Aurobindo (Aurobindo Ghose) was born in Calcutta
on 15 August 1872. His father Krishnadhone Ghose
(1845-1893) came of the well-known Ghose family
of Konnagar, a township in the district of Hooghly,
West Bengal, the historic birthplace of quite
a few leaders of Indian renaissance. Krishnadhone
married Swarnalata, the eldest daughter of Rajnarayan
Bose, a pioneer of Indian nationalism.
He took his M.D. at the University of Aberdeen,
Scotland, and served as C.M.O. at many places
in Bengal. He was a man of great ability and
wide munificence. He developed an almost exclusive
love for everything Western and wanted to give
his three sons an entirely European upbringing.
Consequently, Aurobindo, when only seven years
old, and his two elder brothers-Binoybhusan
and Monmohan-were taken by him to England.
Aurobindo had his early education in a English
family. When he joined the St. Pauls School
in London as a scholar, he had already learned
Latin, and read by himself, even as a schoolboy,
Shakespeare and the romantic poets. He passed
the Indian Civil Service examination, obtaining
record marks in Greek and Latin, and also the
Classical Tripos (Part I) of the University
of Cambridge, with a high first class and all
Classics Prizes. He also learnt French and German,
Italian and Spanish to read Goethe, Dante and
Calderon in the original. He started writing
poetry in Greek, Latin and English when he was
only eleven. Later he took up literary Bengali
In his eleventh and fourteenth years he had
mystic intimations of his personal role in great
events and world movements of the future. As
Secretary to the Indian Majlis, Cambridge University,
he made revolutionary speeches, hinting at armed
rebellion as the way to Indias liberation.
Although he successfully competed in the I.C.S.
Examination, he promptly dismissed the idea
of joining the alien Governments service.
He returned to India, in 1893, with an appointment
in the Baroda State Service.
At Baroda, he worked first in the Revenue Department.
Later he became a lecturer in French and Professor
of English; afterwards, Vice-Principal, then
Officiating Principal of the State College.
The Principal, an Englishman, observed a
mystic fire and light in his eyes. Aurobindos
thirteen years at Baroda were years of preparation
for his future work. He learned Sanskrit, Marathi,
Gujrati and spoken Bengali; studied the Epics,
the Upanishads and Sanskrit literature; wrote
poetry, plays and essays in English.
His political activity in India began, in 1893,
with his articles in the Indu Prakash of Bombay,
exposing the futility of the then Congress aims
and methods. He drew up a plan of revolutionary
work and took part in its organization in the
Bombay Presidency and Bengal. In 1902, the first
Calcutta organisation was started under his
direction. The same year, Sister Nivedita joined
this center and worked with him till 1910.
In 1901, Aurobindo married Mrinalini Devi (1888-1918),
daughter of Bhupalchandra Basu, according to
strict Hindu rites. In a letter to his wife
in 1905, he expressed a little of what he felt
his life was meant for-the liveration of his
country by the power of the spirit, Brahmatej,
founded in Jnana (knowledge), which he felt
he had in him. After Aurobindo had left Bengal
for Pondicherry, Mrinalini passed her days in
religious pursuits in devoted remembrance of
The Partition of Bengal in 1905 brought Aurobindo
out into the open as a leader. He went to Calcutta
as Principal of the newly-set-up National College,
now Jadavpur University.
Aurobindo directed the revolutionary workers
to utilize the Partition for expanding their
activities. He guided the nationalists in formulating
their policy and organizing their work; started
the famous Bengali daily Yugantar and joined
the Bande Mataram, the English daily of Bipinchandra
Pal. These two nationalist organs carried his
lofty ideas of love of the country and its freedom
and greatness into the hearts of his countrymen.
He published in the Bande Mataram his sequence
on The Doctrine of Passive Resistance,
charting out a necessary method of execution
of the nationalist programme of Swadeshi
and Boycott. On the eve of the Calcutta
Congress, 1906, Aurobindo was the first to openly
declare complete autonomy free from British
control as the countrys aim, and
to organize the Nationalist Party with Bal Gangadhar
Tilak as the leader.
