Sri Aurobindo ( Sri robindo) (15 August 1872 5 December 1950), born Aurobindo Ghosh or Ghose ( robindo Ghosh), 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.
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."
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 principal philosophical writings are The Life Divine and The Synthesis of Yoga, while his principal poetic work is Savitri: A Legend and a Symbol.
Aurobindo Ghosh was born in Calcutta, India. 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.
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.
Young Aurobindo in London in 1884
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, 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 Ghose with his wife Mrinalini Devi,1901 In Baroda, Aurobindo joined the state service, working first in the Survey and Settlements department, later moving to the Department of Revenue and then to the Secretariat, writing speeches for the Gaekwad. At Baroda, Aurobindo engaged in a deep study of Indian culture, teaching himself Sanskrit, Hindi and Bengali, all things that his education in England had withheld from him. Because of the lack of punctuality at work resulting from his preoccupation with these other pursuits, Aurobindo was transferred to the Baroda College as a teacher of French, where he became popular because of his unconventional teaching style. He was later promoted to the post of Vice-Principal. He published the first of his collections of poetry, The Rishi from Baroda. He also started taking active interest in the politics of India's freedom struggle against British rule, working behind the scenes as his position at the Baroda State barred him from overt political activity. He linked up with resistance groups in Bengal and Madhya Pradesh, while travelling to these states. He established contact with Lokmanya Tilak and Sister Nivedita. He also arranged for the military training of Jatindra Nath Banerjee (Niralamba Swami) in the Baroda army and then dispatched him to organise the resistance groups in Bengal. He was invited by K.G. Deshpande who was in charge of the weekly Induprakash and a friend from his days in Cambridge to write about the political situation. Aurobindo started writing a series of impassioned articles under the title New Lamps for the Old pouring vitriol on the Congress for its moderate policy. He wrote:
"Our actual enemy is not any force exterior to ourselves, but our own crying weaknesses, our cowardice, our selfishness, our hypocrisy, our purblind sentimentalism"
"I say, of the Congress, then, this, - that its aims are mistaken, that the spirit in which it proceeds towards their accomplishment is not a spirit of sincerity and whole-heartedness, and that the methods it has chosen are not the right methods, and the leaders in whom it trusts, not the right sort of men to be leaders; - in brief, that we are at present the blind led, if not by the blind, at any rate by the one-eyed."
The Congress which practised more mild and moderate criticism itself, reacted in a way which frightened the editors of the paper who asked Aurobindo to write about cultural themes instead of Politics. Aurobindo lost interest in these writings and the series was discontinued. Aurobindo's activities in Baroda also included a regimen of yogic exercises and meditation, but these were minor in comparison to the work he would take up in his later life. By 1904 he was doing yogic practices for five-six hours everyday. He stated that after performing pranayama, he was able to memorize and reproduce 200 lines of poetry in half an hour, while earlier he was not even able to memorize a dozen lines. After the practice of pranayama, he was able to compose 200 lines worth of poetry in half an hour, while earlier he was only able to compose 200 lines in a month.
Aurobindo used to take many excursions to Bengal, at first in a bid to re-establish links with his parents' families and his other Bengali relatives, including his cousin Sarojini and brother Barin, and later increasingly in a bid to establish resistance groups across Bengal. But he formally shifted to Calcutta (now Kolkata) only in 1906 after the announcement of Partition of Bengal. During his visit to Calcutta in 1901 he married Mrinalini, daughter of Bhupal Chandra Bose, a senior official in Government service. Aurobindo Ghose was then 28; the bride Mrinalini, 14. Marrying off daughters at a very young age was very common in 19th century Bengali families. Sri Aurobindo with Tilak and other Nationalist leaders, 1907.
