Integral Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo

— Aparna Banerjee


Price: Rs 500

Pages: 152
Dimensions (in cms): 14x22
ISBN: 978-81-86921-57-9
Hard Cover
Publisher: Decent Books, New Delhi, in association with Centre for Sri Aurobindo Studies, Kolkata

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About Integral Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo

This collection of scholarly essays seeks to interpret and elucidate several aspects of Sri Aurobindo's socio-political philosophy, particularly in regard to nationalism, the ideal of human relations, the concept of a stateless society, and an achievable human unity. Other subjects include the relationship between yoga and knowledge – scientific knowledge versus the inner knowledge by identity of consciousness – and Sri Aurobindo's philosophy of education, specifically within the context of some debates about the aim of education. The unifying thread in these studies is the integral nature of Sri Aurobindo's thought and his emphasis on the evolution of consciousness as central to understanding man's quest for freedom and unity.


This collection of eight scholarly essays on Sri Aurobindo's social and political thought, his moral philosophy, his epistemology and his views on education is a treat to those who have been used to a fare of books on his philosophy penned mostly by non-academic writers. Though scholarly, the essays are eminently accessible to the general reader.

Dr. Aparna Banerjee succeeds in clearly situating Sri Aurobindo's thought in the context of modern mainstream intellectual traditions. She then defends the Aurobindonian position against conflicting ones with her own arguments as well as with those of other thinkers whose views are concordant with Sri Aurobindo's.

The focus of the volume is his social and political thought. Dr. Banerjee forcefully argues for the thesis that Sri Aurobindo fundamentally stood for an individual transformation as the basis of the transformation of the national collectivity and of humanity as well. The global transformation aimed at is a cohesive human unity that does not compromise the liberty of each individual to grow to his or her maximum spiritual potential. The author cogently defends Sri Aurobindo's view that this should fundamentally depend on the organization of the immediate collectivity in a way to facilitate the spiritual transformation of the individual. Not only does she rely on primary material in showing this, but augments this with arguments of other philosophers and thinkers, as well as with her own.

She shows that Sri Aurobindo, even during his early years as a nationalist, espoused a non-hegemonic brand of nationalism, noting that his concerns were with national collectivities, whose function was to conspire to an eventual human unity. The author argues that the scope of his nationalism was far-reaching, even from the start, and that he cannot fairly be accused of retiring from active politics to pursue yoga just at the time when he was most needed in the field of national action. In other essays in which she deals with his social and political thought, the author joins debate with those who claim that Sri Aurobindo's nationalism is not a transcendence that reaches beyond narrow conceptions of ‘nation', juxtaposes Sri Aurobindo's answer to the imperialistic challenge with Tilak's and Gokhale's, reflects on the Aurobindonian model of a stateless society and describes his global perspective.

Dr. Banerjee clearly brings out the fact that for Sri Aurobindo individual transformation is not only the true basis of a genuine unity at the national and global levels, but that it is also the basis of a spiritual flowering that colors life in general. She rightly draws from his writings that it is this primacy of the individual transformation that colors his epistemology, morality and views as an educationist.

In the essay "Some Central Ideas in Sri Aurobindo's Moral Philosophy", the author shows how Aurobindonian morality relates to his idea of the spiritual evolution of the individual. She shows that for Sri Aurobindo morality is not a final stage in man's development but a necessary step towards his self-fulfillment. Her presentation of Sri Aurobindo's moral views follows his "scaffold theory", viz. , that as the individual progresses in his spiritual development, his morality also progresses, making otiose his old schemes of morality. A time eventually comes when his morality flowers from within and is governed by the dictum that he should be free to pursue his own self-development in any and every way he thinks fit so long as he is conscious of every other individual's right to a similar self-development.

"Sri Aurobindo and his Philosophy of Education" explores his views on that subject. Dr. Banerjee's thesis in this essay is that Sri Aurobindo's integral education neatly sidesteps the problems posed by a sectarian education as opposed to a universal education. Educationists commonly fall on one or the other side of sectarian or universal views on education: either they advocate an education that will impart skills to the learner that will be of use to society, or they emphasize knowledge and skills that will enrich the learner whether he turns out to be a ‘useful' citizen or not. Sri Aurobindo's view that education should be integral, or that it should emphasize a happy harmony in self-development as well as in one's relations to others in the collectivity, ensures that learners grow inwardly and are simultaneously useful in their unique ways to the society to which they belong.

The last essay in this book, "Yoga and Knowledge", briefly explores Sri Aurobindo's epistemology. For him, while reason has its place in the search for truth, it is not its final arbiter. The author explores Sri Aurobindo's thoughts on reason versus intuition in the search for truth, leaning towards his synthesis of the roles of reason and intuition in the debate between those who would enthrone reason and those who reject it altogether for intuition.

Dr. Banerjee successfully weaves all the essays in her book with Sri Aurobindo's emphasis on integrality—be it integrality in individual, collective or human development; integrality in the approach to education; integrality of individual and collective morality with spiritual evolution in mind; integrality of the different modes of knowing as so many ways of grasping the ultimate Truth.

—Sivakumar Elambooranan

Sivakumar was an academic philosopher who has now turned to writing. After living abroad for some years, he is now settled in his native Pondicherry, where he is associated with the Sri Aurobindo Ashram.

December 2012