Book Reviews

Sri Aurobindo: The Problem of Rebirth

Transmigration is the central concept of all the philosophical systems, especially for the orthodox schools of Indian philosophy and those who believe in rebirth in Western philosophy also. The concept of innate ideas, where the impression of knowledge is carried by the soul from past, present, to all the consecutive life, has been analysed and interpreted through multiple essays by Sri Aurobindo in his book "The Problems of Rebirth."

The arrangement of these essays or chapters has been done chronologically and in sequences that follow the rules of the debate system, i.e., Vada Parampara or the Adhikaran Padhhati by the Nyaya and Mimamsa Philosophy successively. The doubt, solution, prima facie, and subsequent views have been presented beautifully in the opening essays. All the challenges or questions emerging in the mind of the present perspective, materialist’s and empiricist’s world views, which say that there is no transmigration, incarnation, or the body with sense organ are only the locus of knowledge and consciousness, have been answered beautifully.

The inception and introduction of the subject matter have been done carefully, and it carries a broad concept from almost all the philosophical systems that can either support or refute the theory of rebirth. The author Sri Aurobindo, a well-known educationist, freedom fighter, yogi with theory and practice, and synthesiser of multiple extraordinary and outstanding works from the scriptures and philosophical system, needs no introduction in India because of his achievements.

In the book “The Problem of Rebirth”, Sri Aurobindo beautifully used his huge, accumulated knowledge and impression gained from almost all the Indian Philosophical systems, especially Samkhya, Yoga, and Vedanta systems. He has mentioned the pre-scientific theories, the era of Aristotle and onwards, rationalist, empiricist, and contemporary like Hegel, Whitehead, etc., where the theory of evolution took place, and discussion on the soul, consciousness, its locus, etc. was discussed. The Author has inserted various questions that might be relevant to refute the theory of rebirth. At the same time, the answers illustrating the theory of transmigration enhance the concept keenly.

The first essay consists of questions and doubts that can lead to analysing or exploring unique thoughts with certain logic so that the theory of rebirth can be established explicitly. Unless there is clarity regarding the concepts or logic for transmigration, it is difficult to state assertively because lots of heterodox systems, materialistic, and scientific theories are there to refute the existence of the soul, its durability, locus-ness of knowledge, etc. Considering these challenges, all the questions have been raised, and subsequently, their answers can be found in the next chapters or essays.

Just for instance, in the chapter, “Karma, will and Consequences” the author has explained the invariable relation between all these terms, and he has inserted this topic subsequently after the chapter Karma and Karma and Freedom, where it has been illustrated explicitly that a human being always proceeds with the action after his will and at the end, will and action simultaneously appear in the consequence. Therefore, knowledge is necessary, and it has been repeatedly said in various systems of Indian Philosophy. Because knowledge leads to volition or mental preparation for action and after the accomplishment of actions, the emergence of results appears where Will and Karma can be inferred. At that time the purpose of spirit is fulfilled with the ultimate bliss because it is all about raising the true cognition in the mind and moving accordingly.

However, the concept, due to its cumbersomeness, makes the book lengthy and difficult for the reader who has no prior ideas of all these concepts, like what is the cycle of birth, why it occurs, what’s the reason behind it, and how it can be solved. Although the book is based on the same thing, assimilation for the essence of the concepts can lead to heavy mental exercise. But once understood, it will undoubtedly impart immense pleasure where you will get a glimpse of different philosophical systems and their world views and undoubtedly you will be able to convince yourself that you’re an eternal soul that transmigrates but, there is a way to get rid of different births, which is explained by Yoga, and hereafter there will be a state of final liberation which is the ultimate goal of life and soteriology.


More by :  Saurabh Jha

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