Year : 2014 | Volume
: 46 | Issue : 1 | Page : 37--42
Integral Yoga - A new yoga
Niranjana H Bhate
Department of Moral and Social Sciences, Tilak Maharashtra University, Pune, Maharashtra, India
Niranjana H Bhate
A/502, Nisarg Kiran, Krishna Nagari, Nakate Vasti, Rahatani, Pune - 411 017, Maharashtra
Background: Many new systems of yoga have emerged in India in the last few centuries. Their uniqueness lies in their distinct philosophy and methods. Clear understanding of the aims and methods of any system of yoga is essential to attain its desired goal.
Aim: The objective of this paper is to study Sri Aurobindo«SQ»s Integral Yoga and to see if its aims and methods are new and differ from those of the traditional systems of yoga.
Materials and Methods: The current study used the descriptive method, wherein there was comparison of content from texts. Sri Aurobindo«SQ»s books on yoga and other reference works constituted the primary and secondary sources, respectively.
Results: Based on analysis of the content referred to, it has been observed that the aims and methods of Integral Yoga are new.
Conclusion: The study revealed the fact that even though Integral Yoga synthesizes various Indian traditional systems of yoga, due to its distinct aims and methods, we can consider it as a new yoga.
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Bhate NH. Integral Yoga - A new yoga.Yoga Mimamsa 2014;46:37-42
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Bhate NH. Integral Yoga - A new yoga. Yoga Mimamsa [serial online] 2014 [cited 2020 Feb 26 ];46:37-42
Available from: http://www.ym-kdham.in/text.asp?2014/46/1/37/140635
Yoga has been practiced in India since ancient times. The Upaniṣads and the Indian philosophical systems like Buddhism, Jainism and Tantra describe yoga as a means to attain emancipation while Pātañjala Yoga describes yoga both as a means as well as an end. Methods of yoga of the philosophical systems mentioned above are unique. However, even though the methods are different, their common aim is to attain liberation. In the last century, Sri Aurobindo introduced "Integral Yoga." Although it is the modern synthesized version of Indian yoga, it appears that its aims as well as methods are different and new as compared to the other systems of yoga. In order to see whether this is really the case, it becomes essential to understand Integral Yoga based on a thorough study of the related texts.
The objective of this article was to study Integral Yoga with the help of related texts to see whether the aims and methods of Integral Yoga are distinct and new to that of Indian traditional systems of yoga.
The descriptive method was used for the current study. The primary sources included the original texts and the books written by Sri Aurobindo. The secondary sources included other reference works related to the topic. The books written by Sri Aurobindo were referred for the study of Integral Yoga. The secondary sources were referred for comparison of Integral Yoga with other Indian traditional systems of yoga. The data collected from both the sources was properly studied and analyzed to arrive at a conclusion.
The study revealed the following results:-
The aim of Integral Yoga is to merge into the Divine consciousness and further to bring down the Supramental consciousness on the earth to transform the mind, life and body. Its aim is not to attain liberation. The aim of Indian traditional systems of yoga is mainly to attain emancipation. The method of Integral Yoga involves practice of work, knowledge and devotion. It further includes triple transformation (psychic, spiritual and supramental) and transformation of lower nature (physical, vital and mental). The aims and methods of Integral Yoga are different from the Indian traditional systems of yoga.
In this section, the philosophy, aims, psychology, pre-requisites and methods of Integral Yoga are discussed in detail. Further, comparison of Integral Yoga with other Indian systems of traditional yoga is done to note similarities and differences between them.
Philosophy of Integral Yoga
The philosophy of Integral Yoga is "Realistic Advaita." According to this, the world is a manifestation of the real and is itself real. The Divine has created the world and manifested it in his own infinite being. But in the material world, he has hidden himself in what seems to be opposites, non-being, inconscience, and insentience. The world has been created to develop into a perfect manifestation of the Divine (Aurobindo, 2004). Sri Aurobindo refutes both Māyāvāda of śañkara and the flux theory of Buddhism. He accepts both dynamic and static aspects of the Supreme (Aurobindo, 2005).
