SRI AUROBINDO - WHO SAW THE FUTURE OF MAN*Sri Aurobindo, a flaming revolutionary and prophet of Indian nationalism, poet and a Rishi, the was also a philosopher of tremendous power with a world-view astounding in its profoundity.Aurobindo was indeed a unique personality.
His magnificent intellect and his yogic experiences combined to produce a number of remarkable works in prose and poetry which are becoming increasingly relevant as the century moves towards its close.
- Sri Aurobindo was born on 15 August 1872, in a very anglicised Bengali family of Calcutta. His father had an aversion to everything Indian. At the age of 5, he was admitted to an Irish nun's school at Darjeeling. Two years later he was taken to England in the care of a clergyman with strict instructions that he should not be allowed to make acquaintance of any Indian or be exposed to any Indian influence.
- At the tender age of 12, he had read Homer, Aristophenes, Dante, Goethe and French poets. Indeed he ranged over the whole field of European thought.
- But as his father had run out of funds and Aurobindo's scholarships could hardly support him, he entered into the ICS.
- But even with its tangible material rewards and prestige of belonging to the ruling class, its charm wore off while he was still undergoing his probation. But he knew if he resigned straightaway, it would break his father's heart. So he sought a way out and purposely failed to appear for the compulsory riding test and so was disqualified for the ICS.
He had realised by then, that his real interest is in poetry and literature and patriotic action. The days of King's College had sowed the seeds of patriotism in him. Although he liked English literature, but disliked English rule.
A New Direction
- After returning to India, while he was with Baroda State Service, he took little interest in the politics. During this lean period of his life, he learnt many Indian languages including Bengali, his mother tongue, for which he was alien hitherto. It was during his visit to Bengal that his mind shook to the core to notice the cynicism of the middle classes, whose only aim in life seemed to be `the happiness of the relatives and the family'.
- In the beginning, he could do nothing more than establishing contacts with the underground revolutionaries in Maharashtra and Bengal. These dangerous forays gave him some satisfaction.
- But the real change came in 1905 in the wake of the partition of Bengal. His scene of activity shifted from Baroda to Calcutta.
- His articles in his own Bengali paper Yugantar and Bipin Chandra Pal's Bande Mataram expounded the philosophy of Indian nationalism with a daring sharpness and eloquence.
- He ridiculed the ideal of colonial self-government as a political monstrosity, and propagated that the only ideal which India could accept was `absolute autonomy, an unqualified swaraj'.
- His prose was like a heady wine to the young radicals of Bengal.
- He organised nationalists in Bengal Congress and promoted their alliance with the extremists of Maharashtra led by Tilak.
- He gave a coherent and militant ideology to the agitation against the partition of Bengal. His activities earned him the implacable hostility of the British authorities.
- Aurobindo was prosecuted twice first in 1907 and again in 1908-09.
- In the latter prosecution he was one of the accused in the Maniktola Bomb conspiracy case but he was acquitted after a magnificent defence by Chittaranjan Das.
Sri Aurobindo resumed his political activities. But after a few months he suddenly withdrew from the Indian political stage leaving surprised his friends and foes alike.
- In February 1910, he left for French settlement of Chander Nagar and then moved on to Pondicherry, where he spent the next 40 years.
- He explains his sudden exit from politics that he got a very distinct 'adesh' (command) in this matter. "Before I cut connections entirely with politics, I knew from within that the work I had begun there was destined to be carried forward and that the ultimate triumph of the movement I had initiated was sure without my personal action or presence."
- His spiritual odyssey transformed his way of looking at the world. He was no longer prepared to condone violence for political or indeed for any ends.
At Pondicherry, he wrote vigorously. The `Synthesis of Yoga', the `Essays on the Gita', the `Secret of the Veda' and the `Human Cycle' are some eloquent testaments of his profound insights into life and reality. His writings are affirmations of spiritual truths and values. He found resort in Yoga - renunciation of ego and acceptance of God in life.
November 24, 1926 is the day of founding of Sri Aurobindo Ashram.
- The `Mother', his associate, was the incharge of the community of Sadhaks that had been growing steadily around Sri Aurobindo and this spiritual collectivity made way for the Sri Aurobindo Ashram.
- In the beginning, children or families were not admitted to the Ashram.
- After the outbreak of the War, however, a large number of devotees sought refuge in the Ashram with their families. The Mother could not refuse them.
- Later it became unavoidable to start a school for children in 1943 which developed into the present Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, where Aurobindo's ideals and Mother's philosophy of education are being worked out.
In the beginning of 1950, Aurobindo started losing interest in his body and symptoms of the uraemia started to appear. He refused to intervene and let things take their course. Finally his soul left his mortal body on December 5, 1950.
Vision for a Free India
- Sri Aurobindo was a man with a world-view. He saw the Independence of India as a phenomenon with a universal implication. In a free India, lied a whole new horizon for the world to be explored.
- On this day, his words were - "August 15th, 1947 is the birthday of free India, it marks for her the end of an old era, the beginning of a new age. But we can also make it by our life and acts as a free nation an important date in a new age opening for the whole world, for the political, social, cultural and spiritual future of humanity.
- "August 15th is my own birthday and it is naturally gratifying to me that it should have assumed this vast significance.... Indeed, on this day I can watch almost all the world-movements which I hoped to see fulfilled in my lifetime, though then they looked like impracticable dream, arriving at a fruition or on their way to achievement. In all these movements free India may well play a large part and take a leading position.
- "The first of these dreams was a revolutionary movement which would create a free and united India. India today is free but she has not achieved unity...
- "Another dream was for the resurgence and liberation of the peoples of Asia and her return to her great role in the progress of human civilisation...
- "The third dream was a world-union forming the basis of a fairer, brighter and nobler life for all mankind....
A new spirit of oneness will take hold of the human race.
- "Another dream, the spiritual gift of India to the world, has already begun....
- "The final dream was a step in evolution which would raise man to a higher and larger consciousness and begin the solution of the problems which have perplexed and vexed him since he first began to think and to dream of individual perfection and a perfect society......
Here too, if this evolution is to take place, since it must proceed through a growth of the spirit and the inner consciousness, the initiative can come from India and, although the scope must be universal, the central movement may be hers....
"Such is the content which I put into this date of India's liberation; whether or how far this hope will be justified depends upon the new and free India."