The theme for the August edition of the Newsletter, as for the July edition, is Sri Aurobindo and his vision for humanity. This theme marks Sri Aurobindo’s 142nd birth anniversary on the 15th of August 2014. The July edition explored Sri Aurobindo’s idea primarily of the significance of Indian leadership, especially in the realm of spirituality, through true unity and harmony and not through aggressive strife.
We continue in this issue with our feature article, “War and Peace” by K.R. Srinivasa Iyengar and include another article of significance on the Indian freedom movement by Sri Aurobindo on the renowned personality, Bankim Chandra, an Indian patriot of Bengali origin, to say the least. The former article takes up, in this part, Sri Aurobindo’s five ideals –“…a revolution which would bring about India's freedom and unity; the resurgence and liberation of Asia; the emergence of 'one world' in place of the many warring nationalisms; the assumption by India of the spiritual leadership of the human race; and, “finally, a new step in the evolution which, by uplifting the consciousness to a higher level, would begin the solution of the many problems of existence which have perplexed and vexed humanity, since men began to think and to dream of individual perfection and a perfect society.”
Sri Aurobindo’s birth was a significant one in world history and his vision and mission, catholic, universal. The depth and vastness of Sri Aurobindo’s integral philosophy has something in it that appeals to each individual who turns to it and the more one’s consciousness widens, deepens and heightens, the more of the integrality of the philosophy one is able to at least appreciate, and progressively, live.
For those of us turned towards Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, the significance of this month fills one deeply with a sense of anticipation, perhaps of self-renewal. For some of us, an intellectual understanding of Sri Aurobindo does good and for some, a deep sense of His compassion, personal or impersonal, but so deeply penetrating, rejuvenates the entire being. For some of us, a physical nearness to Him through the Samadhi, the shrine or something material left behind by Him evokes a sense of well-being. All of these serve to elevate one in one’s consciousness. However, it appears that a follower of the integral yoga is not spared of all dimensions of experiences in order to realize existence in its truth and totality.
How would one receive and live this day? One wonders if at all one needs any preparedness to observe this glorious day of the 15th of August, so pervasive the consciousness that emanates through everything – the idea, the thought, the feeling and senses – that one is carried in the consciousness unawares. There is, perhaps, a conscious way of participating in the day that marks the occasion of Sri Aurobindo’s birth. Perhaps it lies in an opening from within to first offer all that constitutes the small being, not yet deep, not yet vast, not yet wide and high. Then could be a movement of opening to receive what the highest has to offer. For both these, an unshakeable aspiration and sincerity seem to be the only way and of course, Divine Grace.
He was a vast that soon became a Sun.
A great luminous silence whispered to his heart;
His knowledge an inview caught unfathomable,
An outview by no brief horizons cut:
He thought and felt in all, his gaze had power.
He communed with the Incommunicable;
Beings of a wider consciousness were his friends,
Forms of a larger subtler make drew near;
The Gods conversed with him behind Life’s veil.
Neighbour his being grew to Nature’s crests.
The primal Energy took him in its arms;
His brain was wrapped in overwhelming Light,
An all-embracing knowledge seized his heart:
Thoughts rose in him no earthly mind can hold,
Mights played that never coursed through mortal nerves:
He scanned the secrets of the Overmind,
He bore the rapture of the Oversoul.
A borderer of the empire of the Sun,
Attuned to the supernal harmonies,
He linked creation to the Eternal’s sphere,
His finite parts approached their absolutes,
His actions framed the movements of the Gods,
His will took up the reins of cosmic Force.
(Savitri, Book 2 Canto 15)
“When I was asleep in the Ignorance, I came to a place of meditation full of holy men and I found their company wearisome and the place a prison; when I awoke, God took me to a prison and turned it into a place of meditation and His trysting-ground.”
Q: Is Sri Aurobindo speaking here of his own experience in prison during his political life?
A: The Mother: Yes, Sri Aurobindo is referring here to his experience in Alipore jail.
