On August 15,1995, I was invited by Fort Williams’ Central School, Calcutta, as the Chief Guest. The invitation was extended by the Principal more as a personal equation than official. After the hoisting, I was asked to garland a picture of Sri Aurobindo. At that time I learnt that August 15th was his birthday. I did not know it earlier though I always had deep reverence for him. The Principal of the school was a devotee of Sri Aurobindo and, perhaps, that was the reason for such a ceremony.
Before this, I had tried to read one or two books of Sri Aurobindo but found them difficult to understand despite my interest in spiritual literature. This event, however, created in me a desire to know more about him. So soon after, I bought a biography of Sri Aurobindo and read it. Many aspects of his life influenced me deeply and I am going to share here one which affected me most. Sri Aurobindo was born on August 15,1872 at Calcutta. His father, Krishna Dhan Ghosh, was a completely anglicised person, as he had studied for an M.D. in England. He was posted as a civil surgeon with the British government. Sri Aurobindo grew up in an anglicised atmosphere at home. When he was five years old, he was sent, along with his two elder brothers, to the Loretto Convent School at Darjeeling, run by an Irish nun. There the three brothers had only European boys as friends and companions, for it was a school meant only for English children.
Later, they were sent to England and thus Sri Aurobindo grew up in entire ignorance of India, her people, her religion and her culture. During the course of his stay in England, he mastered French and learnt enough of Italian and German. His father wanted him to join the ICS but destiny had something altogether different in store for him. In deference to his father’s wish, he passed the ICS examination with distinction but his heart was not in the service, which he had joined only to comply with his father’s wish. He neglected his lessons in riding and purposely failed so that he could escape from the
bondage of the ICS. By this time he had started taking an interest in Indian politics and was looking for an opportunity to return to India. At this point of time he came in contact with the ruler of the state of Baroda, who appointed him in his service at a salary of Rs. 200 a month. He left England in January 1893 and joined the state service of Baroda. Sri Aurobindo was very simple in his mode of living. He did not care much for food or dress, because he never attached any importance to them. He never visited the market for his clothes. At home, he dressed in a plain white chaddar and dhoti, and outside invariably in white drill suits. He had no love of money. He used to get a Iumpsum of three month’s pay in a bag which he emptied in a tray lying on his table. He never bothered to keep money in a safe under lock and key. He did not keep an account of what he spent.
One day a close friend asked him why he was so careless about his money. He laughed and then replied, ‘Well, it is proof that we are living in the midst of honest and good people’. ‘But you never keep an account which may testify to the honesty of the people around you?’ the friend asked him. Then with a serene face Sri Aurobindo replied, ‘It is God who keeps account for me. He gives me as much as I want and keeps the rest to Himself. At any rate, He does not keep me in want, then why should I worry?’ This is what influenced me most. Most of us waste our life in keeping accounts. Sri Aurobindo had a great mission in life and, therefore, he considered this activity to be too trivial. He left it to God and was confident that He would keep the accounts in good shape and at the same time would not keep him in want. And it is true that money is never a problem for a truly selfless mission. For such a mission, money comes from unexpected sources. The same is true with a selfless life. God takes care of the needs of such a person and works as an accountant for him. The secret, however, is that He takes care of only the needs and not the greed.