Aims of Integral Yoga
The aim of Integral Yoga is to enter into and be possessed by the Divine presence and consciousness, to love Divine for Divine's sake alone, to be tuned in our nature, our will and works into the nature of Divine and let life be the instrument of the Divine. Its aims are also to first enter into the Divine consciousness by merging into it the separative ego, and secondly to bring down Supramental consciousness on the earth to transform mind, life, and body (Aurobindo, 2005). Its aim is not individual achievement of divine realization for the sake of an individual, but something to be gained for each consciousness here, a cosmic and not solely a supracosmic achievement. On the other hand, the aim of other Indian traditional systems of yoga is to attain individual emancipation. Thus, we understand that the aims of Integral Yoga are different from that of Indian traditional systems of yoga.
Psychology of Integral Yoga
Yoga is a practical psychology. Several planes of consciousness are discussed in Integral Yoga as follows:-
It is the portion of the Divine in us which supports all the rest and survives through death and birth. This Central Being has two forms - above, it is Jivātman and below, it is the Psychic Being which stands behind mind, body, and life. Jivātman is neither born nor evolves, but presides over the individual's birth and evolution, and puts forward a representative of itself on each plane of the consciousness. On the mental plane, it is the True Mental Being, Manomaya Puruṣa; on the vital plane, the True Vital Being, Prāṇamaya Puruṣa; and on the physical plane, it is the True Physical Being, Annamaya Puruṣa. On the other hand, Psychic Being is the Central Being for the purpose of evolution. It enters into the body at birth and goes out of it at death.
Triple lower nature
The mental, vital, and physical are called the triple universe of the lower hemisphere. The planes of vital, mind, and physical are as follows:
Vital refers to the life force in plants, animals, or man. It is a necessary force in the body without which nothing can be done in bodily existence. It can be purified, but is not to be destroyed. It is made of desires, feelings, and passions. Emotional vital is the seat of feelings such as love, joy, hatred, and sorrow. Central vital is the seat of stronger feelings such as ambition, pride, fear, desire for fame, attraction and repulsion, desires, and passions. Lower vital consists of small desires/occurrences of daily life such as desire for food, sex, quarrels, anger, and blame. True vital is the Prāṇamaya Puruṣa that obeys the Divine will.
Mind proper is divided into three types as follows:
Thinking mind: It is concerned with ideas and knowledge.
Dynamic mind: It is the mental force for realization of the idea.
Externalizing mind: It is expression in the form of speech and in any form.
Physical or material consciousness is mostly subconscious. It is inertia, doubt, dullness, and ignorance.
Subconscient: It is below the waking physical consciousness. It is between inconscient and surface conscious mind, life, and body. It causes mechanical repetition of old thoughts, as well as, that of old mental, vital, and physical habits. It is responsible for our illness that is mostly chronic and repeated.
Inconscient: It is the basis of material world. In Vedas, it is called as Asat or non-being. It is infinite consciousness, dark, and the trance of self-absorption.
Subliminal: It is a consciousness larger than our surface consciousness. It is the inner being including inner mind, inner life, and inner vital.
Superconscient/Superconscience: It is above and beyond our present consciousness. It includes higher planes of consciousness.
Higher planes of consciousness
Higher mind: It is the first plane of spiritual consciousness where one becomes constantly and closely aware of the omniscient self. It is the mind of higher thought.
Illumined mind: It is the mind of spiritual light. In it, there is vast descent of peace, inwardly luminous spiritual light, and dynamic inner force that brings about rapid transformation. It works by vision, not by thought.
Intuition: It is the first plane in which there is real opening to the full possibility of realization. It captures truth in flashes as intuitive ideas.
Overmind: It is the passage through which one passes from mind to Supermind. It is the world of great Gods, the Divine creators.
