The three day National Seminar on the Herald of the Life Divine was conducted at Rishihood University, Haryana in association with the Indian Council of Philosophical Research from 26th May 2022 to 28th May 2022. The seminar was conducted as a part of the celebration of 150 years of Sri Aurobindo and it specifically focused on Sri Aurobindo’s magnum opus, The Life Divine. The seminar was graced by the presence of many eminent scholars and professors who are deeply rooted in the philosophy of Sri Aurobindo, like Dr Sachidananda Mishra, Dr Anuradha Choudry, Dr Ramesh Lal Bijlani, Dr Ramaswamy Subramony, Dr Gautam Ghosal, among others. Many young research scholars also participated as well as presented their papers. The seminar was among the first of its kind, conducted in the physical mode with an option to present the paper online for those who were unable to visit the campus due to various constraints. The event was convened by Dr Sampadananda Mishra, Professor and Head of the Centre for Human Sciences at Rishihood; and was coordinated by Kumar Harsh, Saurabh Basu Chaudhary and Neelabh Kumar Sharma.
The first day was graced by the presence of Dr Sachchidananda Mishra, Member- Secretary of ICPR as the Chief Guest and Dr Kundan Singh, Hindu University of America, as the keynote speaker. The event began with an invocation of the Divine. The learners of Rashtram School of Public Leadership, Suprabha and Dhawan, made the entire atmosphere serene with the chanting the invocation mantra. The seminar formally began with the deep prajjwalan.
Dr Sampadananda Mishra gave the welcome address in which he introduced the chief guest, the keynote speaker, and the other esteemed invited speakers. He spoke on the life of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and highlighted the need for contextualising Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy in the modern context.
Shri Sahil Agarwal, CEO of Rishihood University, spoke to the invited speakers and other participants. He informed them about the vision of Rishihood University and the history of its conception, and how the name ‘Rishihood’ was inspired by Swami Vivekananda, who first used the term in his writings. He pointed out the symbolic importance of the University as a centre for learning in Sonipat, earlier known as Swarnprastha, which was one among the five villages which Pandavas demanded in the Mahabharata. He also highlighted the importance of the three day National Seminar on Sri Aurobindo’s Life Divine as an important event in making the current generation get acquainted with the philosophy of the Rishi of Indic Renaissance and how this wisdom can be incorporated not just as a part of the curriculum, but to integrate it with the soul of the University.
In the keynote address, Dr Kundan Singh, professor at the Hindu University of America, shared his thoughts on Sri Aurobindo’s Life Divine and how Sri Aurobindo’s thoughts could help in achieving the renaissance that we are trying to have in India. He emphasised upon the fact that the idea of Brahma, the one that manifests into many, has been, since antiquity, at the core of our civilization and discussed how our rishis and sages, including Sri Aurobindo, have tried to describe how this One entity, the Sat-chit-ananda, manifests itself into the many. He stressed upon the importance of beginning with the cosmology and epistemology developed by our seers and sages for the development of Indian Knowledge Systems while pointing out the fallacy of looking at our Indian knowledge systems with the western epistemology. He talked, in context of Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy, about the need for transcending the mind, to go beyond the intellect to have the knowledge of the Brahman while also stressing upon the need for its development. He pointed out that the “mind is not the generator of knowledge”, that the “mind has to become very powerful but it can’t become an impediment to our growth.”
In the Chairperson’s Address, Shri Sachchidananda Mishra ji, the Member-Secretary of ICPR, conveyed his contentment and happiness for the organising of the seminar on Sri Aurobindo’s The Life Divine. He emphasised on the need for looking at Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy through the lens of Nyaya and Advaita Vedanta. He enlarged upon the parallenls between the philosophy of Adi Shankaracharya and Sri Aurobindo and how these two Rishis were, in essence, propounding the philosophy of Vedanta. He referred to western philosophy as “broken” and attested it the example of the Dark Ages and contrasted it with the continuous, unbroken tradition of Indian philosophy, which has its roots in the Vedic and Upanishadic thought. Discussing the idea of duality, non-duality, the idea of senses, perception, intellect and human mind in great detail, he explained how everything perceived through senses and intellect come under the realm of Mithya, which he clarified as being unreal, but illusionary. He quoted the Kenopanishad to explain the idea of Brahma and said “What can not be perceived through manas is Brahm.” He explained the idea of Integral Advaitism as propounded by Sri Aurobindo and stressed upon the need to study Sri Aurobindo in a holistic way, as a product of his time, a freedom fighter, a poet, a leader, a sadhak, as a great scholar of western literature and philosophy and well as an ardent scholar of Indian philosophy, in order to understand him completely. Referring to The Life Divine as a response to the western culture, he explained how contrary to western culture engulfed in duality perceiving the self, nature and the Supreme as different, Sri Aurobindo talks of non-dualism and the divinity of life itself, and how Brahman who created this universe is not separate from this universe but manifests Himself as the world. The inaugural event concluded with the observance of a minute of silence.