Early in 1907 Aurobindo told his youngest brother
Barindra to organise a revolutionary center
in their Maniktala Garden in Calcutta. The same
year he attended the Surat Congress, but the
Nationalists, failing to have their stand adopted,
had the session broken up. This collapse of
Moderate leadership of the Congress pointed
to the new spirit that was arising.
In August 1907 Aurobindo was arrested for having
published certain articles in the Bande Mataram.
The charge failed because it could not be proved
that he was the editor of the paper. The arrest
and his nonchalant stand inspired in Rabindranath
Tagore one of his best poems-a thrilling homage
to Sri Aurobindo which begins with Arabinda
Rabindrer laha namaskar, Rabindranath,
O Aurobindo, bows to thee.
Aurobindo wanted Swaraj because, as he himself
said, in the next great stage of human
progress it is not a material but a spiritual,
moral and physical advance that has to be made
and for this a free Asia and in her a free India
must take the lead, and Liberty is therefore,
for the worlds sake, worth striving for
India must have Swaraj
in order to
live well and happily but also in order to live
for the World
and for the spiritual and
moral benefit of the human race.
Aurobindo was in the political field from 1902
to 1910 only, the first half of which was spent
on silent groundwork, the second half, from
1906 to 1910, on open activities. During this
brief period, he flooded the land from
Cape to Mount with the effulgence of his light,
says P. Sitaramayya in his History of
the Indian National Congress.
Arrested along with 38 other revolutionaries
in May 1908, Aurobindo spent a year in jail
as an under trial prisoner. But he was acquitted.
Concluding his defence argument in the Court,
Chittaranjan Das prophesied that Aurobindo would
be looked upon as the poet of patriotism, as
the prophet of nationalism and as the lover
of humanity, and that his words would be echoed
and reechoed, not only in India but across distant
seas and lands.
While in jail he had the realization of cosmic
consciousness and the vision of Sri Krishna
everywhere and in everything; he had, besides,
Sri Krishnas assurance of Indias
freedom and of his release for his greater work
for the world.
Aurobindo had started doing Yoga in 1904. In
1907, while meditating
according to the guidance of the Maharashtrian
Yogi Lele, he had the realization of the silent
Brahman and a complete stillness of mind. From
then on whatever he wrote and said, as he himself
has said, came from a higher source above the
mind. And all his movements began to guided
by what he recognized as the Divine Will.
After his acquittal in May 1909, Aurobindo
resumed his work with two newly-started weeklies,
the Karmayogin in English and the Dharma in
Bengali, in both of which he wrote articles
on the deeper significance of Indian nationalism.
His political work continued, although there
was a noticeable change in approach. His memorable
speech at Uttarpara just after his release gave
an indication of this change. However he organized
the Bengal Provincial Conference at Hooghly
and in An Open Letter to My Countrymen
published in the Karmayogin on 31 July 1909,
he re-affirmed the nationalist political programme.
The government was apprehensive of his political
activities and wanted to put him in jail again.
One evening in February 1910, he received information
in the Karmayogin office (4, Shyampukur Lane)
that the office would be searched the next day
and he would be arrested. Following an inner
voice he made his decision quickly and left
for Chandernagore immediately in a country boat.
After staying in Chandernagore for a few days,
he left for Pondicherry by a French boat, under
an assumed name, and landed there on 4 April
1910.The British Government tried several times
to get him back in British territory, but he
refused to move out of the French settlement.
For many years the British Government kept a
strict watch on him and on the other Bengali
revolutionaries who joined him at Pondicherry.
Aurobindos arrival in Pondicherry proved
to be a turning-point in his career. He withdrew
himself completely from all political activities
and devoted himself entirely to literature and
philosophy. In this work he received great help
and co-operation from an enlightened French
couple, Paul Richard and his wife (later to
become famous as the Mother) who came to Pondicherry
on the eve of the First World War.
