Sri Aurobindo was born in Calcutta on 15th August, 1872. The name given to him at his birth was Aurobindo Ackroyd Ghose. In the year 1879, when he was seven years, he was sent to England for studies. In the year 1884 Aurobindo came to London and was admitted to St. Paul’s School. He has mastered several languages like Latin, Geek, French, Italian, and Spanish. He returned to India in the year 1893 and worked for thirteen years as a professor in the state college in Baroda. At the age of 38 he went to Pondicherry and developed a new spiritual path, the Integral Yoga. The main writings of Sri Aurobindo includes “ The Life Divine ”, “ Synthesis of Yoga ”, “ Savitri ” etc. Sri Aurobindo installed Mirra .. The Mother, as his successor.
Sri Aurobindo was born in Calcutta.
The day was 15th August, 1872 .. the time – 5.00 am, the hour of dawn.
The name given to Sri Aurobindo at birth was Aurobindo Ackroyd Ghose.
When Sri Aurobindo was five years old, he was sent to Loretto Convent School at Darjeeling. Two years later, in 1879, Dr.Ghose sent his sons, including Aurobindo, who was then only seven, to England.
“ Studied several languages ”
In 1884, Sri Aurobindo shifted to London and was admitted to St. Paul’s. The headmaster was so pleased with his mastery of Latin that he took it upon himself to teach him Greek. It is here that Sri Aurobindo plunged into the literature of the Western world and studied several languages .. French, Italian, Spanish, Greek and Latin, and absorbed the best that Western culture had to offer him.
Sri Aurobindo was then in his early teens. He described how he spent several years in the bitter cold of London :
“ During a whole year, a slice or two of bread and butter and a cup of tea in the morning and in the evening only a penny saveloy .. a kind of sausage … formed the only food ! ”
For nearly two years he had to go practically without dinner at that young age. He had no overcoat to protect him from the rigours of the London winter and there was no heating arrangement in the office where he slept, nor had he a proper bedroom. But Sri Aurobindo was immersed in his books and was feasting on the thoughts of the great.
He got the Butterworth Prize for literature, the Bedford Prize for history and a scholarship to Cambridge.
“ Admission into Cambridge ”
In 1890, at the age of eighteen, Sri Aurobindo got admission into Cambridge. He studied the classics doing brilliantly and passed high in the first part of the Tripos. The famous Oscar Browning happened to correct his papers and told Sri Aurobindo.
“ I suppose you know you passed an extraordinarily high examination. I have examined papers at thirteen examinations and I have never during that time seen such excellent papers as yours. As for your essay, it was wonderful. ”
It was thus that Sri Aurobindo grew, away from his family, away from his motherland, away from his roots and his culture.
He knew seven foreign languages but could not speak his own tongue, Bengali.
“ Began to learn bengali ”
Sri Aurobindo also felt that period of great upheaval for his motherland was coming in which he was destined to play a leading role.
He began to learn Bengali and joined a secret society, with the romantic name of “ Lotus and Dagger ” The Gaekwad of Baroda happened to be in London and offered him a place in his service.
“ Back to india ”
Sri Aurobindo sailed back to his country in 1893, at the age of twenty-one, having spent the most important and formative fourteen years of his life, in a foreign land.
The moment Sri Aurobindo put his foot down on Indian soil, at Apollo Bunder in Bombay, a vast peace and calm descended upon him, never to leave him ! Unknowingly, and unasked, the spiritual life had also begun !
After some time, Sri Aurobindo was transferred to the Baroda College, first as a teacher of French, and then as Vice-Principal, where he was very popular with the students for his unconventional way of teaching.
“ Voracious reader ”
In Baroda, Sri Aurobindo plunged himself into a study of Indian culture, as if to make up for all the years he had lost.
He learnt Hindustani, Marathi, Bengali, Gujarati, and Sanskrit.
He was a voracious reader, and two bookshops in Bombay kept him regularly supplied with books sent in crates.
Sitting by a kerosene lamp he would read late into the night, unmindful of the swarming mosquitoes and often quite unaware of the waiting food.
Sri Aurobindo read the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, Kalidasa, Bhavabhuti, Bankim as well as Homer, Dante, Horace and many others. He also wrote a lot of poetry and his first collection of poems was published from Baroda.
