Is it simply a blood relation, or is there some spiritual communion too between Sri Aurobindo and Rishi Rajnarayan that sprang forth from certain previous birth as is commonly believed by the orthodox Hindus? To us it seems to be more than the common bond between a predecessor and the posterity.
Sri Aurobindo was the grandson of Rishi Rajnarayan from his mother's side. His father Krishnadhan Ghosh was a descendent of the Ghoshe's of Konnagar in the Hooghly district. The marriage of Rajnarayan's eledest daughter, Swarnalata, with Krishnadhan was performed according to the rites of the Brahmos, who had been progressive in their religious and social reforms. The ceremony took place at Midnapur,. and became a memorable incident with the hallowed presence of a galaxy of distinguished persons who blessed the wedded couple.
On the 15th August, 1872, Sri Aurobindo was born at the residence of Barrister Manomohan Ghosh in Calcutta with whom Dr. Krishnadhan had close friendship. But the anglicized father did not like to bring up his sons in the native atmosphere and sent them at first to a Convent School at Darjeeling and then to an English school in England . His utmost endeavour was to give them proper education and English culture. It seems to be highly paradoxical that when Rishi Rajnarayan was a lover of Indian faith and culture, and an ardent champion of National Movement, his own son-in-law sincerely welcomed English education and culture in his family at any cost. The old Rajnarayan, of course, was not very happy with the attitude of Krishnadhan, which cut to the quick of his national feeling and religious sentiment. Later he wrote in his Autobiography, “But it is a matter of regret that he came back from England being a perfect Englishman. Before leaving for England he had become an sincere and enthusiastic Brahmo, but I found his fall when he came back from the British Isles . I marked that scepticism had crept in his mind in a measure. In dedication of my book; “Dharmatattwa Dipika” to him I had expressed such wish that as a real physician he would also heal the spiritual illness of the people. But I have been shocked as my hopes are shattered to pieces.”
Sri Aurobindo's education was completed in a foreign land, far from the native atmosphere, which his affectionate father carefully avoided. But Sri Aurobindo did not turn a ‘pucca' Englishman, as his father fondly expected. In 1893, he stepped down to the Indian shore just as a son of the soil giving up his English garb. He ran straight to his old grandfather at Deoghar, who appeared to be an ancient sage to him, and bowed down his head with joy and reverence, unfortunately his loving father had expired before his arrival.
An intellectual giant, a freedom fighter and a spiritual leader, Sri Aurobindo was immensely influenced by this old sage of Deoghar, rightly called the Rishi Rajnarayan, who was one of the great thinkers and national reformers of Bengal. Aurobindo would come from Baroda to Deoghar to see the Rishi and spend the vacations with his family. Such close contact with the Rishi roused in him a fervour of national spirit and a love for divine life. Now time came for regaining his hidden treasures. Here was the old guide and philosopher, the pole-star of unflickering light Aurobindo did not move to and fro, but plunged right, into the heart of the national movement and added new vigour to its course. The patriotic spirit of Rajnarayan took a shape, as it were, in Aurobindo whose uncompromising spirit and love for liberty remind us of the vision of the Grandfather of the Indian Nationalism.
The greatest heritage of India is spiritual culture or ‘Joga-Sadhana'. It is strange that a thoroughly westernised youngman like Aurobindo would be drawn to the spiritual culture of the Hiudus. But facts are sometimes stranger than fiction. What part did the old grand-father play in this respect, we do not exactly know. Even in the midst of a changing society, he cherished in the heart of his heart the eternal values of Indian culture. His Brahmoism was nothing but reformed and elevated Hinduism, free from superstitions. The source was the Vedanda. Never could he imagine himself a non-Hindu. As a heroic spokesman of the Hindus he advocated the superiority of the Hindu Religion and his memorable speech first on this subject,. won him an all-India reputation overnight. Here' he had served as a precursor to the Hindu Monk Swami Vivekananda, who was also held in high esteem by this old sage in his last days.
