(a project of Mirravision Trust, Financed by Auroshakti Foundation)

Chapter I
Chapter II - Part 1
Chapter II - Part 2
Chapter II - Part 3
Chapter II - Part 4
Chapter III - Part 1
Chapter III - Part 2
Chapter III - Part 3
Chapter III - Part 4
Chapter III - Part 5
Chapter III - Part 6
Chapter IV - Part 1
Chapter IV - Part 2
Chapter IV - Part 3
Chapter IV - Part 4
Chapter V-Part 1
Chapter V - Part 2
Chapter V - Part 3
Chapter V - Part 4
Chapter V - Part 5
Chapter VI - Part 1
Chapter VI - Part 2
Chapter VI - Part 3
Chapter VI - Part 4
Chapter VI - Part 5
Chapter VII - Part 1
Chapter VII - Part 2
Chapter VII - Part 3
Chapter VII - Part 4
Chapter VII - Part 5
Chapter VIII - Part 1
Chapter VIII - Part 2
Chapter VIII - Part 3
Chapter VIII - Part 4
Chapter IX - Part 1
Chapter IX - Part 2
Chapter X - Part 1
Chapter X - Part 2
Chapter X - Part 3
Chapter X - Part 4
Chapter X - Part 5
Chapter X - Part 6
Chapter XI - Part 1
Chapter XI - Part 2
Chapter XI - Part 3
Chapter XI - Part 4
Chapter XII - Part 1
Chapter XII - Part 2
Chapter XII - Part 3
Chapter XII - Part 4
Chapter XII - Part 5
Chapter XIII - Part 1
Chapter XIII - Part 2
Chapter XIV - Part 1
Chapter XIV - Part 2
Chapter XIV - Part 3
Chapter XIV - Part 4
Chapter XIV - Part 5
Chapter XV - Part 1
Chapter XV - Part 2
Chapter XV - Part 3
Chapter XV - Part 4
Chapter XV - Part 5
Chapter XV - Part 6
Chapter XV - Part 7
Chapter XV - Part 8
Chapter XV - Part 9
Chapter XVI - Part 1
Chapter XVI - Part 2
Chapter XVI - Part 3
Chapter XVI - Part 4
Chapter XVI - Part 5
Chapter XVI - Part 6
Chapter XVI - Part 7
Chapter XVI - Part 8
Chapter XVI - Part 9
Chapter XVI - Part 10
Chapter XVI - Part 11
Chapter XVI - Part 12
Chapter XVI - Part 13
Chapter XVII - Part 1
Chapter XVII - Part 2
Chapter XVII - Part 3
Chapter XVII - Part 4
Chapter XVIII - Part 1
Chapter XVIII - Part 2
Chapter XVIII - Part 3
Chapter XVIII - Part 4
Chapter XVIII - Part 5
Chapter XVIII - Part 6
Chapter XVIII - Part 7
Chapter XVIII - Part 8
Chapter XVIII - Part 9
Chapter XVIII - Part 10
Chapter XIX - Part 1
Chapter XIX - Part 2

A Psychological Approach to Sri Aurobindo’s

The Life Divine

Chapter I

In contemporary behavioral disciplines, one key concept is that of ‘motivation’. Motivation is considered to be an internal energizer, something that propels us to goal–directed behavior. It is not necessary that an individual is motivated to move towards what is best suited for oneself. Throughout history, a vast majority of people were expected to work for a privileged class and unwillingly motivated to do so by coercion, manipulation or brute pressure (the lashes inflicted on erstwhile slaves,  the pay–cuts that threaten the modern worker!). Psychologists go on weighing the benefits of different sorts of motivation (the lure of overtimes,‘fringe-benefits’, or the chance of being creative in hobbies, games and the work-place).

It is surprising how, in spite of being burdened by such artificialities and externalities, the human being can still afford to have the motivation to dream of a perfected life, a perfected society, a perfected knowledge, a perfected love – a grand utopia of superlatives!


