‘Your blog’, someone wrote to me recently, ‘is a maze’.
That totally baffled person is very eager to understand how to practice the Integral Yoga, and had hoped to find a clear-cut method outlined for that in my blog. As he is probably not the only one visiting this blog, who feels he or she cannot make sense of it all in terms of a description of the Integral Yoga, I’ll give a few more important clues that should help everyone see that in this apparent maze every single post is actually one entrance into the maze, yes, but every time an entrance that does lead towards the Center to be reached: there is no dead end in the maze of my blog, there are only diverse avenues that one can start with, or add to one’s overall approach for practicing the Integral Yoga and reaching that Center… and then, from that Divine Center, for starting to gradually, step by step, reconquer for the Divine all those aspects of life that at the beginning apparently had nothing to do with that Center one wanted to reach.
The important clues I’m going to provide now will be in the form of quotes straight from Sri Aurobindo:
‘The thing to be done is as large as human life, and therefore the individuals who lead the way will take all human life for their province. These pioneers will consider nothing as alien to them, nothing as outside their scope. For every part of human life has to be taken up by the spiritual, – not only the intellectual, the aesthetic, the ethical, but the dynamic, the vital, the physical; therefore for none of these things or the activities that spring from them will they have contempt or aversion, however they may insist on a change of the spirit and a transmutation of the form. In each power of our nature they will seek for its own proper means of conversion, knowing that the Divine is concealed in all, they will hold that all can be made the Spirit’s means of self-finding and all can be converted into its instruments of divine living.’
‘Divinization itself doesn’t mean the destruction of the human elements; it means taking them up, showing them the way to their own perfection, raising them by purification and perfection to their full power and Ananda and that means the raising of the whole of earthly life to its full power and Ananda.’
People used to a more traditional approach to Yoga always tend to expect some special discipline, exercises, rituals to be done at certain times, and as for the rest of one’s life, well, it is ordinary life, with its normal activities dictated primarily by what is considered to be the needs of the body – unless one is in an ascetic way of yoga, living in a cave or alone on some mountain top. In collective forms of spiritual life, the monks or nuns’ existence is punctuated by the various recitations, chantings or meditation times as fixed by the highest authority in the group. Even tourists visiting ashrams here and there in India expect in every new place yet another schedule followed by all, that they too can join in. When they arrive at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry (now Puducherry), they are often taken aback by the absence of such a fixed program for their day, and they may feel lost without it.
Also, just as for most religions everywhere, usually there is some external sign of one’s being part of a specific spiritual grouping: some insignia, or markings on one’s forehead, or some uniform instead of ordinary people’s variegated dress, or some way of cutting/wearing one’s hair… anything in fact may be given some symbolic significance and be adopted by such a grouping as an agreed upon outer way of showing that one belongs to that group.
Again, nothing special of that kind at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram: no saffron robes, no shaven heads, no recognizable common appearance for the inmates of the Ashram – except, ironically, for the most unexpected spiritual activities one discovers in that rather unconventional Ashram: the sports activities. As per the Mother’s orders for reasons of safety and free movement, everyone wears shorts and a simple shirt with short sleeves – everyone, that is, also the ladies, most often Indian ladies (whether from Bengal or from any other Indian region, including of course Tamil Nadu here), who would normally never go out into the streets in such a shocking apparel; but in that part of Pondy it has become since decades a common and perfectly accepted sight every afternoon as those ladies cycle around with a dignified air to and from the Ashram Playground, or take the Ashram buses to reach the vast stadium or the big olympic swimming-pool that are also part of the Ashram. Only the Mother indeed had the spiritual authority, together with the total trust of those disciples, that could bring about successfully such an unprecedented revolution, regarding, of all things, the most touchy in any society: the dress of women in public places and in the company of males. For on top of it there is no gender segregation anyway, as this segregation is one of those human excessive separations that must disappear: to give an example still taken from the sports activities, even for the practice of boxing, girls are invited to participate just as the boys do.
It is life as a whole, in all its aspects and moments, that has to be seen and lived in a different way, with a consciousness gradually shifting from our present mental one, to a consciousness more and more psychicized, that is, transformed by the inner influence of one’s soul (more exactly, our Psychic Being, the Being of our Soul), as well as more and more spiritualized, that is, transformed also by the influence of the energies of the higher spiritual realms. Only when those two necessary preliminary processes, the ‘psychicization’ and the ‘spiritualization’ of our entire outer nature, including our body, are done or well under way, can the third and last transformation, the ‘supramentalization’, start taking place, making finally stable and permanent in ourselves the various changes and progresses accomplished but not yet in an irreversible way during the first two transformations. For this reason the Integral Yoga is inevitably a lengthy process, but characterized by those three distinct phases of this ‘Triple Transformation’, as Sri Aurobindo calls it, the first two phases often happening more or less together and helping each other, while the third, crowning phase can happen only in the end, when most everything in the outer nature of the individual is sufficiently ready.
In truth, no activity, however holy it may be considered usually, is in itself and by itself holy; it all depends with which consciousness and intention it is done. Conversely, any moment of our life that we usually consider ordinary and unholy may become holy if we dedicate it to the Divine. Another way is to infuse into that moment the consciousness that we are actually the Divine, living that moment: the very awareness of that fact automatically shifts our consciousness to a higher level and enables us to live that moment in a diviner way than we otherwise would have. Of course this second inner attitude can dangerously inflate our ego and give us the worst ego of all, a spiritual ego: it wrongly feels itself more special and more important, not realizing that everyone and everything there is, is the Divine too!…
It is because of this very real danger (it can even lead to mental imbalance and downright insanity) that Sri Aurobindo and the Mother always recommended rather the first attitude at the beginning, and until our progressively more and more total identification with our Psychic Being renders more and more impossible any spiritual ego in any part of ourselves. Then we can go safely for the fuller identification with the Divine, that is also necessary if we are to reconquer our full stature and potential for consciously manifesting the Divine here in this world of Matter: the apparent impossibility that from the beginning became the challenge we took up, and the very purpose of our starting to take birth in a terrestrial body…
So, any aspect of life, even for example laughter and fun, usually considered very unholy, can and must in this way be made part of our Yoga; for, as Sri Aurobindo pointed out, life itself is secretly a Yoga:
‘All life is a Yoga of Nature seeking to manifest God within itself. Yoga marks the stage at which this effort becomes capable of self-awareness and therefore of right completion in the individual. It is a gathering up and concentration of the movements dispersed and loosely combined in the lower evolution.’
‘(…) For man is precisely that term and symbol of a higher Existence descended into the material world in which it is possible for the lower to transfigure itself and put on the nature of the higher and the higher to reveal itself in the forms of the lower. To avoid the life which is given him for the realisation of that possibility, can never be either the indispensable condition or the whole and ultimate object of his supreme endeavour or of his most powerful means of self-fulfilment. It can only be a temporary necessity under certain conditions or a specialized extreme effort imposed on the individual so as to prepare a greater general possibility for the race. The true and full object and utility of Yoga can only be accomplished when the conscious Yoga in man becomes, like the subconscious Yoga in Nature, outwardly conterminous with life itself and we can once more, looking out both at the path and the achievement, say in a more perfect and luminous sense: “All life is Yoga.”‘