Sri Aurobindo’s brief life sketch
1872 – 1893 Calcutta to England
- Sri Aurobindo was born in Calcutta, on August 15, 1872, at 5:00 am, the hour of dawn.
- The name given to Sri Aurobindo at birth was quaintly Aurobindo Ackroyd Ghose! His father Dr K. D. Ghose had returned from England with a completely Western outlook. But Dr Ghose was also 'generous to a fault'. Nobody went empty-handed from his door.
- And Sri Aurobindo’s mother, Swarnalata Devi, was so beautiful and gracious that she was known as the ‘Rose of Rangpur’.
- Sri Aurobindo was the third among five children. The two elder brothers were Benoy Bhushan and Manmohan, younger sister was Sarojini followed by the youngest brother Barindranath.
- When Sri Aurobindo was five years old, he was sent to Loretto Convent School in Darjeeling. Two years later, in 1879, Dr Ghose sent his sons, including Aurobindo who was then only seven, to England.
- Sri Aurobindo lived in Manchester with the Reverend and Mrs Drewett.
- In 1884, Sri Aurobindo shifted to London for his schooling and was admitted to St. Paul's. It is here that Sri Aurobindo plunged into the literature of the Western world and studied several languages—French, Italian, Spanish, Greek and Latin, and absorbed the best that Western culture had to offer him.
- In 1890, at the age of eighteen, Sri Aurobindo got admission at Cambridge.
- It was thus that Sri Aurobindo grew, away from his family, away from his motherland, away from his roots and his culture. He knew seven foreign languages, but could not speak his own mother tongue, Bengali.
- Dr K. D. Ghose had by now become aware of the atrocities being committed by the British on Indians and began to send paper clippings of these to Sri Aurobindo. Sri Aurobindo also felt that a period of great upheaval for his motherland was coming in which he was destined to play a leading role. He began to learn Bengali and joined a secret society, romantically named 'Lotus and Dagger', where the members took an oath to work for India's freedom.
- Sri Aurobindo now looked for a way to disqualify himself from the ICS. He found his opportunity soon and did not appear for the horse-riding test.
- The Gaekwad of Baroda happened to be in London and offered him a place in his service. For long after, the Gaekwad boasted to his friends that he had got an ICS man for Rs. 200 per month.
1893 – 1906 England to Baroda
- Thus Sri Aurobindo sailed back to his country in 1893, at the age of twenty-one, having spent the most important and formative fourteen years of his life in a foreign land. He had grown up in England, but did not feel any attachment to it. India was beckoning.
- The moment Sri Aurobindo put his foot down on Indian soil, at Apollo Bunder in Bombay, a vast peace and calm descended upon him, never to leave him.
- But for the moment he was occupied with service at the Baroda State. He started by working in the survey and settlement department, then in the department of revenue and finally in the Secretariat. He also drafted the speeches of the Maharaja of the state, the Gaekwad.
- After some time Sri Aurobindo was transferred to the Baroda College, first as a teacher of French, and then as vice-principal, where he was very popular with the students for his unconventional way of teaching.
- In Baroda, Sri Aurobindo plunged himself into the study of Indian culture. He learnt Hindustani, Marathi, Bengali, Gujarati, and Sanskrit.Sri Aurobindo read theMahabharata, theRamayana, Kalidasa, Bhavabhuti, Bankim as well as Homer, Dante, Horace and many others.
- In 1901, Sri Aurobindo married Mrinalini Devi.
- In 1903, Sri Aurobindo went to Kashmir with the Maharaja. There on the Hills of Shankaracharya he had a beautiful spiritual experience.
1906 – 1910 Bengal
- The freedom movement was given a huge impetus by the decision of Lord Curzon to partition Bengal. In June 1906, Sri Aurobindo took one year's leave without pay and went to Bengal to participate in the movement. In 1907, Sri Aurobindo left Baroda College and joined the newly established Bengal National College, as its principal.
- In 1906, the nationalist leader, Bipin Chandra Pal, started the dailyBande Mataramand Sri Aurobindo soon became its chief editor, though his name was not printed, to avoid prosecution.
- Sri Aurobindo, who always liked to work from behind the scene, had been pushed into the forefront of the freedom movement. He had become its acknowledged leader. The whole country rang with the cry of ‘Bande Mataram’ and a new spirit swept across the country.
