Sri Aurobindo was one of the greatest seers of modern India. His spiritual affiliation with The Mother led to the foundation of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, dedicated to the service of human development on earth.
Sri Aurobindo spent his lifetime encapsulating the spirit of divine consciousness into his written works. The Mother also played a great role in spreading the new evolutionary spiritual force, unveiled by Sri Aurobindo, amongst great many disciples. Together, they exploited every spiritual recline to emancipate the earth from various atrocities including sufferings, hatred, deception, paucity etc.
Aurobindo’s philosophy supported the fact that mankind is not the last rung on the ladder. Man would have to evolve and come of age in his spiritual terms so that various malfunctions from the society get eradicated. Sri Aurobindo envisaged transformation of mankind into species with greater knowledge and substance for its higher spiritual evolution.
On 15th August 1872, Sri Aurobindo was born to Dr K. D. Ghose (father) and Swarnalata Devi (mother) in Kolkata, India. Since the beginning, Dr K. D. Ghose was adamant on providing English education to his children. He sent Aurobindo and his siblings to Loreto Convent School in Darjeeling and from there to Manchester, England.
Youth and Studies
At Manchester all the siblings were kept under the special care of Mr. and Mrs. Drewett. Mr. Drewett taught Latin to Aurobindo which helped him get admission at St Paul’s School of London. Along with Latin, Aurobindo also got acquainted in Greek. But, the last three years of his schooling at St. Paul’s which he spent reading English Literature, especially English Poetry, were most crucial in his entire student life.
Aurobindo was an extremely brilliant student and was also awarded Butterworth Prize for literature and Bedford Prize for history. He also secured a scholarship to King’s College, at the Cambridge University. While studying at Cambridge, he got introduced to the Indian freedom struggle and the plight of India under British rule. At that time, he was on the verge of becoming a British civil servant; however, he quit his test and decided to return to his homeland. In the year 1893, he returned to India and entered the Princely State of Baroda. He bagged the job of a professor in the state’s college. He simultaneously started learning all about Indian history, language and culture.
Contribution to Society
After returning to homeland in 1893, Aurobindo spent the next thirteen years, i.e. till 1906, in the service of Maharaja of Baroda. He worked in different positions and offices including –
- in the Revenue Department (the first job),
- then in the secretariat for the Maharaja,
- subsequently as Professor of English and,
- finally, as the Vice-Principal in the Baroda College.
Along with his job, he also learnt various Indian languages including Sanskrit; he gathered adequate knowledge on Indian civilization, mythology, facts, literature etc. Here, he also wrote many poems which later got published during his stay in Pondicherry.
From 1902 to 1910, Aurobindo was active in Indian politics. For the first few years, he preferred passive participation in politics for instance, strategizing the Swadeshi movement. But, the Bengal agitation compelled him to initiate direct confrontation with the British, putting behind his moderate approach adopted in lines with the Indian National Congress.
Sri Aurobindo was the first politician editor of the English language newspaper Bande Mataram which was founded by Bipin Chandra Pal in the year 1905. Aurobindo openly disseminated his aggressive nationalist ideas through this newspaper which influenced many freedom fighters. In his journey as a patriot, Aurobindo was twice charged for sedition and once for conspiracy. He was prosecuted all times and released every time for lack of evidence.
Guru of the Guru
Soon Aurobindo became a well known face in the world of politics as he started active participation in the Indian freedom struggle. It was during this time that Aurobindo came across Lele Maharaj, a popular meditation guru, who instilled unto him the art of self-control and total composure. To the astonishment of Lele Maharaj, Aurobindo attained ‘Nirvana’ within the first three days of the commencement of his classes. However, Aurobindo’s real calling in the path of his spiritual upliftment arrived in 1908 when he was imprisoned for a year on charges of illegal possession of weapons. While in jail, he indulged into deep meditation, and also read and researched extensively on the ancient principles of Yoga.
