Sri Aurobindo: The Life Divine is not philosophy but fact. It contains what I have realised and seen. I think many people would object to calling it philosophy….Supermind is not to be philosophised about, it is to be lived.
(A.B. Purani. (1982) Evening Talks with Sri Aurobindo, Vol 1, p 274)
Nagin: You wrote to N that though people call you a philosopher, you have never learnt philosophy. Well, what you have written in the “Arya” is so philosophical that the greatest philosopher in the world could never hope to write it. I don’t mean here the bringing down of the highest Truth, but the power of expression, the art of reasoning and arguing.
Sri Aurobindo: There is very little argument in my philosophy – the elaborate metaphysical reasoning full of abstract words with which the metaphysician tries to establish his conclusion is not there. What is there is a harmonising of the different parts of a many-sided knowledge so that all unites logically together. But it is not by force of logical argument that it is done, but by a clear vision of the relations and sequences of the knowledge.
(Nagin Doshi. Guidance from Sri Aurobindo, vol. 3, p 68)
Influenced by the Gita and the Upanishads
Sri Aurobindo made the following comments while responding to a review of the Life Divine:
Charu Chandra Dutt wrote a review of the “Life Divine” in the Vishva Bharati. When it was read out to Sri Aurobindo he said:
He may continue it, it may be for some people an introduction to “Life Divine”.
But you may draw his attention to the following points.
1. He states: “there can be no escape for the Spirit embodied in matter except through an integral yoga”.
If we accept that position then the goal set forth by the Adwaitwadins becomes impossible of realisation. What I say is not that it is impossible but that such an escape could not have been the object for which the world was created.
2. He says that I derived my technique from Shanker (Shankaracharya?).
That is not true. I have not read much of philosophy. It is like those who say that I am influenced by Hegel. Some even say that I am influenced by Neitzsche because I quoted his sentence: “You can become yourself by exceeding yourself”.
The only two books that have influenced me are the Gita and the Upanishads. What I wrote was the work of intuition and inspiration working on the basis of my spiritual experience. I have no other technique like the modern philosopher whose philosophy I consider only intellectual and therefore of secondary value. Experience and formulation of experience I consider as the true aim of philosophy. The rest is merely intellectual work and may be interesting but nothing more.
(A.B. Purani, Evening Talks, First Series, dated 26th August 1940, p 127)
The Life Divine goes further than the Gita
In another conversation, Sri Aurobindo indicated the difference between The Life Divine and the Gita
A. wrote an article in the Calcutta Review about ”The Advaita in the Gita”.
Sri Aurobindo : He finds the idea of transformation of nature in the Gita and also other things contained in The Life Divine. I don’t see all that in the Gita myself.
Disciple : A’s contention is that there are hints and suggestions in the Gita that can mean transformation. For instance, it says that one must become the instrument in the hands of the Divine. Then it says : putā madbhāvamāgatā – “those who strive become pure and attain to my nature of becoming”. Also : nistraigunyo bhava – “becomes free from the three modes.”
Sri Aurobindo : There is no transformation there. The supramental transformation is not at all hinted at in the Gita. The Gita lays stress on certain broad lines of the integral supramental yoga : For instance:
- Acceptance of life and action.
- Clarification of the nature of the Transcendent Divine.
- The Divine Personality and its Transcendence.
- Existence of two Natures – parā and aparā.
Disciple : It speaks of the Para Prakriti and says that advanced souls attain to the Para Prakriti.
Sri Aurobindo : The Para Prakriti there is used in general terms.
Disciple : Yes. I don’t find the transformation in the Gita. The exposition of the levels of consciousness beyond mind, their functions, a clear, rational Statement of intuitive consciousness, inspiration, revelation, and the ascent of the consciousness through the Overmind to the Supermind – these things are quite new and not found even in the Upanishads.
Sri Aurobindo : I think so; the Gita only opens out the way to our yoga and philosophy. Among the Upanishads only the Taittiriya has some general idea of the higher terms. The Veda treats symbolically the same subject.
Disciple : Suppose there is transformation in the Gita, one can ask what kind of transformation it is, – spiritual, psychic or Supramental?
Sri Aurobindo : It does not speak of transformation; it speaks of the necessity of action from a spiritual consciousness – according to it all action must proceed from a certain Spiritual consciousness.
As the result of that action some change may come about in the nature which might amount to what may be called transformation. But in the Gita the instruments of action remain human throughout (the Buddhi etc.). It does not speak of the intuitive consciousness.
In our ancient works there is no conception about the evolutionary nature of the world, or rather, they do not have the vision of humanity as an evolutionary expression of the Divine in which new levels of consciousness gradually open up, or are bound to open up. There is no clear idea of the new type of being that would evolve out of man. If all that is contained in The Life Divine is found entirely in the old systems then it contradicts the claim that this yoga is new, or at any rate, different from the traditional methods. Perhaps A. was trying to synthesise the Gita and The Life Divine, (laughter).
(A.B. Purani, Evening Talks, First Series, dated 14th Dec 1940, pp 129-130)
- Roy Posner’s summary
- Kireet Joshi’s talks on the Life Divine
- Mother’s Service Society : Introduction to the Life Divine
- Karmayogi’s Discussion on the Aspects of the Life Divine
- David Hutchinson’s guide
- Talks by Debashish Banerji
- Commentary by Soumitra Basu at Institute for Integral Yoga Psychology
Books on the Life Divine
The book The Life Divine is available online at the Ashram website
- M.P. Pandit. Legends in the Life Divine (SABDA link)
- M.P. Pandit. Introducing the Life Divine (SABDA link)
- Ananda Reddy. Deliberations on the Life Divine (SABDA link)
- Ram Shankar Misra. Integral Advaitism of Sri Aurobindo (amazon link) (SABDA link) (google books). (I recommend this book as an introduction to The Life Divine.)