What Sri Aurobindo represents in the world’s history is not a teaching, not even a revelation, it is a decisive action direct from the Supreme.
Sri Aurobindo was born in the family of a medical doctor, Dr. Krishna Dhan Ghose, who was convinced that India’s salvation lay in adopting the ways of the western world. In an attempt to shield his children from all influences Indian, he sent them to be educated in England. Sri Aurobindo was sent to England at the tender age of seven, where he stayed for fourteen years. His environment, together with his exceptional intellect ensured that by the time he returned to India in 1893, he had a thorough mastery over the English language and a deep understanding of the western civilization. However, what was unexpected was that he also returned with immense love for his motherland.
The first job that he took up was that of a college teacher in Vadodara (then Baroda). While teaching English and French to his students, he also started teaching himself Sanskrit, and was soon reading the ancient Indian scriptures in their original. This went on for about fourteen years. The culmination of fourteen years of immersion in the Indian civilization was his peak spiritual experience of eternal mental silence under the guidance of a yogi, Vishnu Bhasker Lele. This experience was to be one of the many more that followed later in his life, but by now he was already an unprecedented figure in history. Fourteen years in the West studying the western culture, fourteen years in the East absorbing the Indian culture, outstanding mental abilities, together with phenomenal spiritual capacity is a combination, the like of which would be impossible to find in history, and unlikely to be repeated in the near future. No wonder, after a brief stint in the freedom struggle, he discovered during his year-long confinement in Alipore Jail during 1908-1909 that the mission of his life was to give ancient Indian wisdom to the spiritually starved world of today.
He moved to Puducherry (then Pondicherry) in 1910, where he stayed till he left his body in 1950. From 1914 onwards, the east-west synthesis and spiritual experiences with which he was equipped crystallized into an amazing series of articles in a monthly journal, Arya. These articles were a tsunami of wisdom. The torrential flow continued for more than six years, and the result was spiritual literature based on the Indian tradition, the original of which was written in English that is not only flawless but also so elegant that even prose reads like poetry.
What were the major strands in his writing? Just to enumerate a few, he corrected the widespread but erroneous idea that there is a dichotomy between worldly life and spiritual life. Worldly life can, and should, be lived with a spiritual attitude. Hence, Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual philosophy, which rejects no part of the being, finds application in education, healthcare, management, and just about any worthwhile human activity. Secondly, man is a transitional being. If the evolution so far is any indication, future evolution will take consciousness to a level beyond that of mental consciousness, which has reached its peak in human beings. Evolution beyond the mental level can be accelerated by more and more of us engaging consciously in raising our consciousness. This gives a collective element to spiritual quest. Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual philosophy was given a practical shape in his Ashram by the Mother, who was born in France but after coming here in 1920 did not leave Pondicherry for even a single day till she left her body in 1973. Although Sri Aurobindo and the Mother did not leave Pondicherry physically once they were there, their influence has spread throughout the world, and is growing with time.