Globalisation and Culture - Sri Aurobindo's Philosophy of Nationalism, Internationalism and Contemporary Crisis

Sri Aurobindo's Philosophy of Nationalism, Internationalism and Contemporary Crisis


The central theme in Sri Aurobindo [1872-1950] is that of the contemporary evolutionary crisis of humanity, of the perception that man is a transitional being and that he is a thinking and living laboratory in whom and with whose conscious co-operation Nature wills to work out the superman.

Sri Aurobindo's life was devoted entirely as a field of laboratory in which this evolution could be worked out. In this task, Madame Mirra Alfassa (1878-1973), who is known in India and the world as The Mother, came from France to India and collaborated in developing the integral yoga of Sri Aurobindo. Mother's own experiences and realisations leading up to the supramental transformation and manifestation on the earth are to be found in 13 volumes of L'Agenda de Mère.

Sri Aurobindo was a supreme poet, and his most famous poetical work, Savitri, presents a new kind of poetry, which has been termed as overhead poetry. This is an epic, the longest in English literature (about 24000 lines), prophetic vision of the future. Sri Aurobindo has written a number of other short and long poems, among which Ilion (extending over 100 pages) is an innovative experimentation in an epic in quantitative hexameters in the history of English literature. Sri Aurobindo has also written five dramas, The Perseus the
Deliverer, Rodogune, Viziers of Bassora, Vasavdutta
and Eric. He has also translated two plays of Kalidasa from the original Sanskrit into English. Sri Aurobindo also wrote "The Future Poetry"which is an outstanding interpretation of the meaning of poetry, of the history of English poetry, and the possibilities of that poetry to turn into the higher vehicle of "mantric" poetry.

Sri Aurobindo was also in the early part of his life a prominent nationalist leader, and he has rightly been called the Prophet of Indian Nationalism. Sri Aurobindo had deeply studied and loved India. He had made original research in the Veda, Upanishads and the Gita, three greatest records of knowledge which have served as the foundations of Indian culture. Apart from his profound knowledge of Sanskrit, he had mastery over Greek and Latin, and he had made a thorough study of Western history. He has, therefore, been rightly regarded as a great synthesiser of the East and the West, and his message for human unity is of direct relevance to the contemporary effort that is now sweeping all over the world to bridge the past, present and the future and to bridge the minds and hearts of the people of the entire globe.

Sri Aurobindo's Philosophy of Nationalism, Internationalism and Contemporary Crisis

Sri Aurobindo's Philosophy of Nationalism, Internationalism and Contemporary Crisis


A most luminous and revelatory exposition of philosophy of nationalism and of Indian nationalism is to be found in the writings of Sri Aurobindo. In fact, Sri Aurobindo's own life is a flaming example of Indian nationalism, not only in its uniqueness but also in its universality. If we study the history of Indian nationalism, we shall find that he stands out as the most heroic nationalist who formulated in the most inspiring terms the true aim of Indian nationalism, during the early period of nationalist struggle and accomplished the task of fixing it in the national consciousness within a short period of two years (1906-8) through blazing pages of the Bande Mataram. This miracle can be regarded as an unparalleled achievement in the entire world history of nationalism.

The greatest thing done in those years was the creation of a new spirit in the country, a new electric current that awakened the people to the true meaning of nationalism and filled them with enthusiasm that created waves after waves all over the country. Repression and depression could not silence the stir of this enthusiasm. After each wave of repression and depression, it renewed the thread of the life of movement for liberation and kept it recognisably one throughout nearly fifty years of its struggle. The cry of Bande Mataram rang on all sides, and people felt it glorious to be alive and dare and act together and hope. The old apathy and timidity was broken and a force was created which nothing could destroy, and it carried India to the beginning of a complete victory.

Sri Aurobindo maintained that the contention that unity in race, religion or language is essential to nationality will not bear examination. He acknowledged that such elements of unity are very helpful to the growth of nationality, but they are not essential and will not even of themselves assure its growth. Referring to the example of the Roman Empire, he pointed out that even though it created a common language, a common religion and life, and did its best to crush out racial diversities under the heavy weight of its uniform system, failed to make one great nation.

