Sri Aurobindo was born on 15 August 1872 in Calcutta, British India & died on 5 December 1950 in Pondicherry (Puducherry), French India, born Aurobindo Ghosh or Ghose, was an Indian nationalist, freedom fighter, philosopher, yogi, guru, and poet. He joined the Indian movement for freedom from British rule and for a duration became one of its most important leaders, before developing his own vision of human progress and spiritual evolution. He was also one of the famous Radical leaders of India during the Indian National Movement.
His father, Dr. Krishna Dhan Ghose, was District Surgeon of Rangapur, Bengal. His mother, Swarnalata Devi, was the daughter of Brahmo religious and social reformer, Rajnarayan Basu. Aravinda means “lotus” in Sanskrit. Aurobindo spelled his name Aravinda while in England, as Aravind or Arvind while in Baroda, and as Aurobindo when he moved to Bengal. The surname Ghose is pronounced, and usually written in English, as “Ghosh”, and Aurobindo’s name often appears as “Arabindo Ghosh” in English academic sources. Dr. Ghose chose the middle name Akroyd to honour his friend Annette Akroyd.
Aurobindo spent his first five years at Rangapur, where his father had been posted since October 1871. Dr. Ghose, who had previously lived in Britain and studied medicine at King’s College, Aberdeen, was determined that his children should have an English education and upbringing free of any Indian influences. In 1877, he therefore sent the young Aurobindo and two elder siblings – Manmohan Ghose and Benoybhusan Ghose – to the Loreto Convent school in Darjeeling.
The central theme of Aurobindo’s vision was the evolution of human life into life divine. He wrote: “Man is a transitional being. He is not final. The step from man to superman is the next approaching achievement in the earth evolution. It is inevitable because it is at once the intention of the inner spirit and the logic of nature’s process.” Thus, Aurobindo created a dialectic mode of salvation not only for the individual but for all mankind.
Aurobindo’s writings synthesized Eastern and Western philosophy, religion, literature, and psychology. Aurobindo was the first Indian to create a major literary corpus in English. His works include philosophy; poetry; translations of and commentaries on the Vedas, Upanishads, and the Gita; plays; literary, social, political, and historical criticism; devotional works; spiritual journals and three volumes of letters. His voluminous, complex, and sometimes chaotic literary output includes philosophical pondering, poetry, plays, and other works. Among his works are The Life Divine (1940), The Human Cycle (1949), The Ideal of Human Unity (1949), On the Veda (1956), Collected Poems and Plays (1942), Essays on the Gita (1928), The Synthesis of Yoga (1948), and Savitri: A Legend and a Symbol (1950).
Aurobindo spent two years at Loreto convent. In 1879, Aurobindo and his two elder brothers were taken to Manchester, England for a European education. The brothers were placed in the care of a Rev. and Mrs. Drewett. Rev. Drewett was an Anglican clergyman whom Dr. Ghose knew through his British friends at Rangapur. The Drewetts tutored the Ghose brothers privately. The Drewetts had been asked to keep the tuitions completely secular and to make no mention of India or its culture.
In 1884, Aurobindo joined St Paul’s School. Here he learned Greek and Latin, spending the last three years reading literature, especially English poetry. Dr. K.D. Ghose had aspired that his sons should pass the prestigious Indian Civil Service examination, but in 1889 it appeared that of the three brothers, only young Aurobindo had the chance of fulfilling his father’s aspirations, his brothers having already decided their future careers. To become an ICS official, students were required to pass the difficult competitive examination, as well as study at an English university for two years under probation. With his limited financial resources, the only option Aurobindo had was to secure a scholarship at an English university, which he did by passing the scholarship examinations of King’s College, Cambridge University. He stood first at the examination. He also passed the written examination of ICS after a few months, where he was ranked 11th out of 250 competitors. He spent the next two years at the King’s College.
By the end of two years of probation, Aurobindo became convinced that he did not want to serve the British, he therefore failed to present himself at the horse riding examination for ICS, and was disqualified for the Service. At this time, the Maharaja of Baroda, Sayajirao Gaekwad III was travelling England. James Cotton, brother of Sir Henry Cotton, for some time Lt. Governor of Bengal and Secretary of the South Kensington Liberal Club, who knew Aurobindo and his father secured for him a service in Baroda State Service and arranged a meeting between him and the prince. He left England for India, arriving there in February, 1893. In India Aurobindo’s father who was waiting to receive his son was misinformed by his agents from Bombay (now Mumbai) that the ship on which Aurobindo had been travelling had sunk off the coast of Portugal. Dr. Ghose who was by this time frail due to ill-health could not bear this shock and died.
