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Integral Health

The metaphysical basis for Integral Health — relevance of the Individual

Dr. Soumitra Basu

Does spirituality endorse an obliteration of the individual in the vastness of the Absolute? Indeed, the experiential contact with the Absolute is so overwhelming, awe-inspiring and total that individuality loses its relevance and what remains is only a cosmic vastness or an all-effacing transcendence. All material parameters of the illumined individual become insignificant in the vastness of the cosmic consciousness or in the eternity of the transcendence. That is why both Shankaracharya and Buddha advocated that ultimate salvation lay in the cessation from the cycle of death and birth, a movement eulogised in spiritual parlance as liberation. The spiritual illumination of the individual thus came to signify the dissolution of an ephemeral individuality.

In Sri Aurobindo’s world-view, the Transcendent, the Universal and the Individual are equally relevant poises of the same Reality, none belittles the other and yet each is equally valid though characteristically distinct, for in the ultimate analysis,”the Reality is one and not a sum or concourse (1).”

Spiritual traditions have conventionally given more importance to the Transcendence and relegated the Individual as well as the Universal to a secondary position. “The nodus of Life is the relation between three general forms of consciousness, the individual, the universal and the transcendent or supracosmic. In the ordinary distribution of life’s activities the individual regards himself as a separate being included in the universe and both as dependent upon that which transcends alike the universe and the individual. It is to this Transcendence that we give currently the name of God, who thus becomes to our conceptions not so much supracosmic as extracosmic. The belittling and degradation of both the individual and the universe is a natural consequence of this division: the cessation of both cosmos and individual by the attainment of the Transcendence would be logically its supreme conclusion (2).”

Sri Aurobindo corrects these fallacious divisions in the integral view of the unity of the Brahman where the individual retains a unique position. “Just as we need not give up the bodily life to attain to the mental and spiritual, so we can arrive at a point of view where the preservation of the individual activities is no longer inconsistent with our comprehension of the cosmic consciousness or our attainment to the transcendent and supracosmic…. The individual is a centre of the whole universal consciousness; the universe is a form and definition which is occupied by the entire immanence of the Formless and Indefinable…. When we attain to knowledge or right consciousness, nothing essential in the eternal relation is changed, but only the inview and the outview from the individual centre is profoundly modified and consequently also the spirit and effect of its activity. The individual is still necessary to the action of the Transcendent in the universe and that action in him does not cease to be possible by his illumination. On the contrary, since the conscious manifestation of the Transcendent in the individual is the means by which the collective, the universal is also to become conscious of itself, the continuation of the illumined individual in the action of the world is an imperative need of the world-play. If his inexorable removal through the very act of illumination is the law, then the world is condemned to remain eternally the scene of unredeemed darkness, death and suffering. And such a world can only be a ruthless ordeal or a mechanical illusion (3).”

The importance given to the Individual by Sri Aurobindo at par with the Universal and Transcendent gives equal credence to science and spirituality. It gives as much value to life as to the transcendence of life. It gives authentication to psychological growth, to well-being, to health and to longevity without belittling a spiritual or mystical approach. It signifies that it is perfectly spiritually tenable that each individual should have the right to health and well-being as well as to the best possible treatment till the last breath. If a world-transcending spirituality was the only path worth traversing, all other materialistic and sociological disciplines would be secondary. If in the ultimate analysis life had no value and the only goal worth pursuing was to get liberated from the cycle of birth and death, then there is no point in eulogising life or reducing morbidity. Sri Aurobindo’s vision is not a rejection but a transformation of life where it is compelling to give equal importance to life and to transcendence of life. The persistence of the illumined individual is necessary for the trajectory of transformation in an integralist vision that concomitantly needs to be matched with an integral perspective of health.


1. Sri Aurobindo. Birth Centenary Library, Volume 18. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust; 1970, p. 33.

2. Ibid, p. 37.

3. Ibid, pp. 37-8.

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Sri Aurobindo


Cosmic consciousness