9:44 am - Wednesday December 11, 2019

Sri Aurobindo: Relevance of his Philosophy in the Present Age

Jnanendra Nath Som
B-404, Krishan Kunj Aptt., Pkt-6, Plot-19, DwarkaSector-1A, NewDelhi-110045

aurobindo

The nineteenth century in the history of Bengal occupied a remarkable place where a few unparallel lives appeared to change the destiny of   Mother India. The period mentioned here was the starting period of a foreign rule in our motherland namely the British period which was actually a period of looting and destructing our very old colorful and glorious civilization. But this period also sowed in silently to usher a golden period in which a new pattern of lives would appear who will brought an unimaginable change in our daily life. Some of them are Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar, Ramkrishna Paramhansa, Jagadishchandra Bose, Rabindranath Tagore, Swami Vivekananda, Prafullachandra Roy, Aurobindo Ghosh, Subhashchandra Bose and also many others. All of them contributed in the Nation Building and Human lives development in their own ways. Some of the famous persons mentioned above were a Poet, Scientist, Philosophers, Religious leaders, Politically conscious patriots etc. and all of them were born in the Nineteenth century. Not only getting freedom from the foreign rule but also paving the path for obtaining strength in development of inner quality, spiritual and scientific attitude, was the principal contributions of the above mentioned super personalities.

Sri Aurobindo (15 August 1872 to 5 December 1950)

Sri Aurobindo has occupied a special place not only in the Indian history, but in the International Arena. He was a multifaceted man having a magnanimous personality. His profound knowledge in Western and Eastern cultures helped him to integrate for the development of human potential and growth. His biographers wrote, “Sri Aurobindo has been considered one of the foremost philosophers of the 20th Century, but he was far more than just a philosopher. He was a political activist, a mystic, a spiritual leader, a poet, a yogi and a teacher. Sri Aurobindo experienced the range of human activity and used that experience to communicate his insight in a way that we can appreciate and understand.”  However, the present Nuclear age is distinctively separate than that existed during his time.  He saw the catastrophe of Atomic Bombs exploded in Japan’s Cities at the almost end period of Second World War. Almost all powerful Nations now have nuclear arsenals and are creating awkward situation for destabilization of human peace. The 20th and the present 21st century have seen different excellent scientific discoveries in various areas, e.g.  the deep space exploration with the help of spacecrafts and artificial satellites, communicating the people living in any remote corner of the world within a few second, using genetic technology for curing the suffered lives at the hands of unknown disease, producing good quality of domestic animals with cloning methods etc., and these have now completely changed the life style of the people of the world. In this rocket age surrounded with computer technology and human like Robots for performing impossible work, are Aurobindo’s teaching his philosophy and writings have any relevance? The answer is straightforward and is “Yes”. In the following sections it has been attempted to clarify why it is necessary to follow the Teachings and Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo at the present materialistic age for saving the human being and the mother Earth.

Before entering into a detailed discussion on this topic, let us put a bird-eye- view on the life of this sage in order to understand his contribution in the upliftment of human life. He was born on August 15, 1872 at Calcutta. His father Krishnadhan Ghosh, having an MD degree from England, was a District Surgeon of Rangapur, Bengal. He favoured that his children should get English education and upbringing free of any Indian influences. His mother Swarnalata Devi was the daughter of Brahma religious and social reformer Raj Narayan Bose. He was    acknowledged as the leader in Bengali literature, and the grandfather of Indian nationalism. Aurobindo owed not only his rich spiritual nature, but even his very superior literary capacity, to his mother’s line.  Aurobindo, at the age of five, was sent to Loreto Convent School at Darjeeling. Two years later in 1879, he was sent to England along with his brothers for higher studies and getting Western education. He completed his schooling from St. Paul’s in London and in 1890, at the age of eighteen, he got admission into Cambridge. Here, he distinguished himself as a student of European classics. As his father wished that he should be an ICS, he applied for the ICS while at Cambridge and passed the ICS Examination with great credit. He, however, failed to stand the required test in horsemanship and hence was not allowed to enter the Covenantal Service of the Indian Government. In 1893, Aurobindo, returned to India, and became the Vice-principal of the State college in Baroda with the help of the Maharaja of Baroda who held a great respect for him. Aurobindo was an accomplished scholar in Greek and Latin. From 1893 to 1906, while working at Baroda, he extensively studied Sanskrit, Bengali literature, Philosophy and Political Science.