Aurobindo’s conversion from political action to spirituality occurred gradually. Aurobindo had been influenced by Bankim’s Anandamath. In this novel, the story follows a monk who fights the soldiers of the British East India Company. When in Baroda, Aurobindo and Barin had considered the plan of a national uprising of nationalist sannyasis against the empire. Later when Aurobindo got involved with Congress and Bande Mataram, Barin had continued to meet patriotic youngsters for recruitment for such a plan. In 1907, Barin introduced Aurobindo to Vishnu Bhaskar Lele, a Maharashtrian yogi.
Aurobindo had been engaged in yogic discipline for years, but disturbances to his progress following the recent events surrounding the Congress had put him in the need of consulting a yogi. After attending the Surat session of the Congress in 1907, Aurobindo met Lele in Baroda. This meeting led him to retire for three days in seclusion where, following Lele’s instruction, Aurobindo had his first major experience, called nirvana – a state of complete mental silence free of any thought or mental activity. Later, while awaiting trial as a prisoner in Alipore Central Jail in Calcutta Aurobindo had a number of mystical experiences. In his letters, Sri Aurobindo mentions that while in jail as under-trial, spirit of Swami Vivekananda visited him for two weeks and spoke about the higher planes of consciousness leading to supermind. Sri Aurobindo later said that while imprisoned he saw the convicts, jailers, policemen, the prison bars, the trees, the judge, the lawyers as different forms of one godhead, Krishna.
The trial (“Alipore Bomb Case, 1908″) lasted for one full year, but eventually Sri Aurobindo was acquitted. His Defence Counsel was Chiitaranjan Das. On acquittal, Sri Aurobindo was invited to deliver a speech at Uttarpara where he first spoke of some of his experiences in jail. Afterwards Aurobindo started two new weekly papers: the Karmayogin in English and the Dharma in Bengali. However, it appeared that the British government would not tolerate his nationalist program as then Viceroy and Governor-General of India Lord Minto wrote about him: “I can only repeat that he is the most dangerous man we have to reckon with.” The British considered the possibilities of a retrial or deportation, but objections from Lord Minto, or the Bengal government at different instances prevented immediate execution of such plans.
When informed that he was sought again by the police, he was guided by an inner voice to the then French territory Chandernagore where he halted for a few days and later On April 4, 1910, to Pondicherry.
Sri Aurobindo not only expressed his spiritual thought and vision in intricate metaphysical reasoning and in phenomenological terms, but also in poetry. He started writing poetry as a young student, and continued until late in his life. The theme of his poetry changed with the projects that he undertook. It ranged from revolutionary homages to mystic philosophy. Sri Aurobindo wrote in classical style.
Sri Aurobindo’s influence has been wide-ranging. In India, Gurusaday Dutt ICS and Charu Chandra Dutt ICS were influenced by him. S. K. Maitra, Anilbaran Roy and D. P. Chattopadhyaya commented on Sri Aurobindo’s work. Writers on esotericism and traditional wisdom, such as Mircea Eliade, Paul Brunton, and Rene Guenon, all saw him as an authentic representative of the Indian spiritual tradition.
Haridas Chaudhuri and Frederic Spiegelberg were among those who were inspired by Sri Aurobindo, who worked on the newly formed American Academy of Asian Studies in San Francisco. Soon after, Chaudhuri and his wife Bina established the Cultural Integration Fellowship, from which later emerged the California Institute of Integral Studies.
Karlheinz Stockhausen became heavily inspired by the writings of Satprem about Sri Aurobindo during a week in May 1968, a time of which the composer was undergoing a personal crisis and had found Aurobindos philosophies were relevant to his feelings at the time. After this experience, Stockhausen’s music took a completely different turn, focusing on mysticism, that was to continue right up until the end of his career.
Sri Aurobindo’s ideas about the further evolution of human capabilities influenced the thinking of Michael Murphy – and indirectly, the human potential movement, through Murphy’s writings. The American philosopher Ken Wilber has been strongly influenced by Sri Aurobindo’s thought, and has integrated some of its key ideas with other spiritual traditions and modern intellectual trends, although his interpretation has been criticised by Rod Hemsell and others. New Age writer Andrew Harvey also looks to Sri Aurobindo as a major inspiration. Cultural historian William Irwin Thompson is also heavily influenced by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.
The Sri Aurobindo Ashram, the spiritual community that grew up around him and was organized and directed by the Mother, continues to operate with slightly more than 2000 members and a similar number of nonmembers who live nearby and are associated with the Ashram’s activities. The experimental international city of Auroville, founded by the Mother and based on Sri Aurobindo’s ideals, is located about 10 km from the Ashram; it has approximately 2000 members from around the world, and an international base of support groups called Auroville International.