A View of the Heights: Sri Aurobindo's Integral Yoga
an essay on The Synthesis of Yoga, by David Hutchinson (dbhutchinson@ucdavis.edu)

The following was written in the spring of 1981, after a semester's study of Synthesis with Richard Stein. The essay was an attempt to sum up my understanding of the book at that time, not to relate it to other works by Sri Aurobindo or to other practices or spiritual paths.


"The secret of success in Yoga is to regard it not as one of the aims to be pursued in life, but as the whole of life." Synthesis, p. 65

Sri Aurobindo's yoga in his book, The Synthesis of Yoga, is is broken down into four areas - action, knowledge, love and self- perfection - but in fact the yoga is a unified movement, comprising many aspects, stages, realizations and methods. Yet there are several concepts which are fundamental to the whole, and emerge in chapter after chapter, seen from different standpoints. I hope this paper will serve to show both the interrelatedness and individuality of the fundamental aspects.

When Sri Aurobindo began writing the monthly installments for the Arya that were later to be gathered into the Synthesis, he had been practicing yoga exclusively for four years, and his spiritual development had begun earlier, as the result of his genius absorbing the spiritual heritage of India. His yoga continued long past the period when Synthesis was written (or even revised), and the yoga continues today. Some aspects of it are more fully brought out in his letters to disciples; others are hidden away in Savitri; some have only emerged with the Mother in recent decades.

Six and a half years before the first publication of Arya (on August 15, 1914), Sri Aurobindo went into retreat with a yogi, and through silencing his mind, experienced the silent Brahman. Four months later he was arrested and jailed on a sedition charge; he was held as a pre-trial and trial prisoner for a year. In jail he undertook the yoga of the Bhagavad Gita, and a major turning point in his sadhana was reached. A year later he left active political life and went into seclusion in Pondicherry, where the Arya was written between 1914 and 1921; in fact, he never left Pondicherry until he dropped his body in December 1950.


Sri Aurobindo's use of "synthesis" has a particular connotation as applied to systems of yoga. He does not mean a combination or selection of elements, or successive (even simultaneous) practice of them. A true synthesis comes by finding "a central principle common to all, which will include and utilise in the right place and proportion their particular principles."3 This principle is a union, on one hand, of the more common yogas (Sri Aurobindo terms them "Vedantic"), which are based on the purusa (god, conscious being) as the lord, and on the other hand, tantra yoga, which is based on the sakti (divine mother, conscious energy) as the highest reality. It is the progressively biune and ultimately identical realisation of these which is the central principle in Sri Aurobindo's yoga, and the grades of conception/ experience/realisation/manifestation which are involved in their mutual interplay pervade the Synthesis of Yoga. "It is the self-fulfillment of the Purusha through his Energy." 4 In this context it is useful to know that it was the arrival of the Mother in 1914 which influenced Sri Aurobindo to begin the Arya - an outward display of the sakti/isvara interaction. "No synthesis of Yoga can be satisfying which does not, in its aim, reunite God and Nature in a liberated and perfected human life."5

The surrender to/faith in/ascent into/descent of the divine and its sakti is, in a sense, the central movement of the whole yoga. Once surrender to this biune consciousness-force is complete, "your way is sure and your perfection inevitable. A supreme Presence within you will take up your Yoga and carry it swiftly along the lines of your Swabhava to its consummate completion."6 "Abandoning all disciplines, take refuge in me alone." (Gita 18:66)


Equality is both the "first word" of works and knowledge, and the "first necessity" for spiritual perfection. "Remember first that an inner quietude... is the first condition of a secure sadhana."7 As in all of the "special psychological processes (of Yoga)" it is "founded on a fixed truth of Nature."8 The Gita (5:19) asserts that Brahman is equality (samam brahma), and then (5:24) that a person who knows this Brahman, becomes it (brahmabhuta). For Sri Aurobindo this becoming involves two stages: identity in consciousness and identity in manifestation (action based on equanimity).

