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The Fundamental Concepts of Sri Aurobindo

K.Srinivas Department of Philosophy, School of Humanities, Pondicherry University,Puducherry-605 014,India

Sri Aurobindo ( 1872-1950) is one of the most influential contemporary Indian philosophers and mystics. According to G.H. Langley: Sri Aurobindo is both a poet and speculative thinker . The same is true of Rabindranath Tagore, but the thought of Sri Aurobindo appears to me more comprehensive and systematic than that of Tagore.

Sri Aurobindo: Indian Poet, Philosopher, Mystic ( Royal India, Pakisthan, Ceylone

Society, David Marlowe Ltd). His original name was Arabinda Akryod Ghose The philosophy of Sri Aurobindo is known as integral philosophy for it combines physical, vital and mental elements into one single whole.

Most of his important writings appeared in his journal The Arya between 1914-20. These writings of Sri Aurobindo were published later in the form of books with some revisions. They are: The Essays on

the Gita; Synthesis of Yoga; The Human Cycle; The Ideal of Human Unity; The Life Divine; Two Volumes of Collected Poems: and Savitri.

It consists of twenty seven thousand lines. His writings express a steady vision with regard to the evolution of the world, and of man, through different stages, points to the divine destiny of man. A harmonious and integral culture of physical, vital, and mental potentialities of

man lead him to super-human level to realize the sublime truth (sat-cit-ananda) . Aurobindos Views on Evolution The problem of evolution has attracted the attention of philosophers and scientists alike. Several theories of evolution have been advanced by them. Even before the scientists have advanced

their theories of evolution the philosophers in the East and the West have advanced their theories. For instance it is mentioned in the Taittiriya Upanishad: In the beginning all this Universe was Non-existent and unmanifest from which manifest existence was born. Itself created itself, non other created it. Therefore, they say of it the

Well and beautifully made. Similarly, one of the orthodox systems of Indian philosophy, Samkhya talks about evolution. The proximity of Prakriti, the primordial substance, to Purusha, the consciousness, disturbs the equilibrium of the gunas (sattva,rajas, and tamas) which results in evolution.

Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosopher, made a significant contribution to the theory of evolution. As a biologist he attributed evolutionary changes to natural causes. He held that evolution of life started from the primordial soft mass of living matter, and it is a gradual process beginning with plants to animals with sensitivity, and to man.

The mechanistic theorists of evolution held that life has arisen from inorganic matter controlled by natural laws. The modern evolutionists like Lamark, Darwin, and De Vries made significant contributions to the theory of evolution. Bergson in the West advanced creative evolution, and Sri Aurobindo spiritual evolution.

In his The Life Divine Sri Aurobindo discusses at length his spiritual theory of evolution. According to him: There seems to be no reason why Life should not evolve out of material elements or Mind out of living forms, unless we accept the Vedantic solution that life is already involved in matter and mind in life. Most of the modern evolutionists ignored

this point. The principle of evolution towards Spirit, Light and Knowledge loses all its significance unless it is assumed that the Spirit itself has involved in matter, darkness and ignorance. In other words, evolution necessarily involves involution. This is what is known as ascent by descent. Sri Aurobindo attacks both materialist and idealist theories.

There is self contradiction in materialism for it cannot explain how unconscious principle evolves into life and consciousness from it. Both Darwin and Spenser spoke of adaptation between an individual and his environment, but human individual cannot accept his environment as fixed and determined forever. Similarly, idealist theories held

that reason is the highest stage of evolution. If it were so, then there is no evolution beyond reason. Contrary to these views Sri Auroindo advocates evolution in terms of spiritualistic and humanistic principles. The spirit is the Supreme Reality. It is the source of creation and evolution, and also the end of realization. The Spirit evolves out of

matter since it is already implicit in it. The Supreme Reality is both stable and dynamic. It is an integration of Being and becoming. The reality of the world is due to the manifestation of the Divine Unity into the world. The higher involves itself in the lower in order to evolve out of it. Sri Aurobindos evolution centres around his concept of Consciousness-Force which is

active. He calls it Life-Force or Divine Sakti. It is the power behind all the creation. The Supreme Reality is the one without the second. Both Spirit and matter are real as there is Brahman in them. It is both immanent and transcendent. According to Sri Aurobindo: The ascent to the divine Life is the human journey, the work of works, the acceptable sacrifice.

