As long as man has walked on this earth there have been great Souls who have left an indelible footprint. They come from all walks of life — saints and scholars, visionaries and politicians, artists, and writers. Today I would like to speak a little about the man I call the Saint of Pondicherry, Sri Aurobindo Ghose, a poet, a thinker and revolutionary, who as a young man fought for the liberation of his beloved India and spent the rest of his life developing a path to liberate souls. “The longing to be free’ he once wrote,’ is lodged in such a deep layer of the human heart that a thousand arguments are powerless to uproot it”
Sri Aurobindo was a Bengali, born in Calcutta in 1872, but was sent to England to be educated when he was only 7 years old. He did not return for 14 years. When he came home in 1893, he made up for the time he had lost in India by immersing himself in its history, traditions, and languages, and the independence movement. He never sought the limelight, but he became a powerful and respected leader, calling for complete independence from British Rule. He spent a year in prison in 1908 and this is where he underwent the spiritual transformation that would change the course of his life. He felt and heard a divine inner guidance that told him to leave politics, reassuring him that India would achieve independence, and instructing him to devote his life to spirituality and the descent of spiritual consciousness. He understood then the heart of India — “India has always existed for humanity and not for herself and it is for humanity and not for herself that she must be great” To this end he lived the rest of his life.
He moved to Pondicherry, a French province close to the state of Tamil Nadu, in 1910, to escape the watchful eyes of the suspicious British. As people followed him looking for spiritual guidance, he opened an Ashram, which he eventually left in the hands of a French woman who came to be known as the Mother, Mirra Richards. His connection with the Mother, both Mirra Richards and the Divine Mother was key to his work. As he once said: “To walk through life armoured against all fear, peril and disaster, only two things are needed, two that go always together — the Grace of the Divine Mother and on your side an inner state made up of faith, sincerity and surrender.”
As time went on, he spent most of his time in meditation, in writing and developing what he called “integral yoga”, leaving the day to day work of the ashram to the Mother. His goal was to transform lives by showing a way to bring a divine nature and a divine life into our mental and physical nature and life. To put it another way, we can walk on this earth and embrace all that life has to offer, we can work and have relationships while evolving to a higher consciousness. We don’t have to live the life of a renunciate or a yogi sitting in a cave high in the Himalayas, reaching up to heaven.
This great soul left his body in December 1950 at the age of 78, but his ashram and his teachings live on. He took great delight when India achieved her independence on 15th August 1947, on his birthday. It is a wonderful legacy to have lived a life as a bridge between heaven and earth, with the upliftment of humanity as the goal.