Sri Aurobindo explains that such a Utopian dream is still possible because the REAL MOTIVATOR of the human drama on earth is a primal yearning, an innate urge, an intrinsic aspiration for ‘God, Light, Freedom, Immortality’ -- a soul-call that gets rejuvenated again and again through the vicissitudes of time, the ravages of history, the phases of recoil, the turbulences of life. Indeed, the technical term ‘motivation’ in psychology sounds a bit ‘mental’, ‘cognition-linked’, whereas, Sri Aurobindo uses the term ‘aspiration’ that sounds ‘subtle’, ‘intrinsic’ ‘soul-linked’ and more in tune with a spiritual psychology.

‘God, Light, Freedom, Immortality’

GOD : Sri Aurobindo’s usage of the term ‘god’ does not denote an anthropometrical image – instead it is more of a status of consciousness that is represented in different poises in the individual, cosmos and beyond cosmos. It is at once the ‘essence’ of all forms, the matrix of all forms and the ‘transcendence of all forms”. God is not only a transcendental Being but a consciousness that is simultaneously explicit in the diffusion of the universe and implicit in the concentrated essence of the individual. Indeed it is a paradox if we consider that a single and universal consciousness represents itself in limited minds and divided egos or if we acknowledge that a transcendent, indefinable, timeless and spaceless Being alone renders time and space and cosmos possible. Sri Aurobindo justifies that in all these the higher truth is realizable by the lower term and the concept of divinity encompasses both ends :

‘Thou who pervadest all the worlds below,
Yet sitst above,
Master of all who work and rule and know, Servant of Love!
Thou who disdainest not the worm to be
Nor even the clod,
Therefore we know by that humility
That thou art God.’

Sri Aurobindo: Collected Poems. pg.63, 4thed, 1986,

LIGHT : Light in the Aurobindonian parlance is not only a static source of illumination but a dynamising; revelatory ‘Knowledge’ that progressively harmonizes with ‘Will’ or ‘Energy’ so that ‘Knowledge’ becomes automatically effective and ‘Will’ becomes spontaneously luminous. Such a ‘Knowledge–Will’ at its pinnacle is expected to manifest the power of transforming human life. Light is thus the will of the creative godhead carrying the inbuilt knowledge of creation. It is a flaming force that shines ‘pure, luminous and fulfilling’. This is a light that not only illumines but transfigures and transforms. In the process, it does something more. It carries the evolution forward. It is present at each level of the manifestation, each level of the evolutionary hierarchy – matter, life and mind and progresses through transmutation and transformation:

‘Thy golden Light came down into my brain
And the grey rooms of mind sun-touched became
A bright reply to Wisdom’s occult plane,
A calm illumination and a flame………..
Thy golden light came down into my feet;
My earth is now Thy playfield and Thy seat.’

Sri Aurobindo : Collected Poems, pg. 146, 4th ed, 1986.

FREEDOM : ‘Freedom’ has a unique connotation in Sri Aurobindo’s schemata. The traditional ‘freedom’ in the Indian context was symbolized by the ‘Jivanmukta’ (the soul free from life’s attachments’) – the realized being who is free to do earth-work or free to get absorbed in the Brahman or the Absolute or else in Nirvana or Zero. In a general sense, ‘freedom’ typified a release from the cycle of birth and death. But Sri Aurobindo wants to establish ‘freedom’ in earth-life and thereby denotes by this term a poise of consciousness which can free one from the fetters of fate, the fixities of mechanical nature, the rigidities of thought, the circle of desires and the limitations of the ego in terrestrial life itself without getting absorbed in Brahman or Nirvana, so that one can exclaim :

‘Let Fate do with me what she will or can
I am stronger than death and greater than my fate---------
Fate’s law may change, but not my spirit’s will’

