In the later part of 1892, the Gaekwar of Baroda (Vadodara) was in London. Sri Aurobindo saw him, obtained an appointment in the Baroda service, and returned to India on 6 February 1893 at the age of 21. From 1897 to early 1906 he taught French and English at the Baroda College, eventually becoming its principal. These years gave him a first-hand experience of the dismal condition of education in India and made him feel an acute need for a true national education.
Focus on Books
Dinendra Kumar Roy, Sri Aurobindo’s Bengali teacher wrote, “Aurobindo was always indifferent to pleasure and pain, prosperity and adversity, praise and blame . . . . He bore all hardships with an unruffled mind and remained absorbed in the contemplation of his adored Deity.
“Aurobindo would sit at his table and read in the light of an oil lamp till one in the morning, unmindful of the intolerable bite of mosquitoes. I saw him seated there in the same posture for hours on end, his eyes fixed on the book he read, like a Yogi plunged in divine contemplation and lost to all sense of what was going on outside. Even if the house had caught fire, it could not have broken his concentration. Daily he would thus burn the midnight oil, poring over books in different languages of Europe – books of poetry, fiction, history, philosophy whose number, one could hardly tell. In his study, there were heaps of books on various subjects in different languages – French, German, Russian, English, Greek, Latin etc. about which I knew nothing. . .”
Sadhana, Siddhi and Samadhi
There were more pressing portents that the Government had finally decided to arrest Sri Aurobindo again, deport him under its draconian laws, and silence the Karmayogin. In mid-February, following news of an impending arrest, Sri Aurobindo received an adesh to go to Chandernagore, then under French Government. Leaving the Karmayogin office at once, he reached Chandernagore the next morning, where he remained for a month and a half, immersed in sadhana.
I suddenly received a command from above, in a voice well known to me, in three words: “Go to Chandernagore”. In ten minutes or so I was in the boat for Chandernagore (Feb. 1910) . . . I remained in secret entirely engaged in Sadhana and my active connection with the two newspapers ceased from that time. Afterwards, under the same “sailing orders” I left Chandernagore and reached Pondicherry on April 4, 1910.
Sri Aurobindo’s Independence Day message clearly emphasises his great concern for Hindu-Muslim divide. Though he had totally isolated himself from politics of the day, he kept himself abreast with political developments affecting the nation. Occasionally, when some sadhaks (seekers) raised or asked him questions on Hindu-Muslim problems, Sri Aurobindo gave very clear and unambiguous answers.
From a letter to a Muslim disciple who started making violent demands which he tried to justify on “religious” grounds
You say that you ask only for the truth and yet you speak like a narrow and ignorant fanatic who refused to believe in anything but the religion in which he was born. All fanaticism is false, because it is a contradiction of the very nature of God and of truth. Truth cannot be shut up in a single book, Bible or Veda or Quran, or in a single religion. The Divine Being is eternal and universal and infinite and cannot be the sole property of the Mussalmans or the Semitic religions only – those that happened to be in a line from the Bible and to have Jewish or Arabian prophets for their founders……
As for the Hindu-Muslim affair, I saw no reason why the greatness of India’s past or her spirituality should be thrown into the waste paper basket in order to conciliate the Muslims who would not at all be conciliated by such policy. What has created the Hindu-Muslim split was not Swadeshi, but the acceptance of the communal principle by the Congress and the further attempt by the Khilafat movement to conciliate them and bring them in on wrong lines. The recognition of that communal principle at Lucknow made them permanently a separate political entity in India which ought never to have happened; the Khilafat affair made that separate political entity an organized separate political power.
If it is India’s destiny to assimilate all the conflicting elements, is it possible to assimilate the Mohammedan element also?
Why not? India has assimilated elements from the Greeks, the Persians and other nations. But she assimilates only when her central truth is recognised by the other party, and elements absorbed are no longer recognisable as foreign but become part of herself. For instance, we took from the Greek architecture, from the Persian painting etc.
