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Sri Aurobindo (Bangla: শ্রী অরবিন্দ, Sri Ôrobindo Sanskrit: श्री अरविन्द Srī Aravinda) (August 15, 1872–December 5, 1950) was an Indian nationalist, scholar, poet, mystic, evolutionary philosopher, yogi and guru . His followers further believe that he was an avatar, an incarnation of the Absolute.
Sri Aurobindo spent his life — through his vast writings and through his own development — working for the freedom of India, the path to the further evolution of life on earth, and to bring down what he called the Supermind to enable such progress. He referred to his teachings as the "integral yoga".
|The Mother and Sri Aurobindo|
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Sri Aurobindo was born Aurobindo Akroyd Ghose (pronounced and often written as Ghosh) in Kolkata (Calcutta), India, on 15th August, 1872. His father was Dr K. D. Ghose and his mother Swarnalata Devi. Dr Ghose, who had lived in Britain, and had studied at Aberdeen University, was determined that his children should have a completely European upbringing, sent Aurobindo and his siblings to the Loreto Convent School at Darjeeling. At the age of seven Aurobindo was taken along with his two elder brothers, Manmohan and Benoybhusan, to England. There, they were placed with a clergyman and his wife, a Mr and Mrs.Drewett, at Manchester. Mr and Mrs Drewett tutored Aurobindo privately. Mr Drewett, himself a capable scholar, grounded Aurobindo so well in Latin that Aurobindo was able to gain admission into St Paul's School in London. At St. Paul's Aurobindo mastered Greek and excelled at Latin. The last three years at St Paul's were spent in reading, especially English Poetry. At St. Paul's he received the Butterworth Prize for literature, the Bedford Prize for history and a scholarship to King's College, Cambridge University. He returned to India in 1893.
During the First Partition of Bengal from 1905 to 1912, he became a leader of the group of Indian nationalists known as the Extremists for their willingness to use violence and advocate outright independence, a plank more moderate nationalists had shied away from up to that point.He was one of the founders of Jugantar party, an underground revolutionary outfit. He was the editor of a nationalist Bengali newspaper Vande Mataram (spelt and pronounced as Bônde Matôrom in the Bengali language) and came into frequent confrontation with the British Raj as a result. In 1907 attended a convention of Indian nationalists where he was seen as the new leader of the movement. But his life was beginning to take a new direction. In Baroda he met a Maharashtrian yogi called Vishnu Bhaskar Lele who convinced him to explore the ancient Hindu practices of yoga.
It was at this point that Rabindranath Tagore paid him a visit and wrote the now famous lines:
- Rabindranath, O Aurobindo, bows to thee! O friend, my country's friend, O Voice incarnate, free, Of India's soul....The fiery messenger that with the lamp of God Hath come...Rabindranath, O Aurobindo, bows to thee.
His final conversion from an active nationalist into a profound sage and seer occurred while incarcerated for a year in the Alipur jail in Kolkata in the province of Bengal. While incarcerated he was inspired by his meditating on the famed Hindu scripture of the Bhagavad Gita.
While in Alipore Jail, Sri Aurobindo claimed to be visited by the renowned Swami Vivekananda, a Hindu philosopher of great importance to Advaita Vedanta, in his meditation. The swami guided Sri Aurobindo's yoga and helped him to scale great heights. It was there Sri Aurobindo saw the convicts, jailers, policemen, the prison bars, the trees, the judge, the lawyer etc., in the experience and realization of Vasudeva, a form of Vishnu. Sri Aurobindo was even able to see compassion, honesty and charity in the hearts of murderers.
The trial for which he was incarcerated was one of the important trials in Indian nationalism movement. There were 49 accused and 206 witnesses. 400 documents were filed and 5000 exhibits were produced including bombs, revolvers and acid. The English judge, C.B. Beechcroft, had been a student with Sri Aurobindo at Cambridge. The Chief Prosecutor Eardley Norton displayed a loaded revolver on his briefcase during the trial. The case for Sri Aurobindo was taken up by Chittaranjan Das. Chittaranjan Das, in his conclusion to the Judge, said: "... My appeal to you is this, that long after the controversy will be hushed in silence, long after this turmoil, this agitation will have ceased, long after he (Sri Aurobindo) is dead and gone, he will be looked upon as the poet of patriotism, as the prophet of nationalism and lover of humanity. Long after he is dead and gone, his words will be echoed and re-echoed, not only in India, but across distant seas and lands. Therefore, I say that the man in his position is not only standing before the bar of this Court, but before the bar of the High Court of History." The trial ("Alipore Bomb Case, 1908") lasted for one full year. Aurobindo was acquitted.