Though Sri Aurobindo rushed to the national field with the Geeta in one hand and a sword in the other, he retired from the arena of direct politics to a serene place with his heart full of the blessed- ness of the Lord within a very short period. He felt an inner call,—the call of the Lord Basudeva Srikrishna. Heere is a basic difference between the ways of Rishi Rajnarayan and the spiritual path and divine outlook of Sri Aurobindo. Rajnaarayan was a believer in the formless and infinite God and a non-believer in the theory of Avatara or Divine Revelation. But Sri Aurobindo found Lord Srikrishna as the charioteer of his life,- a revelation that fully changed the course of his earthly existence. Ordinarily the movement of a life is regulated by the interactions of heredity, environ— ment and acts of the previous birth as believed by the Hindus and the Bhddhists. But heredity and environment are not the only factors moulding the character of a life. Neither Sri Aurobindo nor Rajnarayan is the product of their heredity and environment. Unseen but powerful influences of the activities of the past lives of a man might suddenly change the present course of his life It is certainly curious that Aurobindo, the revolutionary, totally gave up his political career and dived deep into the fathomless field of sadhana'. To an outward view a gulf of difference may be found between the stage of action from which Aurobindo started his mystic career as a divine aspirant and that of the revolutionist freedom-fighter of an oppressed nation. As one of the great philosophers of the world, Sri Aurobindo bad shown his natural access to the profound thoughts of a mystic Yogi and has become the innovator of an integral Yoga establishing unity in the diverse ways of spiritual practice. He has been the herald of a divine life on earth through supra-mental transformation. it was he who tried to direct the attention of mankind to the inevitable change coming upon the human culture and civilization through a cosmic evolution.
In this context one may reasonably recall the name of Swami Vivekananda who met Rajnarayan at least twice at Deoghar in his last days to pay him respect. Their meetings have remained shrouded in obscurity, no records being preserved by any person. Still we shall not be wrong in pointing out that Vivekananda followed the path of regaining the esteem of the Hindu religion after Rishi Rajnarayan, the first spokesman on “the Superiority of the Hindu Religion”. The thought-provoking speeches and writings - of Rishi Rajnarayan had undoubtedly, we have reasons to believe, created some influence There was a chance of a happy meeting between Vivekananda and Aurobindo at the residence of Rajnarayan at Deoghar, but God ordained' otherwise. With all his good intention the old Rishi had missed that rare opportunity. His blessed Vivekananda remained a Visionary to his beloved Aurobindo. Aurobindo could not see Vivekananda in his mortal being. But Vivekananda came to Sri Aurobindo in a vision at Alipore Central Jail (where he was imprisoned by the British Government in 1908. Vivekananda passed away in 1902) on which he afterwards recorded, — “It is a fact that I was hearing constantly the voice of Vivekananda speaking to me for a fortnight in the jail in my solitary meditation, and felt his presence. The voice spoke only on a special and limited but very important field of spiritual experience, and it ceased as soon as it had finished- saying all that it had to say on that subject.”
Three times Sri Aurobindo visited Midnapur, A place which still bears the hallowed memory of his great Grandfather, twice or the works of the Secret Society and once to attend the Pro-vincial Conference of the National Congress. It was quite natural that he should feel some attraction for the place of work of Rajnarayan and the place of wedding of his beloved parents.. That he possessed a high-flown reverence towards ishi Rajnarayan has been beautifully expressed in his sonnet “Transit Non Perritt.” If one wishes- to study Sri Aurobindd thoroughly, one cannot hut take into consideration the patriotic and ascetic character of Rajnarayan. Through Rajnarayan the need of the age,—the need of the nation was oiced, and Sri Aurobindo as his illuminous heir carried that voice over to the people of the world. The transmission of one's mysic spiritual power to the other yet remains to be a subject of careful research, as in the case of all other great yogis. We firmly believe that power is still working.