The assimilation of the Mohammedan culture also was done in the mind to a great extent and it would have perhaps gone further. But in order that the process may be complete it is necessary that a change in the Mohammedan mentality should come. The conflict is in outer life and unless the Mohammedan learn tolerance I do not think the assimilation is possible.
The attempt to placate the Mohammedan was a false diplomacy. Instead of trying to achieve Hindu-Muslim unity directly, if the Hindus has devoted themselves to national work, the Mohammedan would have gradually come of themselves
The Hindu is ready to tolerate. He is open to new ideas and his culture has got a wonderful capacity for assimilation, but always provided that India’s central truth is recognised. The attempt to placate the Mohammedan was a false diplomacy. Instead of trying to achieve Hindu-Muslim unity directly, if the Hindus has devoted themselves to national work, the Mohammedan would have gradually come of themselves . . . This attempt to patch up a unity has given too much importance to the Muslims and it has been the root of all these troubles.
A disciple: There are some people who object to “Vande Mataram” as a national song. And some Congressmen support the removal of some parts of the song. In that case should the Hindus give up their culture?
It is not a religious song; it is a national song and the Durga spoken of is India as the Mother. Why should not the Muslims accept it? It is an image used in poetry. In the Indian conception of nationality, the Hindu view would naturally be there. If it cannot find a place there, the Hindus may as well be asked to give up their culture. The Hindus don’t object to “Allah-ho-Akbar” . . . Why shouldn't the Hindu worship his god? Otherwise, the Hindus must either accept Mohammedanism or the European culture or become atheists . . .
Rejects Subjection of Hindus
On Hindu-Muslim unity, Sri Aurobindo: “I am sorry they are making fetish of this Hindu-Muslim unity. It is no use ignoring facts; someday the Hindus may have to fight the Muslims and they must prepare for it. Hindu-Muslim unity should not mean the subjection of the Hindus. Every time the mildness of the Hindu has given way. The best solution would be to allow the Hindus to organise themselves and the Hindu-Muslim unity would take care of itself, it would automatically solve the problem. Otherwise, we are lulled into a false sense of satisfaction that we have solved a difficult problem, when in fact we have only shelved it.”
Sri Aurobindo arrived in Pondicherry on April 4, 1910. In the first years of his stay at Pondicherry, Sri Aurobindo made a deep study of the Veda and, struck by the light it threw on his own experiences, rediscovered its lost meaning.
Writing about Hindu Religion, Sri Aurobindo states: “But what is the Hindu religion? What is this religion which we call Sanatan, eternal? It is the Hindu religion only because the Hindu nation has kept it, because in this peninsula it grew up in the seclusion of the sea and the Himalayas, because in this sacred and ancient land it was given as a charge to the Aryan race to preserve through the ages. (Sri Aurobindo never subscribed to the absurd division between Aryans and Dravidians: “I regard the so-called Aryans and Dravidians as one homogeneous race”, he wrote later in The Secret of the Veda.)
Writing about his spiritual experiences, Sri Aurobindo records, “My own life and my Yoga have always been, since my coming to India, both this-worldly and other-worldly, without any exclusiveness on either side. All human interests are, I suppose, this-worldly and most of them have entered into my mental field and some, like politics, into my life, but at the same time, since I set foot on the Indian soil on the Apollo Bunder in Bombay, I began to have spiritual experiences, but these were not divorced from this world but had an inner and infinite bearing on it, such as a feeling of the infinite pervading material space and the immanent inhabiting material objects and bodies. At the same time I found myself entering supraphysical worlds and planes with influences and an effect from them upon the material plane, so I could make no sharp divorce or irreconcilable opposition between what I have called the two ends of existence and all that lies between them.
Tryst with Sri krishna
He showed me his wonders and made me realise the utter truth of the Hindu religion. I had had many doubts before. I was brought up in England amongst foreign ideas and an atmosphere entirely foreign. About many things in Hinduism I had once been inclined to believe that it was all imagination; that there was much of dream in it, much that was delusion and maya. But now day after day I realise in the mind, I realise in the heart, I realise in the body the truths of the Hindu religion. They became living experiences to me, and things were opened to me which no material science could explain.
