Steps To Learning

The first book of his poetry published in 1898 was “ Songs To Myrtilla”. His literary interests made him shift his focus to the study of Ramayana and Mahabharata. He took painstaking efforts to prove the authorship of Mahabharata and took out passages that pointed to Vyasa. He translated Vikramorvashi and Meghaduta
into English verse.

While reading the Gita he saw that most of the interpretations missed the point and did
not emphasize the necessity of action as the one sure road to the goal. He went on to write great
works like ‘The Life Divine’ and also the epic poem ‘Savitri’, ‘ilion’ besides literary works
like ‘Perseus The Deliverer’ ‘The Viziers Of Bassora’ ‘Vasavadatta’. ‘Letters On Yoga’
were his replies to queries on such matters.

Aurobindo who had hardly shown interest in religion became an advocate of Hinduism shunning western culture and materialism. Vedanta according to him was “ the fount of our philosophies, the bedrock of our religions, the kernel of our thought, the explanation of our ethics and society, the summary of our civilization, the rivet of our nationality.”

He easily dealt with the likes of Max-Muller who implied that only those passages that could be grasped by the western mind in the Upanishads could be considered valid. It was the orthodox schools in India that were a bigger challenge to him who reduced the Upanishads to one set or the other, each with their own interpretation.

The Advaita philosophy was largely accepted by Aurobindo, but he noticed that even that had departed from plain sense of texts. This led him to say that a student must “ refuse to follow even Shankara.. when his interpretation involves ... so wide a departure from the recognized meaning of words”. As his understanding of the Vedas grew he realized that Shankara’s interpretation was not in perfect accord with the Upanishads or the Gita which did not insist on the unreality of the world, nor did the demand inaction.

Indian philosophy does not merely speak of intellectual understanding but speaks of spiritual experiences for those who seek it. Experience leads to realization of the truths. In 1908 he started an English newspaper called ‘Karmayogin’ in which were printed articles on Vedanta, poetry,translations of the Upanishads, studies of hypnosis, painting. He also started a Bengali weekly, ‘Dharma’ whose articles he wrote himself. He managed to all this from a ‘Yogic state’ as he stated ‘ creative energy used to run down my hand while writing’.

Aurobindo believed in Sanatana Dharma ( eternal religion)and Karmayoga (Yoga of Action).” The task we set before ourselves ismoral and spiritual. We aim not at the alteration of a form of Government but at the building up of a nation.. We shall devote ourselves not to politics alone, or theology or literature, or science but to all these in one entity the dharma, which is universal, and to make yoga the ideal.. by which she will get the strength to realize her freedom, unity and greatness.”

Right through his political career, Aurobindo was practicing yoga and pranayama. As he himself observes, his was a side-door entry into the spiritual life. Inspite of having had a number of spiritual experiences between 1893 and 1903, he did not immediately embrace such a life. He realized though that he might be able to use the spiritual power which was one of the results of Yoga to help carry out his political program. He began his days with pranayama. The results were great fluency in writing, improved health, and a general feeling of lightness.


At the height of his political influence, he had his first fundamental spiritual experience. Earlier in his life he had a number of spiritual experiences like ‘ a vast calm descended on him the moment he stepped on Indian soil, the vision of God head surging from within when in danger. The living presence of Kali in a shrine on the banks of the Narmada. These significant experiences did not turn him to spiritual life immediately. He could not keep up with the practice of pranayama and irregularity in the practice of pranayama could lead to dangerous disorders. In his case it lead to a major illness that incapacitated him in the later part of 1906. When he did recover mid 1907 he realized that his spiritual growth had come to a stand still.

It was towards the end of 1907 that he met Sri Vishnu Bhaskar Lele a Yogin through his brother. He asked for help saying that he would like to practice Yoga to obtain spiritual strength to work better. These were the instructions given to him by Sri Lele. "Sit in meditation, but do not think, look only at your mind; you will see thoughts coming in it; before they can enter throw these away from your mind till your mind is capable of entire silence."

Realizing Krishna



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