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M O N T H LY A R C H I V E S : N O V E M B E R 2 0 1 4

The Esoteric Purpose of Hatha Yoga


Posted on November 30, 2014

Hatha Yoga is seen today primarily as a course of exercise, intended to make the
body supple and flexible, and thereby to enhance health and well-being. Yoga,
as it is called in the West, has been touted for its ability to help one lose weight
as well as improve the functioning of the body. For most people, this is what is
meant by the term yoga and they do not appreciate the hidden intention
behind the development of this science.
Sri Aurobindo provides insight to the true goal of Hatha Yoga: Hathayoga aims
at the conquest of the life and the body whose combination in the food sheath
and the vital vehicle constitutes, as we have seen, the gross body and whose
equilibrium is the foundation of all Natures workings in the human being.
It goes far beyond this starting point. Sri Aurobindo explains that the body and
its vital vehicle are set up functionally in the human being to provide a basis for
the energy required to live a normal life on a more or less stable basis for a
certain relatively fixed period of time. Because the aim of Yoga entails a
dramatically higher intensity of energy, the Hatha Yogin focuses not solely on
optimizing the normal functionality of the body, but rather, works to enhance
the capacities to far exceed the usual case.

Hathayoga therefore seeks to rectify Nature and establish another equilibrium


by which the physical frame will be able to sustain the inrush of an increasing
vital or dynamic force of Prana indefinite, almost infinite in its quantity or
intensity.
Even normal amounts of energy are difficult for most people to bear, and they
find they must move, dissipate, off-load their excess energy (or tranquilize the
energy in the course of their daily lives). The energy available to the advanced
Yogin is far more intense and the body must be prepared to hold this energy and
not spill it. The illustration frequently used is the unbaked jar which cannot
hold the water poured into it. The baking of the jar in this case involves
finding ways to increasing the holding and carrying capacity of the energy in a
steadfast and calm manner.
In Hathayoga, the equilibrium opens a door to the universalisation of the
individual vitality by admitting into the body, containing, using and controlling a
much less fixed and limited action of the universal energy.
As progress is made in the practice of Yoga, the body becomes stable, balanced
and solid as a basis for virtually any amount of new energy that descends into it.
The increased health and radiant glow that most people seek in practicing Yoga
in the West is actually a very early and relatively minor result of the practice as
it was developed over its long history.
Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Introduction: The Conditions of the
Synthesis, Chapter 4, The Systems of Yoga, pp. 28-29
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Overview of the Various Paths of Yoga


Posted on November 29, 2014

By taking an overview of the various paths of yoga, we can identify the primary
correspondences as well as the differentiating principles between them. Since all
paths of yoga have a similar aim, to connect the human individual with the
divine consciousness, the differences are primarily related to the method and
active power employed by the respective paths.
Sri Aurobindo notes: we find that they arrange themselves in an ascending
order which starts from the lowest rung of the ladder, the body, and ascends to
the direct contact between the individual soul and the transcendent and
universal Self.
The most widely known path of Yoga in the West is Hatha Yoga. Hathayoga
selects the body and the vital functionings as its instruments of perfection and
realisation; its concern is with the gross body.
Rajayoga, also known as Patanjali Yoga (named after the sage who codified this
path in his Yoga Sutras), selects the mental being in its different parts as its
lever-power; it concentrates on the subtle body.
Next come Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Jnana Yoga: The triple Path of Works,
of Love, and of Knowledge uses some part of the mental being, will, heart or
intellect as a starting-point and seeks by its conversion to arrive at the liberating
Truth, Beatitude and Infinity which are the nature of the spiritual life. Its method
is a direct commerce between the human Purusha in the individual body and the
divine Purusha who dwells in every body and yet transcends all form and
nature.
Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Introduction: The Conditions of the
Synthesis, Chapter 4, The Systems of Yoga, pg. 28
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Yoga Is Union Of the Individual With the


Divine Consciousness
Posted on November 28, 2014

One thing which all the various paths and methods of yoga share is the ultimate
aim, which is to bring about a union between the individual consciousness and
the divine consciousness. The term yoga comes from a Sanskrit terms which
means to join. Sri Aurobindo makes the following statement: For the contact
of the human and individual consciousness with the divine is the very essence of
Yoga. Yoga is the union of that which has become separated in the play of the
universe with its own true self, origin and universality.
The different methods or paths of Yoga simply differentiate themselves by the
part of the complex human being which takes the lead in the effort, and the
methodology therefore to be employed. It may be effected in the physical
through the body; in the vital through the action of those functionings which
determine the state and the experiences of our nervous being; through the
mentality, whether by means of the emotional heart, the active will or the
understanding mind, or more largely by a general conversion of the mental
consciousness in all its activities. It may equally be accomplished through a
direct awakening to the universal or transcendent Truth and Bliss by the
conversion of the central ego in the mind. And according to the point of contact
that we choose will be the type of the Yoga that we practice.
In the end, it is not so much a matter of one type of Yoga being better than
another; it is more correct to appreciate that each individual has a unique
opportunity to work with his own individual human formation, and apply the
appropriate yogic practices based on his own makeup and stage of

