life and body; its biune character of soul/nature must be seen, and the soul's power of transformative faith is essential to perfection.

Chapter 4 The Perfection of the Mental Being

The three intuitions of the purusa in mind -- saksi, subliminal and supramental -- are what is necessary for it to alter its relation to nature and become master of it. This can take the form of the witness or that of universal and transcendent master; the second dissolves the mental ego nexus through purification, liberation, perfection and delight, and brings true perfection.

Chapter 5 The Instruments of the Spirit

We need to purify the instruments of their two basic defects, separative ignorance and mixture with lower elements. Ignorance creates the vital soul of desire, and its mixture with the mind causes wrong working. Emotions are largely habits of the subconscient citta, and can be transformed. We must use the highest capacity of the buddhi, an intermediary between mind and supermind, which unlike manas exceeds the action of the citta.

Chapter 6 Purification -- The Lower Mentality

The main deformation of the lower mentality is the desire of the psychic prana; this must be gotten rid of and replaced by the true will which it masks; then the purification of the emotional, sensational and dynamic minds is facilitated.

Chapter 7 Purification -- Intelligence and Will

The buddhi -- a development out of the citta and mind -- is the correct instrument to givern the lower mind and so replace the impulses of the desire-soul. When the buddhi is purified of subjection to desire and sensations, it has three proper forms -- a "current understanding", a pragmatic intellectuality, and a mind of knowledge. Still it has two inherent limitations (being limited to mentality and inability to truly unify) which need to be transcended first by forming a link intuitive mind, and then by rising into the gnosis.

Chapter 8, 9 The Liberation of the Spirit

The liberation of the spirit is a freedom from the subtle desire and ego created in it by a deformation of its will to indidualise itself. Its limitations then fall away and it possesses an integral oneness.

The Liberation of the Nature

All of our lower being is a mixture of the three gunas; they must be transcended. Since they have divine equivalents, a perfect freedom comes not by quietistic withdrawal but through acting from the gnosis where tamas, rajas and sattwa become a divine calm, will and light, respectively.

Chapter 10 The Elements of Perfection

The elements of perfection are six -- equality, a perfected dynamism, evolution of the gnostic being, divinising of the body, a perfect gnostic action, and unity with the purusottama.

Chapter 11, 12 The Perfection of Equality

There must be equality of the nature (the emotional, vital, heart and mind) as well as the self; this is preparatory to the equality of sachchidananda.

The Way of Equality

There is a passive way of equality (endurance, indifference or suffering) and an active way; both proceed to develop the three powers of 1. inhibition of reactions, 2. division between higher and lower nature, and 3. an equal tranquility.

Chapter 13 The Action of Equality

The action of equality comes fully by a surrender followed by one's instruments becoming a luminous channel for the divine sakti; it first manifests as a calm in the mind and spirit, and its perfected action transforms all the mental, vital and physical values of things and people.

Chapter 14 The Power of the Instruments

A perfected dynamism of the instruments comes first by a capacity to contain the prana (sakti) in them, and there is a progressive transformation of each by this divine sakti.

Chapter 15 Soul-Force and the Four-Fold Personality

The influence of purusa on prakriti manifests itself as a four-fold force -- for knowledge, strength, interchange and service. All four are latent in all men, and an integral yoga must manifest each at least partially.

Chapter 16 The Divine Shakti

Nature is first seen as mechanical energy; but we seem to be subjectively aware of both nature and soul. When we open ourselves to the greater sakti it first manifests as universal prana; this is still an action limited by our nature and we must move back into the mental purusa, which by increasing purity becomes aware of sachchidananda from the side of purusa (purusottama) or from the side of prakriti (mahasakti). To see their oneness withy each other and with the individual soul is the condition of perfection.

Chapter 17 The Action of the Divine Shakti

When opening to the divine sakti the first necessity is to remove the ego. The three powers of the divine -- jiva, isvara, sakti -- must be understood, and their unity realised. Inaddition, to the passive a more active yoga which opens to the divine sakti, first retaining a sense of doer-ship, then only a sense of personal existence, and finally realising the unity of jiva, isvara and sakti.