Identity is closely tied to equality; it is the fundamental power of the supermind (vijnana); it is the truth behind concentration, which in turn is necessary to surrender - "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." Identification with states of consciousness comes about by the power of faith -- "The faith of each man, 0 Bharata, is according to his stuff of being. This Purusha, this soul in man, is made of faith, and whatever is his faith, verily he is that."10

Concentration "is the means by which the individual soul identifies itself with and enters into any form, state or psychological self-manifestation (bhava) of the Self."11 From an increasing equanimity one can reflect and absorb the silent Brahman; the egocentric orientation of consciousness is attenuated, ultimately dissolved; and through the active faith of the soul in isvara/sakti, one's nature and actions are transformed into the active Brahman.

A movement closely tied to equality and the abolition of desire is the stilling of the mind. In its beginnings it passes from quietude to calm, then peace, and finally silence.12 The highest stage of this movement is the silent Brahman, but it must be understood that the silent Brahman is essentially one with its active aspect, even though they can be experienced distinctly. The mind's tendency to see dissolution in an eternal stillness as the highest state is a result of its foundation in the separateness of matter; it does not recognize that manifestation is linked inseparably with the absolute. "All the Timeless presses towards the play in Time; all in time turns around and upon the timeless Spirit."13


There is in man an aspect which Sri Aurobindo calls the vital being. In many ways it is the key to a successful understanding and practice of yoga. In its purity the vital is a delegate of the divine sakti - it has a proper function, which is to enjoy and possess and act. But its distorted action, its wrong movement, creates desire - which is the strongest support of the ego, and thoroughly mixed in with it. This distortion comes about because man is an evolutionary being, and his vital is a development out of a physical body. The limitations of this body transmit a consciousness of incapacity to the vital, which reacts with a desire to possess, to expand, to maintain. The mind in turn, being a development out of the vital (life-force) is tangled up or "shot through with the threads .. . of this Prana"4 Desire is not a necessary state - it is the result of a power, still in development and still imperfect, being misled. The mind has higher ranges which can follow a more illumined path, but to reach them one must deal with mental desire, which is an admixture of this wrong movement of the vital with the mind proper.

Purification of the vital from desire is related to several methods, stages and experiences. Some of them are minor and directed to secondary goals - such as the control of prana by asana and pranayama. The most important movement here is the emergence of the psychic being from behind the cloud of the surface desire-soul. It is only the psychic which in karma yoga can make the correct offering of action to the divine; in bhakti yoga it is the psychic which establishes the divine relation; in jnana yoga the psychic rises into the absolute after being released from ego-sense.

The progressive widening of the vital consciousness can also lead one to a realisation of the cosmic prana, and if this is rightly transcended, the cosmic becomes a movement of the divine sakti, divine mother. The vital in all its complexity - the vital being (pranamaya purusa), the surface desire-soul, the vital plane of consciousness, other vital beings, the vital's influence on mind -- is an "almost illimitable" source of experiences, not all beneficial by any standard. One must recognise the secondary character of these occult phenomena and bypass them or rely on the true soul to guide oneself through them. Also, the practice of equality is primarily a method of overcoming desire and ego, and replacing them by oneness with the cosmic and transcendent divine.

In its wideness and truth the vital being is an aspect of cit-sakti, consciousness-force. But in the evolutionary emergence its movements are usually false, incomplete, ignorant and misleading. In most of our everyday life we are interacting with others on the vital as well as physical and mental spheres. This give and take can be uplifting or degrading and in most people it is subliminal, not subject to conscious control. Realisations (not simply experiences) of higher consciousness cannot be had as long as one's action is thus blown about by vital winds - some sort of control is necessary, which is only complete when one surrenders totally to the lsvara, who is in unity with the source of the vital (the cit-sakti).


Karma yoga has three central movements, all hinging upon one's character as an active, willing person. The first is based on a recognition of the fallacy of desire, and thus one renounces desire for the results of actions. This begins to loosen the hold of ego on motivation, and is primarily an inner offering, as are the second two. Next, one surrenders the action itself, and in the perfection of this offering becomes a passive instrument of the will of god. The next stage is a falling away of even this sense of being an instrument. Then the divine sakti transforms the being, free from any constricting ego-sense; but its perfection can only come when the instruments have all been purified, and not just the ego eliminated. "After the removal of the veil of ego, the removal of the veil of Nature."15 Only the direct action of the supermind can do this. So the fourth stage of karma yoga is action performed by the divine sakti through the supramentalised vessel of the individual.