What, then, Sri Aurobindo asked, are the essential elements of nationality? And he answered: "We answer that there are certain essential conditions, geographical unity, a common past, a powerful common interest impelling towards unity and certain favourable political conditions which enable the impulse to realise itself in an organised government expressing the nationality and perpetuating its single and united existence. This may be provided by a part of the nation, a race or community, uniting the others under its leadership or domination, or by a united resistance to a common pressure from outside or within. A common enthusiasm coalescing with a common interest is the most powerful fosterer of nationality. We believe that the necessary elements are present in India, we believe that the time has come and that by a common resistance to a common pressure in the shape of the boycott, inspired by a common enthusiasm and ideal, that united nationality for which the whole history of India has been a preparation, will be speedily and mightily accomplished."[1]

[1] Sri Aurobindo: Bande Mataram, Centenary Edition, Vol.1, p.507

Sri Aurobindo's Philosophy of Nationalism, Internationalism and Contemporary Crisis

Sri Aurobindo's Philosophy of Nationalism, Internationalism and Contemporary Crisis

Philosophy of Indian nationalism is also the philosophy of patriotism. In view of this philosophy, patriotism is not limited to the love of the land of the country, janmabhumi, but it is also love for the people of the land. This philosophy goes even further and inspires love of the values of the culture that have been nourished and promoted through a long history of five thousand years and more. And beyond the values of this great culture, patriotism is in its heart illuminated worship of the smiling and beneficent and strong and powerful Shakti, which we call Mother India, Bharat Mata. As Sri Aurobindo wrote, a nation is not a piece of earth, nor a figure of spirit, nor a fiction of mind, it is a mighty Shakti composed of the Shaktis of all the millions of units that make up the nation. He further pointed out that the nation is veritably a soul, which is immortal and even when geographically fragmented or divided, it has the power to reunite itself as one unity in diversity.

In an inspired article (March 11, 1908 of Bande Mataram) Sri Aurobindo gave expression to the voices of the martyrs from their cells which cry out to us and give us an imperishable message which we can incorporate in our studies that aim at value-oriented education:

"Work, but aspire, so that your work may be true to the call heard and which we have obeyed; labour for great things first and the small will come of themselves. Cherish the might of the spirit, the nobility of the ideal, the grandeur of the dream; the spirit will create the material it needs, the ideal will bring the real to its body and self-expression, the dream is the stuff out of which the waking world will be created. It was the strength of the spirit which stood with us before the alien tribunal, it was the force of the ideal which led us to the altar of sacrifice, it is the splendour of the dream which supports us through the dreary months and years of our martyrdom. For these are the truth and the divinity within the movement."[1]

[1]  Sri Aurobindo: Bande Mataram, Centenary Edition, Vol.1, p.745.

Sri Aurobindo's Philosophy of Nationalism, Internationalism and Contemporary Crisis

Sri Aurobindo's Philosophy of Nationalism, Internationalism and Contemporary Crisis


Sri Aurobindo wrote a series of articles on education in the Karma Yogin during 1909-10 under the title "A System of National Education" and "The National Value of Art".

In "A National System of Education", Sri Aurobindo points out that the question is not between modernism and antiquity, but between an imported civilisation and the greater possibilities of the Indian mind and nature, not between the present and the past, but between the present and the future. He pointed out that "the living spirit of the demand for national education no more requires a return to the astronomy and mathematics of Bhaskara or the forms of the system of Nalanda than the living spirit of Swadheshi, a return from railway and motor traction to the ancient chariot and the bullock-cart."[1] He, therefore, spoke not of a return to the 5th century but an initiation of the centuries to come, not a reversion but a break forward away from a present artificial falsity to India's own greater innate potentialities, which are demanded by the soul of  India.

The major question, he pointed out, is not merely what science we learn, but what we shall do with our science and how, too, acquiring the scientific mind and recovering the habit of scientific discovery, we shall relate it to other powers of the human mind and scientific knowledge to other knowledge more intimate to other and not less light-giving and power-giving parts of our intelligence and nature. Again, he pointed out that the question is not what language, Sanskrit or another, should be acquired by whatever method is most natural, efficient and stimulating to the mind, but the vital question is how we are to learn and make use of Sanskrit and the indigenous languages so as to get the heart and intimate sense of our own culture and establish a vivid continuity between the still living power of our past and the yet uncreated power of our future, and how we are to learn and use English or any other foreign tongue so as to know helpfully the life, ideas and culture of other countries and establish our right relations with the world around us. He argued that the aim and principle of a true national education is not to ignore modern truth and knowledge, but to take our foundation on India's own beings, own mind, and own spirit.

[1] Sri Aurobindo: A Preface on National Education, Centenary Edition, Vol.17, p.194.