Afterwards Aurobindo started two new weeklies: the Karmayogin in English and the Dharma in Bengali. However, it appeared that the British government would not tolerate his nationalist program as Lord Minto wrote about him: I can only repeat that he is the most dangerous man we have to reckon with.
Philosophical and spiritual writings
In 1914 after four years of concentrated yoga at Pondicherry, Sri Aurobindo launched Arya, a 64 page monthly review. For the next six and a half years this became the vehicle for most of his most important writings, which appeared in serialised form. These included The Life Divine, The Synthesis of Yoga, Essays on The Gita, The Secret of The Veda, Hymns to the Mystic Fire, The Upanishads, The Foundations of Indian Culture, War and Self-determination, The Human Cycle, The Ideal of Human Unity, and The Future Poetry. Sri Aurobindo however revised some of these works before they were published in book form.
He also wrote a very small book entitled "THE MOTHER" which was first published in 1928. In a way, it is the "Instructions Manual" for "Sadhaka" - aspirant - the "Yogi" - of the "Integral Yoga". In this book (less than 16 full size pages), the "Seer of the Modern Age" has written about his "Seeing" the Supreme Divine Mother - The Divine Shakti; especially "Four great Aspects of the Mother, four of her leading Powers and Personalities (which) have stood in front in her guidance of the Universe and her dealings with the terrestrial play. ...". He clearly and very explicitly wrote the conditions to be fulfilled by the "Sadhaka" for receiving the Grace of the Divine Mother for the "... great transmutation". He is probably the only Spiritual Master who has very clearly and emphatically written about Money/Wealth. ".... This is indeed one of the three forces - power, wealth, sex- that have the strongest attraction for the human ego and.....".
After this prolific output, Sri Aurobindo's only literary works, apart from some poems and essays, was his epic poem Savitri, which he continued to revise for the rest of his life. However, following his retirement from public life in 1926, he maintained a voluminous correspondence with his disciples. His letters, most of which were written in the 1930s, numbered in the several thousands, and some of these were later published in three volumes as Letters on Yoga.
Although Sri Aurobindo wrote most of his material in English, his major works were later translated into a number of languages, including the Indian languages Hindi, Bengali, Oriya, Gujarati, Marathi, Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, and Malayalam, as well as French, German, Italian, Dutch, Spanish, Chinese, Portuguese, Slovene and Russian. A large amount of his work in Russian translation is also available online.
His closest collaborator in his yoga, Mirra Richard (née Alfassa), was known as The Mother. She was born in Paris on February 21, 1878, to Turkish and Egyptian parents. Involved in the cultural and spiritual life of Paris, she counted among her friends Alexandra David-Neel. She went to Pondicherry on March 29, 1914, finally settling there in 1920. Sri Aurobindo considered her his equal and because of her astuteness as an organiser, left it to her to plan, run and build the growing ashram. After November 24, 1926, when Sri Aurobindo retired into seclusion, she supervised the organization of the ashram, the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education (which, with its pilot experiments in the field of education, very much impressed observers like Jawaharlal Nehru), and later institutes like Auroville, the international township near the town of Pondicherry. She became the leader of the community after Sri Aurobindo died; she is revered by followers of Sri Aurobindo as well. Executing the mandate she received from her Guru, she did not leave Pondicherry till her last breath on November 17, 1973. She was to play an active role in the merger of the French pockets in India and, according to Sri Aurobindo's wish, to make of Pondicherry a seat of cultural exchange between India and France.
The Mother's attempts to bring the new consciousness into life and her personal effort of physical transformation of her own body are described in the 13-volume series of books known as The Agenda.