England… Away from Home
Sri Aurobindo was born in Calcutta on August 15, 1872.
India was ruled by the English. His father was a doctor. He thought that his son could become a perfect English gentleman and obtain the highest posts.
At the age of three, he sent him to English schools in Darjeeling, then at seven in London, with his two older brothers, until he was twenty-one. Sri Aurobindo no longer had any contact either with the people of India or with Indian culture. At that time, it was better to have white skin, because all the laws were made by the whites, and all the important positions were occupied by the whites. Indians were seen more as slaves.
“I see that you have persisted in giving a biography — is it really necessary or useful? The attempt is bound to be a failure because neither you nor anyone else knows anything at all of my life; it has not been on the surface for men to see.”
Raised first in an English family in Manchester, he attended St Paul’s school from 1884 to 1890, then King’s College in Cambridge for 2 years.
In 1890, he passed the competition for the Indian civil service before being disqualified for failing to sit the constituency exam. Realizing what the English were doing in India, he decided to stop working: he is no longer interested in studying.
He nevertheless obtained a position in administration in Baroda, a city in the state of Gujarat in India, the administrative capital of the district and capital of the former princely state. He, therefore, returned to India in 1893, at the age of 21.
Return to India
He spent thirteen years in this administration, in the Revenue department, then in the secretarial service of the Maharajah, then as an English teacher and finally as vice-principal of the College. These were the years of self-learning because he knows nothing about Hinduism and the culture of his country of origin.
He had never read any traditional book.
While working as a teacher he discovers the Vedas and the Upanishads, he feels so much energy and power, that he is captivated and decides to learn Sanskrit by himself in order to better understand these sacred texts.
He also learns Bengali on his own, as he never learned anything from his native language in all these years. He knew French and English very well. He also studied German and Italian. He was a true Western citizen until the age of twenty-one. Before arriving in India, he read Dante and all the great Western writers.
Rediscovering the languages of his country of origin, he discovers all Eastern philosophies.
In 1906, shortly after the partition of Bengal, Sri Aurobindo leaves his post at Baroda and goes to Calcutta, where he soon becomes one of the leaders of the nationalist movement. He becomes the first political leader in India to openly propose in his newspaper Bande Mataram the idea of total independence for the country. He gets prosecuted twice for sedition and once for conspiracy, but is released each time for lack of evidence.
He initiates a revolutionary party and thus becomes one of the most dangerous people in the eyes of the English. And it is because of his brother that he is put in prison because he blew up a bomb to kill an English magistrate, Judge Kingsford. The latter imprisoned a large number of journalists and savagely whipped a young nationalist supporter. He stirred up a lot of hatred. The English hold Sri Aurobindo as responsible for the killing of two European women. They arrest him and put him in prison for a year with many young supporters. He writes “Tales of Prison life” a simple and touching book that highlights the deep spiritual greatness of India, faced with the smallness and arrogance of the dominant western ego. The contrast is striking! the English who read this book should not be very proud of their ancestors!
During this revolutionary period, his brother went one day to Calcutta to meet him in the ashram of their youngest brother. But he got sick when he got there. He takes a few medicines to heal himself, but they had no effect.
Then a yogi arrives. He asks him to have a glass of water.
With a knife, he cuts the water, while reciting certain mantras, mixes it, then gives it to him to drink. And he’s healed!
Sri Aurobindo then says to himself:
“If this man can cure my brother of his illness with the spiritual power of these mantras, why can’t I cure India of his illnesses? With the power of this knowledge, it must be possible to cut off the head of English rule. “
Thus begins his extraordinary adventure of integral yoga.
Extract from volume 26, SABCL, “On Himself”
“I had no urge toward spirituality in me, I developed spirituality. I was incapable of understanding metaphysics, I developed into a philosopher. I had no eye for painting — I developed it by Yoga. I transformed my nature from what it was to what it was not. I did it by a special manner, not by a miracle and I did it to show what could be done and how it could be done. I did not do it out of any personal necessity of my own or by a miracle without any process. I say that if it is not so, then my Yoga is useless and my life was a mistake — a mere absurd freak of Nature without meaning or consequence. You all seem to think it a great compliment to me to say that what I have done has no meaning for anybody except myself — it is the most damaging criticism on my work that could be made. I also did not do it by myself, if you mean by myself the Aurobindo that was. He did it by the help of Krishna and the Divine Shakti. I had help from human sources also.”