"In this Yoga all depends on whether one can open to the Influence or not."16 The central aspect to a yoga of action is the will behind the action. The action must be done right, it must be done for the right reasons. Because in this yoga one is using intention as the human aspect to be transformed first, the first necessity is turning over (surrender) of that will to its divine source. This can only be done fully if we can concentrate with all of our being on the supreme, and if the limitations of ego-desire have been weakened by the practice of equality. The psychic being, because it has knowledge of and power over the extended subliminal mind, life and body, needs to emerge so that the sacrifice (surrender) can be complete. The most natural and compelling movement of the soul (an expression of Ananda) is to offer itself to its greater Ananda akasa and be dissolved in this bliss.

There are three powers which in general are the sources of our actions - and a fourth which is yet to come. The first is the vital being - these impulses are mostly for satisfaction, power and acquisition of various kinds; a life governed by the vital may be very dynamic, but it carries the burden of a large ego and often violent defects. The mind can also lead one's being - at its utmost it erects ideals and tries to persuade the vital and physical (bodies) to adhere to them. But the mind is easily misled by influence of the vital desire, and the natural limitations of the mind prevent it from being effective. The third power is that of the psychic being. Psychic guidance is the first which is in its essence a pure movement towards the divine (although imperfections of the instruments may distort the original impulse). Total surrender of the psychic to the divine (purushottama) brings the fourth power - the divine will. Here is the complete manifestation of it, but at all stages this will expresses itself, more or less, according to the purity of the individual. It can reveal itself at any point, on a scale from faint intuition up to a total perception/will of what is to be done.


The movement of jnana in Sri Aurobindo's yoga has three stages - vision, total experience, and identity with the absolute. It is essentially a path of purifying the instruments, especially the buddhi, until one reflects saccidananda (vision), until one feels it in the mind, life and body (experience), until one's consciousness becomes it (identity). This is also spoken of as the three powers of concentration knowledge, acquisition and identity.17 Purification of the instruments is initially achieved by drawing back into the purusa of each, which frees one from the self-imposed limits of its surface form. The most subtle form to be transcended is the ego-seed which resides on the mental purusa; when that is done, the soul (jivatman) is free to rise into the Brahman - the aim of knowledge.

Sri Aurobindo is quick to point out that the true absolute, which is the goal of knowledge, includes the relative forms of knowledge, secular and occult, as well. None need be eliminated, but all must be undertaken in the right consciousness and for the right reasons - the divine. This means that both these forms of comprehension of the complexities of the world are secondary to possessing the divine, and need to be recognized as such. This is especially true with knowledge and experience of the vital plane and consciousness, which can be extensive and is particularly appealing.


Sri Aurobindo's metaphysics is based on the triune principle of sacchidinanda; all the levels of reality below it are essentially settled relations between the soul and nature - each has a different appearance, laws, consciousness and movements. The arrangement which Sri Aurobindo uses most extensively is a seven-fold hierarchy of "mind, life and matter, the triune spiritual principle of sachchidananda and the link principle of vijnana."18 The pure existence, consciousness-force and delight (of sacchiddnanda) is originally organized by a supramental gnosis into a unified but multidimensional whole - the supramental "real-idea." Isvara/sakti coincide here, and could be equally well termed purusottama, or supreme soul. On the overmental level their action/spheres of influence/appearance begin to differentiate and separate. lsvara descends from its identity with sakti, which becomes the pliant energy, but no longer one substance with, what is now termed purusa. One stage lower, purusa becomes the upholder/remover of the sanction which allows prakriti (nature) to act; it becomes the light of consciousness which sets the photoelectric engine of nature running; and if this light turns away, nature's motor runs down and eventually stops. Lower still, the conscious soul (purusa) has become silent, withdrawn, and has lost all influence on the world - which is now a mechanical creation acting by its self-contained and circumscribed forces/laws/gunas.

