Aurobindo Ghose was among the great sons of India who made a name in Indian Politics and Independence struggle. He was born in Calcutta on 15th August 1872 to Krishna Dhun Ghose and his wife Swarnalotta Devi.
His father who was then an Assistant Surgeon of Rangpur in Bengal was an ardent fan of the British culture so he encouraged his children to learn English and study in schools where his children would be exposed to Christianity. Although his family was Bengali, his father believed British culture to be superior to that of his countrymen.
Aurobindo and his two elder siblings were sent to the English-speaking Loreto House boarding school in Darjeeling, the hub of British Culture in India to improve their language skills. Darjeeling was a centre of British life in India and the school was run by Irish nuns, through which the boys would have been exposed to Christian religious teachings and symbolism.
Krishna Dhun Ghose wanted his sons to enter the Indian Civil Service (ICS) and as to achieve this it was necessary to study in England, the three brothers were placed in the care of the Reverend W.H. Drewett in Manchester. Drewett was a minister of the Congregational Church whom Krishna Ghose knew through his British friends. The boys were taught Latin by Drewett and his wife as this was a prerequisite for admission to good English schools.
Aurobindo continued his studies with the Drewetts, learning history, Latin, French, Geography, and arithmetic.
At a tender age of seven Aurobindo was sent to England and stayed there for fourteen years.
Aurobindo came back to India in 1893 after getting a job with the royal family of Baroda (Gaekwad). He was fluent with many foreign languages but less familiar with Indian culture. He spent twelve years in Baroda serving as a teacher, secretary to the Maharaja of Gaekwad, and also the Vice Principal of Baroda College thereby becoming more familiar with his mother tongue, Indian culture and traditions. It was only after staying in India for twelve long years that Aurobindo could understand the harm that the British had done to the Indian civilization and he slowly started showing interest in politics against British rule.
Aurobindo finally moved to Kolkata in the year 1906 after the announcement of the partition of Bengal Publicly. Aurobindo supported non-co-operation and passive resistance to the British but in private he was involved in secret revolutionary activities and helped build the revolutionary atmosphere in the country.
In April 1910 Aurobindo moved to Pondicherry (which was then a French Colony) to start a new life.
In Pondicherry Aurobindo set himself on a path of spiritual learning and evolution by practicing secluded Yoga continuously for four years which he termed as “Integral Yoga”.
After settling in Pondicherry, he dedicated to his spiritual and philosophical pursuits. In 1914, he started a monthly philosophical magazine “Arya”.
Slowly Aurobindo began to attract followers and the number kept increasing resulting in the formation of Sri Aurobindo Ashram in 1926.
He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature (1943) and Nobel Prize for Peace (1950) for his innumerable contributions in the field of poetry, spiritualism and philosophical literature.
At the age of 28, Aurobindo had married Mrinalini Devi daughter of Bhupal Chandra Bose, a senior government official , in 1901. Mrinalini died in December in 1918 during the influenza pandemic.
Sri Aurobindo passed away on December 5, 1950.
On the occasion of his 148th birth anniversary, here are some quotes by the philosopher:
"True knowledge is not attained by thinking. It is what you are; it is what you become."
"There is nothing mind can do that cannot be better done in the mind's immobility and thought-free stillness. When mind is still, then truth gets her chance to be heard in the purity of the silence."
"Our actual enemy is not any force exterior to ourselves, but our own crying weaknesses, our cowardice, our selfishness, our hypocrisy, our purblind sentimentalism."
“There are two allied powers in man; knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge is so much of the truth seen in a distorted medium as the mind arrives at by groping, wisdom what the eye of divine vision sees in the spirit.”
“Rather hang thyself than belong to the horde of successful imitators.”
“Very usually, altruism is only the sublimest form of selfishness.”
“All disease is a means towards some new joy of health, all evil & pain a tuning of Nature for some more intense bliss & good, all death an opening on widest immortality.”
“When thou callest another a fool, as thou must, sometimes, yet do not forget that thou thyself hast been the supreme fool in humanity.”
“Our actual enemy is not any force exterior to ourselves, but our own crying weaknesses, our cowardice, our selfishness, our hypocrisy, our purblind sentimentalism.”
“Live within; be not shaken by outward happenings.”
“There is no mortality. It is only the Immortal who can die; the mortal could neither be born nor perish. There is nothing finite. It is only the Infinite who can make for Himself limits; the finite can have no beginning nor end, for the very act of conceive
"What I cannot do now is the sign of what I shall do hereafter. The sense of impossibility is the beginning of all possibilities. Because this temporal universe was a paradox and an impossibility, therefore the Eternal created it out of His being."
"There are no true and false religions, but rather all religions are true in their own way and degree. Each is one of the thousand paths to the One Eternal."
"She saw too that man has the power of exceeding himself, of becoming himself more entirely and profoundly than he is, truths which have only recently begun to be seen in Europe and seem even now too great for its common intelligence."
“All religions have some truth in them, but none has the whole truth.”
“What is God after all? An eternal child playing an eternal game in an eternal garden.”
“What men call knowledge, is the reasoned acceptance of false appearances. Wisdom looks behind the veil and sees.”
“None can reach heaven who has not passed through hell.”
“Hate not the oppressor, for, if he is strong, your hate increases his force of resistance; if he is weak, your hate was needless.”
India of the ages is not dead nor has she spoken her last creative word; she lives and has still something to do for herself and the human peoples.