Guiding Light of The Month

THERE is a great difference between being in the midst of active work, of external action, while keeping one’s thought constantly fixed on Thee, and entering into that perfect union with Thee which leads to what I have called “absolute Consciousness, true Omniscience, Knowledge”. - The Mother

The Human Race in Light of Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga

Industry, Trade and Commerce for material prosperity in the Light of Sri Aurobindo’s teachings

Sri Aurobindo’s Poorna (Integral) Yoga accepts and transforms all that exists in life and rejects nothing as unspiritual. An attitude of sincerity and surrender to the Divine is necessary irrespective of whatever action we perform. We need not hold any prejudice against industries, commerce, trade involving production and profit by exchange of goods and services and consider them to be unfavorable for spiritual life. Sri Aurobindo frequently mentioned about the future society as ‘spiritualized society’ wherein ‘All life is Yoga’ and all our relationships and external worldly interactions will be governed by spiritual oneness. In that higher state of consciousness, the domain of industry and commerce required for our material prosperity too will be transformed.

The greedy and insincere malpractices increasingly prevailing in the domains of industries and commerce are hindering the harmonious co-existence of mankind and not the real work itself. Politics too is looked upon as belonging to falsehood. In this context, we need to remember that Sri Krishna, Sri Rama, Lord Buddha were from royal families engaged in administering the kingdoms and highly able statesmen leading great political actions. Sri Krishna explained to Arjuna that the ‘colloquy at Kurukshetra will yet liberate humanity’, that even waging a war for a right cause in an egoless state of total surrender to the Divine is yoga in itself.

Sri Aurobindo had spent 17 years (1893 to 1910) of intense activity in the political field and laid the foundation through his early writings and speeches to prepare India and the world for the intellectual and psychological transformation leading towards his visions of future world-state and world-union (Ideal of Human Unity). One century has passed since the time new nations were formed, countries began to understand their inter-dependence for peaceful co-existence and several international leagues and associations have been formed to work together for peace, progress and harmony. Many ‘isms’ and ideologies like communism, socialism and capitalism have been experimented with even though they could only partially fulfill the ideals of human unity based on the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity. Each form of polity bore direct influence on industry and commerce leading to the material prosperity. Extremely contradicting opinions are held whether the industry and commerce should be owned by individuals in capitalist structure or owned by state in a communist or socialist pattern for the common welfare and happiness of humanity.

During his stay in Baroda in one of his public speeches Sri Aurobindo (‘Revival of Indian Industry’ CWSA – vol 1 Early Writings) emphasized the importance of industrialization for the progress of a country and further in his writings (Human Cycle, Ideal of Human Unity) he gives due credit to industry and commerce in the evolving and interdependent world order. Some quotes from his speech are given below:

‘A country without flourishing manufacturers must always be a poor country. We have to encourage and assist the commercial development of the country and so put it on the only possible road to progress, opulence and prosperity’ Speaking about the Indian industry and trade in the ancient prosperous India he says: ‘We hear of busy and flourishing ports through which the manufacturers of India flowed out to Europe, Arabia and Persia. The restriction against foreign travel is one of the most serious obstacles in the way of commercial success and must utterly be swept away if we are not to go on stagnating. Without self-confidence you can never do anything; You will never found an industry or build a trade, for you have nothing to carry you through the first anxious years when the only dividend is hope and the best assets unfaltering courage and faith in oneself.’

Sri Aurobindo says ‘But I admit, as ancient Indian thought admitted, that material and economic capacity and prosperity are a necessary, though not the highest or most essential part of the total effort of human civilization. In that respect, India throughout her long period of cultural activity can claim equality with any ancient or mediaeval country. No people before modern times reached a higher splendor of wealth, commercial prosperity, material appointment, social organization. That is the record of history, of ancient documents, of contemporary witnesses. (Renaissance of Indian culture in CWSA Vol 20 – page 119)’