Supermind: The Supermind is the Supramental Truth Consciousness of the Divine nature in which there is no place for the principle of division and ignorance. It is always full of light and knowledge superior to all mental movements.
Saccidānanda- The ultimate reality in cosmos is the triune principle of transcendent and infinite existence, consciousness, and bliss , which is the nature of the Divine being.
Pre-requisites of Integral Yoga
In integral Yoga, there are some pre-requisites as follows:
Aspiration: It is the call to the Divine, to the force. There is self-giving for higher consciousness to descend and take possession.Faith: In this yoga, the fundamental faith is that the Divine exists and the Divine is the thing to be followed; nothing else in life is worth having in comparison to that.Surrender: It is giving oneself and everything to the Divine, to obey only the Divine will, and to live for the Divine, not for oneself or ego. Assent: When one assents to yoga, then only the Divine grace and power is possible.Will: Force of being in conscious action is Will. When one has Will and resolution, then force produces lasting fruit. Sincerity: To be entirely sincere means to desire the Divine truth only and to reject all personal demands, i.e. to surrender more and more to the Divine Mother.Silence: Silence is absence of all thoughts. It is essential in Integral Yoga.
Method of Integral Yoga
The method is not specific, but integral and total; using old methods partly as an aid to Yoga. Integral Yoga includes the concepts of Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, and Jñāna Yoga from Bhagavaḍ Gītā. The methods of Integral Yoga are as follows :-
• Sādhanā through work
Integral Yoga is based on Karma Yoga, as in Bhagavad Gītā. Here, the motive for work is the Divine. There are four means in this yoga of work. They are:
śāstra (scriptures): It includes the study of Vedas, Upaniṣads, and Bhagavaḍ GītāUtsāha (efforts): It is personal effortsGuru (teacher): The universal teachers (Kṛṣṇā, Jesus, Buddha)Kāla (time): It is patience
There are three steps in Karma Yoga which are as follows:
To consecrate all our works as sacrifice to the DivineTo renounce attachment to the fruit of sacrificeTo surrender the ego to the Divine and the Divine Mother
Discipline, order, quality, and organization in work are essential. Wastage, careless spoiling, and improper handling of material things should be avoided. Asceticism, abandonment of work, absorbed meditation, inactivity, and cutting away of life force are not recommended.
• Sādhanā through meditation (knowledge)
The objective of spiritual knowledge is the Supreme, the Divine. There are two steps in this path of yoga as follows:
To attain self through purified mind and heartTo train the mind to think of one as everywhere and all things as one, by means of meditation and concentration.
The different methods of meditation are:
To observe passing thoughts as a witnessEmptying of all thoughts out of the mind
One can concentrate in a particular place which could be
the heartthe head (mind center)between the eyebrows
Samādhi is the Supreme state and the aim of other systems of yoga, which is attained by Sādhanāthrough meditation. But in Integral Yoga, it is a means. Here, importance is given to waking realization and experience. Samādhi has to come in waking, working state also. Integral Yoga does not mention the practice of Prāṇāyāma. According to Sri Aurobindo, Prāṇāyāma is a powerful thing but to be done with care (Aurobindo, 2006).
• Sādhanā through love and devotion
To bring the Divine love, beauty, and ānanda into the world is the crown and essence of Integral Yoga. The Divine love is universal, impersonal, and free from attachment, ignorance, and is founded on the sense of oneness. In this yoga, concentration on the heart is essential.
The main principle of Bhakti Yoga is to adopt some human relationship between man and the Divine. It can be of master and servant, father and child, friend, advisor, hero, helper, or a lover. There are four kinds of devotees. They are ārta (sorrowful), Jijñāsu (eager), Arthārthi (seeking help), and Jñāni (knowledgeable). Of these, Jñāni is the best. The motive of worship is love; to love the Divine for the sake of the Divine alone. The devotion to the Divine can be Saguṇa (personal) or Nirguṇa (impersonal). It depends on the temperament of the devotee. Repeating His name, constant thinking of Him, and His qualities are the characteristics of Bhakti Yoga. In Bhakti Yoga, there is union of love, lover, and the beloved.
