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4.7 out of 5 stars
The Life Divine
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112 of 113 people found the following review helpful
on October 10, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is a difficult book to read. Let us be under no illusions about that. It is verbose, repetitive and massive in its scope: tackling virtually the entire gamut of issues that philosophy traditionally deals with. But by the time you have finished reading the book (it took me three months to finish)it would have transformed the way you live your life. You may not agree with Aurobindo, and in fact, he probably does not want you to blindly agree with him, he would much rather that you think things out for yourself; but one thing that he certainly does is to question the 'commonsense' view of the world: the view of the world that we build up using bits of unexamined,untested, received, 'truths'. Take just one such 'truth': We believe--or at least we have done so ever since Descartes--that Matter and Consciousness are two separate things. Aurobindo puts forward the suggestion that the two are actually one and the same entity, only they are in different states being: somewhat like Ice and Steam being different states of water. If we concede that matter may be a form of consciousness, only in an inert state, all sorts of consequences would follow: especially with regard to our attitudes towards the environment.

As I had said earlier, the scope of the book is massive. Its three parts can be roughly divided into Ontology (where he discusses the Nature of the Cosmos), Epistemology (where he discusses the nature of Knowledge (&Ignorance), and the problem of Evil--which he attributes to Ignorance: a consequence of Ahamkara or ego-centricism) and finally, in the last part, he provides a broad, general direction for living our lives in accordance with our revised view of the world (Ethics). However, the book is not tightly structured (If you are looking for a book like Wittgenstein's Tractatus you will find yourself truly frustrated) it is loose, repetitive, and disjointed. Possibly because it was originally written as a series of essays and published monthly in a magazine called the Arya (between 1914 to 1919). He must have had to repeat himself because his original audience would have forgotten a point that he would have made five years ago. But the cumulative effect of the repetitions is that his ideas have a tendency to gradually seep in and sink into your mind, rather than strike you as a sort of brilliant epiphany.

Aurobindo's philosphy is ultimately rooted in ancient Hindu Vedic thought. In the course of the book, Aurobindo tackles Marx, Darwin, Nietzche, Freud, Hegel, Feurbach, (plus a whole range of European philosophers) and his idea is to adapt their philosophy to the 'Truth' as expressed by the Seers of the ancient Vedas. Does he succeed in doing so? I don't know. That is for professional philosophers to decide. For me, the book has been a revelation, the scales have dropped from my eyes: I see things differently now. Hopefully, I will continue to do so for a while before the snares of living in a modern city finally engulf me once again. Haven't they said that we can't stand to face the truth for too long?
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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on September 26, 2005
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This book is the greatest achievement of Mankind!It is the greatest philosophical book ever written and in the best English Language ever written too.It is the Ultimate culmination of a 3,000-year-old Indian Philosophic Thought.

Sri Aurobindo examines deeper than anybody ever did the Human Condition and treats with the utmost profundity,clarity,linguistic beauty,logical acuity,originality and imagination all the major questions of Life:Why is there something rather than nothing,what is the meaning of life,why are we here,where did we come from,what is our relationship to the ultimate ground of Being,what is the function of ignorance,suffering,pain,what is the Nature of the Ultimate Being.He surpasses Shankara,incorporating in his philosophy the Tantric idea of the meaningfulness and purposefulness of the Becoming,as well as all central elements of Buddhist Philosophy.In relating all these to modern man (Western and Eastern) and connecting everything together through the most plastic,expressive,exquisite language ever written,he achieves the Ultimate Synthesis of all philosophical and spiritual thought of Mankind.

Although one needs to become accustomed to his unique language and expression ,as well as to spend initially some time in understanding the way he uses certain terms (some of his own creation,so that the Inexpressible could at least be hinted at),this initial investment of time will more than reward the serious reader in the end.

Some,with whom I agree,suggest that one start reading the book from the chapter "The evolution of the spiritual man"(Book 2,chapter 24) and,after moving on to read the next two chapters too,to go back and start reading it from the beginning.These last chapters give an overview of his philosophy and are written in an easier language.