The pure spark of this purusa - soul - is the grain of sand around which the pearl of the "formed soul" develops in man. This is the psychic being, whose guidance is so imperative in the yoga of action, whose ascent into the absolute is the aim of knowledge, and whose essential nature of Ananda is the secret to the yoga of love. In fact, the identity of the soul with god and nature completes the synthetic yoga - god, nature and the individual then become three aspects of a single reality. on yet lower levels the purusa becomes the soul of mind, the soul of life, the soul of body. Around this multiple soul Is formed the subliminal. Its purity is only partially manifested and felt in our present conscious life. This subliminal being is the gateway to the cosmic consciousness in which it exists, but for purity of motive and movement this consciousness must be led by the psychic; for ultimate realisation/transformation the soul must surrender to the purusottama and merge with it.

This merger, and the descent preceding it, must not be misunderstood. Each stance of the purusottama in its self-modulations is an eternal status, a grade of existence: each is necessary to the perfection that is the whole. Yoga is not a blurring of distinctions, a permanent dissolution of the individual, or an elimination of any aspects of life; it is the progressive illumination of confusion by truth and manifestation of the divine nature (mahasakti) through the transformed individual.

Sri Aurobindo often makes use of a five-fold classification of purusa, one that has a tradition in Vedantic thought. To be exact, the terms often denote vessels or sheaths, and Sri Aurobindo has employed "purusa" for "kosa" (vessel), changing the meaning to "the soul made of matter," or of life energy, of mind, of gnosis, of delight.

Each of these purusas can enter into and reflect saccidananda, but the gnostic soul is the first "to participate not onlv in the freedom, but in the power and sovereignty of the Eternal."19 Even so, the gnostic soul is still subject to voluntary limitation to an individual center. This is only overcome when the gnostic soul enters into the soul of love.

The relation between delight (ananda) here and in the trinity of sacchidananda is not always clear. In the movement of identification upward, ending in the Anandamaya purusa, the ananda (as also in the yoga of love) is the crown of existence. "The supermind (vijnana) itself in the descending degrees of the manifestation emerges from the Ananda and in the evolutionary ascent merges into the Ananda."20 However, as an element of sacchiddananda, ananda is equal in status and importance with sat (existence) and cit (consciousness).


Book three of Synthesis, the yoga of love, is the most frustrating of the four. It s a seed, not the developed plant - Sri Aurobindo had intended to expand it, but this was never done. It is only 60 pages out of 870, and yet here and elsewhere he makes it clear that the summit of love - divine delight, ananda, the delight in existence - is also the crown of existence. Even the consummation of the yoga of knowledge is an absorption of the gnosis into this divine beatitude, where "every darkness will be converted into a pregnant glory of light and the discords which the mind creates...will disappear on the eternal summit, in the in- finite extensions where they are always one."21

The essence of the yoga of love is the eternal relation between the soul and god, between jivatman and purusottama. This relation is founded on delight, it moves in delight, its substance is delight. All approximation to this play of ananda between aspects of the one purusa is a lower and impure form of love; all must be merged into this divine relation of the lover and the loved. The bliss of the presence of the divine in this relation "is an ecstatic contemplation; ... its bliss is not the peace of unity, but the ecstasy of union."22

Bhakti yoga begins with emotions. Since it is a way of putting oneself into relation with god, the character of one's relation with it and one's motivation for it are all-important. The emotion of fear, really a lower form of awe at the power of god, is incompatible with the love that must develop, and is more proper to karma yoga, where one surrenders to the divine ruler.

"As supramental Truth is not merely a sublimation of our mental ideas, so Divine Love is not merely a sublimation of human emotions; it is a different consciousness, with a different quality, movement and substance." "The true love for the Divine is a self-giving, free of demand, full of submission and surrender; ... In return the Divine Mother also gives herself, but freely -...recreating you in the divine nature ... her love enveloping you and carrying you in its arms."23


Sri Aurobindo saw many levels to existence and to consciousness. Not all are good: some are harmful, some simply misleading. One key aspect to the yoga is a constant movement upwards - there is always a stress on using the highest or most evolved aspect of oneself to contact the divine. The Synthesis is based on a view of man as being primarily a soul in mind, rather than other possible views.24 In other words, man's characteristic type is as a mental being, but his true consciousness is the soul behind the mind. "At first what is necessary is that the pure touch of the spiritual force must intervene in mental nature."25 The three fundamental processes of the mind used are knowing, willing and feeling. The triple path of the Gita is essentially a turning of these three into spiritual movements. The intellect (buddhi) is also given importance as the "natural leader" of the mental machinery below it - it is the highest form of consciousness that a man who cannot transcend his mind is capable of using - hence the importance of its correct working. There are many mental and supramental levels beyond the buddhi; one that plays a great importance in the ascent and purification of the intellect is intuition, the intuitive mind.

