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Śrī Aurobindo
Śrī Aurobindo

Śrī Aurobindo (August 15, 1872December 5, 1950) was an Indian nationalist, scholar, poet, Hindu mystic, Evolutionary philosopher, yogi and guru. His followers further believe that he was an avatar, an incarnation of the supreme being.

Sri Aurobindo spent his life—through his vast writings and through his own development—working for the freeedom of India, the path to the further evolution of life on earth, and to bring down what he called the Supramental Truth Consciousness Force to enable such progress.

The birthday of Sri Aurobindo, August 15 — which he pointed out was the day of the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, is also the date which Indians celebrate as the Independence Day of India.


Early experiences

Born Aurobindo Akroyd Ghose, (usually pronounced and often written as Ghosh), in Kolkata (Calcutta), India, his father was Dr. K. D. Ghose and his mother Swarnalata Devi . Dr Ghose, who had lived in England was determined that his children should have a completely European upbringing, sent Aurobindo and his siblings to the Loretto Convent School at Darjeeling. At the age of seven Aurobindo was taken along with his two elder brothers, Manmohan and Benoybhusan, to England. They were placed with a clergyman and his wife. There Aurobindo was educated privately by Mr and Mrs Drewett. Mr Drewett, himself a scholar in Latin, ground him so well in Latin that when he was sent to St. Paul's school in London, the head master took Aurobindo upon himself to ground in Greek and then pushed him rapidly into the higher classes of the school. The last three years at St. Paul's were spent in reading, especially English Poetry. At St. Paul's he received the Butterworth Prize for literature, the Bedford Prize for history and a scholarship to Cambridge University. He returned to India in 1893.

During the First Partition of Bengal from 1905 to 1912, he became a leader of the group of Indian nationalists known as the Extremists for their willingness to use violence and advocate outright independence, a plank more moderate nationalists had shied away from up to that point. He was the editor of a nationalist Bengali newspaper Vande Mataram (spelt and pronounced as Bande Mataram in the Bengali language) and came into frequent confrontation with the British Raj as a result. In 1907 attended a convention of Indian nationalists where he was seen as the new leader of the movement. But his life was beginning to take a new direction. In Baroda he met a Maharashtrian yogi called Vishnu Bhaskar Lele who convinced him to explore the ancient Hindu practices of yoga.

It was at this point that Rabindranath Tagore paid him a visit and wrote the now famous lines:

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.

Final conversion

His final conversion from an angry nationalist into a profound Hindu sage and seer occurred while incarcerated for a year in the Alipur jail in Kolkata in the province of Bengal. While incarcerated he was inspired by his meditating on the famed Hindu scripture of the Bhagavad Gita.

While in Alipore Jail, Sri Aurobindo used to be visited by the renowned Swami Vivekananda, a Hindu philosopher of great importance to neo-Advaita Vedanta, in his meditation. The swami guided Sri Aurobindo's yoga [a Hindu discipline to attain union with the Divine] and helped him to scale great heights. It was there Sri Aurobindo saw the convicts, jailers, policemen, the prison bars, the trees, the judge, the lawyer etc., in the experience and realization of Narayana, a form of Vishnu. Sri Aurobindo was even able to see compassion, honesty and charity in the hearts of murderers.

The trial for which he was incarcerated was one of the important trials in Indian nationalism movement. There were 49 accused and 206 witnesses. 400 documents were filed and 5000 exhibits were produced including bombs, revolvers and acid. The English judge, C.B. Beechcroft , had been a student with Sri Aurobindo at Cambridge. The Chief Prosecutor Eardley Norton displayed a loaded revolver on his briefcase during the trial. The case for Sri Aurobindo was taken up by C.R. Das . The trial lasted for one full year. Aurobindo was acquitted.

Afterwards Aurobindo started two new weeklies: 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.

Sought again by the Indian police he was guided to the French settlements and on April 4, 1910 he finally found refuge with other nationalists in the French colony of Pondicherry. He established his ashram there and did most of his writing and teaching from Pondicherry until 1950.

The Mother

His closest disciple, Mirra Richard, was known as The Mother (February 21, 1878November 17, 1973). She was born in Paris to Turkish and Egyptian parents and came to his ashram on March 29, 1914 visiting Pondicherry several times and finally settling there in 1920. After November 24, 1926, when Sri Aurobindo retired into seclusion, she supervised the organization of his ashram and institutes (like Mirapuri, The City of Peace and Future Man in Europe, Italy). She became the leader of the community after Sri Aurobindo passed away; she is now revered by followers of Sri Aurobindo as well.

The Mother's attempts to bring the new consciousness into life and her personal effort of physical transformation of her own body are described in the 13-volume series of books known as The Agenda.