The Plenary Session began after a short tea break with a minute of silence, in which Dr Sachidananda Mohanty, former HoD of the Department of English at Hyderabad University and former Vice-Chancellor of Central University of Odisha, presented his paper titled, “A ‘Denial’ and a ‘Refusal’ Rereading the Matter-Spirit Dichotomy in The Life Divine”. In his presentation, Dr Mohanty spoke on the parallels as well as differences between Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy and the philosophy of the West, specially with reference to poets and philosophers like William Blake, William Wordsworth, Nietzche, Simone de Buvior among others. He also presented an extensive discussion on the relevance of Sri Aurobindo in our times, the idea of the Supermind and how Sri Aurobindo saw Man as “a ‘transitional being’ who would be surpassed by the Superman, endowed with a suprarational faculty, called the Supermind.” He discussed how, even in the difficult times when the entire world was submerged in the fires of the World Wars, massacre, riots and unimaginable violence, Sri Aurobindo was talking about the divinity of life and how, in our times, his philosophy becomes all the more relevant amidst the rising hatred and ongoing wars between nations. He concluded by putting stress on the point that “Religion too needs to cleanse itself from the burden of dogma, creeds and cults and emerge as a life-affirming Spirituality. Only then could the two contraries of the Life Divine could find a lasting union and reconciliation.”
The Plenary Session concluded with a minute of silence after which the participants and speakers proceeded to have lunch.
After the lunch break the first presentation session began with the observance of a minute of silence and it was chaired by Dr Sachidananda Mohanty. The first presenter in this session was Dr Goutam Ghosal, former Professor of English at Visva Bharati University, presented his paper titled, “Style and Vision in the Life Divine: Tradition and Innovation.”
Dr Ghosal tracked the progress in the style of Sri Aurobindo’s writings over the years, especially from 1906 to 1921, and highlighted the significance of yoga in bringing about the change. He highlighted the importance of Nature and evolution in Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy. He also pointed out that, “The texture of this (Sri Aurobindo’s) prose is both logical and visional. It is a prose of experience, which is to be seen throughout the Life Divine.” While enlarging upon the nature of metaphors in Sri Aurobindo’s writings, Dr Ghosal stressed upon the terse and economical nature of the metaphors, which often escapes the reader’s attention if he is not paying enough attention while also pointing out the influence of the style of Victorian period, especially the writings of James Anthony Froude. He concluded by explaining how Sri Aurobindo’s the Life Divine, along with being the “intellectual statement of his adventure of consciousness” was also an effort by Sri Aurobindo to experiment with English language, which he foresaw as becoming a global language and so he used “frequent antitheses and paradoxes, rapid apophthegms, followed by long expository passages, brilliant metaphors created as well as transferred from the Sanskrit.”
In the second presentation, Dr Sheojee Singh, Associate Professor of Physics at Government College of Education, Chandigarh, presented his paper titled, “Human Aspiration and the Future of Mankind-The Unique Vision of Sri Aurobindo.” He discussed the varied aspects of human aspiration along with its significance and pointed out how Sri Aurobindo has established that evolution of consciousness is the only way out of the present crisis, and aspiration is one of the central forces guiding the evolution of consciousness towards perfect perfection. He laid stress on the dynamic nature of human development and the need for leadership that is born out of the flame of aspiration, which has the potential to purify all ingredients of human activities in the “crucible of conscious living attuned to the Divine” and ensure a bright future for the entire human race. He explained the concept of ‘avtars’ and its importance in the context of aspiration and remarked that “Avatarhood in the Indian tradition is a powerful means to show the fulfillment of the promise by the Divine to help remove the obstacles in the path of progress of humanity towards truth-oriented life.” He concluded by pointing out that all human aspiration and endeavours, though being the most important factors in the development of mankind, need to have the touch of God for it to find meaning.
The final paper for the first day was presented by Shri Abhishek Tripathi, doctoral student at the Psychology and Cognitive Science Department, Sapienza University of Rome, titled, “Sri Aurobindo Less Known: Involution-Evolution of Self in Tāntrikasiddhiprakaraṇam.”
