Integral yoga

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Integral yoga
Founder Sri Aurobindo, The Mother
Established 1921
Rajnarayan Basu (Maternal grandfather) • Manmohan Ghose (Elder brother) • Barin Ghosh (Younger brother) • Krishna Kumar Mitra (Maternal uncle)
Political career
Anushilan Samiti • Jugantar • Partition of Bengal • Alipore bomb case • Jugantar Patrika • Bande Mataram
Speeches and books
Uttarpara Speech • Collected Works • Life Divine • Synthesis of Yoga • Savitri • Agenda
Involution (metaphysics)
Involution (Sri Aurobindo) • Evolution • Integral psychology • Integral yoga • Intermediate zone • Supermind
Matrimandir • Pondicherry
Sri Aurobindo Ashram • Auroville
The Mother • Champaklal • N.K. Gupta • Amal Kiran • Nirodbaran • Pavitra • M.P. Pandit • P.K. Bhattacharya • A.B. Purani • D.K. Roy • Satprem • Indra Sen • Kapali Shastri
Journals and Forums
Arya • Mother India • Collaboration
Integral education
Auro University • The Mother's International School • CIIS • Esalen

Integral yoga, sometimes also called supramental yoga, is the yoga-based philosophy and practice of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother (Mirra Alfassa). Central to Integral yoga is the idea that Spirit manifests itself in a process of involution, meanwhile forgetting its origins. The reverse process of evolution is driven toward a complete manifestation of spirit.

Our current status of evolution is still an intermediatery stage in the evolution of being, which is on its way of the unfolding of the spirit, and the self-revelation of divinity in all things.[1] Yoga is a rapid and concentrated evolution of being, which can take effect in one life-time, while unassisted natural evolution would take many centuries or many births.[2] Aurobindo suggests a grand program called sapta chatushtaya (seven quadrates) to aid this evolution.


See also: Hegel and Ken Wilber

Spirit - Satchitananda[edit]

Spirit or satchitananda is the source of all that exists.[web 1] It is the One, having three aspects: Sat (truth), Citta (consciousness, awareness), and ananda (bliss, happiness).


Involution is the extension of Spirit, the Absolute, to create a universe of separate forms. Being manifests itself as a multiplicity of forms, meanwhile becoming lost in the inconscience of matter.[3]

According to Aurobindo the world is a differentiated unity. It is a manifold oneness, that generates an infinite variety of lifeforms and substances. The lifeforms and substances are stretched out on a wide range between physical matter, and a pure form of spiritual being, where the subject becomes fully aware of itself as spirit.[4] According to Aurobindo, life has taken three appearances:

  • Mental- an emerged consciousness reflecting fact of life in a mental sense, perceptive & ideative. It modifies the internal and attempts to modify conformably the external existence of the being.[5]
  • Vital- an emerging consciousness, a consciousness half delivered out of its original imprisonment which has become of vital craving and satisfaction or repulsion.
  • Material- a submerged consciousness concealed in its action and losing itself in the form.

The first manifestation of Spirit in the process of involution is as Satchitananda, and then as Supermind, the intermediate link between the higher (Spirit) and lower (matter, life, and mind) nature.[6] The discovery of itself as pure spirit follows a developmental trajectory from physical being to pure spirit.[4]


Through evolution Spirit rediscoveres itself as Spirit. Evolution is the progressive development from the original inconscience of matter into life, to mind, and then to spiritualized mind, culminating in The Supermind or Truth Consciousness .[7] Evolution is teleological: the developing entity contains within itself the conception of what it may become.

The goal of integral yoga[edit]

In integral yoga, the goal is twofold: to become aware of the Divine, as the unity of the One, but also the unity in the diversity of all that exists; and to attain liberation by permanent contact with and dwelling in the Divine, the transformation of the lower being into "the human image of the divine," and the liberation of consciousness from the compulsions of the ego.[8]

Three types of being[edit]

Sri Aurobindo discerns three types of being, namely the Outer being, the Inner being, and the Psychic Being.

The Outer Being[edit]

The Outer Being includes the physical, vital and mental levels of Being,e which characterises our everyday consciousness and experience. Integral Yoga involves going beyond this surface consciousness to the larger life of the Inner Being, which is more open to spiritual realisation.

