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Dear Tusar M and others in Savitri Era-
It's wonderful Tusar that you have created this post out of my introduction for the proposed book. Actually Sri Aurobindo or the Yogi of the Life Divine is being serialised in Epic India.Com - I have today posted the fifth serial titling The Philosophy of the Life Divine. I give the whole article below:
The Philosophy of the Life Divine
The Philosophy of the Life Divine
‘If there is a Being that is becoming, a Reality of existence that is unrolling itself in Time, what that being, that reality secretly is is what we have to become, and so to become is our life’s significance
How Sri Aurobindo became a philosopher
‘And philosophy! Let me tell you in confidence that I never, never, never was a philosopher…I was a poet and a politician, not a philosopher.’ Sri Aurobindo wrote to his disciple, Dilip Kumar Roy on 4.9.1934. But why did he write philosophy then?
Paul Richard and Mirra Richard started the Arya with Sri Aurobindo on his birthday in 1914 but left under political compulsion on 22 February 1915. ‘Left me in the lurch with sixty four pages a month of philosophy all to write by my lonely self.’ 1. Sri Aurobindo explained.
But how could he write such a great philosophical treatise in The Life Divine, which even the greatest philosophers of the world could never expect to write? In reply to such a question he wrote on 4.11.1936 that he was neither accustomed to write, nor wrote metaphysical reasoning full of abstract words, as was expected, but ‘What is there is a harmonizing of different parts of a many sided knowledge so that all unites logically together… by a clear vision of the relations and sequences of the knowledge.’ 2.
On anther occasion when a renowned professor of Indian philosophy requested Sri Aurobindo through one of his disciples to write something which he would to show to the world as his philosophy, as an example of Indian philosophy, he replied, ‘But the fact is that it is quite impossible for me to write philosophy to order. If something comes to me of itself, I can write, if I have time. But I have no time.’ 3
Sri Aurobindo’s Philosophy
Sri Aurobindo’s logical view is that ‘The world is a manifestation of the Real and therefore is itself real.’ 4 It is the reality of the eternal Divine in the shape of Central Being, Consciousness force and Bliss. When we look for real truth beyond our day-to-day interests and egoistic preoccupations, we are sure to perceive a boundless energy of infinite existence and movement actively pouring itself in eternal time, which surpasses all egos. It is the ‘Samam Brahma’ of the Gita. It is the Brahman. It gives the whole of it to all, from solar system to the ant-hill. When we alone become important to us, we cannot perceive this force and energy. This is the sign of original ignorance, Sri Aurobindo said. To know ourselves as a part of this total movement is knowledge.
Such an infinite existence imposes itself on all appearances of the finite by its ineffable self-existence. It is ever active and static at the same time. ‘The very conception of movement carries with it the potentiality of repose and betrays itself as an activity of some existence; the very idea of energy in action carries with it the idea of energy abstaining from action.’ 5
The eternal indivisible succession of time carries with it a progressive movement of indivisible consciousness, Sri Aurobindo explained. ‘Each moment of time or consciousness may be considered as separate from its predecessor or successor, each successive action of Energy as a new quantum of new creation; but this does not abrogate continuity without which there would be no duration of time or coherence of consciousness. A man’s steps as he walks or runs or leaps are separate, but there is something that takes the steps and makes the movement continuous.’ 6
This concept of time, we may take, as a reply to Sartre’s idea of the continuity of time, creating nothingness.
To Sri Aurobindo there is no break, no fissure in the essence of a being and so, there is no anguish as in Sartre. To him pure existent is a fact, a fundamental reality, not a concept. In his poetic language- ‘World existence is the ecstatic dance of Shiva, which multiplies the body of the God numberlessly to the view: It leaves that white existence precisely where and what it was, ever is and ever will be; its sole absolute object is the joy of the dancing.’ 7
Sri Aurobindo is one with the view expressed in the Upanishad that all existences are born and sustained in Ananda, to Ananda they depart. Delight is existence, the secret of creation. It is the cause of birth and cessation of birth.
