Introduction:

“What Sri Aurobindo represents in the world’s history is not a teaching, not even a revelation; it is a decisive action direct from the Supreme.” -The Mother

“Sri Aurobindo belongs to the future; he is the messenger of the future. He still shows us the way to follow in order to hasten the realisation of a glorious future fashioned by the Divine Will. All those who want to collaborate for the progress of humanity and for India’s luminous destiny must unite in a clairvoyant aspiration and in an illumined work.” –The Mother

Seventy-five years after the last great war ended the world is at the crossroads once again. Despite the significant progress they have made, India and other nations are beset today by many of the same problems that scourged them decades ago. The intellectual frameworks, and the institutions that were triumphantly established to uphold them, have only languished and the world is constantly being buffeted by the rise of newer belligerent nations dreaming of world domination, previously unknown virulent diseases, waves of economic and religious turmoil, and increasingly intractable sources of social and international strife and conflict. We appear to have mistaken the symptoms for the deeper causes of our problems even in India and overlooked the lasting solutions that may have always been within reach. Indeed, Sri Aurobindo, widely known as nationalist, revolutionary, philosopher, poet, yogi and guru, wrote clearly in 1947 that what was required was “a step in evolution which would raise man to a higher and larger consciousness and begin the solution of the problems which have perplexed and vexed him since he first began to think and to dream of individual perfection and a perfect society”. To gainfully understand the bases and implications of this statement it is necessary to know more deeply about the life and work of Sri Aurobindo whose sesquicentennial birth anniversary will be celebrated on 15th August 2022.

The Sri Aurobindo Foundation for Indian Culture (SAFIC), Sri Aurobindo Society, Puducherry, India plans to organize a series of lectures and seminars to simultaneously mark the 150th birth anniversary of Sri Aurobindo and the 75th year of India’s Independence. From August 2020 to August 15th 2022, the lecture/seminar series will unveil 12 principal domains from among the unique and profound contributions of Sri Aurobindo, to help understand the nature of India’s impending Renaissance and the pathways of human evolution as ‘an Adventure of Consciousness’ towards a ‘Life Divine’.

In addition, we are initiating a two year Mahayajnya (a conscious collective effort in line with the forces of evolution) towards that auspicious Day, towards a revival of Indian thought and powerful creation in the following Decisive Action areas: Spirituality, Literature, Politics & Governance, Art & Culture, Technology & Artisanship, Health, Education & Research, Liberal Arts, Dairy & Agriculture, Design & Architecture, Economic and Pure Sciences! CLICK HERE for details.

These oral presentations are designed to elucidate the rich and compelling insights that Sri Aurobindo has provided into a wide range of subjects such as the cultural foundations of India, the significance of the Mind, the nature of human evolution and the goals of yoga before synthesizing and weaving them into a central idea or a tool that can help resolve the myriad problems of India and the world.

  1. Sri Aurobindo – The Rishi of India’s Renaissance (August 2020)
  2. Sri Aurobindo – The Kavi (October 2020)
  3. Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri – The Veda of the Future (December 2020)
  4. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother – The Spiritual Collaborators (February 2021)
  5. Sri Aurobindo – A Political Thinker (April 2021)
  6. Sri Aurobindo’s Educational Philosophy (June 2021)
  7. Sri Aurobindo and Foundations of Indian Culture (August 2021)
  8. Sri Aurobindo and the Ideal of Human Unity (October 2021)
  9. Sri Aurobindo, India and the World at Large (December 2021)
  10. Sri Aurobindo and the Integral Yoga (February 2022)
  11. Sri Aurobindo – A Social Thinker (April 2022)
  12. Sri Aurobindo – The Herald of the Life Divine (June 2022)