A transformation of one's body, vital and mind by a supermental consciousness/force/gnosis/"real-idea" is always the culmination of this yoga, after which a truly divine life of the individual begins. Yet in an unfinished chapter written as part of a revision of Synthesis which Sri Aurobindo had planned, he speaks of the relative place which the supermind holds in the goals of yoga - one's effort should always be directed towards the divine for its own sake, and nothing else.

He also speaks of the possibility of mistaking other extra- ordinary experiences as being truly supramental. This is important. Knowledge, in its wider sense of physical, vital, mental, and supramental understanding, is the "foundation" of the triple path, and the necessity for accurate discrimination is always needed. This is especially true on higher levels of experience, where an extra-ordinary or forceful experience can mislead one into believing that it is the supreme status.

One such discrimination is a trinity which must be seen in its whole and its parts, and which pervades the Synthesis. There are constant warnings not to fasten onto one as the sole truth or reality of things, to the exclusion of the other two. These are god, nature and the soul (transcendent, cosmic and immanent), which "must be, as it were, three consenting parties to the effort (of yoga)."26


In some areas the Synthesis only points to the culmination of a movement instead of explaining it at length. This is done with the transformation of the body, which is, when the rest of one's being is perfected, the final stage which involves change from a lower condition to a higher; after that begins the perfect supramental action. The reasons for this omission may be unclear, but it illustrates an important aspect of a yoga of self-perfection - that the necessary faculties for living a divine life are not yet formed in most persons. Perfection does not mean simply moving in tune to some on-going cosmic dance, or resting eternally in a unitary consciousness beyond change it is an action of the transcendent through the individual in harmony with the universal.

The supermind is not overtly active in manifestation; it is involved, latent. While it is true that man's present being - physical, vital, mental - need only to be transformed by a supramental action upon and in them, this supramental action cannot occur without first building a bridge between the mind and the supermind. The latter chapters in Book Four of Synthesis describe the gradations of consciousness that form this link.

There is a confusing point here. If the soul (psychic being) is identical in essence and consciousness with god, why is it necessary to develop anything? The answer is that the soul is here to express itself fully and perfectly, and this perfect action is only possible if it has perfect instruments to act through.

There are different ways to mark off the levels of mind leading to supermind, but three things should be noted about such explanations. First, all the levels are continuous, and so their labels are convenient maps; but the conceptual borders thus marked off do not indicate impassable walls, merely useful categories "for the better possibility of understanding in an intellectual statement."27 Second, every level below the supramental is limited in some way by the confused action or inherent limitations of the mind (even cosmic mind). Third, although fluid and variable, these distinctions assume a great importance once one begins to experience and develop them, particularly because of the mind's tendency to stop short at a vast and lofty, but not yet perfect, condition. Sri Aurobindo often asserts that a person's conception of the goal in effect limits him to it - it is a curious power of the mind to thus erect self-imposed boundaries, which is based on the powers of identity and faith.

Mental intuition is the mental action immediately above the pure human reason. When completely formed, intuition, as used here, encompasses a wider concept than normally understood. But this complete intuition is not yet manifest generally - what is possible to most people is a sporadic illumination of one's mind, a light quickly covered up by mental interpretations and other movements. By becoming passive to their higher intuitions (i.e., not subconscious instincts), people can extend the scope of this intuition until it develops into an intuitive mind proper. The action of the complete intuitive mind has four aspects - "an intuition that suggests its idea, an intuition that discriminates, an inspiration that brings in its word... and a revelation that shapes to the sight its very face and body of reality."28 These four are usually developed progressively, the first two forming a lower mental gnosis and the last two a higher one. Even here Sri Aurobindo is quick to point out that the lower is necessary for a complete action, and without it the higher could not communicate adequately with more normal mental actions.