But what is interesting in this aphorism is the contrast he points out between the material prison where only his body was confined, while his spirit, unfettered by social conventions and prejudice, free from all preconceived ideas and all doctrinaire limitations, had a direct and conscious contact with the Divine and a first revelation of the integral Yoga; and on the other hand, the mental prison of narrow rules which excludes life and within which people often confine when they renounce ordinary existence in order to devote themselves to a spiritual life based on traditional dogmatic ideas.
So Sri Aurobindo is here, as always, the champion of the real freedom beyond all rules and limitations, the total freedom of perfect union with the supreme and eternal Truth.
“Thus said Ramakrishna and thus said Vivekananda . Yes, but let me know also the truths which the Avatar cast not forth into speech and the prophet has omitted from his teachings. There will always be more in God than the thought of man has ever conceived or the tongue of man has ever uttered.”
Q: Will the Avatars still need to take birth on earth once the supramental consciousness is firmly established?
A: The Mother: This question will be easier to answer when the supermind is manifested in living beings on earth.
I had always heard that Sri Aurobindo was “the last Avatar”; but his was probably the last Avatar in a human body- afterwards, we do not know.
(CWM Vol. 10, ‘On Thoughts and Aphorisms’, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust 1978, Published by Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Puducherry)
Q: What is the part of the Samadhi of Sri Aurobindo here?
A: M.P. Pandit: The Samadhi is the physical concentration of the consciousness of Sri Aurobindo embodied in his material body. Those who have faith can draw as much spiritual sustenance from the Samadhi as they did when he was physically present.
The Samadhi is not a tomb where the physical remains of the Master are preserved. It is a living reservoir of spiritual consciousness and force, emanating its vibrations incessantly. I hope I am not revealing any great secrets in recording here that there is in these vibrations a powerful sanction to every deep prayer that is offered at the Samadhi. I have known of countless instances where confirmed sceptics have returned men of faith after a visit to the Samadhi. Not all the prayers that are daily offered are of the spiritual kind. They are of all types, worldly , material, idealistic etc. Whatever the seeking the sanction goes forth.
(‘All Life is Yoga’, M.P.Pandit, Dipti Publications, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Puducherry)
Sri Aurobindo Says:
"A nation is not made by a common blood, a common tongue or a common religion; these are only important helps and powerful conveniences. But whatever communities of men not bound by family ties are united in one sentiment and aspiration to defend a common inheritance from their ancestors or assure a common feature for their posterity, there a nation is already in existence.
Nationality is a stride of the progressive God passing beyond the stage of the family; therefore the attachment to clan and tribe must weaken or perish before a nation can be born."
(The Mother, with the first Prime Minister of Independent India, Jawaharlal Nehru, Kamaraj Nadar, Indira Gandhi, and Lal Bahadur Shastri, 1955.)
The Mother Says:
"One day - every day I used to meditate with Sri Aurobindo: he used to sit on one side of a table and I on the other, on the veranda - and one day in this way, in meditation, I entered (how to put it?...), I went up very high, entered very deep or came out of myself (well, whatever one may say does not express what happened, these are merely ways of speaking), I reached a place or a state of consciousness from which I told Sri Aurobindo just casually and quite simply: “India is free.” It was in 1920. Then he put to me a question: “How?” And I answered him: “Without any fight, without a battle, without a revolution. The English themselves will leave, for the condition of the world will be such that they won’t be able to do anything else except go away."
(‘Questions and Answers, 1953’, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust 1978, Published by Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Puducherry)
And so, Sri Aurobindo's 75th birthday - Friday 15 August 1947 - became the day of India's independence. In his message for the day, intended for broadcast from the Tiruchirapalli station of the All India Radio, Sri Aurobindo dwelt in some detail on the significance of the double event and the possibilities of the future. First about his birthday coinciding with the day of Independence:
“As a mystic, I take this identification, not as a coincidence or fortuitous accident, but as a sanction and seal of the Divine Power which guides my steps on the work with which I began my life. Indeed almost all the world movements which I hoped to see fulfilled in my lifetime, though at that time they looked like impossible dreams, I can observe on this day either approaching fruition or initiated and on the way to their achievement.”
