The Penguin Sri Aurobindo Reader edited by Makarand Paranjape. Penguin Books, New Delhi. Pages 373. Rs 295.
The British jailed Sri Aurobindo for revolutionary activities. They imprisoned his body, but unwittingly set his soul free, for it was during his year-long jail term that he had visvarupa darshan or the experience of the cosmic consciousness, and from then on he was a totally different man. He tells us how God protected him from the unscrupulous prison staff of the Alipore jail: "He [God] made me realise the central truth of the Hindu religion. He turned the hearts of my jailers to me and they spoke to the Englishman in charge of the jail. . . . I looked at the jail that secluded me from men and it was no longer by its high walls that I was imprisoned; no, it was Vasudeva who surrounded me. I walked under the branches of the tree in front of my cell, but it was not the tree, I knew it was Vasudeva, it was Sri Krishna whom I saw standing there and holding over me His shade." No doubt, Aurobindo cannot be taken lightly, but at times he does sound like a man suffering from delusions or megalomania.