"THE LIFE DIVINE" is itself one of the most pure EMBODIMENTS of the DIVINE.
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68 of 74 people found the following review helpful
on March 8, 2003
Format: Paperback
Sri Aurobindo, a contemporary of Sage Gandhi, helped to compliment Gandhi’s works and message to India and the World. Whilst Sri Gandhi preached non-violence and world peace, Sri Aurobindo also left his philosophy to serve humanity evolution. If Martin Buber were alive, I would recommend him to read it in addition to his own “I and Thou”.
I am indeed humbled by my rating. I can only say it is meant for sharing with patrons how dearly I treasure it, the rating is not meant to rate the sage Sri Aurobindo and his “Life Divine” --- for example, how does an elementary student rate Einstein’s works?
Starting from the very first page, I wonder how the written meta-materials could have originated from a homo sapiens mind. It seems to me, the wordings in written physical form is a limited tool employed, but was the best available for Sri Aurobindo at that time.
The work, originally a compilation of numerous contiguous articles, comprises 3 Parts:
Book 1 Part I Omnipresent reality and the universe
Book 2 Part I The infinite consciousness and the ignorance
Book 2 Part II Knowledge and the spiritual revolution
Occasionally he quotes, he mentions Names, it is not an extension of any sacred texts, be it Hinduism or others; it is not a set of spiritual practice based on mystical symbolism e.g. Kabbalah. They are simply words emancipating from the Author, like crystal clear waters flowing naturally in a steady moving stream, with calmness, serenity and vitality, glistening with cosmic light of jnana.
Last six chapters are the essence of the book, if you are intimidated by the volume size and really want to get something out of it with limited time constraint.
Reading a 1100+ pages fiction is already no easy matter. And more than 1100+ pages of philosophy writing requests your persistency, and requires your thinking and assimilation in each page. It is not an exaggeration if it takes you a lifetime to read. After you finish the book to its last page, you start over if you may want to recall the chapters all over.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on July 24, 2009
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I came to this book in the beginning of 2008, after studying Advaita Vedanta for 1.5 years, and having studied spirituality and philosophy for many more. I had gotten good results with other books I had studied (including works by teachers of Neo-Vedanta and works by Nisargadatta Maharaj and Ramana Maharshi). I had even been granted a Samadhi experience lasting a few days, but ultimately, by the time I had first read this book, I was left confused and frustrated. Too many teachers asked me to turn my back on the Mind, but I find that, for better or worse, my mind is not easily quieted until my sense of logic has been satisfied. Unfortunately, I had found too many logical inconsistencies and shallow explanations in the books I had been reading, and these were getting in the way of any true progress.

I wasn't until taking a tutorial on Vedanta with my Philosophy professor that I was introduced to this book, and at first I resisted it. It seemed so inconsistent with all that I had read before. I viewed it as entirely too verbose and "caught up in the Mind." I didn't understand it all upon my first reading. Luckily, I had my professor to review it with me. By the end of the semester the genius of the book was gradually beginning to dawn on me.

Having re-read the book now once in it's entirety, in addition to periodic chapter reviews, I can say with confidence that it's the best, most enlightening, most life-affirming, most illuminating book I have ever read. Not just in an intellectual sense, but it has also completely altered my spiritual life, bringing me to internal realizations and revelations I didn't know were possible. I have read The Upanishads and The Bible, and as wonderful as they are, they have not done for me what this book has. This is a true work of art; not many nonfiction books (if any) can tackle the entire nature of reality and explain it in way that is almost poetic. Many times while reading I could only shake my head incredulously, marveling at the beauty and depth of his words and insights. It is a book that fills me with gratitude; gratitude towards Aurobindo, that he should have gifted the world with such a masterpiece, and gratitude towards that force, that consciousness, which should allow such beauty and wisdom to be expressed through Man. If this sounds effusive, I assure you: this book is just that good.

Whereas other books on Vedanta can seem nihilistic, denying both the world and the individual, this is incredibly life-affirming and even joyous. It answered all of my previous questions on Vedanta, and then answered most of the major ones raised by the well known Western Philosophers as well. My professor, who had first picked up this book in India some years ago (he assured me that he didn't absorb it all in his first reading, either), told me that he could not find a flaw in Aurobindo's logic.

I find it interesting that now that I have had more realizations (not of the mental sort, but from direct experience of the Infinite Self), I can go back to those books that I had once found illogical or nihilistic and totally understand and even agree with their perspectives. However, such understanding would not have been possible without reading the thorough explanations I found in this book first. For me, my mind has to be satisfied before it can let go and allow the Self to take over.

