But I have been constantly trying to find out what is the background material that we need to prepare. And when this project of research came up, this was also in my mind. In selecting the title, 'The Aim of Life', I was guided by one of the chapters of The Life Divine. The chapter is ‘The Aim of Life and Four Theories of Existence’. This is the title of the chapter in The Life Divine. And I tried to make a compilation of background material, so I would say that this whole book is only background material for that one chapter and, that too, not sufficient. Only for that chapter, this particular book can be used as background material.
Now, if you count so many chapters of The Life Divine and if you want to work out background material for each chapter, it’ll be a huge material. It would be very interesting. Actually Auroville, I personally believe, has to carry out that task: background material relevant to every chapter of The Life Divine. In fact, every chapter requires so much background material.
For example the very first paragraph of The Life Divine, for example, one requires the entire history of human thought. In one paragraph, Sri Aurobindo has summarized it. Sri Aurobindo starts with the first awakened thought of mankind and the first formula of wisdom and the development of that thought throughout history, both East and West. And how Sri Aurobindo says that there have been periods of skepticism; there have been periods of deviation from that aspiration, but mankind comes back again and again. And how modern science has changed the scenario so much and yet, he says that we are satiated but not satisfied with all the modern knowledge of science. So if we want to explain the meaning of ‘having been satiated but not satisfied’, how shall we explain to the students? It requires a lot of material. And then Sri Aurobindo says we have the promise – the first formula of wisdom promises also to be its last. Now, that this statement, which is futuristic, promises to be its last, raises many questions: how can you say it promises to be its last?
Even in that statement, in one paragraph, there is a statement where he uses the word ‘may’ and somewhere uses the word ‘is’. And from a philosophical point of view it is very important a distinction. How much can you declare something philosophically in terms of ‘may’ and how much can you declare philosophically in terms of ‘is’? ‘Is’ is a statement of certainty; ‘may’ is a question of speculation and of doubtful validity. And in this very paragraph, at a very significant point, there is a use of the word ‘may’ and a use of the word ‘is’. And if you want to explain to students why this distinction, you are required to explain the philosophical method of the exposition of a truth and in what way the word ‘may’ used by Sri Aurobindo is justified and in what way the word ‘is’ used in that paragraph is justified.
If you can give all this material and then if the first paragraph is given, it will really come with a freshness to the student, that everything that is said there is so perfect. This is the material required even for the first paragraph of The Life Divine. And then, similarly, the first chapter if you take it up – the first chapter is only four pages but the material required to introduce this first chapter would be so heavy… but that work somewhere has to be done. The Life Divine to my mind is the epochal book and the future generations are bound to return to that book again and again, as we today return again and again to Plato, or refer to Aristotle. More than Plato and Aristotle, this particular book will be referred to as we move forward in the history of mankind. And this kind of a need will be always felt as to how shall we introduce The Life Divine to our students.
The same thing with regard to The Synthesis of Yoga: there is no book comparable to The Synthesis of Yoga in the history of the world. There are many treatises, but this particular book is of a very special kind and requires a lot of background material.
And the same thing can be said about every important book of Sri Aurobindo, like The Secret of the Veda. To introduce this book would require a least hundred lectures, just to introduce the book — a really good introduction. And then if you go more and more into detail, it is a very difficult book, a very technical book, in fact. It’s a book of exegesis, a book of interpretation. And there are laws of interpretation. You cannot just write a book of interpretation unless you are technically equipped to interpret any text.
How do you interpret any text? It requires a tremendous amount of mastery over the subject matter and methods of interpretation. So that when you interpret a thing, from a technical point of view, you follow all the tenants of interpretation. In fact, in modern times, the philosophy of interpretation has become a very specialised subject. And lots of books have recently come out on how you interpret. And if you read Sri Aurobindo’s method of interpretation in the whole book, it is such a technically perfect book.
As one of the philosophers in India wrote, “It’s amazing how Sri Aurobindo read the Veda from 1910 to 1914 – only four years – and when he began to write The Secret of the Veda, the mastery of the work of the Veda and the way in which he interprets and gives an exposition of it at a technically perfect level is amazing! It’s miraculous and magical, in fact.