Sri Aurobindo (Aurobindo Ghosh) in 1916.
|Date of Birth||August 15, 1872|
|Place of birth||Kolkata (Calcutta), India|
|Birth||Aurobindo Akroyd Ghosh|
|Date of death||December 5, 1950 (aged 78)|
|Place of death||Puducherry (Pondicherry), French India|
|Quote||The spirit shall look out through Matter's gaze. And matter shall reveal the spirit's face.|
Sri Aurobindo (Aurobindo Ghose) (Bengali: শ্রী অরবিন্দ (অরবিন্দ ঘোষ) Sri Ôrobindo) (August 15, 1872 – December 5, 1950) was an Indian nationalist and freedom fighter, major Indian English poet, philosopher, and yogi. He joined the movement for India's freedom from British rule and for a duration (1905–10), became one of its most important leaders, before turning to developing his own vision and philosophy of human progress and spiritual evolution.
The central theme of Sri Aurobindo's vision is the evolution of life into a "life divine". In his own words: "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".
The principal writings of Sri Aurobindo include, in prose, The Life Divine, considered his single great work of metaphysics,The Synthesis of Yoga, Secrets of the Vedas, Essays on the Gita, The Human Cycle, The Ideal of Human Unity, Renaissance in India and other essays, Supramental Manifestation upon Earth, The Future Poetry, Thoughts and Aphorisms and several volumes of letters. In poetry, his principal work is "Savitri - a Legend and a Symbol" in blank verse.
Sri Aurobindo was born Aravinda Akroyd Ghose in Kolkata (Calcutta), India, on 15 August, 1872 to Dr. Krishna Dhan Ghose, District Surgeon of Rangapur, Bengal and Swarnalata Devi, the daughter of Brahmo religious and social reformer, Rajnarayan Basu. 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 and Benoybhusan - 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, who Dr. Ghose knew through his British friends at Rangapur. The Drewetts tutored the Ghose brothers privately. The Drewitts had been asked to keep the tuitions completely secular and to make no mention of India or its culture.
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 ICS, 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 Sri 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 Mumbai (Bombay) 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.
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 state of Baroda 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 
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 Kolkata (Calcutta) 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. Sri Aurobindo was then 28; the bride Mrinalini, 14. Marrying off daughters at a very young age was very common in 19th century Bengali families.
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, Mumbai 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 Puducherry (Pondicherry).
Sri Aurobindo and The Mother
|Collected Works · Life Divine · Synthesis of Yoga · Savitri · Agenda ·|
|Involution/Involution · Evolution · Integral education · Integral psychology · Integral yoga · Intermediate zone · Supermind|
|Matrimandir · Pondicherry|
|Sri Aurobindo Ashram · Auroville|
|Champaklal · N.K.Gupta · Amal Kiran · Nirodbaran · Pavitra · M.P.Pandit · Pranab · A.B.Purani · D.K.Roy · Satprem · Indra Sen · Kapali Shastri|
|Journals and Forums|
|Arya · Mother India · Collaboration|
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 spiritualists 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 Kolkata 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. After his acquittal, he made the famous Uttarpara Speech s:Uttarpara Speech. 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 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 Indian police, he was guided to the french territory Chandernagore where he halted for a few days. On April 4, 1910 he finally landed in the French colony of Pondicherry. At Pondicherry he dedicated himself completely to his spiritual endeavors.
In Puducherry (Pondicherry), Sri Aurobindo completely dedicated himself to his spiritual and philosophical pursuits. In 1914, after four years of concentrated yoga, Sri Aurobindo launched 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.
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 the 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 5 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.
Aurobindo’s observable political career lasted only four years, from 1906 to 1910. Though he had been active behind the scene surveying, organizing and supporting the nationalist cause, ever since his return to India, especially during his excursions to Bengal. This period of his activity from 1906-1910 saw a complete transformation of India's political scene. Before Aurobindo began publishing his views, the Congress was an annual debating society whose rare victories had been instances of the empire taking a favourable view to its petitions. By the time Aurobindo left the field, the ideal of political independence had been firmly ingrained into the minds of people, and nineteen years later, it became the official raison d'etre of the Congress.
This change was affected by the advent of the aggressive nationalist thought of Lokmanya Tilak who declared that swaraj was his birthright and Bipin Chandra Pal who demanded "complete autonomy" from Britain. However none went as far as Aurobindo in articulating the legitimacy and necessity of complete independence. He "based his claim for freedom for India on the inherent right to freedom, not on any charge of misgovernment or oppression". He wrote :
"Political freedom is the life-breath of a nation. To attempt social reform, educational reform, industrial expansion, the moral improvement of the race without aiming first and foremost at political freedom, is the very height of ignorance and futility. The primary requisite for national progress, national reform, is the habit of free and healthy national thought and action which is impossible in a state of servitude."
