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Sri Aurobindo

The Synthesis of Yoga

History of Revision and Publishing

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THE SYNTHESIS OF YOGA first appeared in seventy-seven monthly instalments in the philosophical review Arya, beginning with its first issue, August 1914, and continuing until its last, January 1921. The Arya text of the Synthesis consisted of five introductory chapters numbered I-V and seventy-two other chapters numbered I-II and IV-LXXIII (the number III was inadvertently omitted). Each of the instalments was written immediately before its publication. In the Arya the division of the main series of chapters into four parts, corresponding to the yogas of Works, Knowledge, Devotion and Self-Perfection, was not marked explicitly until the fifth year, when the heading “The Yoga of Self-Perfection” began to be added above the chapter numbers. The Synthesis of Yoga was left incomplete when the Arya ceased publication in January 1921. Before abandoning the work, Sri Aurobindo wrote part of a chapter entitled “The Supramental Time Consciousness”, which was meant to follow the last published chapter of “The Yoga of Self-Perfection”. He never completed this chapter and never published the portion that he had written. A letter that Sri Aurobindo wrote in 1936 gives some idea of his purpose in writing The Synthesis of Yoga and his overall plan for the work:

The Synthesis of Yoga was not meant to give a method for all to follow. Each side of the Yoga was dealt with separately with all its possibilities, and an indication was given as to how they meet so that one starting from knowledge could realise Karma and Bhakti also and so with each path. It was intended when the Self-Perfection was finished, to suggest a way in which all could be combined, but this was never written.

One can gauge how much of The Synthesis of Yoga remained to be written by comparing the actually completed chapters of “The Yoga of Self-Perfection” with the outline of this part found in chapter X of Part IV. The “elements and requisites of perfection, siddhi” which are set forth discursively in that chapter are listed more explicitly in Sapta Chatusthaya, a text of 1913 published along with Record of Yoga in volume 10 of The Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo. The system of seven (sapta) sets of four elements (catustaya) evidently underlies the structure of Part IV of The Synthesis of Yoga. The last and most general catustaya, the siddhi catustaya, is taken up first, in chapters I to IX. Chapters XI to XVIII correspond to the shanti and samata catustayas, the first two of the seven. Chapters XIX to XXV, and the incomplete chapter “The Supramental Time Consciousness”, correspond to the first two elements of the third or vijñana catustaya. By breaking off at this point, Sri Aurobindo left untreated the rest of the third and all of the fourth catustayas. He had covered the fifth and sixth catustayas to some degree in the rest of the Synthesis, but undoubtedly intended to deal with them in more depth before concluding. When Sri Aurobindo turned his attention to The Synthesis of Yoga during the 1930s after a gap of more than a decade, he made no effort to complete “The Yoga of Self-Perfection”. Instead he applied himself to the revision of already existing chapters.

The Revision of The Synthesis of Yoga

Sri Aurobindo revised the text of The Synthesis of Yoga during three distinct periods, referred to below as Period 1, Period 2, and Period 3.

Period 1. At various times after the printed text of the Arya began to appear, perhaps up to the end of the 1920s, Sri Aurobindo made corrections to certain chapters of The Synthesis of Yoga while reading over his own copies of the journal. Most of these chapters received only sporadic and minor revision; two chapters of Part II, however, were substantially altered.

Period 2. During 1932, and possibly somewhat before and after, Sri Aurobindo undertook a full-scale revision of The Synthesis of Yoga with a view to publishing it as a book. At this time he revised all the chapters of what became Part I, “The Yoga of Divine Works”, and nine chapters of what became Part II, “The Yoga of Integral Knowledge” (the addition of part-titles was part of the revision). He began this work by marking up pages torn from the Arya and then continued on copies handwritten or typed by disciples.

Period 3. During the early 1940s, Sri Aurobindo did further work on the later chapters of Part I, using typed copies of the pages from the Arya revised during Period 2. At the same time he began to write two new chapters, which he apparently intended to add to this part, but which he abandoned before completion. During the later part of the 1940s, Sri Aurobindo lightly revised the entire first part of the Synthesis while preparing it for publication. What follows is a brief part-by-part description of the revision.

Introduction: The Conditions of the Synthesis

Sri Aurobindo made sporadic minor changes to these five chapters during Period 1 and possibly also Period 2 of the revision. His alterations and additions, marked in issues of the Arya and a set of pages torn from the journal, were not discovered until the 1970s, and appear as part of the text for the first time in the present edition.

Part I: The Yoga of Divine Works

The twelve chapters of this part correspond to eleven Arya chapters: I-II and IV-XII. (There was no chapter numbered III in the Arya; the present chapters V and VI correspond to Arya chapter VI.) Sri Aurobindo revised each of these chapters during Period 2. The work done ranges from the light retouching of some pages to the rewriting or new-writing of long passages. During Period 3 he continued the work of revision begun in Period 2, concentrating on the last six chapters, and prepared the entire part for publication.