Shri Tripathi presented a brief discussion on the Tantric tradition in India. He traced the etymology of the word Tantra and explained how it was an important aspect in Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy of Integral Yoga. He pointed out how and why Sri Aurobindo advocates for the integration of psycho-philosophical understanding of Yoga, and meditation.
After the presentations, the chairperson, Dr Sachidananda Mohanty summarised the entire session and shared his observations with important remarks.
The first day concluded with an open discussion amongst the participants and the invited speakers on Sri Aurobindo’s Life Divine, his life as well as his philosophy as a whole.
The day ended with the vote of thanks and the observance of a minute of silence, after which all the participants proceeded to have tea and snacks.
The morning session of the second day began with the observance of a minute of silence. Dr Sachidananda Mohanty chaired the morning session, in which three papers were presented. The first paper was jointly presented by Dr Ramesh Bijlani, retired professor of Physiology at AIIMS New Delhi and Dr Aditi Kaul, faculty at Purnam Centre for Integrality, titled, “The Key to Solving the Problem of Life is Unification.” They stressed upon the need for looking upon evolution from the twin lens of philosophy and psychology in order to understand how the Consciousness and Force got divided resulting in the imperfect poise of consciousness in man giving way to distortions and divisions; and also to explore the possibilities of developing insights into the different parts of being that can facilitate a deeper understanding of one’s own surface personality and equip man to discover the unity within and oneness without, and to make this unitive view the basis of all his actions resulting in harmonious life on earth, respectively. They concluded by mentioning that “The key to the human problem is unification, but the final solution to human problems comes only through Divine Grace.”
The second paper of the morning session was presented by Dr Bindu Puri, Professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, titled, “Reading Sri Aurobindo :Towards a Svaraj in Ideas.” Dr Bindu Puri, being unable to come in person to the campus, connected via Zoom video conference. In her paper, she put stress on how Sri Aurobindo thought it necessary to have the Swaraj in Ideas and thoughts before having swaraj in the political landscape was necessary to come out of the shackles of colonialism. Her paper was divided into three sections, the first dedicated to Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy as laid out in The Life Divine and other works, the second concerned with the philosophy of Tagore, and the third dedicated to the agreements and disagreements between the two philosophers. She presented an extensive discussion on the reconciliation between unity and diversity with reference to Sri Aurobindo’s thoughts.
After the tea break, the third paper was presented by Dr Anuradha Choudry, Associate Professor at Dept. of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Kharagpur, who also joined online as she was not in India. The title of her paper was “Integral divinity: Our human destiny.” She started her presentation with the chanting of invocation mantra. Through her paper she emphasised the importance of Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy of Integral Yoga and how it seeks to remind us of the realisations of our great Vedic seers. Discussing Sri Aurobindo’s thoughts on integral perfection, she pointed out that the goal of man’s life and the characteristic of his manhood is to “fulfil God in life” and how he starts from animal vitality but his ultimate destination is to reach the divine existence. Discussing the notion of Maya, she traced its etymology to the root mā, meaning to measure, and the idea is to consciously measure out Its own immeasurability, to self-limit its unlimitedness and manifest Its unitary Reality into multiple Reals. She concluded by pointing out that “The ultimate goal therefore for Sri Aurobindo is reflective of the Vedic vision of a comprehensive multi-layered multi-levelled transformation of consciousness which does not merely invite us to lead a divine life but to make all of our life divine.”
Dr Choudry ended her presentation with the invocation of the Divine, which was followed by a minute of silence. With this, the morning session of the first day came to its conclusion and the participants proceeded to have lunch.
The afternoon session of the second day was chaired by Dr Goutam Ghosal and three papers were presented. The first paper of the afternoon session was presented by Dr Ananta Giri, Professor at Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai, titled “The Herald of Divine Life and Divinization of Society and the World: Rethinking and Transforming Language, Knowledge, Self, Society and State.” Dr Giri discussed how Sri Aurobindo in The Life Divine calls for the rethinking and transformation of language, knowledge, self, society and state. He explained how, in Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy, language is seen as a companion of liberation and the idea of society as being transcendental rather than empirical. He concluded with proclaiming how Life Divine “works and manifests itself in different processes of life in which divinization works in language, knowledge and self and how it confronts the challenge of confrontation of state, transforming it from a machinery of violence to one which would make life flourish as divine.”
