ARAVINDA GHOSE was born in Calcutta on 15 August 1872. His name, which in Bengali means "lotus", was soon anglicized into 'Aurobindo' and it is with this name that he is known.
Sri Aurobindo was sent with his two brothers at seven years old to study in England; he studied first in the English school of Darjeeling, then at St. Paul's School in London and finally at King's College of Cambridge, where he amazed people for the solid command of classical languages and literature he had.
In 1893 he returned to India and he settled at the Maharaja of Baroda. It was in this period that he began to learn the literature and philosophy of ancient India, while at the same time he became an observant participant in the current situation and the state of slavery of his people. In the same year he had had the courage to denounce the Bengal Congress in an article: "Dying of consumption ... in an era in which democracy and other high-sounding terms flow in our speeches in such a loose way, a body like that of Congress that does not represent the mass of the population, but a single and limited class, it cannot honestly be called a Nation."
Thus began the 'journalistic' and political years of Sri Aurobindo, who actively devoted himself to the national cause and became one of the most popular leaders of the radical youth of Bengal: he was among the editorialists of the Amrita Bazaar Pratika, first director of Bengal's National College and then co-director of the Bande Mataram, all newspapers that had an incisive role in the formation of an independence movement. He openly organized the progressive group of young people from Congress into a new political party fighting the Moderate party and persuaded him to take over the newspaper Bande Mataram, which began to circulate throughout India as its own party organ. Sri Aurobindo was the first 'politician' in India who took care to openly declare through the pages of the newspaper the complete and absolute independence as an aim of the political action in India. Through the newspaper, in addition to a national education action, he developed various incisive actions of non-cooperation, resistance, boycott, sabotage against the British government in India.
In 1907 Sri Aurobindo (together with other patriots of Bengali nationalism) was arrested and then imprisoned in the English prison of Alipore, where he remained for a year during the investigation and trial, at the end of which he was exonerated and released.
In the meantime, already from the moment he had set foot on Indian soil after his absence, Sri Aurobindo had had a series of experiences commonly called 'spiritual', although without knowing anything about Yoga, which he later practiced alone, continuing at the same time to continue political action without any opposition between the two. In 1908 he met with a guru, Visnu Bashkar Lelé, following the instructions of which in just three days he entered an absolute silence of the mind thus realizing Nirvana (or Brahman, in which the universe appeared as unreal in front of the only Reality of That'). From that moment on he kept this silence, and all mental activities, words, writing, thought and will flowed from a source above the cerebral mind; he had entered what he later called the supermental consciousness. This was the basis of his Yoga. He wrote in a letter: “… I started my Yoga in 1904 without a guru; in 1908 I received an important help from a Yogi Maharatta and discovered the foundations of my sadhana, but since then, until the Mother came to India, I did not receive spiritual help from anyone else. My sadhana, sooner and later, was not based on books but on personal experiences that crowded into me from within. But in prison I kept the Gita and the Upanishads with me, I practiced the Yoga of the Gita and meditated with the help of the Upanishads, these were the only books in which I found a guide; The Vedas, which I started reading for the first time long after in Pondicherry, rather than guiding my sadhana, confirmed rather what experiences I had already had. ... ".
Sri Aurobindo had adopted in his sadhana the principle of entrusting himself completely only to the Divine and his guide, both in spiritual practice and in external actions. During the year in prison in Alipore he devoted almost all the time to the above readings, meditation and Yoga practice. If the realization of the "Silent Brahman" obtained with Lelé was initially accompanied by the perception of the total unreality of the world, this perception disappeared after the second realization, which occurred in the prison of Alipore: that of cosmic consciousness and the Divine in all beings and in all that is. Moreover, already in Alipore he had set out on his way to two other realizations, that of the Supreme Reality (with static and dynamic Brahman as its two aspects), and that of the higher planes of consciousness that lead to the Supermind.
Sri Aurobindo had initially undertaken Yoga with the idea of acquiring spiritual strength and energy and the guide for his activity in life. But now the inner spiritual experience and realization, which had continued to grow in grandeur and universality, became the foundation of his life, while his work began to be a part and a result of it, then widely exceeding the initial purpose of service and liberation of the country to establish itself in a vaster aim that concerned the whole world and the future of humanity.