Existence and consciousness are one. Consciousness is not merely an operation of the mind or sense but it is in sleep, in trance, in a state when awareness is annulled. It is intrinsic in being, self-existent. ‘In the supreme timeless status where consciousness is one with being and immobile, it is not a separate reality, but simply and purely the self-awareness inherent in existence.’ 8 He explained it further, ‘As in us, so in the atom, the metal, the plant, in every form of material Nature, in every energy of material Nature, there is, we know, a secret soul, a secret will, a secret intelligence at work, other than the mute self-oblivious form, the Conscient, - conscient even in unconscious things,- of the Upanishad, without whose presence and informing Consciousness-Force or Tapas no work of Nature could be done.’ 9
So we find that consciousness is all-pervasive. It is the same as divine existence in all, from A to Z, from conscient to inconscient. Consciousness is not merely awareness, mental or sense activities. It is there, either in action or inaction. Emanating from Being it extends to all Becomings. Being is one, the supreme divine consciousness and all Becomings are part of universal existence, the self expression of the Being.
An infinite consciousness, delight of being, force and will is the reality behind the appearances of the universe. In matter is the lowest plunge of the divine reality. It is the inconscient, where the supreme is involved. He ascends through grades of consciousness in matter, life and mind. ‘That which is involved must evolve; for it is not only there as an existence, a force hidden in its apparent opposite, and every such force must in its inmost nature be moved to find itself, to realize itself, to release itself into play, but it is the reality of that which conceals it, it is the self which the nescience has lost and which therefore must be the whole secret meaning, the constant drift of its action to seek for and recover.’ 10
When the progressive ascent of the individual becomes essential, rebirth of the soul in the body assumes significance. It is the truth of becoming. Man is a mental being, moving toward the supermind. The secret spirit or divine-self, which is eternal and unborn, becomes the psychic being within us. We are a part of the divine. That is the true I. The I of this moment is mortal. The psychic being in us is evolved in every birth. It is the inner I. It survives death even as it pre-exists before birth. It is the presence of the timeless spirit in time, Sri Aurobindo said.
As the one has become many, many carry in their heart the essence of the one divine reality, which creates the essential urge in them to return to their source. It is a twofold movement from unity to multiplicity and multiplicity to unity. The ancient seers had fixed seven grades, sevenfold mode of all cosmic existence. These may be called the stairs of descent and ascent for the involution and evolution of consciousness.
The stairs are: Existence, Consciousness, Bliss (Sat, Chit, Ananda), the nature of the divine being in the upper hemisphere and Mind, Life, Body (Mana, Prana, Sarira) in the lower hemisphere. In between them is the Supermind; the Vignamaya or Maharloka, a bridge between the two.
It is through the Supermind that the supreme consciousness multiplies itself. Supermind has been termed as the Real Idea, Rit-Chita. It is Satyam, Ritam and Vrihat. The Truth, Right and the Vast. It has three status- Comprehending consciousness, one with Sachchidananda without any individualization; Apprehending consciousness, seeming to distribute itself in its forms, following and supporting the individual play of movement and upholding its differentiation and the tertiary poise would be a fundamental blissful dualism in unity. It insists on the joy of differentiation as necessary to the fullness of the joy of unity.
So the Supermind gives different spiritual experiences to different aspirants, according to the extent of their realization. Here Sri Aurobindo points out, ‘It is indeed only when our human mentality lays an exclusive emphasis on one side of spiritual experience, affirms that to be the sole eternal truth and states it in the terms of our all dividing mental logic that the necessity for mutually destructive schools of philosophy arises.’ 11. He established a fourth principle in the ladder, called soul, with a double appearance. In front it is the desire soul, which strives for possession and delight of things and behind it, mostly veiled by it, is the psychic entity, the real repository of the experiences of the spirit. Two from each hemisphere, out of the eight principles, are directly related and involved in each other. These are: Existence and Matter, Consciousness-force and Life, Bliss and Psyche, Supermind and Mind. It will look as below-
Upper hemisphere Lower hemisphere
Philosophy means Darshan, the vision. He was a Rishi, a seer poet. What he had seen he wrote very logically to prove the truth of his vision to the world through The Life Divine. The process of achieving the divine life was given in his The Synthesis of Yoga, The Mother and other works. The poet in him recorded his vision in Savitri.