Sri Aurobindo: Savitri, pg.432, 1993

IMMORTALITY : Immortality is an intrinsic longing in nature. Science tries to reduce the mortality rate with the hope of prolonging the duration and intensifying the quality of life. But the yogic vision of immortality indicates an extension of consciousness that survives the dissolution of individual forms, so that the poet can cry out - Thou hast made me endless; such is Thy Pleasure (Tagore : Gitanjali). Sri Aurobindo adds another dimension – He is not only concerned with the extension of consciousness beyond the individual form, but also with the extension of consciousness beyond the limitations of a species. So long the evolutionary chain produced myriad species but each species moves within a set boundary, a fixed typal setting. Sri Aurobindo indicates the possibility of breaking this ‘fixity’ in the case of the human species through a unique evolution of consciousness that does not reject the past gains but uses them as a framework for onward progress. Immortality gets expressed in higher and higher models of the human being supplementing the transitional form we inhabit today. In the process, the structure and functioning of the body organs change towards suppleness, flexibility, elasticity and luminosity in such a way that the individual ‘will-power’ can also become one of the determinants of one’s own life-span:

‘All is not finished in the unseen decree,
A Mind beyond our mind demands our ken,
A life of unimagined harmony
Awaits, concealed, the grasp of unborn men……’

(Sri Aurobindo: Collected Pomes, pg.137)

This existential aspiration for ‘God-Light-Freedom-Immortality’ appears to be a chimera – a polar opposite of the ground reality. Neither the individual nor the human race seems to be capable of dynamising the Godhead in earthly life. The ordinary life actually appears to be a stark contradiction of the human aspiration for superlatives. Instead of Light, we have darkness, instead of Freedom we have a mechanical life ruled by chance or fate, instead of immortality we have morbidity and death, instead of the God-head we have diabolical, Titanic, Asuric forces reducing human life to mockery and puppetry:

 ‘An image flattering on the screen of Fate,
Half-animated for a passing show…..
Or one more pawn who comes destined to be pushed
One slow more forward on a measureless board
In the chess play of the earth soul with Doom-
Such in the human figure drown by Time’

Sri Aurobindo , Savitri, pg,1718

How do we get a solution to this existential crisis in earth itself, in the matrix of life? Traditional Christianity and Islam gave a solution out of life, in eternal heaven, provided one followed certain principles during one’s life span. In Indian spirituality, ‘heaven’ & ‘hell’ were considered to be mental formations with a relative ‘reality’ commensurate with usual mental constructs, hence different solutions had to be evoked. Shankaracharya opined that life, nay, the human drama itself was an illusion, a falsity, an unreality and the only Truth was the pure Self - The Brahman. Buddhists considered that not only the world was false, the perception that the Brahman was the sole Reality was also an illusion! For Both Shankarites and Buddhists, the solution to life’s existential crisis was ultimately to strive not to be re-born again.
History had to wait for Sri Aurobindo to give a solution IN LIFE, IN EARTH and not in a faraway heaven or in birthlessness. However, he does not minimize his predecessors but acknowledges them for opening up different pathways for the soul. He himself introduces another scheme of things, a new vision, a new orientation. He explains that the Absolute (or Godhead or the fountain-head of God-Light-Freedom-Immortality) can be dynamised in terrestrial life under certain conditions. The most important condition is to acknowledge that the human being is not a finished type in evolution but a transitional being and through an evolution in consciousness, a new species, higher than the present human being can manifest in earth itself using the atavistic human frame as a base and a foundation.

‘Man is not final, he is a transitional being. Beyond him awaits formation the diviner race, the superman…

There is an evolution and we have to complete it : a human animality or an animal humanity is not enough……
’ Man is a transitional being, he is not final. He is too imperfect for that, too imperfect in capacity for knowledge, too imperfect in will and action, too imperfect in his turn towards joy and beauty, too imperfect in his will for freedom and his instinct for order. Even if he could perfect himself in his own type, his type is too low and small to satisfy the need of the universe. Something larger, higher, more capable of a rich all embracing universality is needed, a greater being, a greater consciousness summing up in itself all that the world set out to be. He has, as was pointed out by a half-blind seer, to exceed himself; man must evolve out of himself the divine superman: he was born for transcendence………
The saint, the sage, the seer, the inspired man of action, the creator, - these are his summits of being Beyond him is the supramental being, the spiritual superman.