The descent or the involution is selfconcealing while the ascent or the evolution is the self-unvealing of the Reality. There are successive levels of desceding journey of Reality. There are several stages through which Reality gradually veils itself. Similarly, there is a progressive development in the ascending journey. The revelation of the unveiling of

the Reality has to cross many steps leading to total realization. There are in fact, three important stages of evolution, namely, of matter, of life, and of mind. At present we are in the mental plane. Without the downward march of involution there is no evolution. It follows the same patter of descent from mind to life, and from life to matter.

The salient feature of Sri Aurobinds evolution is that it solves the puzzle. The puzzle is that: how does life arise out of lifeless matter? The Conscious-Force is there in matter in a dormant from. I other words, matter is nothing but Spirit in a different form. The inert matter is potentially endowed with Conscious-Force.

The descent starts from Truth and reaches matter through Conscious-Force, bliss, super-mind, mind, psyche, and life. The order of the ascent would be just reverse. The order is as follows: matter to life, life to psyche, psyche to mind, mind to higher mind, higher mind to illumined mind, illumined mind to intuitive mind, intuitive mind to over mind ad over mind to Truth

the Super-mind. To quote Sri Aurobindo here: For each successive level of descent to the Divine is to man a stage in the ascent; each veil that hides the unknown god becomes for the God-lover and God-seeker an instrument for His unveiling. Why is that there is a process of involution and evolution? He calls it a game or Lila of God. But a game has a

has an object to be achieved. What is achieved in the process of evolution is a triple process of heightening, widening and integration. This is the most original contribution of Sri Aurobindo. The process of heightening takes us from lower levels of existence to higher levels and to the highest level. The process of widening a new quality is acquired. Thus something

new emerges. In the process of integration the lower forms of existence get integrated with the higher forms. To quote Sri Aurobindo here: Our mental, physical, vital existence need not be destroyed by our self-exceeding , nor they lessened and impaired by being spiritualized; they can and do become much richer, greater, more powerful and

more perfect. The triple process of evolution leads to cosmic salvation. But what is the role of individual in the process of evolution? The role of individual cannot be ignored. The evolution can be hastened by individual effort. The transformation can be hastened by spiritul awakening. This is the essence of spiritual

evolution. Sri Aurobindos evolution can be called purposive for it goes back to the level of matter. This is unavoidable. At the same time it is treated as emergent for the supra-mental consciousness is a sudden and uncertain occurence. Also the effect is already there in the cause. Thus he subscribes to satkaryavada.

Social Philosophy Sri Aurobindo advocated karmayoga. The Bhagavadgita advocates the philosophy of action. As humans we cannot remain idle for all the births human birth is more precious. To act is to act in accordance with dharma. Therefore one should not shirk ones responsibilities as a citizen of the society.

It is mistake to think that the spiritual philosophy has no relevance to society. Often we think that spiritualists, metaphysicians and mystics have no role to play in social reconstruction. We need to segregate religion and spirituality first of all. To be spiritual does not mean to be religious. The former is only a doctrinaire and denomination interested in spreading

a belief system of its own , and the latter is a kind of disposition, a disciplined way of life through which one can attain spiritual awakening. In this sense to be spiritual is to be symbol of purity. Like any other social philosopher, Sri Aurobindo tries to analyze the basic human nature, ad the place, status, and role of man in society.

Mans being has inner and outer dimensions. The inner being is represented by the spiritual element and the outer the materialistic. They are integrated into one single being. Both these components have to be given equal importance for a total development of human personality. The control over inner being is to prepare oneself for the new ss

society or social order. He observes: The erring race of human beings dream always of perfecting their environment by the machinery of government and society; but it is only by the perfection of the soul within that the outer environment can be perfected. Sri Aurobindo says that there is no historical evidence to show that there is man without society.

Man and society are interdependent. They are the self-expressions of the Supreme Reality. The entire universe, humankind, and society are all manifestations that single Reality. Every individual is born in a society and needs the support of society for developing his/her physical, mental, and vital being. There should be perfect equilibrium among these three aspects

that are responsible for healthy human development. The concept of unity is very important in showing the relationship between man and society. The question of unity arises only when there is diversity. Te polarity between these concepts need not be over emphasized for they are not antithetical to each other. The rich diversity that we see in society certainly

allows unity. Of course men are often driven by intellectual urges and impulses that make them act selfishly. This is the starting point of all social evils. To contain these social evils governments and states use their discretion in framing laws and rules. Do they really work? Thus the government machinery is used as an external force. The genuine unity lies in

the very nature of Spirit. The social cohesion achieved through external means is only temporary. It becomes permanent only when it is achieved through spiritual means. The primary objective of all social, political, and other human organizations is to help each other to evolve supramental consciousness.