Sri Aurobindo's Philosophy of Nationalism, Internationalism and Contemporary Crisis

Sri Aurobindo's Philosophy of Nationalism, Internationalism and Contemporary Crisis

Considering that India has seen always in the human being a soul, a portion of the divinity enwrapped in the mind and body, a conscious manifestation in Nature of the universal self and spirit, he concluded that the one central object of the national system of education should be the growth of the soul and its powers and possibilities as also the preservation, strengthening and enrichment of the nation-soul and the normative needs of its ascending movements. Not limited to these two, Sri Aurobindo put forth in its aim also the raising of both the individual soul and the national soul into the powers of the life and the ascending mind and the soul of humanity. He added, " no time will it lose sight of man's highest object, the awakening and development of his spiritual being."[1] 

There are, according to Sri Aurobindo, three instruments of the teacher: instruction, example and influence. The good teacher will seek to awaken much more than to instruct; he will aim at the growth of the faculties and the experiences by a natural process and free expansion. He will not impose his opinions on the passive acceptance of the receptive mind; he will throw in only what is productive and sure as a seed, which will grow under the benign fostering within. He will know that the example is more powerful than instruction. Actually, the example is not that of the outward acts but of the inner motivation of life and the inner states and inner activities. Finally, he will also acknowledge that influence is more important than example. For influence proceeds from the power or contact of the teacher with his pupil, from the nearness of his soul to the soul of another, infusing into the pupil, even though in silence, all that which the teacher himself is or possesses. The good teacher is himself a constant student. He is a child leading children, and a light kindling other lights, a vessel and a channel.

Sri Aurobindo's concept of integral education finds its full relevance in the context of what Sri Aurobindo has called the evolutionary crisis, a crisis that occurs in a species at a time when some kind of mutation is imminent.

[1] Sri Aurobindo: The Hour of God, A Preface on National Education, Centenary Edition, Vol.17, p.200

Sri Aurobindo's Philosophy of Nationalism, Internationalism and Contemporary Crisis

Sri Aurobindo's Philosophy of Nationalism, Internationalism and Contemporary Crisis

Integral education would not only aim at the integral development of personality, but it would also embrace all knowledge in its scope. It would pursue physical and psychical sciences, not merely to know the world and Nature in her processes and to use them for material human needs, but to know through them the Spirit in the world and the ways of the Spirit in its appearances. It would study ethics in order, not only to search for the good as the mind sees it, but also to perceive the supra-ethical Good. Similarly, it would pursue Art not merely to present images of the subjective and the objective world, but to see them with significant and creative vision that goes behind their appearances and to reveal the supra-rational Truth and Beauty. It would encourage the study of humanities, not in order to foster a society as a background for a few luminous spiritual figures so that the many necessarily remain forever on the lower ranges of life, but to inspire the regeneration of the total life of the earth and to encourage voluntary optimism for that regeneration 

in spite of all previous failures. Finally, it would encourage unity of knowledge and harmony of knowledge, and it would strive to foster the spirit of universality and oneness.

An important characteristic of integral education is its insistence on simultaneous development of Knowledge, Will, Harmony and Skill as also various parts of the being to the extent possible from the earliest stages of education. And since each individual child is unique in the composition of its qualities and characteristics, its capacities and propensities, integral education in its practice tends to become increasingly individualised. Again, for this very reason, the methods of education become increasingly dynamic, involving active participation of the child in its own growth.


The theme of Indian nationalism occupied Sri Aurobindo throughout his life, and he wrote on this subject even when he had left in 1910 active participation in the political activity on account of his total occupation with the future of India and the world and with the integral yoga that he was developing and perfecting as an aid to the solution of the evolutionary crisis of humanity. This subject was developed by him in four of his books that he wrote during 1914 and 1921, namely, The Life Divine, The Foundations of Indian Culture, The Ideal of Human Unity and The Human Cycle. In these books, we find illuminating analysis and exposition of what may be called the philosophical foundations of nationalism and internationalism. These foundations, as we discern them in Sri Aurobindo's writings, are those relating to the philosophy of the individual and the aggregate, philosophy of the national aggregate and
national unity, philosophy of nationality and nation-state, and philosophy of nationalism, internationalism, and universality

Sri Aurobindo's Philosophy of Nationalism, Internationalism and Contemporary Crisis

Sri Aurobindo's Philosophy of Nationalism, Internationalism and Contemporary Crisis

There is today much contest in respect of the concept of nation and nationalism, and it is even sometimes suggested that in the coming days of internationalism, globalisation and larger aggregation in the formation of a possible world union, nations and nationalities will be overpassed and the world will enter into post-national stage of existence. This debate and conclusion need to be considered seriously in the light of the real truth of the philosophical foundations of nationalism, Indian nationalism and its possible future.

