Sri Autrobindo was a scholar, a literary critic, a philosopher, a revolutionary, a poet and a yogi. He became a leader of India's fight for independence and later a well-known spiritual guru. The original version of this book was written at a time when any writing on Sri Aurobindo was frowned upon by the British government. It is not only a biography of the spiritual leader but also an analysis of the Congress party during the Independence movement, the split in the Surat Congress, as well as the spiritual practice developed by Sri Aurobindo, known as Spiritual Yoga.
Promode Kumar Sen (1899-1952) was a patriot and a journalist. He wrote columns in well-known newspapers of his time—the Liberty, the Advance, the Hindustan Standard and the Amrita Bazaar Patrika. This book has been translated by his son Prasenjit Sen.
Prasenjit Sen is associated with the Symbiosis Centre for Information Technology in teaching and research.
During almost a score of years, a systematic attempt from various quartershas been hurling disgrace to Indian spirituality by brandishing jihad against so-called traditional hagiography in order to establish a novel methodology based on pseudo-psychoanalytical barbarism, for penning blasphemous pages in the name of biography. In the teeth of such vanity, we remain, however, fond of a possible and evident sanctity in personalities who, behind their resemblance to Tom, Dick and Harry, do embody from time to time superhuman values. At such a critical juncture, we congratulate Prasenjit Sen for bringing out in English translation the Bengali biography of Sri Aurobindo—a classic since more than half a century—written by his father late Promode Kumar Sen (1899-1952).
Almost a decade before the coming out of the well-known biography by Professor K.R.S. Iyengar, what did people know of Sri Aurobindo, when the first edition of this gem of a book appeared in 1939? Merely a legendary figure who had given up a comfortable job at Baroda to become the founder president of the National College? Or else, as the editor of the spitfire nationalist journal in English, the Bande Mataram? Or even, an escapist who fled government persecution, leaving in the lurch the freedom movement under the plea of his spiritual seeking? Soon he was even to be censured bitterly for sending a donation to the war-fund in support of the British.
Son of Shri Yogendranath Sen, a revolutionary activist in Jessore connected with organisations influenced by Sri Aurobindo's movement, since his childhood the author, Promode Kumar Sen, had been familiar with journals edited by Sri Aurobindo; his father received them as subscriber and read them with due enthusiasm: the Bande Matararn, the Karmayogin, the Dharma. Once a learned critic, fascinated by the structure of the present biography, objected however, to the emotional undertone in the book as maintained by the author. In reply, Promode Kumar admitted that in spite of being a journalist by profession, busy analysing events and commenting on them, perpetually overwhelmed by the awe-inspiring personality of Sri Aurobindo, he could not restrain his emotion, just as people cannot help feeling spontaneously fascinated in the presence of the beautiful Himalayan peaks or before the solemn grandeur of the ocean.
By the time the second edition of the book appeared in December 1952, the author had passed away in April, after completing a thorough revision of the book, while the second edition was in press. On 1 August 1949, during this revision, he had looked back at the austere atmosphere of the Ashram when the book had been first published, shortly after the beginning of the World War; he observed with admiration how, in such a short lapse of time, the Ashram had grown into a vast laboratory of yoga in action (karmayoga). Not only action: the tremendous spiritual force of Sri Aurobindo had programmed even intensive physical culture and sports. Liberated from the clutch of the little self, all human activities had been getting transformed, thus, into action of the undividable consciousness. The perennial yoga of India here assumed an unprecedented expression.
Divided into twenty-six chapters, including two preliminary ones (I and II) which contain the Author's views and methods, the book describes faithfully, step by step, aspects and phases of the Master's life and times, along with the blossoming of his vision. The author has examined in this last chapter the future evolution of humanity and the great objective that Sri Aurobindo proposed through his labour of transforming mankind.
In addition to a much awaited simplified presentation of Sri Aurobindo's lofty writings—thanks to a profound familiarity with them and an elegant Bengali style—Promode Kumar, in his relentless look out for unknown and less known facts concerning the Master, has enriched this narration: for instance the affectionate father Krishnadhan with his prediction about the potentials of his three elder sons—Benoybhushan, Manmohan and Aurobindo—studying in England, gives a special flavour to this book. Or else, the revolutionary role Sri Aurobindo played by preceding and anticipating the mass movement that Gandhiji was to lead fifteen years later with the blueprint left by Sri Aurobindo. Further, almost twenty years later, the role of visionary that Sri Aurobindo played in the decisive proposal presented by Stafford Cripps. In all humility—often in form of footnotes—Promode Kumar has mentioned here and there his significant meetings, such as with Ketkar, grandson of Lokamanya Tilak, to learn that Sri Aurobindo's obituary tribute after Tilak's passing has been considered to be the most pertinent; such as, while speaking of President Wilson, Promode Kumar's casual reference made to his interview with Margaret, Wilson's daughter who had chosen to live as an inmate of Sri Aurobindo's Ashram till her last breath.
It is expected that, with the success of the English edition, the publishers will look for translators to share with readers of regional languages this loving homage so delicately composed by an accomplished devotee of an exceptional Guru.