SRI AUROBINDO, the sage of Pondicherry was a poet, professor, political worker, prophet and yogi. As a poet he had written much and in his last days was working at an epic poem, Savitri. He had written on the nature and scope of future poetry wherein he claimed that true poetry would hereafter bring down the supramental rhythms and express them in words charged with its force. As a political worker he had suffered and fought for Independence in the first decade of this century and left the field for what he himself felt to be a greater work for the world. His last will and testament to the nation on the eve of his retirement from politics in 1910 bears witness to the prophetic vision of the emergence of a new figure in the Indian political science who would lead the country to Independence. It was not an accident, according to Sri Aurobindo, that Indian Independence was achieved and declared on his birthday 15th August, 1947. In the world political scene he opposed the dictatorship of Hitler and forecasted his collapse.
His period of Yoga from 1910 to 1950 was most fruitful. From 1910 to 1921 he was engaged in the most arduous task of realizing to the full the importance of the religious and spiritual heritage. Though as early as 1906 he had glimpses of the deep and abiding presence of the Divine Personality within himself yet the period of preparation continued. His own fundamental realization on siddhi came only on 24th November 1926. But from 1914, on the eve of the first World War, he presented to the world his system or Darsanam in the pages of his journal ARYA. His magnificent contributions covered all branches of thought and culture. The Life Divine, The Essays on the Gita, The Secret of the Veda, Commentaries on the Upanishads Isa nad Kena, and translations of the Hymns of the Veda, and the Synthesis of Yoga, are epoch-making in Oriental thought. In the field of controversy he contributed a series of articles entitled the Defence of Indian Culture. To political theory his contributions were the Ideal of Human Unity and the Psychology of Social Development (republished recently with the title “Human Cycle”). Almost all these writings have been revised and published in separate volumes except the Secret of the Veda, and the Kenopanishad. His poems also have been published in two sumptuous volumes.
Briefly his most important contribution to philosophic thought lies in his integral philosophy. His integral philosophy aims at explaining the whole creative process as the manifestation of the One Immortal Spirit or Brahman. Though one, Brahman is eternally many, and as One or the principle of Oneness He upholds, manifests, and establishes the Oneness of the many. The many are real, even as the Oneness is real. The world is a real world, the souls are real souls but they are a unity in the One, they are the multiplicity of the One. The world process or Change is a creative change, not a phenomenal projection merely. Divine evolutionism which Sri Aurobindo offers as the explanation is different from the ordinary evolutionary theory of the biologists and the logical evolutionary theory of the Idealists and the creative evolutionism of Bergson and the emergent evolutionism of Lloyd Morgan. The process of evolution is not merely an ascent of the inner impulse (elan vital) from a homogeneous undifferentiated matter or life to the complex heterogeneous organisms, nor the ascent of the logical ideal by a process of dialectical integration through opposition and abstraction; it is also a process of descent of the Primal principle or spirit for the purpose of self-limiting and self-dividing or multiplicity, and measuring itself out. By this process the world of space and time, and the several levels or layers of Being and consciousness are established. Involving itself in one part of its infinite being, there is the integration, biological or physiological part of its infinite being, there is the integration, biological or physiological and organic of these several planes in the personality of the many souls (psyches). Thus in the human evolution we have the integrated structures of the physical, vital and mental consciousness. But the organism is yet ignorant of the higher levels of the One Being which is organic to it. The primal spiritual principle is bending towards the individual with a new basic spiritual form, the supermind, which is a new universal-individualised form, dynamic and effective for the organization of social unity, in a global manner. The individual has to open himself to this descent of the supermind, which would grant him peace and poise and harmony. The discovery of the Supermind not as principle of explanation but as an actual presence, different from its manifestations such as poetic vision, intuition and overmental experiences which go by the name of occult or extrasensory experiences is the next step in evolution, the goal to which whole creation is moving. Man is not the highest term in existence. The Superman is the possible and inevitable next step. Nietzsche and Fichte theoretically canvassed this possibility, but it has been left to Sri Aurobindo to affirm its actuality.
Yoga is the means to this end. It is an evolutionary principle or instrument nor merely a transcending instrument or escapist method. Yoga is the integral aspiration for the total universal existence or realization of the absolute Existence-Consciousness-Bliss, Saccidananda. Jnanayoga, karmayoga and bhaktiyoga are all necessary. So too hathayoga forms part of this purnayoga. But more than all these yogas which are ego-centric and impelled by the half-illumined consciousness and aspiration of the individual, it is necessary to open out to the Divine Lord in all things and creatures, and to His Power, to permit Him to work out the lines of Yoga for the sake of becoming supermentalised. This opening out to God is called Surrender, prapatti in all one’s parts. Jnanayoga would become an opening of the mind to His divine transmutive action, karmayoga would become the opening of the physical and vital to His power, and bhaktiyoga would become the process of opening to the delightful surge of His consciousness which permits the experience of His abiding love universal.
Sri Aurobindo thus opened up a new chapter in Vedanta and Yoga. His greatness lies in his having done so much pioneer work in this direction. The morass of superstition and apathy in matters spiritual had to be cleared and a new path almost forgotten opened up to man. Sri Aurobindo not merely cleared the old path but extended it to territories beyond. Herein lies his greatness. The world is poorer by his death.