Sri Aurobindo makes an important distinction between political unity and real unity. In this connection, he refers to the fact that there was in the ancient cycle of development a wide pre-national empire building, which is in contrast to modern cycle of nation-building. In other words, empires have been created in the past, indicating the tendency to overshoot nation-units even before they attain any maturity or stability, and that nation is not a final unit of aggregation. But at the same time, Sri Aurobindo points out that although empires have exhibited political unity, they have not shown to have in them the force of real unity. He states:

"Empires exist, but they are as yet only political and not real units; they have no life from within and owe their continuance to a force imposed on their constituent elements or else to a political convenience felt or acquiesced in by the constituents and favoured by the world outside. ...If the political convenience of an empire of this kind ceases, if the constituent elements no longer acquiesce and are drawn more powerfully by a centrifugal force, if at the same time the world outside no longer favours the combination, then force alone remains as the one agent of an artificial unity."[1] 

Empires are, according to Sri Aurobindo, perishable political unities, in contrast to the nation, a real unity, which is immortal and which will remain so until a greater living unit can be found into which nation idea can harmonise in obedience to a superior attraction.

[1] Sri Aurobindo: Social and Political Thought, Centenary Edition, Vol.15, pp.285-86

Sri Aurobindo's Philosophy of Nationalism, Internationalism and Contemporary Crisis

Sri Aurobindo's Philosophy of Nationalism, Internationalism and Contemporary Crisis

Again, dwelling upon the distinction between political unity and real unity, Sri Aurobindo states that this distinction must be made because " is of the greatest utility to a true and profound political science and involves the most important consequences. When an empire like Austria, a non-national empire, is broken to pieces, it perishes for good; there is no innate tendency to recover the outward unity, because there is no real inner oneness; there is only a politically manufactured aggregate. On the other hand, a real national unity broken up by circumstances will always preserve a tendency to recover and reassert its oneness."[1]


Sri Aurobindo has given the example of the Greek Empire which has gone the way of all empires, but the Greek nation after many centuries of political non-existence, again possesses its separate body, because it has preserved its separate ego and therefore really existed under the covering rule of the Turk. Similar is the example of Italy and the example of Germany. In all these cases, as was in many others, the unification of Saxon England, medieval France, the formation of the United States of America, Sri Aurobindo points out that there was a real unity, a psychological distinct unit which tended at first ignorantly by the subconscious necessity of its being and afterwards with a sudden or gradual awakening to the sense of political oneness, towards an inevitable external unification. It is, Sri Aurobindo concludes, a distinct group-soul which is driven by inward necessity and uses outward circumstances to constitute for itself an organized body.

Just as the individual is an ontological Spirit, and therefore it can never be reduced to become a mere cog in a machine, even so nation is a living spirit and soul, and therefore it can never permanently be reduced to a status of a mere province of larger and largest aggregates. At the same time, Sri Aurobindo underlines the fact that humanity is turning today towards world unity, and the central problem for the human endeavour in this connection will be as to how the nation will adjust itself to the pressure of the forces that are today creating phenomena which are global, world-wide and planetary in character.

In this connection, Sri Aurobindo makes a distinction between national ego and national soul, corresponding to the distinction in regard to the individual life where the superficial ego is seen to be distinct from the true individual soul.

[1] Ibid. pp.286-87.

Sri Aurobindo's Philosophy of Nationalism, Internationalism and Contemporary Crisis

Sri Aurobindo's Philosophy of Nationalism, Internationalism and Contemporary Crisis

The mark of egoism, according to Sri Aurobindo, is its superficiality and its ignorant attempt to arrive at superficial unity whether that ego is individual or national. The mark of the ego is its sense of division from all the rest, its pretension to be entirely independent in a poise of superiority over all the others. Corresponding to this ego, Sri Aurobindo points out, there is no real reality. There is no ontological superficial reality, there is no independent divided entity which is superior to all the rest. The true individual, on the other hand, has indeed distinctiveness, but is not divided from the others. The true individual and the true nation-soul are characterized by mutuality, interdependence and inner oneness that manifests in diversity. Based upon this philosophical foundation, Sri Aurobindo perceives the future of nations as entities seeking and finding their inner souls by virtue of which they will remain free but mutually interdependent, and this, in turn, will provide the form of world unity that is supportive and not destructive of the nations. Sri Aurobindo speaks of a world union of free nations, each having status of equality, and all contributing through their distinctive capacities to the fund of richness and variety at the global level.