development. In fact, there may be successive times or stages in the life of the
individual where one or another path may predominate in the development of
the yogic consciousness, the consciousness of union between the individual and
the divine.
Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Introduction: The Conditions of the
Synthesis, Chapter 4, The Systems of Yoga, pp. 27-28
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The Seeker, the Sought and the Process


of Seeking
Posted on November 27, 2014

While different terminology is used, there is considerable agreement between


the precepts of Western philosophy and religion and that of the East when it
comes to the question of knowledge, and the truths of human psychology in
regard to the attainment of knowledge. Put in the terms of the West, there is the
seeker after knowledge, there is the knowledge being sought after and there is
the connection between the two which represents the process of seeking. This
three-fold relationship governs all human activity, not just the seeking after
knowledge.

Sri Aurobindo applies this model to the science of Yoga, in its various forms and
permutations: There can be no Yoga of knowledge without a human seeker of
the knowledge, the supreme subject of knowledge and the divine use by the
individual of the universal faculties of knowledge; no Yoga of devotion without
the human God-lover, the supreme object of love and delight and the divine use
by the individual of the universal faculties of spiritual, emotional and aesthetic
enjoyment; no Yoga of works without the human worker, the supreme Will,
Master of all works and sacrifices, and the divine use by the individual of the
universal faculties of power and action.
This model of course, starts from the standpoint of the individual. The individual
determines to achieve some result, focuses on the object of the seeking, and
applies a methodology to achieve that object. Sri Aurobindo adds another
perspective, however. Inasmuch as the Divine is the causal agent of the
universal creation, we must consider that the Divine intention causes the human
action to occur. In fact, Equally true is the complementary idea so often
enforced by the Yoga of devotion that as the Transcendent is necessary to the
individual and sought after by him so also the individual is necessary in a sense
to the Transcendent and sought after by It. If the Bhakta seeks and yearns after
Bhagavan, Bhagavan also seeks and yearns after the Bhakta. (Bhakta, the
devotee or lover of God; Bhagavan, God, the Lord of Love and Delight. The third
term of the trinity is Bhagavat, the divine revelation of Love.
Sri Aurobindo introduces this terminology of the trinity and it is appropriate to
consider the trinity as seen from the perspective of Christianity to see how there
is some common understanding. The Father is the Divine Transcendent. The Son
is the human aspiring to the Divine. The holy ghost is the relationship between
the two that bonds them to one another, bringing about the raising up of the
human and the embodiment of the divine in the human.
However Monistic may be our intellectual conception of the highest truth of
things, in practice we are compelled to accept this omnipresent Trinity.
Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Introduction: The Conditions of the
Synthesis, Chapter 4, The Systems of Yoga, pg. 27
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God, Nature and the Human Soul


Posted on November 26, 2014

The frame of reference defines for us the way we respond to our lives and the
unexamined assumptions that govern our interactions. Starting with the
individual soul, we relate to the world generally from the standpoint of our
desires and with the assumption that it is there to please and serve us. We are
thus locked into an embrace with Nature which has been described by some as
a bondage or a chain of cause and effect. The Gita refers to a machinery of
Nature, operated by the action of the three Gunas or qualities, which drives all
our action.
Yoga attempts to gain leverage on this machinery in order to surpass the
limitations of our ordinary lives. In order to achieve this result, it is essential that
a way be found to transcend the fixed framework or standpoint that governs our
human lives. This transcendent standpoint must be outside the frame of
reference in order to truly provide any real and substantive leverage.
Sri Aurobindo describes this transcendent standpoint as the focus on God, the
Lord of creation, or the Absolute, outside of action and reaction, outside of all
human considerations. One may find an analogy in our view of life on earth.
Normally we experience that our earth is the center of the universe, and that
the sun, the moon and the stars all rotate around the earth. Scientists
determined that the earth actually rotated around the sun, and that the solar
system travels through the galaxy. But the true and radical transcendent
experience that can galvanize our way of seeing and acting came about for
those individuals who traveled into outer space and looked down upon the earth
and recognized that all of humanity, all of life on the planet is part of one fragile
eco-system and is united.