After the 1857 “Indian mutiny” or the “first war of independence” as it is now called, India lay crushed and broken. But only a few decades later, after a fresh burst of energy propelled a powerful new movement of revival and renaissance, she became free. Sri Aurobindo revealed that “All great movements of life in India have begun with the new spiritual thought and usually a new religious activity”. Commenting also on the conditions that were propitious for an Indian renaissance, Sri Aurobindo wrote: “For whatever temporary rotting and destruction this crude impact of European life and culture has caused, it gave three needed impulses. It revived the dormant intellectual and critical impulse; it rehabilitated life and awakened the desire of new creation; it put the reviving Indian spirit face to face with novel conditions and ideals and the urgent necessity of understanding, assimilating and conquering them. The national mind turned a new eye on its past culture, re-awoke to its sense and import, but also at the same time saw it in relation to modern knowledge and ideas. Out of this awakening vision and impulse the Indian renaissance is arising, and that must determine its future tendency. The recovery of the old spiritual knowledge and experience in all its splendour, depth and fullness is its first, most essential work; the flowing of this spirituality into new forms of philosophy, literature, art, science and critical knowledge is the second; an original dealing with modern problems in the light of the Indian spirit and the endeavour to formulate a greater synthesis of a spiritualised society is the third and most difficult. Its success on these three lines will be the measure of its help to the future of humanity.”
Clearly, Sri Aurobindo put great store by India’s Renaissance when he stated unambiguously that the “..Renaissance, this new birth in India, must become a thing of immense importance ..to herself …because of all that is meant for her in the recovery or the change of her time-old spirit”. 

In this seminar, we propose to address the following questions: Has India already had a Renaissance or does she need one now? In what ways would India’s Renaissance differ from the European Renaissance? What are the new dimensions that Sri Aurobindo added to the idea of Renaissance in general and Indian Renaissance in particular and what was his vision of a New India?

 “All poetry is an inspiration, a thing breathed into the thinking organ from above; it is recorded in the mind, but is born in the higher principle of direct knowledge or ideal vision which surpasses mind. It is in reality a revelation. The prophetic or revealing power sees the substance; the inspiration perceives the right expression. Neither is manufactured; nor is poetry really a poiesis or composition, nor even a creation, but rather the revelation of something that eternally exists. The ancients knew this truth and used the same word for poet and prophet, creator and seer, sophos, vates, kavi.” – Sri Aurobindo

In Sanskrit, the word Kavi in its deeper sense means, ‘possessed of the Truth Consciousness and using its faculties of vision, inspiration, intuition, discrimination’.  According to Sri Aurobindo’s biographer Prof. K. R. Srinivasa Iyengar, Sri Aurobindo intended for future poetry to use the mantra: “that rhythmic speech which, as the Veda puts it, rises at once from the heart of the seer and from the distant home of the Truth”.  While stressing the importance of “soul-vision” for a poet, Sri Aurobindo stated that “Vision is the characteristic power of the poet, as is discriminative thought the essential gift of the philosopher and analytical observation the natural genius of the scientist.  The Kavi was in the idea of the ancients the seer and revealer of truth…Therefore the greatest poets have been always those who have had a large and powerful interpretative and intuitive vision of Nature and life and man and whose poetry has arisen out of that in a supreme revelatory utterance of it”.  Iyengar demonstrates in his biography how Sri Aurobindo’s vast contributions as poet were ‘as futurist critic no less than as futurist poet’ and that his work included not just brilliant appraisals of other English, Greek and Latin poets but also raised exciting ‘probabilities of the future’ poetry.  Beginning with various poems in his boyhood and youth and ending with ‘Savitri’, the monumental poem that was written from the rungs of his own yogic ascent, Sri Aurobindo was a prolific kavi nonpareil.

In this session, speakers will discuss Sri Aurobindo’s poetic genius and its implications for “The Future Poetry”.

In the Mother’s memorable words: “Everything is there in Savitri: mysticism, occultism, philosophy, the history of evolution, the history of man, of the gods, of creation, of Nature. How the universe was created, why, for what purpose – all is there…, even the future of man and of the evolution, all that nobody yet knows. Sri Aurobindo has described it all in beautiful and clear words so that spiritual adventurers who wish to solve the mysteries of the world may understand it more easily…He has crammed the whole universe in a single book. It is a marvelous work, mag­nificent and of an incomparable perfection.”