The Life Divine was (and continues to be) a challenging read, not just in scope and writing style, but in ideology. The rewards were worth it however; it has made me a happier, wiser, and daresay, a more enlightened person.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on December 15, 2008
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
If you are like me and reading and spiritual development have gone hand in hand in your life, then it is possible I suppose to name a handful of books that really made difference; and I suppose it is possible, if push came to shove, perhaps to name just one book or one author that made a difference. It is also possible, that when you look at your life you see a book or an author that stands out at a given time as of paramount significance. For me, reading Emerson in my early 20s was one such author/book. Reading him, doors flung open that I didn't know existed, and I still read him at least once a year; essays like The Oversoul, Circles, and others are timeless, beautiful statements of spiritual understanding. Years of reading great books went by, but none seemed to strike the blows that Emerson effected on my consciousness. Then in my late 30s I was introduced to Jane Roberts and her Seth books, and once again my mind was lifted beyond its ordinary field of vision by the authenticity of her work with such books as Seth Speaks, The Nature of Personal Reality, The Nature of the Psyche, and others. More great books intervened, Plotinus, St. Teresa of Avila, and others, but again none seemed to speak directly to me in the way that Emerson or Jane Roberts did. The reading continued, but I think that I had in the back of my mind resolved myself to sifting and finding gold here and there, as I tried to piece all of the insights from a lifetime of reading into some kind of a coherent picture of the nature of reality, why the beings of the earth (and I include animals) have to suffer so much, what we can expect if anything after death, and so forth. Indian thought had always impressed me with its genuineness, even though the ancient text seemed to obscure or poetic or foreign to speak to my heart and mind the way Emerson and Roberts did. Much reading lead to Radhakrishnan, the once president of India and a great writer on spiritual matters, and Radhakrishnan led to Sri Aurobindo. I told my wife the other day that I wished that I had discovered Aurobindo when I was young, but I am fully aware that if I had I would not have read for long; his writing is too complicated and philosophical for the young mind, and for the average reader I suppose. But I have to say that it is the work of Aurobindo that stands out as the most significant of my late middle years of spiritual exploration in books. Jane Roberts, as Seth, once said that there are rare individuals that are born completely conscious, many of whom you might not recognize as you go about your daily life. I am not sure if this appellation applies to Aurobindo, but he is the only person I have read during my lifetime that combines the spiritual insight of the mystic and the ability to put his visions into understandable, if difficult, language. Emerson had the insight but chose to employ a method of expression that was more poetic than systematic. The Life Divine runs more than a thousand pages and at times I found myself wishing that he had written a pithy article that communicated his essential points rather than the nuanced arguments that this book represents. I would imagine that most people that begin this work do not finish it or get very far, which is in my opinion a pity: it is the most outstanding philosophical-religious work that I have ever read. If you are interested in a more practical application of his ideas (which are based on his personal insights and from extensive reading of the ancient Indian texts, the Vedas, the Upanishads, and the Gita, all of which he has commented on extensively in separate books) then I suggest his book The Synthesis of Yoga, in which he discusses the traditional Vedanta ways of aspiring to a union with God or with the spiritual reality within us. But it would be better to begin I feel with The Life Divine. The effort required to read him will repay itself in value beyond measure. He is a great genius and a great soul.

What is his main message? Look within; the within of things is endless. God or Brahman or All That Is (Plotinus and the Neo-Platonists, the tradition in the West that most closely represents Vedanta in the East, call the Divine Reality the One, as did Aurobindo) "is within everything that you can perceive with your senses," to use Jane Roberts words, and this "primary motive force" (again Jane) "has a reality independent of its connection with the world of appearances." Your Inner Self, like everything else, is a manifestation of this inner spiritual reality, and this Self, possessed of the freedom and self-awareness and joy and energy or power and will and creativity and goodness and beauty of All That Is (see Jane Roberts "The Nature of the Psyche"), is without limits. All dimensions of all realities are psychological and the "barriers" between them are fluid.

Thought added Aug 2013: Add Sri Nisargadatta's "I AM That" to this list of great great books, a collection of his conversations. Delightful, stimulation, entertaining, etc. Don't miss it.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on May 5, 2007
Format: Paperback
There are very few great spiritual classics that each century produces. The Life Divine is one of these great spiritual classics, one of the key spiritual studies of the twentieth center, perhaps of all time. There are few great mystics and enlightened masters who are able to express themselves in extensive philosophy and profound poetry. Sri Aurobindo was one of these, and the Life Divine is probably his magnum opus.

