Sri Aurobindo has been variously described as the greatest philosopher of modern times, a towering spiritual personality, an outstanding leader of India’s freedom movement, an inspired poet, an astute political thinker and strategist, and a selfless humanist. For the purposes of this site, he can most appropriately be thought of as an Integral Scientist. His entire thought, work and life were an endeavour to integrate all aspects of human existence based on integral truths of existence. The idea of establishing the Human Science wiki is inspired by Sri Aurobindo’s integral conception of individuality, society, life and spiritual reality.
Born in Bengal in 1872, raised and educated in the perspectives of European civilization, rather than traditional Indian wisdom, Sri Aurobindo was sent to England at the age of seven to live and study with a clergyman. He was educated at Cambridge University, where he excelled academically, but acquired a deep aspiration for India’s independence from colonial rule. Returning to India in 1893, he became a college lecturer, then secretary to the Maharaja of Baroda, before assuming a leading role in India’s nascent freedom movement. As editor of several journals calling for the end of colonial rule and a renaissance of Indian culture, he was the first Indian leader to call for complete and total independence from British rule. He argued so persuasively about the injustice and unacceptability of the British Raj that he came to be regarded by the British government as the most dangerous revolutionary in India.
Having been denied exposure to his own cultural heritage during childhood, Sri Aurobindo plunged into a deep investigation of ancient and modern Indian spiritual knowledge and experience. From 1905 he experimented with a variety of yogic methods and began to have profound spiritual experiences. In 1908, he was falsely accused of master-minding a bomb blast, placed in solitary confinement for one year, and then acquitted by an English judge and released after a long and widely publicized trial. When he received word the British again planned to arrest him, he traveled to Pondicherry, a small the French enclave on the Bay of Bengal in South India, and remained there from 1910 until his passing in 1950.
During this later period Sri Aurobindo dedicated his entire life and energy to the pursuit of spiritual knowledge and spiritual power to transform life on earth. In 1914, Mira Alfassa, who subsequently became known as The Mother, and her husband, a French diplomat, visited him in Pondicherry and at their urging helped found a monthly journal, Arya. From 1914 to 1920, Sri Aurobindo simultaneously authored all but one of his most important works and published them chapter-wise as monthly installments in Arya. The Mother left Pondicherry at the outbreak of World War I and then returned in 1920 and remained there to work with Sri Aurobindo and head the spiritual community which she founded in his name.
Sri Aurobindo’s collected written works consist of 30 full volumes on philosophy, yoga, politics, international affairs, social evolution, Indian culture, art, literature and life, including a volume of poems and two volumes of plays, in addition to voluminous records of his spiritual practices and experiences which were published posthumously. His major works include:
- The Life Divine: An integral synthesis of Eastern and Western perspectives on the nature of god, life, individuality, the purpose of human existence, spiritual evolution and the process of creation.
- Synthesis of Yoga: An analysis and synthesis of the major approaches to spiritual discipline, and an explication of his Integral Yoga whose objective is the spiritual transformation of human nature and life on earth.
- Human Cycle: An analysis of the process of social and psychological development of human civilization, the stages through which it passes and the underlying directionality of its cyclical movements.
- Ideal of Human Unity: The process by which humanity has evolved politically from tiny fragmented communities into kingdoms and nation-states, the prospects of its further evolution into a single global community, and the difficulty in fashioning international institutions than can effectively foster that goal.
- Savitri: The longest epic poem in the English language, the story of an ancient Indian princess whose spiritual quest symbolizes the evolutionary aim and processes of life on earth.
Even a minimal summary of his thought is too daunting a task for this brief biographical sketch. That thought is the source of inspiration and insight for all the thus far presented and discussed on this site. A few concepts of most direct relevance to human science are listed below and discussed in detail in other articles.
- God and the Universe: The Absolute, the ultimately infinite spiritual reality that transcends all descriptions and limitations, has become the universe and includes all that is in it.
- Process of Creation: The process by which the Absolute has manifested itself as universe is the same process of consciousness as that by which human beings create social institutions, works of art, business enterprises, communities and the circumstances and conditions of our personal lives.
- Involution: Matter is inconscient a form of spirit. Life is subconscious force of spirit. Mind is mentally conscious indirect and derivative power of a spiritual capacity for knowledge by identity. Spirit involves itself finite existence by a process of self-conception, self-limitation and self-absorption.
- Spiritual evolution: The universe is infinite Spirit in the process of evolving so that it can manifest its infinite potential through an infinite variety of finite forms and experiences.
- Man is a transitional being: As plant and animal life has evolved from matter, and humanity has evolved from the animal, human life will ultimately give rise to beings with what he terms supramental consciousness.
- Life: Life is a conscious universal plane or field, not merely a characteristic of individual biological forms. Life has a consciousness and a character and it responds to human consciousness and initiative.
- Aim of spirituality: The ultimate aim of spirituality is not to transcend or escape from the suffering and limitations of life on earth but to perfect and transform life on earth into the life divine.
- All life is yoga: All life is a subconscious yoga of nature seeking to discover and release the spiritual consciousness hidden within it. Not just prayer or meditation, but every aspect and activity of life can be consciously utilized as a means for spiritual progress.
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