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Aurobindo Ghose

Aurobindo Ghose

The Indian nationalist extremist leader, poet, and philosopher Aurobindo Ghose (1872-1950) abandoned his radical political activities to develop a religious teaching for the spiritual benefit of all men.

Aurobindo Ghose was born in Calcutta, the third of six children. His father—of high-caste background—was a distinguished physician in the employ of the civil service, thoroughly Anglicized and a persuaded atheist. In 1879 Aurobindo was sent to England with his brothers for higher education to prepare for the Indian civil service. Though forced to live in near poverty, he excelled in his academic studies, especially in the classics, English literature, and European languages.

At King's College, Cambridge, Ghose joined an association of fellow Indians, expressing a deep interest in Indian nationalism. In 1893 he returned to India and resolved to strive for Indian independence. He served the maharaja of Baroda from 1893 to 1907, becoming successively professor of English, vice-principal at Baroda College, and finally principal of the National College of Calcutta.

During this period Ghose began to associate with radical Indian nationalists and revolutionaries, openly criticizing the Indian National Congress for its moderation, and founding a revolutionary newspaper so skillfully written that no pretext could be found for his arrest. However, in 1908 after a series of bombings he was arrested along with other suspects. Though he was acquitted soon after, it was during this short period that he became increasingly preoccupied with the spiritual dimensions of Indian cultural and corporate life.

Ghose experimented with Yoga, read extensively, and meditated on the Veda and Bhagavad Gita. In 1910 he openly abandoned active politics and went to the French settlement at Pondicherry, where he established the Aurobindo Ashram (retreat) to develop and promote his teaching, though he did not give up his interest in the political affairs of India. He was joined by his wife and a number of his friends—including several suspected revolutionaries—and remained continually under the surveillance of the English secret service. In 1914 he founded the magazine Arya, designed to promote his philosophical and religious teachings.

Ghose's basic spiritual goal was "to make the truth dynamic in the soul of man." For this he proposed an "integral Yoga" designed not for spiritual withdrawal from the world but for the purpose of transforming earthly human life "here in the individual and the community." Man must be opened to a supramental divine consciousness which can create a spiritual "superman" and a new order of life in the world, transforming moribund human institutions into "free forms" of strength, love, and justice. The emphasis of his teaching was on the spiritualization of the phenomenal world and all human activity through the emergence of a disciplined religious elite, extending widely to touch all mankind.

Among Ghose's writings published in English are The Yoga and Its Objects and Love and Death (both 1921), The Life Divine (1949), Essays on the Gita (1950), and The Message and Mission of Indian Culture and The Mind of Light (both 1953).

Further Reading

Studies of Ghose include George Langley, Sri Aurobindo: Indian Poet, Philosopher and Mystic (1949); A. B. Purani, The Life of Sri Aurobindo (1958; 3d ed. 1964) and Sri Aurobindo: Some Aspects of His Vision (1966); and Vishwanath P. Varma, The Political Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo (1960).

Additional Sources

Feys, Jan, The life of a yogi, Calcutta: Firma KLM, 1976.

Ghose, Aurobindo, Tales of prison life, Calcutta: Sri Aurobindo Pathamandir, 1974.

Heehs, Peter, Sri Aurobindo, a brief biography, New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.

Joshi, Kireet, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother: glimpses of their experiments, experiences, and realisations, New Delhi: Mother's Institute of Research in association with Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 1989.

Purani, Ambalal Balkrishna, The life of Sri Aurobindo, Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1978.

Rishabhchand, Sri Aurobindo, his life unique, Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1981.

Roshan, Sri Aurobindo in Baroda, Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1993.

Satprem, Sri Aurobindo, or, The adventure of consciousness, New York: Institute for Evolutionary Research, 1984.

Srinivasa Iyengar, K. R., Sri Aurobindo: a biography and a history, Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, 1985. □

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Aurobindo, Sri (1872-1950)

Aurobindo, Sri (1872-1950)

Famous Hindu mystic, philosopher, and poet. Sri Aurobindo Ghosh ("Sri" is an honorific pronounced "Shree") was born Arvinda Ackroyd Ghose in Calcutta, India, on August 15, 1872, and educated in Britain, where he spent nearly 15 years. He studied in London and Cambridge, where he mastered Greek and Latin literature as well as the French, German, and Italian languages. He returned to India and worked as a teacher in Baroda, becoming a scholar in Sanskrit and other Indian languages.

After the partition of Bengal, Aurobindo became a leader of a newly formed National party with the goal of home rule. When violence broke out in Bengal, he was arrested for sedition but was acquitted. He was again arrested and acquitted, but a third prosecution commenced while he was detained in prison. During his imprisonment he underwent profound spiritual experiences, which turned him from politics to mysticism. He developed his own system of synthesized yoga, which he called "integral yoga." He retired from public life in 1910 and established an ashram at Pondicherry, where he lived until his death in 1950.

After his death the ashram continued under the guidance of Mira Richards (1878-1973), the wife of a French diplomat who had met Aurobindo in 1914 and embraced his philosophy. Richards became known as "the Mother." The Mother conceived of the idea of Auroville as an ideal international urban center.

