Sri Aurobindo: A Life Extraordinary
In all aspects of his personality Sri Aurobindo was entirely unconventional. As a poet and politician, as a philosopher and yogi, he always hewed new paths. As a thinker he was ahead of most others among the contemporaries.
As a politician he always remained in the background until the rulers arrested and kept him as an under trial prisoner in Alipore Bomb case. He was the first to repeatedly demand total freedom as the political goal of the country in the pages of Bande Mataram.
While in England he was well acquainted with the European history and thought, revolutionary ideas and deeds; Shelley’s Revolt of Islam moved him to some extent. By the time he was in politics his ideal was Indian freedom based on its spirituality. It seemed as if he was born with it. He was a pioneer in spreading Spiritual Nationalism as a practical path breaker on the way to freedom, taking inspiration mainly from Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay’s novel Anandamath. Swami Vivekananda too was an example before him. His spiritualism at that time was based mainly on Hindu scriptures, Hindu ideals and the age old practices, confirmed by his own experiences. Naturally he could not or would not bring in other religions in the scheme of spiritual nationalism which grew spontaneously according to the ethos of the time.
What this religion is he described in full details in his Uttarpara speech. According to this, this religion is older than the Hindu religion which is a combination of many faiths. This originated in the Vedas, the oldest source of religion, known as the Sanatan Dharma which he always believed would raise the Indian Nation and along with it the whole world.
Though India was divided in many kingdoms and feudal lords, it was united by this Sanatan Dharma and the age old culture. India was invaded number of times by foreign forces. While most of them left, some remained with their culture and religion. India absorbed all, assimilated all. Even when large number of the countrymen embraced other religions mostly under compulsive situations, India remained one. Sri Aurobindo always stressed on this unity even after it was divided. His Uttarpara Speech was the revelation of his spiritual self, its experiences and the hope that India will rise again at the behest of Sanatan Dharma. It will remain united.
In his time Hindu Muslim conflict was not so serious. But he observed that the rulers made all possible efforts to divide the minds of the two peoples and were successful in dividing Bengal. He never accepted the situation. The settled fact of division was unsettled, Bengal was united again. He never accepted the constitutional reform proposed by Lord Morley. Throughout the length of different issues of Karmayogin, he stressed on the subject of unity from time to time.
“In any case it cannot outweigh, however full it may be, the disastrous character of the principle of separate electorates introduced by Lord Morley, intentionally or unintentionally, as the thin end of a wedge which, when driven well home, will break our growing nationality into a hundred jarring pieces.” (Karmayogin. Vol.1. No.13. Dated-18.9.09)
“We will be no party to a distinction which recognises Hindu and Mahomedan as permanently separate political units and thus precludes the growth of a single and indivisible Indian nation.” (ibid. No. 18. Dated- 6.11.09)
Before his eyes this division between the two communities began with the ploy and patronage of the imperial lords. He never thought of any division or partition for Mother India was always one before his eyes. He wished a way to undo this division of minds:
“We must strive to remove the causes of misunderstanding by a better mutual knowledge and sympathy; we must extend the unfaltering love of the patriot to our Musulman brother, remembering always that in him too Narayana dwells and to him too our Mother has given a permanent place in her bosom; but we must cease to approach him falsely or flatter out of a selfish weakness and cowardice.” (Under the title; Swaraj and the Musulmans. Pondicherry; Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library. Vol.2. p.24)
Long after the partition is over, reading the mind of Pakistanis, we understand that most of them are highly dissatisfied and are very sorry that none have been able to give a true shape to a Muslim nation as its founding leader hoped. In fact history is unveiling itself gradually that the founding father of Pakistan was not in favour of dividing the united India at the beginning, however much communal he later became. There were some others who thought it expedient to get it done to see their own position secured. However much suppressed it is, the truth is on the brink, likes to overflow. We in India are suffering still from various deformities due mainly to partition. We remember again and again, what great it would be to accept the offer of the Cabinet Mission through Sir Stafford Cripps in 1942. The country would not be divided. We can’t share the great wisdom of the then great leaders who refused to accept Sri Aurobindo’s suggestion to them to accept the Cripps Mission to avoid the partition. Neither the Quit India movement was non-violent nor was it the singular action to bring the truncated freedom of the country; read the history properly. Today Indians should more realise what the consequences of partition are, a curse in our life, and what a true wisdom is like which is represented by Sri Aurobindo.