Chapter 18 Faith and Shakti

Faith (sraddha) is necessary to the perfections covered so far; it is a power of the spirit which touches our soul; it must always be accompanied by an openness to more truth; the essential faith in an integral yoga is in god and the sakti.

Chapter 19 The Nature of the Supermind

The supermind is a logical necessity of the nature of existence; it freely organises all things; its fundamental character is knowledge by identity -- as also a total knowledge, a direct truth-consciousness, and a direct truth-will. It acts secretly in all processes, though not overtly. Intuition is its strongest manifestation in man, and it is by developing intuition that we move towards it.

Chapter 20 The Intuitive Mind

The conversion to supermind takes place through the intermediary power of the intuitive mind. The four methods to use (and used naturally by the divine sakti) are silence, surrender to the lord in the heart, opening of sahasradala, and intellectual heightening. In the organisation of the intuitive mentality all mental movements become intuitive, yet still modified by the mind; "perfection lies beyond on the supramental levels."

Chapter 21 The Gradations of the Supermind

One usually develops the intuitive mind, then a divine reason, then the supermind. The intuitive mind has the four powers of suggestion and discrimination, inspiration and revelation, and these two pairs form a lower and higher gnosis repectively; all are needed for a complete intuition. The development of the divine reason reverses all our activities and raises them above the mind; it has the same four powers; it is a representation but not the self-power of the spirit.

Chapter 22 The Supramental Thought and Knowledge

The difference between supramental and mental thought and knowledge is that the former is of the essence and has a harmonious unity. It has the characteristics of a knowledge by identity, a truth-vision, a concrete thought or real-idea, and an inward speech. Its action covers the human but inverts it, seeing the essence first, the actualities last.

Chapter 23 The Supramental Instruments -- Thought-Processes

Mental thought action is habitual, pragmatic and ideative. In the supermind the corresponding actions are reversed; there is no discord between them as in the mind; ideative abstractions become densely real, pragmatic creation becomes a "self-determined presentation of eternal truth" and habitual thought the self-determination of a harmony. Mental reason is an intermediary between life instincts and higher intuition; its characteristic power is observation, action and judgement. Supramental reason has analogous movements of observation, judgement, memory, etc.,, but all reversed in action. Its observation of an object is within its cosmic consciousness and there is always a oneness with the object; its process of analytical observation and judgement comprises the particularities, whole, and essentiality of a thing; its memory is an abiding presence of knowledge; its judgement is independent and links knowledge with knowledge.

Chapter 24 The Supramental Sense

Sense is in its essence samjnana; all lower senses derive from the supermind's organisation of samjnana in the supramental senses. Supramental knowledge has four actions: vijnana, a more objective knowledge of the thing known, prajnana (intelligence), and sense. This sense feels all as one being, one substance, in the ananda akasa. 2. Physical senses become supramentalised here, develop an unlimited intensity, and sense in a spiritual space where all is conscius substance. When the pranic kosa (and vital sense) is pened by pressure of the supermind, we become sensitive to vital forces around us, which are felt as the divine sakti. 3. There is a higher and a lower phychical consciousness; the range of the higher is almost illimitable. Its senses receive thought forms from outside; its awakening opens us to other planes and our interaction with them; this interaction is how a master of yoga aids his disciples. Supramentalisation of it results in it being founded on oneness with the minds and souls of all other beings and of nature. Nothing is really external to the fully supramentalised state.

Chapter 25 Toward the Supramental Time Vision

In the ascent to the unified time-consciousness of the supermind there are three stages -- a mind of ignorance, a mind of self-forgetful knowledge, and a mind of knowledge. Man's aids in surpassing his limitation to the present are, first reason, then more important, intuition; but the true vision of the three times begins with the opening of the psychical consciousness. It has numerous powers, including perception of time or space-distant images, and projection in time, but it is liable to error and lower influences. The self-forgetful mind is formed when its intimations surface, and for this to fully replace the mind of ignorance, the mind's constructions (caused by personal will or its inherent summation of actualities) have to be excluded or transformed. In the triple time movement, the intuitive mind must see correctly actualities, possibles, and imperatives. But this still imperfect intuition needs to be taken up in a mind of inspiration, and is again taken up into a mind of revelation. When this opens more to the supramental light, a mind of true knowledge is formed which is the last step in the ascent to the supramental nature.