Thursday, 11 August 2011

Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950)

A voice told him that he was being prepared for an altogether different kind of work, which he should undertake after his release from the jail.
When he was released, Aurobindo was a completely changed man. After spending sometime in Calcutta, he withdrew from active life gradually to take up the practice of Yoga without interruption. Sometime later, he had a Divine vision again and obtained a clear and direct ‘Adesha’ [Divine order] to leave Calcutta and proceed to Chandranagore. Again the same Divine Vision directed him to go to Pondichery, which was then a French possession.
Sri Aurobindo was born on 15th August 1872 in Calcutta. At the age of seven, he was taken to England with his two elder brothers for higher studies. He lived there for fourteen years. His education in England gave him a wide introduction to the European culture. He became a brilliant scholar in Greek, Latin and French. He also learnt German and Italian to study Goethe and Dante in the original.
In 1890 he passed the open competitive examination for the ICS but, at the end of the two-year probation, he decided not to serve the British government. His father would have objected to a voluntary rejection. He, therefore, abstained deliberately from the qualifying horse riding examination and got himself disqualified.
At that time the Maharaja of Baroda was in London. Sri Aurobindo met him and secured an appointment in the Baroda State Service. He left England in 1893 and returned to India to take up service in Baroda.
He was in Baroda Service for 13 years up to 1906. He worked in the Secretariat for a few years and later joined the Baroda College as a lecturer and finally became its Principal.
Those were years of self-culture, of literary activities and of preparation for the future work. In England he had received, according to his father’s express instructions, an entirely occidental education without any contact with the culture of India and the Orient. At Baroda, he made up the deficiency by learning Sanskrit and several Indian languages and assimilated the spirit of Indian civilisation.
A great part of his service in Baroda was spent on leave, in silent political activity. The outbreak of the popular agitation against the partition of Bengal in 1905 by the then British Government, gave him an opportunity to leave Baroda service and openly join the political movement in the country.
In 1905 Viceroy Lord Curzon partitioned Bengal. This divide and rule move by the British Government was to break the Nationalist Movement by using the East Bengal Muslim community to drive a wedge between the Hindus and the Muslims, a ploy that was to culminate in the partition of India in 1947.
Bengal responded to the Viceroy’s move with a determined, massive and unanimous protest in which many personalities like Rabindranath Tagore, Surendranath Banerjee, Lokamanya Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal took part. The ideal of Swadeshi, which called for the boycott of the British goods, spread all over the country.
It was at this time that Bipin Chandra Pal launched the famous Bengali daily ‘Bande Mataram’. Sri Aurobindo joined this newspaper and soon became its editor. Through his powerful writings he instilled a sense of patriotism and courage in the nation. He thus exercised a profound influence on the nation in awakening it from its stupor and slavish mentality under the British rule. Accused of sedition, Aurobindo was sentenced three times, but he was acquitted on all the occasions for lack of evidence.
The whole of Bengal erupted on the partition of Bengal and the whole province was thrown into a violent convulsion of agitation. On April 30, 1908, two Bengali extremists hurled a bomb at a carriage carrying the British Magistrate, one Mr. Kingsford. Two English ladies who were travelling in the carriage were killed. The Magistrate punished the culprits with a heavy hand. Sri Aurobindo, the front liner of the National Movement in Bengal, was falsely implicated in the murder attempt and sentenced to one-year  imprisonment at the Alipore Jail, Calcutta. He was, however, released in May 1909 for lack of evidence and through the brilliant advocacy of Chittaranjan Das.
 The one-year in Alipore jail, was a turning point in Aurobindo’s life.
It is rightly said that ‘solitude is the audience of the Chamber of God’. The solitary atmosphere in the jail turned a new leaf in the life of this rebellious leader and made him turn inwards and become spiritual.
In his famous Uttarapara speech, Aurobindo vividly describes how one day he saw in a vision the spirit of God all around him in the prison compound, and later, the same vision, he saw again in the court. It came to him in the form of Lord Krishna whom he saw everywhere, even when he stood in the dock of the court.
 And a voice told him that he was being prepared for an altogether different kind of work, which he should undertake after his release from the jail.
When he was released, Aurobindo was a completely changed man. After spending sometime in Calcutta, he withdrew from active life gradually to take up the practice of Yoga without interruption. Sometime later, he had a Divine vision again and obtained a clear and direct ‘Adesha’ [Divine order] to leave Calcutta and proceed to Chandranagore. Again the same Divine Vision directed him to go to Pondichery, which was then a French possession.
He thus reached Pondicherry  on April 4, 1910 and settled there with a few disciples whose number swelled day by day. While at Pondichery, sometime in 1914, he started a philosophical monthly journal called ‘Arya’ in which he wrote on various subjects —The Vedas, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad-Gita, the Science of Yoga etc. His magnum opus,’The Life Divine’, appeared in ‘Arya’ in serial form.
Apart from mere writings, Aurobindo wanted to implement his ideas into practice. For this purpose he found it necessary, as our ancient Rishis did, to establish an Ashram where his personal influence and his spiritual experience would be available to all aspiring sadhakas.
It is in this Ashram that Aurobindo wrote all his other masterpieces and devoted the remaining part of his life to bringing down what he called as “Supramental Manifestation on the Earth”. He did not find any new religion but he always upheld the greatness of Sanathana Dharma.. His was the Path of Yoga—the Path of inner Self-development, a growth from within. His gospel was universal in appeal and application.
Aurobindo passed away on December 5, 1950. As he had innumerable devotees spread all over who wanted to have his last ‘Darshan’, it was expected that the burial would take place not earlier than December 7, 1950. By that time the grave had been completed and the burial was expected to start at any moment.  But instead of the burial on that day, an announcement came from the Mother who said “ The funeral does not take place today. His body is charged with such a concentration of supramental light that there is no sign of decomposition and the body will be kept lying on his bed so long it remains intact”.
 As the French Colony had a legal regulation that no dead body should be kept unburied longer than 48 hours, the French officials thought that the Ashram was breaking the laws. On the morning of 7th December, the French government deputed one of its doctors by name Dr. Barbet who inspected Aurobindo’s body. At the end of his examination, the doctor reported it was a ‘miracle’ and that there was no deterioration, no rigor mortis. It was an unheard of occurrence, according to the doctor.
The body was finally buried on December 9, 1950 evening.
Article by : B. M. N. Murthy
Source: Bhavan's Journal 15 July 2006
To know more about Bhavan's Journal and to subscribe visit: http://www.bj.bhavans.info/

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