The second paper of the afternoon session was presented by Dr Priya M. Vaidya, Professor at Department of Philosophy, University of Mumbai, titled, “Human Aspiration and Value based Education with special reference to Sri Aurobindo’s thoughts.” Dr Vaidya discussed the analysis of human life from the perspective of Indian philosophy and stressed upon the deepness and intricacy of such inquiry while conveying the essence of harmony. She discussed human aspiration with respect to Sri AUrobindo’s Life Divine and how the journey from impulse toward perfection in human beings to the supramental illumination takes place which lays down the path to the realisation of God and the higher state of consciousness. She also enlarged upon how the human aspiration can be channeled towards perfection through education, especially the value-based learning models. And she concluded her presentation with the discussion of how the National Education Policy 2020 can bring about the change and act as a vehicle for illumination by empowering the teachers as well as the pupil.
The final paper for the second day was jointly presented by Prof. Joy Sen, Professor of Architecture at IIT Kharagpur and Dr Tanima Bhattacharya, Assistant Professor at Visva Bharati University, titled, “A temporal assessment of the dynamic concept of Chaitya Purusha (inner sentient being): from the age of Shrutis to Shri Aurobindo and the contemporary times.” They started with an anecdote and referring to the principles of physics like the Shrodinger’s uncertainty principle, Prof Joy Sen remarked that these ideas existed from time immemorial in Indian philosophy, but the idea was to be and become rather than mere theorising. The presentation consisted of three parts, the first explaining the symbolism of the Chaitanya Purusha, nature and being as propounded by Sri Aurobindo; the second part dealt with the manifestation of the Purusha in both vastness of universe as well as smallness of atoms and the third explaining the science and art of Gnosis. They discussed briefly the concept of double-soul of Man with respect to Sri Aurobindo’s thoughts. Prof Sen also explained the concept of the self through the example of the movie Avatar (2009) by James Cameron, whom he greatly admired as a student of Vedanta. They discussed the “I” in every one of us, the element of the Supreme, which is the same for all of us. They discussed the story of the two birds from the Upanishads and explained its symbolism in great detail. They also discussed the principles of Indian Architecture and how it essentially related to the wider scheme of Indian philosophy and spirituality. They concluded with the discussion on the complete movement through yoga and Adya Shakti, the mother, who sanctions the connection of the upper self with the lower self and the need for respecting mothers and sisters starting from our own houses as a starting point for giving respect to the Shakti.
Dr Ghosal then presented a brief summary of the session along with his remarks. The session concluded with observance of a minute of silence, after which the participants proceeded to take snacks and tea.
The morning session of the third day began with the observance of a minute of silence. The chairperson for the morning session was Dr Priya M. Vaidya and the session had two presentations.
The first paper was presented by Dr Saroj Kanta Mishra, Professor at Jupiter Science College in Bhubhaneshwar, titled, “‘THE LIFE DIVINE’; The Philosophy of the Future Humanity.” H discussed the meaning of philosophy and put stress on viewing Sri Aurobindo as the philosopher of the future of humanity. He laid down parallels between the thoughts of western poets and philosophers like W.H. Auden, Bertrand Russell and the philosophy of Sri AUrobindo. He concluded by discussing from Sri Aurobindo’s writings, how the ‘Two Negations’ , ‘The Refusal of the Ascetic’ and ‘The Materialistic Denial’ act as a barrier in our development and the need for their cessation to give way to the creation of the ‘Gnostic Being’.
The second paper of the morning session was presented by Dr Ramaswamy Subramony, Associate professor &Head, Dept of English, Madura college, Madurai, Tamilnadu, titled, “The Life Divine- The Spiritual Manifesto of Sri Aurobindo.” He presented an extesive discussion on the Divine Consciousness. He also discussed the process of evolution and how the power of the mind and intellect will gradually move up to the level of intuition. He remarked that, “Each plane of Evolution has its own law, its Dharma. At the level of Sachchidanada, there is only unity. At the level of the Supermind, multiplicity is created out unity. Unity is retained at the Supermind. It is Truth- Consciousness. As the ladder of consciousness comes down to the triple worlds of mind, life and matter, unity is diminished and multiplicity dominates.” He concluded by giving homage to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother for working for the descent of the Supermind into the Earth’ atmosphere.
The morning session concluded with the chairperson, Dr Priya Vaidya’s remarks. The participants observed a minute of silence and took a short tea and snacks break.
The afternoon session began with the observance of a minute of silence with Dr Ananta Giri as the chairperson and three papers were to be presented.
