Dr. Rama Shanker Srivastava was born in 1924 at Varanasi. He received education in Queen's College and Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi. He has obtained M. A. degrees in "Philosophy" and 'Indian Philosophy and Religion' from the Banaras Hindu University and D. Litt. from the Patna University. He served as a lecturer and Head of the Dept. of Philosophy in Gaya College, Gaya from 1948 to 1957. He joined the Bihar University in 1957 and became Head of the Dept. of Philosophy in the Ranchi University in 1961. He is author of 'Contemporary Indian Philosophy' and his monograph on 'Comparative Religion', based on holy scriptures, is likely to be published shortly. Dr. Srivastava is the Editor of 'Research Journal of Philosophy' published from the Dept. of Philosophy, Ranchi University. He is Honorary Director of the Institute of Gandhism and Sri Aurobindo Study Centre. He is on the Executive Commitee of the Indian Philosophical Congress, the Akhil Bhartiya Dargan Parisad and the Bihar Philosophical Congress.
Ever since I introduced Sri Aurobindo as one of the Contemporary Indian Philosophers of world-wide reputation and influence in my presidential address to the Indian Philosophy section of the Indian Philosophical Congress held at Madras in 1940, it became a fashidn to study the philosophy of Sri Aurobindo and to write on it. There is now a flood of books and Doctoral theses on the different aspects of his thought. With the publication of Darwin's Descent of Man, the concept of Evolution has become very important in biology and philosophy. No post-Darwinian philosopher could escape discussing it and making critical remarks on it. The West has deep roots in Sri Aurobindo's metaphysics, who is, at the same time, well posted in the ancient Indian thoughts embodied in the Vedas, Upanisads, Bhagvadgita, Sankhya, Yoga, Vedanta, Tantra, Kashmir Saivism and Salta systems. He developed. his theory of Evolution on such a background and on his own personal mystic experience.
Dr. Srivastava's exposition, comparative and critical examination of the biological, scientific, idealistic, holistic, creative, emergent 'and ingressive theories of evolution in the light of Sri Anrobindo's spiritual and integralist theory, surpasses all previous works on it. It is by such a comprehensive study that one can understand the greatness of Sri Aurobindo's Divine evolutionism, which is the keystone of his philosophical structure.
Sri Aurobindo embodies all that is best in the theories of evolution and escapes the pitfalls of all of them. It is both a cosmic and individual process of advancement to a higher stage of expression or existence. It is a story of both involution and evolution, for without the former the latter cannot be possible. Involution and evolution are the two aspects of Lila the sport of Saccidananda ( Truth-Consciousness-Bliss ), the ultimate spiritual Reality. All beings in the involved and evolved world are the modes or forms of Sacciananda. Spirit becomes matter in involution, and matter tends ..to become Spirit in evolution. All realities are made of the stuff ( existence) of Saccidananda, and ultimately they become Saccidananda, through cosmic and individual evolution. Nature becomes Divine and human race transforms to a race of superman or gnostic beings through rebirth and practice of Yoga.
Involution is the limited manifestation of the Absolute, and evolution is its gradual revelation. They are the mere Lila or sport of the Divinity, which is Cosmic Illusion, as nothing happens in the Absolute to change it in reality. From the absolute point of view, it is a Cosmic Illusion, the work of the Divine Lila ( Maya ). Thus the Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo is also acceptable to the Advaita Vedantists. Dr. Srivastava has done a great service to Indian thought and to the future thought of the world by putting one of the greatest thinkers of India on the map of the world. As precious jems shine in comparison with others, by his com-parative study he has made the thought of Sri Aurobindo shine by comparison with other thoughts.
The monograph draws attention to the importance of the problem of Evolution from the philosophical point of view and to the 'contribution's which Sri Aurobindo has made to the study of this problem. In fact, it will not be an exaggeration to say that this is perhaps the greatest contribution that has so far been made either in the East or in the West to the Philosophy of evolution, In the West the problem no doubt has received more attention than in the East, but it has been tackled' either from the materialistic-mechanistic stand-point, which makes evolution a matter of pure chance, or from the: idealistic point of view which makes it much too rigidly conform to the processes of the development of thought. The' first makes mockery of the whole process of evolution, while' the second, looking at it through the spectacles of a narrow logic, has failed to grasp its spiritual character, for it cannot be too strongly emphasised that thought cannot be identified, with Spirit. There, are no. doubt philosophers like Bergson, who have neither taken a mechanical nor a logical view of, evolution but have, looked upon the whole process of evolution as.: the development of a pure spontaneity which is neither, controlled by any mechanical principle nor guided by any logic. But as I have shown, such spontaneity as they. Speak of, whichis not directed towards any end, is no spontaneity, at all, and is only another name for mechanism. In fact, it is .tinhe-,mechanism. There are, again, philosophers, like Samuel Alexander, who have no doubt spoken of evolution proceeding beyond the limits of thought. But here also, as I have pointed out, the whole conception is materialistic, for, the fundamental reality in these systems is nothing else than Space-Time matrix. It is true that he speaks of, a nisug towards deity in this matrix,, but this nisus as I have clearly shown, has no connection whatever with the Space-Time matrix, and is altogether a deus ex machina very similar to the Nous in Anaxagoras' philosophy. The net result is that these philosophers have.,not been able to show why there should be any evolution at all, for Space-Time matrix cannot evolve of itself.
Coming now to the East, we find that evolution plays here a much less important role than it does in the West, the reason being that Eastern philosophers are more interested in salvation for the individual than in evolution of the cosmos. Even in those systems of philosophy, where cosmic evolution is given an honoured place, it has not got the importance which it has in Western philosophy. In the Saikhya system, for instance, where, of all Eastern systems, the theory of cosmic evolution plays the most important part, it can hardly be said to be taken very seriously, for it exists only so long as ignorance persists In the individual and vanishes as soon as true knowledge in the form of the realisation of the distinction between Purusa and Prakrti emerges. Moreover, evolution is always followed by dissolution, and this takes away all its significance. It is reduced, in fact, to position of a May-pole dance, where the dancers move round and round the same pole without making any step forward. . Thus we see that both in the West and in the East evolution really has not been given the importance which is its due. It is only in the philosophy of Sri Aurobindo that it has been given its rightful place. In fact, the whole of Sri Aurobindo's philosophy may be looked upon as a philosophy of evolution. The key to the understanding of Sri Aurobindo's philosophy is indeed his theory of evolution. It is he who, among all philosophers in the East as well as in the West, is the first to link Evolution with Creation. This has given a meaning to evolution which it has not got in any other system, either Eastern or Western. Not only that, but it has also shown the necessity of evolution. In fact, Sri Aurobindo may be said to be the only philosopher who has successfully answered the question, why should there be any evolution at all ? Neither Kapila nor Darwin nor Hegel nor Bergson could successfully answer this question.
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