Sri Aurobindo formulates therefore an ideal law of social development in which the truths of the individual, of the nations and of humanity are all reconciled and synthesized. This is the law as he has formulated:

"Thus the law for the individual is to perfect his individuality by free development from within, but to respect and to aid and be aided by the same free development in others. His law is to harmonise his life with the life of the social aggregate and to pour himself out as a force for growth and perfection on humanity. The law for the community or nation is equally to perfect its corporate existence by a free development from within, aiding and taking full advantage of that of the individual, but to respect and to aid and be aided by the same free development of other communities and nations. Its law is to harmonise its life with that of the human aggregate and to pour itself out as a force for growth and perfection on humanity. The law for humanity is to pursue its upward evolution towards the finding and expression of the Divine in the type of
mankind, taking full advantage of the free development and gains of all individuals and nations and groupings of men, to work towards the day when mankind may be really and not only ideally one divine family, but even then, when it has succeeded in unifying itself, to respect, aid and be aided by the free growth and activity of its individuals and constituent aggregates."

[1] Sri Aurobindo: Social and Political Thought, Centenary Edition, Vol.15, pp.63-64.

Sri Aurobindo's Philosophy of Nationalism, Internationalism and Contemporary Crisis

Sri Aurobindo's Philosophy of Nationalism, Internationalism and Contemporary Crisis


Sri Aurobindo acknowledges that this ideal law has never become operative in the imperfect states through which humankind has so far travelled, and it may be very long before that law can be attained. But Sri Aurobindo maintains that the present is the stage of what he calls the subjective age of humanity, when knowledge is increasing and diffusing itself with an unprecedented rapidity, when individuals, societies and nations are attempting to discover their potentialities and their inner subjective states and selves, when capacity is generating itself, when men and nations are drawn close together, and this is the time when we can justifiably develop a conscious hope to arrive at a conscious discovery of that ideal law of social development and its conscious application. He finds that the present moment is opportune for an upward march, particularly when people of the entire globe are getting united, although partially and in an inextricable entanglement of chaotic unity. For this is the moment where we are being compelled to know each other and impelled to know more profoundly ourselves, humankind, and the world, and when the idea of self-realisation for ourselves and nations is coming consciously to the upper and outer surface. This is the time, according to Sri Aurobindo, for the human being in particular to know himself, to find the ideal law of his being and his development and to hold that law before him and to find out gradually the way by which it can become a more and more moulding principle of the individual and social existence.

At the same time, Sri Aurobindo regards the present moment of human history as a moment of acute crisis. For the process of self-realisation, both for the individual and the collectivist is always difficult and it is marked by an acute struggle of groping in the darkness and in the welter of conflicts and uncertain alternatives. In his analysis of the psychology of the process of maturation of self-finding, Sri Aurobindo examines the psychology of barbarism, philistinism, and of the rational, ethical and aesthetic culture, and examines also the means by which the society manages to arrive at some kind of cohesion at different stages of development, namely, through symbolism and later by typal thought, conventional thought and, still later, by subjective self-awakening both of the individual and collectivity. In the subjective age, which is marked by preponderance of Reason as also by a revolt against conventions, customs and traditions, Sri Aurobindo perceives the possibility of a true flowering of the inner spirit, which can harmonise the individual good and the social good and in the context of which a form of world unity could be invented whereby human beings of the entire globe can live together in durable peace and progressive harmony as in one united family. In this context, Sri Aurobindo finds those three great ideals which were put forward explicitly and forcefully during the French Revolution to be most significant, namely the ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity. He finds that these three ideals served the purpose of motivating the great experiments that humankind conducted during the curve of the Rational Age, the Age which was ushered in by Renaissance in Europe, the age through which humankind is at present passing, and which has now reached a kind of an end and which has the possibility of opening the gates of a beginning of a new age, which he calls the Spiritual Age. It is when Reason explores its possibilities and brings into operation its capabilities that the human race can arrive at a critical point of its self-realisation and self-perfection. For it is then, as it has now become clearer, that it is found that the role of Reason is not to govern but to become a medium and an intermediate power that can lift human life from the levels of blind impulse to the realms of light of the Spirit. For the real governor can be only that light and knowledge, which is integral and which unites the individual with the universal without requiring the individual to be abolished and which shows both to the individual and to be universal that their source is in the same transcendental that is the foundation of oneness and unity of existence.