Obstructions are sure to creep in for the enemies to a divine worker, seen and unseen, are many for which Sri Aurobindo emphasized the need of four armors; Faith, Aspiration, Surrender and Rejection, which we must have within us from the beginning, for a success.
‘Faith is indispensable to man, for without it he could not proceed forward in his journey through the unknown; but it ought not to be imposed, it should come as a free perception or an imperative direction from the inner spirit.’ 12
In her long debate with yama, the King of Death, Savitri resolutely pushed forward her claim in the face of all negative scrutiny, all vociferous attacks by the opponent. She asked Death, with utmost faith-
‘If in the meaningless void creation rose,
If from a bodiless Force Matter was born,
If life could climb in the unconscious tree,
If green delight break into emerald leaves
And its laughter of beauty blossom in the flower,
If sense could wake in tissue, nerve and cell,
And thought seize the grey matter of the brain,
And soul peep from its secrecy through the flesh,
How shall the nameless light not leap on men,
And unknown powers emerge from Nature’s sleep?’
And then, after some time, she asserted-
‘Already the God is near, the Truth is close:
Because the dark atheist body knows him not,
Must the sage deny the Light, the seer his soul?’
(Sri Aurobindo. Savitri. Book-10. Canto 4.)
If faith is there, aspiration is almost intertwined with it. The other two require will power, grace and many other things for their true operation. Gradually, with a growing love for Sri Aurobindo, with some confidence in him already gained, we may believe in the words of the yogi that ‘Death has no reality except as a process of life…. Death is merely a rapid disintegration subservient to life’s necessity of change and variation of formal experience. Even in the death of the body there is no cessation of Life, only the material of one form of life is taken up to serve as material for other forms of life…. If there is in the bodily form a mental or psychic energy, that also is not destroyed but only breaks out from one form to assume other by some process of metempsychosis or new ensouling of body. All renews itself, nothing perishes.’ 13
Sri Aurobindo’s unique contribution to philosophy consists of- apart from re-introduction of ancient wisdom in modern life- his justification that two opposite poles always meet. One and many, duality and non-duality, dynamic and static, real and non-real (Maya or Illusion) - all are different aspects of the same Truth. Evolution is that of consciousness which is inherent in everything. He introduced the concept of transformation as a means of evolution. He said both God and earth are real. In order to realize God one need not leave the earth. One should bring down God into his life to divinize it so that earthly life becomes life divine. He stressed more on collective realization than individual mukti. Like Tagore he thought, how can there be a release from earthly life when God has bound himself on earth? He justified it by his unique argument. With a deep reverence we take a resolution with him:
‘If there is a Being that is becoming, a Reality of existence that is unrolling itself in Time, what that being, that reality secretly is is what we have to become, and so to become is our life’s significance.’ 14
And we whole-heartedly agree with the comments made in The Times Literary Supplement, London, on 8 July 1944, about The Life Divine that, ‘The importance of the book lies neither in its beauty of tone nor in its beauty of inspiration- both of which are there- but in its power of creating round us wide circles of peace.’
It is based on experience and Knowledge
Before pouring out his philosophy in The Life Divine and making the program to bring down the divine consciousness on earth for humanity through the practical path of speeding up the evolution of consciousness, which he later deliberated and enunciated in his The Synthesis of Yoga, Sri Aurobindo was flooded with spiritual experiences, one after the other. Each step of his yoga was an experiment and he verified the results achieved with minute observations for years before declaring their truth. Most of the experiences came to him before he sought them. ‘To reach Nirvana was the first radical result of my own yoga. It threw me suddenly into a condition above and without thought, unstained by any mental or vital movement, there was no ego, no real world… there was no One or many even, only just absolutely That, featureless, relationless, sheer, indescribable, unthinkable, absolute, yet supremely real and solely real….’
‘I lived in that Nirvana day and night before it began to admit other things into itself or modify itself at all, and the inner heart of experience, a constant memory of it and its power to return remained until in the end it began to disappear into a greater Super consciousness from above… the aspect of an illusionary world gave place to one in which illusion is only a small surface phenomenon with an immense Divine Reality behind it and a supreme Divine Reality above it and an intense Divine Reality in the heart of everything that had seemed at first only a cinematic shape or shadow...