Sri Aurobindo presiding over a meeting of the Nationalists after the Surat Congress,1907 In Bengal with Barin's help he established contacts with revolutionaries, inspiring radicals like Bagha Jatin, Jatin Banerjee, Surendranath Tagore. He helped establish a series of youth clubs with the aim of imparting a martial and spiritual training to the youth of Bengal. He helped found the Anushilan Samiti of Calcutta in 1902. When the Partition of Bengal was announced, there was a public outpouring against the British rule in India. Aurobindo attended the Benares session of Congress in December 1905 as an observer, and witnessing the intensity of people's feelings decided to throw himself into the thick of politics. He joined the National Council of Education and met Subodh Chandra Mullick who quickly became a supporter of Aurobindo's views. Mullick donated a large sum to found a National College and stipulated that Aurobindo should become its first principal. Aurobindo also started writing for Bande Mataram, as a consequence of which, his popularity as a leading voice of the hardline group soared. His arrest and acquittal for printing seditious material in Bande Mataram consolidated his position as the leader of aggressive nationalists. His call for complete political independence was considered extremely radical at the time and frequently caused friction in Congress. In 1907 at Surat session of Congress where moderates and hardliners had a major showdown, he led the hardliners along with Bal Gangadhar Tilak. The Congress split after this session. In 1907–1908 Aurobindo travelled extensively to Pune, Bombay and Baroda to firm up support for the nationalist cause, giving speeches and meeting various groups. He was arrested again in May 1908 in connection with the Alipore Bomb Case. He was acquitted in the ensuing trial and released after a year of isolated incarceration. Once out of the prison he started two new publications, Karmayogin in English and Dharma in Bengali. He also delivered the Uttarpara Speech s:Uttarpara Speech hinting at the transformation of his focus to spiritual matters . The British persecution continued because of his writings in his new journals and in April 1910 Aurobindo, signalling his retirement from politics, moved to Pondicherry, where Britain's secret police monitored his apolitical activities.
Conversion from politics to spirituality
Cell at Alipore Jail where Sri Aurobindo is said to be witnessed spiritual and mystical experiences 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 at Pondicherry
In Pondicherry, Sri Aurobindo completely dedicated himself to his spiritual and philosophical pursuits. In 1914, after four years of concentrated yoga, Sri Aurobindo was proposed to express his vision in intellectual terms. This resulted in the launch of Arya, a 64 page monthly review. For the next six and a half years this became the vehicle for most of his most important writings, which appeared in serialised form. These included The Life Divine, The Synthesis of Yoga, Essays on The Gita, The Secret of The Veda, Hymns to the Mystic Fire, The Upanishads, The Renaissance in India, War and Self-determination, The Human Cycle, The Ideal of Human Unity, and The Future Poetry. Many years later, Sri Aurobindo revised some of these works before they were published in book form. It was about his prose writing of this period that Times Literary Supplement, London wrote on 8 July 1944, "Sri Aurobindo is the most significant and perhaps the most interesting.... He is a new type of thinker, one who combines in his vision the alacrity of the West with the illumination of the East. He is a yogi who writes as though he were standing among the stars, with the constellations for his companions. Pondicherry is prayerpalace of Aurobindo Ghosh."
For some time afterwards, Sri Aurobindo's main literary output was his voluminous correspondence with his disciples. His letters, most of which were written in the 1930s, numbered in the several thousands. Many were brief comments made in the margins of his disciple's notebooks in answer to their questions and reports of their spiritual practice others extended to several pages of carefully composed explanations of practical aspects of his teachings. These were later collected and published in book form in three volumes of Letters on Yoga. In the late 1930s, Sri Aurobindo resumed work on a poem he had started earlier he continued to expand and revise this poem for the rest of his life. It became perhaps his greatest literary achievement, Savitri, an epic spiritual poem in blank verse of approximately 24,000 lines. During World War II, he supported the allies, even donating money to the British Government, describing Hitler as a dark and oppressive force.
On August 15, 1947, on his 75th birthday, when India achieved political independence, a message was asked from Sri Aurobindo. In his message, which was read out on the All India Radio, Sri Aurobindo dwelt briefly on the five dreams he has cherished all his life and which, he noted, were on the way to being fulfilled. Sri Aurobindo died on December 5, 1950, after a short illness.
Sri Aurobindo's close spiritual collaborator, Mirra Richard (b. Alfassa), came to be known as The Mother simply because Sri Aurobindo started to call her by this name. On being asked by why he called her the Mother, Sri Aurobindo wrote an essay called The Mother in order to shed light on the person of Mirra.