“ Spiritual Experience ”
In 1903, Sri Aurobindo went to Kashmir with the Maharaja of Baroda. There on the Hills of Shankaracharya, he had a beautiful spiritual experience. In another context, he described a similar experience thus :
“ One stands upon a mountain ridge and glimpses or mentally feels a wideness, a pervasiveness, a nameless vast in nature. ”
“ Then, suddenly, there comes the touch .. a revelation, a flooding .. the mental loses itself in the spiritual .. one bears the first invasion of the Infinite.”
Once Sri Aurobindo visited a Kali Temple on the bank of the Narmada. He said :
“ With my Europeanised mind I had no faith in Image-worship and I hardly believed in the presence of God. ”
But he was compelled to do so when he looked at the image and saw a living Divine Presence. He wrote afterwards :
“ You stand before a temple of Kali beside a sacred river and see what .. a sculpture .. a gracious piece of architecture ; but in a moment .. mysteriously, unexpectedly .. there is instead a Presence, a Power, a Face that looks into yours, an inner sight in you has regarded the World-Mother. ”
The fourth experience has an interesting background.
His younger brother Barin fell seriously ill with mountain fever. When the doctors were helpless, a ‘ Naga Sanyasi ’ happened to come there. He took a cup of water, cut in into four by making across with a knife while chanting a mantra and asked Barin to drink it. The next day Barin was completely cured ! Sri Aurobindo was greatly impressed and this also proved to be his conscious entry into the field of Yoga.
Sri Aurobindo said humorously that he had a back door entry into yoga. But the immediate result was that he took up the practice of pranayama. Soon there were some startling physical and psychological results. His mind and memory worked with a greater illumination and power. His skin also became smooth and fair.
“ Met Vishnu Bhaskar Lele ”
Sri Aurobindo met in Baroda a Maharashtrian Yogi called Vishnu Bhaskar Lele.
Lele asked Sri Aurobindo to remain in seclusion for three days.He told him to sit in meditation and not to think. He would find that thoughts were not his own but came from outside and should be thrown away. Sri Aurobindo describes his experience :
“ 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.”
In three days, Sri Aurobindo had achieved the silent mind which deepened into an experience of the Brahman Consciousness.
“ Began listening to a voice within ”
Sri Aurobindo had to address a national meeting after three days. His mind had become calm and blank. How was he to give a speech? Lele told him that it did not matter. He had only to bow down to the audience as Narayana and everything would be all right.
As usual, Sri Aurobindo followed the directions without questioning and he found that something else spoke through him.
And thus it was for the rest of his life ..everything was done from the silent Brahman Consciousness, writing, speaking or the most intense political activity.
This was another great turning point in Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual life. He began listening to a voice within and Lele told him to follow it
and that he now had no need for any further instructions or an external Guru.
“ Solitary confinement ”
A major spiritual experience of Sri Aurobindo was in the prison-cell of Alipore in Calcutta.
Sri Aurobindo was arrested from his house. He was imprisoned and, for a long time, kept in a small cell in solitary confinement.
The case for Sri Aurobindo was taken up by C.R. Das. The trial lasted for one full year.
At the end, C.R. Das addressed the court in these ringing words :
“ My appeal to you is this, that long after the controversy will be hushed in silence, long after this turmoil, the agitation will have ceased, long after he is dead and gone, he will be looked upon as the poet of patriotism, as the prophet of nationalism and the 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. ”
Sri Aurobindo was found not guilty and acquitted.
“ Experience of Krishna as the immanent divine ”
But this period of one year was a very important period in Sri Aurobindo’s life.
It was a period of intense sadhana when he had the experience of Krishna as the Immanent Divine. The experience, in his own words, in a speech in Uttarpara :
“ I looked at the jail that secluded me from men and it was no longer by its high walls that I was imprisoned ; no, it was Vasudeva who surrounded me !
“ I walked under the branches of the tree infront of my cell but it was not the tree, I knew it was Vasudeva, it was Sri Krishna
“ I walked under the branches of the tree infront of my cell but it was not the tree, I knew it was Vasudeva, it was Sri Krishna whom I saw standing there and holding over me His shade !