When Sri Aurobindo came out of prison, he decided to continue the battle despite the Government remaining determined to get rid of him. One night he was informed that the government was planning to search the office where he slept and arrest him; while reflecting on what to do, he received the inner command, which he obeyed without hesitation, to go to Chandernagore, in French India, and later to Pondicherry. From that moment he dropped any external participation in public political activity. He saw that the independence of India was ensured by the progress of forces of which he had become aware and that there would be no need for an armed insurrection. Apart from all this, the importance of the spiritual work placed before him became increasingly clear and so he concentrated all his energies on it. But this did not mean that he had withdrawn to some height of spiritual experience deprived of any further interest in the world or destiny of India, since the authentic principle of his Yoga was not only to achieve a higher Consciousness, but to go further , in search of a more complete experience that united and harmonized the two limits of existence, Spirit and Matter. His experience started initially from the ancient teachings of India according to which behind the appearances of the universe there is the reality of a Being and a Consciousness, a Self of all things, one and eternal, of which it is possible to become aware through a certain discipline designed to remove the veil of ignorance that separates beings from this Reality. Then Sri Aurobindo revealed that this One Being and Consciousness is present in the involute state also in Matter, in the darkness and ignorance of the current material world, and that evolution is the method by which this Unique Reality frees itself. Consciousness appears in what appears to be unconscious and is self-stimulated to grow higher and higher and to develop towards ever greater perfection.
If the mind is the highest term reached by evolution so far, it is not the last degree it can reach. But while the previous steps in evolution have been taken by Nature, in man it becomes capable of evolving by means of a conscious will. However, it is not through the mental will in man that this step can be completed completely, since the mind only reaches a certain point after which it can only move in a circle. A change of consciousness must take place with which the mind must transform into the higher principle. Indeed, Sri Aurobindo reveals that it is possible to descend a new power of consciousness which he calls "Supermind", which will mark the new evolutionary stage; this new Consciousness will not only liberate the spiritual Self beyond the world, but in the world, and will replace mental ignorance with a supramental Consciousness of Truth that will make it possible for the human being to find himself and grow beyond his own humanity, still animal, in a more divine species. It is therefore not an improvement, but a radical transformation involving Matter itself. Realizing this possibility became the dynamic purpose of Sri Aurobindo's Yoga.
Sri Aurobindo initially lived in retreat in Pondicherry with four or five companions. Later, more and more people began to come to him to follow his spiritual 'path' and the number became so large that, years later, an Ashram was created, which was not actually established, but grew spontaneously.
In 1914 Sri Aurobindo, together with Mirra Alfassa and Paul Richard, founded the bilingual philosophical monthly magazine "Arya", in which he published most of his works in a few years (19 books in 7 years). Meanwhile, from April 24, 1920, Mirra (later called the Mother) had settled permanently in Pondicherry, next to Sri Aurobindo, to collaborate with him in carrying out his 'work'. In 1926 Sri Aurobindo retired to his room to better continue his spiritual work, to "process everything", leaving the responsibility and care of the Ashram (100 disciples in the 1930s, 741 in 1950) to the Mother. In the meantime, he continued to write and revise his works; in particular, in last years, he dedicated himself to the writing of Savitri, a poem of 23,813 verses, the longest ever written in English, which encompasses all the themes of his work and experience. The poem was completed in 1950, the year in which, at the age of 78, Sri Aurobindo left the body.
MIRRA ALFASSA, later called simply the Mother, was born in Paris on February 21, 1878 to an Egyptian mother and Turkish father. Her life and work were intimately linked to those of Sri Aurobindo, whom she will physically meet at the age of 36.
Mirra received an education imbued with positivist rationalism and materialism: "I was an atheist to the core" ... "I had the most solid foundation: no imaginations, no mystical atavism ..." "But there was a will of perfection in me, the sense of a consciousness without limit". She studied piano and painting; for her, music and colors were the first instruments through which she experienced that reality is not what it appears to us, but that there is a "true" matter to be discovered behind the appearance of things, a "reality as it really is", that she never stopped looking for and experimenting; from childhood, in fact, the Mother lived, in an absolutely spontaneous and natural way, a whole series of experiences that are commonly considered 'spiritual' (the vision and experimentation of a reality and a subtle life, of the vibrations that animate things and the beings behind appearances, etc ...).
At nineteen she married Henri Morrisset, a painter, and became part of the Parisian artistic life, where she met Rodin, Renoir, Degas and other impressionist painters. Despite everything, she was very alone and 'suffered' from the human misery she saw around her. "But how?", She asked herself, "Would this be life? Would these be men? " And her inner experiences continued.
Around 1904 she started to have a series of dreams in which she met Sri Aurobindo (of whom she had never heard of and who was completely unknown in France), before who she prostrated herself in the Hindu way without fully understanding what she was doing.
Also in 1904, one day, Mirra met a singular man who people called Max Théon, who published in Paris the journal “Cosmic Review". On those pages she found for the first time the description, even if partial, of some of her experiences; Théon invited her to his property in Tlemcen, where she stayed in 1905 and 1906 and where she took part in some of his 'occultist' studies and experiments; the exceptional powers demonstrated by Théon and his wife did not surprise her, because, in addition to not believing in the existence of miracles, she perceived and knew that it was a knowledge of matter, of 'true matter', and that matter, of which she perceived the vibratory qualities, it is more subtle than one can suppose: it was the mind that hardened, created the walls. But these extraordinary powers did not interest her: she was looking for something far more radical, the way to change life at the root.