Mirra was born in Paris on February 21, 1878, to Turkish and Egyptian parents. Involved in the cultural and spiritual life of Paris, she counted among her friends Alexandra David-Neel. She went to Pondicherry on March 29, 1914, finally settling there in 1920. Sri Aurobindo considered her his spiritual equal and collaborator. After November 24, 1926, when Sri Aurobindo retired into seclusion, he left it to her to plan, run and build the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, the community of disciples that had gathered around them. Some time later when families with children joined the ashram, she established and supervised the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education with its experiments in the field of education. When Sri Aurobindo died in 1950, the Mother continued their spiritual work and directed the Ashram and guided their disciples.
In the mid-1960s The Mother personally guided the founding of Auroville, an international township endorsed by UNESCO to further human unity near the town of Pondicherry, which was to be a place "where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities." It was inaugurated in 1968 in a ceremony in which representatives of 121 nations and all the states of India placed a handful of their soil in an urn near the center of the city. Auroville continues to develop and currently has approximately 2100 members from 43 countries, though the majority consists of Indians, French, and Germans.
, a golden metallic sphere in the center of Auroville town.
The Mother played an active role in the merger of the French pockets in India and, according to Sri Aurobindo's wish, helped to make Pondicherry a seat of cultural exchange between India and France.
The Mother stayed in Pondicherry until her death on November 17, 1973. Her later years, including her myriad of metaphysical and occult experiences, and her attempt at the transformation at the cellular level of her body, are captured in her 13-volume personal log known as Mother's Agenda.
Philosophy and spiritual vision
One of Sri Aurobindo's main philosophical achievements was to introduce the concept of evolution into Vedantic 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 along with that of matter, and that the evolution of matter was a result of the former.
He describes the limitation of the Mayavada of Advaita Vedanta, and solves the problem of the linkage between the ineffable Brahman or Absolute and the world of multiplicity by positing a hitherto unknown and unexplored level of consciousness, which he called The Supermind. The supermind is the active principle present in the transcendent Satchidananda as well in the roots of evolution: a unitary level of which our individual minds and bodies are minuscule subdivisions.
Sri Aurobindo rejected a major conception of Indian philosophy that says that the World is a Maya (illusion) and that living as a renunciate was the only way out. He says that it is possible, not only to transcend human nature but also to transform it and to live in the world as a free and evolved human being with a new consciousness and a new nature which could spontaneously perceive truth of things, and proceed in all matters on the basis of inner oneness, love and light.
Sri Aurobindo argues that humankind is not the last rung in the evolutionary scale, but can evolve spiritually beyond its current limitations to a state of spiritual and supramental existence. This evolutionary existence he called a "Divine life on Earth", characterized by a spiritualized, supramental, truth-consciousness-oriented humanity.
Process of creation and evolution
He speaks of two central movements in the process of creation: an involution of consciousness from an original omnipresent Reality, manifesting a universe of forms, including matter; and an evolution of those material forms in creation upward toward life, mind, and spirit, reconnecting to their spiritual source.
The process by which the Energy of creation emerged from a timeless, spaceless, ineffable, immutable Reality, Sri Aurobindo refers to as the Involution. In that process the Reality extended itself to Being/Existence (Sat), Consciousness, that generated a Force - (Chit); and Bliss (Ananda)-- self enjoyment in existing and being conscious. Through the action of a fourth dimension, Supermind (i.e. Truth Consciousness), the Force (Chit) of Sat-Chit-Ananda was divided into Knowledge and Will, eventually formulating as an invisible Energy that would become the source of creation. Through its own willful self-absorption of consciousness, the universe would begin as Inconscient material existence from out of that Energy.
The process of existence emerging out of the Inconscient is referred as evolution. Initially, it emerges gradually in the stages of matter, life, and mind. First matter evolves from simple to complex forms, then life emerges in matter and evolves from simple to complex forms, finally mind emerges in life and evolves from rudimentary to higher forms of thought and reason. As each new principle emerges, the previous stages remain but are integrated into the higher principle. Humanity represents the stage of development of mind in complex material forms of life.
The higher development of mind in the mass of humanity is not yet a secure possession. Reason and intellect still do not dominate the life of most human beings; rather, mind tends to be turned to the purposes of the life principle, which is focused on self-preservation, self-assertion, and satisfaction of personal need and desire. But evolution does not cease with the establishment of reason and intellect; beyond mind are higher levels of a spiritual and supramental consciousness which in the nature of things must also emerge. This higher evolution is described as a dual movement; inward, away from the surface consciousness and into the depths, culminating in the realization of the Psychic Being (the personal evolving soul); and then upward to higher levels of spiritual mind Higher Mind, Illumined Mind, Intuitive Mind, and Overmind), culminating in the final stage of supramentalisation. Whereas these higher levels of consciousness have been attained in particular individuals, they must eventually emerge more universally as general stages in the evolution. When they do emerge, there will come the embodiment of a new species on earth that will be once again united in consciousness with Sachchidananda.
A central tenet of Sri Aurobindo's philosophy is that the Truth of existence is an omnipresent Reality that both transcends the manifested universe and is inherent in it. This Reality, referred to as Brahman, is an Absolute: it is not limited by any mental conception or duality, whether personal or impersonal, existent or nonexistent, formless or manifested in form, timeless or extended in time, spaceless or extended in space.
It is simultaneously all of these but is bound by none of them. It is at once the universe, each individual being and thing in the universe, and the Transcendent beyond the universe. In its highest manifested poise, its nature may be described as Sachchidananda infinite existence, infinite consciousness, and infinite delight or bliss; a triune principle in which the three are united in a single Reality. In other words, it is a fully conscious and blissful infinite existence. The importance of this concept for humanity lies in its implication that Brahman is the deepest and secret Reality of humans, it is their true Self, and it is possible to recover this Reality of their being by removing the veil of ignorance that hides it from them and imprisons them in a false identification with an apparently divided and limited egoistic movement on the surface of the being. This is the metaphysical basis for Sri Aurobindo's yoga, the discipline given to consciously unite humans' life with their essential Reality.
Triple transformation of the individual
Sri Aurobindo's argues that Man is born an ignorant, divided, conflicted being; a product of the original inconscience (i.e. unconsciousness,) inherent in Matter that he evolved out of. As a result, he does not know the nature of Reality, including its source and purpose; his own nature, including the parts and integration of his being; what purpose he serves, and what his individual and spiritual potential is, amongst others. In addition, man experiences life through division and conflict, including his relationship with others, and his divided view of spirit and life.
To overcome these limitations, Man must embark on a process of self-discovery in which he uncovers his Divine nature. To that end, he undertakes a three-step process, which he calls the Triple Transformation.
(1) Psychic Transformation -- The first of the three stages is a movement within, away from the surface of life, to the depths, culminating in the discovery of his psychic being (the evolving soul). From that experience, he sees the oneness and unity of creation, and the harmony of all opposites experienced in life.
(2) Spiritual Transformation -- As a result of making the psychic change, his mind expands and he experiences knowledge not through the hard churning of thought, but through light, intuition, and revelation of knowledge, culminating in supramental perception. Light enters from the heights and begins to transmute various parts of his being.
(3) Supramental transformation -- After making the psychic and spiritual change, he makes the supramental and most radical change. It is basically a complete transformation of the mind, the heart, the emotions, and the physical body.
Sri Aurobindo's vision of the future includes the appearance of what may be called a new species, the supramental being, a divine being which would be as different and superior to present humanity as humanity is to the animal. It would have a consciousness different in kind than the mind of the human, a different status and quality and functioning. Even the physical form of this being would be different, more luminous and flexible and adaptable, entirely conscious and harmonious. Between this supramental being and humanity, there would be transitional beings, who would be human in birth and form, but whose consciousness would approach that of the supramental being. These transitional beings would appear prior to that of the full supramental being, and would constitute an intermediate stage in the Earth's evolution, through which the soul would pass in its growth towards its divine manifestation as the supramental being in the earth nature.
Philosophy of social evolution
Sri Aurobindo's spiritual vision extended beyond the perfection and transformation of the individual; it included within its scope the evolution and transformation of human society. In both the individual and in society, the soul and spirit is at first hidden and occult. This, he argues, influences the direction and course of development from behind, but allowing nature to follow its gradual, zigzagging, and conflict-ridden course. Afterwards, as mind develops and becomes more dominant over obscure impulses and ego-centered drives of vital nature. This results in a more objective, enlightened perception and approach towards human existence and the potential developments that become possible. At the highest stage of mental development, he argues, a greater possibility and principle becomes apparent, which is spiritual and supramental in nature. At this point a true solution to humanity's problems becomes visible in the context of a radical transformation of human life into a form of divine existence.
In The Synthesis of Yoga, and in his voluminous correspondence with his disciples collected under the title Letters on Yoga, Sri Aurobindo laid out the psychological principles and practices of the Integral Yoga or Poorna Yoga. The aim of Integral yoga is to enable the individual who undertakes it the attainment of a conscious identity with the Divine, the true Self, and to transform the mind, life, and body so they would become fit instruments for a divine life on Earth.
In addition, Sri Aurobindo indicated that the aim of his yoga is the divinization of earth by bringing down what he called the Supermind, which is the Truth-consciousness. The particular method he suggested is the purification of all parts of the personality and their eventual surrender, which allows the Psychic Being to emerge, enabling the individual to become the supramental being by opening to and receiving the supramental Force. Such gnostic individuals would then become the basis of a new society, culminating in a divine life on Earth.
Analysis of Indian culture
Sri Aurobindo's 'Renaissance in India' cover page
In Renaissance in India (earlier called The Foundations of Indian Culture), Sri Aurobindo examines the nature of Indian civilization and culture. He looked at its central motivating tendencies and how these are expressed in its religion, spirituality, art, literature, and politics. The first section of the book provides a general defense of Indian culture from disparaging criticism due to the misunderstanding of a foreign perspective, and its possible destruction due to the aggressive expansion and infiltration of Western culture. This section is interesting in the light it sheds on the nature of both Eastern and Western civilizations, how they have developed over the centuries, how they have influenced each other throughout the ages, and the nature and significance of these exchanges in the recent period. The principle tenet of the exposition is that India has been and is one of the greatest civilizations of the world, one that stands apart from all others in its central emphasis, or rather its whole foundation, based on spirituality, and that on its survival depends the future of the human race whether it shall be a spiritual outflowering of the divine in man, or a rational, economically driven, and mechanized association of peoples.
Interpretation of the Vedas
Sri Aurobindo's 'Secret of the veda' cover page
One of the most significant contributions of Sri Aurobindo was his setting forth an esoteric meaning of the Vedas. The Vedas were considered by some to be composed by a barbaric culture worshiping violent Gods. Sri Aurobindo felt that this was due to non-grasping of vedic symbolism, both by Occidental and Oriental scholars.
Sri Aurobindo believed there was a hidden spiritual meaning in the Vedas. He viewed the Rig Veda as a spiritual text written in a symbolic language in which the outer meaning was concerned with ritualistic sacrifices to the gods, and the inner meaning, which was revealed only to initiates, was concerned with an inner spiritual knowledge and practice, the aim of which was to unite in consciousness with the Divine.
In this conception, Indra is the God of Mind lording over the Indriyas, that is, the senses (sight, touch, hearing, taste etc.). Vayu represents air, but in its esoteric sense means Prana, or the life force. So when the Rig Veda says "Call Indra and Vayu to drink Soma Rasa" the inner meaning is to use mind through the senses and life force to receive divine bliss (Soma means wine of Gods, but in several texts also means divine bliss, as in Right-handed Tantra). Agni, the God of the sacrificial fire in the outer sense, is the flame of the spiritual will to overcome the obstacles to unite with the Divine. So the sacrifice of the Vedas could mean sacrificing ones ego to the internal Agni, the spiritual fire.
Sri Aurobindo's theory of the inner spiritual significance of the Vedas originally appeared serially in the journal Arya between 1914 and 1921, but was later published in book form as "The Secret of the Veda." Another book, "Hymns to the Mystic Fire", is Sri Aurobindo's translation of the spiritual sense of many of the verses of the Rig Veda.
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 Savitri cover page Savitri: A Legend and a Symbol is Sri Aurobindo's epic poem in 12 books, 24,000 lines about an individual who overcomes the ignorance, suffering, and death in the world through Her spiritual quest, setting the stage for the emergence of a new, Divine life on earth. It is loosely based on the ancient Indian tale of 'Savitri and Satyavan' from the Mahabharata.
The Future Poetry
In Sri Aurobindo's theory of poetry, written under the title The Future Poetry, he writes about the significance that art and culture have for the spiritual evolution of mankind. He believed that a new, deep, and intuitive poetry could be a powerful aid to the change of consciousness and the life required to achieve the spiritual destiny of mankind which he envisioned. Unlike philosophy or psychology, poetry could make the reality of the Spirit living to the imagination and reveal its beauty and delight and captivate the deeper soul of humanity to its acceptance. It is perhaps in Sri Aurobindo's own poetry, particularly in his epic poem Savitri, that we find the fullest and most powerful statement of his spiritual thought and vision.
Followers of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother
The following authors/ organizations trace their intellectual, if not their spiritual, heritage back to, or have in some measure been influenced by, The Mother and Sri Aurobindo.
Sisir Kumar Maitra (1887-1963) was an academic philosopher who wrote widely on Sri Aurobindo and Western philosophy. He wrote the essay 'Sri Aurobindo and Spengler: Comparison between the Integral and the Pluralistic Philosophy of History' in the 1958 symposium compendium, 'The Integral Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo.'
Sri Chinmoy (1931-2007) joined the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in 1944. Later, he openly revolted against the Mother and left the Ashram, emigrating to the U.S. in 1964. An author, composer, artist and athlete, he was perhaps best known for holding public events on the theme of inner peace and world harmony (such as concerts, meditations, and races).
Nolini Kanta Gupta (1889 - 1983) was one of Sri Aurobindo's senior disciples, and wrote extensively on philosophy, mysticism, and spiritual evolution in the light of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother's teachings.
Indra Sen (1903-1994) was another disciple of Sri Aurobindo who, although little-known in the West, was the first to articulate integral psychology and integral philosophy, in the 1940s and 1950s. A compilation of his papers came out under the title, Integral Psychology in 1986.
Ram Shankar Misra was a scholar of Indian religious and philosophical thought and author of The Integral Advaitism of Sri Aurobindo (publ. 1957), a philosophical commentary on Sri Aurobindo's work.
Sri Anirvan (1896-1978) translated "The Life Divine" in Bengali and "Savitri" into Bengali in "Divya Jeevan Prasanga", published by Sri Aurobindo Pathamandir,1948-51.
Satprem (1923 - 2007) was a French author and an important disciple of The Mother who published Mother's Agenda (ed.1982), Sri Aurobindo or the Adventure of Consciousness (2000), On the Way to Supermanhood (2002) and more.
Pavitra (1894 - 1969) was one of the very early disciples of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. Born as Philippe Barbier Saint-Hilaire in Paris. Pavitra left some very interesting memoirs of his conversations with Sri Aurobindo and the Mother in 1925 and 1926, which were published as Conversations avec Pavitra.
Organisations and institutes
SAICE - Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education - Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, an integral part of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, serves as a field of experiment and research in education. For years Sri Aurobindo considered the formation of an Education Centre as one of the best means of preparing the future humanity to manifest upon earth a divine consciousness and a divine life. To give a concrete shape to his vision, the Mother opened a school for children on December 2, 1943. Since then, the school has continued to grow and experiment on various educational problems and issues. In 1951, a Convention was held at Pondicherry which resolved to establish an International University Centre in the town as a fitting memorial to Sri Aurobindo. Accordingly the Sri Aurobindo International University Centre was inaugurated by the Mother on January 6, 1952. In 1959, the Mother decided to rename it "Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education."
- Sri Aurobindo Centre for Advanced Research, located in Pondicherry, India, provides online advanced degree programmes (e.g., MA, M.Phil., and Ph.D.) in Sri Aurobindo Studies. It works in collaboration with Indira Gandhi National Open University which grants the degrees. It also publishes books related to the thought and vision of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, holds conferences, and sells CDs of talks by Ananda Reddy, its Director, on Sri Aurobindo's various major works.
World Union - A non-profit, non-political organisation founded on 26 November 1958 in Pondicherry, fired by the Third Dream of Sri Aurobindo; also publishes a quarterly journal with the same title. A.B. Patel was the driving force and for many years, M.P. Pandit was the leading light.
- The Integral Life Foundation in Waterford, CT has published several books by Amal Kiran.
Mother India is the Sri Aurobindo Ashram's originally fortnightly, now monthly, cultural review. It was started in 1949, the founding editor being K. D. Sethna (Amal Kiran), who continues as editor for over fifty years.
