The context of Sri Aurobindo's spiritual endeavors was an India where new Western philosophies—communism, Nietzschean individualism and Freudian sexual hermeneutics—were fashionable and fermenting confusion among India’s elite. Aurobindo attempted to reconcile these Western ideas with the sublime teachings of Indian philosophy. He developed a teaching known as Integral Yoga, which combined the Hindu yoga paths of knowledge, devotion, and karma. He also developed a theory of evolution and involution, processes by which human beings can evolve into a superior state of being. Thus, his teachings created a synthesis of ancient Indian wisdom and contemporary Western ideas.
Impact and Influence
Sri Aurobindo has had a significant impact on Eastern and Western thought. The incorporation of evolutionary ideas into Hindu philosophy provided Hinduism with an infusion of modernity.
One of Sri Aurobindo's main contributions to Indian philosophy was to introduce the concept of evolution into Vedantic thought. Samkhya philosophy had already proposed such a notion centuries earlier, but Aurobindo rejected the materialistic tendencies of both Darwinism and Samkhya, and proposed an evolution of spirit rather than matter.
He rejected the Hindu doctrine of Maya (the illusionary world) found in Advaita Vedanta, and suggested a linkage between the ineffable Brahman or Absolute and the world of multiplicity by positing a transitional hypostasis between the two, which he called "The Supermind." The supermind is the active principle present in the transcendent Satchidananda; a unitary mind of which our individual minds and bodies are minuscule subdivisions.
Thus, Aurobindo's later years represent an effort to forge greater unification and synthesis between East and West. Kant's sublime, Hegel's absolute, Schopenhauer's will, Kierkegaard's passion, Marx's matter, Darwin's evolution, Nietzsche's overman, Bergson's élan vital, all find their due representation in Sri Aurobindo's grand exposition. His thought successfully overarches cultural as well as religious chasms. S.K. Maitra and Haridas Chaudhuri were first among the academicians to discern the import of Sri Aurobindo's integral philosophy. D.P. Chattopadhyay wrote a seminal treatise juxtaposing Sri Aurobindo and Marx to examine their utopian prophecies.
Sri Aurobindo is considered one of the greatest spiritual philosophers of modern India, who through his training as a Western scholar and deep mystical understanding, was able to present the wisdom of the East in a form adapted to Western thought. The Life Divine is a visionary work of great scope and relevance to our present day.