‘Sri Aurobindo: His Political Life and Activities’—A Review by Dr. Larry Seidlitz.

Sri Aurobindo: His Political Life and Activities’: Compiler and Editor: Anurag Banerjee. Preface: Prof. Kittu Reddy. Publisher: Overman Foundation. Number of pages: 453. Price: Rs. 490.

In this 453 page book, Banerjee reveals many interesting details of Sri Aurobindo’s political life through a variety of government documents, press reports, letters and essays, some of which are being published for the first time. It includes some material published in the Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo that help provide an overall completeness and perspective, but it also includes less known material that has been published in various books and journals by disciples, and still rarer material from newspapers and documents of the period investigated. It is well-organized and presented.

With few exceptions, this book focuses on the period between 1905 when Sri Aurobindo took up the post of principal at the National College in Calcutta, and 1910 when he withdrew from active political work to focus on his spiritual work in Pondicherry. This was a pivotal period in which the populace of the country was transformed from being passively accepting of British rule to seeking full political independence. Though it did not achieve its aim until 37 years later, the character and methods of the movement were largely established during this period. The book is organized into 14 sections, among them including: “Bengal National College, the Barisal Conference and the Bande Mataram;” “The Surat Congress: December 1907;” “Sri Aurobindo in the Deccan;” “The Alipore Bomb Trial;” “The Poet of Patriotism;” and “Sri Aurobindo and the British Government.”

The book takes the reader back in time to this momentous period. We can read Sri Aurobindo’s speech to the students at the newly formed Bengal National College which he was selected to head, and we find reminiscences of Sri Aurobindo by his fellow lecturers. The Barisal Provincial Conference in April 1906 was convened by some of the Nationalist leaders shortly after the partition of Bengal, at the end it was broken up by the police. We can read the fiery speeches of some of the members. We learn about the government prosecution of the Bande Mataram paper in 1907. We can read Sri Aurobindo’s written statement to the court and the judge’s eight page ruling on the case, summarizing all the evidence and concluding that Sri Aurobindo was not proved to be the editor of the seditious article in question.

We also learn about the Indian National Congress in Surat, in which the National Congress, consisting of Moderates and Nationalists, was finally split along ideological lines, dramatically enacted when a brawl broke out on the speaker’s platform. Days earlier, the Nationalists had just formed their own party and had had their first conference with Sri Aurobindo presiding. There Sri Aurobindo laid out in a speech the programme of the Nationalists, and its position vis á vis the Moderates. From then on the Nationalists became an independent and powerful voice in the nation’s politics, and the Bande Mataram became its primary voice, awakeningIndia to the ideals of political independence. After the Surat conference, Sri Aurobindo travelled in the Deccan giving speeches on the Nationalist ideals and program to hundreds and sometimes to thousands of people. We can read some of these speeches, and accounts of some of those who attended.

In the early morning of 2 May 1908, Sri Aurobindo was arrested in his home in Calcutta for his alleged conspiracy in a bombing in which two ladies were mistakenly killed in an attempt on the life of Mr. Kingsford, a judge who had formerly imprisoned various revolutionaries. This was the beginning of what would become known as the Alipore Bomb Trial, in which Sri Aurobindo would spend a year as an undertrial prisoner, only to be finally acquitted. This section, which takes up a quarter of the book, gives many details of the case and its background from various perspectives.

After his acquittal in the Alipore Bomb Trial, Sri Aurobindo continued the Nationalist movement almost single-handedly giving speeches and publishing two political weekly papers, the Karmayogin and the Dharma, the first in English and the second in Bengali. In the section “The Poet of Patriotism,” we can read a number of these fiery speeches, as well as some important articles published in the Karmayogin. We also get other perspectives of this period from the accounts of others.

