While other religions lay down a set of commandments which must be uniformly followed by all human beings, Hinduism advises each soul to act based on his or her Swadharma(inner law). This is a nice story by M.S. Srinivasan which illustrates this principle. This story appeared in the recent issue of NAMAH, a journal published out of Pondicherry.
This is an English translation of a Bengali article entitled “Manush Bhajan” by Nolini Kanta Gupta (1889-1984) who was a disciple of Sri Aurobindo (see bio on wikipedia). Sri Aurobindo once remarked, “If Nolini does not understand my Yoga, who does”. The translation of this article was done by Satadal and originally published by Maya Chattopadhyay of the “Sri Aurobindo Sthan” in Kolkata.
Is mathematics invented or discovered? Do mathematical objects pre-exist in some transcendental plane, are they abstractions of our sensory experiences, or are they just fictional objects invented by our minds? Would an alien species specify mathematical abstractions in a different way? These are the questions which are explored under the “Philosophy of mathematics”. Several competing theories such as Logicism, Intuitionism, Formalism and Platonism have been proposed to explain the nature of mathematics. Here, I shall present some insights by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother which are connected to this topic.
There are many secondary works which profess to explain Sri Aurobindo’s views on nationalism, but it is better to read what he himself said on the matter. These are a few selections from the works of Sri Aurobindo on Nationalism. These pieces first appeared in the Karmayogin journal in 1909. Later in life, Sri Aurobindo saw these writings as outdated remnants of his extinct political persona but to us they remain luminous milestones indicative of his political sagacity and broad vision.
In the last chapter of his book “The Emperor’s New Mind”, Roger Penrose draws on his scientific career to offer insights into the spontaneous, aesthetic and non-algorithmic nature of mathematical insight, the non-verbal thought process of the scientist, and other topics related to what he calls the “physics of the mind”. Many of his remarks chime quite well with corresponding observations made by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother on the nature of the thought process, as we see in this article.
In The Life Divine, there is a chapter entitled “Brahman, Ishwara, Purusha – Maya, Prakriti, Shakti“. According to the editing notes, this chapter was inserted by Sri Aurobindo as part of a revision of The Life Divine completed in 1940 . The purpose of this chapter is to reconcile three different views of the Universe proposed by the philosophies of Samkhya, Vedanta and Tantra. This intent may not be immediately apparent to those not well-versed in Indian metaphysics, because the word “Samkhya” is explicitly used only twice in this chapter while the terms “Vedanta” and “Tantra” never occur. This article is a light contextual introduction to this chapter.
A blog reader asked in a comment what Sri Aurobindo and the Mother thought of atheism and agnosticism. Since I couldn’t find a pithy conspectus by them on the topic, here is a synopsis based on whatever I have absorbed from their writings. It is followed by a passage from Sri Aurobindo’s work on social philosophy, The Human Cycle.
The Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung, was skeptical of the widespread Eastern notion that the individual ego can be completely transcended and some form of universal consciousness can be attained. He thought it was a psychological projection of an idea which had no foundation in human experience and was critical of any attempt to mix psychology and philosophy. Jung thought that the East made such reductionist errors because it had not reached the high level of self-awareness achieved in the Western development of scientific thought .
When once asked about what surprises him, the Dalai Lama responded, “Man — because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then he dies having never really lived.” In the same vein, these are some remarks by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Continue reading
This is an essay by Sri Aurobindo analyzing the two antipodal forces – conservative and progressive – which bedevil the human mind and tear society apart in country after country across the globe. This essay first appeared in volume II (August 1915 – July 1916) of the Arya magazine which was written and edited by Sri Aurobindo.
In Plato’s Phaedrus, Socrates speaks of the four types of Divine madness(ecstasy) – prophetic, initiatory, poetic and erotic – which humans can obtain as gifts from the Gods. The gift of prophecy exemplified by the oracle at Delphi comes from Apollo, the mystic rites which bring relief from hardship are a gift from Dionysus, the gift of poetry is seen in those artists who are possessed by the Muses and lastly, the gift of love, which Socrates calls the best of the four, is derived from Eros. This fourth madness is the universal love manifested by the mystic; it is, according to Socrates, “imputed to him who, when he sees the beauty of earth, is transported with the recollection of the true beauty; he would like to fly away, but he cannot; he is like a bird fluttering and looking upward and careless of the world below; and he is therefore thought to be mad”.
Shaikh Fariduddin Attar (1145-1221 C.E.) was a mystic Sufi poet of Iran. Born in Nishapur, he was initiated into the Sufi lore by Sheikh Mujd-ud-din of Baghdad. When he was about forty-five years old, he “saw” the future greatness of a teenage boy Jalaluddin Rumi who had come to meet him. He blessed Rumi and presented him with a copy of his work, the Pandnama. Attar was executed by a soldier after Genghis Khan invaded Persia. During his lifetime, he wrote over 114 books on Sufism, the most reputed of which is the Tajkerat al-Awliya (Memoirs of the Saints of Iran, Egypt and Arabia) which documents the lives of about one hundred and forty-two Sufi saints of his era. Selections from this book were translated by Bankey Behari into English. These are a few noteworthy excerpts from Behari’s book (page numbers follow in parentheses)
There is a golden thread which knits together the lives of all sages. Behind their unique beatific personalities and inimitable ways of expression, they are all manifesting the same Divine Consciousness. It is this underlying unity which forms the basis for the similar phenomena that are visible in their lives. This article examines their ability to utter those aphoristic Truths which continue to resonate long after they are gone.
