Significance of Aurobindo Ghose Jayanti

published on August 19, 2010

V.N. Gopalakrishnan

Sri Aurobindo Ghose (1872-1950) was a multifaceted personality-a great scholar, litterateur, philosopher, patriot, social reformer and above all a visionary.  His 138th birth anniversary was celebrated on the 15th of August, which coincided with India’s Independence Day.  India attained independence on the same day 75 years after his birth in 1872. In a message on the Independent Day, he said: “I take this coincidence, 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.”

Sri Aurobindo has originated the philosophy of cosmic salvation through spiritual evolution. According to his theory, the paths to union with Brahman are two-way channels: Enlightenment comes from above (thesis), while the spiritual mind strives through Yogic illumination to reach upward from below (antithesis). When these two forces blend, a gnostic individual is created (synthesis). This yogic illumination transcends both reason and intuition and eventually leads to the freeing of the individual from the bonds of individuality, and by extension, all mankind will eventually achieve liberation (moksha). Thus he created a dialectic mode of salvation not only for the individual but for all mankind.

“Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy is based on facts, experience and personal realisation. His spirituality was inseparably united with reason. His goal was not merely the liberation of the individual from the chain that fetters him and realization of the self, but to work out the will of the Divine in the world, to effect a spiritual transformation and to bring down the divine nature and a divine life into the mental, vital and physical nature and life of humanity”.

Sri Aurobindo spent his life working towards the cause of India’s freedom, and for further evolution of life on earth. He was one of the pioneers of political awakening in India and he openly advocated the boycott of British goods, British courts and everything British. He asked the people to prepare themselves for passive resistance. He embarked on a course of action to free India from the British Raj from 1902 to 1910. He was imprisoned in 1908 for his political activities and revolutionary literary efforts. Two years later, he fled British India and took refuge in the French colony of Pondicherry. There he founded an Ashram as an international cultural centre for spiritual development, attracting students from all over the world.

In 1914, he launched Arya, a monthly review which became the vehicle for most of his most important writings. He edited the English daily Vande Mataram and wrote fearless and pointed editorials. He also started the English weekly Dharma and spread his message: “Our ideal of Swaraj is absolute autonomy, absolute self-rule, free from foreign control”. He wrote a series of fiery articles in Induprakash under the title “New Lamps for Old”, strongly criticising the Indian National Congress for its moderate policy.

The basic objective of his teachings and writings was to increase the level of consciousness of people and make them aware about their true self. His literary works include the writings on varied subjects like the Indian culture, socio-political development of the country, spirituality etc. His Life Divine is, and will always remain, a force guiding the thoughts of men all over the world. His other works are: Essays on Gita, Ideal and Progress, Isa Upanishad, The Superman, Evolution, Heraclitus, The Ideal of the Karmayogin, The Brain of India, the Renaissance in India, Kalidasa, Vikramorvasi, The Riddle of This World, etc. Among students of English literature, Sri Aurobindo is mainly known for Savitri, a grand epic of 23,837 lines, the longest in the English language directing man towards the Supreme Being. Sri Aurobindo stated that the object of his study of the Gita “will not be as a scholastic or academic scrutiny of its thought, nor the place it in the history of metaphysical speculation but for help and light”.

Sri Aurobindo was born in Kolkatta on August 15, 1872 as the third child of Dr. Krishnadhan Ghose and Swamalata Devi. His education began in a Christian convent school in Darjeeling, and then, still a boy was sent to England for further schooling. He entered the University of Cambridge where he became proficient in two classical and three modern European languages. After returning to India in 1892, he took various administrative and professional jobs in Baroda and Kolkatta and later turned to his native culture and began the serious study of Yoga and Indian languages, including classical Sanskrit. Though he knew seven foreign languages, he could not speak his own mother tongue, Bengali. In 1901 Sri Aurobindo married Mrinalini Devi. During his 12 years of stay in Baroda he worked for India’s freedom, behind the scenes. In 1903 he went to Kashmir with the Maharaja of Baroda where on the Hills of Shankaracharya, he had a spiritual experience.

Sri Aurobindo fulfilled the glorious purpose of demonstrating to the world that real India, the India of the Vedic seers, could survive and absorb into herself all alien cultures and that at the hands of one who knew the proper synthesis, Eastern and Western cultures could find their happy blend, without necessarily having to antagonize one another. Sri Aurobindo felt that there was something unique in India’s capacity for spirituality and that Hinduism would answer to the spiritual needs of the whole world. For the Indians, he became, “the poet of patriotism, the prophet of nationalism and a lover of humanity”. He was described by Romain Rolland as “the complete synthesis that has been realised of the genius of Asia and of Europe”.

(The author is a freelance journalist and social activist. He is also the Director of Indo-Gulf Consulting and can be contacted on [email protected])

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