In “Sri Aurobindo and the British Government,” we can read documents and letters of British government officials showing the danger that Sri Aurobindo represented to them. Some of these pertain to the case of sedition brought against him for the article which appeared in the Karmayogin on the 25th December 1909, titled “To My Countrymen,” a kind of last will and testament in which he championed the cause of the Nationalist party, severely criticized the government, and announced its intentions to deport him. Before the warrant against him was issued, he had already left for Chandernagore and Pondicherry. Some of these letters show disagreement within the government concerning the merits of the case and the possibility of conviction. Subsequently the publisher of the paper was convicted, and then after an appeal, was acquitted. We can read the verdicts in both cases which review the evidence, as well as other’s views. The case against Sri Aurobindo was subsequently dropped. 

There are other interesting topics covered in this informative and well-researched work. Banerjee has done a good job to bring together a collection of new and interesting material which sheds light on Sri Aurobindo’s life during this important period.

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About the Reviewer: Dr. Larry Seidlitz received his doctoral degree in Psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1993. He was an Assistant Professor and researcher in psychiatry and psychology at The University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, New York, U.S.A. He is currently a faculty member of Sri Aurobindo Centre for Advanced Research (Pondicherry). He is also the editor of the journal ‘Collaboration’ published by Sri Aurobindo Association of California and author of many articles on Integral Yoga.

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‘Sri Aurobindo on Ethics’—A Review by Prof. Kittu Reddy

[The book ‘Sri Aurobindo on Ethics’ is now incorporated in our latest publication ‘Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Vision of Life’. Compiler and Editor: Anurag Banerjee. Number of pages: 211. Price: Rs. 300]

True spirituality envisions that life is meant to be a manifestation of the Divine and that all life has that as its ultimate aim, the manifestation of the Divine in each and every aspect of life. The vision and teachings of Sri Aurobindo show us how to reach and fulfil this high goal, the spiritualisation of all life. This movement of spiritualisation is a gradual process and goes through three stages: the infrarational, the rational and finally the suprarational. In the words of Sri Aurobindo:

“These stages or periods are much more inevitable in the psychological evolution of mankind than the Stone and other Ages marked out by Science in his instrumental culture, for they depend not on outward means or accidents, but on the very nature of his being. But we must not suppose that they are naturally exclusive and absolute in their nature, or complete in their tendency or fulfillment when they come, or rigidly marked off from each other in their action or their time. For they not only arise out of each other, but may be partially developed in each other and they may come to coexist in different parts of the earth at the same time.”

We thus see that all the different parts of man with their seeking and aspiration, aspire towards this denouement; these parts are the intellectual being, the aesthetic being, the ethical being, the religious being and the life force in man. Thus the intellectual man seeks and arrives ultimately at the Divine through knowledge. In the same way the artist, the saint or seeker of Truth in action, the religious aspirant and the dynamic man absorbed in life all seek ultimately for the Divine.

This applies also for the ethical man who seeks for the Truth in action and in his relations with others. The ethical man goes through these three stages but his fulfillment comes only when he has passed beyond the rational into the light of the suprarational.

In this compilation on ethics this aspect is clearly brought out and is visible to the reader when he goes through it carefully. In our human evolution, it is very important to be aware of the different levels from which our ethical being is working; this is indispensable for a conscious evolution of man to his highest potential and possibilities.

In the modern world where humanity and more particularly India is rocked with problems of ethics in the collective life, this compilation has come as a god send, for it throws light on many of the contemporary problems of modern society whether in the field of art, culture, politics, economics, social problems and even the Armed Forces. As a matter of fact, this compilation has reached some important people who are grappling with this problem of ethics in their respective professions and the response has been very heart warming.

I am sure that this compilation will help the whole society to move towards a nobler and better life.

I would also suggest that similar compilations are brought out in the field of aesthetics, knowledge, religion and life. They will be eminently useful for the future development of human society.

