Sri Aurobindo's - 'The Life Divine' - The Human Aspiration - Chapter I

Track Running The Human Aspiration - Track 009

The study of facts and the relationships among themselves and their relationships with the Ultimate, if such an Ultimate exists, becomes a matter of logic. If you can show the interrelationships of facts and the kind of relationship that exists and this relationship becomes more and more significant, when you can relate these facts to the Ultimate Reality.

I shall read out to you a few lines, where Sri Aurobindo has given a definition of philosophy. The book is called ‘Essays on the Gita’. When we shall study ‘The Life Divine’, I would like several books of Sri Aurobindo to be present with us, because as Mother herself has said, ‘don’t study Sri Aurobindo book by book, but subject by subject and then you can take help of varieties of books of Sri Aurobindo and you can refer to them.’

Here is the definition of philosophy that Sri Aurobindo has given on page 241 in ‘the Essays on the Gita.’

“Philosophy is only a way of formulating to ourselves intellectually, in their essential significance, the psychological and physical facts of existence and their relation to any Ultimate Reality that may exist.”

There are three terms which are very important, ‘formulating intellectually’. That means you can formulate, facts of the psychology and of the physical universe not necessarily intellectually, there can be other ways of stating the relationship but not intellectually. It is only when you intellectually state the facts of psychology and physical world that philosophy arises. Take for example the 1st verse of the Isha Upanishad; this is a very famous statement which says,

‘All this that moves in the moving universe is the habitation of the Lord’.

The 2nd statement is,

‘Enjoy by being renounced. Do not covet anybody else’s wealth.’

You can see here, that the 1st and the 2nd statement, they are not intellectually related. There is a relationship, intellectually, afterwards if you want to state, you can make a commentary on it but the composer of the Isha Upanishad did not want to make an intellectual statement. Therefore, Isha Upanishad cannot be regarded as an intellectual, philosophical treatise. Upanishads are not actually philosophical treaties, although they can be rendered into philosophical statements. But it is a good example to show how if you write philosophy, then you have to make intellectual connection between the statements that you make.

The relationship between one statement and the other must have an intellectual connection. If you don’t state it intellectually, it is not philosophy, it may be anything else. ‘Your face is as beautiful as the moon”, this is not a philosophic statement, it is a poetic statement, it may be anything else. Because the experience of seeing that beautiful face, gives you the imagination of the face of the moon, you bring them together in a relationship, but it is not an intellectual relationship. Philosophical or intellectual statements has to have an austerity, in fact philosophy it is a kind of ascetic among all the studies, no dogma, nothing to be assumed, very rigorous, very austere. As Sri Aurobindo says ‘You have to look at the Reality in itself, for itself, for the sake of the truth and truth alone in a colourless light’, there has to be no colour in it.

You can be a good philosopher only when you have this rigour; it is only when you see the facts as they are, in their essentiality then only they get that rigour. The face of the one whom you love may look like the moon, but is it really a rigorous, intellectual statement? It is not, because it is a subjective feeling of the beholder, who feels a kind of an excitement about that perception of beauty. But in itself is the face like the moon? Intellectually can you show that it is exactly like this? It is this rigour that is required in philosophy. So, there is an intellectual account, it does not mean that only intellectual accounts are right or valid. It does not mean that the poetic vision is therefore false, ” “No”. It is a different way of approaching and understanding Reality. But if you want to claim to be a philosopher, then as a philosopher you have to be colourless and rigorous in your relationship that you establish. That is called an intellectual account.

If you read ‘The Life Divine’ although Sri Aurobindo is supreme poet but the account that he has given of the Ultimate Reality in ‘The Life Divine’ is that colourless, austere, rigorous, intellectual account of the Reality. You can easily distinguish between ‘The Life Divine’ and ‘Savitri’. ‘Savitri’ is a supreme revelation, the truth manifested but it is a poetic revelation perhaps it takes you to the Reality much more directly than philosophy, it’s a poetic revelation. Because philosophy has its own limitations of abstraction, whereas poetry gives you the experience of concreteness, it’s a vehicle of experience. So, there can be a poetic exposition, poetic understanding of facts and there can be philosophical understanding of facts, there can be scientific and philosophical understanding, as long as you state facts as they are, it is a scientific account. It is an intellectual account but it is a scientific account. But the moment you give not only the account of facts but also the significance of facts, that is philosophy. An intellectual statement of the significance of psychological and physical facts and their relationships, that brings in the question of logic. The logic of all these facts with the Ultimate Reality; in which you discuss whether the Ultimate Reality exists or not, when you do this exercise and you do this exercise fully then that is philosophy. Once we establish this statement of philosophy we can then measure and appreciate the way in which Sri Aurobindo gives us the entire philosophical statement of the Ultimate Reality. 

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