Since his death in 1950, Sri Aurobindo Ghose has been known primarily as a yogi and a philosopher of spiritual evolution who was nominated for the Nobel Prize in peace and literature. But the years Aurobindo spent in yogic retirement were preceded by nearly four decades of rich public and intellectual work. Biographers usually focus solely on Aurobindo's life as a politician or sage, but he was also a scholar, a revolutionary, a poet, a philosopher, a social and cultural theorist, and the inspiration for an experiment in communal living.
Peter Heehs, one of the founders of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Archives, is the first to relate all the aspects of Aurobindo's life in its entirety. Consulting rare primary sources, Heehs describes the leader's role in the freedom movement and in the framing of modern Indian spirituality. He examines the thinker's literary, cultural, and sociological writings and the Sanskrit, Bengali, English, and French literature that influenced them, and he finds the foundations of Aurobindo's yoga practice in his diaries and unpublished letters. Heehs's biography is a sensitive, honest portrait of a life that also provides surprising insights into twentieth-century Indian history.
All students and scholars of Sri Aurobindo will find this extraordinary book most rewarding... Essential.
A great biography... a doorway into [Sri Aurobindo's] extraordinary spiritual philosophy and vision.
It is engagingly written and supported by a bounty of historical materials. Students of India with little familiarity of Aurobindo will discover that Heehs offers a multisided portrait of a brilliant and enigmatic man whose lifetime spanned a momentous period in modern Indian history...
Hanna H. Kim
The book's strength is Heehs' deep understanding of modern India, which gives him an edge in perceptively situating Aurobindo within the context of Indian national movement.
...meticulously reported and scrupulously footnoted...
Heehs has succeeded magnificently; The Lives of Sri Aurobindo is quickly becoming the biography for academics.
Heehs' work is an epic effort to encompass the outer and inner life of a personality, who seems to defy all definitions and boundaries, written with the intention of making him comprehensible to the scholarly mind of our times. I believe this book to be eminently successful
A formidable piece of scholarship.
List of Illustrations
Note on Proper Names
Part One: Son
1. Early Years in India: Bengal, 1872-1879
Part Two: Scholar
2. Growing up English: England, 1879-1893
3. Encountering India: Baroda, 1893-1910
Part Three: Revolutionary
4. Into the Fray: Calcutta, 1906-1908
5. In Jail and After: Bengal, 1908-1910
Part Four: Yogi and Philosopher
6. A Laboratory Experiment: Pondicherry, 1910-1915
7. The Major Works: Pondicherry, 1914-1920
Part Five: Guide
8. The Ascent to Supermind: Pondicherry, 1915-1926
9. An Active Retirement: Pondicherry, 1927-1950