OPED Monday, November 24, 2008 Pioneer.com Aurobindo’s life divine Prafull Goradia
82 years ago this day, he attained siddhi
On November 24, 1926 at Pondicherry, Sri Aurobindo had his major vision of the divine which he called siddhi. Commenting on his greatness, the Times Literary Supplement wrote that he might prove to be one of the truly creative philosophers who has given mankind a new thought and a new vision. The philosophers the journal had in mind included Plato, Kant, Hegel and Bergson. The same publication had elsewhere quoted Sir Francis Younghusband as having said that Sri Aurobindo’s mystical magnum opus called The Life Divine to be the greatest book which had been produced in his time (The Lives Sri Aurobindo by Peter Heehs).
It is not widely realised that yoga means not only a union of body and mind but ultimately also of the human with the divine. True, the latter union is extremely rare. Over the last several centuries, only two individuals are reputed to have been able to view the divine, namely Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa and Sri Aurobindo. It is believed that both attained mukti or salvation; the former through bhakti while the latter with the help of jnana yoga. Their mystic experiences were at once similar and yet very different.
Sri Aurobindo was almost entirely educated in England over a period of 14 years. In his second year at King’s College, Cambridge, he completed his classical Tripos. Praising his essay, on a comparison between Shakespeare and Milton, written for the Tripos, Oscar Browning called it wonderful. The famous writer went on to say that in his 13 years as an examiner, he had not come across such excellent papers as this student’s. Sri Aurobindo passed the ICS examination but ducked out of the appointment by missing the horse-riding tests. Nevertheless, his learning was versatile, ranging from the Greek classics to Latin, not to speak of Sanskrit and English poetry.
Politics and India’s freedom had begun to stir Sri Aurobindo while in England. One of his biographers, AB Purani, has written that when he put his foot on the soil of India at Apollo Bunder (Mumbai), he experienced tremendous peace. He proceeded straight to Baroda to take up his appointment that he had accepted from Maharaja Sayajirao before leaving England. He served the state for over 13 years until he was 35. During these years, Sri Aurobindo took keen interest in politics in Bengal especially through his brother Barin. Being in the Maharaja’s service, he had to remain in the background, until the British Government decided to prosecute him for writing in Bande Mataram, a journal founded by Bipin Chandra Pal.
In 1904, Sri Aurobindo started practising yoga five to six hours daily. He called this practice sadhana. Although he did take a few advanced lessons from one Yogi Vishnu Bhaskar Lele in 1907, the rest of his efforts all his life were his own. Incidentally, Sri Aurobindo attended the historic Surat Congress of 1907. Incredibly, he was already looked upon as a leading light of the extremists. Bal Gangadhar Tilak was about his only senior. Although he had taken to political activity like fish to water, it disturbed his sadhana. On many a day he could not even practise yoga; he found this disturbing.
In May 1908, Sri Aurobindo, along with others was arrested in the Alipore Bomb Conspiracy case. He left his defence to Chittaranjan Das and busied himself with sadhana even if in the full view of the prison inmates. Once when the Governor visited the jail, he remarked that Sri Aurobindo’s eyes were like those of a mad man. Charu Chandra Dutt corrected him by saying that they were those of a karmayogi!
There were times when Sri Aurobindo experienced siddhi, the attainment of seeing light much greater than experienced in our world. On occasions he heard the voice of Swami Vivekananda. During the trial in court, he saw Vasudeva and Narayan instead of the magistrate and the prosecutor. One day he was reported to have experienced the divine. Sri Aurobindo has written about how he was urgently removed to his solitary cell, but in his own words, what happened then and day after day “I am not impelled to say except that ‘He showed me His wonders’.” Thereafter, he often asked the divine for an aadesh (instruction).
After being acquitted in the Alipore Bomb Conspiracy case, Sri Aurobindo began editing two journals, Karamyogi and Dharma. At the office one afternoon, came an aadesh: ‘Go to Chandernagore’. He obeyed immediately and reached the French colony the same evening. In less than two months, came yet another aadesh which asked him to proceed to Pondicherry which he did on March 31, 1910 by a French boat named Dupleix. Despite a shortage of money, Sri Aurobindo was able to concentrate on his sadhana as well as writing, including his epic poem Savitri.
His devotee, later the legendary Mother named Mira, wife of Paul Richard, first called on Sri Aurobindo on March 29, 1914 along with her husband who was a French journalist. She had repeatedly dreamt of Lord Krishna; when she met Sri Aurobindo, she knew she had found the avatar. Her life was dedicated to spreading the message of Sri Aurobindo.
Sri Aurobindo mingled more and more with the divine and found the ultimate success or siddhi on November 24, 1926. In his own words, life is all yoga. After the siddhi he confined himself to his apartment in the ashram and met no more than seven or eight outsiders in the course of the following 24 years. He was no organiser. It was the Mother, who in the celebration of Sri Aurobindo, played the role reminiscent of Saints Peter and Paul for Jesus Christ or Ashoka in the spread of Buddhism.
By all means, please continue writing on Sri Aurobindo- but do we really need to quote Peter Heehs's book? By Tathagata Mukherjee on 11/24/2008 1:55:57 AM Its great to see some articles on "prophet of Indian nationalism", Sri Aurobindo, in the pages of the Pioneer lately. However, I have a question to Shri Goradia who is quoting from Peter Heehs's book and probably to the Editor as well (as we have seen a piece of Peter Heehs appear in the Pioneer lately): This book of Peter Heehs has many derogatory references to Sri Aurobindo. By all means, please continue writing on Sri Aurobindo- but do we really need to quote Peter Heehs's book?
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