Introduction to Sri Aurobindo’s The Upanishads


The Upanishads clearly rank with the greatest spiritual and philosophical writings of mankind.  They have been revered for their beauty of expression and for the philosophical issues they address in a way that can benefit all, regardless of the particular religious or spiritual tradition one follows.  They are considered to be a universal body of expression of mankind’s highest aspirations and seeking for truth.

While many have undertaken to translate the Upanishads, Sri Aurobindo’s work deserves a special place.  Sri Aurobindo brought more than just scholarly efforts to this work.  It is informed with experience and spiritual practice, which allows him to enter into the spirit of the Upanishads and communicate it to us.

Sri Aurobindo has also added his own extensive commentaries to several of the key Upanishads, the Isha and the Kena, which together provide deep insight into the philosophy expressed in the Upanishads.

The Upanishads were not originally written as “philosophy”.  Rather they were intended to aid the teacher in communicating certain spiritual truths and practices to the chosen disciples.  With the right openness of spirit, it is possible for us to re-create these truths within our own lives.  This book provides a key to that effort and thereby justifies “yet another” translation of, and commentary on, the Upanishads.

The Upanishads provide a bridge from the symbolic age that gave birth to the Vedas, and refer to themselves in various places to be “the secret of the Veda”.  Deep study of the Upanishads can help unlock the tremendous spiritual force that has lain hidden in the ancient Vedic tradition under its veil of symbol and double-meanings, intended to communicate to the initiated while keeping the inner meaning secret from those not prepared to understand and apply that meaning in a positive way in their lives.  In today’s world, where ancient knowledge is so critically needed to address the challenges of modern-day life, we now have an opportunity to truly appreciate and apply “the secret of the Veda” as developed in the Upanishads.

For this study, we intend to take the approach of bringing together translation and commentary systematically for each Upanishad treated, rather than following a page-by-page approach as set forth in the volume at hand.

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads


Introduction to Sri Aurobindo’s The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development

Philosophers and historians have attempted to develop an understanding of the stages or cycles through which human civilisation passes through time.  These cyclical patterns have primarily focused on how government forms evolve based on circumstances that arise in the preceding stage.

Sri Aurobindo develops the overview of mankind’s evolution to show that societies go through a series of stages, starting from the “symbolic”, moving to the “typal and conventional”, evolving to the “individualist” and finally ending in the “subjective”.  Each of these stages has characteristic elements as to how mankind aspires and builds its social structures and relationships, and how individuals view their own purpose and activity in life.  It is based upon this understanding that Sri Aurobindo reviews the history of humanity and its various societies and then provides us a platform for the coming new age of humanity, an age based on the principle of spirituality as the fulfillment of the subjective stage of human development.

The coming of a spiritual age of humanity is the fulfillment of the seeking of all religious and philosophical leaders of the ages.  The spiritual age of humanity differs from earlier ages in that it is based on a subjective foundation that retains the freedom and diversity of true inner growth rather than tying down this impulse within a fixed series of formulae or conventional definitions to which all people must conform.

Within this framework, the role of the individual will be reconciled with the needs of society, such that both can find their utmost fulfillment without the suppression of  the values embodied by the other.  Sri Aurobindo puts before us a goal that is at once sublime and uplifting:

“The ascent of man into heaven is not the key, but rather his ascent into the spirit and the descent of the Spirit into his normal humanity and transformation of this earthly nature.  For that and not some post mortem salvation is the real new birth for which humanity waits as the crowning movement of its long obscure and painful course.” (The Human Cycle, pg. 250)

Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development

Introduction to Sri Aurobindo’s Essays on the Gita

The Bhagavad Gita occupies a unique position in the spiritual literature of the world, as it is one of the most revered scriptures, while at the same time being an outstanding poetical expression, a philosophical masterwork, a visionary experience and a profound psychological text outlining key concepts in the practice of yoga as a methodology for the development of consciousness.

One of the things that makes the Bhagavad Gita unique is the setting. It is a teaching provided on a battlefield, at a time where the evolutionary progress of humanity was meeting substantial opposition and hostility. The questions that arise within this context are universal questions that every human being eventually has to face, questions of life and death, morality and religious faith, and questions of relationships, honor, justice and of war and peace.

In order to truly grow and evolve, the individual must eventually come out from behind the wall of traditional creeds, dogmas, rigid doctrines, narrow viewpoints and religious ideologies and begin to apply a deeper, spiritual insight to the resolution of these issues.

The Gita does much more than propound a teaching. It provides perhaps the most insightful review of the psychological framework that governs our actions, and a methodology for applying practical psychology to our response to life’s circumstances, of any text of yoga or psychology one could hope to find. In particular the extensive review of the three gunas, or qualities, and their interaction, is an essential teaching.

Sri Aurobindo spent considerable time and effort in his review of the Bhagavad Gita and his Essays on the Gita stands as one of the most lucid and widely acclaimed commentaries on this important text.

Sri Aurobindo goes beyond any dry academic appraisal of the text: “Our object, then, in studying the Gita will not be a scholastic or academical scrutiny of its thought, nor to place its philosophy in the history of metaphysical speculation, nor shall we deal with it in the manner of the analytical dialectician. We approach it for help and light and our aim must be to distinguish its essential and living message, that in it on which humanity has to seize for its perfection and its highest spiritual welfare.” **

It is our goal to take up the systematic review of Essays on the Gita in the following pages. All page number citations in this review are based on the U.S. edition of Essays on the Gita published by Lotus Press, EAN: 978-0-9149-5518-4 **Essays on the Gita, pg. 8,