‘It came without even a “May I come in” or a “By your leave”. It just happened and just settled in as if for all eternity or as if it had been really there always. And then slowly it grew into something not less but greater than its first self. How then could I accept Mayavada…of Shankara?
Along with history, literarature and language he studied Indian philosophy and was well conversant in the world of thought, as it existed before him throughout the globe. Hence he could verify the truth seen by others and justify its place in relation to his experiences.
‘Mayavada … supports the effort of the Mind to get away from the limitations of Mind and Life into the superconscient Infinite.’ 15. Sri Aurobindo wrote in a letter and confirmed in another that, ‘Shankara surely stands or falls by the Mayavada.’
‘According to Buddha and Shankara liberation means laya of the individual in some transcendent Permanence that is not individualized- so logically a belief in the individual soul must prevent liberation while the sense of misery in the world leads to the attempt to escape.’ 16 He wrote.
But Sri Aurobindo accepted Buddha’s theism. ‘From the little he said it would appear that he was aware of Permanent beyond equivalent to the Vedantic Para-Brahman, but which he was quite unwilling to describe. The denial of anything beyond the world except a negative state of Nirvana was a later teaching, not Buddha’s.’ 17
As if to justify his statement, Sri Aurobindo, in his The Life Divine said, ‘Thus was it possible for Buddha to attain the state of Nirvana and yet act puissantly in the world, impersonal in his inner consciousness, in his action the most powerful personality that we know of as having lived and produced results upon earth.’ 18
Sri Aurobindo appreciated Buddha but refused the Buddhist goal of Nirvana and Shankara’s Mayavada. The Mother, his spiritual collaborator, compared Buddha with Siva. He revolted against the then prevailing Hinduism but his teaching belonged to greater Hinduism.
It has a purpose
To Sri Aurobindo philosophy was a part of his action integrated with his program of yoga. As in other areas, he suggested the practical path to be followed to reach the goal of a divine life. His philosophy is purposeful. Being a scholar of European history and culture, a linguist, an interpreter of Indian shastras, a poet, thinker and writer, he could synthesize his mystic knowledge perfectly by identity, as he called it, with modern thought and could express it in a language comprehensible to all logical minds. His philosophy was not for any one country but for the whole humanity. He said, ‘Our aim is not either, to found a religion or a school of philosophy or a school of yoga, but to create a ground of spiritual growth and experience and a way which will bring down a greater Truth beyond the mind but not inaccessible to the human soul and consciousness. All can pass who are drawn to that Truth, whether they are from India or elsewhere, from the East or from the West. All may find great difficulties in their personal or common human nature; but it is not their physical origin or their racial temperament that can be an insuperable obstacle to their deliverance.’ 19
The savants of the West accepted it. One of them, Charles Moore, in his essay, Sri Aurobindo on East and West, wrote, ‘In this achievement he has not only brought Eastern and Western cultures and thought-traditions closer in appreciation and understanding but has also suggested, in his final achievement of the integral philosophy, a world philosophy which does justice to both East and West and also provides at least one formulation of the goal of modern man, a philosophy for humanity as a whole…’ 20.
Professor Tan Yun-Shan of Visva Bharati University, Shantiniketan, in his foreward to ‘Sri Aurobindo A Homage’ by Sisir Kumar Mitra, wrote in 1940, ‘I am convinced that Sri Aurobindo has evolved a practical philosophy of life which is singular in the history of man’s spiritual achievement, and which is sure to fulfill its purpose, viz. the inner regeneration of man…. Sri Aurobindo will rekindle in man his faith in the values of the spirit, and thereby save humanity from yet greater disasters. There is yet time for man to wake up.’
He was a great Rishi of the Vedic age, to whom the great Truth revealed itself again, layer after layer and through his modern mind he reached a greater height than ever contemplated by any. So Romain Rolland admitted that he was ‘The last of the great Rishis holds in his hand, in firm unrelaxed grip, the bow of creative energy.’
Dr. Shyamaprasad Mookerjee in his Presidential address at the Sri Aurobindo Memorial Convention on 24 April 1951 said, ‘When we read his books, he seems to appear out of the pages of our ancient sacred lore, the representative of all their wisdom made dynamic by an awareness of the present spiritual crisis.’