His contribution to Hindu philosophy

One of Aurobindo's main philosophical achievements was to introduce the concept of evolution into Advaitin 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 rather than matter.

There is clearly an idealist streak in Aurobindo's interpretation of Vedanta. This becomes even more clear when we see that he solves the problem of the linkage between the ineffable unitary mind of Brahman and the many ordinary minds here on earth by positing a supermind . The supermind is the active principle present in the mind of Brahman (or perhaps more accurately, in the mind that is Brahman) of which our individual minds are minuscule subdivisions.

His evolutionary philosophy

Sri Aurobindo's basic tenet is that mankind as an entity is not the last rung in the evolutionary scale — mankind will evolve beyond its current capacities ushering in a new, evolved human species guided by and filled with the knowledge, truth, substance and energy of spiritual consciousness.

In his voluminous writings he described, amongst other things, his understanding of the nature, process, and purpose of creation and life as we know it on earth; the process of transformation of the individual from his current limited status to her ultimate evolutionary possibility; and the likely course of the future of humanity; i.e., humanity's ultimate purpose and destiny in the cosmos.

Evolution of humanity

Sri Aurobindo, throughout the later period of his life and until his death dedicated himself to the spiritual transformation of the human race. It was his sincere wish to take humankind out of duality, division, ignorance, suffering, falsehood, and death and bring all human beings to a new positive existence that he qualified as "Light, Knowledge, Wisdom, Power, Truth, Peace, Peace, Beauty, Delight, Infinity, and Oneness of Being." He and his followers believed that he had discovered a new spiritual power and extension of the "divine consciousness," which he called the "Supramental" or "Truth Consciousness" — the study of which he called Integral Yoga .

He believed this new force and power had only recently descended into the earth's atmosphere, and the "Supramental" could effectuate a new evolutionary status for humanity. If he, along with a handful of followers, through the mastery of Integral Yoga, could bring this power down into the earthly realm and into the individual consciousnesses of this group of followers they could be the harbingers of a new dawn for the human race; and thus this community could serve as pioneers for the establishment of a "Divine life" on earth.

Method to enable the evolution of humanity (Integral yoga)

His recommened method out of our essential Ignorance born of creation was to move away from the surface of life, and into the depths within, to the personal evolving soul. This enables one to move out of ego, time, and finiteness to oneness, timelessness, and infinity. It also enables an opening of a descent of the spirit -- first into our minds as illuminations and intuitions of knowledge without thought, then into our vital and physical parts. The supramental transformation of these parts is a further stage, enabling the birth of a new individual fully formed by the supramental power, the same power that enabled the universe to be created in the first place from out of a Divine Source. Such individuals would be the forerunners of a new truth-consciousness based supra-humanity.

Cosmology -- 1. The Involution

His cosmology runs as follows: The universe came to be as a result of the Absolute dividing into Existence, i.e. it existed; Consciousness-Force, i.e. It is a force and its is conscious of its existence; and Delight, i.e. it delights in the awareness of Its existence. This triune extended to a fourth aspect, the Supramental power that enabled the Consciousness Force to divide into an essential energy at rest. This is the plane of Life. That energy/life then moved, taking shape first as matter, then animus of life, then mind (predominantly in man). In other words, the supramental was the power that organized the spirit into the forms of creation. It divided the force so that it could take shape as individual forms of creation. All existence is thus forms of the original Force/Energy.

Process of Creation -- The process of creation of the universe is he very same process by which an individual and any collective entity in the cosmos develops, grows, and evolves.

Purpose is Delight of Being -- The universe created a universe in order to extend its own delight into the details of creation. When we discover our higher nature, that discovery gives us the delight for which the Absolute enabled the cosmos.

Ignorance to Knowledge Enables Delight -- The universe was born of ignorant forms. As we discover our highest consciousness, we move from Ignorance to Knowledge, giving us the delight of being for which the universe was created.

Reason for Ignorance -- All forms were born of an inconscience, unconsciousness, and Ignorance. It was so because it allowed for the greatest multiplicity and possibility of forms, which would enable the greatest possibility for delight in discovery of its highest nature.

Cosmology -- 2. Evolution in the universe

The process of the universe emerging from the Absolute is called the evolution. The process of matter evolving to the plane of life to the plane of mind in the universe is the evolution. Each plane that emerges in the evolution (matter, then the vital, then the mind in man) is already involved in the previous plane, including the spirit in the deepest part of each. The ultimate purpose of creation is to reunite the Consciousness (lost in the Involution) with the Force by bringing the Spiritual Being into the Becomings of life enabling a Divine life on earth.