Transformation means to bring down higher consciousness into mind, life, and body, i.e. a complete change of lower nature. There are three types of transformations (Aurobindo, 2000) which are discussed below.
Psychic transformation: This transformation has to be done first . For it, one has to concentrate on the heart. The power of the concentration on the heart center helps to open this center; and by the power of aspiration, love, bhakti, and surrender, remove the veil that covers and conceals the soul and bring forward the Psychic Being to govern mind, life, and body; and turn all of them fully to the Divine, removing all that which opposes the opening and turning. This is called as psychic transformation.Spiritual transformation: Spiritual transformation is descent of higher peace, light, force, knowledge, and bliss from above. There is awareness of higher consciousness and of the Divine. This is accomplished by concentration between the eyebrows and above the head, and call, aspiration, and will for the descent. The safest way is to bring down first the calm and peace, for that makes the descent of the higher force, light, knowledge and bliss more secure; otherwise it becomes difficult for the lower nature to bear so much higher force. This is spiritual transformation.
Both the transformations mentioned above are essential and complementary to each other. Supramental transformation: With Supramental transformation, complete transformation of the mind, life, and body is possible. It requires the opening of Overmind. This transformation does not come by personal efforts, but by the Divine grace. It means rising above (ascent) of the mind to the Supermind and descent of Supermind into one's lower nature. Supramental transformation is possible when lower nature is ready to accept the change. For it, transformation of lower nature is essential.
Transformation of lower nature
Transformation of mind: Instead of trying to control and suppress mind, stand back from it quietly and separately. Practice quietude and concentration in this separateness until the mind becomes quiet. One should develop inward relation with the Mother.Transformation of vital: Vital is full of desires, ego, anger, greed, and sex. All egoistic activities like altruism and service are done under the influence of vital. Vital is a good instrument but a bad master. For this, rejection of ego is essential. Surrender to the Divine and the Mother is necessary.Transformation of physical: After transformation of the mind and vital, it is necessary to change the physical. Characteristics of physical are tamas, inertia, doubt, forgetfulness, and dullness. It clings to habits and repeats in a mechanical way. When one clears vital, things go down and stick there. One should aspire steadily, work patiently, and with the psychic calling down the Light and Force in these parts. One should not practice asceticism to change physical. Transformation of subconscient: It is a dark, ignorant region below the feet. Matter is under its control or is created out of it. One should be careful in handling it.Transformation of inconscient: Total spiritual change is possible by transformation of the inconscient. It is a Herculean task.
There are two paths for transformation.
The way of intellectual Tapasyā includes strain, tension, as well as hard and painful labor.The Sun-lit path includes having faith, confidence in the Mother, and aspiring quietly for the Force, Light, and Bliss with a cheerful attitude. Integral Yoga suggests the Sun-lit path of sādhanā.
Points of convergence and divergence of Integral Yoga with other systems of yoga
The principle of Integral Yoga is that by combining the principles of ancient systems of yoga, the whole being can be trained, so that it can be transformed to that great Light and Force. Integral Yoga includes the essence of traditional systems of yoga. Certain yogic concepts from the Vedas, the Upaniṣads, Bhagavad Gītā, Tantra, Vaiṣṇavism, Sāṃkhya-Yoga and Advaita Vedānta are included.
Meaning: By thy containing mights, thou comest down to the mighty and containing; do thou in this revelation fulfilled in completion lift up their inspiration (Aurobindo, 1987, p. 512).
The language of the Vedas is symbolic. The Vedic hymns describe the yogic experiences and intuitions. The above hymn is directed to the Indra. It represents the descent of subtle intelligence and upliftment of inspiration. Similarly, Integral Yoga also mentions descent and ascent of consciousness.
