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Aurobindo
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Aurobindo

Śrī Aurobindo (August 15, 1872 - December 5, 1950) was an Indian nationalist, scholar and Hindu mystic philosopher and guru.

Born Aurobindo Ackroyd Ghose, his last name usually pronounced and often written as Ghosh, in Kolkata (Calcutta), India, his father was Dr. K. D. Ghose and his mother Swarnalata Devi. Dr Ghose, who had lived in England and wanted his children to benefit from Western education and culture, sent Aurobindo and his siblings to the Loretto Convent School at Darjeeling. At the age of seven Aurobindo was sent to St. Paul's school in London, England where he was taught Latin, Greek and all classical western school subjects. While at St. Paul's he received the Butterworth Prize for literature, the Bedford Prize for history and a scholarship to Cambridge University. He returned to India in 1893.

Table of contents
1 Early nationalist experiences
2 Final conversion
3 The Mother
4 His evolutionary philosophy
5 His contribution to Hindu philosophy
6 Quotation
7 External links

Early nationalist experiences

In his youth he was the editor of a Bengali newspaper Vande Mataram (spelt and pronounced as Bande Mataram in Bengali language) sympathetic with the Indian nationalism movement. He became involved with the independence movement and 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.

Final conversion

His final conversion from an angry nationalist into a profound Hindu mystic 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. He developed the idea of passive resistance — often attributed to Mahatma Mohandas Gandhi — and it is from him that Gandhi obtained the inspiration to apply this technique of Satyagraha that helped lead India to independence from the British Empire.

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 C.R. Das. The trial 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.

Sought again by the Indian police he was guided to the French settlements and on April 4, 1910 he finally found refuge with other nationalists in the French colony of Pondicherry. He established his ashram there and did most of his writing and teaching from Pondicherry until 1950.

The Mother

His closest disciple, Mirra Richard, was known as The Mother (February 21, 1878 - November 17, 1973). She was born in Paris to Turkish and Egyptian parents and came to his ashram on March 29, 1914 visiting Pondicherry several times and finally settling there in 1920. After November 24, 1926, when Sri Aurobindo retired into seclusion, she supervised the organization of his ashram and institutes. She became the leader of the community after Sri Aurobindo passed away; she is now revered by followers of Sri Aurobindo as well.

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.

His evolutionary philosophy

Sri Aurobindo's basic tenet is that mankind as an entity is not the last rung in the evolutionary scale — mankind will evolve beyond its current capacities ushering in a new, evolved human species guided by and filled with the knowledge, truth, substance and energy of spiritual consciousness.

In his voluminous writings he described, amongst other things, his understanding of the nature, process, and purpose of creation and life as we know it on earth; the process of transformation of the individual from his current limited status to her ultimate evolutionary possibility; and the likely course of the future of humanity; i.e., humanity's ultimate purpose and destiny in the cosmos. These subjects of inquiry were covered in his metaphysical treatise The Life Divine; in his book on the path of personal evolution, The Synthesis of Yoga, and in his 20,000 line epic poem "Savitri".

Aurobindo's ideas about the further evolution of human capabilities influenced the thinking of Michael Murphy (who studied at Aurobindo's Ashram in India) - and indirectly, the Human potential movement, through Murphy's writings.

Another contemporary thinker heavily influenced by Aurobindo is Ken Wilber. Wilber has tried to reduce the reliance on metaphysics that he finds in Aurobindo's theory.

Descent of the Supramental

Sri Aurobindo, throughout the later period of his life and until his death dedicated himself to the spiritual transformation of the human race. It was his sincere wish to take humankind out of duality, division, ignorance, suffering, falsehood, and death and bring all human beings to a new positive existence that he qualified as "Light, Knowledge, Wisdom, Power, Truth, Peace, Peace, Beauty, Delight, Infinity, and Oneness of Being." He and his followers believed that he had discovered a new spiritual power and extension of the "divine consciousness," which he called the "Supramental" or "Truth Consciousness" — the study of which he called Integral Yoga.

He believed this new force and power had only recently descended into the earth's atmosphere, and the "Supramental" could effectuate a new evolutionary status for humanity. If he, along with a handful of followers, through the mastery of Integral Yoga, could bring this power down into the earthly realm and into the individual consciousnesses of this group of followers they could be the harbingers of a new dawn for the human race; and thus this community could serve as pioneers for the establishment of a "Divine life" on earth.

His contribution to Hindu philosophy

One of Aurobindo's main philosophical achievements was to introduce the concept of evolution into Advaitin thought. Samkhya philosophy had already proposed such a notion centuries earlier, but Aurobindo rejected the materialistic tendencies of both Darwinism and Samkhya, and proposed an evolution of spirit rather than matter.

There is clearly an idealist streak in Aurobindo's interpretation of Vedanta. This becomes even more clear when we see that he solves the problem of the linkage between the ineffable unitary mind of Brahman and the many ordinary minds here on earth by positing a supermind. The supermind is the active principle present in the mind of Brahman (or perhaps more accurately, in the mind that is Brahman) of which our individual minds are minuscule subdivisions.

The birthday of Sri Aurobindo, August 15 — which Aurobindo also pointed out was the Feast of the Assumption of Mary in the Catholic Christian religion — is celebrated each year by Indians — it is the Independence Day of India.

Quotation

The Immortal Fire (1974), page 3-4.

— "Aurobindo on Sri Aurobindo"

External links


Early Hinduism | Hinduism | Hindu Philosophy
Primary Scriptures: Vedas | Upanishads | Bhagavad Gita | Itihasa | Tantras | Sutras
Concepts: Brahman | Dharma | Karma | Moksha | Maya | Punarjanma | Samsara
Schools & Systems: Vedanta | Yoga | Tantra | Bhakti
Rituals: Aarti | Darshan | Puja | Satsang | Thaal | Yagnya
Hindu Teachers/Gurus and Saints: Sankara | Ramakrishna | Vivekananda | Aurobindo | Ramana Maharshi | Sivananda
Denominations: Vaishnavism | Shaivism | Shaktism | Neo- and quasi-Hindu movements