|Doctrines|| ||To Aurobindo "All life is Yoga" and to this end he wrote of what he had realised in his own sadhana, religious practice. For him the doctrine of karma and rebirth reconcile belief in free will and fate so that we can have "spiritual evolution." This evolution of consciousness is the main framework of his philosophy, based on his experience in 1926 of the "Overmind" or Divine consciousness.|
Consciousness pervades all things. To Aurobindo "There is to me nothing secular, all human activity is for me a thing to be included in a complete spiritual life." To him the dharma, Divine law, is the religion of India but it is also universal, including "Science and faith, Theism, Christianity, Islam and Buddhism and yet is none of these."
The highest level of consciousness is Sat-Chit-Ananda, Being-Consciousness-Bliss, or the Absolute. All levels of consciousness are expressions of Sat-Chit-Ananda. Aurobindo's philosophy has been described as purna-advaita, integral nondualism, or purna-vijnana, integral idealism, or purnavada, integralism. This Vedantic approach to life seeks to understand reality in its undivided wholeness and fundamental oneness. Aurobindo sees a hierarchy of consciousness in which the Supreme is continuously being and becoming manifest. There is the Supermind which mediates Sat-Chit-Ananda to the multiplicity of the world, the Overmind as a delegate of the Supermind, the Intuitive Mind as a consciousness of the heart, the Illumined Mind concerned with the consciousness of vision, the Higher Mind using abstract thought, the Mind to integrate reality, the Psyche as the conscious form of the soul, and Matter as the lowest form of consciousness.
Yoga speeds up this process as conscious evolution. Aurobindo synthesised the old yogas into Integral Yoga to seek an integral change of consciousness for the individual, all humanity, and the cosmos. There is no doubt that this synthesis of Aurobindo brings together the thought of East and West but goes beyond both to his own total philosophy. There are two main features of Integral Yoga, the balanced unity of meditation and action, and the correlation of the ascending and descending movements of consciousness. After the ascent to the Divine comes the real goal which is the descent of the new consciousness to transform life and existence.
Aurobindo wrote of his yogic spiritual growth in Record of Yoga. His major works include Savitri, a 700 page epic poem, The Foundations of Indian Culture, Essays on the Gita, The Synthesis of Yoga, The Human Cycle, and The Life Divine, a 1,000 page metaphysics of spiritual experience.
|History|| ||Aurobindo Ghose (1872-1950) was born in Calcutta. His father had been educated in England and sent Aurobindo there from the age of seven until he was twenty-one. He attended St. Paul's School and Cambridge, being a brilliant classical scholar, renowned for his poetry in Greek. Though his father fervently wanted him to gain entry to the Indian Civil Service (ICS), Aurobindo started to take an interest in the nationalist movement in India, partly through his father's own experiences. In the end he deliberately failed the ICS riding part of the exam. Waiting for a retake of this exam he did not take the ship to India that was planned. This ship sank and his father died of unnecessary grief. Through her life his mother suffered from mental illness and later became insane.|
Aurobindo knew nothing of Indian languages or culture and on his return to India in 1893 he started to study about his country while teaching French and English in Baroda, where he later became vice principal and acting principal of Baroda College.
He was also associated with the political and revolutionary aspects of the freedom
movement, and after 1906 put most of his energy into this. At first he gave priority to revolutionary methods. His articles in the periodical Bande Mataram concerned the issues of swaraj and swadesi (self-rule) and boycott. His English newspaper, Karmayogin, tried to unite the two main streams of Indian life, religion and politics. He also started a Bengali weekly, Dharma. He was a powerful speaker for the Nationalist party and was eventually put in prison for a year. The British regarded him as a number one enemy.
He was eventually acquitted, but during that year in Alipore jail Aurobindo deepened his interest in yoga and during its practice he had a vision of Krishna. All the time he had thought that the spiritual power coming from yoga could be channelled into his political life. In 1910 Aurobindo received "a sudden command from above," as he had done with his entry into politics, and moved to French India, first near Calcutta and then to the colony of Pondicherry on the Coromandel coast of South India. Here he spent the remainder of his life, forty years. He had decided that by then the independence movement was unstoppable and did not need him.
In Pondicherry he turned to the spiritual life and practised and wrote voluminously about his Integral Yoga. A group of Indian and European followers grew and after a few years this became an ashram, gradually taking over the old French buildings in the heart of Pondicherry. A French woman, Mira Richards (1878-1973), came first with her husband and then alone after some years in Japan, and she became "the Mother" as named by Aurobindo. She considered Aurobindo an avatar, divine incarnation, and he was to live a life of seclusion in the ashram while she with her organising genius took charge of the growth of the ashram.
After the death of Aurobindo the Mother became the spiritual head of the ashram and members had to ask her for direction in their lives. She spread Aurobindo's teachings around the world and in 1956 announced herself as an avatar. In 1962 she founded the New Age Association and in 1968 inaugurated Auroville, "City of Human Peace," near Pondicherry with UNESCO backing. From the 1950's through the 1960's and 1970's groups and centres to promote Aurobindo's teachings were set up in the West.
The year before the Mother died, the writer was present at the last darshan, audience, of the Mother. She appeared at a third-storey balcony of a house in Pondicherry with thousands of ashramites gathered below. Though she was supposed to be then going through "rejuvenation of her cells" she was in fact so arthritic she had to walk extremely slowly holding on to the rails of the balcony.
|Symbols|| ||All over Pondicherry in every shop and cafe can be seen two photos side by side of Aurobindo and the Mother.|
|Adherents|| ||There are about 1,500 members of the Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, mostly Europeans from all over the world. At the nearby city of Auroville are several hundred people scattered about rather like a kibbutz. At Aurobindo centres around the world there are thousands of other followers.|
| ||Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, South India. Main centres outside India are especially in the U.S. : The Cultural Integration Fellowship in San Francisco started in 1951, the East-West Cultural Centre in Los Angeles started in 1953, the California Institute of Asian Studies and Matagiri in New York were founded in 1968, and the Atmaniketan Ashram started in California in 1971. |