In this seminar, we will retrace Sri Aurobindo’s discovery of the esoteric secret of the Veda as a confirmation of his own yogic experiences.  Based on his experiences, he revealed that nirvana or samadhi is not the goal of human evolution; rather it is the starting point to bring the Knowledge, Power and Bliss of Brahman down to the earthly plane so as to divinize all levels of our existence from the physical to the spiritual, right here.  He chose the legend of Savitri who won back the life of Satyavan from the Lord of Death as “One of the many symbolic myths of the Vedic cycle.  Satyavan is the soul carrying the divine truth of being within itself but descended into the grip of death and ignorance; Savitri is the Divine Word, daughter of the Sun, goddess of the supreme Truth who comes down and is born to save; Aswapati, the Lord of the Horse, her human father, is the Lord of Tapasya, the concentrated energy of spiritual endeavour that helps us to rise from the mortal to the immortal planes.” 

Mirroring their stories, with himself in the role of Aswapati, Sri Aurobindo channeled Savitri into literary existence—his magnum opus 24,000 line English poem in blank verse—revealing in luminous verses the details of his own journeys of Supramental ascent and descent.  As a record of, and constantly updated in the light of, his life-long practice of Purna Yoga, the words of Savitri have the mantric power to catalyze our own flights of spiritual and physical evolution.  In these explorations of Savitri, we will see why and how it is indeed the Veda of the Future, what it reveals about our evolutionary destiny, and how it can awaken us to be conscious contributors to Sri Aurobindo’s vision of The Life Divine.

The Mother had once said: “Without Him I exist not and without me He is unmanifest”. Sri Aurobindo has said that if you turn only towards me you get little bit, if you turn to the Mother you get everything, she is the Mother. So to turn to her is to do the yoga. In one sentence Sri Aurobindo has said all who have turned to the Mother are doing this yoga. When we talk about Sri Aurobindo as a purnayogi, we do not refer to Sri Aurobindo alone.  It includes both Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.

The Mother beautifully summarizes her mission thus: “. . . my only aim in life is to give a concrete form to Sri Aurobindo’s great teaching and in his teaching he reveals that all the nations are essentially one and meant to express the Divine Unity upon earth through an organised and harmonious diversity”. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother strove together to embody and manifest upon earth this Divine Consciousness, with the Ashram as the starting point.

It was the Mother who, along with Sri Aurobindo, planted the seeds of a new way of life founded on this higher consciousness. It was her drive, her force, her guidance that made things happen. From the smallest insignificant detail to the overseeing of every aspect of maintaining the Ashram, from interacting with the children of the Centre of Education to the supervising of the athletic competitions in the sports ground—she was there, fully present, to see that everything is raised to its utmost perfection. This session will include discussion on the life and teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.

About his own political thought and action, Sri Aurobindo wrote: “There were three sides to Sri Aurobindo’s political ideas and activities. First, there was the action with which he started, a secret revolutionary propaganda and organisation of which the central object was the preparation of an armed insurrection. Secondly, there was a public propaganda intended to convert the whole nation to the ideal of independence which was regarded, when he entered into politics, by the vast majority of Indians as impractical and impossible, an almost insane chimera. It was thought that the British Empire was too powerful and India too weak, effectively disarmed and impotent even to dream of the success of such an endeavour. Thirdly, there was the organisation of the people to carry on a public and united opposition and undermining of the foreign rule through an increasing non-cooperation and passive resistance.”

In this session, speakers will expand on Sri Aurobindo’s self-description of his political thought while also elaborating on his definition of Nationalism as: “the love of one’s country, for one’s countrymen, for the glory, greatness and happiness of the race, the divine ānanda of self-immolation for one’s fellows, the ecstasy of relieving their sufferings, the joy of seeing one’s blood flow for country and freedom, the bliss of union in death with the fathers of the race. The feeling of almost physical delight in the touch of the mother-soil, of the winds that blow from Indian seas, of the rivers that stream from Indian hills, in the hearing of Indian speech, music, poetry, in the familiar sights, sounds, habits, dress, manners of our Indian life, this is the physical root of that love. The pride in our past, the pain of our present, the passion for the future are its trunk and branches. Self-sacrifice and self-forgetfulness, great service, high endurance for the country are its fruit. And the sap which keeps it alive is the realisation of the Motherhood of God in the country, the vision of the Mother, the knowledge of the Mother, the perpetual contemplation, adoration and service of the Mother”.

