Aurobindo Ghose (1872-1950)
Aurobindo Ghose (1872-1950) was more than anything else a creator of Yoga, a spiritual teacher who became, even in his own lifetime, a legend and a symbol. Aravind Ghose, along with his two brothers, was given an entirely Western education by their Anglophile father. After infant schooling at a convent in Darjeeling, they were taken to England to live with a clergyman's family in Manchester. From there they joined St. Paul's public school in West London, and later went on to Cambridge Unversity. There Sri Aurobindo was a brilliant scholar, winning record marks in the Classical Tripos examination.
Sri Aurobindo's short political career galvanized the Indian independence movement. The political action of Sri Aurobindo covered eight years, from 1902 to 1910. In 1906 he returned to his birthplace, Calcutta, as the first Principal of the new Bengal National College. He resigned that post because of his increasingly active involvement in the Nationalist Movement. Srijukta Aurobindo Ghose pointed out that the University system was defective in its aims and methods intended only to serve the purposes of the Government, not the requirements of the country. It turned out machines for administrative and professional work, not men. The National system of Education was intended to create a nation. It must produce men with all their faculties trained, full of patriotism, and mentally, morally, physically, the equals of the men of any other nation.
In 1906 the new-born Nationalist party put forward Swaraj (independence) as its goal, and Sri Aurobindo was the first of the Nationalist leaders to insist on full independence for India as the goal of the movement. For several years he lent all his considerable abilities and energies to this struggle. In 1908 Sri Aurobindo was arrested on a charge of treason and he spent a year in jail on trial for sedition. He was kept in solitary confinement for almost a year as an 'under trial' prisoner in Alipore jail.
The philosopher of Indian Nationalism, the idol of the young, Aurobindo Ghose, encouraged his fellow countrymen in the following terms: "Without suffering, without the lesson of selflessness, without the moral force of self-sacrifice, the God within us cannot grow. ... When He bids us suffer, we suffer, because that suffering is necessary to give othejs strength. When He throws us away, He does so because we are no longer required. This is a work which God has called us to do, and in the place of those who are thrown away God will bring many more. He Himself is the worker and the work. He is immortal in the hearts of His people."
A systematic refutation of the Aryan invasion theory had to wait until Sri Aurobindo. Sri Aurobindo rejected the colonial-missionary model of history, which regarded the Aryan invasion theory as its crown-jewel. Sri Aurobindo was among the first to issue a warning against the invasion theory in his book The Secret of the Veda. Sri Aurobindo, a scholar of Latin and Greek as well as of Sanskrit, debunked the theory of the North-South racial divide in India. Sri Aurobindo did not subscribe to the theory that the languages of North and South India were unrelated. Sri Aurobindo’s study of the Tamil led him to discover that the original connection between the Sanskrit and Tamil languages was “far closer and more extensive than is usually supposed.” These languages are “two divergent families derived from one lost primitive tongue.” And, “My first study of Tamil words had brought me to what seemed a clue to the very origins and structure of the ancient Sanskrit tongue.” –See The Secret of the Veda, V 10, the Centenary Edition, p 36, 46. Sri Aurobindo also noted that a large part of the vocabulary of the South Indian languages (Tamil, Kannada, Telugu, Malayalam) is common with Sanskrit.
During his time in prison he had a number of fundamental spiritual experiences which convinced him of the truth of the "Sanatana Dharma" - the ancient spiritual knowledge and practice of India. Following his release from prison in 1909, he resolved to withdraw from the political field. This spiritual awareness led him to take refuge from continuing pursuit by the British authorities in Pondicherry, then part of French India, where he devoted himself intensively to the exploration of the new possibilities it opened up to him. Supported by his spiritual collaborator, The Mother, and using his new-found spiritual capacities, he continued to work tirelessly for the upliftment of India and the world. The great originality of Sri Aurobindo was to have fused the modern scientific concept of evolution with the perennial gnostic experience of an all-pervading divine consciousness supporting all phenomenal existence.
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