Sri Aurobindo was more than just a freedom fighter or philosopher; he was an immaculate thought leader who set the tone for India’s growth on the global stage.
By Sreejit Datta, Assistant Professor, Director of Civilisational Studies Practice & Resident Mentor at Rashtram & Vinay HA, Research Associate at Rashtram.
Sri Aurobindo’s Life
Sri Aurobindo was born in Calcutta, on 15th August 1872. At the age of seven, he was sent to England to have a modern education.Sri Aurobindo mastered English, Greek, Latin and French, and studied Western Classics and poetry but he knew little about India.
After his education, he returned to India and worked at the Baroda college for twelve years. At the same time he deeply immersed himself in Indian culture, learned Sanskrit and other Indian languages. With the growing familiarity of the Indian culture, Aurobindo came to be convinced that the Indian civilization cannot flourish without gaining independence from the foreign rule.
In 1902, he moved Calcutta and actively participated in the freedom movement which often brought him in conflict with the British. In 1908, he was arrested and spent an year in jail. This proved to be a period of thorough spiritual evolution, as Sri Aurobindo spent the time deeply studying the Bhagavadgita and had profound realisations.
After returning from the jail, he started focussing more on spirituality and yoga and finally moved to Pondicherry to live a life of intense spiritual Sadhana. Some of the notable spiritual works he composed during this time include The Life Divine, The Synthesis of Yoga, The Secret of the Veda, Essays on the Gita, and commentaries on some of the Upaniṣads.
Perhaps his most important work is the epic poem Savitri, which spreads to over 24000 lines and 724 pages. His spiritual collaborator, Mirra Alfassa, addressed as the Mother, would later remark about Savitri that it has “everything that is necessary for doing the Yoga” and that Sri Aurobindo “has crammed the whole universe in a single book”.
India as Vishwa-Guru: What does it mean for us?
These days it is often heard that Bharata i.e. India will become Vishwa-Guru – the global teacher. Politicians, intellectuals, and the media have caused this message to permeate the public consciousness in India – that Bharata will become Vishwa-Guru. But what does it really mean to be Vishwa-Guru? Does it mean that Bharat will become a superpower by replacing the country which is currently perceived to be holding such a position? Does it mean that economically, militarily, or even intellectually Bharat will become the most powerful country in the world? What does the appellation Vishwa-Guru mean anyway?
The Sanskrit word Guru has two principal denotations. In one sense, it means gravity, dignity, and weightage; and in another sense it means one who dispels the darkness of the mind by imparting wisdom. If we accept the word Guru as applied in the epithet Vishwa-Guru in both these senses, then the real significance of this appellation dawns on us. Bharata, by dispelling the darkness that permeates the world and the minds of its inhabitants, will rise to the stature of a Guru whose dignity, importance and grandeur would be supreme among the nations of the world. It is through her wisdom that India will take the pride of place among all the civilisations that have been, are, or will be. This idea of Vishwa-Guru has been reconfirmed by Sri Aurbindo in his famed ‘Uttarpara Speech’. In that speech, delivered in Bengal’s Uttarpara in 1909, just after his release from a yearlong imprisonment, Sri Aurobindo said:
“We speak often of the Hindu religion, of the Sanatana Dharma, but few of us really know what that religion is. Other religions are predominantly religions of faith and profession, but the Sanatana Dharma is life itself; it is a thing that has not so much to be believed as lived. This is the Dharma that for the salvation of humanity was cherished in the seclusion of this peninsula from of old. It is to give this religion that India is rising. She does not rise as other countries do, for self or when she is strong, to trample on the weak. She is rising to shed the eternal light entrusted to her over the world. India has always existed for humanity and not for herself and it is for humanity and not for herself that she must be great.”
This, therefore, is what is truly meant by the designation Vishwa-Guru. In this sense, India is already the Vishwa-Guru, something that she was destined to become at her very birth. Throughout history, men and women of all nationalities have arrived at her feet in search of respite, wisdom, and liberation, for she has always been and indeed she still is the Vishwa-Guru; and we believe that the day is not very far when the whole world will candidly hail Bharata as such.