Ghose, Aurobindo

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Ghose, Aurobindo

Aurobindo Ghose (ôrōbĬn´dō gōsh), 1872–1950, Indian nationalist leader and mystic philosopher. Born in Bengal, he was sent to England and lived there for 14 years, completing his education at Cambridge. Returning to India in 1893, he plunged into the study of Indian languages and culture. The agitation against the partition (1905) of Bengal drew him into the nationalist movement, and for several years he acted as leader of a secret revolutionary organization, becoming well known through his eloquent patriotic writings. He was eventually jailed for subverting British rule and while in prison experienced visions that completely altered his outlook. On release from prison he announced his withdrawal from active political life and retired to Pondicherry (now Puducherry) in S India where he devoted himself to the practice of yoga and to writing. In his major works, all written in English, he formulates the metaphysics and system of spiritual discipline that he called Integral Yoga (Purna Yoga). Rejecting the traditional ideal of world-renunciation and negation of physical existence, he based his philosophy on the principle of the descent of divine force and consciousness into both the individual and the universal processes of nature and history. He described evolution as the effect of progressively higher forces, of which the highest is the "supramental" force that initiates man's final transformation into a state of perfection. In 1926, Sri Aurobindo, as he came to be called, retired into seclusion. He put in charge of his disciples his spiritual consort (Shakti), Mira Richard (1878–1973), a French-born woman of Egyptian descent who had joined him in Pondicherry in 1914. His seclusion marked the official establishment of his spiritual community, or ashram. The ashram, the largest in India, remains active. In 1968 construction was begun for a utopian city called Auroville to function on the principles of Aurobindo's philosophy. His writings include The Life Divine (1949), The Synthesis of Yoga (1948), and Essays on the Gita (1921–28, repr. 1950).

See S. Mitra, The Liberator Sri Aurobindo, India, and the World (1970); B. Bruteau, Worthy is the World (1971); K. Gandhi, ed., Contemporary Relevance of Sri Aurobindo (1973); R. A. McDermott, ed., The Essential Aurobindo (1973).

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