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About the Reviewer: Prof. Kittu Reddy was born in the Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh in July 1936. At the young age of five in 1941 he was taken to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, by his father Narayan Reddy, an eminent member of the Swaraj party formed by C.R. Das. He has lived there ever since. He had all his education at the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education from where he graduated. He has been teaching at the same Centre since 1958. Since 1987, he has been giving talks to the Indian Army on Indian culture, the Mission of India and Motivation and Leadership. In 1994, General B.C. Joshi, the then Chief of Army Staff, appointed him Adviser to the Army Welfare Education Society. Since then he has been in close touch with the Indian Army and has conducted workshops for the Indian Army, Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force. These workshops deal with Motivation, Leadership and the Indian nation. They have been held both in Pondicherry at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and at training centres of the Armed Forces. He is the author of the following books: A Vision of United India: Problems and Solutions, Kargil: A Manifestation of a Deeper Problem and The History of India: A New Approach.

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Krishnadhan Ghose’s letter to Rajnarain Bose

Dear Friends,

Today we are publishing a letter written by Dr. Krishnadhan Ghose (Sri Aurobindo’s father) to Rajnarain Bose (his father-in-law and Sri Aurobindo’s maternal grandfather). This letter—which is a part of the Sujata Nahar Papers preserved in the Archives of Overman Foundation—was found in tatters and therefore the date and some of the words are missing.

With warm regards,

Anurag Banerjee

Founder,

Overman Foundation.

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                  Krishnadhan Ghose’s letter to Rajnarain Bose

 

 

 

My dear Father

I have received your note of Sunday last in due time but it had tortures along with it to pull down my heart. Did I give you any offence in any of my letters that you prevent me from stopping any religious discussions. I cannot describe the dreadful agony I am feeling on that account. The cholera which has not as yet allowed me to get up from my bed has not brought on such depression in me as [that] letter of yours. There is [one thing] in that letter that has hurt me […] of the postscript of your note. All the world has become bitter and sad to me, everything has assumed a gloomy spectacle. I do not know how I am to console myself. I knew before and now find by experience that misfortunes never come single. Oft how many different things have combined to break down the sinful and impious heart of mine. Constant tears are become my only companion. Dearest Father have I no one to wipe away the tears of my eyes with even the border of sympathy. I am doomed to suffer and to be tried by misfortunes. The cholera has given [me a] deadly blow but your [letter] a worse one. Oft do dear Father relieve my heart by a condescending eye of forgiveness. Your poor son is suffering and have pity upon his soul and forgive him from the very bottom of your heart. Every now and then I ask forgiveness of my God for my trespasses against you but meet with no consolation. Oft do relieve my soul dearest Father. I again repeat for God’s sake forgive my soul.

Dearest Father there is one thing more that is troubling me awfully in my illness. The [  ] under which my friends have left me. I really do not deserve so [    ] kindness. [   ] above all [         ] me by the bona [       ] deep obligation [                ] another obscure friend of mine whom I spoke to you when I was at Midnapore Rakhal Ch. Roy. I am sure I do not deserve so much from them & I am at a loss how I am to repay so much kindness. Keshub’s paternal care is admirable.

I am now passing my days in sadness and confinement. I have not sufficient strength to go out and divert my attention from the thousand and one vultures preying on my mind.

Kindly give my pronams to mother and others. My love to my friends there. As also to Hem, Jogin, Shukumaree and Joteen.[1]

Shurnolata[2] gives her pronams to you.

 I remain with love

Your ever affn son

Krishna Dhun

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[1] Rajnarain’s children.

[2] Swarnalata Devi, Sri Aurobindo’s mother.

Amal Kiran and Prithwi Singh Nahar’s Interviews with the Mother about the Return of Sri Aurobindo.

Dear Friends,

Today we are publishing the texts of two interviews of the Mother conducted by Amal Kiran alias K. D. Sethna and Prithwi Singh Nahar in May 1952 and 3rd June 1953 respectively. In these special interviews the Mother had told the interviewers about the possibilities of Sri Aurobindo’s return. 

We are thankful to the Clear Ray Trust, Pondicherry and Shri Nirmal Nahar for allowing us to publish the texts of the interviews.

With warm regards,

Anurag Banerjee

Founder,

Overman Foundation.

