The Life Divine SKF
Om Bhur Bhuvaḥ Swaḥ
Bhargo Devasya Dhīmahi
Dhiyo Yonaḥ Prachodayāt
It is an invocation in which the highest form, the highest light of Savitri, the most blessed one – Vareñyaṃ, the most blessed light is invoked, so that we can meditate upon it, and we pray that our intellect is driven by it, is guided by it, inspired by it. Sri Aurobindo has given a new Gayatri for our age, that was the Gayatri of Vishwamitra in the Rig Veda, and Sri Aurobindo has given a new Gayatri. It is very similar to the other one, yet significantly different. “Om Tat savitur varam rūpam jyotiḥ parasya dhīmahi,’ we are meditating upon ‘varam rūpam jyotiḥ parasya' the most favoured rupa, the form, of the Supreme light of the Supreme, ‘parasya’ of the Transcendental; ‘yannaḥ satyena dīpayet', so that our whole being nah, is not only the intellect but our entire being, is illuminated ‘yannaḥ satyena dīpayet', that too illuminated by the Truth. Sri Aurobindo has not only given this Gayatri Mantra, but he has also given us a great gift; if you ask what is that ‘Tat savitur varam rūpam jyotiḥ’, what is that Supreme form of the highest light of the Supreme, it is the Life Divine. This entire body of knowledge that is here in the Life Divine is what I consider to be ‘Tat savitur varam rūpam jyotiḥ parasya’ this is how I understand the Life Divine to be. In the whole world if you go around in search of knowledge, the most blessed form of that light available to us is this light, it’s the Life Divine. The more we study this volume, the more we shall enter into this light. And the most that we need in our life is to be found in this tremendous volume.
At one time Sri Aurobindo in 1912, wrote a letter to his younger brother and he said – I want to put before mankind (I am not quoting the exact words) but he said: I want to put before mankind an expression of the truth, in which there is no error whatsoever, something that is without any error, and thereafter we find in 1914, Sri Aurobindo manifesting that light which is without error. And from 1914 to 1921, Sri Aurobindo wrote series of writings, several books he wrote simultaneously, among which this Life Divine may be regarded to be the most principal. The other one is The Synthesis of Yoga, The Secret of the Veda, Upanishads, Essays on the Gita, The Human Cycle, The Ideal of Human Unity, and The Future Poetry. Each one having a specialised domain, but this one Life Divine stands at the top of all these works. It’s a rare opportunity where we get the time and leisure to turn to this great, which I consider to be the greatest writing of our times. When you read this book you find that this book is, as the Mother said once, – it is intellectually perfect.
Now what is that intellectual perfection is a matter for us to understand. We normally start intellectuality at a very late stage in our life. And then to think of coming to the perfection of intellectual development is also a far off cry. But there are two things to be remembered when we start this work, – it is an intellectual work. What is the meaning of an intellectual work? Every domain has its own approach. For example, Synthesis of Yoga has a domain, which is descriptive. Yoga is a scientific work, yoga is a science and science is a description of processes. Any book of science, if it is to be perfect; it has to bring out the processes of things, of phenomena, and describe them as fully as possible. Unless you get a description of a process, you won’t call it a scientific work.
Similarly, if you have a work of art, a painting for example is a work of art, what is the speciality of a work of art? It may not be a very long book on the subject, it may be even a short piece, it may be drama, a poem, a painting. An artistic piece is basically a piece of form, unless there is a form there is no art it is the essence of it, but a form which has significance, these two words are very important – there must be significance and there must be a form. The moment you have a significant form presented to you, and we say it is an artistic presentation, is the one in which the significance of form is driven home as soon as you see it, that’s an artistic form.
A technological work is a work in which, not only the process but the detail of a process is described in which what is sought to be produced can be produced. The element of skill is prominent in any technology. So a technological work is perfect only when a process is so described that what is sought to be produced, in which the right skill is to be utilised is emphasised. Then it is a technological work, it is technologically perfect. An airplane is a technological perfection because the procedures are so arranged with each other that it can fly ultimately.
Similarly, in this context, you ask the question what is the speciality of The Life Divine, it is fundamentally a philosophical work and what is the meaning of philosophy because then only we can appreciate this work. In philosophy, we utilize our intellect. And what is intellect? An intellectual process is fundamentally a process in which you proceed from one point to the other point, by a movement of a train of ideas. Idea is the most important thing in philosophy. An ideative process, a train of ideative thought which begins with a certain starting point and which can end at another point; this ideative process is a process of thinking. But philosophical is more than mere ideative process; it is a process of ideation and articulation. Merely having an ideative process – you can think in your own mind but may not be articulated. A philosophical thinking is not only an ideative process but also there is an articulation of it. Articulation means – expression, an expression in which there are words and these words are attempted to be clarified, where the nuances of the words are all stratified to the utmost possibility, not only articulation but utmost capacity, as it were when a word is used that word carries with it its utmost capacity of expression, then these words are arranged in a systematic manner, so that this systematic exposition of the words bring out (this is the most important word) − a meaning. Unless the meaning is expressed, by the articulation of the different words and their arrangements, unless this is done, it’s not yet philosophical. But this is not all; there must be, in any philosophical statement certain further qualifications. There must be an attempt towards totality; this is the speciality of philosophical thought. When I say a statement is scientific, it is scientific only because a process is described regarding a particular small domain, but a philosophical statement is philosophical, only if it pertains to the totality. It’s a very special kind of approach.
