Aurobindo Ghosh (1872-1950) – Renowned thinker, revolutionary, yogi, and seer. Though in his book Prophets of the New India (p. 499), Romain Rolland, the French scholar, referred to him as “The real intellectual heir of Vivekananda”, there was considerable difference in the philosophy and the nature of activity of the two. In March 1893 Aurobindo, after completing his education in the West, returned to India and entered the service of the Gaekwad of Baroda and on 31 May 1893 Swamiji sailed for Chicago from Bombay. They differed in their respective approach to sannyasa and Vedantic ideals too. Though born of Brahmo parents, Aurobindo did not favour the Brahmo Samaj (see editorial, “The Brahmo Samaj”, of Dainik Vande Mataram, dated 23.9.1907 and its Bengali version in Vishwavani, 39.1. 68-74) and his marriage was held according to Hindu rites (1901). Swami Brahmananda, the guru of Swami Balananda, who had his ashrama at Chando on the bank of Narmada, and the Maharashtriyan yogi, Vishnu Bhaskara Lele, were his mentors in the practice of yoga. Swamiji and Aurobindo came close to meeting each other in 1892 at Baroda and at Deoghar, but the meeting failed to materialize. At the time of Aurobindo’s marriage at Calcutta in April 1901, Swamiji was in Assam. After the latter’s demise Sister Nivedita met Aurobindo at Baroda and presenting a copy of Swamiji’s Raja-yoga to him, urged him to go to Bengal and lead the revolutionary movement there. In 1906 Aurobindo left Baroda and, coming to Calcutta, joined the National Council for Education as its Director (?). Aurobindo’s high regard for Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda inspired several articles in the weekly journal Dharma edited by him, dwelling on their idealistic appeal in the present age. One of these, “Bharater Pranpurush Sri Ramakrishna”, reappeared in the Udbodhan (47.5. 142-43). In the editorial column of the Dharma (dated 19.9.1316 according to Bengali calendar), he wrote, “…He who is the Absolute, the Prophet of the age, who embodied the culmination of all past incarnations of God—that he did not see the future of India or had said nothing about it, this we do not believe. We believe that his actions represent his unspoken works. He created future India by moulding with his own hands the man who would represent future India. Swami Vivekananda represents future India…. His patriotism was instilled in him by his revered Master and he, too, never claimed credit for anything. The manner in which his Master, the Lokaguru, had moulded him is the best way to shape future India…. He created him as a heroic, spiritual seeker through and through…. Sri Ramakrishna would say, ‘But, my dear, you are a hero, no less!’” (Sri Aurobindo, Birth Centenary Library, Pondicherry, 1972, Vol. 4, p. 239).
“It was to initiate this great work, the greatest and most wonderful work ever given to a race, that Bhagavan Ramakrishna came and Vivekananda preached” (Ibid., Vol. 1, p. 66). In the Karmayogin (19.6.1909) Aurobindo said, “Ramakrishna and Vivekananda gave more perfect synthesis than Shankaracharya.” He acknowledged also the influence of the Master and Swamiji on his own yogic sadhana, “For myself it was Ramakrishna who personally came and first turned me to this Yoga. Vivekananda in the Alipore Jail gave me the foundations of that knowledge which is the basis of our Sadhana” (Sri Aurobindo, Birth Centenary Library, Pondicherry, 1973, Vol. 27, p. 204). Also he said, “Vivekananda came and gave me the knowledge of intuitive mentality. I had not the least idea about it at that time…. The contact lasted for about three weeks and then he withdrew” (Life of Sri Aurobindo, A. B. Purani, 1st Edition, p. 204). Sri Aurobindo considered Dakshineswar to be the most sacred pilgrimage-centre of this age and carefully preserved a little soil of that place in his room. In his book Bhavani Mandir he presented Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda as the ideal man. His comments: “Ramakrishna the God Himself”, “Swamiji, Man rising to God”, and he himself, “Man rising to Humanity”. He believed that Sister Nivedita had been instrumental in conveying to him the Divine Mother’s command to go into hiding. One of his followers, Debabrata Basu, joined the Ramakrishna Order and was known as Swami Prajnananda. His wife, Mrinalini, lived for some time in the Matri Mandir wing of Nivedita Girls’ School at Baghbazar and was the disciple of Holy Mother. In the summer of 1909 Aurobindo and his wife met Holy Mother at her residence, the Udbodhan house (Udbodhan, 97.6.303). Placing her hand on his head, Mother had said, “My brave son! Such a small person, yet he strikes such terror in the Government!” Gauri Ma, present there at the time, touched Aurobindo’s chin affectionately and quoted Swamiji, “The nobler your heart, know for certain, the more must be your share of misery. Thou large-hearted lover unselfish, know, there’s no room in this sordid world for thee.”
Aurobindo, tried as the principal accused in the Maniktala Bomb Case and discharged, disappeared from Calcutta in early 1910 fearing further police action against him. Went to Pondicherry via Chundernagore and, giving up his political activities and journalism, devoted himself to spiritual sadhana, gaining fame as Sri Aurobindo, the great sage and seer. Retained reverence for the Master and Swamiji till the end.