A marvel of the meeting earth and heavens….
His figure is the front of Nature’s march,
His single being excels the works of Time.
A sapphire cutting from the sleep of heaven,….
A divinity and kingliness gird his brow;
His eyes keep a memory from a world of bliss.
As brilliant as a lonely moon in heaven,
Gentle like the sweet bud that spring desires,
Pure like a stream that kisses silent banks,
He takes with bright surprise spirit and sense.
A living knot of golden Paradise,
A blue Immense he leans to the longing world,….
That takes all joy as the world’s native gift
And to all gives joy as the world’s natural right.
His speech carries a light of inner truth,
And a large-eyed communion with the Power
In common things has made veilless his mind,
A seer in earth-shapes of garbless deity……
His sweetness and his joy attract all hearts
To live with his own in a glad tenancy,
His strength is like a tower built to reach heaven,
A godhead quarried from the stones of life.
[Savitri, pp. 429-431]
Sri Aurobindo returned to India in 1893. Sure enough, Mother India greeted her son by a deep psychic gesture. In one of his autobiographical notes written in third person, Sri Aurobindo mentions:
Before he met Lele, Sri Aurobindo had some spiritual experiences, but that was before he knew anything about Yoga or even what Yoga was, — e.g., a vast calm which descended upon him at the moment when he stepped first on Indian soil after his long absence, in fact with his first step on the Apollo Bunder in Bombay: (this calm surrounded him and remained for long months afterwards); the realisation of the vacant Infinite while walking on the ridge of the Takht-Suleman in Kashmir.
In fact, the year 1893 saw two voyages in different directions and yet with the same secret intent of the Divine Will that governs our earthly destiny. Swami Vivekananda travelled from India to the West carrying the lamp of Vedanta in his heart to awaken the West to the message of the East. Sri Aurobindo travelled from the West to India to help India recover her lost teachings and awaken Indians to their own soul before the light of India can spread to the world. The budding writer and poet found a new strain his writings. His vast poetic intelligence was being prepared for the emergence of the greatest epic poem ever penned down in English language, Savitri. The earliest draft is in Baroda and was titled Earth and Beyond. The budding revolutionary who had taken oath for India’s independence in the name of the secret society Lotus and Dagger had started writing more openly to awaken the then Indian leaders to demand for complete freedom. The beauty of the lotus springing victoriously out of the mud and the sharpness of the stab of an intuitive light were both felt in his early writings in the Indu Prakash. The budding yogi was welcomed by Mother India with a ‘vast calm’ even as he set his foot upon the Indian soil. The poet, the revolutionary, the yogi would join and grow one with passage of time with the yogi taking the lead using his pen as the sword and his writings as the fire to awaken the sleeping lions of India who were lying as if drugged by some magic potion that made them feel helpless and weak. He woke them up with the roar of Mother Kali. Yet in his everyday life he was a perfect gentleman, an image of simplicity and candour and truthfulness, an example of kindness and self-effacement and endurance whose watchwords seemed to be tyaga and tapasya, renunciation and sacrifice, as his teacher of Bengali, Dinendra Kumar Roy would recall. Yet all these high qualities were shown in him with a natural ease and without the ostentatious trappings. He was noble, srestha, without being aware of his being so. He was a master with a mighty intellect and yet without the least pride of being so. Just a glimpse of his letters to his wife and sister, brother and friends shows how simple and self-effacing, how much unselfish and untouched by pride was the young man whom the world would later know as Sri Aurobindo. One whose intellectual capacities could make even the greatest of intellects feel small would write with such deep compassion and love without the least trace of any superiority. And wherever he has to point out a mistake or error in our thought it would be largely impersonal and with wit and humour. Anger was indeed foreign to him as he once remarked. As far as greed and lust and fear and ambition are concerned they were not only foreign to his temperament but completely alien. Such was the personality of young Sri Aurobindo who easily attracted the admiration of those around him and charmed his students and compatriots equally. Yet behind this gentle countenance and tender softness was an indomitable and masterly will born of some tremendous fire whose intensity was to one day burn the world in purifying flames of a viswayagna.
Sri Aurobindo at first joined the administrative services of the Baroda State in Gujarat province. The next twelve years that followed (1893-1905) were periods of inner and outer preparations.
This preparation included, on the one side an inner life of self-control, purity, and equanimity under all circumstances; on the other side an outer life of simplicity, disinterested work, an intellectual understanding of the great currents of Eastern and Western thoughts. Speaking of the need of uniting the inner life and the outer one. Sri Aurobindo writes in one of his letters:
My own life and my yoga have always been, since my coming to India, both this-worldly and other-worldly without any exclusiveness on either side. All human interests are, I suppose, this-worldly and most of them have entered into my mental field and some, like politics, into my life, but at the same time, since I set foot on the Indian soil on the Apollo Bunder in Bombay, I began to have spiritual experiences, but these were not divorced from this world but had an inner and infinite bearing on it, such as a feeling of the Infinite pervading material space and the Immanent inhabiting material objects and bodies. At the same time I found myself entering supraphysical worlds and planes with influences and an effect from them upon the material plane, so I could make no sharp divorce or irreconcilable opposition between what I have called the two ends of existence and all that lies between them. For me all is Brahman and I find the Divine everywhere. [CWSA 35:233-234]
During this period Sri Aurobindo played several roles. One of these roles was that of an able administrator whose friendship and counsel was cherished and valued by the Maharaja himself. Then there was the role of a loved teacher of French and English and the Vice-Principal of Baroda University. His methods of teaching were indeed quite unconventional and he was loved and revered by his students. There was also the role of a householder, having married young Mrinalini Devi in 1900. Some of his letters written to his wife during this period reveal how beautifully Sri Aurobindo reconciled in himself the soul of universal love for all mankind with a deep and sensitive tender affection of a very personal nature.
He had some remarkable spiritual experiences during this period, some of which are recounted in his poems which reflect in a preliminary way the nature of the synthesis of this world of forms and the formless essence and Truth of things that Sri Aurobindo was to reveal to earth and men. One such experience was the vision of the World-Mother in the image of Kali, which he expresses in his poem ‘The Stone Goddess’:
In a town of gods, housed in a little shrine,
From sculptured limbs the Godhead looked at me, —
A living Presence deathless and divine,
A form that harboured all infinity.
The great World-Mother and her mighty will
Inhabited the earth’s abysmal sleep,
Voiceless, omnipotent, inscrutable,
Mute in the desert and the sky and deep. [CWSA 2:608]