“Hinduism…..gave itself no name, because it set itself no sectarian limits; it claimed no universal adhesion, asserted no sole infallible dogma, set up no single narrow path or gate of salvation; it was less a creed or cult than a continuously enlarging tradition of the God ward endeavour of the human spirit. An immense many-sided and many staged provision for a spiritual self-building and self-finding, it had some right to speak of itself by the only name it knew, the eternal religion, Santana Dharma….” -Sri Aurobindo
As Aurobindo indicates, the strength and authority of Hinduism carries as being the oldest organized religion in the world, is its centuries-old tradition and polymorphic complex of beliefs. Hinduism was able to survive serious attacks from the younger religions of Buddhism, Jainism and Islam by absorbing the strengths of all its rivals. The ancient metaphysical system of Hinduism was brought into the modern times by Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo, who were among the first major post-classical Hindu philosophers who were a major influence within Western spiritual circles.
Sri Aurobindo was born in Calcutta in 1872, and after being educated in England, became a scholar, writer, yogi, political activist and revolutionary against British Colonialization. His political activities landed him in prison, where he reportedly experienced a spiritual awakening brought on by a vision of the ancient Hindu god, Vasdudeva, causing Aurobindo to turn his focus towards spirituality. Like the Darwin-influenced Theosophists who were currently in vogue at that time, Aurobindo claimed that human beings were “evolving” into higher realms of consciousness – the end result being the perfection of humanity.
According to Aurobindo, the physical evolution of the human being is contingent upon the evolution of man’s consciousness, for the physical body was necessary for spiritual development. Thus the “spirit” of human beings uses the physical to experience itself. This message is a bit different from that of say, Sankara – where the goal was to acquire a saving knowledge in order to escape the illusion of the material world to unite with Brahman. According to Aurobindo, that unification with the Divine will bring forth a new species of humanity here on the physical plane; a Physical Heaven on Earth. Aurobindo pointed out that religion has failed to direct human beings towards life, focusing instead in separation within the renunciation and denial of the world. For Aurobindo, “true” religion “seeks after God.” By turning one’s consciousness “inward,” one “produces an identification of self as the “transcendent” self. By this identification and knowledge, Aurobindo says the Divine will finally be able to manifest on earth. Integration and Ascension of the Supermind Aurobindo developed a meditation technique he called “Integral Yoga” which he claimed produced a state of divine bliss-consciousness he called the ‘Supermind’ that would descend into the physical, transforming the person into a divine being.
Ignorance will be finally be overcome and liberate the spiritual essence contained within the physical.
Aurobindo claimed that there existed a “double process” of integration and ascension that explained creation and the Divine Plan behind existence.
Aurobindo explained it like this: the Divine Mind undergoes a descent into the physical while the physical ascends to the Divine. Thus the physical, which is trapped in ignorance, is redeemed by the knowledge of the Divine Mind, while the divinely-transformed physical now is primed to ascend back to the Divine Consciousness. Much like the religious system of Advaita, it is “knowledge” that transforms and redeems ignorance. Aurobindo presented an unique conception of reality when he claimed that consciousness must emerge from within the physical before the spiritual evolution could arrive to its logical conclusion. While Sankara claimed that evil was the result of ignorance within human consciousness, Aurobindo agreed, and further stated that evil was also necessary for the ego to overcome its limitations. Here Aurobindo brings Sankara’s immovable, alien and transcendent Brahman to Earth. Sankara followed the post-Vedic tradition of treating the physical as illusion, but Aurobindo pointed out that if matter exists, it can’t be an illusion, because matter is also Brahman. Therefore matter must be real because Brahman is real. Responding to the question of suffering, Aurobindo says since nothing exists but Brahman, it is only Brahman which could actually suffer.
Aurobindo claimed that the Creator’s motive for this endless divine integration and physical evolution was the pursuit of Delight. At the same time, this cosmic Delight is the only thing in existence – Aurobindo also promoted the idea that all that existed in creation was, “Joy.” While this perspective currently is used by New Age proponents in the belief that suffering isn’t “real,” this directly contradicts Aurobindo’s notion that suffering is experienced by Brahman. The major difficulty of Aurobindo’s work is that his metaphysical speculations on the spiritual evolution of mankind and the various layers of transcendent, Divine consciousness has never been verified. The Law of Attraction is reflected within Sri Aurobindo’s metaphysical dimensions of the Divine Supermind, a kind of cosmic, mental substance that is always responding and returning to descend into the human being only to be directed again as the energetic force of creation.
The Future Evolution of Man – Sri Aurobindo. Conclusion of Preface &Summary by P.B. Saint-Hilaire. August 1962
The Political Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo by V. P. Varma, Motial Barnasidass Publishers, 1960
The Integral Advaitism of Sri Aurobindo by Rāmacandra Miśra,
Thirty-Five Oriental Philosophers by Diané Collinson, Routledge. 1994
The Life Divine by Sri Aurobindo, Lotus Press. 1985