In Paris Mirra worked for 5 years on Théon's journal “Cosmic Review". She also formed small groups to which she communicated some of her experiences and intuitions (which seemed strangely to agree with those which, in distant India, was 'formulating' Sri Aurobindo): "The collective goal to be achieved is the advent of universal harmony, the realization of human unity "; "Only the transformation of human consciousness can bring to an authentic improvement of the human condition".
In 1908 Mirra divorced from Morrisset. Then she met Paul Richard, a philosopher (with whom she studied comparative religions) whom she married in 1910. In 1914 she followed him to Pondicherry, where he had to go for an election campaign. It was with him that Mirra on 29 March 1914 met Sri Aurobindo in his home and in him she recognized the being who she saw the night in her dreams and who she had calling Krishna, having supposed that he was a Hindu deity. Together with Sri Aurobindo Mirra and Paul founded the bilingual magazine "Arya" in 1914 so that Sri Aurobindo would transcribe and publish his experiences and revelations, which they would then translate into French. Mirra stayed one year in Pondicherry during which she went to Sri Aurobindo every day; then, on February 22, 1915, she left with her husband. After spending a year in France she embarked for Japan, where she stayed 4 years; "infernal years", as the Mother will say later, in which she had to fight against various diseases, starting to immerse herself in what would have been her battlefield until the end: diseases and death.
On April 24, 1920 Mirra returned definitively to Pondicherry, next to Sri Aurobindo, to continue with him his work: to bring down on Earth and in Matter that higher Consciousness that he had touched beyond the planes of the mind, the "Consciousness of Truth", through a new power of consciousness, called by him “Supermind", which would have marked a new evolutionary stage. "Man", said Sri Aurobindo, "is a transitional being. The evolution continues and he will be overcome." It is a difficult passage, the passage of man to something different, which did not bring with him the shadow of ignorance, unconsciousness, darkness, death. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother will discover within the body "the mind of the cells" and, beyond their "deadly genetic memory" which conceals the "knot of life with death", a "solar and immortal mind" capable of opening the way to another being after man." "Undoing the memory of cells" ... This would become the Mother's work in her body.
In the meantime, a group of disciples had come spontaneously around Sri Aurobindo who wanted to follow his path: at that time about ten, then 24 in 1926, and then they would multiply by the dozens and hundreds. There was never the decision to found an Ashram: "The group was formed in such a natural, spontaneous way ..." (The Mother) "... The totality of the transformation cannot be achieved through a single body. If you want to have a general action, a minimum of physical persons is needed." (Sri Aurobindo). This was the meaning of that evolutionary laboratory, called 'ashram', which was being formed. Thereafter Sri Aurobindo called Mirra the Mother. He definitively entrusted the direction of the Ashram to her from 24 November 1926, the date on which he retired to his room. "All my realizations would have remained theoretical - said Sri Aurobindo - if the Mother had not indicated the way to give them a practical form." The Mother was the bridge with Matter, she was a Force at work and she took care of the whole organization without sparing herself. She always worked on the 'two fronts': with the Ashram, which with the war had filled with children and women who had escaped from the bombings, and with Sri Aurobindo, in his work of realization of the new Consciousness.
On December 5, 1950 Sri Aurobindo left the body and the Mother, 72 years old, was 'alone' to do the work.
In 1952 she founded the Sri Aurobindo International University Centre with 200 students. She tried to convey to the disciples and professors the wonder of the future, of the unexpected, that 'something' that was being shaped in the evolutionary crucible; a new way of educating, without diplomas, without 'utilitarianism', as she said. But above all she continued her work on that evolutionary laboratory that the Ashram represented and, alone, she continued the immersion in the "new species", through her own body which ceased to be an individual body, but became the body of the Earth itself, a laboratory of the new world (everything is united to those levels): “It is in the cellular frontier that the key is found, that is the passage of death. And if transformation is possible in one body it is possible in all bodies”. "It will be the body that builds a bridge between physical life as we know it and the supramental life that will manifest itself."
On December 9, 1958, the Mother was forced to stop external activities and retire to her room. She had entered fully into "the yoga of the cells" at the age of 80, towards the last frontier with life and death.
On the afternoon of November 17, 1973, her breathing stopped. She was 95 years old. "To overcome death, one must be ready to go through death," the Mother had said.
The Mother's Symbol
The central circle represents Divine Consciousness.
The four petals represent the four powers of the Mother: Wisdom, Strength, Harmony, Perfection.
The twelve petals represent the twelve powers of the Mother manifested for her work: Aspiration, Perseverance, Gratitude, Humility, Sincerity, Peace, Equality, Generosity, Goodness, Courage, Progress and Receptivity.
Sri Aurobindo's Symbol
The descending triangle represents Sat-Chit-Ananda. The ascending triangle represents the aspiring answer from matter in the form of life, light and love.
The conjunction of both, the central square, is the perfect manifestation having as its center the Avatar of the Supreme which is symbolized by the lotus. The water inside the square represents multiplicity, the creation.