The Life Divine is no mere call to a life of piety, asceticism or outward religious fervor. It is a call to bring the Divine as a force of higher consciousness into all that we are and do, both individually and as a species. The Life Divine unfolds a panoramic exploration of consciousness from the Absolute (Brahman), to the Cosmic Creator (Ishvara), to the individual soul (Jivatman), and all the realms of existence, manifest and unmanifest, known and unknown. There are few books that cover such an expanse and with such depth, direct knowledge and clarity. For those who want to widen their horizons and extend their awareness into the realms of higher consciousness, there is perhaps no other book that is as complete, comprehensive and challenging. Reading it requires both concentration and meditation of a very high order, but brings great riches of inner insight in return.

As someone who has studied the main religious traditions of the world, and has written extensively on the traditions of India, this book has remained with me as life time companion. I recommend it to all those who are looking at the spiritual life as a quest for a higher consciousness and grace that can transform all that we do. One can continue to delve into the book for new wisdom and insight year after year. The Life Divine teaches us in depth about the great spiritual traditions of India, Veda, Vedanta, Samkhya, Yoga, Tantra and Buddhism, but from a view of practice and realization, and a seeking for the universal truth behind all these great teachings.

Most notably, the Life Divine outlines the spiritual purpose of the soul and of our human lives. It charts a way to a future in which we can go beyond our current mentality of ego and strife to a world of Divine peace, bliss and knowledge. It charts the transformation of our species from a confused adolescence to the maturity of wisdom and grace. Sri Aurobindo shows how the Divine Shakti can descend into our minds and lift us to a higher level of intelligence as our natural state of existence. The book is perhaps the best study of the spiritual evolution of humanity, the evolution of consciousness in man and nature, which is available.
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51 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on January 29, 1999
Format: Hardcover
When I read The Divine Life over 15 years ago it turned my faith around very profoundly,- it gave me Faith. I was a teenager and I thought I was an atheist! I am reading it again today and find the same eternal breath of inspiration in it which I found then. If we need a new Resurrection from the Godhead Shri Aurobindo and his message in The Life Divine are the highest representation for Modern Times.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on July 8, 2004
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
It has been said that no one can explain the process by which the Divine became the universe. It is explained here. It is said that no one can explain the meaning of life, including the myriad of details that explains its organization. It is explained here with great clarity, using the most beautiful of prose. It is said that no one can explain the purpose and future evolution of life on earth. It is also explained in exquisite detail.
In sum, this is the most profound spiritual work of the last hundred years. If you have the patience, you can discover the answers to most of the major questions of life within the bounds of this book.
This work is a synthesis of western evolutionary teachings and the most profound spiritual teachings of the East. And yet it is beyond even a synthesis of the two. It is a revelation of truth and insight never before expressed in all the annals of spiritual literature.
There is no work like it on earth. The expression does not feel like something that is spiritual, as we've come to know that concept. Instead it feels "FUTURE spiritual." That's so because he EXPERIENCED that supra-spiritual future in the present of his extraordinary life.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on April 29, 2006
Format: Paperback
Rating this book is like rating god for his creation-a joke of first order. This book is an eternal book, its language ancient, contemporary, futuristic and transcendant. the only way one can approach this book is in quiet contemplation and deep introspection. every thought, doubt and question that might have crossed the minds of humankind is addressed, explained. understanding this book is the puny first step. it needs to realised, acted, lived and revisited. that would be rare human who does not find this book has changed his/her life. one feels like annihilating oneself to greatness of this being.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
It is a difficult read, no doubt, but this is one book which each and every educated person must read; doesn't matter if it takes a lifetime. If one reads three pages a day, it'll take one year to finish the book; that is the kind of patience the book demands, but it's worth it and extremely rewarding. Logistics overcome, comes the barrier of prejudice; several of them: India, Hindu, Ashram, Philosophy, Spirituality, New-Age etc. But what is needed is an absolutely open mind and the book becomes a pure Life's User Manual.

The book itself is a Univeresity that breathes universality. During the course of reading, one gets attuned to many related areas and ideas by way of allusions and comparisions. It also solves progressively one's long-held doubts and discords. Besides, in whichever profession one is, it helps to improve on the practical aspects. Further, the poetic beauty of the text enhances the sheer pleasure of reading even while the insights gained expands one's sense of mundane existence. Two other booklets, "The Mother" and "The Mind of Light" or "The Supramental Manifestation upon Earth" are essential supplements, lest one's understanding of the author is prone to be lopsided.
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