In this high signal moment of the gods
Answering earth’s yearning and her cry for bliss,
A greatness from our other countries came.
A silence in the noise of earthly things
Immutably revealed the secret Word,
A mightier influx filled the oblivious clay:
A lamp was lit, a sacred image made.
A mediating ray had touched the earth
Bridging the gulf between man’s mind and God’s;
Its brightness linked our transience to the Unknown.
A spirit of its celestial source aware
Translating heaven into a human shape
Descended into earth’s imperfect mould
And wept not fallen to mortality,
But looked on all with large and tranquil eyes. [Savitri: 353]
It was midnight, figuratively so to say, in the mid-nineteenth century. The Earth was divided into various isms of ideologies and religions each vying for supremacy. India the cradle of civilization meant to show the light and guide the world was herself asleep as if under a hypnotic spell of an Asuric Maya that made the false seem true and the true seem false. The last spark of India’s independence movement was buried under the ashes of the brave queen Lakshmibai. Amidst this dense darkness Sri Ramakrishna had kindled a ray of hope and stepped behind having gifted to the world his gospel of a unifying Vedanta and Swami Vivekananda who would carry the powerful message of the East across the seas to the Western world. Sri Aurobindo was born on 15 August 1872, in Kolkata, India amidst the then prevailing and all engulfing darkness of slavery and subjugation of large masses of mankind. The old lamps were dying out, extinguished by the artificial lights of a crass materialism that mocked at the very idea of divinity anywhere. Science had proclaimed that God is dead, biology saw in life nothing but a stark struggle for survival and, behind man’s inspiration and high-climbing thoughts and feelings psychology saw simply a beast groaning and muttering in the subconscient caves.
It was in the midst of this all-pervading darkness that Sri Aurobindo was born as a bringer of a new hope and Light to mankind, justifying his name that stands for the lotus that blooms in the midst of mud and mire. Much later, he was to write in one of his poems, ‘A God’s Labour’:
He who would bring the heavens here
Must descend himself into clay
And the burden of earthly nature bear
And tread the dolorous way.
Coercing my godhead I have come down
Here on the sordid earth,
Ignorant, labouring, human grown
Twixt the gates of death and birth. [CWSA 2:534]