Sri Aurobindo clearly but firmly emphasized that education in India must be “proper to the Indian soul and need and temperament and culture that we are in quest of, not indeed something faithful merely to the past, but to the developing soul of India, to her future need, to the greatness of her coming self-creation, to her eternal spirit”. At the same time “we must keep abreast with the march of truth and knowledge, fit ourselves for existence under actual circumstances, and our education must be therefore up to date in form and substance and modern in life and spirit”. All old ideas associated with teachers having to impart or impose their ideas on students or those professing the need for students to be moulded by teachers into shape have to give way to ideas that understand and respect human psychology. The Mother explained that “to be complete, education must have five principal aspects relating to the five principal activities of the human being: the physical, the vital, the mental, the psychic and the spiritual.” The seminars planned for this session are designed to bring out these and other aspects in finer detail.

In a series of essays Sri Aurobindo revealed the underpinnings of Indian culture in substantial detail. These were part of his robust response to a prejudiced and ill-informed critic of Indian culture who Sri Aurobindo dismissed as “that well-known dramatic critic leaving his safe natural sphere for fields in which his chief claim to speak was a sublime and confident ignorance”. 

Offering his own thoughts on Indian culture Sri Aurobindo indicates that humanity has yet to discover a potent new source of knowledge and power far greater than the mind, one that can both deliver the mind from its limitations and transform life at its very roots. That such a Power exists and is at the source of our own true, highest and universal Self and Spirit is posited by Indian spirituality as well as by other spiritual and mystic traditions of the world. To discover, grow into and live in the consciousness of this Power is the highest aim of Indian culture. Indeed, the spiritual and cultural history of India is a glorious story of the discovery of the Spirit and India’s persistent efforts to mould all aspects of individual and collective life in its light. Sri Aurobindo reveals that it is this higher fount of human knowledge and power that serves as a foundation for all aspects of Indian art, literature, polity, and religion.

In this seminar, speakers will discuss various essays on Indian culture in some depth and explore some ways in which the rich and lucid insights of Sri Aurobindo can be brought to the attention of students and scholars alike all over India.

Sri Aurobindo was of the firm conviction that “a world-union forming the outer basis of a fairer, brighter and nobler life for all mankind” was a much-needed step in human evolution. In fact, he stated, that “..unification is a necessity of Nature, an inevitable movement” and that its “necessity for the nations is also clear, for without it the freedom of the small nations may be at any moment in peril and the life even of the large and powerful nations insecure”. At a time when new nations were extricating themselves from the clutches of their colonizers, Sri Aurobindo reassured those who were still wary of empires that “Nationalism will have fulfilled itself and lost its militancy and would no longer find these things incompatible with self-preservation and the integrality of its outlook”. He also clarified that world unity would be achieved “with safeguards which will keep the race intact in the roots of its vitality, richly diverse in its oneness”. That the “union of liberty and equality can only be achieved by the power of human brotherhood and it cannot be founded on anything else” and that “freedom, equality, unity are the eternal attributes of the Spirit” form the bases of Sri Aurobindo’s conviction that world-union was inevitable.

The talks planned for this seminar will discuss these and other aspects of ‘The Ideal of Human Unity’. 

India’s interactions with the world are on multiple levels including but not limited to: 1) domestic needs, 2) international issues, 3) cultural and other exchanges. Endorsing India’s international efforts in his Independence Day message in 1947, Sri Aurobindo wrote that India had “begun to play (her role) with an energy and ability which already indicate the measure of her possibilities and the place she can take in the council of the nations”. Whereas India’s importance in the world has significantly increased in the last few decades, it remains well below what can be expected of a country of her size, potential, geopolitical location, and civilizational accomplishments. India’s partition may be one reason for this and Sri Aurobindo emphasized in 1947 that “by whatever means, in whatever way, the division must go; unity must and will be achieved, for it is necessary for the greatness of India’s future”. India can also make efforts in parallel to help unify the world and “if she can develop that larger statesmanship which is not limited by the present facts and immediate possibilities…her presence may make all the difference” to an ideal that can form “the outer basis of a fairer, brighter and nobler life for all mankind”. In this session we propose to discuss ways and means by which India can regain her true worth in the world without sacrificing her spiritual heritage and becoming an “anglicised oriental people” or worse a “docile pupil of the West”.

