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Śrī Aurobindo (August 15, 1872 - December 5, 1950) was an Indian patriot, writer, philosopher, mystic and guru.

Born Aurobindo Ackroyd Ghose and later called Aravinda Ghosh in Kolkata (Calcutta), India, his father was Dr. K. D. Ghose and his mother, Swarnalata Devi. His father, who had lived in England and wanted his children to be westernized, sent Aurobindo and his siblings to the Loretto Convent School at Darjeeling. At the age of seven Aurobindo was sent to St. Paul's school in London, England where he was taught Latin, Greek and all the classical western school subjects. While at St. Paul's he received the Butterworth Prize for literature, the Bedford Prize for history and a scholarship to Cambridge University. He returned to India in 1893.

Table of contents
1 Early nationalist experiences
2 Final conversion
3 The Mother
4 His contribution to Indian philosophy
5 Quote
6 External links

Early nationalist experiences

In his youth he was the editor of a Bengali newspaper Vande Mataram (spelt and pronounced as Bande Mataram in Bengali language) sympathetic with the Indian nationalism movement. He became involved with the independence movement and in 1907 attended a convention of Indian nationalists where he was seen as the new leader of the movement. But his life was beginning to take a new direction. In Baroda he met a Maharashtrian yogi called Vishnu Bhaskar Lele who convinced him to explore the ancient practices of yoga.

It was at this point that Rabindranath Tagore paid him a visit and wrote the now famous lines:

Rabindranath, O Aurobindo, bows to thee! O friend, my country's friend, O Voice incarnate, free, Of India's soul....The fiery messenger that with the lamp of God Hath come...Rabindranath, O Aurobindo, bows to thee.

Final conversion

His final conversion from from an angry nationalist into a profound mystic occurred while incarcerated for a year in the Alipur jail in Kolkata in the province of Bengal. While incarcerated was inspired by his meditating on the Bhagavad Gita. He developed the idea of passive resistance — often attributed to Mahatma Mohandas Gandhi — and it is from him that Gandhi obtained the inspiration to apply this technique of Satyagraha that helped lead India to independence from the British Empire.

The trial for which he was incarcerated was one of the important trials in Indian nationalism movement. There were 49 accused and 206 witnesses. 400 documents were filed and 5000 exhibits were produced including bombs, revolvers and acid. The English judge, C.B. Beechcroft, had been a student with Sri Aurobindo at Cambridge. The Chief Prosecutor Eardley Norton displayed a loaded revolver on his briefcase during the trial. The case for Sri Aurobindo was taken up by C.R. Das. The trial lasted for one full year. Aurobindo was acquitted.

Afterwards Aurobindo started two new weeklies: the Karmayogin in English and the Dharma in Bengali. However, it appeared that the British government would not tolerate his nationalist program as Lord Minto wrote about him: I can only repeat that he is the most dangerous man we have to reckon with.

Sought again by the Indian police he was guided to the French settlements and on April 4, 1910 he finally found refuge with other nationalists in the French colony of Pondicherry. He established his ashram there and did most of his writing and teaching from Pondicherry until 1950.

The Mother

His closest disciple, Mirra Richard, was known as The Mother (February 21, 1878 - November 17, 1973). She was born in Paris to Turkish and Egyptian parents and came to his ashram on March 29, 1914 visiting Pondicherry several times and finally settling there in 1920. After November 24, 1926, when Sri Aurobindo retired into seclusion, she supervised the organization of his ashram and institutes. She became the leader of the community after Sri Aurobindo passed away; she is now revered by followers of Sri Aurobindo as well.

His contribution to Indian philosophy

One of Aurobindo's main philosophical achievements was to introduce the concept of evolution into Advaitin thought. Samkhya philosophy had already proposed such a notion centuries earlier, but Aurobindo rejected the materialistic tendencies of both Darwinism and Samkhya, and proposed an evolution of spirit rather than matter.

There is clearly an idealist streak in Aurobindo's interpretation of Vedanta. This becomes even more clear when we see that he solves the problem of the linkage between the ineffable unitary mind of Brahman and the many ordinary minds here on earth by positing a supermind. The supermind is the active principle present in the mind of Brahman (or perhaps more accurately, in the mind that is Brahman) of which our individual minds are minuscule subdivision.

The birthday of Sri Aurobindo, August 15 — which Aurobindo also pointed out was the Feast of the Assumption of Mary in the Catholic Christian religion — is celebrated each year by Indians — it is the Independence Day of India.


The Immortal Fire (1974), page 3-4.

External links