I was watching the wonderful 1940s film version of Somerset Maugham’s novel, ‘The Razor's Edge,’ about the search for the Spirit in life by the main character Larry. At one point he goes to India and meets a great guru, and stays with him. After expressing his confusion about life’s meaning and purpose, the great Sage tells Larry that we may begin with one particular path, but at the highest level of consciousness they merge into one thing. Specifically though one may begin with the seeking of Truth, ultimately the Path of Truth/Knowledge, Devotion, and Works are really one and the same thing, as each one implies the other.
I have been thinking about this subject recently; wondering about my level of spiritual connection amongst these three levels or paths. E.g. I am increasingly giving my inner and outer self to the Mother over these years, especially in recent times, but I haven’t the passion of Devotion (Bhakti) as I see other devotees have as expressed. My opening to Mother is more spontaneous, idealistic, self-giving, part of the adventure of life, a feeling of Presence, yet with not very much of the vital or heart’s intensity toward Her. Is it still the Path of Devotion then?
Sri Aurobindo says that the path begins with Truth; of what we are, where we are going, and life’s true nature; and then all follows. I see this very clearly. E.g. how can we love, if we do not know the real Truth of existence? Mother in 'The Agenda' liked to say and emphasized "Truth, then Love." She indicated there that if we took to spiritual Love in full before higher realizations (of the truths of life and the guidance, security, and influence of Her Force), we would be crushed by Love's infinite power.
On the Path of Knowledge -- i.e. Sri Aurobindo and Karmayogi's Knowledge -- I have increasingly learned of the utility and power of consecration and surrender to Mother, which I have then practiced. Some others started with a miracle that occurred in their lives by evoking Mother. Was that an Idea (of consecration) on their part, or a movement of Devotion, or simply an act of desperation, which was really some aspiration of their Soul and Being? As a result of their wondrous experience, many then took to Her in earnest, which can be considered Devotional; but perhaps more accurately a “spiritual Totality.”
When we arrive at Sri Aurobindo and Mother, we may come from different paths or life experiences, but ultimately the Path of three is one. Sri Krishna indicated this, as does Vedanta. Sri Aurobindo added the dimensions of the Psychic Being (Evolving Soul) and Supermind (as Creator and ultimate Force to guide us to a Divine Life). So through our higher consciousness we come to see that these Rays of Contact are really One; and yet in the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo, it is much more.
Much of our approach to the Spirit depends on our backgrounds, the culture we come from (e.g. the West is not very devotional; the East is), current social trends, the stage humanity has reached in its progress, etc.
In yet another area -- in his great essay 'The Mother' --, Sri Aurobindo offers the triple way of Aspiration, Rejection, and Surrender. There he suggests that the Path for devotees begins with an intense Aspiration to raise our consciousness, for a new human existence, for the Divine to come on earth. This is accompanied by Rejection of all of our wanting qualities and propensities, and further still enjoined by Surrendering all of the details of our lives; in fact our very being and life’s purpose to Her. So there too we have these intertwined Paths that are really integral and One. And here too, Sri Aurobindo’s great discoveries of the Psychic Being and the Supramental Force and Power, add new dimensions, making it not only One but Integrally Dynamic.