In 1909 the divine acquired the foremost position in his life. Division between man and man, community and community, religion and religion was far from his thought. His love for humanity was overwhelming which ultimately led him to devote his life towards establishing a divine life on earth. His scheme and action is contained in his world famous magnum opus: The Life Divine.
The scheme of divine life is neither a chimera nor a utopia. It can be tried with all sincerity. It will help mankind to the extent it is achieved in solving its problem of existence, specially in the face of failure of all the isms so far.
Sri Aurobindo’s literary productions which include his sociological and spiritual thoughts, extend to thousands of pages in more than 30 big volumes, as in the centenary edition of his works. His one big poem, Savitri a spiritual epic, began to be composed at the end of the nineteenth century and continued for more than half a century till he breathed his last. It is the longest poem in English language, claimed to be the second largest in the whole of European literature. Most of his works extending to various fields of human thought and creation are of immense value for man, present and future.
Almost at the beginning of his yoga, words came to him in a silent mind without any thought. He wrote lines after lines, pages after pages of poem and prose without thinking. Long before he uttered the words, ‘All life is yoga’, he had carried the faith in the core of his heart. Rules and rituals were otiose for him. According to him, yoga was psychological, an entirely inner movement. So he never performed any puja with all rituals. He had no Guru, other than some helpers. The Maharashtrian yogi V. B. Lele was one who had taught him to blank his mind but the result was so astonishing that he himself advised him to depend on God alone. Lele left him finally when he learnt that Sri Aurobindo had not been following any routine as advised by him, as he was then in the thick of a stormy political life.
“I lived with Sri Aurobindo, who never used to sit cross-legged. He told me right away it was all a question of habits- subconscious habit . . . . And how well he explained: ‘If a posture is necessary for you, it will come by itself.’ ” Mother said to her disciple on 11 May, 1963. It is known that he used to meditate while walking speedily in his rooms with flowing hairs dancing on his shoulders for hours, sometimes extending to 12/13 hours at a stretch. But he never closed his eyes. They were kept open even when he had visions extraordinary.
Samadhi is trance, which a saint or yogi attains usually after many years of rigorous sadhana. Mother said, “Sri Aurobindo told . . . me that he never, ever had a Samadhi in his body.” But after his passing away Sri Aurobindo’s body was placed in a Samadhi.
During his life span of approximately 78 years, 3 months and 19 days, he lived mainly in four corners of the globe: Bengal (about 10 years and 5 months), England (about 13 years and 6 months), Baroda (about 13 years and 4 months) and Pondicherry (about 40 years and 8 months), besides his stay in ships, trains and other modes of conveyance.
Wherever he lived, he lived most simply, without any luxury or comfort. He did not seek any such thing. He rejoiced all the houses he lived in and prepared himself inwardly for the great mission for which he had arrived on earth. He was attached to none. None he disliked. He discarded them quite inevitably, as one discards his worn out dresses.
The place where his Ashram is situated now was once the ancient Vedic teaching centre established by Rishi Agastya. It was his ashram, wrote the French architect and scholar, Jouveau Dubreuil.
After his passing away in 1950, he made his abode in the subtle physical, very near to earth atmosphere. Mother visited him there many times.
“I again spent the whole night with Sri Aurobindo”, Mother said on 15 November 1966 and continued, “He has quite beautiful abode there! It’s magnificent.” ‘Learning’ to be what it must be.”
Sri Aurobindo was a man who lived extraordinarily. He lived beyond life (he still lives) yet he wrote to his disciple that if he could do such things in his life, any one could do the same by efforts, as he too was a mortal.