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Ghose, Aurobindo


Indian philosopher and poet who wrote in English, best known under his title, Sri Aurobindo; b. Calcutta, Aug. 15, 1872; d. Pondicherry, Dec. 5, 1950. He was the third son of Dr. Krishnadhan Ghose and was educated at the Loretto Convent School, Darjeeling, and at St. Paul's School, London; he then went on to King's College, Cambridge, England, where he took firstclass honors in classics. After returning to India (1893), he taught French and English at Baroda College, and while engaging in literary and political journalism he published two volumes of poetry, Songs to Myrtilla (1895) and Urvasie (1896). He married Mrinalini in 1901. He entered active politics in 1906 in order to combat English efforts to partition Bengal, but his opposition led to his arrest. His practice of yoga enabled him to achieve an inner peace, which sustained him during his arrest, trial, and acquittal (190809). He thereafter withdrew from politics and retired to Pondicherry (then in French India), where he remained until his death. He edited Arya, a philosophical journal (191421), and published serially The Life Divine, The Synthesis of Yoga, The Ideal of Human Unity, and other works. He established an ashram (a retreat for spiritual aspirants) in 1922 and in his last years was mainly engaged on Savitri, an immense symbolic epic based on the ancient story of Savitri and Satyavan as related in the Sanskrit epic Mahābhārata.

Ghose was a poet, a mystic, and a philosopher whose ideas bear some resemblance to those of St. thomas aquinas and Pierre teilhard de chardin. In The Life Divine Ghose tried to synthesize all knowledge into an integrated whole; and as Teilhard posited the "omega point," Ghose envisioned the "supermind"arduous spiritual striving inevitably shaping the New Man in whom the divine is radiantly revealed. Ghose's English prose is rich and sweeping; his poetry includes translations, blank verse dramas (Perseus the Deliverer, Vāsavadutta, Rodogune, Eric ), philosophical poems (e.g., Ahana ), lyrics (e.g., Thought the Paraclete ), the unfinished Ilion, a sequel to the Iliad, and the 24,000-line Savitri. In this last work the heroine symbolizes the divine force that frees the light of truth from the darkness of death. It contains (in Canto 2 of "The Book of Fate") a significant reference to Christ's drinking the bitter cup and signing salvation's testament with His blood.

Bibliography: a. ghose, The Life Divine (Pondicherry 1955); Collected Poems and Plays, 2 v. (Pondicherry 1942); Savitri (Pondicherry 1954). k. r. srinivasa iyengar, Sri Aurobindo (2d ed. Calcutta 1950). p. nandakumar, A Study of "Savitri" (Pondicherry 1962). d. a. cappadona, "Poetry as Yoga: The Spiritual Ascent of Sri Aurobindo," Horizons 7 (Fall 1980) 265284. r. a. mcdermott, ed., Six Pillars: Introductions to the Major Works of Sri Aurobindo (Chambersburg, PA 1974). r. n. minor, "Sri Aurobindo's Integral View of Other Religions," Religious Studies 15 (1979) 365377. s. h. phillips, Aurobindo's Philosophy of Brahman (Leiden, 1986). k. r. srinivasa iyengar, Sri Aurobindo: A Centenary Tribute (Pondicherry, India, 1974). f. thompson, A New Look at Aurobindo (Delhi, 1990).

[k. r. srinivasa iyengar]

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