Sri Aurobindo begins his yoga practice in 1904. He first gathers the essential elements of spiritual experience which are acquired by the paths of divine communion and spiritual realization followed so far in India, then he enters quest for a more complete experience, uniting and harmonizing the two ends of existence: Spirit and Matter.
The whole life of Sri Aurobindo expresses the power of the Supreme Mother who is incarnated in the body.
For twelve years, from 1926 to 1938, he lives withdrawn from the world. Only the Mother and Champaklal, his personal assistant, could approach him.
With the Mother, he was very active in spirit throughout the Second World War. He announced from the start that Nazism was going to lose the war and explained to his disciples a lot about the games between the forces– visible and invisible, that were played out during this conflict.
Against all odds, he supported the Allied forces, including England, which colonized India. His disciples did not understand this support for the English. But he knew what was going on in the invisible and his gaze was wider than the mere appearance of things.
His spirituality is anchored in the world, to which all his inner work is destined, for the advent of a new enlightened, harmonious and divine humanity.
Most of the paths of Yoga are paths to the hereafter leading to the Spirit and, ultimately, far from life; Sri Aurobindo rises to the Spirit to redescend with his gains, bringing light, power and the bliss of the Spirit into life to transform it. The present existence of man in the material world in his vision, life in Ignorance with the Unconscious at its base, but even in its darkness, there is the presence and the possibilities of the Divine.
The created world is not an error or a vanity and an illusion to be rejected by the soul returning to heaven or to Nirvana, but the scene of spiritual evolution by which, from this material unconsciousness, the Consciousness must gradually manifest itself Divine in things.
The mind is the highest term still reached in evolution, but it is not the highest it is capable of. Above, is a Supermind or Eternal Truth Consciousness which is, in its nature, the light and power of Conscious Divine Knowledge which defines itself.
The mind is ignorance which seeks the Truth, but it is a self-existing Knowledge that harmoniously manifests the play of its forms and its forces. It is only by the descent of this overmind that the perfection dreamed of by all that is highest in humanity can come. It is possible, by opening up to greater divine consciousness, to rise to this power of light and bliss, to discover one’s true self, to remain in constant union with the Divine and to bring down the supramental Force for the transformation of mind, life, and body. Realizing this possibility has been the dynamic goal of Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga.
When he left his bodily envelope on December 5, 1950, the Divine was so ingrained in all of his cells and atoms, that his entire body reflected a golden hue and radiated golden purple light.
This light lasted five days, gradually faded out.
At the end of these five days, once all the golden light had faded away, he is placed in the Samadhi (a structure built to place an enlightened being).
Extract from volume 26, SABCL, “On Himself”
“You all seem to think it’s a big compliment for me to say that, what I did, made no sense to anyone except for myself – it’s the most damaging criticism of my work that could be done. I am not made by myself if you mean: by myself the Aurobindo which was. He did it with the help of Krishna and Divine Shakti. I also had help from human sources.”
“But what strange ideas again! — that I was born with a supramental temperament and that I know nothing of hard realities! Good, God! My whole life has been a struggle with hard realities, from hardships, starvation in England and constant and fierce difficulties to the far greater difficulties continually cropping up here in Pondicherry, external and internal. My life has been a battle from its early years and is still a battle: the fact that I wage it now from a room upstairs and by spiritual means as well as others that are external makes no difference to its character. But, of course, as we have not been shouting about these things, it is natural, I suppose, for others to think that I am living in an august, glamorous, lotus-eating dreamland where no hard facts of life or Nature present themselves. But what an illusion all the same!”
“You think then that in me (I don’t bring in the Mother) there was never any doubt or despair, no attacks of that kind. I have borne every attack which human beings have borne, otherwise, I would be unable to assure anybody “This too can be conquered.” At least I would have no right to say so. Your psychology is terribly rigid. I repeat, the Divine when he takes on the burden of terrestrial nature, takes it fully, sincerely and without any conjuring tricks or pretense. If he has something behind him which emerges always out of the coverings, it is the same thing in essence even if greater in degree, that there is behind others — and it is to awaken that that he is here.
The psychic being does the same for all who are intended for the spiritual way — men need not be extraordinary beings to follow it. That is the mistake you are making — to harp on greatness as if only the great can be spiritual.”
© Abel Millot — © Les Enfants de Ram — © Sri Aurobindo Yoga Mandir — © Auronepal Travel & Trek — Janvier 2020