Aurobindo’s political life was very short lived, only for four years, but he was considered as ‘one of the famous Radical Leaders of India during the Indian National Movement. In 1906, in the wake of partition of Bengal, he resigned his job and joined the Bengal National College on a very low salary. He plunged headlong into the revolutionary movement. Aurobindo played a leading role in India’s freedom struggle from 1908. Sri Aurobindo Ghosh was one of the pioneers of political awakening in India. He edited the English daily Bande Mataram and wrote fearless and pointed editorials. He openly advocated the boycott of British goods, British courts and everything British. He asked the people to prepare themselves for passive resistance. The famous Alipore Bomb Case proved to be a turning point in Sri Aurobindo Ghosh’s life. For a year Aurobindo was an under trial prisoner in solitary confinement in the Alipore Central Jail. It was in a dingy cell of the Alipore Jail that he dreamt the dream of his future life, the divine mission ordained for him by God. He utilized this period of incarceration for an intense study and practice of the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita. Chittaranjan Das defended Sri Aurobindo, and he was acquitted after a memorable trial.
During his time in prison, Aurobindo had developed interest in yoga and meditation. After his release he started practicing pranayama and meditation. Sri Aurobindo Ghose migrated from Calcutta to Pondicherry in 1910. At Pondicherry, he stayed at a friend’s place. At first, he lived there with four or five companions. Gradually the number of members increased and an Ashram was founded. In 1914 after four years of concentrated yoga at Pondicherry, Sri Aurobindo launched Arya, a 64 page monthly review. He was a versatile writer over a wide range of subjects including philosophy, yoga, poetry, human unity and also other topics. For more than six and a half years ‘Arya’ published his most important writings serially, for example, Essays on The Gita, the Secret of the Veda, Hymns to the Mystic Fire, the Upanishads, the Foundations of Indian Culture, War and Self-determination, the Human Cycle, the Ideal of Human Unity, and the Future Poetry. His writings help us reconcile the apparent conflicts of two diverse societies and at the same time develop a new, wider, embracing, viewpoint which vibrates with spiritual force, mental clarity and a heart of love and compassion for the efforts of humanity.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       In 1926, Sri Aurobindo retired from public life. He passed away on December 5, 1950 at Pondicherry.

Sri Aurobindo spent his life working towards the cause of India’s freedom, and for further evolution of life on earth. The historians wrote about him that “he (Sri Aurobindo) brought the energy and vision of the West with its focus on the perfection of the physical, material and mental areas of human life together with the spiritual development and philosophical directions developed over thousands of years in the East”. Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy is based on facts, experience and personal realizations and on having the vision of a seer or Rishi. Aurobindo’s spirituality was inseparably united with reason. The goal of Sri Aurobindo was not merely the liberation of the individual from the chain that fetters him and realization of the self, but to work out the will of the Divine in the world, to effect a spiritual transformation and to bring down the divine nature and a divine life into the mental, vital and physical nature and life of humanity.  He said, “The Divine Truth is greater than any religion or creed or scripture or idea or philosophy”. ‘The evolution of human life into life divine’ was the main theme of his vision. In one of his article he wrote, “Man is a transitional being. He is not final. The step from man to superman is the next approaching achievement in the earth evolution. It is inevitable because it is at once the intention of the inner spirit and the logic of nature’s process”.

The Famous Living Astrophysicist of the present age the legendary figure, StephenWilliam Hawking (b. 8 January, 1942) has expressed his fear of extinction of the human species from the earth due to increasing effort of making and storing of nuclear weapons for use in wars, the dangerous situations created with Global Warming by so called industrialized affluent nations and growth of unknown viruses which are attacking all the living beings. In an interview with ‘Big Think’ portal, Hawking said, “I see great danger for the human race. There have been a number of times in the past when survival has been a question of touch and go. The Cuban missile crisis in 1963 is one these. The frequency of such occasions is likely to increase in the future.”  The World had already faced many such horrible situations in the past. After World War-II, though no such war had taken place, but total death toll and loss of properties due to small scale wars and colonial battles so far, are more than those during the past two World Wars. Even in the present century such crisis with unaccountable loss has already occurred in different parts of the world. No permanent peace has been obtained so far. The mankind is living now with great fear. Global peace and Global Harmony cannot be achieved only through the Science and Technology. It also requires the Spiritual approach. Human being should be religious but not be superstitious and also be scientifically conscious. Science and Religion are two faces of the same coin and are complementary to each other. According to super genius scientist Albert Einstein (b.14 March, 1879; d. 18 April, 1954) – ‘without religion science is lame and without science religion is blind’.