To achieve the results sought by Yoga, a similar transformative experience is


required that takes us out of our normal standpoint. In practice three
conceptions are necessary before there can be any possibility of Yoga; there
must be, as it were, three consenting parties to the effort,God, Nature and the
human soul or, in more abstract terms, the Transcendental, the Universal and
the Individual. If the individual and Nature are left to themselves, the one is
bound to the other and unable to exceed appreciably her lingering march.
Something transcendent is needed, free from her and greater, which will act
upon us and her, attracting us upward to Itself and securing from her by good
grace or by force her consent to the individual ascension.
Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Introduction: The Conditions of the
Synthesis, Chapter 4, The Systems of Yoga, pp. 26-27
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The Basis For Harmonising the Various


Systems and Paths of Yoga
Posted on November 25, 2014

Sri Aurobindo bases his understanding of the means and goals of Yoga on a
deeper insight into the evolutionary developmental process of Nature. Just as
each successive form and power of consciousness that manifests in Nature has

its basis upon forms and powers previously manifested, so we can also
recognise that the processes and powers of Yoga are based on existing
capabilities available to the human practitioner of the Yoga. Each of the different
paths or schools of Yoga takes hold of one or more of the basic powers within
humanity, whether it is the physical (Hatha Yoga), the emotional (Bhakti Yoga),
the vital impulse (Karma Yoga), or the higher mind (Jnana Yoga), or other similar
correlations.
Yet it is always through something which she has formed in her evolution that
Nature thus overpasses her evolution. It is the individual heart that by
sublimating its highest and purest emotions attains to the transcendent Bliss or
the ineffable Nirvana, the individual mind that by converting its ordinary
functionings into a knowledge beyond mentality knows its oneness with the
Ineffable and merges its separate existence in that transcendent unity. And
always it is the individual, the Self conditioned in its experience by Nature and
working through her formations, that attains to the Self unconditioned, free and
transcendent.
Sri Aurobindo dismisses the idea that the true and final goal of Yoga is to
achieve the Absolute Transcendent and thereby abandon the world and its
processes as developed by Nature. The question then is to draw upon the
powers developed in Nature and find a way to optimize their function, focus
them on the achievement of higher forms of awareness, including the awareness
of the Transcendent, and, eventually, harmonize them in such a way that all the
aspects of the being are taken up and transformed. And if we seek to combine
and harmonise their central practices and their predominant aims, we shall find
that the basis provided by Nature is still our natural basis and the condition of
their synthesis.
The various paths and forms of Yoga, therefore are not mutually exclusive or
antagonistic to one another; rather, they provide the seeker with leverage to
address each of the elements of his natural being and raise it up to its highest
potential.
Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Introduction: The Conditions of the
Synthesis, Chapter 4, The Systems of Yoga, pg. 26
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The Complete Aim of the Synthesis


of Yoga
Posted on November 24, 2014

The ultimate goal of the Divine Creation cannot simply be the individual spiritual
fulfillment accompanied by escape from the world. When we recognize that the
individual is also part of a larger collectivity and an even larger universal
creation, it becomes clear that the individual progress is, and should be, an
element in the increasing evolutionary development of the entire manifestation.
Sri Aurobindo elucidates the aim of the synthesis of yoga that he recommends:
Spirit is the crown of universal existence; Matter is its basis; Mind is the link
between the two. Spirit is that which is eternal; Mind and Matter are its
workings. Spirit is that which is concealed and has to be revealed; mind and
body are the means by which it seeks to reveal itself. spirit is the image of the
Lord of the Yoga; mind and body are the means He has provided for reproducing
that image in phenomenal existence. All Nature is an attempt at a progressive
revelation of the concealed Truth, a more and more successful reproduction of
the divine image.
The evolutionary process in Nature is a long and slow affair. The practice of Yoga
attempts to concentrate and speed up this process in the individual. It works by
a quickening of all her energies, a sublimation of all her faculties. Yoga unifies
the Transcendent with the Universal and the Individual, thereby bringing to bear
the sanction and consciousness of the Supreme to adapt and modify Nature in
fulfillment of the Divine intention. This is the transformation of all existence,
with the individual acting as a nexus of this change.
The generalisation of Yoga in humanity must be the last victory of Nature over
her own delays and concealments. Even as now by the progressive mind in

Science she seeks to make all mankind fit for the full development of the mental
life, so by Yoga must she inevitably seek to make all mankind fit for the higher
evolution, the second birth, the spiritual existence. And as the mental life uses
and perfects the material, so will the spiritual use and perfect the material and
the mental existence as the instruments of a divine self-expression. The ages
when that is accomplished, are the legendary Satya or Krita Yugas (Satya means
Truth; Krita, effected or completed), the ages of the Truth manifested in the
symbol, of the great work done when Nature in mankind, illumined, satisfied and
blissful, rests in the culmination of her endeavor.
Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Introduction: The Conditions of the
Synthesis, Chapter 3, The Threefold Life, pp. 23-25
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