Sri Aurobindo (1872 – 1950)

Discussion in 'Hindu Saints' started by garry420, Jan 12, 2016.

  1. garry420

    garry420 Well-Known Member

    Sri Aurobindo was born on August 15, 1872 in Calcutta; he was the third of the six children born to Dr. Krishna Dhan, a surgeon, and his wife Swarnalata Ghose. He was educated at a convent school in Darjeeling in his childhood. At age the age of 7 Aurobindo was sent to England along with two of his brothers to acquire an English education by his Anglophile father who wanted his children to become Westernized. In England an English family looked after him and he was admitted into St. Paul's School in London in 1884 and he later went on to join King’s College, Cambridge, where he studied for two years. In 1890, he passed the I.C.S examination with flying colors, but he had become aware of the movement for an Independent India, and did not want to serve the British colonial administration, so he voluntarily disqualified himself by not attending the compulsory riding test and returned to India at the age of 21 in 1893.

    In Baroda he acquired the job of a revenues administrator under the Baroda Government and he later went on to serve as the Vice-Principal in the Baroda College. Sri Aurobindo was an avid reader and already mastered Latin, Greek, English, Italian and French languages during his stay in England and after returning to India he began to study Sanskrit and other Indian languages along with Hindu scriptures in his spare time and soon became fluent in Sanskrit, Marathi, Gujarati and Bengali. At the age of 28 in 1901 he was married to a religious Hindu girl named Mrinalini Bose according to Hindu marriage rites. In the year 1906 he finally left Baroda for the city of Calcutta where he became the first principal of the newly established Bengal National College.

    The time period of 1902-1910 was the period of Sri Aurobindo’s active political life. In 1905 the British ruled province of Bengal was partitioned into Hindu majority West Bengal and Muslim majority East Bengal that sparked widespread agitation throughout Bengal, it was during this period that the Swadeshi movement gained popularity in which Sri Aurobindo played a major role. He became a leader of a group of freedom fighters who were dubbed as extremists because of their willingness to use direct action and non-constitutional methods to achieve their objective of complete independence for India. Later in 1907 Sri Aurobindo became the editor of a nationalist newspaper named Bande Mataram which was circulated all over India, the newspaper however was closed down by 1908. He was prosecuted for sedition in 1907 but was acquitted and in 1908 he was again arrested in the Alipore Conspiracy Case, but he came out in 1909 after being in prison for about a year. By the time he was out of jail the movement that he was part of was broken and its leaders dispersed, he later tried to revive the movement by publishing an English weekly newspaper named Karmayogin and a Bengali weekly named Dharma. But by 1910 he felt more and more drawn towards spirituality because of his profound spiritual experience in Alipore Jail and withdrew from politics.

    In the year 1910 Sri Aurobindo finally moved to the French colony of Pondicherry, but he was already estranged from his young wife who by now had gone back to her parents but she accepted the pain of separation and was faithful to him throughout this time. He spent most of his time in silent meditation and in 1918 he finally wrote to her saying that "My sadhana is over. I have achieved my object, siddhi. I have a lot of work to do for the world. You can come now and be my companion in this work."[1] She agreed to come but was stricken with influenza and passed away before she could even meet Sri Aurobindo. In 1914 four years after arriving in Pondicherry he began publishing a philosophical magazine named Arya which was published until 1921, most of his important works such as The Life Divine, The Synthesis of Yoga, Essays on the Gita, The Isha Upanishad, The Foundations of Indian Culture, The Secret of the Veda, The Human Cycle, The Future Poetry and The Ideal of Human Unity appeared in the magazine Arya. It was also in the year 1914 that he met a French woman of Egyptian ancestry, Mirra Alfassa who would later be called as The Mother and who would later carry on Sri Aurobindo’s work after his death. As time went by more disciples began to gather around him, which eventually lead to the formation of Sri Aurobindo Ashram.

    Sri Aurobindo passed away on December 5, 1950. The Mother took over where Sri Aurobindo left off and continued his work until November 17, 1973 and their work continues even today.