Chapter I. Moderately revised during Period 2.
Chapters II-IV. Heavily revised during Period 2. Sri Aurobindo added the entire second half of chapter IV at this time. He also made stylistic changes and added new material to all three chapters, but did not fundamentally alter their structure.
Chapters V and VI. Completely rewritten during Period 2 on the basis of Arya chapter VI, little of which remains in the final text.
Chapters VII-XII. Extensively revised during Periods 2 and 3. The typed sheets containing the later stages of the Period 2 revision of chapters VII and VIII were misplaced before the start of Period 3, obliging Sri Aurobindo to work on transcripts of the Arya pages containing only the earlier stages of the revision. The unused versions from Period 2 have since been found, and are reproduced in the reference volume (volume 35).
Appendix: Chapter XIII. During Period 3, Sri Aurobindo wrote this draft of a chapter meant to follow the last complete chapter of Part I, but did not prepare it for publication in the 1948 edition of the Synthesis. Found among his papers after his passing, it was published for the first time in the 1955 edition of the book. Around the same time that Sri Aurobindo worked on the chapter published as “Appendix: Chapter XIII”, he produced several drafts of a chapter entitled “The Yogic Consciousness and Works”, which he also intended to place at the end of Part I. None of these drafts are sufficiently well worked out to be published as part of the text of The Synthesis of Yoga. The most important of them are reproduced in the reference volume.

Part II: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge

These twenty-eight chapters correspond to Arya chapters XIII-XL. Sri Aurobindo revised eleven of these chapters during Periods 1 and 2, but did not prepare any of them for publication. The Period 2 revision was incorporated into the text of the 1955 edition; the Period 1 revision was not discovered until the 1970s.

Chapter I. Extensively revised during Period 2.
Chapter II. First four paragraphs revised significantly during Period 2.
Chapters III-VIII. Never revised.
Chapter IX. Extensively revised during Period 2.
Chapters X-XIV. Never revised.
Chapter XV. Moderately revised during Period 1.
Chapter XVI. One page lightly revised during Period 1.
Chapter XVII. Some of the later paragraphs revised significantly during Period 1; the first paragraph separately revised during Period 2. The present text includes both sets of revision, which do not overlap.
Chapters XVIII-XX. Never revised.
Chapters XXI-XXIV. Extensively revised during Period 2.
Chapter XXV. Never revised.
Chapter XXVI. Lightly revised during Period 2.
Chapters XXVII and XXVIII. Never revised.

Part III: The Yoga of Divine Love

No chapter in this part was ever revised by Sri Aurobindo. The texts of these eight chapters are identical to those of Arya chapters XLI-XLVIII. They were renumbered I-VIII and the part-title was added by the editors of the 1955 edition.

Part IV: The Yoga of Self-Perfection

No chapter in this part was ever revised by Sri Aurobindo. The texts of these twenty-five chapters are identical to those of Arya chapters XLIX-LXXIII. They were renumbered I-XXV by the editors of the 1955 edition. The Appendix consists of two incomplete versions of a chapter Sri Aurobindo began to write in 1920 or 1921, just before he discontinued the Arya.

Publishing History

The revised versions of chapters VII-XII of Part I of The Synthesis of Yoga were published in the quarterly review Advent between August 1946 and April 1948. The entire first part was published by the Sri Aurobindo Library, Madras, in October 1948. In 1950, and again in 1953, the same text was brought out by the Sri Aurobindo Library, New York. In each of these editions, the title of the book was given as The Synthesis of Yoga. A half-title specified that the contents consisted only of Part I (“Book One” in the American edition) of the complete work. Separate publication of the other parts had been planned, but this plan was never carried out. In 1955, the Arya text of the Introduction, the 1948 text of Part I, a text of Part II incorporating Sri Aurobindo's revisions from Period 2, and the Arya texts of the chapters comprising Part III and Part IV, were published by the Sri Aurobindo International University Centre as On Yoga I: The Synthesis of Yoga. (On Yoga II, published in 1958, consisted of a selection of Sri Aurobindo's letters on yoga.) The incomplete chapter “The Supermind and the Yoga of Works” appeared in this edition for the first time as chapter XIII of Part I. The SAIUC edition was reprinted, with corrections, in 1957. The same publisher (under the new name Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education) issued a new edition of the same text in 1965. In 1970 The Synthesis of Yoga was published as volumes 20 and 21 of the Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library (SABCL). This edition was reprinted many times. In 1999 The Synthesis of Yoga was issued as volumes 23 and 24 of The Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo (CWSA). The text of this edition was carefully checked against all related manuscripts and printed texts. Many typographical and other errors were corrected. This edition included for the first time Sri Aurobindo's scattered revisions in the Introduction and substantial revision of chapters XV-XVII of Part II. It was the first edition of the book to include the text of “The Supramental Time Consciousness”, the incomplete chapter Sri Aurobindo wrote for Part IV before setting aside “The Yoga of Self-Perfection”.

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