It is an honour to write a foreword to this book authored by some-one who is a veteran sadhak of the Integral Yoga and a veritable walking encyclopaedia of the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.
In fact, The Practice of the Integral Yoga is a comprehensive treatise on the effective practice of the Yoga of Integral Transformation as propounded by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. The book does abound in valuable hints, consisting in insights, approaches and perspectives which the author has found effective for his own sadhana spanning more than half a century. For, as will be evident to the perceptive reader, the book is not a product of armchair study, but an outcome of what has been assiduously shaped on the anvil of long practice, deep reflection and inner experience.
The author has remarked in the prefatory note about his role as merely that of a weaver of the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. But in writing this book Jugal Kishore Mukherjee has provided more than a connecting thread, for besides the actual teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother on which the book is solidly founded, The Practice of the Integral Yoga contains a wealth of the author's own reflections and insights which are a distillation from his lifetime's sadhana of the Integral Yoga.
Throughout all its chapters the book is studded with some of the choicest passages from the works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. In selecting these passages, the author has gone beyond the commonly trodden ground of more familiar sources. So the reader is likely to discover gems of extracts not encountered before. Even some of the passages which may be familiar to the reader are apt to be better understood when read within the context of the author's lucid explanations.
The presentation of the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother has been enriched by copious references to other spiritual teachers and works, both Eastern and Western, including the perennial lore of such sources as the Gita and the Upanishads.
Unlike most other spiritual paths and disciplines, Integral Yoga does not prescribe any set of concrete practices such as asana, Pranayama, japa and the like to be followed by all its practitioners. Nor does it formulate a set of ethical norms and principles, do's and don'ts, yama and niyama, as part of its core discipline. Hence the difficulty experienced by many sadhaks who feel at a loss as to the what and how of the practice of Sri Aurobindo's Yoga.
One practice which most people associate with spiritual pursuit is that of meditation. This is specially true of the West where, particularly due to the influence of Zen Buddhism, spiritual practice is regarded as almost synonymous with the practice of meditation. Referring to this attitude in a critical vein, the Mother remarks, "...when they think of the spiritual life, they immediately think of meditation." (Questions and Answers '57-'58, Collected Works of the Mother, Vol. 9, p. 88.) However, even meditation, as a set practice, is not an indispensable part of the practice of Integral Yoga. The reader will, therefore, find that meditation is not included among the limbs of daily sadhana presented in the second chapter of the book, though an entire chapter is devoted to the topic of meditation. For, the attitude that looks upon spiritual life as consisting in following certain set practices tends to lead to a compartmentalisation of life, creating a division between the spiritual life and the ordinary life. However, from the viewpoint of Integral Yoga, sadhana is not a part-time practice meant to be pursued during one's spare time while the major part of the day is devoted to the ordinary life. All of life has to be regarded as a field for sadhana. Therefore the ideal of sadhana is that all activities of one's daily life, and all moments of the day be pervaded by the spirit of sadhana, which lies in certain daylong attitudes and inner practices.
Distilled from long years of sadhana, such basic attitudes and practices have been excellently delineated in the opening two chapters of the book. Some of these inner practices are couched in the Mother's mantra-like maxims, such as "stepping back" and "re-member and offer", for which the daily life affords constant re-minders and countless opportunities for their application.
Many people, even among spiritual aspirants, fail to under-stand the distinction between the spiritual life and a life governed by morality or religion. The basic attitudes and the limbs of daily sadhana dealt with in the first two chapters of this book throw ample light on what is meant by leading a spiritual life from the view-point of Integral Yoga.
Regarding yoga and its method of practice, Sri Aurobindo states: "... the whole method of Yoga is psychological; it might almost be termed the consummate practice of a perfect psycho-logical knowledge." (The Synthesis of Yoga, SABCL, Vol. 20, p. 496) The significance of this statement can be understood from the fact that in writing about the practice of yoga, the author has drawn extensively from yogic psychology, as is seen particularly in his illuminating explanations of the nature of the mind, of the vital, the signs and symptoms of domination by the vital, the nature of the ego, the distinction between desire and aspiration, between will and desire, the nature of true renunciation, the psychology of inequality, etc.
Though the writing of The Practice of the Integral Yoga has been prompted primarily by the felt needs of students and beginners on the path of sadhana, there is much in the book from which a great deal of benefit can be derived by older and more "advanced" sadhaks. For, after all, from one viewpoint, all those who are following the path of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother are like mates in various grades of the same preparatory school of yoga, all striving for liberation, and only preparing for the yoga of transformation which is dealt with in this book, and which can begin only after a reversal of and liberation from our ordinary, ego-bound consciousness. As the Mother remarks: "... since we are speaking of that [reversal of consciousness], I shall remind you of what Sri Aurobindo has said, repeated, written, affirmed and said over and over again, that his yoga, the integral yoga, can begin only after that experience [reversal of consciousness], not before." (Questions and Answers '57-'58, CWM, Vol. 9, p. 337).
Combining the clear, analytical thought of a scientist with the psychic insightfulness of a sadhak, Prof. Mukherjee has succeeded in producing a book that is at once lucid and profound. Its comprehensiveness, authenticity and compactness make The Practice of the Integral Yoga an ideal companion and an outstanding vademecum for the practice of the Integral Yoga.
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