The Inner Being[edit]

The Inner Being includes the inner realms or aspects of the physical, vital and mental being. They have a larger, subtler, freer consciousness than that of the everyday consciousness. Its realisation is essential for any higher spiritual realisation.

The Inner Being is also transitional between the surface or Outer Being and the Psychic or Inmost Being. By doing yoga practice (sadhana), the inner consciousness is being opened, and life turns away from the outward to the inward. The inner consciousness becomes more real than the outer consciousness, and becomes a peace, happiness and closeness to the Divine.[9]

The Psychic Being[edit]

The Psychic Being is Sri Aurobindo's term for the Personal Evolving Soul, the principle of Divine spirit in every individual.[note 1] The Psychic is the "Innermost Being",[note 2] the permanent being in us that stands behind and supports the physical, vital and mental principles. It "uses mind, life and body as its instruments," undergoing their fate yet also transcending them.[12]

In Integral Yoga the goal is to move inward and discover the Psychic Being, which then can bring about a transformation of the outer nature. This transformation of the outer being or ego by the Psychic is called Psychicisation; it is one of the three necessary stages in the realisation of the Supramental consciousness. This Psychic transformation is the decisive movement that enables a never-ending progress in life, through the power of connecting to one's inner spirit or Divine Essence. The Psychic begins its evolution completely veiled and hidden, but grows through successive lifetimes, and gradually exerts a greater influence, taking on the role of spiritual Guide.[13]

Central being[edit]

Central Being refers to the transcendent and eternal spirit, as opposed to the incarnate and evolving Soul, which he calls the Psychic Being. Sometimes it refers to both of them together as the essential spiritual core of the being.[14] The Central Being "presides over the different births one after the other but is itself unborm" (ibid p. 269). This transcendent Central Being or Spirit is also designated as the Jiva or Jivatman, although the meaning of these terms in Sri Aurobindo's philosophy differs greatly from that of much of conventional Vedanta (especially Advaita Vedanta)

Realms of being[edit]

The realms of being ascend from the subconscient to the Supermind.


The subconscient is part of our inner consciousness. We are not conscious of its workings. It is influenced by the matter of which our bodies are composed. It is the support of thoughts and emotions.


The Physical faculty or part of the being, refers not just to the physical body, but the body's consciousness as well. The body is just as conscious as the vital and mental parts of the being, only it is a different type of consciousness. One does not find the distinction of non-conscious body and conscious mind that characterises Western thought. In Sri Aurobindo's reading of the Taittiriya Upanishad, the physical being (or perhaps just the Physical Purusha) is the anna-maya-atma, the self made of food. Like the other principles of man, the Physical not only shades upwards to higher ontological levels, but also downwards into the Subconscient, which equates to the Subconscious or Lower Unconscious, although Sri Aurobindo asserts that the Subconscient includes much more than the unconscious of (Freudian) psychology. And like all the faculties of the being, the Physical in all its aspects has to be transformed and spiritualised through the practice of Integral Yoga.

The Physical can be subdivided into finer sub-grades:

  • the Physical Proper or pure body consciousness, which represents the consciousness of the external physical body itself.
  • the Vital Physical or Nervous Being (which seems to be equivalent to the Etheric body of western esotericism, and hence pertains to one of the subtle bodies)
  • the Mental Physical (similar to the Physical Mind - see "Mental")
  • the True physical being - is the Purusha of the physical level, which is like the Inner Physical larger than the surface body consciousness and in touch with the a larger spiritual consciousness.
  • the Inner physical - the physical component of the inner being, which is wider and more plastic than the outer physical body. This is also called the subtle physical

Subtle physical[edit]

The Subtle physical is Sri Aurobindo's term for a subtler aspect of the physical nature. This has many qualities not found in the gross physical nature. In The Agenda, The Mother often refers to it. It might be compared to the etheric body and plane, or even the astral body and plane. The term "subtle physical" to distinguish from gross (sthula) or outer material physical:

By the gross physical is meant the earthly and bodily physical - as experienced by the outward sense-mind and senses. But that is not the whole of Matter. There is a subtle physical also with a subtler consciousness in it which can, for instance, go to a distance from the body and yet feel and be aware of things in a not merely mental or vital way.
...the subtle physical has a freedom, plasticity, intensity, power, colour, wide and manifold play (there are thousands of things there that are not here) of which, as yet, we have no possibility on earth.

— Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga


The Vital or Life faculty or part of the being, refers not simply to the life force as to the various passions, desires, feelings, emotions, affects, compulsions, and likes and dislikes that strongly determine human motivation and action through desire and enthusiasm.

Unlike Western psychology, in which mind, emotions, instincts, and consciousness are all lumped together, Sri Aurobindo strongly distinguishes between the "Vital" and the "Mental" faculties.

In addition to the individual Vital faculty, Sri Aurobindo refers to a Vital Plane or Vital world, which would seem to be partly equivalent to the Astral Plane of popular occultism and New Age thought.

Mind or Mental being[edit]

Mind is the conceptual and cognitive mind. Mind is a subordinate process of the Supermind.[15] It is the intermediary stage between the Divine and the mundane life.[16] It works by measuring and dividing reality, and has lost sight of the Divine.[17] It is the seat of ignorance, yet it is still capable of an upward ascent toward the Divine.[18]

Unlike Western psychology, in which mind and consciousness are considered the same, Sri Aurobindo strongly distinguishes between the "Mental" and the "Vital" (emotional) faculties, as well as between Mind and pure Consciousness. Sri Aurobindo in part bases his concept of the Mental on his reading of the Taittiriya Upanishad, the mental being (or perhaps just the Mental Purusha) is the mano-maya-atma - the self made of mind (manas).

For Sri Aurobindo, Mind or the Mental being is not simple and uniform, but consists itself of various strata and subdivisions, which act at different levels of being. These various faculties are described or variously referred to, usually in obliquely or in passing, in some of his books, including Savitri, which has poetic references to many types of Mind.[19] In his letters answering questions from disciples, Sri Aurobindo summarises the characteristics of the various levels of Mind.[20] These various Minds and Mental principles of being include:[21][note 3]

Physical Mind
  • The Mechanical Mind is a much lower action of the mental physical which when left to itself can only repeat the same ideas and record the reflexes of the physical consciousness in its contact with outward life and things.
  • Mind in the physical or mental physical mentalises the experiences of outward life and things, sometimes very cleverly, but it does not go beyond that, unlike the externalising mind which deals with these things from the perspective of reason and its own higher intelligence.
  • Physical Mind - refers to either or both the Externalising Mind and the Mental in the Physical; it is limited to a physical or materialistic perspective, and cannot go beyond that, unless enlightened from above.
  • Mind of Light - according to The Mother this is the Physical Mind receiving the supramental light and thus being able to act directly in the Physical.[22]
Vital Mind
  • Vital Mind - a mediator between the vital emotions, desires, and so on the mental proper. It is limited by the vital view and feeling of things, and expresses the desires, feelings, ambitions,and other active tendencies of the vital in mental forms, such as daydreams and imaginations of greatness, happiness, and so on. As with the Externalising Mind, Sri Aurobindo associates it with the Vishuddha or Throat Chakra
Mind proper
  • Mind Proper - is free-fold, consisting of Thinking Mind, dynamic Mind, externalising Mind. It constitutes the sum of one's thoughts, opinions, ideas, and values, which guide conscious thinking, conceptualizing and decision-making processes, and is transformed, widened, and spiritualised through the practice of Integral Yoga.
  • Thinking Mind - the highest aspect of the mind proper, concerned with ideas and knowledge in their own right. It is equated with the Ajna Chakra
  • Dynamic Mind - that aspect of the ordinary mind that puts out of mental forces for realisation, acting by the idea and by reason. It is also equated with the Ajna or Brow center.
  • Externalising Mind - the most "external" part of the mind proper, concerned with the expression of ideas in speech, in life, or in any form it can give. It is equated with the Vishuddha or Throat Chakra
Higher Mind
  • Higher Mind - the first and lowest of the spiritual mental grades, lying above the normal mental level.
  • Spiritual Mind - either the spiritualised mind, or a general term for levels of mind above the normal mental level (the "Mind Proper").
  • Inner mind - the mental component of the Inner Being, which lies behind the surface mind or ordinary consciousness and can only be directly experienced by sadhana
  • True mental being - is the Purusha of the mental level freed from the error and ignorance of the lower Prakriti and open to the knowledge and guidance above.
  • Psychic Mind - a movement of the mind in which the Psychic Being predominates; the mind turned towards the Divine

Individual higher levels of Mind[edit]

The ascend from the Mind or mental level goes through the Higher Mind, Illumined Mind, Intuitive Mind and Overmind towards the full being of Supermind.

