Introduction to Socio-Political Approach on Sri Aurobindo
Sri Aurobindo developed a unique socio-political approach through his extensive writings and teachings. His works, particularly “The Human Cycle” and “The Ideal of Human Unity“, present a comprehensive vision for the transformation of society and the evolution of humanity. At the core of Sri Aurobindo’s socio-political philosophy is the idea that human society is a dynamic and evolving entity, constantly progressing towards higher stages of development. He believed that the ultimate aim of society should be the realization of the full potential of the individual and the establishment of a harmonious and progressive collective life.
According to Sri Aurobindo, the evolution of society unfolds through various stages, each marked by a dominant principle or consciousness. These stages include the tribal, feudal, and modern individualistic phases. However, he argued that these stages were transitional, and that humanity was destined to move towards a higher, more integrated form of social organization. Sri Aurobindo envisioned a future society that he called the “Spiritual Age” or the “Supramental Society“. In this society, the emphasis would shift from individual self-interest to a collective well-being based on spiritual principles. He believed that a new consciousness, the supramental consciousness, would emerge, transforming not only individuals but also the entire social fabric.
To bring about this transformation, Sri Aurobindo emphasized the importance of inner growth and spiritual development. He believed that individual transformation was a prerequisite for societal change. He advocated for the development of integral education, which would nurture all dimensions of an individual’s being—physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. In Sri Aurobindo’s socio-political approach, the role of leadership was crucial. He envisioned a leadership that would be spiritually enlightened and guided by a higher wisdom, working for the upliftment of society as a whole. Sri Aurobindo rejected traditional models of governance, such as autocracy or democracy, in favour of a more evolved form of leadership that transcended personal ambitions and vested interests.
While Sri Aurobindo’s socio-political approach may seem idealistic, he acknowledged the challenges in its realization. He recognized the necessity of a gradual and progressive approach, where each individual plays a role in the transformation of society. He believed in the power of collective effort and the potential of humanity to overcome its limitations and move towards a higher and more harmonious existence. Sri Aurobindo’s socio-political approach is rooted in a spiritual understanding of human potential and the transformative power of consciousness. It emphasizes the need for inner growth, integral education, enlightened leadership, and collective efforts to create a society that is more aligned with higher principles and values.
An Overview of Sri Aurobindo’s Socio-Political Works
Sri Aurobindo’s literary journey commenced during his time in England. The Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo, consisting of 36 Volumes, began to be published by Sri Aurobindo Ashram in 1997. Among his extensive writings, five volumes stand out as particularly significant in showcasing Sri Aurobindo’s Social and Political philosophy. Here, we present a list of these volumes along with brief descriptions of their content:
- Early Cultural Writings
About the work: In this text he mentioned the early essays and other prose writings on literature, education, art and other cultural subjects. The volume includes the Harmony of virtue, Bankim Chandra Chatterji, Essays on Kalidasa and the Mahabharata, The national value of Art, Conversations of Deed, The Chandernagore Manuscript, Book Reviews, Bankim-Tilak-Dayananda and Baroda speeches and reports. Most of these pieces were written between 1890 and 1910, a few between 1910 and 1920.
Note: This work represents one of Sri Aurobindo’s earliest writings, and thus, it contains only a few references to socio-political philosophy. Nonetheless, we can still glean some fundamental ideas from the book.
- Bande Mataram
About the work: All surviving political writings and speeches from1890 to 1908. The two volumes consist primarily of 353 articles originally published in the nationalist newspaper Bande Mataram between August 1906 and May 1908. Also included are political articles written by Sri Aurobindo before the start of Bande Matram, speeches delivered by him between 1907 and 1908., articles from his manuscripts of that period that were not published in his lifetime, and an interview of 1908.
Note: This was published during the nationalism movement period.
About the work: All surviving political writings and speeches of 1909 and 1910. This volume consists primarily of articles originally published in the nationalist newspaper Karmayogin between June 1909 and February 1910. It also includes speeches delivered by Sri Aurobindo in 1909.
