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Maharshi Aurobindo and his philosophy

- June 20, 2022

Dr. R. Subramony/ Madurai

In 1914, when Richards met Sri Aurobindo, they decided to launch a philosophical magazine, Arya, it was decided to give to the world a grand synthesis of knowledge and yogic experiences. It would also contain Sri Aurobido’s Vision of the future. The decision was taken on 1 June. The first monthly issue came out only on Sri Aurobindo’s forty second birthday, 15 August 1914. Sri Aurobindo never claimed a deep knowledge of philosophy.  He wrote to Dilip Kumar Roy:

And philosophy; Let me tell you in confidence that I never ever was a philosopher- although I have written philosophy…. I knew precious little about philosophy before I did the yoga and came to Pondicherry. I was a poet and a politician, not a philosopher! How I managed to do it and why? First, Richard proposed to me to co- operate in a philosophical review and as my theory was that a yogi ought to be able to turn his hand to anything I could not I could not well refuse: and then he had to go to the war and left me in the lunch with sixty- four pages of philosophy all to write by my lonely self. Secondly, because I had to write down in the terms of the intellect all that I had observed and come to know in practising yoga daily, and philosophy was there automatically… (D.K.Roy, Sri Aurobindo Came to me ,Jaico 1964. P33)

Prominence was given in The Arya to The Life Divine. It provides his vision of the evolution of man. It was revised by Sri Aurobindo and the first volume was published in book form in 1939 and the second in 1940. K.R.Srinivasa Iyengar in his biography of Sri Aurobindo calls it a treatise on metaphysics (415).

K.D.Sethna wrote:

The Life Divine is nothing except his experience, his realisation. Having attained in constant walking life, and not merely in a sealed Samadhi; the reality which he terms Genesis he has but laid out in intellectual exposition what Gnostic consciousness is and what yogic possibilities it holds and what the results of its full descent into our earth existence will be. (66-67)

The Life Divine is Sri Aurobindo’s supramental manifesto. During the Arya’s seven years Sri Aurobindo wanted to bring out a ‘synthetic philosophy’ for ‘ the new age’ of a ‘humanity’.

He further states, “The spiritual experience and the general truths on which such an attempt could be based, were already present to us otherwise we should have had no right to make the endeavour at all; but the complete intellectual statement of them and their results and issues had to be found.”(322)

Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy is a grand synthesis of the East and the West. He uses the term Superman as someone who has exceeded the normal human mentality and embodied the Supramental Truth- Consciousness. A Superman embodies the Divine Gnosis. Echoing the rishis of the Vedas and the Upanishads, Sri Aurobindo states that there is one Divine Reality that pervades and dominates all existence and is beyond all: Sarvam Khalidam Brahman.

Man is part of evolution and he is not the last term of evolution.        A new species will evolve from man. A New Consciousness will emerge.

Sri Aurobindo expostulates a gradual growth and development of consciousness until one reaches the Supramental consciousness. Sri Aurobindo observes: “The fundamental nature of this supermind is that all its knowledge is originally a knowledge by identity and oneness and even when it makes numberless apparent divisions and discriminating modifications in itself, still all the knowledge that operates in its workings even in these divisions, is founded upon and sustained and lit and guided by this perfect knowledge by identity and oneness. The Spirit is one everywhere and it knows all things as itself and in itself, so sees them always and therefore knows them intimately, completely, in their reality as well as their appearance, in their truth, their law, the entire spirit and sense and figure of their nature and their workings. When it sees anything as an object of knowledge, it yet sees it as itself and in itself, and not as a thing other than or divided from it about which therefore it would at first be ignorant of the nature, constitution and workings and have to learn about them, as the mind is at first ignorant of its object and has to learn about it because the mind is separated from its object and regards and senses and meets it as something other than itself and external to its own being.” (Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 19, The Nature of the Supermind, pp. 757-758). This Supramental consciousness works at different levels and different modes. M.G.Umar in his bbook, Sri Aurobindo, Thinker and Yogi of the Future observes, “What is consciousness, pure consciousness is an infinite self- aware existence- Sat- full of Bliss. It is an illimitable vast transcendent consciousness full of infinite force; it is Chit Shakthi. But at different levels consciousness manifests and works in different modes.” (50).

Consciousness is pure and divine. In the material universe it is full of inconvenience, consciousness is involved and hidden.

There is one transcendent Reality above and the material universe below. In between there are a number of planes. In each plane, the one consciousness manifests as a distinct power proper to that plane. M.G.Umar states, “The Divine Reality is unknowable, ineffable and unmanifest. But when it manifests, it manifests as Sachichidananda- Existence, consciousness, Bliss. That also projects itself and through the projection of its consciousness and power becomes the many planes and the endless worlds by the formative poer of Divine Maya.” (50)

For Sri Aurobindo the world is not maya, but a manifestation of the Divine Reality. It is called integral yoga. The Divine Reality is beyond Time and Space. It is the same Reality that has become all existences. The Divine manifests through His Divine Maya. This Maya is the creative power of the Divine for manifestation. M.G.Umar states “The Divine Maya is the transcendent consciousness- force of the Reality that creates vast domains of existence out of the ineffable Absolute, creates all world, and dominates all existence.” (35)

The Supermind is the term given by Sri Aurobindo to the transcendent planes of Truth – Consciousness which is the source of all manifestation. The Truth- Law or a Real- Idea implements the manifestation of the Divine. Supermind is the creative poise of Sachchidhananda. It is a transcendental plane of all. Truth, all- knowledge, all-peace and Harmony. It is a self- existent Truth- Consciousness and the self- effective Truth- power. The Rishis of the Veda called it the Satyam  rtam brhat, the Truth, the Right, the Vast. The seers of the Upanishads called it Vijnana. Sri Aurobindo states “The supramental Spirit has, unlike the mental being, the real because the inmost and total knowledge of itself and of all its universe and of all things that are its creations and self-figuring in the universe. We see, then, that the supramental consciousness requires a shift from the human standpoint of separation and isolation to the divine standpoint of oneness and unity of all existence. The supermind does not deny the appearance or the utility of the separate forms; in fact, it creates those forms as expressions of the self-manifestation of the divine spirit; at the same time, it is not misled or confused by these forms because it sees them as part of one complete, organic whole. (Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, The Nature of the Supermind, pp. 757-758).

