After being educated in England from the age of seven until he was twenty-one, Sri Aurobindo returned to India in 1893. He soon became involved in the nationalistic movement in India, and he was imprisoned for his activities in 1908. Realizing through visionary experience that real human liberation went far beyond the political liberation of India, he withdrew from the world and established an ashram, or retreat, in Pondicherry, India.
Aurobindo was very much influenced by the western philosopher Henri Bergson (1859-1941), and he created a synthesis of Bergson’s evolutionary view and the Upanisads. According to Aurobindo, no evolution is possible without involution, which entails the descent of the divine to the world of matter. The Eternal Spirit is beyond all description, but it descends into the lower realms of being and then by evolution ascends until it returns to its source. This transition from the Eternal Spirit to the multiplicity of the phenomenal world is what Aurobindo calls Supermind. Though matter is the lowest level of being, it is nevertheless a low form of the Supreme. The practice of integral yoga, which consists of three steps, awakens the potentiality of self-perfection that exists in each person. The steps of integral yoga are (1) to surrender oneself totally to God, (2) to recognize that one’s progress is a result of the S'akti energy working within oneself, and (3) to have the divine vision of the deity in all things.