Evolution of the Individual -- As man moves into the depths and discovers his True Self, his personal evolving soul, he moves upward in his consciousness, above the planes of ordinary mind to spiritual mind. The evolution continues when man calls down the light of the spirit into his being for its complete transformation at the physical, vital, and mental level, and a further stage of supramentalization of the being. At that point man has shed his Ignorance for Integral Knowledge, he lives in the Timelessness in Time, he enables the Infinite possibilities to come into the finite life, and is constantly bringing the Spirit being into the Becomings of life. His ultimate status is the supramentalization of his body, enabling he arrival of a new species. As man rises to his highest consciousness in the evolution, he arrives at the point where the involution began at the point of the Absolute, the vision of the unity of Brahman -- i.e. unity and oneness of the creator and the creation, of the One and the Many.

The key instrument for this descent is not only the movement within where he discovers his personal evolving soul but an opening to the supramental Force, which is there in ever greater power since 1956. The Divine Mother can serve as the intermediary connection to that Force. The disciple thus consecrates every action to the Force/The Divine Mother, and then eventually surrenders to the Force/Her. This double movement within to the evolving soul and surrendering to the Supramental force enables to transformation to our highest consciousnessí at all planes of our being.

Evolution of Collectives of Society -- In that process he brings in these powers to all aspects of life enabling the evolution and transformation in all the organizations and collectives he partakes in. In this way, he enables the mental and spiritual transformation of society, a movement upward from its current predominantly vital status.

Evolution of Life on Earth -- A divine life on earth, in which the collective is peopled with individuals who have attained these ultimate stages of development is the basis for a collective divine life on earth. This fulfills the evolutionary purpose of earthly existence.

Evolution of the Universe -- In reaching his ultimate potential Man not only serves the evolutionary goals for the Individual, but also for the Universe, and the Transcendent Reality. The universe thus evolves through man to its spiritual fulfillment.

Other Points:

-Through his rise in consciousness the individual attains the perfection of his being at all planes -- physical, vital, mental, and spiritual.

-Life evolves through contradictory opposites. As we rise in consciousness we see these as complementary, necessary opposites.

-The contradiction between the Spirit and Life is resolved through when we reach our higher consciousness, in which we see them not as separate, but as one. This is the vision of the oneness and unity of Brahman in the form of the unity of the Creator and Creation, of the One and the Many, of the Spirit Being and the Becomings of our lives.

-The Ignorance serves as great a purpose as the Knowledge, as does the Negative with the Positive, and the Evil with the Good. Both sides of these dualities serves Nature's purpose of evolution. When we take to Soul and Spirit (Purusha) the evolution takes place without these division of Nature (Prakriti), but only through spiritual-based Self-Existent positives. This is accomplished by moving within away from the surface of life to the depths within culminating in connection with the personal evolving soul and the concurrent opening to and surrender to the supramental Force.

Writings and influences

These subjects of inquiry were covered in his metaphysical treatise The Life Divine ; in his book on the path of personal evolution, The Synthesis of Yoga, which attempts to reconcile all three schools of Hindu Vedanta, and in his 24,000 line epic poem "Savitri".

Aurobindo's ideas about the further evolution of human capabilities influenced the thinking of Michael Murphy (who studied at Aurobindo's Ashram in India) - and indirectly, the Human potential movement, through Murphy's writings. Another contemporary thinker heavily influenced by Aurobindo is Ken Wilber. Wilber has tried to reduce the reliance on metaphysics that he finds in Aurobindo's theory.


  • " [Fire represents the] forceful heat, flaming will...and burning brightness [of the divine]."
The Immortal Fire (1974), page 3-4.
  • "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."
— "Aurobindo on Sri Aurobindo"

Partial bibliography

Related links

  • Sri Aurobindo Ashram , Pondicherry, India
  • Auroville - a universal city based on Sri Aurobindo's vision , Near Pondicherry, India
  • The Sri Aurobindo Society Pondicherry, India
  • Survey of Hindu organisations
  • Overview of works by Sri Aurobindo
  • Aromere Books ,
  • New Insights into the Life & Teachings of Sri Aurobindo & The Mother , US-based Site
  • Information on Sri Aurobindo and the Mother
  • Information on Sri M.P. Pandit, Secretary of Sri Aurobindo Ashram
  • Sri Aurobindo's writings including U.S. editions
  • Sri Aurobindo, The Mother and Mirapuri
  • Mirapuri, The City of Peace and Future Man in Europe, Italy, based on the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and Mira Alfassa - The Mother
  • ["The CALL of the ETERNITY the magic of life and death".Book of practice Master. Help Practice Integral Yoga of Shri Aurobindo and The Mother]

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Last updated: 02-08-2005 09:26:46
Last updated: 03-13-2005 10:47:28