A philosophical statement is philosophical only if, there is a reference to totality. There is a further qualification; a philosophical approach is the approach of the intellect. You can approach totality in different ways but the speciality of philosophy is, it approaches totality intellectually. The very nature of intellectuality is a train, as I said earlier of ideas running into other ideas having a starting point and a conclusion. Therefore, in a philosophical argumentation or presentation, there must be a starting point which is so described that ultimately the totality is embraced. So it’s an intellectual process of thinking and articulation as a result of which different points of view are presented and ultimately you are transported into a point of view of totality, even this is not enough in philosophy. When I speak of totality, I have already spoken a lot that is to say – totality consists of large tracks of facts, in fact all tracks of facts. Totality is all tracks of facts and normally when we see around, all of us, there are two basic tracks of facts, there are physical facts and psychological facts, therefore philosophy must deal with the tracks of physical facts and psychological facts. So a philosophical statement is not a philosophical statement, unless it deals with totality of facts, which are covered under two major domains – the physical facts and psychological facts and you go farther. You relate them; totality is arrived only when relationship is established. You relate all kind of facts and while relating, you constantly try to be as total as possible, this is the speciality of philosophical thinking; because human mind cannot grasp totality at once, so as it goes on collecting the facts, there is a constant effort at totality and we ask is anything left out, is everything covered in it, are all the facts covered? And in the discovery of all the facts, something emerges and this is the speciality of philosophical thought. You arrive at a concept of essence, that is to say, you ask yourself is it possible to find out among all the facts something that is essential? This concept of essentiality is extremely important in philosophy. This question of essentiality is asked fundamentally in philosophy. Along with this idea of essentiality and connected with this is the question of – ultimate; is there something that is essential, is there something that is ultimate? It’s a search of essence, search of ultimate.
There is a farther qualification of philosophical thought, it cannot assume essence, it cannot assume ultimate. It is said philosophy is a process of thinking in which nothing is assumed. In every other thinking process presuppositions are allowed. You assume, assume this is true then the other processes can start. In philosophy there are no presuppositions allowed, you can question right up to any particular point of view that you can think of, you may try to arrive at essence but you cannot say that must be an essence, unless you are thrown back upon it, even when you do not want to assume you are led to it, unless this happens you cannot assume it. You cannot assume there must be an ultimate, ultimate may exist, may not exist. You arrive at an ultimate only if you are obliged having cut off all presuppositions you are obliged to come to an ultimate, then only it is allowed. There is in philosophy a very important concept which is called incorrigibility. What is incorrigibility? In all processes of thinking, in all processes of articulation, in all forms, you can do better, you can correct it. In incorrigibility you arrive at a point which does not allow any correction at all, it is the final incorrigible statement. Even if you want to doubt it, the very doubt itself presupposes it – that is incorrigibility. Therefore in philosophy, you arrive at the essence, at the ultimate, only if it is found to be incorrigible, you can’t help it, it has got to be.
So, philosophical thought is an attempt to relate physical facts, psychological facts and all of them, totality of all of them, in doing so you are obliged to discover the essence and the ultimate, up to such a point that that ultimate or essence is incorrigible, arrival at the incorrigible ultimate and essence of all things in which all the things stand together, related together.
Now final point about it, still one more point: having done it, you find the significance of everything. This word significance is very important. Significance is the beginning of philosophy and the end of philosophy. What is the meaning of the word significance? The meaning of significance is, negatively speaking, it is not arbitrary, something is significant, but it is not arbitrary. What is something arbitrary? Arbitrary is trifle, trivial, it could be one way, it could be other way. As against it, what philosophy strives to understand is – what is significance of anything that is in question? Unless you arrive at the conclusion of significance, you have not completed your philosophical thought. In fact the starting point of philosophy is the search of significance. In fact that is the meaning of the word – rationality. Philosophy is the highest rational process, intellectual process. Intellectuality and rationality basically is a search of reason. When we say it is a rational process, it’s a search for reason. And what’s the meaning of reason? Reason is a search for reason, in the sense it is search for avoiding any arbitrariness. If things were all arbitrary in the world there is no ground for philosophy at all. Philosophical thought starts by asking what is the significance of it, what is the reason for it? Philosophy is basically a search of reason. It’s a rational search of reason itself. It’s the ultimate search of the reason, the final point of reason, beyond which you know there is nothing beyond it because it is the final one, you arrive at the conclusion it is the final one, and you can be sure of its finality, certainty. To derive the significance of anything, of all the facts, of any fact, any physical fact, any psychological fact, – to derive the significance of it after considering everything, without any presupposition whatsoever, arriving at the final essence and ultimate and to arrive at judgement, this is the significance of it. Any endeavour which includes all this – is philosophy.