Sri Aurobindo Essays Divine & Human, 1st ed, 1994 pg.232, 239,241-42

Working through Contradictions
The main technical problem is how can the present human frame with its obvious limitations act as a template for future models of human being. Sri Aurobindo approaches this problem with two important movements.

Movement – I

He points out that Nature’s uniqueness is always to work through limitations and contradictions, resolving disharmonies, integrating apparently irreconcilable opposites, and forging new harmonies. ‘For all problems of existence are essentially problems of harmony’ (The Life Divine, Pg. 6). Nowhere this is more explicit than the field of evolution. Matter is the starting point of terrestrial evolution – ‘matter’ which is inert, dull, grey, listless, monotonous, rigid, and resistant to change. Contrast this with ‘Life’, which is buoyant, boisterous, vibrant, colorful, dynamic and flexible. Yet Nature at one stage harmonized these two apparently irreconcilable principles when, ‘Life’, a higher principle in evolution, blossomed in matter. In the process ‘matter’ was not rejected but underwent a qualitative change from inorganic to organic status and in presentation, its grossness in non–living systems sublimated into a finesse in living systems (consider the lack of beauty in lifeless matter and the outburst of colour and fragrance in the world of flowers, the intricate designs on a butterfly’s wings or the natural states of various molecules and minerals and the way they are present in the animal body!). Again contrast ‘Life’ in the vegetable kingdom (expressed in the movement of roots and stems, in the renewal of leaves, in the blossoming of flowers, etc.) and life in the subhuman animal kingdom (expressed in the searching for food, safety and procreation) with ‘Mind’ that we know in the human being – a ‘Mind’ that can cognize, speculate, theorize, generalize, introspect, foretell, intuit as well as ‘Will’ and ‘Execute’. Here again Nature harmonizes these two seemingly opposite statuses of ‘Mind’ and ‘Life’ (or more specifically a ‘Life’ that has already animated matter). Nature thus seems to work by reconciling contradictions and producing new integers. With the manifestation of ‘Mind’, ‘Life-in-Matter’, also underwent a qualitative change. In sub-human animals, life, even if bursting with action, still acts within limits. Thus the lion may be ferociously aggressive, still the aggression acts within predictable limits. Contrast this with the human being. If the human mind aspires to conquer Mount Everest, or walk in space, his ‘Life’ and his ‘Body’ supports him. One comments about the human nature – the sky is the limit! Nature thus not only harmonizes apparently discordant principles but each successive harmony marks a progression in evolution – opens up new possibilities, new vistas, new horizons. ‘Not only, then, is the upward impulse of man towards the accordance of yet higher opposites rational in itself, but it is the only logical completion of a rule and an effort that seem to be a fundamental method of Nature and the very sense of her universal strivings’ (The Life Divine, Pg. 7)

Movement II

Secondly Sri Aurobindo explains that whatever is manifested at any stage in evolution must be in principle ‘involved’ in the preceding stages as a dormant principle, a ‘seed’, a potentiality (later in subsequent chapters in the Life Divine, He will explain how this process of ‘involvement’ of dormant potentialities which He termed ‘INVOLUTION’, occurs in a systematic, hierarchical and complex manner, preceding and interacting with the evolutionary movement).

Thus the impulse towards life was secretly present in matter (in the orbital movements of sub–atomic particles, in the trapped energy that can be released through nuclear fission, in the reactions in the metal, in the service rendered by minerals, essential amino acids, trace elements to maintain life). Likewise, the impulse towards ‘Mind’ was present, even in a rudimentary way, in life (in building nests, hives and ant–hills, in elaborate predatory behavior, in skills of higher apes, in ‘learning’ to be racing horses, in acceptance of domesticated roles). Likewise, a ‘higher than mind consciousness’ presents to the human mind as intermittent ideas, intuitive glances, revelations and inspirations. However, up to the manifestation of the mind–principle, Nature automatically conducted the evolutionary process. With the emergence of the homosapiens, ‘evolution’ became complex as the human being is invested with a ‘will’ and ‘consciousness’. Hence for a further evolutionary growth, man’s ‘CONSCIOUS CO-OPERATION’ is needed.
‘The animal is a living laboratory in which Nature has, it is said, worked out man. Man himself may well be a thinking and living laboratory in whom and with whose conscious co-operation she wills to work out the superman, the god’
 (Sri Aurobindo: The Life Divine, Pg. 8)

