Sri Aurobindo (born Aurobindo Ghose; 15 August 1872 – 5 December 1950) was an Indian philosopher, yogi, guru, poet, and nationalist. He joined the Indian movement for independence from British rule, for a while was one of its influential leaders and then became a spiritual reformer, introducing his visions on human progress and spiritual evolution.
His father Krishna Dhun Ghose wanted him enter the Indian Civil Service (ICS), an elite organisation comprising around 1000 people. To achieve this it was necessary that they study in England and so it was there that the entire family moved in 1879.
Aurobindo studied for the Indian Civil Service at King’s College, Cambridge, England. He passed the written ICS examination after a few months, being ranked 11th out of 250 competitors. He spent the next two years at King’s College. Aurobindo had no interest in the ICS and came late to the horse-riding practical exam purposefully to get himself disqualified for the service.He left England for India, arriving there in February 1893. In India, Krishna Dhun Ghose, who was waiting to receive his son, was misinformed by his agents from Bombay (now Mumbai) that the ship on which Aurobindo had been travelling had sunk off the coast of Portugal. His father died upon hearing this news.
After returning to India he took up various civil service works under the maharaja of the princely state of Baroda and became increasingly involved in nationalist politics and the nascent revolutionary movement in Bengal.
He was arrested in the aftermath of a number of bomb outrages linked to his organisation, but in a highly public trial where he faced charges of treason, Aurobindo could only be convicted and imprisoned for writing articles against British rule in India. He was released when no evidence could be provided, following the murder of a prosecution witness during the trial. During his stay in the jail, he had mystical and spiritual experiences, after which he moved to Pondicherry, leaving politics for spiritual work.
During his stay in Pondicherry, Sri Aurobindo developed a method of spiritual practice he called Integral Yoga. The central theme of his vision was the evolution of human life into a life divine. He believed in a spiritual realisation that not only liberated man but transformed his nature, enabling a divine life on earth. In 1926, with the help of his spiritual collaborator, Mirra Alfassa (referred to as “The Mother”), he founded the Sri Aurobindo Ashram.
His main literary works are The Life Divine, which deals with theoretical aspects of Integral Yoga; Synthesis of Yoga, which deals with practical guidance to Integral Yoga; and Savitri: A Legend and a Symbol, an epic poem. His works also include philosophy, poetry, translations and commentaries on the Vedas, Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1943 and for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950.