By the pressure of the supermind, the intuitive mind begins to change into the divine reason. Here, the direct action of the supermind is first manifested, although still in a circumscribed manner. In essence this action is a reversal of all the lower actions of mind and intui- tion; here consciousness begins to move from essence to phenomena, from unity to diversity, from the transcendent to the individual, rather than the reverse, normal action. (This human/divine inversion of movement and orientation is often shown in symbols by a reversal of an earth or human symbol - such as the interlocked triangles of the Sri Yantra, an element of Sri Aurobindo's yantra.) Divine reason is also marked by the capacity, for the first time, of the individual to form thoughts and volitions "wholly on the supramental level;" but it has the flaw that once formed, these "real-ideas" must pass through mind to be manifested.


Nothing about Sri Aurobindo's yoga can be truly understood without at least a hint of the nature, scope and movements of the supermind.

"I mean by the supramental the Truth-Consciousness whether above or in the universe by which the Divine knows not only his own essence and being but his manifestation also. Its fundamental character is knowledge by identity, by that the Self is known, Sachchidananda is known, but also the truth of manifestation is known, because this too is That - sarvam khalvidam brahma ... Supermind is the Knower possessing knowledge ... a dynamic and not only a static Power, not only a knowledge, but a Will according to Knowledge."30

Synthesis stresses the contrasting character of the mind (including the intuitive) and the supermind. This is important because, until one is guided by the psychic being or the spirit, one's way of knowledge/will/feeling is primarily mental. The basic difference between mind and supermind is that the mind is a product of inconscient matter, and is constantly struggling to bring together particulars into a whole; whereas the supermind is established in unity, and all its actions are spontaneous harmonies of the whole, which always retain a consciousness of the essential unity - it is "truth-light full of truth-force."31

The transformation of one's being by this supermind is everywhere shown as the final transition beyond which lies the obscurely shining realms of a pure supramental action. Two other transformations, either of which can precede the other, are the psychic and the spiritual. The psychic transformation is a change of our self-awareness from ego and false desire-soul to the true soul. The spiritual change is an experience of higher states - sacchidananda at the highest - and channeling their energies through a still imperfect individual system. The supramental transformation involves perfection of all previous movements, parts of our being, and states of consciousness - including the body and physical sensation.

Once the supramental transformation is complete, a new type of man emerges, with a corresponding change in his subsequent growth and evolution. It is a new life, a new yoga - a life divine. "A supramental or gnostic race of beings would not be moulded in any fixed pattern; for the law of the Supermind is unity fulfilled in diversity, and therefore there would be an infinite diversity in the manifestation of the gnostic consciousness ... In the gnostic evolution there would be a great diversity in the poise, status, harmonised operations of consciousness and force and delight of existence. There would naturally appear in time many grades of the farther ascent of the evolutive Supermind to its own summits; but in all there would be the common basis and principle."32

In a letter written to his brother in 1920, Sri Aurobindo states, "The physical body, the life, the mind and understanding, the supermind and the Ananda - these are the spirit's five levels. The higher we rise on this ascent the nearer to man comes the state of that highest perfection open to his spiritual evolution. Rising to the supermind, it becomes easy to rise to the Ananda. One attains a firm foundation in the condition of the indivisible and infinite Ananda, not only in the timeless Parabrahman but in the body, in life, in the world. The integral being, the integral consciousness, the integral Ananda blossoms out and takes form in life. This is the central clue of my yoga, its fundamental principle."33

"Within this moisture living,
Thy lamp now first is giving
A clear and splendid sound"
Proteus, to the newborn homunculus, in Goethe's Faust. 34


The problems I have in understanding Sri Aurobinco come towards the end of his books, especially Synthesis and Life Divine, which both finish with descriptions of the supermind, or supramental man, or his life and society. He explicitly says at numerous points that the working of this gnosis is of a radically different nature - in fact the reverse - than the awareness of mind, and so is by its very nature incomprehensible by the mind. Yet I have also found it true that as I explore the yoga of Sri Aurobindo, new areas are opened up and old ones confirmed by my experience. It seems that he wasn't fooling, and he wasn't fooled.

There are many possible levels of approach to this yoga and this man - literary, philosophical, devotional, comparative, skeptical, practical, intellectual, and so on. I have found that each gives a different answer, a different evaluation, a different perspective.