Higher Mind[edit]

Higher Mind is the realm of Truth-thought. It can hold a wide range of knowledge in one vision and an integral whole.[18][note 4] It receives illumination from the Illumined Mind,[23] and is not dependent on the limited knowledge of the senses.[18] It is also capable of transforming the lower realms of body and mind, effectuating change sof habit and life.[18] Nevertheless, it is still a state of thought, in contrast to Illumined Mind, which is a state of vision and spirirtual insight.[23]

Illumined Mind[edit]

Illumined Mind is the mind of sight and vision. It transformes the Higher Mind by providing it a direct vision.[24]


The Higher Mind and the Illumined Mind derive their power from Intuition, which provides the illumination of thought and vision.[24] Mundane mind may experience intuition too, but in the higher realms of mind it becomes more frequent an dstable.[24]


Overmind is the Cosmic Consciousness.[25] It is the plane of Gods. Overmental plane is the highest consciousness one can achieve without transcending the mental system. Beyond overmind are the planes of Supermind or unity-consciousness.[note 5]


Supermind refers to the infinite unitary Truth Consciousness or Truth-Idea beyond the three lower planes of Matter, Life, and Mind. Supermind is the dynamic form of Sachchidananda (Being-Consciousness-Bliss), and the necessary mediator or link between the transcendent Sacchidananda and the creation. (Life Divine Book I, ch.14-16)

The Triple Transformation[edit]

The Triple transformation is the process in which the lower nature is transformed into the divine nature. It consists of the inward psychicisation by which the sadhak gets in contact with the inner divine principle or Psychic Being; the spiritual transformation or spiritualisation; and the Supramentalisation of the entire being.[note 6]


Psychicisation is a turn inward, so that one realises the psychic being, the psychic personality or Divine Soul, in the core of one's being. The Divine Soul serves as a spiritual Guide in the yoga, and enables one to transform the outer being.[26] It may also help avoid the dangers of the spiritual path. There is a intermediate zone, a dangerous and misleading transitional spiritual and pseudospiritual region between the ordinary consciousness and true spiritual realisation.[27]

Psychisiation consists of three methods. In "consecration" one opens oneself to the Force before engaging in an activity. "Moving to the Depths" (or "concentration") is a movement away from the surface existence to a deeper existence within. "Surrender" means offering all one's work, one's life to the Divine Force and Intent.[28][29] Guided by the evolving divine soul within, the sadhak moves away from ego, ignorance, finiteness, and the limitations of the outer being. It is thanks to this guidance by the Divine Soul that the sadhak can avoid the pitfalls of the spiritual path.


As a result of the Psychicisation, light, peace, power is drawn into and descends into the body, transforming all of its parts — physical, vital, and mental. This is the Spiritual transformation, or Spiritualisation, which refers to the bringing down of the larger spiritual consciousness. It is equivalent to "enlightenment", as found in Vedanta and Buddhism.


Supramentalisation is therealisation of the Supermind, or Supramental consciousness, and the resulting transformation of the entire being. Psychicisation and spirtualisation serve as necessary prerequisites for the Supramentalisation of the entire being.[30]

The supramental transformation is the final stage in the integral yoga, enabling the birth of a new individual, fully formed by the supramental power. Such individuals would be the forerunners of a new supra-humanity, grounded in truth-consciousness. All aspects of division and ignorance of consciousness, at the vital and mental levels, would be overcome, and replaced with a unity of consciousness at every plane. And even the physical body transformed and divinised. A new supramental species would then emerge, living a supramental, gnostic, divine life on earth.[31]


