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."
Integral yoga or purna yoga (Sanskrit for full or complete yoga), sometimes also called supramental yoga, refers in Sri Aurobindo and the Mother's teachings to the union of all the parts of one's being with the Divine, and the transmutation of all of their jarring elements into a harmonious state of higher divine consciousness and existence.
Sri Aurobindo initiated and defined Integral Yoga in the early 1900's as
"a path of integral seeking of the Divine by which all that we are is in the end liberated out of the Ignorance and its undivine formations into a truth beyond the Mind, a truth not only of highest spiritual status but of a dynamic spiritual self-manifestation in the universe"
He describes the nature and practice of integral yoga in his opus The Synthesis of Yoga. As the title of that work indicates, his integral yoga is a yoga of synthesis, intended to harmonize the paths of karma, jnana, and bhakti yoga as described in the Bhagavad Gita. It can also be considered a synthesis between Vedanta and Tantra, and even between Eastern and Western approaches to spirituality.
Integral Yoga departs from traditional systems of spiritual development in two major ways:
First, similarly to Natya Yoga, it effects a broad synthesis of existing forms of yoga, while dispensing for the most part with their formal methods. Integral Yoga takes the essence of karma yoga, hatha yoga, pranayama, raja yoga, tantra, vedanta and other yogic disciplines, and shows how the results of each one can be achieved by cutting to the root of the process that each one facilitates.
Secondly, the integral yoga aims at nothing less than a supramental transformation of human nature, both subjectively and physically on an individual and collective scale. While as a race, we have grown accustomed to governing our individual and collective life using the mind, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother demonstrated that a new, supramental power of consciousness could take up the nature and govern the activities normally assumed by the mind.
Integral Yoga was developed jointly by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother in the early Twentieth century. The theory and practice of Integral Yoga is described in several works by Sri Aurobindo, while more pragmatic applications are to be foubnd in The Mother's talks (later compiled as the Collected Works).
Sri Aurobindo's book The Synthesis of Yoga, the first version of which appeared in the Arya, was written as a practical guide, and covers all aspects of Integral Yoga. Additional and revised material is found in several of the later chapters of The Life Divine and in other works. Later, his replies to letters and queries by disciples (mostly written during the early 1930s) were collected into a series of volumes, the Letters on Yoga. There is also Sri Aurobindo's personal diary of his yogic experiences, written during the period from 1909 to 1927, and only published under the title Record of Yoga.
Whereas Sri Aurobindo and the Mother taught that surrendering to the 'higher' consciousness was one of the most important processes of the supramental yoga, neither established a universal definitive method for every practitioner of the yoga, due to the individual differences. Both left the open-ended question as to how the supramental consciousness would act and establish itself in Earthly life.
Nevertheless, they did provide certain guidelines for the yoga.
The essential practice of the Integral Yoga, is a total and unreserved surrender of everything we are to the Divine. This surrender usually begins in the mind, since we are mental beings, with the turning of either our motives of thought, feeling or action towards the Divine. Eventually, as we progress, all three essential motives (lines?) are harmonized in their turning towards the Divine, and we learn to recognize and open to the different qualities of the Mother's Force as it descends tangibly from above.
Thus one of the main elements of integral yoga practice, is the combined action of Karma Yoga (yoga of divine works), Jnana Yoga (yoga of divine knowledge) and Bhakti Yoga (yoga of divine love).
The other main element is the practice of Siddha Yoga (yoga of self-perfection), which Sri Aurobindo described using a system he called the Sapta Chatusthaya, or Seven Tetrads.
Sri Aurobindo and the Mother also emphasized the importance of a balanced physical, emotional, mental, psychic and spiritual development. All these levels of our being must be adequately developed and in balance, if the supermind is ever to take root in us and blossom in the human collectivity.
Most yogas, except such paths as Natya Yoga, only develop a single aspect of the being, and have as their aim a state of liberation or transcendence. But the aim of integral yoga is the transformation of the entire being. Because of this, the various elements of one's make-up - Physical, Vital, Mental, Psychic, and Spiritual, and the means of their transformation, are described in great detail by Sri Aurobindo, who in this way formulates an entire integral psychology. The goal is then the transformation of the entire nature of one's being. Nothing is left behind.
The process...accepts our nature...and compels all to undergo a divine change...In that ever progressive experience, we begin to perceive how this lower manifestation is constituted and that everything in it, however seemingly deformed or petty or vile, is the imperfect figure of some element in the divine nature.
Also distinguishing Sri Aurobindo's teaching from most other mystical paths is the need for transformation of the personal and relative nature. So the integral yoga is two-fold; both a spiritual realisation of God or Transcendence or Enlightenment, and, through this, a complete change and transformation of both the inner and the outer nature. Through this double action, one is thus made able and fit to manifest a divine consciousness, and in this way becomes part of a divine work.
Sri Aurobindo considered man's present mental consciousness to be a transitional stage in terrestrial evolution, and that our civilization is at the brink of an evolutionary leap or shift towards a greater or 'supramental' experience and capacity.
With regard to supermind and mind Sri Aurobindo wrote,
'There is an eternal dynamic Truth-consciousness beyond mind; this is what we call supermind or gnosis. For mind is or can be a truth seeker, but not truth-conscious in its inherent nature; its original stuff is made not of knowledge, but of ignorance.'
Sri Aurobindo considered the supermind to be an all-organizing and all-coordinating principle of truth-consciousness secretly involved in the material creation and he saw its emergence as the next logical and inevitable step in terrestrial evolution.
In Integral Yoga, the goal is not only a transcendent liberation, nirvana, or moksha as in other spiritual paths, but also, in addition to that, the realisation of the Divine in the physical world as well. All of which is part of the same process of integral realisation.
An integral method and an integral result. First, an integral realisation of Divine Being; not only a realisation of the One in its indistinguishable unity, but also in its multitude of aspects which are also necessary to the complete knowledge of it by the relative consciousness; not only realisation of unity in the Self, but of unity in the infinite diversity of activities, worlds and creatures. Therefore, also, an integral liberation. Not only the freedom born of unbroken contact of the individual being in all its parts with the Divine, sayujyamukti, by which it becomes free even in its separation, even in the duality; not only the salokyalmukti by which the whole conscious existence dwells in the same status of being as the Divine, in the state of Sachchidananda; but also the acquisition of the divine nature by the transformation of this lower being into the human image of the divine, sadharmyamukti, and the complete and final release of all, the liberation of the consciousness from the transitory mould of the ego and its unification with the One Being, universal both in the world and the individual and transcendentally one both in the world and beyond all universe.
Sri Aurobindo, (1999) The Synthesis of Yoga, fifth edition, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust Sri Aurobindo, (1972),
----- Letters on Yoga, Volumes 22, 23, and 24, 1972, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust
----- The integral yoga; Sri Aurobindo's Teaching and Method of Practice, 1993 Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust
Glossary to the Record of Yoga
Sri Aurobindo and Integral Yoga: An Analysis by Kireet Joshi