A Contrast with Communism
While the philosophy of Life Divine may not be acceptable to all, those who accept it may succeed to the extent possible, in spiritualizing his life, which will help him and his society. As it is not a life-negating philosophy, not tending toward sannyasa, in no way it is a loss to the society if an individual proceeds toward it while performing all the normal duties of life. But a mistake of judgement, a great dearth of wisdom in propounding a philosophy can create havoc in society, can create a degeneration of humanity. It is proved by the philosophy of Karl Marx and his followers.
The Manifesto of the Communist party, by Karl Marx and F. Engels, published for the first time in German language in 1848, was translated in English in 1888. The beginning of it laid bare the fact, ‘A spectre is haunting Europe- the spectre of communism.’ It ends with, ‘The communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.’
Alas, the proponents read history but not the human nature. They saw the world through a monocle, only the aspect of economic relation among men drew their attention. ‘But to read an economic cause, conscious or unconscious, into all phenomena of man’s history is part of a Bolshevik gospel born of the fallacy of Karl Marx.’ Sri Aurobindo opined in a letter in 1935.
They did not know that the leaders of the proletarians would one day become great dictators trembling at the prospect of enemies all around them. We may repeat what Calphurnia, wife of Caesar said, ‘Alas, my Lord, your wisdom is consumed in confidence.’ (Shakespeare)
Not only capitalists died, millions of ordinary people died in the process. According to a British magazine, Time and Tide, 100 million people died as a result of the application of the Marxist-Leninist ideology since the Bolshevik revolution, of which Soviet Russia accounted for 45 million, China 44.5 million and Eastern Europe 3.6 million, as reported by the Statesman, Calcutta, on 22 November 1969. More than two decades passed after that, till the final break up of the Soviet Union. If caste system, which was once valuable, as both Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo thought, degenerated Indian society afterwards, class system created hatred between man and man throughout the world.
The proponents did not know that man does not really change by any outer means. That attempt has failed many times. The biggest communist country has now changed its mode of production in a capitalistic fashion. Capilatists are being born out of the communists. It is gradually paving the way for a democratic system. Whether men and women are happy now or were happy earlier under the iron dictatorship, will be known in future, as we have come to know of the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries through many reports and books, specially through such personalities as Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the writer, Svetlena Alliluyeva, Stalin’s daughter and Silview Craciunus, the writer of Lost Foot Steps.
There has never been a real communist State anywhere in India, so it may remain beyond any mention as remain some other minor communist countries. About the holocaust of such a diabolic experiment with human lives, we may repeat, ‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves…’ (Shakespeare. Julius Caesar.)
Sri Aurobindo, the thinker, in his The Ideal of Human Unity said that the rational idea ends always as a captive of its own machinery. A new idea with another turn of logical machine revolts against it and breaks up. About a centralized socialist State he said that it might well terminate in a crumbling up and disintegration. About the communist movement, attempting to englobe all the nations of the earth, he felt that ‘There would be tendencies, resistances, urges towards other developments which would sooner or later bring about its collapse or some revolutionary change which would mean its disappearance.
He thought such movements to be perilous. In a postscript chapter of the Ideal of Human Unity he wrote, ‘In Asia a more perilous situation has arisen… in the emergence of communist China… two enormous Communist Powers, Russia and China… would overshadow with a threat of absorption of South Western Asia and Tibet.’ 21
Now we realize whether those were the words uttered by a dreamer or a seer. He said that nothing can be real in life that is not made real in spirit. It is only if men can be made free, equal and united in spirit that there can be a secure freedom, equality and brotherhood in their life
Face to Face with Existentialism
As there is no speck of god in communism so in existentialism, an offshoot of it. But it has a sense of purity about it. It leads to negation like Buddhism and Mayavada but on a materialistic foundation. The greatest practitioner of this ism, the modern French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre, has expounded his theory through his main book on the subject, L’ Etre et le Neant or Being and Nothingness. As we reproduce from some important chapters of this book, translated in English, we will see, how he sometimes almost catches the truth, going through almost a mystic path, but in the absence of his faith and realization in anything higher than human material life, he moves in the vortex of nothingness, which leads to ennui, angst and faithlessness. It induces one to immoral, irresponsible, suicidal and sadistic acts, as are found in some of the existentialist literature. As they have no faith in after-life or rebirth, life ultimately becomes meaningless to them, which is the rational outcome of their thought process. At every moment as we progress through Being and Nothingness, we understand the difference between a faithless materialistic approach and a divine approach to life emanating from a vibrant faith, as in Sri Aurobindo. Let us move through the Being and Nothingness:
‘Being is. Being is in itself. Being is what it is.
