A freedom fighter with a life divine
India produced a multifaceted freedom fighter who was also an intellectual, linguist, yogi, poet, scholar, philosopher and a great spiritual leader. Who was this great personality?
Many countries have freedom fighters, but India was uniquely blessed with freedom fighters who were also spiritual and saintly. One such champion of ‘true freedom’ both political and spiritual was Sri Aurobindo Ghose (1872–1950) also known as Sri Aurobindo. Coincidently 15th August is also the birth anniversary of Sri Aurobindo. While most freedom fighters focus mainly on political freedom Sri Aurobindo was unique to direct attention and showed us how to be truly free in our essential nature. He showed us that despite an occidental education, one can understand India and her greatness correctly.
“No one can write about my life because it has not been on the surface for man to see” said Sri Aurobindo on himself. Go through the life story of Sri Aurobindo and you can see that this statement is so true. Sri Aurobindo was so unique and inspiring that it becomes difficult to fathom the depth of his grand and multifaceted personality.
How does one describe or speak about such a personality? Sri Aurobindo was modern India’s most fascinating and unfathomable leader. Sri Aurobindo’s personality was multifaceted as a freedom fighter, poet, scholar, yogi and philosopher. He spent his life working towards the cause of India’s freedom, and for further evolution of mankind. Sri Aurobindo falls into the exclusive category of spiritual freedom fighters who achieved the highest realization of Godliness and have shared that experience with the rest of humankind. Both Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo are credited with having found the basis for a vision of freedom and glory for India in the spiritual richness and heritage of Hinduism.
What’s unique about Sri Aurobindo’s life-story? Aurobindo had a European upbringing. Educated at Cambridge where he was a brilliant Classics scholar, he refused a career in the civil service and returned to India after a 14 year education in England, which started when he was seven, only to become a fiery revolutionary nationalist. He joined the movement Indian independence movement.
The term Indian independence movement incorporates various national and regional campaigns, agitations and efforts of both nonviolent and militant philosophy. The term encompasses a wide spectrum of political organizations, philosophies, and movements which had the common aim of ending the British… for India’s freedom from British rule and for some duration (1905–10) became one of its most important leaders, before turning to developing his own vision and philosophy of human progress and spiritual evolution.
In 1906, soon after the Partition of Bengal, Sri Aurobindo quit his post in Baroda and went to Calcutta, where he soon became one of the leaders of the Nationalist movement. He was the first political leader in India to openly put forward, in his newspaper Bande Mataram, the idea of complete independence for India from the British much before Gandhi did. He had such a great impact that in 1907 the poet 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.”
In 1908 after a series of bombings he was arrested along with other suspects. In jail for conspiring to “wage war against the British,” Sri Aurobindo turned to meditation. Though he was acquitted soon after, it was during this short period that he became increasingly preoccupied with the spiritual dimensions of Indian cultural life.
He finally found refuge in the French enclave of Pondicherry now Puducherry and he perfected his practice of what he called ‘Integral yoga’ which he taught to his disciples before he passed away in 1950.
Says Swami Shivananda on Sir Aurobindo,
“Aurobindo was one of the greatest of world figures. He was an inspiration to the nationalists of India. The crest jewel of renascent India, the bravest among the patriots, the sharpest among the intellectuals, and the subtlest among the seers, Sri Aurobindo fulfilled the glorious purpose of demonstrating to the world that real India, the India of the Vedic seers, could survive and absorb into herself all alien cultures, and that at the hands of one who knew the proper synthesis, Eastern and Western cultures could find their happy blend, without necessarily having to antagonize one another. Sri Aurobindo’s Life Divine—the divine life that he lived and preached—will live for ever, inspiring mankind. Posterity will hail him as a member of the galaxy of Vedic seers. May his Light ever shine.”
Here are some of Sri Aurobindo’s famous sayings on India and her spirituality:
“Spirituality is indeed the master key of the Indian mind; the sense of the infinitive is native to it.”
“India is the meeting place of the religions and among these Hinduism alone is by itself a vast and complex thing, not so much a religion as a great diversified and yet subtly unified mass of spiritual thought, realization and aspiration.”
“India saw from the beginning, and, even in her ages of reason and her age of increasing ignorance, she never lost hold of the insight, that life cannot be rightly seen in the sole light, cannot be perfectly lived in the sole power of its externalities.”
“Indian religion has always felt that since the minds, the temperaments and the intellectual affinities of men are unlimited in their variety, a perfect liberty of thought and of worship must be allowed to the individual in his approach to the Infinite.”
“That which we call the Hindu religion is really the Eternal religion because it embraces all others.”