    Sri Aurobindo’s Political Philosophy:

    Hindu society today suffers from lack of clear thinking about how to deal with problems and threats facing our society; our society is seen as passive and weak because of our refusal to do anything in the name of ahimsa. In these circumstances it would be interesting to take note of Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy. Sri Aurobindo in a word was a realist who followed the teachings of Bhagavad Gita, in his own words, “A certain class of minds shrink from aggressiveness as if it were a sin. Their temperament forbids them to feel the delight of battle and they look on what they cannot understand as something monstrous and sinful. “Heal hate by love, drive out injustice by justice, slay sin by righteousness” is their cry. Love is a sacred name, but it is easier to speak of love than to love.... The Gita is the best answer to those who shrink from battle as a sin and aggression as a lowering of morality.”[2] And the following comment of his about the Hindu-Muslim problem after the Khilafat agitation when Muslim aggression was at its peak, “I am sorry they are making a fetish of this Hindu-Muslim unity. It is no use ignoring facts; some day the Hindus may have to fight the Muslims and they must prepare for it. Hindu-Muslim unity should not mean the subjection of the Hindus. Every time the mildness of the Hindu has given way. The best solution would be to allow the Hindus to organize themselves and the Hindu-Muslim unity would take care of itself, it would automatically solve the problem. Otherwise, we are lulled into a false sense of satisfaction that we have solved a difficult problem, when in fact we have only shelved it.”[3] Is very insightful and should be followed by Hindus even today if we want to permanently solve the problem.

    Sri Aurobindo’s Contribution to Hindu Philosophy:

    Sri Aurobindo contributed greatly to modern day Hindu philosophy through his enormous corpus of writings; his major contribution was to bring in the notion of evolution into Vedantic thought in which he put forward the idea of an evolution of spirit instead of matter as he rejected the materialistic Samkhya philosophy and his philosophy also rejected the idea of world negation.

    Sri Aurobindo On Sanatana Dharma and India:

    Sri Aurobindo was born into the Hindu community and had mastered the Hindu scriptures inspite of the objections of his Anglophile father and contributed greatly to Hindu philosophy, therefore it would be interesting to read his own thoughts on the connection between Sanatana Dharma and India according to which “When therefore it is said that India shall rise, it is the Sanatan Dharma that shall rise. When it is said that India shall be great, it is the Sanatan Dharma that shall be great. When it is said that India shall expand and extend herself, it is the Sanatan Dharma that shall expand and extend itself over the world. It is for the Dharma and by the Dharma that India exists...”[4], the sooner we grasp this the better it is for our community and for the Indian nation.

    Others On Sri Aurobindo:

    It would be interesting to know what other prominent personalities thought of Sri Aurobindo, the following are some quotes from different renowned personalities about Sri Aurobindo:

    “At the very first sight I could realise he [Sri Aurobindo] had been seeking for the Soul and had gained it,” – Rabindranath Tagore

    “In my undergraduate days Aurobindo Ghose was easily the most popular leader in Bengal, despite his voluntary exile and absence since 1910. His was a name to conjure with.” – Subash Chandra Bose

    "Sri Aurobindo is one of the greatest thinkers of Modern India...[He is] the most complete synthesis achieved upto the present between the genius of the West and the East...” - Romain Rolland [5]

    In conclusion Sri Aurobindo was not just a yogic seer; he was a poet, philosopher and a revolutionary who made great contributions to modern day Hindu philosophy through his enormous corpus of writings which continue to inspire Hindus around the world even today, his translation and commentary on Hindu scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita shed new light on our own understanding of the scriptures. Hindus around the world should take pride about a person like Sri Aurobindo and we should do our bit to help fulfill his ambitions for humanity and Bharat in particular.

    Jai Durga Ma.
     
  2. garry420

    garry420 Well-Known Member

    References:

    [1] Hinduism Today article titled “Exploring Sri Aurobindo, Seer of the Supermind” http://www.hinduismtoday.com/archives/1993/9/1993-9-01.shtml

    [2] “Sri Aurobindo and the Gita” by Michel Danino http://micheldanino.voiceofdharma.com/gitalecture.html

    [3] “India’s Rebirth” by Sri Aurobindo http://voi.org/books/ir/IR_part3.htm

    [4] “Uttarpara Speech, 30 May 1909” by Sri Aurobindo http://intyoga.online.fr/uttaspch.htm

    [5] “Sri Aurobindo as they saw him” http://www.sriaurobindosociety.org.in/sriauro/theysaw.htm
     

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