Sri Aurobindo's Philosophy of Nationalism, Internationalism and Contemporary Crisis

Sri Aurobindo's Philosophy of Nationalism, Internationalism and Contemporary Crisis

The age of Reason, according to Sri Aurobindo, has shown that when the ideal of liberty is emphasized and sought to be implemented, the ideal of equality is required to be sacrificed; and when the ideal of equality is emphasized and sought to be implemented, the ideal of liberty is required to be strangulated. Towards the end of the Age of Reason, there emerges therefore the ideal of anarchism and the question arises whether anarchist thought can any more successfully find a satisfying social principle. Sri Aurobindo points out that the anarchist thought, although it is not yet formed in its assured form, cannot develop any appropriate basis or form of harmony as long as it relies on the powers of the intellect. He points out that a rational satisfaction cannot give to humanity safety from the pull from below nor deliver it from the attraction from above. It is true that the more the outer law is replaced by the inner law, nearer will man be to his natural perfection, and the perfect State must be one in which governmental compulsion is abolished and man is able to live with his fellowmen by free agreement and cooperation. But this can truly be secured by a power greater than that of reason. According to Sri Aurobindo, it is not intellectual anarchism but a spiritual or spiritualised anarchism that will bring us nearer to the solution or at least touch something of it from afar.

According to Sri Aurobindo, the present stage of human development can become a gate for the arrival of a spiritual age in which the ideal of brotherhood can come to be practised and it is only in that condition that a new form of human unity can be forged in which the individual and the collectivity, even on a global scale or organization, can come to be harmonized. In the meantime, however, the transition from the end of the curve of Reason to the advent and progress of the spiritual age is a stage of crisis, which needs to be examined in a greater depth, since it is the crisis which has become accentuated today by the latest developments with which we are besieged today.

Sri Aurobindo's Philosophy of Nationalism, Internationalism and Contemporary Crisis

Sri Aurobindo's Philosophy of Nationalism, Internationalism and Contemporary Crisis


Sri Aurobindo considers the present stage of crisis as an evolutionary crisis in which human will is called upon to make a free choice. This is the crisis where evolution of human Reason is increasingly compelled to yield to the pressure that impels the creation of a life of universalised rule of economic barbarism. At the same time, Reason is increasingly obliged also to exercise its role in lifting up humanity to create a life of unity, mutuality and harmony born of a deeper and wider truth of our being. In fact, there are three forces that work today upon humanity. On the one hand, there is a force that is striving to assert the barbarism within the civilized man. For it is possible to utilize the present scientific and technical knowledge to create an order of existence in which physical and vital wants of the human being can greatly, if not fully, be satisfied, and this order of existence can be maintained by mechanical devices and application of the power of machines that can imprison the human spirit. There is also a second alternative in which human reason can continue to spin into larger or narrower circles propounding great dreams but never fulfilling them. And there is a third alternative in which the human being consents to rise to the higher levels than those of the Reason and consents to be spiritualised. The question, therefore, is whether the human being will choose to remain arrested in some kind of intermediary typal perfection like earlier animal kinds, or whether he will consent to rise to a higher level of evolution. The necessity to make the choice has created a state of a crisis, since the choice to pursue a higher level is not only difficult but appears at first sight to be almost impossible. Sri Aurobindo describes this crisis as follows:

"At present mankind is undergoing an evolutionary crisis in which is concealed a choice of its destiny; for a stage has been reached in which the human mind has achieved in certain directions an enormous development while in others it stands arrested and bewildered and can no longer find its way. A structure of the external life has been raised up by man's ever-active mind and life-will, a structure of an unmanageable hugeness and complexity, for the service of his mental, vital, physical claims and urges, a complex political, social, administrative, economic, cultural machinery, an organised collective means for his intellectual, sensational, aesthetic and material satisfaction. Man has created a system of civilization which has become too big for his limited mental capacity and understanding and his still more limited spiritual and moral capacity to utilize and manage, a too dangerous servant of his blundering ego and its appetites. ... A greater whole-being, whole-knowledge, whole-power is needed to weld all into a greater unity of whole-life."[1]

[1] Sri Aurobindo: The Life Divine, Centenary Edition, Vol.19, pp.1053-55.