The first paper of the afternoon session was presented by Dr. K.Vengadachalam, Assistant Professor Department of Philosophy, Madras Christian College Tambaram, Chennai, titled, “The Double-soul in Man and the Problem of Self-Identity (Human Destiny): An Inquiry in Sri Aurobindo’s Philosophy.” He discussed Sri Aurobindo’s position in structuring human nature and the possibility of identifying its true nature as witnessed in his magnum opus The Life Divine. His presentation had three sections, first section described Sri Aurobindo’s cosmological evidence of human nature and his existence. The second section illustrated Sri Aurobindo’s vision of the purpose of human and the possibility of identifying oneself and accomplishing it. The final section was a critical estimate of the first two sections.
The second paper was to be presented by Dr Sai Sridhar, who was supposed to join online on Zoom, but due to some technical difficulty he was unable to do so.
The participants then observed a minute of silence and proceeded for lunch.
After the lunch break, the session resumed with the observance of a minute of silence.
The third and final paper of the afternoon session was presented by Shri Neelesh Marik, Director of Expense on Demand, and the title of his paper was, “The Divine and the Un-divine: A Time-Spirited Philosophical Contextualisation.” He was earlier expected to attend the seminar in person at the campus but due to some chronic illness he was unable to come to the Rishihood campus. But, with the grace of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and his own self motivation, he presented the paper from the hospital itself by connecting online on Zoom. He presented a discussion on the cosmogenic roots of the primordial schism between the divine qualities that inhabit our imaginative aspiration and the un-divine qualities that never-endingly and excruciatingly beleaguer us in our day-to-day existence, with an aim to reclaim the topic of philosophy from idle academic abstraction and to release it “as an active and living power in service of civilisational amelioration and renewal.” He discussed the crisis of the Karmayogin, The Philosophical Smorgasbord, the idea of “See No Evil, Hear No Evil Observer-Centric ‘Hopium’”, the Pacifist Virtue-Shelter, Detached Neutrality & Amorality, Impermanent Relativism, Illusoriness-Induced Aloofness, Spiritual Bypass, Externalisation Fallacy and Identity-Activism, and, The Integral Yogic Compass. He concluded with an insightful discussion on the Swabhava and Swadharma principle in the context of Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy.
The paper presentation session was concluded with the ending remarks by chairperson, Dr Ananta Giri ji, who summarised the ideas contained within all the papers.
After the completion of the presentations, we moved on to the Valedictory session, which started with the invocation of the Divine with Sri Aurobindo’s Gayatri Mantra. The Valedictory session was chaired by the Vice-Chancellor of Rishihood University, Shri Shobhit Mathur ji.
In the first part of the session, Shri Abhishek Tripathi presented a brief summary of the entire three day seminar. This was followed by the feedback from all the participants, who shared their thoughts, observations and suggestions. Shri Diganta Biswa Sarma, from Assam, who shared his deep insights into the philosophy of Sri Aurobindo along with the reflections on all the papers presented during the three days.
This was followed by the testimonials and feedbacks from all the invited speakers and participants, who shared their thoughts and reflections, with our honourable Vice-Chancellor, Shri Shobhit Mathur.
After hearing the feedback, Shri Mathur addressed the participants and shared with them the vision of the University, which is to incorporate the sages of Bharata like Sri Aurobindo and Swami Vivekanada, not only as a part of the curriculum but as the very essence of the culture of the University. He asked for the support from all the participants for making this dream a reality and thanked them for their participation.
The seminar concluded with the addressal of the Convenor, Dr Sampadananda Mishra, who shared his insights into the philosophy of Sri Aurobindo. He gave the vote of thanks and expressed his gratitude towards ICPR as well as the participants and the co-organisers for the successful completion of the three-day National Seminar on the Herald of the Life Divine.
The seminar ended, as is the culture of Rishihood University, with a minute of silence, after which the participants proceeded to have tea and snacks.
Sri Aurobindo saw the inevitability of “a step in evolution which would raise man to a higher and larger consciousness and begin the solution of the problems which have perplexed and vexed him since he first began to think and to dream of individual perfection and a perfect society”. As it exists right now “all Life is a Yoga of Nature too who is consciously and subconsciously trying to realize her own perfection in an ever-increasing expression of her yet unrealized potentialities and to unite with her own divine reality”. Indeed, “in man her thinker she can expedite and more puissantly attain her objective by using for the first time self-conscious means and willed arrangements of activity”. Predicting the arrival of a new species Sri Aurobindo wrote that “just as the animal is a living lab in which Nature has it is said worked out, man himself may well be a thinking and living lab in whom and with whose conscious cooperation she wills to work out or manifest the superman, the god”. He concluded that “if it be true that Spirit is involved in Matter…then the manifestation of the divine in himself and the realization of God within and without are the highest and most legitimate aim possible to man upon earth”.
All Event Pictures can be found Here: