Remembering a Guru - by SRIDHAR-CHAAMA
Born on August 15, 1872, Aurobind Ghose blossomed into Mahaan - Sri Aurobindo by donning many roles: a shrewd student, high profile officer, professor, revolutionary, patriot, a loving husband, poet, philosopher, yogi, guru and visionary. At seven, along with his two elder brothers, he was sent to England for studies. Despite securing the 11 rank (among 250) in the Indian Civil Service competitive exam and completing two years of probation, he skipped the final interview because he did not want to serve the British.
After 14 years, he returned to India in 1893, choosing an appointment in the Baroda Service and worked for 13 years in the service of the Maharaja and later as a Professor. He learnt Sanskrit and several Indian languages while assimilating the spirit of Indian civilisation. He participated in the Freedom Movement and established contacts with public figures such as Lokmanya Tilak and Sister Nivedita. He also took interest in the Baroda Army in starting resistance groups in Bengal. In 1901 he married Mrinalini Devi.
From 1902, his political phase lasted eight years. In 1906, he moved to Calcutta as the principal of the Bengal National College. In 1907, he was prosecuted for sedition for leading against the British and his patriotic writings. Once acquitted, he presided over the Nationalist Conference of Congress party at Surat. In 1908, he was arrested in the Alipore Conspiracy Case and implicated for the activities of the revolutionary group led by his brother Barindra. After a year’s imprisonment, he was again acquitted for want of evidence.
As his inner spirit was kindled by practising yoga in prison, he withdrew from politics and in April 1910, set out for Pondicherry on a spiritual quest. adhanaKarmayogin His journey from politics to spirituality was smooth and he stuck to that path from 1914.
Influenced by Bankim’s Anandamath and inspired by a Maharashtrian yogi, Vishnu Bhaskar Lele, Sri Aurobindo had his first spiritual experience which he termed nirvana; a state of total mental calm. Subsequently, while in jail at Calcutta, he had “many mystical experiences, including the spirit of Swami Vivekananda opening his eyes to the higher planes of consciousness leading to a super mind.” Well-versed in both Indian and European cultures, Sri Aurobindo was proficient in English, Sanskrit and many Indian languages, besides mastering Greek, Latin, French, German and Italian. His works include the synthesis of East and West, translations of and commentaries on the Vedas, Upanishads and the Gita, literary, social and political plays, historical criticism, spiritual works and three volumes of letters. Works that stand out are ‘The Life Divine’, ‘The Synthesis of Yoga’ and his magnum opus, ‘Savitri,’ that depicts an individual ‘winning over ignorance, suffering and death’ through her spiritual search.The central theme of Sri Aurobindo’s vision is the evolution of human life coupled with the involution of the spirit, into ‘life divine’. Aurobindo says, “The process of existence emerging out of the ‘Inconscient’ (material existence) is referred to as evolution. Initially, it emerges gradually in the stages of matter, life and mind. To overcome the limitations of ignorance and conflicts one must embark on a Triple Transformation process of self-discovery to realise his divine nature. For that, one has to undertake: Psychic, Spiritual and Supra - mental transformations.”
The co-founder of the Aurobindo Ashram in Puducherry in 1926, the Paris-born Mirra Alfassa, revered as The Mother, his prime disciple and spiritual collaborator, hails ‘Savitri’ thus: “... Everything is there: mysticism, occultism, philosophy, history of evolution, of man, of the gods, of creation and of Nature…”