Sri Aurobindo's Philosophy of Nationalism, Internationalism and Contemporary Crisis

Sri Aurobindo's Philosophy of Nationalism, Internationalism and Contemporary Crisis

In his book The Ideal of Human Unity Sri Aurobindo refers to two important developments which indicate a prospect of the coming change in humanity. The first of these is internationalism, the idea of humanity as a single race of beings with a common life and a common general interest. Sri Aurobindo identifies those tendencies in human life at present which are favourable to the progress of the international idea.

But internationalism, according to Sri Aurobindo, is not enough; there is a need of a religion of humanity or an equivalent sentiment which recognises a single soul in humanity of which each human being and each people is an incarnation and soul form. This religion has already expressed itself in the philosophy of humanitarianism, which itself is a most prominent emotional result of the Age of Reason.

Sri Aurobindo, however, contends that the religion of humanity must be a spiritual religion of humanity, not an institutional religion, not an intellectual religion, not a sentimental religion. That humanity is pressing forward towards this spiritual religion of humanity is of great significance for all of us who are keen to find the solution to the contemporary crisis. And it is here that Sri Aurobindo's perception of the significance of the contemporary crisis and his philosophy and yoga of supramental transformation come to us as the needed light and guidance.


For an adequate understanding of the Yoga of supramental manifestation, which is expounded in his Synthesis of Yoga, we need to study also three big volumes containing Sri Aurobindo's letters on Yoga, which throw illuminating light not only on the principles of the Integral Yoga but also on multitudes of difficulties that are encountered during the process of Yoga, as also on experiences and realisations. But, above all, we need to study Savitri, that great epic of the adventure of the Spirit. For it is through Savitri that one gains a ready access to the concreteness of psychic, spiritual and supramental experiences as also their impact on all parts and planes of the being through the magic of the rhythmic word and vision in their highest intensities. To study Savitri is to enter into the realm of experiences and into a veritable process of Yogic transformation.

Sri Aurobindo's Philosophy of Nationalism, Internationalism and Contemporary Crisis

Sri Aurobindo's Philosophy of Nationalism, Internationalism and Contemporary Crisis

Whether humanity will respond to the need of this new turn will depend upon its increasing perception of the necessity of spiritual transformation. Sri Aurobindo points out that a change from the vital and mental to the spiritual order of life must necessarily be accomplished in the individual and in a greater number of individuals before it can come to have an effective hold upon community. What is necessary is that the common human mind begins to admit the ideas proper to the higher order that is in the end to be, and the heart of man begins to be stirred by aspirations born of these ideas. Sri Aurobindo concludes that if this condition is fulfilled then there is hope of some advance in the not distant future.

In spite of the difficulties and critical trials through which humanity may be required to pass, Sri Aurobindo underlines the need of understanding the inevitability of the spiritual solution. Indeed, in presenting this solution, Sri Aurobindo is aware that it may be objected that it puts off the consummation of a better human society to a far off date in the future evolution of the race. But Sri Aurobindo affirms forcefully:

"....if this is not the solution, then there is no solution; if this is not the way, then there is no way for the human kind. Then the terrestrial evolution must pass beyond man as it has passed beyond the animal and a greater race must come that will be capable of the spiritual change, a form of life must be born that is nearer to the divine. After all there is no logical necessity for the conclusion that the change cannot begin at all because its perfection is not immediately possible. A decisive turn of mankind to the spiritual ideal, the beginning of a constant ascent and guidance towards the heights may not be altogether impossible, even if the summits are attainable at first only by the pioneer few and far-off to the tread of the race. And that beginning may mean the descent of an influence that will alter at once the whole life of mankind in its orientation and enlarge for ever, as did the development of his reason and more than any development of the reason, its potentialities and all its structure."[1]

According to Sri Aurobindo, the world is a mutable world and uncertainties and dangers cannot be avoided. Much will depend, according to Sri Aurobindo, on the intellectual and moral capacity of humanity to carry out what is evidently the one thing needful, namely, a concentrated effort at the spiritual change that can sustain a global and untied human family.

[1] Sri Aurobindo: The Human Cycle, Centenary Edition, Vol.15, p.207

Sri Aurobindo's Philosophy of Nationalism, Internationalism and Contemporary Crisis

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