Sri Aurobindo Ghose (1872-1950) has been one of the finest thinkers and philosophers of modern India. He was also a popular leader of the freedom movement who went on to become a yogi and a mystic.
Aurobindo was born in Konnanagar (West Bengal) on August 15, 1872. Soon after completing his education from Loreto Convent at Darjeeling, he was sent to England to pursue further studies. He studied in St. Paul’s School in London from 1884. After securing a senior classical scholarship, he joined king’s College, Cambridge in 1890.
After returning to India, he studied Sanskrit and Indian culture, religion and philosophy. And then till 1910, he devoted himself to the freedom cause by introducing radical Programmes for the Bengal Congress while urging Indians to boycott all foreign-made goods and programmes of the British Government. He was arrested for his pro-swaraj activities in 1910 and jailed in Alipore for a year.
It was during his imprisonment that he underwent an intense mystical experience that was to have a profound impact on him. From then onwards, he assumed the life of a yogi and went to reside at Pondicherry in Tamil Nadu where he also founded an ashram. The town of Auroville in pondicherry, the ‘universal town’, was later conceived by one if his chief disciples, known as ‘the Mother’, to bear out Kurobindo’s philosophical principles. Auroville, symbolising he universal spirit, was then opened in 1968. Aurobindo also published The Arya, a philosophical journal that included his well-known writings namely, The Ideal of Human Unity, The Synthesis of Yoga and The Life Divine.
Aurobindo’s political ideas and his philosophy cannot be distinguished as two separate sets of thoughts. This is because all his political ideas are based on those very spiritual and moral concepts that form the essence of his philosophical thoughts. Thus, nationalism for Aurobindo is not simply a political programme or a concept of the intellect. It was a spiritual endeavour, “a religion that has come from God”. It is an active religion whose main weapons are spiritual. Aurobindo believed that India’s national movement had to succeed so that India could complete her destined task and “become herself. So swaraj was not merely a hint of political independence; swaraj was the means by which she could become a spiritual guide to the whole of humanity.
To deal with national oppression, Aurobindo advocated passive as well as active resistance depending upon the type of pressures applied. As political liberty is of the greatest importance to a nation, it has to be guarded or secured by any means.
Aurobindo was of the opinion that individuals must be ready to lay down their lives in their nation’s interests. Only by identifying himself with the national will can an individual achieve fulfillment. But the nation itself was not simply a group of individuals, as Aurobindo saw it. It was an organism just as the individual is one, and a nation has its own personality as well. The function of a society is to help an individual achieve the human ideals and so, a society’s ideals have to be based 011 an accurate understanding of human existence. Man needs to realise that his essential being does not rely on scientific and technological advancements as those made in the West but is a result of living in the spirit.
The revolution conceived by Aurobindo was spiritual in nature. It involved a realisation based on the concepts of the Supreme Reality (Sachchidananda), Supermind (the Truth Consciousness) and Evolution. The basic idea of humanity was Brahma—whose freedom is equally shared by humans who have an organic relationship with one another. The Brahma (super-consciousness) is related to the Mind (consciousness) through the supermind, the most complete spiritual consciousness. And spiritual evolution was a process that spread over the whole of reality itself.