What can happen if the human being refuses to co-operate?
 What can happen if mankind loses its opportunity for progress due to its own folly?
What can happen if :

‘A scientist played with atoms and blew out The universe before God had time to shout ‘

(Sri Aurobindo: Collected Poems, Pg. 156)

This is where Sri Aurobindo’s sadhana / Yogic pursuit has a unique contribution. He not only mapped the lines of evolutionary progression in consciousness but also, by his Yogic technology, has ‘activated’ processes whereby mankind does not miss the opportunity for further evolutionary growth. He not only provides brilliant theoretical constructs but also builds up creative matrices for their fulfillment.

Post Script

Actually Sri Aurobindo is hinting at an ‘evolution in consciousness’ that pari passu operates along with the biological evolution. This sounds preposterous, hence Sri Aurobindo points out that such an outrageous endeavor can only be undertaken by a ‘revolutionary individual effort or an evolutionary general progression’. (The Life Divine Pg. 6). The Revolutionary Individuals – the adventurers in consciousness (the messiahs, the prophets, the avatars, the seers, the rishis) act as torchbearers so that the general mass consciousness gets elevated for progressive growth.
Sri Aurobindo’s propositions are intertwined with one very basic seed-idea that he corroborates with a matching verse from RigVeda. In the case of biological evolution, the term ‘stages’ refer to the appearance of different species, albeit in a hierarchical sequence. In the case of evolution of consciousness, the term ‘stages’ have a different connotation. Each ‘stage’ or step in evolution is actually a quantum–leap in the manifestation of consciousness, and signifies a fresh illumination, a fresh pouring of ‘God-light’, a fresh widening of horizons of knowledge. Each such stage incorporates the essence of all the past gains as well as the potentiality of all that has to come in future. Each stage is totipotent, integrative and futuristic.

The corollary that follows is that an evolutionary growth in consciousness is an OPEN-ENDED movement and signifies progress – unending, everlasting progress. At no stage any dogmatic representation can claim that truth is the monopoly of one particular sect, one religion, one system, one messiah. At no stage there is any logic to declare that a particular person is the last messiah, the last apostle, the last prophet. Each stage in the evolution of consciousness is one advancement in the eternal procession of advancements. What better symbol can there be than to represent such a stage with the imagery of ‘Dawn’ (‘Usha’ in Sanskrit) –

‘She follows to the goal of those that are passing on beyond, she is the first in the eternal succession of the dawns that are coming… What is her scope when she harmonises with the dawns that shone out before and those that now must shine? She desires the ancient mornings and fulfils their light; projecting forwards her illumination she enters into communion with the rest that are to come’

(RigVeda Verse Quoted in Life Divine, Pg. 5)

The symbol of ‘Dawn’ or more precisely the ‘Dawn of God-light’ is a message of hope; a certitude of progress, a guarantee of growth, an agenda for the coming age, a revelation of the new humanity:

The Hidden Plan

 However long Night’s hour, I will not dream
That the small ego and the person’s mask
Are all that God reveals in our life-scheme,
The last result of Nature’s cosmic task.

A greater Presence in her bosom works;
Long it prepares its far epiphany:
Even in the stone and beast the godhead lurks,
A bright Persona of eternity.
If shall burst out from the limit traced by Mind
And make a witness of the prescient heart;
It shall reveal even in this inert blind
Nature, long veiled in each inconscient part,
Fulfilling the occult magnificent plan,
The world-wide and immortal spirit in man.

 (Sri Aurobindo: Collected Poems Pg. 143)
  Date of Update: 18-Nov-11

 - By Dr. Soumitra Basu

© 2017 IIYP  |  Contact