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                         Amal Kiran’s Interview with the Mother

At the beginning of May 1952, during one of my visits to the Ashram from Bombay, I met the Mother in her room at the Playground. It was on the eve of my departure. What she had said at the end of 1950 about Sri Aurobindo coming back in a supramental body had been in my mind pretty often in the period after it, acutely missing him as I had done—missing him not only as a most compassionate and illuminating Guru but also as a most delightfully enlightening critic of literature and a correspondent most patient, understanding, intimate and voluminous. So, just before taking my leave, I expressed my hope to have Sri Aurobindo back with us in the future. I spoke too of my concern over world-factors threatening the Divine’s work. The Mother, with great sympathy and kindness in her eyes but with a quiet steady voice, replied:

“The return of Sri Aurobindo very soon is not likely. His going was connected with world-conditions. If world-conditions had been such as could so soon change and be suitable for his presence amongst us, his going itself would have been unnecessary.

“Also, the return cannot be in a startling miraculous manner. That would not be consistent with Sri Aurobindo’s method and our work. A more probable way of return would be: the present occasional visions of Sri Aurobindo which some people see—the almost material appearance he makes now to some people at certain times—may increase; the manifestation may be more frequent and more general, until one day a permanent reappearance takes place.

“One can’t fix the precise time of his return. It may even be five hundred years later. I can’t say anything, since the knowledge has not come to me. I only say things when I get them. This much I have said: Sri Aurobindo will be the first to have the supramental body.

“People keep asking me: ‘When Sri Aurobindo comes back in a supramental body, will he need to eat or drink or do other usual things?’ All these questions are silly.

“Sri Aurobindo’s leaving the body makes no essential difference. Sri Aurobindo is after all a certain consciousness, the divine consciousness, and this consciousness was there even before the earth came. The question of his ‘absence’ has little meaning.

“A world war may destroy civilisation, but it won’t destroy the Divine’s work. Sri Aurobindo once told me that he had so arranged things that nothing would interfere with his work.”  

                                                  [2]

                   Prithwi Singh Nahar’s Interview with the Mother

‘At 1:26 in the morning [on 5 December 1950] when I was in his room, he was steadily coming out of his body into mine; it was so much that I felt a physical friction in the cells of my body; with it a great power entered into me and I felt capable of resuscitating him. But when I told him, he said, ‘No. It is purposely that I have left my body, I will not come back into it, I will return in a new body, the first body built in the supramental way.’

And she hastened to add: “But he did not tell me the time when he would return.”

Then I [Prithwi Singh Nahar] told her: “Certainly you know the time, Mother, but if I were to ask you would not say it and I know it is good not to ask.”

She smiled sweetly.’

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Photographs of Sri Aurobindo’s Family Members

Dear Friends,

Today we are publishing a set of photographs of Sri Aurobindo’s family members. This collection—which is a part of the Sujata Nahar Papers and Photographs preserved in the Archives of Overman Foundation—includes the photos of Dr. Krishnadhan Ghose (Sri Aurobindo’s father), Swarnalata Devi (Sri Aurobindo’s mother), Benoy Bhushan Ghose (Sri Aurobindo’s eldest brother) and his wife Umarani Devi, Manmohan Ghose (Sri Aurobindo’s elder brother) and his two daughters Mrinalini and Lotika and Sarojini Ghose (Sri Aurobindo’s sister).

With warm regards,

Anurag Banerjee

Founder,

Overman Foundation.  

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                                              Dr. Krishnadhan Ghose.

 

                                              Dr. Krishnadhan Ghose.

 

                                               Dr. Krishnadhan Ghose.

 

             Dr. K.D. Ghose with his wife Swarnalata Devi and four children:

    [From left to right: Benoy Bhushan, Sarojini, Sri Aurobindo and Manmohan.]

 

                         Sri Aurobindo (seated) with Benoy Bhushan and Manmohan

                                  Manmohan with Swarnalata Devi.

