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The seer who saw life as divine

The seer who saw life as divine
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On coming Friday falls the death anniversary of Sri Aurobindo, one of the earliest spiritual seers of modern India. Born on 15 August, 1872, Aurobindo was educated at Presidency College, Kolkata and King’s College, Cambridge. On return to India he joined the service of the princely state of Baroda and also took to writing. His articles invited a jail term for being anti-imperialist.

During his stay in the jail he is said to have had mystical and spiritual experiences, after which he moved to Pondicherry, leaving politics for spiritual work. Sri Aurobindo said he was visited by Vivekananda in the Alipore Jail. In his words, ‘It is a fact that I was hearing constantly the voice of Vivekananda speaking to me for a fortnight in the jail in my solitary meditation and felt his presence. The voice spoke only on a special and limited but very important field of spiritual experience and it ceased as soon as it had finished saying all that it had to say on that subject.’

During his stay in Pondicherry, Sri Aurobindo evolved a new method of spiritual practice, which he called Integral Yoga. The central theme of his vision was the evolution of human life into a life divine. He believed in a spiritual realisation that not only liberated man but also transformed his nature, enabling a divine life on earth. In 1926, with the help of his spiritual collaborator, Mirra Alfassa (The Mother), he founded the Sri Aurobindo Ashram.

His main literary works are The Life Divine, which deals with theoretical aspects of integral yoga; Synthesis of Yoga, which deals with practical guidance to integral yoga; and Savitri, an epic poem which refers to a passage in the Mahabharata, where its characters actualise integral yoga in their lives. His works also include philosophy, poetry, translations and commentaries on the Vedas, Upanishads and the Gita.

The Life Divine is Sri Aurobindo’s major philosophical opus. It combines a synthesis of western thought and eastern spirituality with Sri Aurobindo’s own original insights. The Life Divine covers topics such as the human aspiration, why it remains unfulfilled, the individual’s divided nature, the nature of the divine reality, how the universe emerged from a divine source (aka Involution), the role of supermind in the creation/involutionary process, the nature and methods of evolution from matter to spirit, the means of overcoming our divided nature through higher consciousness, the nature and boundaries of human ignorance, the transformation from our divided nature into a supernature, and the emergence of agnostic supramental being and a divine life on earth.

Sri Aurobindo designed The Life Divine in two books. The first book contains 28 chapters, and the second book consists of two parts, each containing 14 chapters, for a total of 56 chapters.

Book I is entitled The Omnipresent Reality and The Universe. Here Sri Aurobindo describes how the infinite consciousness, the omnipresent reality (Brahman, the absolute) extended itself through the power of truth consciousness (supermind) to become this universe of forms. He also explains the origin and underlying nature of the planes of creation, from matter to vital life to mind, and on back to spirit.

Sri Aurobindo tells us that man has emerged as a divided being, unable to fulfill his deepest human aspiration for god, light, peace, joy, love, and immortality. And yet if we move to a deeper consciousness within, and open to the descending supramental power above, we will overcome our divided nature, develop a new consciousness that will be the basis of a divine existence on earth.
Book II is entitled The Knowledge and The Ignorance: The Spiritual Evolution. Here, Sri Aurobindo delves deeper into the nature of our essential Ignorance, born of creation. He tells what in the involution, cosmos, life, and our being creates and perpetuates this ignorance, and the way out of it, which is to arrive at true, integral knowledge. He goes further and indicates that as we overcome our ignorance, we can also embark on the yogic effort to that will bring about our psychic, spiritual, and supramental transformation, leading to a spirit-based humanity, culminating in a divine life on Earth.

The Life Divine first appeared serially in the Arya, in fifty-two original chapters published from August 1914 to January 1919.

In 1939 Sri Aurobindo revised and enlarged these chapters for publication in book form. Volume I was published in November 1939. It included the first twenty seven chapters from the Arya, with an entirely new twenty-eighth chapter. Chapters 19 and 23 also had major revisions. The other chapters were only revised in a minor way.

Volume II, recast and enlarged, followed in July 1940, in two separately bound parts. Of the twenty eight chapters there were twelve that were entirely new: chapters 1,2, 5,6, 10, 14, and 23 through to 28. All the remaining chapters were revised (chapters 18 and 21 thoroughly) and several had been given new titles.

The Arya Publishing House brought out a second edition of Book One (now called Volume I) in 1943, and of Book Two (Volume II) in 1947. These incorporate only a few corrections and changes. A third edition of Book One was published in 1947.

The first American edition was issued by the Sri Aurobindo Library, New York, as a single volume in 1949 and a comprehensive index provided; this edition was reprinted in 1951.
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