Sri Aurobindo Ghose Biography

Author Profile

(Critical Survey of Ethics and Literature)

After being educated in England from the age of seven until he was twenty-one, Sri Aurobindo returned to India in 1893. He soon became involved in the nationalistic movement in India, and he was imprisoned for his activities in 1908. Realizing through visionary experience that real human liberation went far beyond the political liberation of India, he withdrew from the world and established an ashram, or retreat, in Pondicherry, India.

Aurobindo was very much influenced by the western philosopher Henri Bergson (1859-1941), and he created a synthesis of Bergson’s evolutionary view and the Upanisads. According to Aurobindo, no evolution is possible without involution, which entails the descent of the divine to the world of matter. The Eternal Spirit is beyond all description, but it descends into the lower realms of being and then by evolution ascends until it returns to its source. This transition from the Eternal Spirit to the multiplicity of the phenomenal world is what Aurobindo calls Supermind. Though matter is the lowest level of being, it is nevertheless a low form of the Supreme. The practice of integral yoga, which consists of three steps, awakens the potentiality of self-perfection that exists in each person. The steps of integral yoga are (1) to surrender oneself totally to God, (2) to recognize that one’s progress is a result of the S'akti energy working within oneself, and (3) to have the divine vision of the deity in all things.

Additional Reading

(Critical Survey of Ethics and Literature)

Bolle, Kees W. The Persistence of Religion. Leiden, the Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1965. A study of Tantrism as a vehicle to examine India’s religious history, with a chapter on its manifestation in Aurobindo’s philosophy. It offers a different perspective of Aurobindo’s work.

Bruteau, Beatrice. Worthy Is the World: The Hindu Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo. Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1971. A good introduction to Aurobindo’s philosophy. It contains an interesting biography of Aurobindo’s spiritual life and a good bibliography.

Cenkner, William. The Hindu Personality in Education: Tagore, Gandhi, Aurobindo. Columbia, Mo.: South Asia Books, 1976. Surveys Aurobindo’s life and thought, with a focus on his writings on the problem of national education. Includes a glossary, bibliography, and index.

Heehs, Peter. Sri Aurobindo: A Brief Biography. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989. A concise account that attempts to give equal attention to all aspects of Aurobindo’s life: domestic, scholastic, literary, political, revolutionary, philosophical, and spiritual.

Iyengar, K. R. Srinivasa. Sri Aurobindo: A Biography and a History. 4th rev. ed. Pondicherry, India: Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, 1985. A voluminous and influential—and frankly reverential—account of Aurobindo’s life and writings.

Mathur, O. P., ed. Sri Aurobindo Critical Considerations. Bareilly: Prakash Book Depot, 1997. This book provides criticism and interpretation of Aurobindo’s work. Includes examination of Aurobindo’s poetry.

Mukherjee, Jugal Kishore. Sri Aurobindo Ashram: Its Role, Responsibility, and Future Destiny, an Insider’s Personal View. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, 1997.

Pandit, Madhav P. Sri Aurobindo. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, 1998. A readable account of Aurobindo’s life. Includes a bibliography and an index.

Purani, A. B. The Life of Sri Aurobindo. 3d ed. Pondicherry, India: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1964. Despite its complicated organization and a devoted view, this work is perhaps the most authoritative biography of Aurobindo. It has excellent documentation of Aurobindo’s early life and is filled with quotations from Aurobindo.

Sethna, K. D. The Vision and Work of Sri Aurobindo. Pondicherry, India: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1968. The first three chapters, in which Sethna debates with a Western philosopher via correspondence, offer a good, clear explication of Aurobindo’s philosophy. In later chapters, there is a tendency toward proselytism.

Van Vrekhem, Georges. Beyond the Human Species: The Life and Work Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. St. Paul, Minn.: Paragon House, 1998. An informative and interesting biography of Sri Aurobindo.