Aurobindo Ghose, better known as Sri Aurobindo is known to the entire world as a great scholar, a national leader and a spiritual guru. He attained his basic as well as higher education from the United Kingdom. His literary excellence had been exemplary and brought him innumerable acclaims. He returned to India as a civil servant to the ‘Maharaja of State of Baroda’. Sri Aurobindo’s participation in the Indian national movement was short but impactful. His writings promoted the idea of complete independence for India thereby landing him in jail for political unrest. He came to limelight with his active participation in the freedom struggle against the British in India but he gradually evolved to become a spiritual and yogic guru. Some powerful visions backed by spiritualism encouraged him to move to Pondicherry where he worked on human evolution through spiritual activities such as ‘Integral Yoga’. Having chosen the mystical path for the rest of his life, he collaborated with people with similar pursuits.
Aurobindo Ghose was born on August 15, 1872 to Krishna Dhun Ghose, and his wife Swarnalotta Devi in Kolkata (Bengal Presidency), India.His father, who was an Assistant Surgeon in Rangapur, Bengal, was an ardent fan of the British culture so he encouraged his children to learn English and study in schools where his children would be exposed to Christianity. He was sent to Loreto House boarding school with his male siblings in Darjeeling, the hub of British Culture in India.Aurobindo’s inclinations to social reforms and evolutions can be attributed to his great-grandfather’s close involvement in the Brahmo Samaj religious reform MovementAt a tender age of seven he was sent to England and stayed there for fourteen years.Starting from St. Pauls School (1884), he attained scholarship and made it to King’s College, Cambridge (1890). His dedication and sharp intellect helped him clear the Indian Civil Service exam too.
In 1914, a French couple, Paul Richard and his wife, Mirra Alfassa, visited Pondicherry and soon became acquainted with Aurobindo. Paul Richard invited Aurobindo to join him in bringing out a new journal. The intention of the journal was, in Aurobindo’s words, “to feel out for the thought of the future, to help in shaping its foundations and to link it to the best and most vital thought of the past” (1915/1998, p.103). By the time its first issue came out, the first World War had started and soon after, the Richards had to return to France. This left the task of filling the 64 pages of the monthly journal to Aurobindo, and he faithfully fulfilled this task for the next 6 years, by serialising, in parallel, several books. By the time he closed down the journal, he had completed almost all his major works, The Life Divine, The Synthesis of Yoga, The Secret of the Veda, Hymns to the Mystic Fire, Essays on the Gita, Foundations of Indian Culture, translations and commentaries on several major Upaniṣads, a trilogy on social psychology and politics, etc. Only a few of these texts, Essays on the Gita, The Life Divine and the first part of The Synthesis of Yoga, he revised and brought out in book form during his lifetime. Others were published as books only posthumously.
Paul Richard and Mirra Alfassa returned to Pondicherry in 1920. Paul Richard found it difficult to accept the by now obvious spiritual and intellectual superiority of Aurobindo and left soon after, but Mirra Alfassa stayed, and gradually took up an increasingly important role in the small community that began to form around Aurobindo. Initially she was simply the most gifted of Aurobindo’s disciples, but over time, Sri Aurobindo, as he now came to be known, began to address her as “the Mother”, in honour of her complete identification with the śakti, the Power which mediates between the Divine and the manifestation. In letters to his disciples, he often stressed that their consciousness and realisation were essentially one, and that they differed only in their most outer roles and forms of manifestation.
After the war, in a radio message, which he gave on the occasion of India’s Independence (15-8-1947), which coincided with his 75th birthday, Sri Aurobindo described the main areas of his life’s work as five world-movements which he wished for as a young man, and which he worked for during the different phases of his life. They all looked, in his own words, like impractical dreams when he was young, but he saw all of them fully or partially fulfilled during his lifetime