Aurobindo taught that the material world should be transformed by making one's own life divine, and claimed that he had realized the "Overmind" in 1926 and was thus able to bring divine consciousness to the task of human evolution. He had retired into seclusion and from that time forward had spoken to his disciples only through the Mother. During his lifetime he wrote 30 volumes relating to the theme of The Life Divine, including a 23,000 line poem, Savitri dealing with the struggle to unite divine consciousness with historical processes.

With the approval of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, the ashram at Pondicherry inaugurated many "Sri Aurobindo Action" centers throughout India, and Aurobindo centers were also established in most major European cities and throughout the U.S. For information on Sri Aurobindo publications and organizations, contact the Sri Aurobindo Association at PO Box 163237, Sacramento, CA 95816. They also have a website: http://www.collaboration.org/.

Sources:

Aurobindo, Sri. Sri Aurobindo Centenary Library. 50 vols. Pondicherry, India: Sri Aurobindo Library Press, 1970-72.

Donnelly, Morwinna. Founding the Life Divine. Lower Lake, Calif.: Dawn Horse Press, 1976.

McDermott, Robert, ed. The Essential Aurobindo. New York: Schrocken Books, 1973.

. Six Pillars. Chambersburg, Pa.: Wilson Books, 1974. Sri Aurobindo Association. http://www.collaboration.org/. April 25, 2000.

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Ghose, Aurobindo

Aurobindo Ghose (ôrōbĬn´dō gōsh), 1872–1950, Indian nationalist leader and mystic philosopher. Born in Bengal, he was sent to England and lived there for 14 years, completing his education at Cambridge. Returning to India in 1893, he plunged into the study of Indian languages and culture. The agitation against the partition (1905) of Bengal drew him into the nationalist movement, and for several years he acted as leader of a secret revolutionary organization, becoming well known through his eloquent patriotic writings. He was eventually jailed for subverting British rule and while in prison experienced visions that completely altered his outlook. On release from prison he announced his withdrawal from active political life and retired to Pondicherry (now Puducherry) in S India where he devoted himself to the practice of yoga and to writing. In his major works, all written in English, he formulates the metaphysics and system of spiritual discipline that he called Integral Yoga (Purna Yoga). Rejecting the traditional ideal of world-renunciation and negation of physical existence, he based his philosophy on the principle of the descent of divine force and consciousness into both the individual and the universal processes of nature and history. He described evolution as the effect of progressively higher forces, of which the highest is the "supramental" force that initiates man's final transformation into a state of perfection. In 1926, Sri Aurobindo, as he came to be called, retired into seclusion. He put in charge of his disciples his spiritual consort (Shakti), Mira Richard (1878–1973), a French-born woman of Egyptian descent who had joined him in Pondicherry in 1914. His seclusion marked the official establishment of his spiritual community, or ashram. The ashram, the largest in India, remains active. In 1968 construction was begun for a utopian city called Auroville to function on the principles of Aurobindo's philosophy. His writings include The Life Divine (1949), The Synthesis of Yoga (1948), and Essays on the Gita (1921–28, repr. 1950).

See S. Mitra, The Liberator Sri Aurobindo, India, and the World (1970); B. Bruteau, Worthy is the World (1971); K. Gandhi, ed., Contemporary Relevance of Sri Aurobindo (1973); R. A. McDermott, ed., The Essential Aurobindo (1973).

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Aurobindo, Śri

Aurobindo, Śri (1872–1950). Born Aurobindo Ghose in Calcutta, he became a widely known Hindu teacher. Committed to prison for a year for his work against British rule, he there had his first spiritual experiences. On his release, he turned to the practice of yoga, but he came to regard the classical ways of yoga as too one-sided: they aim to raise the yogi towards a goal, whereas in his view, the true technique should be to integrate the goal into life. Hence his system became known as Pūrna-Yoga, or Integral Yoga.

Threatened with further arrest, he took refuge in 1910, in the French enclave of Pondicherry, and remained there until his death. He met there Mira Richard (Alfassa) who became his constant support and companion. She established the Aurobindo-ashram (āśrama) and, after his death, a town, Auroville, to embody his teaching. She is known as ‘the Mother’.

The chief works (among many) of Śri Aurobindo are The Life Divine, a commentary on the Bhagavad-gītā, and The Synthesis of Yoga.

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Ghose, Aurobindo

Ghose, Aurobindo (1872–1950) ( Sri Aurobindo) Indian mystic philosopher and nationalist leader. In 1908, he was imprisoned for agitating against British rule in Bengal. After his release, Ghose devoted himself to Hindu philosophy. His works include The Synthesis of Yoga (1948).

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Ghose, Aurobindo

Ghose, Aurobindo (Hindu philosopher and teacher): see AUROBINDO.

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Sri Aurobindo

Sri Aurobindo: see Ghose, Aurobindo.

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Aurobindo, Sri

Sri Aurobindo: see Ghose, Aurobindo.

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