Taittirīya Upaniṣad (Joshi, Bimali, & Trivedi, 2007) describes "Manomaya Puruṣa" that stays in the heart space. It mentions the evolution process from the Brahman. There is description of five sheaths - Annamayakoṣa, Prāṇāmayakoṣa, Manomayakoṣa, Vijñānamayakoṣa, and ānandamayakoṣa. Kaṭhopaniṣad (Joshi et al., 2007) has stated that the Brahman is of the size of the thumb. It resides in the center (heart). There are two selves in a person. One self enjoys the fruits of karma and the other one does not. Muṇdāka Upaniṣad (Joshi et al., 2007) also mentions that there are two birds sitting on a branch. One (jīva) tastes the fruits of actions and the other watches (self/ātmā). Integral Yoga also mentions about the Psychic Being, the Central Being, and the soul. Ascent and descent of consciousness is the central theme of Integral Yoga.
Bhagavad Gītā : Bhagavad Gītā (Goyandka, 2004) discusses Karma Yoga, Jñāna Yoga, and Bhakti Yoga in detail. Ananyatva, complete surrender, and selfless self giving are the prominent qualities of a devotee. These concepts are taken into the Integral Yoga. The aim of the Gītā is mukti. For Integral Yoga, mukti is not the final aim. It is the beginning of Integral Yoga. The ideas of spiritual evolution and transformation of lower nature are not present in the Gītā. Ascent and descent of consciousness and a discussion of higher planes of consciousness are also not mentioned in the Gītā. Gītā speaks about surrender to Puruṣottama and discusses Parā and Aparā Prakṛti. On the other hand, surrender to both the Divine and the Divine Mother is what is essential in Integral Yoga. Gītā mentions three Puruṣas, i.e. Kṣara, Akṣara, and Uttama. Integral Yoga mentions Psychic Being which is different from Gītā's Puruṣas. Gītā states that one should work to serve the society even after attaining emancipation. Integral Yoga also follows the same practice. Tantra: It gives importance to the Mother, the śakti (Bhandarkar, 1982). In Tantra, the awakening of kuṇḍalīnī and opening and purification of the centers is done by a set process. The centers open from down upward. In Integral Yoga, there is no set process for the awakening of kuṇḍalīnī and for the opening and purification of centers. Centers open themselves by descent of the force from above. The centers also open from up to downward.Vaiṣṇavism: Bhakti Yoga and total surrender to the Divine is the central idea of Vaiṣṇavism (Bhandarkar, 1982). Caitanya Mahāprabhu, Vallabhācārya, and many other saints are the pioneers of it. It includes developing a mental relationship with the Divine. According to Sri Aurobindo, it results in corruption and unpurified emotionalism if lower nature like mind, body, and vital is not purified (Aurobindo, 2006). So, importance is given to transformation of lower nature. Devotion, love, and surrender are the important aspects of Integral Yoga also.Sāṃkhya and Pātañjala Yoga: Sāṃkhya-Yoga is based on the philosophy of dualism of Prakṛti and Puruṣa (Radhakrishnan, 2008). It states the evolution of Prakṛti and describes the role of Puruṣa as witness. The philosophy of Integral Yoga is "Realistic Advaita." Sri Aurobindo rejects dualism. According to Integral Yoga, the evolution is spiritual (Aurobindo, 2006). The purpose of Integral Yoga is to hasten the process of the evolution. Pātañjala Yoga mentions practice of Aṣtāṅga Yoga. Most of the parts of Aṣtāṅga Yoga like Yama and Niyama are also practiced in Integral Yoga. No specific āsana is mentioned in Integral Yoga. Concentration and meditation are necessary in Integral Yoga. But samādhi is not the goal of Integral Yoga. Waking Samādhi is ideal in Integral Yoga.Buddhist Yoga: In Buddhism, the path of purification includes three principles. They are śīla, Samādhi, and Prajñā (Jaina, 2001). Concentration is the core of Buddhist Yoga. But long hours of meditation are not recommended in Integral Yoga. Work or action even after enlightenment and surrender to the Mother are recommended in Integral Yoga. It is very similar to the ideal of Bodhisattva and Prajña Pāramitā in Mahāyāna Buddhism.Jaina Yoga: Jaina Yoga presents Samyak Jñāna (right cognition), Samyak Dar śana (right inclination or faith), and