When in August 1914 the First World War broke
out, Aurobindo jointly with Paul and Madame
Richard started the monthly philosophical review,
the Arya, in which he reveled new truths of
mans divine destiny, the path to its realization,
the progress of human society towards its divine
future, the unification of the human race, the
nature and evolution of poetry and its future,
the inner meaning of the Veda, the Upanishads
and the Gita, the spirit and significance of
Indian civilization and culture.
All these have since been embodied in The
Life Divine, The Synthesis of Yoga,
The Human Cycle, The Ideal
of Human Unity, The Future Poetry,
On The Veda, The Upanishads,
Essays on the Gita, and The
Foundations of Indian Culture. The Arya
ceased publication in 1921 after six years of
Aurobindos supreme spiritual work in
poetry is the epic Savitri in 23,813
lines of blank verse, the longest poem in English,
described by Sir Herbert Read as great
by any standard, and as a great
cosmic poem by the American philosopher
and critic R. F. Piper. Besides Savitri,
there is a large body of poetic creation including
several dramas. There are about fifty other
publications covering his essays, speeches,
correspondence, and translations of commentaries
on Vedic and Upanishadic texts.
In 1926 Aurobindo retired into seclusion which
was maintained till his death in 1950. Only
in 1928 he broke his seclusion and met Rabindranath
Tagore who saw his face radiant with an
inner light and said to him: You
have the Word and we are waiting to accept it
from you. From time to time may distinguished
political leaders came to Pondicherry to seek
his guidance in national and international matters:
others tried to persuade him to come out and
assume political leadership of the country again.
He declined the latter proposal, making it
clear that very few were likely to follow his
ideals and ideas, which would be unintelligible
to many and an offence and stumbling-block to
a great number. Nevertheless, he maintained
his keen interest in Indias freedom and
In his vision human problems including that
of world unity cannot be solved merely by economic
and political means but by a deep and psychological
change. Man is destined to evolve a higher than
mental consciousness which is essentially a
principle of force and harmony.
Even for social reforms he would not support
any legislation or imposition from outside.
Any reform, if it is to be truly effective and
to fulfil a real need of life, must come
from within, he said in the early twenties
when inter-caste marriage was sought to be legalized.
Regarding Hindu-Muslim unity, he said that the
solution must be sought not in political
adjustments and conciliations but deeper
within, in the heart and mind.
Unlike most ways of Yoga, which are paths to
the Beyond leading to the Spirit and away from
life, Sri Aurobindos Yoga rises to the
Spirit to redescend into life with its gains-the
light and power and bliss of the Spirit-in order
to transform life, mind and body. In a word,
an integral transformation is the dynamic aim
of Sri Aurobindos Yoga. The only power
that could effect such transformation is a Supreme
Power above the Mind. This he calls the Supermind.
Its manifestation in man would mean his emergence
into a new race of Supermen, of Truth-conscious
beings. This, affirms Sri Aurobindo, is mans
inevitable evolutionary future.
His Ashram in Pondicherry is not a planned
institution. It grew as disciples came to live
with him and do his Yoga. It took a definite
form in 1926 when Sri Aurobindo went into complete
seclusion leaving the entire charge to the Mother.
Since then it has been expanding. Today it is
an international community of about fifteen
hundred men, women and children from various
parts of India and the world. Among its many-sided
activities today are the Sri Aurobindo Society,
the World Union and the Sri Aurobindo International
Centre of Education, all representing attempts
to give shape to the Masters Ideal.
Sri Aurobindo had five dreams, the first of
which was a free and united India.
When on 15 August 1947 India became free, Sri
Aurobindo took this coincidence with his birthday
not as a fortuitous accident, but as the
sanction and seal of the Divine Force that guides
my steps on the work with which I began life,
the beginning of its full fruition. His
second dream was the resurgence and liberation
of the peoples of Asia; third, a
world-union; fourth, the spiritual
gift of India to the world; and last,
a step in evolution which would raise
man to a higher and larger consciousness.
Sri Aurobindo saw all these also either arriving
at fruition or on the way to achievement.
On 5 December 1950, Sri Aurobindo entered into
Mahasamadhi. But the work he had initiated continues,
under the guidance of the Mother.