"Of all modern Indian writers Aurobindo – successively poet, critic, scholar, thinker, nationalist, humanist – is the most significant and perhaps the most interesting. Yet few have heard of him in England or America. This is a pity, for he should make a special appeal to the intelligent Anglo-Saxon. He is not an arm-chair philosopher, but a man who, having led a life of intense activity, has retired to brood over it, if one may say so of a Hindu, in the dim light of Gothic cathedral. In fact, he is a new type of thinker, one who combines in his vision the alacrity of the West with the illumination of the East. To study his writings is to enlarge the boundaries of one's knowledge.
"..... He gave up everything, and withdrew to Pondicherry to follow the new light that had been vouchsafed to him. What was this light? To be of active help to the new world which, in his opinion, was struggling to be born. To achieve this aim he had, first, to make of his body, mind and spirit a delicate and precise instrument, and then to learn to draw from this instrument the maximum of its possibilities. Aurobindo cannot be dismissed as one who happens to have written a few fine books. He..... writes as though he were standing among the stars, with the constellations for his companions.
"That he is a great idealist goes without saying; but he is not an idealist in the Shankaran or Berkeleian manner. He has achieved a reconciliation between matter and spirit. They are, in his opinion, one and indivisible. It is not necessary, he says, to prove the existence of God. He is: in Him we live and move and have our being. The world is His manifestation, and so is as real as God. If it is a dream, it is a dream in Reality and made of the same stuff as this Reality. If the gold is real, Aurobindo tells us, the vessel of gold is as real and can never be a figment of the brain.
"Aurobindo is no visionary. He has always acted his dreams. ‘Truth of philosophy,’ he has said, ‘is of a merely theoretical value unless it can be lived’ ..... an internationalist, not in a dreamy nor yet in a conventional manner, but by inner compulsion – the compulsion of thought leading to an inevitable conclusion. Long before others, he spoke of 'one world.' His final word is that we are, whether we like it or not, ‘members one of another.’ Unless we realize this truth, and act upon it, we shall never have peace and goodwill on earth."
Born in Bengal in 1872, raised and educated in the perspectives of European civilization, rather than traditional Indian wisdom, Sri Aurobindo was sent to England at the age of seven to live and study with a clergyman. He was educated at Cambridge University, where he excelled academically, but acquired a deep aspiration for India’s independence from colonial rule. Returning to India in 1893, he became a college lecturer, then secretary to the Maharaja of Baroda, before assuming a leading role in India’s nascent freedom movement. As editor of several journals calling for the end of colonial rule and a renaissance of Indian culture, he was the first Indian leader to demand for complete and total independence from British rule. He argued so persuasively about the injustice and unacceptability of the British Raj that he came to be regarded by the British government as the most dangerous revolutionary in India.
Having been denied exposure to his own cultural heritage during childhood, Sri Aurobindo plunged into a deep investigation of ancient and modern Indian systems of knowledge. From 1905 he experimented with a variety of yogic methods and began to have profound mystical experiences. In 1908, he was falsely accused of master-minding a bomb blast, placed in solitary confinement for one year, and then acquitted by an English judge and released after a long and widely publicized trial. When he received word the British again planned to arrest him, he traveled to Pondicherry, a small the French enclave on the Bay of Bengal in South India, and remained there from 1910 until his passing in 1950.
During this later period Sri Aurobindo dedicated his entire life and energy to the pursuit of an integral knowledge and power to elevate and transform life on earth. In 1914, Mira Alfassa, who subsequently became known as The Mother, and her husband, a French diplomat, visited him in Pondicherry and at their urging helped found a monthly journal, Arya. From 1914 to 1920, Sri Aurobindo simultaneously authored all but one of his most important works and published them chapter-wise as monthly installments in Arya. The Mother left Pondicherry at the outbreak of World War I and then returned in 1920 and remained there to work with Sri Aurobindo and head the spiritual community which she founded in his name.
Sri Aurobindo’s collected written works consist of 30 full volumes on philosophy, politics, international affairs, social evolution, Indian culture, art, literature, life and yoga, including a volume of poems and two volumes of plays, in addition to voluminous records of his spiritual practices and experiences which were published posthumously.
His major works include:
The Life Divine:
An integral synthesis of Eastern and Western perspectives on the nature of reality, mind, life, matter, personality, individuality, the purpose of human existence, evolution and the process of creation.
An analysis of the process of social and psychological development of human civilization, the stages through which it passes and the underlying directionality of its cyclical movements.
Ideal of Human Unity:
The process by which humanity has evolved politically from tiny fragmented communities into kingdoms and nation-states, the prospects of its further evolution into a single global community, and the difficulty in fashioning international institutions than can effectively foster that goal.
The longest epic poem in the English language, the story of an ancient Indian princess whose spiritual quest symbolizes the evolutionary aim and processes of life on earth.
Synthesis of Yoga:
An analysis and synthesis of the major approaches to spiritual discipline, and an explication of his Integral Yoga whose objective is the spiritual transformation of human nature and life on earth.