“ I looked at the bars of my cell, the very grating that did duty for a door and again I saw Vasudeva ! It was Narayana who was guarding and standing sentry over me !
“ I lay on the coarse blankets that were given me for a couch and felt the arms of Sri Krishna around me, the arms of my Friend and Lover. ”
Sri Aurobindo saw the same smiling Krishna in the magistrate and even the prosecuting counsel ! Where was there any place for fear ? When Sri Aurobindo had entered the prison he had said :
“ The agnostic was in me, the atheist was in me, the sceptic was in me and I was not absolutely sure that there was God at all .”
One day when Sri Aurobindo was sitting in the ‘ Karmoyogin ’ office, news was received that the Government intended to arrest him.
Immediately, there was an agitated discussion all around. Sri Aurobindo sat calm and unmoving and heard a distinct voice tell him :
Sri Aurobindo went straight to the Ganga and boarded a boat for Chandernagore which was then a French settlement. Soon he received another adesh to go to Pondicherry. Sri Aurobindo remarked later :
“ I could not question. It was Sri Krishna’s adesh ! I had to obey ! Later I found it was for the Ashram, for the Yogic work ! ”
“ Sailed for pondicherry ”
Sri Aurobindo sailed for Pondicherry to start the most important chapter of his earthly life. Sri Aurobindo reached Pondicherry on 4th April 1910. He was then 38 years old. He was received by several revolutionaries of Pondicherry. In fact some of them had been waiting for an ‘ Uttarayogi ’, a yogi from the North. They had heard the prophecy that he would come as a fugitive and practise the Poorna Yoga.
From the year 1910 onwards, for several years, Sri Aurobindo lived with a few followers depending entirely on donations to maintain them.
Outwardly and financially these were very difficult times. But the inner yoga, intense and unwavering went on unaffected by outward circumstances.
“ Mirra the mother ”
For four years it was a lonely and solitary journey. His sadhana and work were still waiting for the coming of the one who was to be his true collaborator, the Mother.
And, she came from France in the year 1914 !
On March 29th, a young French woman, Mirra Richard,came to Pondicherry with her husband Paul Richard and met Sri Aurobindo for the first time on the physical plane.
When Mirra saw Sri Aurobindo, she recognised in him the Krishna of her vision and knew that her place and work were with him in India.
“ Major works published ”
On 15th August 1914, the monthly ‘ Arya ’ was launched.
The ‘ Arya ’ continued for seven years and through it Sri Aurobindo presented to the world his great spiritual vision and the path to attain it. Nearly all the major works of Sri Aurobindo which were published later in book form .. “ The Life Divine ”, “ The Synthesis of Yoga ”, “ The Human Cycle ”, “ The Ideal of Human Unity ”, “ On the Veda ”, “ The Upanishads ”, “ Essays on the Gita ”.
In the year 1915, with the outbreak of the First World War, the Richards had to go back to France. Mirra went to Japan in 1916 and returned to Pondicherry in 1920, never to leave.
Sri Aurobindo and the Mother believe that evolution is primarily a process of the manifestation of higher and higher levels of Consciousness upon earth.
As life descended into the inert matter, and mind into unconscious life, so too higher levels are waiting to descend.
The highest of these is the Supermind and it was the constant endeavour of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother to bring it down for a radical and permanent transformation of the earth.
“ Mother .. his spiritual endeavour ”
Sri Aurobindo installed Mirra as the Mother of his spiritual endeavour, his collaborator and equal, and handed over to her the responsibility of the inner and outer life of the small group of sadhaks who had gathered around him.
He then withdrew into seclusion, to concentrate on the next step of his Yoga.
Though Sri Aurobindo had withdrawn, he continued to guide the disciples inwardly and through letters.
Day after day, he sat late into the night answering their smallest queries, apparently even the most trivial, and pouring out his love and light. At the same time, he remained in touch with the world events and movements, shaping and moulding them with a purely inner spiritual force and action.
“ 5th December, 1950 ”
On 5th December, 1950 .. at the age of 78 .. Sri Aurobindo left his physical body. His body was kept in State for four days and given Samadhi, on 9th December, 1950.