The Integration of Individual and Collective Evolutionary Progress

The individual, the universal and the transcendent are the three major terms representing the three primary standpoints from which we view existence. Just as the individual spiritual fulfillment comes about by harmonising the individual with the transcendent, without denying or abandoning either standpoint, so the optimal fulfillment will also include a harmonising of the individual with the collective realisation and need. Ideally, the individual then would find and maintain the balance between his personal spiritual quest, and the transcendent divine, and at the same time, contribute his best and highest to the collective progress, without either fully suppressing his individual path, nor escaping from his duties in society.

As Sri Aurobindo puts it: “…the Eternal affirms Himself equally in the single form and in the group-existence, whether family, clan and nation or groupings dependent on less physical principles or the supreme group of all, our collective humanity.”

Any individual therefore, in addition to determining the focus on his material well-being, mental development or spiritual process, may also choose to focus on some level of collective development. “Man also may seek his own individual good from any or all of these spheres of activity, or identify himself in them with the collectivity and live for it, or, rising to a truer perception of this complex universe, harmonise the individual realisation with the collective aim. For as it is the right relation of the soul with the Supreme, while it is in the universe, neither to assert egoistically its separate being nor to blot itself out in the Indefinable, but to realise its unity with the Divine and the world and united them in the individual, so the right relation of the individual with the collectivity is neither to pursue egoistically his own material or mental progress or spiritual salvation without regard to his fellows, nor for the sake of the community to suppress or maim his proper development, but to sum up in himself all its best and completest possibilities and pour them out by thought, action and all other means on his surroundings so that the whole race may approach nearer to the attainment of its supreme personalities.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Introduction: The Conditions of the Synthesis, Chapter 3, The Threefold Life, pp. 16-17