The Triple Ascent
    Described briefly, the aim of Integral Yoga might be summed up as the transformation of the mental into the spiritual being: but the word 'transformation,' which we have used so far in a general way, to indicate the change to be effected by the Yoga, has a very precise definition for Sri Aurobindo.
    "I use transformation in a special sense" (he says), "a change of consciousness radical and complete and of a certain specific kind....  A partial realization, something mixed and inconclusive, does not meet the demand I make on life and Yoga."  It is, in brief, and integral transformation, requiring that every level of the individual consciousness should be purified and illumined, mental, vital and physical, the outer as well as the inner consciousness.  For, he points our, it is possible to achieve liberation, to attain realization, without either the vital or physical consciousness changing at all, and this indeed has been achieved by contemplatives, working under various mystical disciplines, since time began.
    But as we have seen, Integral Yoga is not concerned simply with individual liberation.  It aims, through a descent of the higher powers of consciousness into the entire being, at a definitive change in the earth consciousness and takes "fulfillment of the life and body for its object," and of the whole nexus of mind, life and body for the field of the divine action in time.  This descent Sri Aurobindo describes as the main key of the spiritual transformation and nothing can be done without it.  He therefore characterizes the movement of the Yoga as one of ascent and descent, and its specific action as synthetic - a taking up of the whole being into the divine consciousness.
    But he insists that this descent is not to be confused with realization.  "Realization by itself does not necessarily transform the being as a whole; it may bring only an opening or heightening or widening of consciousness at the top," and this, though it may affect the psychic nature, leaves the natural or physical consciousness unchanged.
    He observes that he has seen many cases of this happen, and goes on to say:  "There must be a descent of the light not merely into the mind or part of it but into all the deing down to the physical and below before a real transformation can take place.  A light in the mind may spiritualize or otherwise change the mind or part of it in one way or another, but it need not change the vital nature; a light in the vital (being) may purify and enlarge the vital movements or else silence and immobilize the vital being, but leave the body and the physical consciousness as it was, or even leave in inert or shake its balance.  And the descent of Light is not enough, it must be the descent of the whole higher consciousness, its Peace, Power, Knowledge, Love, Ananda... Psychicization (i.e. the control of the being by the soul) is not enough, it is only a beginning; spiritualization and the descent of the higher consciousness is not enough, it is only a middle term; the ultimate achievement needs the action of the Supramental Consciousness and Force.  Something less than that may very well be considered enough by the individual, but it is not enough for the earth-consciousness to take the definitive stride forward it must take at one time or another."
    This final consideration alone might be though sufficient to establish the necessity of these exacting demands, but there is another, repeatedly stressed by Sri Aurobindo.  The descent of the Divine Force into a mind and vital being not prepared for it may lead to serious disturbance and even danger.  Therefore he insists over and over again on purification and sanctification as the "great necessities of sadhana."  "Those who have experiences before purification,"he warns a disciple, "run a great risk;" and again: "to try to bring down occult powers into an unpurified mind, heart, and body - well, you can do it if you want to dance on the edge of a precipice."
    Integral Yoga, then requires of those who practice it a total transformation and indicates as its central object in obtaining this goal an ascent of the individual consciousness towards the Divine, and a descent of the Divine Consciousness into the individual.  Because it is synthetic in character, it requires that the surrender of the heart should bring to the Divine the sacrifice of love; the surrender of the mind, the sacrifice of knowledge and will; the surrender of the vital being, the sacrifice of works.  These three great offerings are the main support of the Yoga and form the way of a triple ascent.
    The Karma Yoga of the Bhagavad Gita, on which Integral Yoga is based, calls this ascent the union of knowledge, works, and love, and in it, Sri Aurobindo tells us, the full active life of man is perfectly reconciled with the inner life in the highest self and spirit.