Then he spoke of the five ideals or movements: a revolution which would bring about India's freedom and unity; the resurgence and liberation of Asia; the emergence of 'one world' in place of the many warring nationalisms; the assumption by India of the spiritual leadership of the human race; and, “finally, a new step in the evolution which, by uplifting the consciousness to a higher level, would begin the solution of the many problems of existence which have perplexed and vexed humanity, since men began to think and to dream of individual perfection and a perfect society.”. India had become free, but because of the Partition, it was only a “fissured and broken freedom”. It was sad that the old communal division into Hindu and Muslim should have at last “hardened into the figure of a permanent political division of the country”. But he added also this word of caution doubled with a word of prophecy:
“It is to be hoped that the Congress and the nation will not accept the settled fact as for ever settled or as anything more than a temporary expedient. For if it lasts, India may be seriously weakened, even crippled: civil strife may remain always possible, possible even a new invasion and foreign conquest. The partition of the country must go, it is to be hoped by a slackening of tension, by a progressive understanding of the need of peace and concord, by the constant necessity of common and concerted action, even of an instrument of union for that purpose. In this way unity may come about under whatever form - the exact form may have a pragmatic but not a fundamental importance. But by whatever means, the division must and will go. For without it the destiny of India might be seriously impaired and even frustrated. But that must not be.”
During the long years since this prophetic declaration was made, we have been witnessing the fulfilment almost to the letter of the many fears and hopes then expressed: the constant tension between India and Pakistan, the endemic prevalence of civil strife, the Chinese invasion of 1962, the Indo-Pakistan war of 1965, the terrific strain on India's economy, the reign of genocide in East Pakistan in 1971, the coming of 10 million refugees to India, the emergence of free Bangladesh followed by the Simla Agreement between India and Pakistan, and the hint of a possible betterment of relations between the nations that now constitute the Indian subcontinent. But whether - or when, and in what manner - Sri Aurobindo's positive forecast that the Partition “must and will go” would be accomplished is still for the future to unfold. As regards Sri Aurobindo's other seemingly impossible dreams, in August 1947 they did seem in greater or lesser measure to be in a process of fulfilment:
“Asia has arisen and large parts of it have been liberated or are at this moment being liberated.... There India has her part to play and has begun to play it....The unification of mankind is under way, though only in an imperfect initiative, organised but struggling against tremendous difficulties. But the momentum is there....The spiritual gift of India to the world has already begun. India's spirituality is entering Europe and America in an ever increasing measure...The rest ["a new step in evolution..."] is still a personal hope and an idea and ideal which has begun to take hold both in India and in the West on forward-looking minds.... Here too... the initiative can come from India....Such is the content which I put into this date of India's liberation; whether or how far or how soon this connection will be fulfilled, depends upon this new and free India.”
It was an extraordinary message, notable alike for its vast comprehension and its insights into the near and far future. It was a message for the statesmen and the philosophers, for bridge-builders and man-makers, and for the forward-looking men and women of all countries. On the other hand, for the millions and millions of Mother India's children now suddenly sundered by the mechanics of the Partition, for the numberless Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains, Buddhists who still felt that they lived only as the cells and arteries and tissues and blood-corpuscles of India the one beloved Mother of one and all, for these anguished children the right prayer for the occasion that evoked joy and sorrow at once, was given by the Mother out of her vast compassionate understanding and love:
“O our Mother, O Soul of India, Mother who hast never forsaken thy children even in the days of darkest depression, even when they turned away from thy voice, served other masters and denied thee, now when they have arisen and the light is on thy face in this dawn of thy liberation, in this great hour we salute thee. Guide us so that the horizon of freedom opening before us may be also a horizon of true greatness and of thy true life in the community of the nations. Guide us so that we may be always on the side of great ideals and show to men thy true visage, as a leader in the ways of the spirit and a friend and helper of all the peoples.”
Also, in the morning the Mother hoisted her flag which was to be called “the Spiritual Flag of India” - blazoning forth India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Burma and Ceylon all together, with her own symbol at the centre, over the main Ashram building. There was a record number of visitors to the Ashram, and over two thousand had Darshan in the afternoon. Presently the Mother appeared on the low terrace over Dyuman's room; the courtyard was packed to capacity. The Bande Mataram was sung as it had never been sung before, for now it was the moment of fulfilment, and the Mother responded with 'Jai Hind!' and the congregation was to cherish the memory of her marvellous gesture for long afterwards.
