“Sri Aurobindo does not belong to the past nor to history.
Sri Aurobindo is the Future advancing towards its realisation.”1
– The Mother
Sri Aurobindo was born in Calcutta on 15th August, 1872. From age 6 to 21 he studied in England. Away from his homeland this was also a period of financial hardship for the young Aurobindo, but he was brilliant in his studies. He excelled in subjects like history, English, Greek, Latin and French and also learned other European languages. While still studying, Sri Aurobindo had already begun associating himself with activities against the British rule in India. On returning to India, in 1893, as he set foot on the Indian soil, he had his first major spiritual experience – a vast calm and peace descended on him from above, an experience that never left him. Sri Aurobindo saw it as a welcoming blessing of Mother India.
He joined the service of the Maharaja of Baroda as a secretary and also taught as a professor in the Maharaja’s college. During his stay in Baroda, he learned Sanskrit as well as other Indian languages and studied Indian culture and spirituality. He also wrote fiery articles against the British rule in national newspapers and secretly helped “organization of the people to carry on a public and united opposition and undermining of the foreign rule through an increasing noncooperation and passive resistance”.2
In 1906, he moved to Calcutta as the president of National College. To the Nation, he had emerged as an active politician and a hero. In the midst of his political activities, in 1908, a yogi gave him some guidance in meditation. He asked Sri Aurobindo to reject all thoughts from entering his mind. Sri Aurobindo simply followed his instruction and to the surprise of the yogi, passed into a deep state of trance and sat motionless absorbed in it for three days. With this experience, as Sri Aurobindo later recalled, his “mind became full of an eternal silence”3 which developed into the experience of the silent Brahman consciousness. The ruling British Government meanwhile found reasons to arrest Sri Aurobindo in 1908 and put him in prison while awaiting trial in a major conspiracy case. In prison, Sri Aurobindo had another major spiritual experience as he experienced the Divine Presence, his beloved Krishna, everywhere.
“I looked at the jail that secluded me from men and it was no longer by its high walls that I was imprisoned; no, it was Vasudeva [Krishna] who surrounded me. I walked under the branches of the tree in front of my cell, but it was not the tree, I knew it was Vasudeva, it was Srikrishna whom I saw standing there and holding over me His shade. I looked at the bars of my cell, the very grating that did duty for a door and again I saw Vasudeva. It was Narayana [Krishna] who was guarding and standing sentry over me. Or I lay on the coarse blankets that were given me for a couch and felt the arms of Srikrishna around me, the arms of my Friend and Lover… I looked at the prisoners in the jail, the thieves, the murderers, the swindlers, and as I looked at them I saw Vasudeva.”4
In 1909, he was acquitted of all charges.
Soon he rejoined his political activities but in 1910, escaping another warrant for arrest, Sri Aurobindo moved to Pondicherry, which became his final home. Here he focused all his time and energy to develop the vision and practice of a new system of yoga, later named by him the Integral Yoga.
In 1914, the Mother arrived and met Sri Aurobindo. Together with her, Sri Aurobindo started a monthly journal, Arya. In a few months the First World War broke out and the Mother had to leave. Sri Aurobindo continued publishing the Arya all on his own, writing 64 pages every month. He wrote serially on various subjects: his philosophy of a divine life upon Earth; his study of traditional lines of yoga; his commentaries and interpretations on the ancient spiritual texts of the Veda, Upanishads and Gita; his works on sociology; his theory of poetry; his views on Indian culture, as well as various reviews, translations and essays. Later these writings were made available in book forms by the Sri Aurobindo Ashram.
“The full Yoga, Purna Yoga [Integral Yoga], means a fourfold path, a Yoga of knowledge for the mind, a Yoga of bhakti [devotion] for the heart, a Yoga of works for the will and a Yoga of perfection for the whole nature. But, ordinarily, if one can follow wholeheartedly any one of these lines, one arrives at the result of all the four. For instance, by bhakti one becomes close to the Divine, becomes intensely aware of Him and arrives at knowledge, for the Divine is the Truth and the Reality; by knowing Him, says the Upanishads, one comes to know all. By bhakti also the will is led into the road of the works of love and the service of the Divine and the government of the nature and its acts by the Divine, and that is Karmayoga. By bhakti also comes spiritual change of the consciousness and the action of the nature which is the first step towards its transformation. So it is with all the other lines of the fourfold path.”5
Writing in a silent state of mind, transcribing inspiration from higher planes, Sri Aurobindo continued the publication of Arya up to 1920. In the same year, the Mother returned to Pondicherry, this time for good.
In 1926, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother took the collective practice of yoga to a new level. Sri Aurobindo had realised that in order to release a hidden and involved level of consciousness, the same level has to first descend into matter from the higher plane – similar to how a seed is given water and soil and sunlight, elements of life, so that the seed can release its own hidden life and be reborn as a tree. Thus, in order for the Supramental Consciousness to descend, first he had to manifest the highest spiritual consciousness (Overmind) in Earth’s matter, represented by his body.
On November 24th, 1926, Sri Aurobindo received the descent of the Overmind in his physical consciousness, in his body.
“It was the descent of Krishna into the physical.”6
“The descent of Krishna would mean the descent of the Overmind Godhead preparing, though not itself actually bringing, the descent of Supermind and Ananda. Krishna is the Anandamaya, he supports the evolution through the Overmind leading it towards his Ananda.”7
This marked a new stage of life for the Ashram. From this day onwards Sri Aurobindo withdrew to his chambers to concentrate on the next phase of his work, to bring down the Supramental Consciousness into Earth matter. He entrusted all responsibilities of the Ashram and the Ashramites to the Mother.
From then onwards, Sri Aurobindo would see his disciples only three times per year during Darshan days, seated alongside the Mother when a queue of disciples would pass in front of them.
Apart from his inner work, he would spend hours every night answering questions of the practising disciples through letter correspondence. During these years he continued expressing the richness of his inner world in his epic poem, Savitri.
“Sri Aurobindo has come on earth not to bring a teaching or a creed in competition with previous creeds or teachings, but to show the way to overpass the past and to open concretely the route towards an imminent and inevitable future.”8
On 5th December 1950, in the process of bringing down the Supermind, Sri Aurobindo left his body. Following words of the Mother give a glimpse of his inner life:
“The Supermind had descended long ago – very long ago – into the mind and even into the vital: it was working in the physical also but indirectly through those intermediaries. The question was about the direct action of the Supermind in the physical. Sri Aurobindo said it could be possible only if the physical mind received the supramental light: the physical mind was the instrument for direct action upon the most material. This physical mind receiving the supramental light Sri Aurobindo called the Mind of Light.”9
“As soon as Sri Aurobindo withdrew from his body, what he has called the Mind of Light got realised in me.”10
Henceforth, the Mother continued Sri Aurobindo’s work.
- CWM Vol.12, P: 211
- CWSA Vol. 36, Autobiographical Notes, P: 46
- CWSA Vol.35, Letters on Himself and the Ashram, P: 247
- CWSA Vol.08, Karmayogin, P: 06
- CWSA Vol.31, Letters on Yoga-4, P: 687
- CWSA Vol.35, Letters on Himself and the Ashram, P: 273
- CWSA Vol.35, Letters on Himself and the Ashram, P: 272
- CWM Vol. 13, P: 04
- CWM Vol. 13, P: 62
- CWM Vol. 13, P: 63
(Extact from ‘An Introduction to the Integral Yoga‘)