Sri Aurobindo, the world-renowned yogi, poet, philosopher, patriot and lover of humanity, devoted most of his life to the quest of the Supermind, which, he thought, was the only power that could bring perfection to human life on earth.
The Indian intelligentsia of the last half a century had many problems with Sri Aurobindo because he often raised inconvenient questions and forced them to review the intellectual paradigms by which they lived and so they conspired to marginalise him.
Sri Aurobindo was not a religious leader; he was a great spiritual figure, probably the greatest in human history, who discovered the truth of the Supramental consciousness, of which no religion had any idea, and who developed a yoga for those who had an inner call for it to grow into it. The international city of Auroville as well as Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry are the two laboratories started by him and his collaborator, the Mother, for his experiment of ushering in a new man, a united new world and a spiritual civilisation.
Our intelligentsia proudly quotes Darwin, Freud and Karl Marx because these have been the three thinkers who have influenced our age the most. Sri Aurobindo dealt mainly with the same issues as these three thinkers and in the light of his writings we are able to appreciate them better because he presents the complete truth these thinkers distorted in their own ways.
The fact that Sri Aurobindo did not receive a favourable reception in India intellectual circles during the last half a century has been very unfortunate but not very surprising, because he was in his views and in his vision so radical and so much ahead of his times, that he effectively alienated four of the strongest intellectual establishments in the country, namely, the traditional Hindu religious establishment, the Gandhian establishment, the politically non-committed but eurocentric university intellectuals who are the products of Macaulay’s educational system, and also the leftist, communist/socialist establishment.
The Hindu religious establishment did not take kindly to Sri Aurobindo because he emphatically denied world-negation as the central thrust of Indian culture. Many of our countrymen still take great pride in the Shankarite and Buddhist legacy of regarding the world as a delusion, and therefore as of no value. His insistence on worldly progress being a quintessential part of the Indian spiritual tradition alienated Sri Aurobindo from the Hindu establishment, strangely enough. The Gandhian establishment was not entirely happy with Sri Aurobindo because of his insistence that India must cultivate the kshatriya spirit, not merely Bhakti and Jnana.
The reason why the academic establishment in India was opposed to Sri Aurobindo is that he rejected the colonial-missionary model of history, which regarded the Aryan invasion theory as its crown-jewel. Sri Aurobindo was probably the first to issue a warning against the invasion theory in his book On the Vedas, written nearly 80 years ago. Nor was Sri Aurobindo an uncritical admirer of the Western liberal-humanistic tradition.
The reasons for the neglect Sri Aurobindo suffered among leftist intelligentsia in India was that he was cold to the promises of communists and the dreams of socialists, and because of his strong spiritual orientation. But it must be pointed out that Sri Aurobindo was not opposed to communist ideology per se as can be seen from the following statements of his:
‘‘If communism ever re-establishes itself successfully upon earth, it must be on a foundation of soul’s brotherhood and the death of egoism. A forced association and a mechanical comradeship would end in a world-wide fiasco.’’