Sri Aurobindo (1872 - 1950)
Every year on the 15th of August, which
coincides with India's Independence Day, Hindus celebrate the birth
anniversary of Rishi Aurobindo — the great Indian scholar,
litterateur, philosopher, patriot, social reformer and visionary.
Sri Aurobindo was born in a Bengali family in Calcutta in 1872. His
anglophile father Dr K D Ghose christened him Aurobindo Ackroyd Ghose at
birth. When he was five years old, Aurobindo was admitted to the Loreto
Convent School in Darjeeling.
At the age of seven, he was sent to St. Paul's School in London and then to
King's College, Cambridge with a senior classical scholarship. Academically
brilliant, he soon became proficient in English, Greek, Latin and French and
became well acquainted with German, Italian and Spanish. He also qualified
for the Indian Civil Service but was dismissed from the Service for not
presenting himself at the riding examination upon completion of his two
years of probation.
In 1893, at the age of 21, Aurobindo Ghose began working under the Maharaja
of Baroda. He went on to become a part-time lecturer in French at Baroda
College, and then a regular professor in English, and afterwards the
Vice-Principal of the college. Here he studied Sanskrit, Indian history and
several Indian languages.
In 1906, Aurobindo abandoned the position of the Principal of India's first
National University in Calcutta, and plunged into active politics. He
participated in India's struggle for freedom against the British, and soon
became a prominent name with his patriotic editorials in Bande Mataram. For
the Indians, he became, as said C R Das, "the poet of patriotism, the
prophet of nationalism and a lover of humanity", and in the words of Netaji
Subhas Chandra Bose, "a name to conjure with". But to the Viceroy of India
Lord Minto, he was "the most dangerous man we…have to reckon with".
Aurobindo championed the Leftists' idealism and was a dauntless promoter of
independence. He opened the purblind Indians' eyes towards the dawn of
freedom and instigated them to rise from their slavish stupor. The British
soon took him under detention and imprisoned him from 1908 to 1909. However,
this one year of seclusion turned out to be a blessing in disguise not only
for Sri Aurobindo but for mankind as well. It was in prison that he first
realized man should aspire and emerge into a completely New Being and try
and create a divine life upon earth.
A Divine Life
This vision led Aurobindo to undergo a profound spiritual transformation,
and it is believed that after one such meditative trance in jail, he rose up
to proclaim that India would gain her freedom at midnight on 15th August,
1947 — Aurobindo's birthday. Indeed, it rang true!
In 1910, obeying an inner call, he arrived at Pondichery, which was then in
French India, and established what is now known as the Auroville Ashram. He
left politics entirely and dedicated himself wholly to an inner awakening,
which would spiritually elevate mankind forever.
He spent tireless years on the path of "Internal Yoga", i.e. to acquire
spiritual upliftment of the mind, will, heart, life, body, the conscious as
well as the subconscious and the superconscious parts of ourselves, to gain
what he called the "Supramental Consciousness".
Henceforth, Sri Aurobindo tussled inwardly with the dark forces within man
and raised secret spiritual battles to establish truth, peace and perennial
joy. He believed that only this would enable man to approach the divine.
His object was not to develop any religion or establish a new faith or an
order but to attempt an inner self-development by which each human being can
perceive the oneness in all and procure an elevated consciousness that will
externalize the god-like attributes in man.
A Great Litterateur
Rishi Aurobindo left behind a substantial body of enlightening literature.
His major works include The Life Divine, The Synthesis of Yoga, Essays on
the Gita, Commentaries on the Isha Upanishad, Powers Within — all dealing
with the intense knowledge that he had gained in the practice of Yoga. Many
these appeared in his monthly philosophical publication, the Arya, which
appeared regularly for 6 years until 1921.
His other books are The Foundations of Indian Culture, The Ideal of Human
Unity, The Future Poetry, The Secret of the Veda, The Human Cycle. Among
students of English literature, Aurobindo is mainly known for Savitri, a
great epical work of 23,837 lines directing man towards the Supreme Being.
This great sage left his mortal body in 1950 at the age of 72. He left to
the world a priceless heritage of spiritual glory that alone can free man
from the troubles that beset it. His ultimate message to humanity, he summed
up in these words:
"A divine life in a divine body is the formula of the ideal that we