Sri Aurobindo on Himself
Sri Aurobindo was very emphatic in stating that only he could write truly about himself; but he never wrote any comprehensive or systematic account of his life. Only in his correspondence with his disciples and others he sometimes explained points by incidentally referring to some event in his own life or some experience in his own Yogic development. Also on a few occasions he corrected misleading statements concerning him published in some journals and books and gave notes about some points in his life to three of his biographers who had submitted their manuscripts to him for verification. All this material has been compiled and presented in a systematic arrangement in Part One of this volume. This has been done with the specific intention of providing authentic information about Sri Aurobindo's life so as to leave no room for anyone to make doubtful or misleading statements about him. This has become particularly necessary in view of the fact that many of the books and articles that have been published about him are, even when written by well-intentioned persons, often inaccurate in their facts and misguiding in their interpretations.
In some of the letters Sri Aurobindo has written jointly about himself and the Mother after she came to India and joined him in his spiritual work. These have been separately compiled and placed in Part Two of this volume.
Part Three consists of Sri Aurobindo's letters in which he has answered the questions of his disciples and others about the Mother.
Some of the letters included in this volume are taken from the other volumes of Sri Aurobindo's letters on Yoga and on Poetry, Literature and Art published in the Centenary Edition, as these are also related to Sri Aurobindo himself or to the Mother. The others are being published for the first time. In some cases where the whole letter dealt with many topics, only the portion dealing with him or the Mother has been extracted for inclusion in this volume. Sometimes, in order to avoid a direct personal reference, Sri Aurobindo used to write about himself in the third person. This is the reason why at a few places in the book the reference to Sri Aurobindo is in the third person.
Note to electronic publication
Some time ago there were polemics about inadmissibility of editorial corrections of Sri Aurobindo's writings. We agree that this corrections distort text and we want to return text as mach as possible to original authentic form. To fulfill this we compared two publications:
1. Sri Aurobindo International University Centre Collection .- Vol.1.- Pondicherry, 1953 (earlier control text); and
2. Sri Aurobindo Birth Century Library in 30 Volumes.- Vol. 26 (later base text).
In cases of nonconcurrences of two texts we place one of them in main context and the other – into footnote with remark (later edition) or (earlier edition). In minor cases (capital letters, punctuation) we prefer later text (except as the earlier text has more exact semantic form.) Also we return to earlier capitalization of the words ‘sadhana’, ‘sadhak’, ‘bhakti’, ‘bhakta’.
Some texts that were published in earlier publication, were omitted in later book. We returned these omitted texts with suitable notes.
Unfortunately we have not original book Sri Aurobindo Birth Century Library in 30 Volumes.- Vol. 26 and used the scanned text from the Internet, so we could not check a vast part of it (which was not included into Sri Aurobindo International University Centre Collection .- Vol.1.- Pondicherry, 1953). So this part remains uncorrected and may contents misprints.
Of course, all this was not enough to return to the original authentic texts to the full extent. To do this we need:
1. to compare printed texts to handwriting manuals (which are not at our disposal);
2. in cases of differ authentic texts to publish them all;
3. to abandon the idea of subject selection and subsequent removal of those pieces of text that are unsuitable to the subject – an awful thing but widely used in such compilations!
So we arrive at a conclusion that in addition to subject compilations we need – as a necessary part of publication of Sri Aurobindo's writing – chronological ordered full texts of letters: scientifically exact volumes with all author's authentic texts and their variants, with facsimile of handwritings, with dates, with information on correspondents and so forth — and without any editorial modifications. We hope that one day Sri Aurobindo's Ashram will come to the same conclusion and publish at last uncut and undistort Sri Aurobindo's letters.