On a literary level there is no doubt the world would have been grateful for a wider variation in Sri Aurobindo's style - especially in the direction of simplicity. It is possible to criticize his intellectual orientation or omissions, but not his insights or central concepts - which accord well with experience. It is not possible for one man to express the whole truth, even if desirable. Will there be no new flowers tomorrow? In philosophy no system is without holes, but relatively speaking, Sri Aurobindo's holds up with the best. The basic philosophical test - checking an idea's consistency with all that one knows and has experienced - gives his yoga a high grade. As a practical matter there can be few arguments about the results as seen in those who follow his yoga - I have yet to meet someone who was truly critical of Auroville or its people. This stems from a simple but illustrative point. Sri Aurobindo was emphatic about the value and necessity of all things, all life, all possibilities within the divine. By insisting on the inner change to accompany activities, and not rejecting any in particular, he opened the door to spiritual growth and expression in all of life. It would indeed be sad if Brahman was only some dusty ether which made the eyes cloud over, and not a friend, or friendship, or the rising sun, or the tree at your back, or the song in your heart.

Comparative religion will always show disagreements among faiths, because of the cultural differences expressed in belief and practice. Comparative spirituality - comparing the spirit of something to that of others - shows Sri Aurobindo's yoga to be in harmony with every good system I have known and tried. His emphasis on simple, basic qualities - calmness, patience, love, faith, perseverance, tolerance, concentration, purity, correct knowledge - fits in well with the spirit of all valid religious or spiritual systems, while his elaboration of metaphysical/occult/ psychological reality is as inclusive, if not as detailed, as any to be found.

An equal and essential love
with each small life of earth,
And all that shows itself as stuff
encompassed by delight alone
enlightened by the knowledge, born
Through his mother's trial and pain;
an image of her father's name.


of terms in the order encountered

spiritual practice
self-nature, essential nature
the absolute, the source of all
gnosis, supermind
the master (of nature); inseparable from sakti
an emotional entity created by the surface vital being
psychic being
the true soul
the mind, life (vital) and body
overmental level
the main level of cosmic mind below supermind
a quality of nature, of which there are three - tamas (inertia), rajas (kinesis) and sattva (harmony)
sarvam khalvidam brahma
"All is indeed Brahman"
the transcendent Brahman


1. Aurobindo, Sri (Ghose, Aurobindo) The Synthesis of Yoga Pondicherry, India: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1973
2. Aurobindo, Sri, Savitri Pondicherry, India: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1973
3. Synthesis, p. 37
4. Synthesis, p. 39
5. Synthesis, p.4
6. Aurobindo, Sri, Essays on the Gita, Pondicherry, India: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1972 pp. 574, 575
7. Aurobindo, Sri, Bases of Yoga, Pondicherry, India: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Press, 1960, p. 23
8. Synthesis, p. 3
9. Synthesis, pp.78,79
10. Jhunjhunwala, Shyam Sunder, The Gita, Auroville, India: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1974, p. 206 (Verse 17:3)
11. Synthesis, p. 306
12. Bases of Yoga, p. 10
13. Synthesis, p. 112
14. Synthesis, p. 337
15. Synthesis, p. 240
16. Bases of Yoga, p. 32
17. See Part 2, chapter 4 of Synthesis
18. Synthesis, p. 429
19. Synthesis, p. 480
20. Aurobindo, Sri, The Life Divine, Pondicherry, India: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1977, p. 990
21. Synthesis, p. 488
22. Synthesis, p. 549
23. Aurobindo, Sri, Letters on Yoga, Pondicherry, India: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1971, pp.754,757
24. See Synthesis, pp. 598-600 for other views.
25. Life Divine, p. 955
26. Synthesis, p. 26
27. Synthesis, p. 793
28. Synthesis, p. 783
30. Letters on Yoga, p. 242
31. Synthesis, p. 465
32. Life Divine, pp.971,1009
33. Quoted from Purani, A.B., The Life of Sri Aurobindo, Pondi- Pondicherry, India: 1978, p. 17
34. Goethe, J.W. von, Faust, A Tragedy, trans. by Bayard Taylor, New York, Random House, 1950, p. 131