Aurobindo had become contemptuous of the British rule in India since his days as a student in England. While at the beginning of Aurobindo's educational career, his father had been a believer in the superiority of the British People, by the time Aurobindo was nearing the end of his education in England, Dr. Ghose started mailing Aurobindo newspaper clips of atrocities unleashed by the British on the Indian people. While at King's college, Aurobindo was drawn to Irish nationalists such as Charles Stewart Parnell. He wrote, in praise of Parnell :
"Patriots, behold your guerdon! This man found
Erin, his Mother, beaten, chastised, bound,
Naked to imputation poor, denied,
While alien masters held her house of pride"
This personification of the subjugated nation as the Mother in chains, was a recurring theme in Aurobindo's writings and would later come to galvanize a generation of Indian revolutionaries. From his observations of the British Politics, Aurobindo became convinced that India had little hope from the British Parliament. While in London he joined up with a society of revolutionaries called "Lotus and Dagger" who were committed to overthrowing the British. His activities in England though, were inconsequential. After his return to India, he started working to bring about a revolutionary change in the political situation in India.
He came to believe that the only way to free India from the British yoke was that the common people and not just the elite that composed the erstwhile Congress, should embark upon a total revolution. Aurobindo espoused a threefold approach to this end :
At the beginning of 20th century Bengal had become the central hub for voices against the British Rule and during his vactions to meet his family in Bengal, Aurobindo came in contact with many who shared his views. Aurobindo became inspired by the story of Bankim's novel Anandamath. Aurobindo frequently shared with his younger brother Barin his ideas of imparting martial and intellectual training to the youth of Bengal for the coming revolution; loosely like the sannyais of Anandamath who stir a rebellion agains the British. This concept is rooted in Shakta philosophy.
Anushilan Samiti was founded as an attempt to organize Bengali youth through a program of physical fitness and spiritual training for a nationalist program. By 1902, Calcutta had three societies working under the umbrella of Anushilan Samity, a society earlier founded by a Calcutta barrister by the name of Pramatha Mitra. These included Mitra's own group, another led by a Bengali lady by the name of Sarala Devi, and a third one led by Aurobindo Ghosh. The Anushilan Samiti had Aurobindo and Deshabandhu Chittaranjan Das as the vice-presidents, Suren Tagore the treasurer. Jatindra Nath Banerjee (Niralamba Swami), Bagha Jatin, Bhupendra Nath Datta (Swami Vivekananda's brother), Barindra Ghosh were among other initial leaders. By 1905, the work of Aurobindo and his brother Barin Ghosh allowed Anushilan Samity to spread through Bengal.
When the first Partition of Bengal was announced in 1905, Aurobindo took an extended leave from the college in Baroda and dedicated himself to participate in anti-British activities in Bengal.
Barin who was an aggressive revolutionary in his own right prodded Aurobindo to write about a plan for a Monks' rebellion. In August 1905 Aurobindo published a blueprint for such a training facility called "Bhawani Mandir" (or Bhawani's temple) . This plan and its logistics were later taken over by Barin when Aurobindo devoted himself to the mainstream of Politics.
Aurobindo provided the ideological foundation to the ultra-radical Jugantar party, as an offshoot of the Anushilan Samiti. The party was founded by Barin and Bhupendra Nath Dutta. Among the operational aims of this society was to sensitize and stimulate the disaffected youth of Bengal to the nationalist cause.
The views of Tilak, Aurobindo and other aggressive nationalists, being radically different from those of the moderates, created fissures in the Congress and the debate for its future direction and control spilled into the public domain. To take the extremists' view to the public, Bipin Chandra Pal had founded the nationalist Bengali newspaper Bande Mataram (spelt and pronounced as Bônde Matôrom in the Bengali language). Pal invited Aurobindo to become its editor along with Pal. Pal after a few issues discontinued contributing to the paper. The paper rapidly became a major success. and the radical views finally found a popular voice. But as a result of its popularity and open espousal of aggressive methods, the paper came into frequent confrontation with the Raj.
In 1907 the British Government decided to prosecute the group behind Bande Mataram, for its constant propaganda against British rule. Notices were served for using language which was a "direct incentive to violence and lawlessness." 
On August 16, Aurobindo was sought for arrested by the Police. Aurobindo courted arrest and was released on monetary sureties. The sensational act and the events surrounding the arrest were seen as an episode of defiance against the empire and turned him into a national celebrity. Provincial and National press showered lavish praise on Aurobindo.Tagore wrote: "Rabindranath, O Aurobindo, bows to thee! O friend, my country's friend, O Voice incarnate, free, Of India's soul....The fiery messenger that with the lamp of God hath come...Rabindranath, O Aurobindo, bows to thee".
The prosecution was unable to establish that Sri Aurobindo was the editor of the paper and he was acquitted. Pal was sentenced to six months in prison for declining to depose. After the Bande Mataram Case, Sri Aurobindo became the recognised leader of aggressive nationalism in Bengal. 