Aurobindo’s one year contemplation in prison helped him realize his real calling. He left politics and decided to devote himself completely towards spiritual discipline. He met Sister Nivedita, one of the greatest disciples of Swami Vivekananda. He resettled from Calcutta to Pondicherry (Puducherry), which stands today as an independent Indian Union Territory and a famous spiritual hub. At Pondicherry, Aurobindo got completely involved into writing spiritual content in the form of articles, poetry etc.
Life at Pondicherry
Complying with his inner calling, Aurobindo sought permanent retirement from politics in the year 1910, and moved from Chandernagore (Calcutta) to Pondicherry in French India. Here, he explored a new phase of life and completely absorbed himself into spiritual practices, Yoga, and meditation (sadhana).
For the next four years (1910-1914) he performed silent Yoga to meet and understand his inner-self. He published spiritual and subliminal vision of these four years in his philosophical monthly, the Arya. Some of the most important works of his life which include the following also got published one after the other in the Arya.
- The Life Divine,
- The Synthesis of Yoga,
- Essays on the Gita,
- The Isha Upanishad
The above works reflect the perfect spiritual picture as envisioned by Aurobindo while practicing the silent Yoga.
Other books of Aurobindo address various social and human aspects. These are –
The Foundations of Indian Culture – Based on Indian culture and civilization.
The Secret of the Veda – Explaining the hidden meaning of the Vedas.
The Human Cycle – Reflecting on the social progress of mankind.
The Future Poetry – Delving upon the world of poetry and its growth over the years.
The Ideal of Human Unity – Exploring various aspects of unity in the human race.
At Pondicherry, Sri Aurobindo was staying with a couple of disciples. However, soon the number grew exponentially which led to the foundation of Sri Aurobindo Ashram. People in thousands sought spiritual recline at the Ashram, leaving behind all worldly affairs for the sake of elevated life. Sri Aurobindo Ashram was inaugurated on November 24, 1926, with 24 active members. Same year in December, a young French lady Mirra Alfassa joined the Ashram. Sri Aurobindo saw sincerity and devotion in her and soon entrusted her with crucial responsibilities of the Ashram. Mirra Alfassa assumed a new pious name and started getting recognized as ‘The Mother’. Together with The Mother, Sri Aurobindo spread his teachings on spiritual Yoga and meditation for higher human development. Today, Sri Aurobindo Ashram has several branches across the world, spreading the teachings of one of the greatest seers and spiritual leaders of modern India.
Books by Sri Aurobindo
1. The Life Divine
2. The Essential Aurobindo: Writings of Sri Aurobindo
3. Savitri: A Legend & A Symbol
4. Synthesis of Yoga
5. Powers Within
6. Gems from Sri Aurobindo
Below mentioned is the message as put forward by Sri Aurobindo while on three-day meditation as instructed by his Guru, Lele Maharaj.
“I did not think either of questioning the truth or the possibility, I simply sat down and did it. In a moment my mind became silent as a windless air on a high mountain summit and then I saw one thought and then another coming in a concrete way from outside; I flung them away before they could enter and take hold of the brain and in three days I was free.”
Some of his other messages:
o Never complain of the behavior of anyone, unless you have the power to change his nature what makes him act in this way and if you have the power, change him instead of complaining.
o It is not with severity but with self mastery that children are controlled.
o Never get excited, nervous or agitated. Remain perfectly calm in the face of all circumstances and yet be always alert to discover what progress you still have to make and lose no time in making it.
o Try to take pleasure in all you do, but never do anything for the sake of pleasure.
Aurobindo spent the last years of his life intensively replying to the letters of his disciples. He spent quality time explaining to his disciples how Yoga and its various applications would help in releasing one’s pain, fear and anxiety. As a seer, philosopher, author and spiritual master, Aurobindo opined that every religion is true and correct in its own terms.
Out of all his works, ‘The Life Divine’ describing his integral Yoga became the most famous. On 5th December 1950, Aurobindo left his body to unite with the Supreme Soul. Even today, he is very much alive amongst us through his spiritual teachings.
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