Morality, Idealism, Religion and Yoga (The Meaning of Spirituality)
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Morality, Idealism, Religion and Yoga (The Meaning of Spirituality)

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Item Code: NAM860
Publisher: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry
Language: English
Edition: 2014
ISBN: 9798170580378
Pages: 195
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 7.5 inch X 5.0 inch
Weight 200 gm
About the Book

In the minds of many seekers, spirituality (or yoga in its general sense) is often confused with, morality, idealism and religion. It is the aim of this book to clarify the meaning of spirituality by distinguishing it from the other three high pursuit of life just mentioned.

As religion is particularly apt to be confused with spiritually, the section of the book highlights the difference between the exoteric aspect of religion – that is, religion as it ordinarily practised – and the esoteric aspect, which constitutes the spiritual essence of religion. This section also throws light on various common religious practices such as works (puja), prayer, meditation and japa, from the viewpoint of spirituality

“Yoga – Spirituality”, the concluding section of the book, explains the generic meaning of yoga, which is equivalent of spiritually in general, and the specific meaning of yoga as path that leads to a union of the individual self with the universal and transcendent Reality. The three major yogas of traditional Indian spirituality are presented and are distinguished in their objectives from those of Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga, thus bringing out the newness of the Integral yoga.


The aim of this book is to clarify the meaning of spirituality (or yoga in its general or wider sense) by distinguishing spirituality from three other things with which it is often confused, namely, morality, idealism, and religion.

By presenting the salient ideas contained in each of the book's four sections, this introduction is meant to provide a synoptic overview. Throughout the introduction, the reader will find allusions to and quotations from passages in the book. These are identified in the text by numerals in parentheses which indicate where they can be found in the book. The first (roman) numeral indicates the section number; the second (arabic) numeral is the serial number of the passage in the section. References to text not in the body of the book are given as footnotes.

I. Morality

The distinction between morality and spirituality can be best understood by grasping the difference between the ordinary life, in which most human beings are almost totally involved, and the spiritual life into which the aspirant is trying to grow. The ordinary life is one which is based on the ordinary consciousness, that is, the consciousness related to the body, the vital nature (impulses, passions, desires), and the mind, all centred around the ego - the sense of being an individual who is separate from everybody and everything else. The spiritual life, on the other hand, consists in progressively growing out of the ordinary consciousness as just described into a higher consciousness which above the physical, vital and mental consciousness, and which is devoid of the sense of a separate "I”. Since the moral code of conduct defining what is good or bad moral or immoral is based on the mind, and since mind belongs to the ordinary consciousness, moral pertains to the ordinary life. It aims at "a well-regulated individual and social conduct which keeps society going and leads towards a better, a more rational, temperate, sympathetic, self-restrained dealing with our fellow (I13)." Psychologically, morality, thus conceived, consists in regulating one's physical and vital des impulses by the power of the mental will (I/2).

"The spiritual life goes beyond the mind; it enters into the deeper consciousness of the Spirit and acts out of the truth of the Spirit (I/1)".

" ... it is only when both, vital will and mental power, are equally submissive to something higher, to the supermind, that human life is exceeded, that true spiritual life begins .... (I/2) While controlling and regulating the lower I and vital nature by the power of the mental will the society going, and is therefore indispensable, it is not a true solution to the problem of good and evil in human nature, for with mere morality "man remains always what he is and has ever been, a mixture of good and evil, sin and virtue, a mental ego with an imperfect command over his mental, vital and physical nature (1/12). "

It is not easy to discover the higher law based on the spiritual consciousness with which to replace the moral laws based on the mind. Therefore the moral laws are indispensable as long as one is still governed by the ordinary physical, vital and mental consciousness (I/13, I/14, I/15).

In fact, with rare exceptions, it is quite necessary to go through the stage of striving for a moral perfection before trying to be governed solely by a spiritual ideal.

"It is almost impossible to pass from the mental being - even the most perfect and most remarkable - to the true spiritual life without having realised this ideal of moral perfection for a certain period of time, however brief it may be (1/16)".

Even so, there have been instances of persons with marked moral lapses who have become spiritually illumined, for "the Divine is not a moralist" {I117).

II. Idealism

Besides morality, which is one of the ideals most commonly pursued by human beings who are drawn to some higher value in life, there are several other values which have been regarded as the highest goals to be pursued. Service to others - whether it be to the needy, the poor or suffering, or to one's country, or to humanity at large - is one such ideal which has been upheld by many as the highest value. Such an ideal does indeed involve the subordination of one's own ego or the sacrifice of one's personal interests for the well-being of others. However, service to others "is a mental and moral and not a spiritual ideal" (II/3). "Family, society, country are a larger ego - they are not the Divine" (II/5). "The greatest service to humanity, the surest foundation for its true progress, happiness and perfection is to prepare or find the way by which the individual and the collective man can transcend the ego and live in its true self, no longer bound to ignorance, incapacity, disharmony and sorrow (II/6)".

In other words, service to others in any of its forms is an extension of the ego; it does not free one from the ego, and therefore falls short of the spiritual ideal which is liberation from the ego. Ideals, however, are "the savour and sap of life" (11/2). Absolute ideals seek for the attainment of the Absolute, the Infinite which lies behind everything in life and are the first signs of the spiritual (11/1). They are "of considerable value to mind and life; they are of value to the spiritual evolution itself as preparatory movements disciplining, purifying or giving a suitable form to the nature; but they still belong to the mental evolution, - the beginning of a spiritual realisation, experience, change is not yet there" (IV 14).