‘The distinguishing characteristic of consciousness, on the other hand, is that it is a decomposition of being. The self cannot be a property of being in-itself.
‘The law of being of the for-itself, as the ontological foundation of consciousness, is to be itself in the form of presence to itself…. Presence to itself, on the contrary, supposes that an impalpable fissure has slipped into being…. It supposes separation… what it is which separates the subject from himself, we are forced to admit that it is nothing.
‘Human reality is being in so far as within its being and for its being it is the unique foundation of nothingness at the heart of being.
‘The appearance of the for-itself or absolute event refers indeed to the effort of an in-itself to found itself; it corresponds to an attempt on the part of being to remove contingency from its being. But this attempt results in the nihilation of the in-itself.
‘Man continuously carries with him a pre-judicative comprehension of his essence…. Essence in all that human reality apprehends in itself as having been…. It remains always behind us and it dwells in us as the permanent object of our retrospective comprehension. It is in so far as this nature is a demand without being a recourse that is apprehended in anguish.
‘Anguish in fact is… my future being is always nihilated and reduced to the rank of simple possibility because the future which I am remains out of my reach.
‘When I constitute myself as a comprehension of a possible as my possible, I must recognize its existence at the end of my project and apprehend it as myself, awaiting me down there in the future and separated from me by a nothingness.
‘I assert that an act is free when it exactly reflects my essence…. it is a matter of apprehending my freedom in my self as the freedom of another… It is a fiction eminently reassuring since freedom has been driven down into the heart of an opaque being…
‘By a projection of freedom- which we apprehend in ourselves- into a psychic object which is the self, Bergson has contributed to disguise our anguish, but it is at the expense of the consciousness itself.
‘A flight from anguish is only a mode of becoming conscious of anguish…. Anguish can be neither hidden nor avoided.
‘Very simply I can make myself guilty of bad faith, intended to fill up nothingness which I am in my relation to myself…
‘Death is never that which gives life its meaning…. If we must die, then our life has no meaning because its problems receive no solution… remains undetermined.’
Toward the end Sartre writes, ‘As we pointed out at the beginning of this work, most of the time we flee anguish in bad faith.’
In his introduction, the translator Hazel E. Barnes wrote, ‘According to Sartre, the ego is not in consciousness, which is utterly translucent, but in the world; and like the world it is the object of consciousness.’ In his key to special terminology Barnes wrote, ‘Like Husserl, Sartre insists that consciousness is always consciousness of something.’ (All the above quotations are from Being and Nothingness. Jean-Paul Sartre. New York; Washington Square Press Inc., N.Y. 2nd printing June 1966.)
We must appreciate that Sartre was one of the greatest thinkers and considered as the greatest French mind of the last century and millennium, who refused the French Legion d’Honneur and Nobel prize for literature on moral and ethical grounds. He loathed his childhood, found no meaning in life and death. Yet he came closer to identifying the Self, almost as a witness. About the essence of the being he said, ‘It remains always behind us and it dwells in us as the permanent object of our retrospective comprehension.’
As he could never realize the divine essence in his life, he had to conclude that such a thing was conceived in bad faith, as others in a similar position, with a logical mind, would conclude. Because of the absence of any conclusive idea, death and rebirth became meaningless to him. So was life in the absence of a logical basis of its continuity.
Sri Aurobindo vis-à-vis other thinkers
Here comes the point of comparison with Meister Echart, a German mystic of the medieval age. He is considered as the father of the German mystics, German philosophic prose and language. In an article written in Srinvantu (Kolkata), in February1991, Dilip Kumar Roy discussed some aspects of his thoughts, which was similar to Indian concept, particularly as in Sri Aurobindo.