In this context Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Philosophy is utmost important if Human being wants to live in peace and harmony. He is very much relevant in this Twenty first century where Science and Spirituality should go side by side. The scientific development which is putting eye only in the materialistic progress will not be able to achieve the permanent peace in the world but simultaneously it is very much necessary to uplift the human being through spirituality.  Sri Aurobindo said, “The most vital issue of the age is whether the future progress of humanity is to be governed by the modern economic and materialistic mind of the West or by a nobler pragmatism guided, uplifted and enlightened by spiritual culture and knowledge”.  Though, the present civilization has surpassed many crossroads but real change and progress can be attained through the both simultaneously, Spiritual and Scientific culture. He expressed his views on the change of human life: “To hope for a true change of human life without a change of human nature is an irrational and unspiritual proposition”. Also he wrote, “As man moves towards spiritual freedom, he moves also towards spiritual oneness”. Most of human being is now engaged in Search of Happiness but “True happiness lies in the finding and maintenance of a natural harmony of spirit, mind and body” as the saint Sri Aurobindo said. Unless we change our life-style according to Yoga, and desire only to have materialistic achievement we will wander in the earth like a blind who has lost not only his external sight but internal also. To save the mother earth and humanity, we must follow the Philosophy and Teachings of Sri Aurobindo.

Before ending the topic, let me allow to quote the famous opening lines of the Nobel Laurite Poet Rabindra Nath Tagore where he showed his respect to him:

‘Rabindranath, O Aurobindo, bows to thee!

O friend, my country’s friend, O voice incarnate, free,

Of India’s soul!’

[“Aurobindo, Rabindrer loho nomoskar। / He bondhu, he Deshbondhu, swadesh atmar / Banimurthi tumi.”- The poem ‘Nomoskar’]

Acknowledgement:  All the relevant information has been taken from Internet at different websites and published literature.

 

About the Author:

 

Shri (Dr.) Jnanedranath Som had been retired from service, as a Senior Scientist of National Physical Laboratory- New Delhi, since March 2006. During the service he had visited a few International Laboratories (NPL-Teddington-UK; IFTR-Poland; DHL-Netherland, PTB-Germany etc.) in connection with the Lab’s work.

Besides the scientific work, he has written many popular scientific articles covering Science News, Achievement of different National and International Scientists including their personal lives,etc. and regularlely published the articles in Magazines (like Jnan-Bichitra, Kathanjali, Matrimandir Sanbad etc.). A popular science book, namely ‘Bijnan Nibandha O Boijnanik Sabda –Shrinkhal’ has been published from Kolkata.

The author is also very much fond of writing Poems, Short Stories and Essays in Vernacular. Some of his poems were published in different Literary Magazines of Delhi and Kolkata.  His collection of Poems (written by self) ‘Sabde Sajai Mon’ has been published from Delhi.

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3 Responses to “Sri Aurobindo: Relevance of his Philosophy in the Present Age”

  1. Harry
    June 8, 2014 at 1:01 am #

    Dear sir,

    I read this article of you it is really excellent I am doctoral student doing my research on Aurobindo I just requesting you for the full publication detail of this particular article that appears here in this site. Thank you .

    • jithu
      November 25, 2014 at 9:18 pm #

      iam doing my thesis on Aurobindo.. the christian understanding of his philosophy . can i getr nany materials

  2. joseph
    July 12, 2015 at 6:26 pm #

    Dear sir,
    I am doing my thesis right now. The topic of my thesis is almost the same of your article. But I am still confused with my title. Could you help me to at least construct my title again.

    Title: A Critique on Post Modernism in the light of Sri Aurobindo’s Notion of Spirituality

    I know that my title is still vague but I really want to pursue with this. Please help me….

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