Sri Aurobindo: A Brief Biography


A well-rounded account of the many facets of Sri Aurobindo’s life and accomplishments


by Peter Heehs

Thinker, spiritual leader, mystic, poet and nationalist, Sri Aurobindo (1872 – 1950) was perhaps modern India’s most fascinating and enigmatic leader. Educated at Cambridge where he was a brilliant Classics scholar, he refused a career in the civil service and returned home to become a fiery Extremist nationalist. In jail for conspiring to “wage war against the king,” Sri Aurobindo turned to meditation and, finding refuge in the French enclave of Pondicherry, perfected there his practice of yoga. His ashram in Pondicherry continues today with a huge international following.

Sri Aurobindo’s life and writings (which range over spiritual discourse, philosophy, cultural history, poetry, linguistics and literary criticism) have hitherto been written about by devotees. The present biography, while sympathetic, attempts a detached look at Aurobindo’s career and thought.

Exploring Aurobindo the nationalist as well as the spiritualist and seer, Peter Heehs’s book is an informed and accessible biography of modern India’s most important spiritual figure.

Deserves commendation for packing, in orderly layer after layer, so much information in so little space. . . . It is gratifying that Mr. Heehs”s biography, for all its professed scholarly character and archival support, has been able to avoid dry-as-dust lifelessness. He has mastered his mass of material, and told his story sustaining the reader”s attention throughout.

K. R. Srinivasa Iyengar, The Hindu (Chennai)

Unlike many biographers Heehs does not present Aurobindo either as one hundred percent yogi and philosopher, or as merely a political and revolutionary leader who remained active even after he retired to Pondicherry, but as a multifaceted personality. . . . Peter Heehs”s work is neither overtly subjective nor too impersonal, nor even devotional in tone. Although brief, it is cast in a scholarly mould and needs to be studied both for its contents and style.

Satish K. Kapoor, The Tribune (Chandigarh)

Heehs”s book has great strength . . . in distilling this documentation [concerning Aurobindo’s spiritual life] into as easily manageable and comprehensible story as could be imagined that Aurobindo himself would endorse. Students of world mysticism will find much of interest in these chapters. . . . This is an excellent introduction to Aurobindo as a nationalist, mystic, and religious figure.

Stephen H. Phillips, Philosophy East and West (Honolulu)

Sri Aurobindo: A Brief Biography is written in a lucid style, is highly readable, and takes the reader along the journey of a remarkable life. . . . Sri Aurobindo is the greatest spiritual legend India has produced in this century. To make that legend accessible to a vast number of readers is a highly commendable task.

Anita Nahal Arya, India International Centre Quarterly (Delhi)

This is the first biography of Sri Aurobindo to be based entirely on primary documents. To discover the extraordinary personality that Sri Aurobindo was-nationalist, poet, philosopher, prophet of the New Age, and lover of France-you must read the biography written by Peter Heehs.

François Gautier, France Ouest (Rennes)

Books by Peter Heehs

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