According to Echart, there is an element in human soul which is uncreated, which he called intelligere. It is actionless, still. When one rises to that level, he becomes the guide of his senses. Senses do not move him. Another part of the soul receives images from without through the senses. It is his Image theory. Sri Aurobindo also spoke about two aspects of the soul. The surface soul or desire soul and the psychic being, described in the Katha Upanishad as a fire of aspiration of the size of a thumb, always burning in the heart. It is the divine witness to our evolution. In fact it evolves in every birth. It is progressive, unlike Echart’s unmoving part of the soul. But when one is guided by the psychic consciousness he is not moved by his senses, as Echart said.
Different aspects of Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy has been compared to the works of other philosophers like Plato, Hegel, Bergson, Chardin, Nietzsche and others but no where the critics have found a philosophical system so integral in nature as in Sri Aurobindo.
While Sri Aurobindo considered Superman as one who has realized the Supermind, the highest spiritual consciousness so far conceived, Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche’s Superman is a Titan, an Asura, the most powerful, egoistic human being on earth. But all such powers crumble one day, all powerful empires perished in time. A Dionysian life where ‘God is dead’ is destined to be a temporary affair.
It seems that Sisir Kumar Mitra, the teacher and writer, had aptly chosen his words when he wrote in his book, The Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo, ‘Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy…. in its gigantic sweep and colossal range, covering the whole realm of mind, life, matter and laying bare the hidden truths of the soul and the higher regions of the spirit…. has perhaps no equal in breadth, in comprehensiveness of outlook in the whole range of the history of philosophy.’
Involution and evolution are two complementary terms. While involution is self oblivion, evolution is self discovery, while involution suggests nimesha, tirobhava, atmagopana, evolution connotes unmesha, avirbhava and atmaprakasha.
The theory of evolution was first propagated by Charls Darwin, in the nineteenth century. His Origin of Species was published in 1859 and Descent of Man in 1871. Before that his theory of Organic Evolution was announced before the London Linnean Society on 1 July 1858. Darwin’s realization and discovery came as a result of his expedition to South America and the Pacific from 1831 to 1836 on HMS Beagle. The book, The Voyage of the Beagle, recorded his findings in detail. ‘The Voyage of the Beagle has been by far the most important event in my life,’ wrote Darwin. In his introduction to the book H.E.L. Mellersh worte, ‘And what is Darwin’s theory of evolution? …. It is that Life on this planet has evolved from simple beginnings and that it has done so by means of Natural Selection. And by Natural Selection is meant the drastic sifting power of Nature to weed out those offspring of any mating which are the least fit to survive in their surroundings. Thus the fitter survive and their particular characteristics are passed on to future generations, causing gradual change and in course of time new species.’
While Darwin’s theory was based mainly on observation of living organisms, Sri Aurobindo’s was based on yogic vision and spiritual realization. While Darwin’s work points out an evolution in matter and forms, Sri Aurobindo points out that the real evolution is that of consciousness. The form changes its inner functioning and shape, to the extent possible, to fit in with the new development. All the earlier elements are taken up in it and transformed to suit the emerging consciousness. Evolution follows triple process of widening, heightening and integration. As it evolves it widens to manifest a broader principle of consciousness. It embraces the higher principle in its heightening process as from stone to plant, plant to animal and animal to man. When the lower reaches the higher level, the higher pulls it up and integrates it with itself by transforming it to its level.
If Darwin’s theory of evolution is placed side by side with Newton’s Law of Gravitation, Freud’s Psychology and Einstein’s theory of Relativity, as the great intellectual guide posts of modern world, Sri Aurobindo’s theory of spiritual evolution and philosophy of Life Divine deserve greater attention for the truth and hope they contain for all mankind. Sri Aurobindo’s life, we may say, was an adventure of consciousness. If the idea of a stream of consciousness, a mental phenomenon, a part of consciousness, overwhelms people, they have to know the actual nature of consciousness. A stream is a bit of it. One has to come to Sri Aurobindo to realize what consciousness really is.
An Action in Force
While the evolution has been on from the beginning of the earthly existence, while the supramental descent on earth’s atmosphere was a reality on 29 February 1956, as predicted by Sri Aurobindo and testified by Mother, Sri Aurobindo gave a program of willed evolution through yoga, to expedite the process, as much as possible in this life, by means of triple transformation. To reach the supermind, to live in it as a Gnostic being while never renouncing the earth, transforming the ordinary life to Life Divine, was his grand plan.