Samyak ācāra (right conduct) (Jaina, 2001). Faith is also an essential virtue in Integral Yoga. Right conduct is the foundation of Jainism, and includes Tapa, which again includes meditation as a kind of Tapa. Tapa, fasting, and asceticism are criticized in Integral Yoga. It gives importance to internal renunciation and non-attachment.Advaita Vedānta - According to the Advaita Vedānta of śañkarācārya, Brahman is the supreme reality (Radhakrishnan, 2008). Brahman is existence, consciousness and bliss. ātmā is Brahman. ātmā is also the witness. The empirical self or jīva is the enjoyer. The external world is regarded as māyā or illusion, as it is not real. Integral Yoga considers saccidānanda, which is similar to Brahman, as the supreme reality. Saccidānanda taken as a whole would mean blissful existence of consciousness, just like Brahman. Integral Yoga also mentions jīvātmā, self and psychic being. But according to Integral Yoga, the external world is not an illusion; it is real. Therefore, the philosophy of Integral Yoga can be said to be that of Realistic Advaita.
In summary, Sri Aurobindo's Integral Yoga is completely a spiritual and psychological yoga. Here, yoga means union with individual self, cosmic self, and transcendental self, all together. This yoga implies not only the realization of the Divine, but also an entire consecration and change of the inner and outer life till it is fit to manifest a Divine consciousness and become part of the Divine work. Integral Yoga gives importance to mind, life, and body. There are no ascetic hardships to control and suppress the mind, life, and body, but transformation and integration of them is suggested. Moreover, there is no negation of life. Attainment of Samādhi is not the objective. Its aim is not Nirvāna or heaven, but change of life and existence. Its objective is not release from life, but the divine fulfillment of life. Dynamic union with the Divine is the final aim. It involves becoming a creative personality and instrument of the Divine truth in spiritual evolution. In Integral Yoga, personal salvation is not the goal, unlike other systems of yoga. Collective liberation and transformation is the ultimate objective of Integral Yoga. The goal of Integral Yoga is to bring down Supramental consciousness on earth and to create a new earth and a new heaven. Sri Aurobindo imagined that there will be a race of Supramental beings or a superhuman race on the earth by means of spiritual evolution. Other systems of yoga begin with ascent, realization of self, and cosmic being, and end up with Nirvana or some heaven and abandonment of life. In Integral Yoga, it is the beginning. There is no abandonment of life. It gives importance to Karma Yoga, even after attainment of enlightenment. Surrender to the Mother and the Divine is the first condition of this yoga. It introduces new concepts like spiritual evolution, triple transformation (Psychic, Spiritual, and Supramental), transformation of lower nature (Mental, Vital, and Physical), ascent and descent of consciousness, Supermind, Overmind, Supramental Truth Consciousness, etc. Although Sri Aurobindo has introduced some new terminologies, Integral Yoga broadly synthesizes and harmonizes most of the Indian traditional yogic disciplines by taking the common central principle from them. However, based on the above discussion, it can be said that Integral Yoga is a new yoga as its aims and the methods for attaining those aims are different from existing systems of yoga.
Integral Yoga discusses the planes of consciousness in detail unlike other traditional systems of yoga. It also opens the doors to the new scientific world of psychology as it deals with levels of the mind. It is based on the principles of Vedas, Upaniṣads, Bhagavad Gītā, Tantra, Advaita, Pātañjala Yoga, and Vai śṇavism with the addition of some new elements. Therefore, it is a synthesis of traditional systems of yoga, and is based on India's ancient Vedic tradition. However, it can be said to be a new yoga because its aims and methods are new and different as compared to the Indian traditional systems of yoga.
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