Aurobindo was a strong proponent of an indigenous system of National Education. His experiences at Baroda university had convinced him about the shortcomings of the education system of the time. His views on national education frequently brought him in conflict with the moderates of Congress. When the Risley Circular banned the study or mention of politics from government aided educational institutes, Aurobindo along with others saw this as a direct challenge to his program of youth nationalism. He campaigned extensively to gain self-reliance on the front of education, writing articles about the circular and its implications. He, along with Rabindranath Tagore, Raja Subodh Chandra Mullick and Brajendra Kishore Roychowdhury decided that they would protest the partition of Bengal by setting up an institution that would challenge British rule by offering education to the masses 'on national lines and under national control'. The Bengal National College was set up with Aurobindo as its first principal.
Later, when he founded the newspaper Karmayogin he expounded in detail, his philosophy on education in the series titled A System of National Education.
The British had been keeping tabs on activities of Barin and Aurobindo since the Bande Mataram episode. On 30 April 1908, Khudiram Bose and Prafulla Chaki, members of Barin's group, attempted to bomb Magistrate Kingsford's carriage in Alipore. They failed to discern between the identical carriages of the party and the bombs instead landed in the wrong carriage, killing two British women, the wife and daughter of another barrister. The British reaction was swift, with 33 suspects being rounded up within the next two days. Barin and Aurobindo were also arrested and put into prison. The ensuing trial lasted for a year. Aurobindo was acquitted. Khudiram Bose was found guilty and later hanged. Barin was sentenced to death, but this sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment (He was released in 1920). Aurobindo came out of prison and delivered the famous Uttarpara Speech. A few months after the end of his incarceration, and few other anti-British activities, Aurobindo retired from active politics and sailed to Pondicherry, where he would spend the rest of his life.
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 inquired by why he called her the Mother, Sri Aurobindo wrote an essay "The Mother" by way of shedding 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 growing 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 (which, with its pilot experiments in the field of education, impressed observers like Jawaharlal Nehru). When Sri Aurobindo died in 1950, the Mother continued their spiritual work and directed the Ashram and guided their disciples. In the mid 1960s she 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. The Mother also 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.
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. 
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. it is also a process of evolution.
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.
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 laid utmost stress on finding and living in the Psychic Being (i.e. an Evolving Soul) within which is the essence of our individual being. If we forge our way into the deepest parts of our being, we will come upon a Personal Evolving Soul. From this Psychic Being we can overcome the limits of consciousness of the individual human. From there we perceive our true nature and essence; we become more aware of our surroundings; we become one with others and life; we experience an inner Guide that influences us to move in the right direction and catches our negative propensities as they arise on the surface; we come in touch with our universal nature; we come in touch with the transcendent reality and spiritual Force; we overcome the limits of time, bringing timelessness into time; and evoke the powers of the Infinite into this finite existence, to name several. Also when we plunge within and touch the evolving soul, it becomes easy to move up in consciousness above mind to spiritual mind of illumination, intuition, revelation, and (supramental) truth consciousness. It should also be noted that this psychic entity is itself evolving, as it enters the person’s whose experience it believes it can benefit from, extracts the essence of that person’s experience, and then moves on to the next birth until it is fulfilled in its journey through space and time. The connection to the evolving soul is thus the key to the evolution from this the human side, as from there we overcome the inherent Ignorance, division, dualities, and suffering of Man, enabling him to fulfill his human aspiration of God, freedom, joy, and immortality. (From the spiritual side, it is the descending Supramental Force that enables the progress of life to its ultimate capacity. The two together, the connection to the Psychic Being and the surrender to the descending (supramental) Force are the keys to the evolution and transformation of the individual, humanity, and life in the universe.)
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.
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, the 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 that 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 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.
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 1920, 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.
'Savitri: A Legend and a Symbol' is Sri Aurobindo's epic poem of 12 books, 24000 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 Mother said of Savitri:
|“||... everything is there: mysticism, occultism, philosophy, the history of evolution, the history of man, of the gods, of creation, of Nature. How the universe was created, why, for what purpose, what destiny - all is there. You can find all the answers to all your questions there. Everything is explained, even the future of man and of the evolution, all that nobody yet knows. He has described it all in beautiful and clear words so that spiritual adventurers who wish to solve the mysteries of the world may understand it more easily.||”|
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.
The following authors/ organizations (listed in chronological order?) trace their intellectual heritage back to, or have in some measure been influenced by, The Mother and Sri Aurobindo.
Sri Aurobindo's influence has been wide-ranging.
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 (1928-2007) 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, but has integrated some of its key ideas with other spiritual traditions and modern intellectual trends (Wilber's 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.
Based on the teaching of Sri Aurobindo and his Divine Mother, the school based in Bangalore called Sri Aurobindo Memorial School was set up. The student life begins with prayer, medidation and yoga. The children are also served Ladoo on their birthday and poems of Sri Aurobindo are recited in class everyday.
|“||The one aim of [my] yoga is an inner self-development by which each one who follows it can in time discover the One Self in all and evolve a higher consciousness than the mental, a spiritual and supramental consciousness which will transform and divinize human nature||”|
—Sri Aurobindo On Himself