Unlike other Yoga practices Integral yoga does not propose any kind of physical asanas, breathing techniques or external movements and is more psychological in nature. Aurobindo suggests a grand program called sapta chatushtaya (seven quadrates), describing the flowering of potentialities into a divine being.[web 2][web 3] Aurobindo received these instructions as a series of mantras while he was imprisoned in Alipore prison. They were copied by Arun to use for study.[web 4] it consists of shanti (calm), shakti (power), vijnana (knowledge), sharira (body), karma (divine work), Brahma, and siddhi (realization).[web 2]


Three basic difficulties for mankind[edit]

Aurobindo takes the view that the fundamental cause of phenomenon of Falsehood, error and evil is due to Ignorance, Ignorance being a self-limiting knowledge arose due to exclusive concentration in a single field. He finds humans notion of good, bad & evil are uncertain and relative.[32]

Man being a mental being, Aurobindo finds the crux of the current human life problem is due to mainly three difficulites faced by him:

  1. Partial Self-awareness- Aurobindo finds that man is only aware of a small part about himself, he is aware of surface mentality, surface physical being, his surface life and is not aware of the larger and more potent his subconscious mind and hidden life impulses.
  2. Partial awareness of other beings - He finds that man through his inferences, theories, observations creates a rough mental construction of his fellow beings, and has an understanding created by a mental knowledge, a knowledge of surface existence therefore imperfect in itself and is usually subjected to denial & frustration. He suggests a conscious unity is the key & is only possible by entering into that in which all are one with them. But this unity he finds would not be possible to achieve at current poise of mind, life and body but from a superior mind which he terms as a Supermind could be able to command unity in diversity.[33]
  3. A division between Force and consciousness in evolution - the process of evolution itself successively created three different formations of Matter, life & mind, each with its own law of working, often warrign with each other. Aurobindo finds that this war between factors has been tried to be resolved by materialist by submitting onself to the mortality of our being and in the opposite way the ascetics or the religionists (buddhists) have tried to reject earthly life to find an easier and happier field of existence. A true solution may lie in finding the principle beyond mind of which immortality would be the law and in conquering by it the moratality of our existence.[34]


Aurbindo finds that as humans are accustomed to respond to certain vibrations more than other, this develops into one's desire, pain, feelings (all being a set of habits). This set of habits being crystallised would become one's personality. This is actually the Universal nature depositing certain habits of movement, personality, character, faculties, dispositions, tendencies in humans which is normally believed to be "self". The appearance of stable personality is given by constant repetition and recurrence of the same vibrations and formations. Thus this being would be hung in between a hierarchy of matter and spirit a gradation of consciousness.[35]


Comparison of the models of Wilber and Aurobindo; differentiating between Aurobindo's levels of being and Aurobindo's developmental stages.

Aurobindo had a strong influence on Ken Wilber's integral theory of spiritual development. Wilber's Causal and Ultimate stages closely resemble Aurobindo's higher mental stages.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ According to The Mother, the term "Psychic" or Psychic Being is derived from the occult kabbalistic teachings of Max Théon.[10] Sri Aurobindo distinguishes between the Psychic Being as being defined in his Integral Yoga, and the ordinary meaning of "psychic," which refers more to psychological phenomena, or to paranormal phenomena, which are connected with the subtle physical layers.[10]
  2. ^ Amal Kiran[11]
  3. ^ A small but popular book by Jyoti and Prem Sobel, The Hierarchy of Minds, comes closest to a systematic coverage of an Aurobindonian noetology by gathering all of Sri Aurobindo's references and quotes on the subject of "Mind" and arranging these according to the type of Mind.
  4. ^ Compare Ken Wilber's Centaur or vision-logic; see Integral theory (Ken Wilber)#Levels or stages
  5. ^ A detailed description of the Overmind is provided in Book I ch.28, and Book II ch.26, of Sri Aurobindo's philosophical opus The Life Divine.
  6. ^ This is described in The Life Divine part 2, ch.25, and Letters on Yoga part 4, section 1.