 

                                Manmohan and Benoy Bhushan with Mr. Drewett.

 

                                 Benoy Bhushan with his wife Umarani Devi.

 

                               Manmohan with his daughters Mrinalini and Lotika.

 

                                       Sarojini Ghose, Sri Aurobindo’s sister.

 

                                                    Sarojini Ghose.

 

 

     

Publication of ‘Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Vision of Life’

                                   

Dear Friends and Well-wishers of Overman Foundation,

It gives me immense delight to announce that on4 May 2012 Overman Foundation has published its new book ‘Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Vision of Life’. This book comprises of Sri Aurobindo’s writings on ethics, religion, spirituality, reason, vital attraction and death.

The first section which includes the writings of Sri Aurobindo on ‘Ethics’ deals with topics like True Ethics, Ethical Impulses, Instincts and Activities, Ideal Ethical Law, Ethical Good and Evil and Hedonistic Values, Ethics and Karma, The Root of Ethical Ideals, Insufficiency of Ethics, Ethics in the Primitive Society, A Comparison between Aesthetic and Ethical Man and their Cultures, Ethics in Society and Practical Life, The Ethical Being and Reason, Ethics, Morality and the Dharma, Ethics and the Gnostic Life, Ethical Being and the Divine, etc.

The second section includes the writings of Sri Aurobindo on ‘Religion and Spirituality’ and deals with topics like Religion: Its Meaning and Message, Religion and Reason, Religion: Its Scope and Shortcomings, Indian Religions, Spirituality: Its Meaning and Essence, Religion vis-à-vis Spirituality, Religion, Spirituality and Society, Indian Religion and Spirituality, The Character of Indian Religion: A Study and Dealings of Indian Religion with Life.

The third section includes Sri Aurobindo’s writings on ‘Reason’ and deals with topics like Reason and Man, Reason vis-à-vis Life, Reason and Society, Reason and Intellect and Reason: Its Scope and Shortcomings.

The fourth section includes Sri Aurobindo’s writings on ‘Vital Attraction’ and focuses on topics like Sex-troubles and Self-Control, Sex, Marriage and Sadhana, Sexual Impulses vis-à-vis Yoga, Importance of Celibacy, Sex and Its Conquest, etc.

The fifth section includes Sri Aurobindo’s writings on the subject of ‘Death’ and deals with topics like Necessity of Death, Soul’s Journey after Death, The Psychic Being after Death, The Seeker’s Attitude towards Death, Death and Its Gospel, etc.

Compiled and edited by Shri Anurag Banerjee, ‘Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Vision of Life’ comprises 211 pages and is available at a price of Rs. 300 (Three Hundred) only.

To place an order, please write to the following email address:

                        overmanfoundation@gmail.com

 Payment can also be made online.

With warm regards,

Anurag Banerjee

Founder-Chairman,

Overman Foundation.

The Last Photograph of Rabindranath Tagore

Dear Friends,

On the occasion of the 151th Birth Anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore, we are publishing, as a mark of tribute, a very rare photograph of his. This photograph, in fact, is his last photograph and it was taken while he was being brought to Kolkata from ‘Santiniketan’ in July 1941, that is, a few weeks before his demise in August 1941.

With warm regards,

Anurag Banerjee

Founder,

Overman Foundation.

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Photograph of the Tombs of Mira Ismalun and Mathilde Alfassa

Dear Friends,

Today we are publishing the photograph of the tombs of Mira Ismalun (18 December 1830 — 1909) and Mathilde Alfassa (18 December 1857 — 9 December 1944), the Mother’s maternal grandmother and mother respectively. 

The tombs are located at Paris, Cimetière de Montparnasse, Division 24, allée c. The inscriptions on the tomb of Mira Ismalun have become hazy but those on Mathilde’s are still prominent.

We are thankful to Tiziano, our friend from Auroville, for sharing the photograph with us.

With warm regards,

Anurag Banerjee

Founder,

Overman Foundation.

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