The Mother's - flag the Spiritual Flag of India - which since 15 August 1947 has been for us a flaming minister, a symbol of hope and a declaration of faith, has been flying high and serene in the minds and sensibilities of countless numbers of Indians. The blue flag figuring the great Indian subcontinent stretching from Kashmir to Sri Lanka, from Sind to Burma, environed by the Himalaya in the North, the Indian ocean in the South, the Arabian sea on the West and the Bay of Bengal in the East, and with the Mother's symbol of her Shakti, her four powers and her twelve emanations concentrically arranged as the heart of the living Mother of a seething mass of humanity numbering almost a billion, - what is this Spiritual Flag of India but a revelation, an epiphanic projection, a visual recordation of the deeper reality, the inspiring Truth, of this primordial Asiatic region, the matrix of the stupendous human adventure on the earth, and the destined scene of the next leap forward to the horizons of supermanhood? This flag symbolising the spiritual reality and unity of Greater India - the true India - was verily the Mother's answer to the brutal partition of India decreed by the erstwhile British rulers and accepted by the short-sighted and faint-hearted Indian leaders of 1947, for the Spiritual Flag of India with the Mother's symbol as the central design and highlighted by the blue background was the Ashram's flag as well. Explaining its significance, Sri Aurobindo said in 1949:
“The blue of the flag is meant to be the colour of Krishna and so represents the spiritual or divine consciousness which it is her work to establish so that it may reign upon earth.”
It is used as the Ashram flag because “our work is to bring down this consciousness and make it the leader of the world's life”. It was by no means irrelevant to talk of the Spiritual Flag of India, for the Spirit is elemental Affirmation, the Everlasting Yea; the Spirit is the great harmoniser; the Spirit is the great unifier. What the politicians, the communalists, the calculators, the soulless power-mongers, the pinchbeck lords of the sub-nations had fissured and fractured and sundered, the Mother still viewed as an integral whole, breathed life into it, and lighted up the divine Agni within. The physical body is a prisoner of its own limitations, the vital is often caught at cross-purposes, even the mind is usually content to be a slave of the vital's irrational pulls and drives: these are but dungeons walled within the walls of the human personality. Only the soul can leap over all frontiers; only the river of the human soul can flow seraphically free from all obstruction and join the ocean of the spirit; only the soul can affirm:
The world's deep contrasts are but figures spun
Draping the unanimity of the One.
My soul unhorizoned widens to measureless sight,
My body is God's happy living tool,
My spirit a vast sun of deathless light.
Like the human soul, the nation's soul too defies all man-made boundaries - physical, legal, constitutional - and embraces the infinities. Even so, by charging the new Map of India with a spiritual glow and infinitude of connotation, the Mother tried to undo in some measure the mischief of the Partition mentality of self-fragmentation, the surge of mutual suspicion and hatred, and the enthronement of communal and sub-national egoisms that were alien to the spiritual ideal of oneness, wholeness and integrality, India was the Mother - India was Bharati, Bhavani Bharati - and the Mother was not limited to the head alone, the feet alone, the hands alone, or even the visible body alone. The Mother's ambience of protective love and sovereign Grace overflowed the visible boundaries. Salute to the Mother! Vande Mataram! Jai Hind!
(‘On The Mother’, Chapter 32 – “War and Peace”, K.R. Srinivasa Iyengar, Sri Aurobindo Society, Pondicherry)
Sri Aurobindo Says:
"For I have always held and said that India was arising, not to serve her own material interests only, to achieve expansion, greatness, power and prosperity, though these too she must not neglect, and certainly not like others to acquire domination of other peoples, but to live also for God and the world as a helper and leader of the whole human race. Those aims and ideals were in their natural order these: a revolution which would achieve India's freedom and her unity; the resurgence and liberation of Asia and her return to the great role which she had played in the progress of human civilisation; the rise of a new, a greater, brighter and nobler life for mankind which for its entire realisation would rest outwardly on an international unification of the separate existence of the peoples, preserving and securing their national life but drawing them together into an overriding and consummating oneness; the gift by India of her spiritual knowledge and her means for the spiritualisation of life to the whole race; finally, a new step in the evolution which, by uplifting the consciousness to a higher level, would begin the solution of the many problems of existence which have perplexed and vexed humanity, since men began to think and to dream of individual perfection and a perfect society."