Sri Aurobindo was not happy with what the evolutionary power had done, illuminating a few individuals with knowledge to realize the divine beyond appearances or to realize their selves. ‘It is not the complete and radical change which establishes a secure and settled new principle, a new creation, a permanent new order of being in the field of terrestrial nature. The spiritual man was evolved, but not the supramental being, who shall thenceforward be the leader of the Nature.’ 22
Out of three graded transformations he spoke about, the psychic or psycho-spiritual transformation with the help of the psychic being within us, would bring a vast change in our mental nature. The psychic opens one to the cosmic consciousness and to the superconscient above, which is usually hidden from us by the strong, hard, bright red lid of mind which is constricting, dividing and separative.
The mind has separate ranges up to the supermind. After mind is higher mind, then there are, illumined mind, intuitive mind and overmind before reaching the supermind, of which a reference has already been made. After the psychic opening, by an intense aspiration and concentration, one may reach the higher realms of consciousness. ‘The psychic movement inward to the inner being, the Self or Divinity within us must be completed by an opening upward to a supreme spiritual status or a higher existence.’ 23
This may effectuate the second transformation, called the spiritual transformation, when the permanent ascension of human consciousness to the higher one is responded by a permanent descent from the higher world. Every time that the ascent and descent takes place the nature has to be transformed in minute details, in every nook and corner of the mind, life and body. Sri Aurobindo has discussed them with all details in his The Life Divine and The Synthesis of Yoga. Great is the work. Many are the hurdles. One has to work hard to reach the divine life. But it is reachable by human beings for a permanent solution of all our problems.
Sri Aurobindo gave a caution, which is very relevant to the path of willed evolution. It happens in the life of most of the sadhaks who ever move toward the goal without settling anywhere. He said, ‘At any moment the work may be stayed, personally for this life, because the nature is able to receive or assimilate no more, - for it has reached the present limits of his capacity, - or because the mind may be ready but the vital, when faced with a choice between the old life and the new, refuses, or if the vital accepts, the body may prove too weak, unfit or flawed for the necessary change of its consciousness and its dynamic transformation.’ 24
There are flaws in every mode of consciousness. Only the supermind is flawless. Its action is intrinsic and automatic. Its nature is self-achieving Truth-Consciousness. ‘The whole radical change in the evolution from a basis of Ignorance to a basis of Knowledge can only come by the intervention of the supramental power and its direct action in earth-existence.’ 25
Sri Aurobindo said in a letter in connection with his path that the idea of the Supermind, the Truth-Consciousness is there in the Rig Veda, in one or two passages of the Upanishads, but only in seed, not developed and even the principle of it had disappeared from the Hindu tradition. He got the supramental idea on his own through experience and later discovered its existence, mentioned in seed form in our scriptures. A divine life is sure to come once the supramental consciousness embraces us.
1.Sri Aurobindo. Collected Works. Sri Aurobindo Birth Centinery Library. Pondicherry; Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Vol.26.p.374
3. (Sri Aurobindo to Dilip. Pune; Hare Krishna Mandir Trust. Volume-2. p.129)
4. Idem. Vol.22. p.44
5. Idem. Vol.18 P.75
6. Ibid. p.77
7. Ibid. p.78
8. Ibid. p.545
9. Ibid. p.588
10. Idem. Vol.19. p.755
11. Idem. Vol.18. p.149
12. Idem. Vol.19 p.864
13. Idem. Vol.18. p.176
14. Idem. Vol.19. p.1016
15. Idem. Vol.22. pp.49-50
16. Ibid. p.66
17. Ibid. p.62
18. Idem. Vol. 18. p.29
19. Idem. Vol. 23. pp.559-60
20. As quoted in The Soul Culture in the Upanishad. C.R.Goswami. Pondicherry; Sri Aurobindo Ashram. 1971. pp. 29-3
21. Idem. Vol.15. P.567
22. Idem Vol.19. p.890
23. Ibid. p.910
24. Ibid. p.915
25. Ibid. p.918
© Aju Mukhopadhyay, 2008
20, Padmini Thottam, Kurichikuppam,