III. Religion

There are two aspects of religion - the "outward machinery of creed, cult, ceremony and symbol" (III/9), which may be called exoteric religion or religionism, and the true inner or esoteric religion "which seeks to live in the spirit, in what is beyond the intellect, beyond the aesthetic and ethical and practical being of man, and to inform and govern these members of our being by the higher light and law of the spirit" (III/7). Like morality, the outward exoteric religion is a necessity in the life of societies, "for it serves as a corrective to collective egoism which, without this control, could take on excessive proportions" (III/2). The outer form of religion is helpful also to people who have spiritual devotion but" do not feel the need of approaching the Divine through knowledge. For such natures religion has a use and it is even necessary for them; for, through external forms, like the ceremonies of the Church, it offers a kind of support and help to their inner spiritual aspiration" (III/10). For such people, religion "en- trenches itself in some narrow pietistic exaltation of the lower members or lays exclusive stress on intellectual dogmas, forms and ceremonies, on some fixed and rigid moral code, on some religion-political or religion-social system" (III/7); its forms, ceremonies, creeds or systems "are needed by man because the lower members have to be exalted and raised before they can be fully spiritualised, before they can directly feel the spirit obey its law" (III/7). But for those who are cap rising above the limitations imposed by the outer creed, and are capable of taking to a dogma-free spiritual of life, religion as it is ordinarily practised is an obstacle. "It is an impediment and a chain if you slave to its outer body; if you know how to use it substance, it can be your jumping-board into that of the Spirit" (III/10).


  Introduction xi
  Morality in Ordinary Life and Spiritual Life 3
  Morality - Ordinary View and Spiritual View 3
  Difference between Morality and Spirituality 4
  Meaning of Morality in the Spiritual Life 8
  Social Morality Is Not Spiritual 9
  Purity - Moral and Spiritual Viewpoints 9
  Notions of Morality and the Spiritual Life 11
  Relativity of Moral Laws 13
  Morality - Helpful or Harmful? 13
  Morality - an Indispensable Expedient, Not a Solution 14
  Moral Laws Cannot Be Abandoned Easily 15
  Striving for Moral Perfection - a Necessary Stage before Entering Spirituality 17
  The Divine Is Not a Moralist 19
  Voice of Conscience 21
  The Moral Guide Within 23
  True Attitude towards Sin 24
  Helping to Cure Mankind of Evil 26
  Ideals - First Signs of Spirituality 31
  Ideals - Their Necessity and Limitation 33
  Service to Humanity 33
  Philanthropy and Karmayoga 40
  Conflict between Self-Interest and Altruism 41
  Humanitarianism - Secular and Religious 42
  Need for Change of Consciousness 44
  Pitfalls of Activism 45
  Ideal of Human Unity 45
  Liberty - Equality - Fraternity 46
  Ideal of Human Brotherhood 47
  Helping Others Spiritually 48
  Religion in Ordinary Life 53
  Necessity of Religion in Ordinary Life 53
  All Religions Have Helped Mankind 56
  Common Goal of All Religions 57
  Two Aspects of Religion 59
  Esoteric Yoga behind Exoteric Religion 60
  Essence of Religion Transcends Realm of Reason 61
  Religion - Help or Obstacle in Spiritual Lift 62
  Realising the Divine through Religion 66
  Two Errors - Dogma and Intolerance 67
  Never Disturb a Person's Faith 69
  Atheism 70
  Hell and Heaven 70
  Japa and Worship 72
  Religion in the Future Humanity 75
  Goal of Human Life and Means to Attain It 76
  Yoga - Generic Meaning and Significance 83
  All Life Is a Yoga 84
  Meaning of Spirituality 84
  Essence of Spirituality 85
  Spiritual View of Human Beings Essential Difference between Ordinary 86
  Consciousness and Spiritual (Yogic) Consciousness 87
  Difference between Self-Development and Spiritual Development 89
  Difference between Material-Mental and Spiritual Views 89
  Spirituality Is Higher than Mental Culture 90
  Two Perfections - Human and Spiritual 91
  Difference between Yoga and Religion 93
  Evolution of the Spiritual Man 94
  Four Approaches for Opening up the Inner Being 97
  Religion and Yoga; Specific Meaning of yoga 99
  The Three Principal Paths of Yoga 100
  Mere Mental Seeking Not Enough for Spirituality 103
  Yoga a Matter of Experience 104
  The Spiritual Call 106
  The First Movement for the Spiritual Life - Interiorisation 107
  Creating One's Own Spiritual Atmosohere 109
  Asceticism and Spirituality 110
  Terms for Some Spiritual Practices 111
  Prayer 112
  Asking from the Divine 119
  Meditation 122
  Tapasya and Surrender 127
  Personal Effort and Divine Grace 128
  Giving Up Ordinary Life 132
  Sannyasa 135
  Vairagya 135
  Occultism and Spirituality 137
  Spiritism and Spirituality 142
  Hypnosis and Yoga 145
  Visions and Spirituality 147
  Growing into a New Consciousnes the Only Certain Way 148
  Objects of Sri Aurobindo's Integra 149
  Newness of the Integral Yoga 150
  Readiness for the Integral Yoga 152
  Union Must Precede Transformati 153
  Spirituality - Mankind's Ultimate Hope for Human Perfection 155
  Glossary 157
  References 167

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