  1. ^ Aurobindo (1939), p. 1107.
  2. ^ Aurobindo (1996), p. 282
  3. ^ The Life Divine Bk I, Ch.11-12
  4. ^ a b Aurobindo (1939), p. 254-255
  5. ^ Aurobindo (1939), p. 221
  6. ^ Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 10th ed. 1977.
  7. ^ The Life Divine bk II, ch.27-28.
  8. ^ Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, pp.47-48
  9. ^ Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, 3rd ed. 1971, p.307
  10. ^ a b The Life Divine p. 227 note
  11. ^ Craig Hamilton The Miraculous Power of the Soul - A meeting with Amal Kiran, Pondicherry
  12. ^ The Life Divine p. 891
  13. ^ The Life Divine pp. 891–4
  14. ^ Letters on Yoga vol.I under "Planes and Parts of Being" (pp. 265ff in the 3rd ed.)
  15. ^ Chakravorty 1991, p. 42.
  16. ^ Chakravorty 1991, p. 40-41.
  17. ^ Chakravorty 1991, p. 41.
  18. ^ a b c d Chakravorty 1991, p. 43.
  19. ^ Jyoti and Prem Sobel 1984 pp. 152–62
  20. ^ Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga vol. I pp. 324–5
  21. ^ Jyoti and Prem Sobel, The Hierarchy of Minds
  22. ^ The Mother, 1980, pp. 63–64
  23. ^ a b Chakravorty 1991, p. 45.
  24. ^ a b c Chakravorty 1991, p. 47.
  25. ^ Chakravorty 1991, p. 49.
  26. ^ Aurobindo, The Life Divine (book II - chapter 25
  27. ^ Sri Aurobindo's Letters on Yoga - The Intermediate Zone
  28. ^ Synthesis of Yoga Part I ch. II-III
  29. ^ Letters on Yoga vol. II pp.585ff (3rd ed.)
  30. ^ Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, pp.281-2
  31. ^ The Life Divine book II ch.27-28
  32. ^ Aurobindo (1939), p. 622
  33. ^ Aurobindo (1939), p. 227
  34. ^ Aurobindo (1939), p. 228
  35. ^ Aurobindo (1996), p. 210


Printed sources[edit]

Sri Aurobindo
Other sources
  • Anon. The integral yoga; Sri Aurobindo's Teaching and Method of Practice, 1993 Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust.
  • Anon. Glossary to the Record of Yoga
  • Satprem (1998), Mothers Agenda 1969 10, Institut de Recherches Evolutives, ISBN 8185137366 
  • Chakravorty, Satya Jyoti (1991), The Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo, Sterling Publishers 
  • Tulsidas Chatterjee, Sri Aurobindo's Integral Yoga, Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry 1970
  • Morwenna Donnelly, Founding the Life Divine: An Introduction to the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo - Hawthorn Books, 1956
  • Madhav Pundalik Pandit, Sri Aurobindo and His Yoga, Lotus Press 1987 ISBN 0-941524-25-6
  • Madhav Pundalik Pandit, Dictionary of Sri Aurobindo's Yoga Lotus Press 1992 ISBN 0-941524-74-4
  • McDermott, Robert A. (2001), "Introduction", The Essential Aurobindo, SteinerBooks 
  • The Mother (1980), Words of the Mother, Collected Works of the Mother, Centenary Edition vol.13, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Pondicherry
  • Savitri: A Legend and a Symbol, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin ISBN 0-941524-80-9
  • Sen, Indra (1986) Integral Psychology: The Psychological System of Sri Aurobindo, Pondicherry, India: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust
  • Jyoti and Prem Sobel (1984) The Hierarchy of Minds, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Pondicherry
  • Joseph Vrinte, The Concept of Personality in Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga Psychology and A. Maslow’s Humanistic/Transpersonal Psychology, South Asia Books; 1994, 236pp ISBN 81-215-0647-6
  • Joseph Vrinte, The Quest for the Inner Man: Transpersonal Psychology and Integral Sadhana, Sri Mira Trust, Pondicherry, India, also Motilal Banarsidass, 1996, 282pp, ISBN 81-208-1502-5
  • Joseph Vrinte The Perennial Quest for a Psychology with a Soul : An inquiry into the relevance of Sri Aurobindo’s metaphysical yoga psychology in the context of Ken Wilber’s integral psychology, Joseph Vrinte, [Motilal Banarsidass?], 2002, 568pp, ISBN 81-208-1932-2