“Sri Aurobindo – A Pioneer Social Thinker” – Lecture at Pondicherry University

Date: February 28, 2019
Venue: Department of Sociology, Pondicherry University

The Department of Sociology at Pondicherry University invited Dr. Beloo Mehra to speak on the topic – “Sri Aurobindo – A Pioneer Social Thinker”. This lecture was part of the Sociology department’s Silver Jubilee lecture series.

In her lecture Dr. Mehra highlighted that what makes Sri Aurobindo a pioneer in social or sociological thought is that he helps us gain an inner, deeply psychological view of how societies grow and evolve.

Dr. Mehra also pointed out that the fundamental idea of Sri Aurobindo’s social thought builds upon one of the essential ideas of our ancient Indian wisdom, namely, the individual and society as two manifestations or expressions of the same Spirit. This, she added, has implication for the relationship between the individual and the society.  Because of a fundamental identity of nature between the two, societal evolution can be understood by reflecting on an individual’s evolution.

Brief information was given about each of the stages discussed by Sri Aurobindo – symbolic, typal, conventional, individualistic, subjective to spiritual. Some examples relevant to the modern youth were taken up to illustrate a few points related to the psychological or inner meaning behind these evolutionary stages of a society. A few other examples were taken from the evolutionary march of Indian society and culture. Attempt was made to present this complex topic in as simple manner as possible.

Dr. Mehra also emphasised that while these stages are somewhat progressive, we can see significantly visible aspects of the various stages simultaneously exerting their influence at any one point in time. This is especially true in a complex and highly diverse society such as India. Relevant examples were given to illustrate this point. Examples were also given as to how this complexity sometimes leads to inter-generational or inter-group conflicts.

Dr. Mehra then also added a few other important reasons why Sri Aurobindo may be considered a forerunner or pioneer among Indian social thinkers: a) He closely and deeply examined and studied almost all issues, challenges and problems of societal life – inter-group harmony, religious divide, caste, gender, significance of the right kind of education, social reform, etc. But he looked at all these with the insight of a yogi, a rishi, who can see behind the surface, who can study these things from the deeper point of view of consciousness, a truly depth psychology rather than merely a cause and effect on the physical level; and b) Also, Sri Aurobindo’s study is not limited to studying the phenomena at present but as a visionary he tells us about the future course of evolution, how societies will and must evolve in the light of that higher purpose and will of the Nature.

Some students and faculty asked a few relevant questions and clarifications at the end, which led to a fruitful discussion.

The Head of the Department of Sociology while thanking the speaker Dr. Mehra, added that the department will seriously explore the possibility of collaborating with Sri Aurobindo Society to create curricular content for Sri Aurobindo’s social thought for the university courses.

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