If everything is consciousness (Brahman), then how does this conscious energy put on the appearance of material solidity. Why does the table appear solid? In order to bridge the gulf between consciousness and apparently durable matter, ancient Indian sages postulated (or “divined”) that all physical things are constituted of five subtle elements called Pancha-Mahabhutas – earth, fire, water, air, ether. These are not the elements known in the conventional sense (e.g. “water” does not imply the water, and “earth” does not mean soil) but are actually subtle conditions which together create the perception of forms which can be sensed by the human mind. The actual names of these five elements are Akasha (ether), Vayu(aeriality), Agni(fire), Apas(liquidity) and Prithvi(compaction). The descriptions of these five constituents are quite similar across Sankhya, Tantra and Buddhist philosophy and even Greek Stoic texts. Furthermore, as I point out later in this article, what is amusing is that these five elements were codified, probably inadvertently, in the Vishnu iconography seen in Indian temples!
Theophrastus Paracelsus(1493-1541) was a remarkable physician, alchemist and occultist of the Renaissance era who left behind 106 books filled with highly original insights on a wide range of esoteric subjects such as astrology, healing plants and minerals, occult anatomy, sleep and dreams, elemental beings, etc. Frantz Hartmann, who wrote the book “Paracelsus: Life and Teachings“, remarks that many of his divinations, then unknown in the West, were quite compatible with the teachings of Eastern mysticism. The Theosophists speculate that he had interactions with Eastern mystics in the course of travels during his early youth. Paracelsus himself stated that he derived his insights from the “Book of Nature” (i.e. intuition and observation). He is said to have received the Philosopher’s Stone (an allegorical expression for wisdom) from an adept named Solomon Trismosinus. His disciples testify that he dictated his works without the aid of memoranda or manuscripts. Nominally a Catholic, he held an independent interpretation of the Bible. An inventory of goods taken after his death revealed nothing other than a Bible, a Biblical concordance and a book of Medicine. 
In the Taittiriya Upanishad, Bhrigu is asked by his Guru to (spiritually) realize : “Matter is Conscious!”. The ancients believed that Matter was also a form of Consciousness and that this fact could be uncovered through Yoga. This consciousness within Matter discloses itself as the will in the atom, the symmetry of the crystals, the fatigue in metals, etc. There is an Intuition in Matter which holds the action of the material world from the electron to the sun and planets and their contents. To the modern rational mind, any such proposition seems preposterous and untenable. Modern science has found that Matter and Energy are interchangeable but it has not yet been able to resolve the mind-body dichotomy. On this topic, Sri Aurobindo said, “Only by an extension of the field of our consciousness or an unhoped-for increase in our instruments of knowledge can the ancient quarrel be decided.” The Life Divine – I: The Two Negations: The Refusal of the Ascetic In the absence of such an advance on either side, all one can do for now is examine and anticipate the possibilities…
Einstein’s theory of relativity in layman terms states that time slows and length contracts with increasing speed of the observer. At the speed of light, the play of Time is said to stop in subjective terms. Something similar occurs in the occult worlds which exist hidden behind our physical world. The Universe with its physical and supraphysical worlds is a manifestation of Consciousness with different orders of Space-Time. The Yogi by shifting the center of his consciousness is able to awaken in these occult worlds. As one goes higher up the planes of consciousness, the perception of Time changes while Space becomes more flexible and no longer exhibits the fixed physical laws seen here in the material world.
The ordinary human mind has a propensity for exaggerating one side of the Truth and ignoring the other. One of the pleasures of reading Sri Aurobindo’s works is that such contradictions do not exist because he resolves every contradiction by tracing it to its Divine origin and reconciling it as part of a larger Truth. He explicates how every principle has it’s play in a certain context but if we over-generalize, then it loses its value. In the previous post, Syncretism in Sri Aurobindo’s thought – part 1, we covered five oppositions which were reconciled by Sri Aurobindo into a larger Truth. This article presents a few more additions: Self-esteem versus Humility, Good versus Evil, Various formulations of the Divine, Nature versus Nurture, Evolution versus Creationism.
Ancient Indian philosophy says that man is the microcosm of the Universe. The Universe is referred to as the brahmanda (i.e. Egg of Brahma) and Man is referred to kshudra-brahmanda (i.e. Little Egg of Brahma). The Greeks also believed in the same concept (see wikipedia). The major points in favor of this correspondence are:
Occult cosmology typically centers around the seven planes of the Universe (see here). The Mother of the Aurobindo Ashram, Mira Alfassa, defined a finer gradation of twelve planes which she had learned from her spiritual teachers, Max and Madame Theon. Corresponding to these twelve planes, she also mentioned twelve Chakras, twelve subtle bodies and twelve aspects of the Magna Mater (i.e. Divine Mother) which are reflected in all creation.