- In the midst of this turmoil, Sri Aurobindo met a Maharashtrian yogi named Vishnu Bhaskar Lele. Lele asked Sri Aurobindo to remain in seclusion for three days. In three days Sri Aurobindo had achieved the silent mind which deepened into an experience of the Silent Brahman Consciousness.
- Sri Aurobindo was arrested from his house against an unsuccessful attempt to kill Magistrate Kingsford by Bengali youths. He was imprisoned for one year, kept in a small cell in solitary confinement. The case for Sri Aurobindo was taken up by C. R. Das.
- Sri Aurobindo was found not guilty and acquitted. But this one year was a very important period in Sri Aurobindo's life, as it was a period of intensesadhanawhen he experienced Krishna as the Immanent Divine.
- Sri Aurobindo also started two weeklies: theKarmayoginin English and theDharmain Bengali.
- One day, when Sri Aurobindo was sitting in theKarmayoginoffice, news came that the Government intended to arrest him. Immediately, there was an agitated discussion all around. Sri Aurobindo sat calm and unmoving and heard a distinct voice tell him, “Go to Chandernagore.” Sri Aurobindo went straight to the Ganga and boarded a boat for Chandernagore which was then a French settlement. Soon he received another 'adesh' (Divine Command) to go to Pondicherry.
- Sri Aurobindo's work in the political field had come to an end. The country had awakened to the call of the Mother, and India’s freedom was inevitable. He felt it was now more important to see what India would do with that freedom and what man would do with his future. It was for this work that Sri Aurobindo sailed for Pondicherry to start the most important chapter of his earthly life.
1910 – 1926 Pondicherry
- Sri Aurobindo reached Pondicherry on April 4, 1910. He was then 38 years old.
- From 1910, Sri Aurobindo had lived for several years with a few followers.
- For four years it was a lonely and solitary journey. Sri Aurobindo’s sadhana and work were still waiting for the coming of the one who was to be his true collaborator,the Mother.
- She came from France in 1914. On March 29, a young French woman, Mirra Richard, arrived in Pondicherry with her husband Paul Richard and met Sri Aurobindo. Mirra was far along on her spiritual path and had already been inwardly in contact with a person whom she called Krishna and who had been guiding her.
- When Mirra saw Sri Aurobindo she recognized him as the Krishna of her vision and knew that her place and work were with him in India
- On August l5, 1914, the monthlyAryawas launched.
- Through theArya, Sri Aurobindo presented to the world his great spiritual vision and the path to attain it. Nearly all the major works of Sri Aurobindo which were published later in book form—The Life Divine,The Synthesis of Yoga,The Human Cycle,The Ideal of Human Unity,On the Veda,The Upanishads,Essays on the Gita,The Foundations of Indian Culture,The Future Poetry—all of them first came out serially in theArya.
- In 1915, with the outbreak of the First World War, the Richards had to go back to France. Mirra went to Japan in 1916 and returned to Pondicherry in 24 April 1920, never to leave.
- Mrinalini passed away on December 17, 1918, in Calcutta, before she could come to Pondicherry.
1926 – 1950 Sri Aurobindo Ashram
- On November 24, 1926, a decisive step was taken when the Overmind, the highest of the inner planes before the Supermind, descended into the earth consciousness.
- Sri Aurobindo now installed Mirra as the Mother of his spiritual endeavour, his collaborator and equal, and handed over to her the responsibility of the inner and outer life of the small group ofsadhaks (practitioners of Yoga) who had gathered around him. He then withdrew into seclusion, to concentrate on the next step of his Yoga.
- The Ashram grew and expanded under the Mother's guidance. Though Sri Aurobindo had withdrawn physically, he continued to guide disciples inwardly and through letters.
- When the Second World War broke out, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother came out openly on the side of the Allies because Hitler represented the forces of darkness. He who had fought the British earlier now put his full support and spiritual help behind them for their victory.
- Though Sri Aurobindo had retired from the political scene, when the Cripps Mission was sent by the British Government, he broke his silence and sent an emissary to ask the Indian leaden to accept their proposals, regarding the freedom and future political structure of India. But the country was not yet ready.
- At the stroke of midnight, on August 15, 1947, the world saw the dawn of India's freedom . Sri Aurobindo considered this as the gift from the God.
- On December 5, 1950, at the age of 78, Sri Aurobindo left his physical body. His body was kept for darshan for four days and givenSamadhi(entombment) on December 9, 1950.