Our mind is in ignorance. It strives for knowledge. Supermind is the principle of all- knowledge. It is the home of Truth. The infinite manifests in infinite possibilities. The Supermind or the Divine Gnosis transforms the limitless possibilities into ordered harmonies.  These harmonies are manifested. The mind is a reflection from the Supermind. The infinite consciousness manifests in each individual in space and time. The real- idea of each being is contained in Supermind. The human mind possesses only a partial vision. It cannot comprehend the Truth. The Supermind lives in Truth. It exists in perfect knowledge of the infinite and the Eternal. It contains in it. The mind sees contradictions in everything. The Supermind sees them as complementary aspects of one Truth.

The Supermind sees the One as the many and the many as One. The mind can only perceive the One. It rejects the many. The one and the many are the static and the dynamic Truth. For the Supermind, the impersonal pure Existence and the Divine Personality are complementary aspects of one Truth.

The Supermind is the Transcendent Truth Consciousness and Truth- power. The Supermind is involved in the universe. It is instrumental in the evolution of the world.

Sri Aurobindo describes the several planes of existence. The triple planes of sat-cit- ananda are above and below are the lower planes of Mind, Life and Matter. The link between Sachichidananda and the triple worlds of Mind, Life and Matter is the Supermind. Sachchidananda produces multiplicity through the Supermind. They are projected in the lower planes.

                             The Absolute

Involution                                                   Evolution

Sat                                                                        Sat

Chit                                                                      Chit

Ananda                                                                Ananda

Supermind                     Link                               Supermind

Mind                                                                    Mind

Life                                                                       Life

Body                                                                    Body


          Each plane of Evolution has its own law, its Dharma. At the level of Sachchidanada, there is only unity. At the level of the Supermind, multiplicity is created out unity. Unity is retained at the Supermind. It is Truth- Consciousness. As the ladder of consciousness comes down to the triple worlds of mind, life and matter, unity is diminished and multiplicity dominates. At the physical level, there is only inconscience. From the Supermind to the Mind, there are several spiritual planes- Overmind, Intuitive Mind, Illumined Mind, Higher Mind and finally Mind.

When the Higher Reality, gets manifested and goes through the descending services of planes, multiplicity emerges from unity. Consciousness is lost in the inconscience of matter. Delight becomes pain. The Divine consciousness manifests in infinite possibilities. It limits itself by self- oblivion. The Divine Consciousness gets involved in matter. The conscious- force of the Reality goes through downward involution.  Harmony can be created only by the transformation of consciousness. Man has to transform from animal consciousness to the Divine consciousness. The self is experienced by perceiving pure Sachchidananda at levels beyond the mind. The aim of Sri Aurobindo is to realise the Supermind and bring down the Supramental truth to transform mind, life and body. A new race, the Superman will emerge in the future. At the level of the Supermind there is multiplicity as well as unity. The One is projected as Many. From Supermind to the Overmind, multiplicity dominates. Nevertheless, there is unity in the background. The Overmind is the region of the Gods. It is the origin of the religions. Each aspect of the one Truth in the Overmind claims to the exclusive representation of Truth. A step down is the Infinitive Mind. Below is the illumined Mind. Instead of thought and reason, there is luminous sight. Further down is the Higher Mind. Then the Mind. There is divisive consciousness at the level of the mind. Ego is sealed here. Below the mind is the life plane. Below life is matter.

The Divine consciousness is involved is Matter and the different layers of consciousness. After the involution, evolution occurs. From inconscience emerges matter, then Life and then Mind. With man, mind emerges.

In this evolution of consciousness, a new race will emerge. The superman will be the embodiment of the Supramental Truth. This truth is not ruled by senses or the mind. It is the reign of the Divine Truth and Harmony. This consciousness is beyond Time and Space. This Consciousness evolves from mind to Higher Mind, Illumined Mind, Infinitive Mind, Overmind and the Supermind. The Divine consciousness is present in a veiled manner at all stages.

Sri Aurobindo states in The Life Divine that the, “mind is an instrument of analysis and syntheses, but not of essential knowledge.” (127)  He further states that, “Mind may divide, multiply, add subtract, but it cannot get beyond the limits of this mathematics.” (162-63)

According to the Mother, a consciousness higher that the rational mind has been established in the atmosphere of the Earth. It is the Supramental consciousness. The Mind, the intellect are intermediary stages. Mind is not final, Man is not final. The Supermind is the goal. In 1972, the Mother said, “For centuries and centuries, humanity has waited for this we are here to prepare the way for the new creation.” (Vrekhem, 164-65). In 1956, the Supramental consciousness established itself in the earth- consciousness. The Mother wrote in a message of 1964, “The future of the earth depends on a change of consciousness. The only hope for the future is a change of man’s consciousness and the change is bound to come …Nothing but a radical change  of consciousness can save humanity from the terrible plight into which it is plunged.”(Words of the Mother, CWM 15, P.66).  The Supermind is a consciousness of Unity and Harmony. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother worked for the descent of the Supermind into the earth atmosphere.

*Dr. R. Subramony is Associate Professor and head, Department of English, The Madura college, Madurai