Note: 1908 – 09 Sri Aurobindo was in Alipore Jail. After came back from Alipore, he wrote Karmayogin.
- The Human Cycle – The Ideal of Human Unity – War and Self-Determination
About the works: Three works of social and political philosophy. In “The Human Cycle”, Sri Aurobindo traces the evolution of human society and suggests where it is headed. In “The Ideal of Human Unity”, he examines the possibility of the unification of the human race. In “War and Self-Determination”, he discusses the sovereignty of nations in the aftermath of the first world war. These works were first serialized in the monthly review ARYA between 1915 and 1920; later Sri Aurobindo revised them for publication.
Note: Primary important work for understanding Sri Aurobindo’s Socio-political approach.
- The Renaissance in India with a Defense of Indian Culture.
About the Work: Essays on the value of Indian civilization and culture. This volume consists of three series of essays and one single essay.
- The Renaissance in India.
- Indian Culture and External Influence
- Is India Civilized?
- Defense of Indian Culture.
They were first published in the monthly review ARYA between 1918 and 1921. In 1913, they first appeared in a book under the title the foundations of Indian culture.
Note: In this work, He slightly mention the social and political philosophy. This writing also response the criticism of Indian culture. In that sense, this text is not very important from the socio-political perspective. Even though, if we take up it, there is an interesting session in the Renaissance in India, called “Indian Polity”. In this session beautifully explained the past political form which existed in India.
Crux of Sri Aurobindo’s All Works
Sri Aurobindo’s literary works exhibit a dual focus on individual and collective aspects, encompassing diverse themes presented in distinct styles. For instance, a comparative analysis of “Human Cycle“, “Life Divine” and “Synthesis of Yoga” reveals their unique qualities, while concurrently highlighting the underlying coherence of Sri Aurobindo’s overarching vision. Despite apparent disparities in content, an integral perspective consistently emerges, providing a unified framework for comprehending the world. Even within the realm of social and political philosophy, which may seem distinct from the spiritual synthesis expounded in “Synthesis of Yoga” a discernible thread manifests: a global outlook centred on the evolutionary progression of consciousness permeates these texts. Through Sri Aurobindo’s socio-political lens, we perceive a narrative delineating the growth of consciousness, ultimately presenting the story of human beings and their communities.
Sri Aurobindo envisions a future society, the “Spiritual Age” or the “Supramental Society“, where collective well-being and spiritual principles take precedence over individual self-interest. This transformative vision is rooted in the understanding that societal change necessitates individual growth and spiritual development. Central to Sri Aurobindo’s sociopolitical approach is the importance of integral education and enlightened leadership. He emphasizes the need for education that nurtures all aspects of an individual’s being, and for leaders who possess spiritual wisdom and work towards the upliftment of society. Sri Aurobindo challenges traditional models of governance, advocating for a leadership that transcends personal ambitions and vested interests.
While the realization of Sri Aurobindo’s socio-political vision may pose challenges, he recognizes the power of collective effort and the potential of humanity to overcome limitations. His approach underscores the significance of inner transformation, integral education, enlightened leadership, and collective endeavours in creating a society aligned with higher principles and values. Through a comparative analysis of Sri Aurobindo’s works, it becomes evident that despite variations in content and style, a coherent and integral perspective underlies his writings. This perspective emphasizes the evolutionary growth of consciousness and presents a narrative of human and communal development.
Understanding of Sri Aurobindo’s socio-political approach provides valuable insights into his philosophy, its relevance in contemporary times, the interplay between spirituality and societal transformation, the practicality of his proposals, the role of leadership and education, comparative evaluations, and practical recommendations for fostering a conscious and progressive society. Sri Aurobindo’s socio-political philosophy offers a holistic and transformative perspective on society, urging individuals and communities to strive for higher ideals and contribute to the growth of collective consciousness.
Reference: (From Shri Devdip Ganguli’s talk about Sri Aurobindo’s Socio-Political Philosophy)
– Anusree.S.L, Research Associates, Integral Humanism Initiative(IHI), Centre for Human Science, Rishihood University