The second message came and it said “Something has been shown to you in this year of seclusion, something about which you had your doubts and it is the truth of the Hindu religion. It is this religion that I am raising up before the world, it is this that I have perfected and developed through the Rishis, saints and Avatars, and now it is going forth to do my work among the nations. I am raising up this nation to send forth my word . . . When therefore it is said that India shall rise, it is the Sanatan Dharma that shall rise. When it is said that India shall be great, it is the Sanatan Dharma that shall be great. When it is said that India shall expand and extend itself over the world. It is for the Dharma and for the Dharma that India exists . . . ”
Sri Aurobindo left his body on 5 December 1950. The body was suffused and enveloped by bluish-golden light for nearly 111 hours.
The mysterious Divine Sacrifice – people do not know what a tremendous sacrifice Sri Aurobindo has made for the world. About a year ago, while I was discussing things, I remarked that I felt like leaving this body of mine. He spoke out in a very firm tone, “No, this can never be. If necessary for this transformation, I might go, you will have to fulfil our Yoga of supramental descent and transformation.”
Sri Aurobindo was not compelled to leave his body; he chose to do so for reasons so sublime that they are beyond the reach of human mentality. And when one cannot understand, the only thing to do is to keep a respectful silence. On December 8, 1950 when Mother asked Sri Aurobindo to resuscitate his body, he clearly answered: “I have left this body purposely. I will not take it back. I shall manifest again in the first supramental body built in the supramental way.” “A meditative silence reigned in the Ashram for twelve days after the passing of the beloved Master” writes a sadhak; “then the normal activities began, but with a striking difference. One felt a pervading presence in the Ashram atmosphere . . . ” On 14 December the Mother half-admonished the sadhaks: “To grieve is an insult to Sri Aurobindo who is here with us, conscious and alive.” And on 18 January 1951, she gave a firmer assurance still. Another sadhak writes, He is always with us, aware of what we are doing, of all our thoughts, of all our feelings and all our actions.
From 1900 onward, Sri Aurobindo began contacting revolutionary groups in Maharashtra and Bengal. He wrote Bhawani Mandir, a booklet “for the revolutionary preparation of the country”.
Divide and Rule Policy
Alarmed by the rising force of Bengali resentment against British rule, Lord Curzon, partitioned Bengal in 1905 on the lines of divide-and-rule policy. It was aimed both at breaking the growing political agitation in Bengal and at using the Muslim-dominated East Bengal as the thin end of a wedge between Hindus and Muslims – a policy that was to culminate in the Partition of India.
In 1906, a Bengali weekly, Yugantar, was started to which Sri Aurobindo contributed articles. In August, BC Pal launched the famous English daily, Bande Mataram; Sri Aurobindo joined it and soon took up its editorship, side by side with his behind-the-scenes activities with BG Tilak and Lala Lajpat Rai.
On August 16, 1907, the British Government, alarmed by the spread and impact of Bande Mataram, arrested Sri Aurobindo under sedition law. He owed his acquittal a month later to the government’s failure to prove that he was the editor of the dreaded journal.
Sri Aurobindo said he entered into political action and continued it from 1903 to 1910 with one aim to get into the mind of the people a settled will for freedom and the necessity of a struggle to achieve it in place of the futile ambling Congress methods till then in vogue
On December 27, 1907, the Nationalist Party, with Sri Aurobindo presiding over its conference, broke away from the Congress Moderates at the tumultuous Surat session over the latter’s refusal to reaffirm the demands of Swaraj, Swadeshi, Boycott and National Education.
Sri Aurobindo said he left politics because he did not want anything to interfere with Yoga. “I have cut connection entirely with politics, but before I did so I knew from within that the work I had begun there was destined to be carried forward, on lines I had foreseen, by others, and that the ultimate triumph of the movement I had initiated was sure without my personal action or presence. There was not the least motive of despair or sense of futility behind my withdrawal. For the rest, I have never known any will of mine for any major event in the conduct of the world-affairs to fail in the end, although it may take a long time for the world-forces to fulfil it.”