Speaking about India’s past and wanting her to regain the same life force he says ‘She expands too outside her borders; her ships cross the ocean and the fine superfluity of her wealth brims over to Judaea and Egypt and Rome; her colonies spread her arts and epics and creeds in the Archipelago; her traces are found in the sands of Mesopotamia; her religions conquer China and Japan and spread westward as far as Palestine and Alexandria, and the figures of the Upanishads and the sayings of the Buddhists are re-echoed on the lips of Christ. Everywhere as on her soil, so in her works there is the teeming of a superabundant energy of life.’ (Renaissance of Indian culture in CWSA Vol 20 – page 8)

We often become pessimistic and think that India is losing her spiritual strength and forgetting her cultural heritage and social values when we see it today concentrating only on materialistic growth and economic prosperity. We may refer to his early writings wherein he gave due importance to industrialization and commerce for gaining material prosperity for India before it revives its finer aspects of aesthetics, socio-cultural progress and ultimately play its part in the evolution of mankind towards higher consciousness.

In the latter years (1930s and 1940s) Sri Aurobindo answering the questions of sadhaks writes; ‘I may say, however, that I do not regard business as something evil or tainted, any more than it is so regarded in ancient spiritual India. Even if I myself had had the command to do business as I had the command to do politics I would have done it without the least spiritual or moral compunction. All depends on the spirit in which a thing is done, the principles on which it is built and the use to which it is turned’ (Letters on Yoga-Pages 675,676). He clarifies the role of money to a sadhak saying ‘As regards money, that too is a need for life and work.... Money represents a great power of life which must be conquered for divine uses. Therefore you must have no attachment to it but also no disgust or horror of it.’(Letters on Yoga-page 1069).

Nature is forcing human unity directly or indirectly by rendering nations mutually dependent for global trade and commerce. In the 21st century no nation can survive all alone without interacting with other nations and this is resulting in an exchange of cultures, ideas and values bringing in a psychological mental bonding. ‘No nation can any longer isolate itself at will and live a separate existence. Science, commerce and rapid communications have produced a state of things in which the disparate masses of humanity, once living to themselves, have been drawn together by a process of subtle unification into a single mass which has already a common vital and is rapidly forming a common mental existence.’(Human Cycle, CWSA vol 25 - page 463)

Those engaged professionally in industries and commerce need not think that their work cannot become a means of Yoga as long it is done with sincerity and surrender to the Divine bearing in mind that we are fulfilling our Swadharma.

‘Krishna goes further and declares that a man by doing in the right way and in the right spirit the work dictated to him by his fundamental nature, temperament and capacity and according to his and its dharma can move towards the Divine. He validates the function and dharma of the Vaishya as well as of the Brahmin and Kshatriya. It is in his view quite possible for a man to do business and make money and earn profits and yet be a spiritual man, practise yoga, have an inner life. The Gita is constantly justifying works as a means of spiritual salvation and enjoining a Yoga of Works as well as of Bhakti and Knowledge. Krishna, however, superimposes a higher law also, that work must be done without desire, without attachment to any fruit or reward, without any egoistic attitude or motive, as an offering or sacrifice to the Divine. This is the traditional Indian attitude towards these things, that all work can be done if it is done according to the dharma and, if it is rightly done, it does not prevent the approach to the Divine or the access to spiritual knowledge and the spiritual life.’ (Letters on Yoga- page 675).

(An art worker at Auroville.)

The Mother envisioned industry and commerce to be an integral part of life in Auroville and a means of financially sustaining the economy of the Auroville community. She designated one of Auroville's four zones as the 'Industrial Zone', and gave it the name 'Auroshilpam'. As this Sanskrit name connotes, industries in Auroville are mainly small-scale and pollution-free. Many of them deal with handicrafts. These 'business units', as they are called, either provide the basic material necessities for the residents of the community or generate income for the general maintenance of the township, while also sponsoring other projects for the community and in the neighbouring villages.

"Money is not meant to make money. Money is meant to prepare earth to manifest the new creation."
– The Mother


References: Centenary volumes 1, 20, 25; Letters on Yoga; Familiar quotes from Sri Aurobindo
- Sundari KBT(

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