Collaboration is a journal dedicated to the spiritual and evolutionary vision of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. Content includes articles, essays, poetry, and art. Topics range across the theory and practice of Integral Yoga, Sri Aurobindo's philosophy and metaphysics, developments in the international township of Auroville, activities of various centers and announcements and reports about various conferences related to the Integral Yoga.
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.
Bases of Yoga, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin ISBN 0-941524-77-9
Bhagavad Gita and Its Message, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin ISBN 0-941524-78-7
Dictionary of Sri Aurobindo's Yoga, (compiled by M.P. Pandit), Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin ISBN 0-941524-74-4
Essays on the Gita, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin ISBN 0-914955-18-7
The Future Evolution of Man, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin ISBN 0-940985-55-1
The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin ISBN 0-914955-44-6
Hymns to the Mystic Fire, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin ISBN 0-914955-22-5
The Ideal of Human Unity, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin ISBN 0-914955-43-8
The Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo's Teaching and Method of Practice, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin ISBN 0-941524-76-0
The Life Divine, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin ISBN 0-941524-61-2
The Mind of Light, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin ISBN 0-940985-70-5
The Mother, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin ISBN 0-941524-79-5
Rebirth and Karma, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin ISBN 0-941524-63-9
Savitri: A Legend and a Symbol, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin ISBN 0-941524-80-9
Secret of the Veda, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin ISBN 0-914955-19-5
Sri Aurobindo Primary Works Set 12 vol. US Edition, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin ISBN 0-941524-93-0
Sri Aurobindo Selected Writings Software CD ROM, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin ISBN 0-914955-88-8
The Synthesis of Yoga, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin ISBN 0-941524-65-5
The Upanishads, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin ISBN 0-914955-23-3
Vedic Symbolism, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin ISBN 0-941524-30-2
The Essential Aurobindo - Writings of Sri Aurobindo ISBN 978-0-9701097-2-9
The Powers Within, Lotus Press. ISBN 978-0-941524-96-4
Human Cycle, Ideal of Human Unity, War and Self Determination by Aurobindo, Lotus Press. ISBN 81-7058-014-5
Hour of God by Sri Aurobindo, Lotus Press. ISBN 81-7058-217-2
Ramdhari Singh 'Dinkar', Sri Aurobindo: Meri Drishti Mein, Lokbharti Prakashan, New Delhi, 2008.
- Kumari, Shyam, How they came to Sri Aurobindo and The Mother (4 volumes), Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry. Stories and experiences of Sri Aurobindo's and Mother's disciples.
- ____________ Vignettes of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother (3 volumes), Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry. Hundreds of brief stories of the Masters' interactions with their disciples in each volume.
- ____________ Musings on the Mother's Prayers and Meditations (3 volumes), Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry. The author's reflections on each of the Mother's published "Prayers and Meditations."
- Nahar, Sujata (Ed.) India's rebirth - A selection from Sri Aurobindo's writings, talks and speeches, 3rd edition, 2000, Hermanville, France: Institut de Recherches volutives. (http://www.voi.org/books).
Satprem, Sri Aurobindo, or the Adventure of Consciousness 1968, Pondicherry, India: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Press. Exposition of the philosophy of Sri Aurobindo and the techniques of Integral Yoga.
van Vrekhem, Georges: Beyond Man - The Life and Work of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, HarperCollins Publishers India, New Delhi 1999, ISBN 81-7223-327-2.
- _________ Hitler and his God - The Background to the Hitler phenomenon, Rupa & Co, New Delhi 2006.
- _________The Mother - The Story of Her Life, HarperCollins Publishers India, New Delhi 2000, ISBN 81-7223-416-3
- _________ Overman The intermediary between the human and the supramental being, Rupa & Co, New Delhi 2001, ISBN 81-7167-594-8.
- _________ Patterns of the Present From The perspective of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Rupa & Co, New Delhi 2001, ISBN 81-7167-768-1.
Prithwindra Mukherjee, Sri Aurobindo, "Biographies", Descl e de Brouwer, Paris, 2000
- Richard Kitaeff, "Sri Aurobindo", in Nouvelles Cl s, n 62, pp. 58 61.
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