Sri Aurobindo’s yoga also referred to as the “Integral Yoga” is a revolutionary method that takes into account the standpoints of all the older schools of yoga but goes well beyond them. For example, Sri Aurobindo made it clear that his integral Yoga does not ignore “the body or makes its annulment or its rejection indispensable to a perfect spirituality”. In fact, he stated, that “the perfecting of the body also should be the last triumph of the Spirit and to make the bodily life also divine must be God’s final seal upon His work in the universe”.  He further emphasized that “the obstacle which the physical presents to the spiritual is no argument for the rejection of the physical”. In addition, Sri Aurobindo defined the Integral Yoga as a method that does not kill the “vital energies, (or) forces them into a nerveless quiescence or roots them out as the source of noxious activities” and clarified that “their purification, not their destruction, — their transformation, control and utilisation is the aim in view with which they have been created and developed in us”. Sri Aurobindo also reiterated that the mind was just as important as the body and the vital to Integral Yoga: “If the bodily life is what Nature has firmly evolved for us as her base and first instrument, it is our mental life that she is evolving as her immediate next aim and superior instrument”. But our mental life too is rudimentary because we are aware of only a small part of our total conscious being. And a complete recovery of a total self-awareness in our spiritual self is the next stage in evolution.

Traditional Yoga works to unite the individual soul with the universal divine self while liberating it from the bondage of ego and desire and by emphasizing the ascent of the ordinary human consciousness into the higher divine consciousness. The Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo while accepting the intrinsic importance of these goals of traditional yoga places an equal if not greater emphasis on the need for the descent of the light and power of the divine consciousness into the mind, life and body of the individual in order to fully transform him.

This session’s presentations will clarify the Integral yoga of Sri Aurobindo in greater detail.

In a series of compelling writings on how a nation or a civilization grows, Sri Aurobindo developed the preliminary work of Lamprecht, a German historian and social theorist, in far greater depth and detail than Lamprecht himself had been able to. While agreeing with Lamprecht that all human society “progresses through certain distinct psychological stages”, Sri Aurobindo cautions that one could “err by rigidity and to substitute a mental straight line for the coils and zigzags of Nature”. Nonetheless, Sri Aurobindo goes further and analyses in detail the reasons why there is great merit to classifying human society and understanding it in the way Lamprecht had. In doing so Sri Aurobindo deeply examined numerous issues, challenges and problems of societal life – inter-group harmony, the religious divide, caste, gender, the significance of the right kind of education, social reform, etc. Building upon an essential idea of ancient Indian or Vedic wisdom, viz, that the individual and society are two manifestations or expressions of the same Spirit, or of the Divine, Sri Aurobindo charts out the future course of social evolution dazzling the reader with his vision and intellectual acuity.

The presentations in this seminar will discuss the social philosophy of Sri Aurobindo by describing the characteristics of the various stages of social evolution (symbolic, typal, conventional, individualistic, subjective and spiritual), their progressive nature, and their influences especially on a complex and highly diverse Indian society.

Sri Aurobindo saw the inevitability of “a step in evolution which would raise man to a higher and larger consciousness and begin the solution of the problems which have perplexed and vexed him since he first began to think and to dream of individual perfection and a perfect society”. As it exists right now “all Life is a Yoga of Nature too who is consciously and sub-consciously trying to realize her own perfection in an ever-increasing expression of her yet unrealized potentialities and to unite with her own divine reality”. Indeed, “in man her thinker she can expedite and more puissantly attain her objective by using for the first time self-conscious means and willed arrangements of activity”. Predicting the arrival of a new species Sri Aurobindo wrote that “just as the animal is a living lab in which Nature has it is said worked out man, man himself may well be a thinking and living lab in whom and with whose conscious cooperation she wills to work out or manifest the superman, the god”. He concluded that “if it be true that Spirit is involved in Matter…then the manifestation of the divine in himself and the realization of God within and without are the highest and most legitimate aim possible to man upon earth”. 

This session’s speakers will discuss the rationale and implications of the “Life Divine”.

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Renaissance, the monthly e-journal of Sri Aurobindo Foundation of Indian Culture (SAFIC), features inspiring articles, essays, book reviews, interviews, and reflections that speak of how the eternal spirit and creative genius of India are being reborn and renewed in various domains – spiritual, artistic, literary, philosophic, scientific, aesthetic.

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