– 15thAugust, 1947.
(Bankim Chandra Chattopadyay, 1838-1894)
There are many who, lamenting the by-gone glories of this great and ancient nation, speak as if the Rishis of old, the inspired creators of thought and civilisation, were a miracle of our heroic age, not to be repeated among degenerate men and in our distressful present. This is an error and thrice an error. Ours is the eternal land, the eternal people, the eternal religion, whose strength, greatness, holiness may be over-clouded but never, even for a moment, utterly cease. The hero, the Rishi, the saint, are the natural fruits of our Indian soil; and there has been no age in which they have not been born. Among the Rishis of the later age we have at last realised that we must include the name of the man who gave us the reviving mantra which is creating a new India, the mantra Bande Mataram.
The Rishi is different from the saint. His life may not have been distinguished by superior holiness nor his character by an ideal beauty. He is not great by what he was himself but by what he has expressed. A great and vivifying message had to be given to a nation or to humanity; and God has chosen this mouth on which to shape the words of the message. A momentous vision has to be revealed; and it is his eyes which the Almighty first unseals. The earlier Bankim was only a poet and stylist the later Bankim was a seer and nation-builder. The message which he has received, the vision which has been vouchsafed to him, he declares to the world with all the strength that is in him, and in one supreme moment of inspiration expresses it in words which have merely to be uttered to stir men’s inmost natures, clarify their minds, seize their hearts and impel them to things which would have been impossible to them in their ordinary moments. Those words are the mantra which he was born to reveal and of that mantra he is the seer.
Bankim's linguistic genius and gift to India
What is it for which we worship the name of Bankim today? What was his message to us or what the vision which he saw and has helped us to see? He was a great poet, a master of beautiful language and a creator of fair and gracious dream-figures in the world of imagination; but it is not as a poet, stylist or novelist that Bengal does honour to him today. It is probable that the literary critic of the future will reckon ‘Kapalkundala’, ‘Bishabriksha’ and ‘Krishnakanter Will’ as his artistic masterpieces, and speak with qualified praise of Devi Chaudhurani, Ananda Math, ‘Krishnacharit’ or ‘Dharmatattwa’. Yet it is the Bankim of these latter works and not the Bankim of the great creative masterpieces who will rank among the Makers of Modern India.
But even as a poet and stylist Bankim did a work of supreme national importance, not for the whole of India, or only indirectly for the whole of India, but for Bengal which was destined to lead India and be in the vanguard of national development. No nation can grow without finding a fit and satisfying medium of expression for the new self into which it is developing without a language which shall give permanent shape to its thoughts and feelings and carry every new impulse swiftly and triumphantly into the consciousness of all. It was Bankim’s first great service to India that he gave the race which stood in its vanguard such a perfect and satisfying medium. He was blamed for corrupting the purity of the Bengali tongue; but the pure Bengali of the old poets could have expressed nothing but a conservative and unprogressing Bengal. The race was expanding and changing, and it needed a means of expression capable of change and expansion. He was blamed also for replacing the high literary Bengali of the Pundits by a mixed popular tongue which was neither the learned language nor good vernacular. But the Bengali of the Pundits would have crushed the growing richness, variety and versatility of the Bengali genius under its stiff inflexible ponderousness. We needed a tongue for other purposes than dignified treatises and erudite lucubrations. We needed a language which should combine the strength, dignity or soft beauty of Sanskrit with the verve and vigour of the vernacular, capable at one end of the utmost vernacular raciness and at the other of the most sonorous gravity. Bankim divined our need and was inspired to meet it, he gave us a means by which the soul of Bengal could express itself to itself.
How a novel prepared the masses for the 'religion of patriotism'
As he had divined the linguistic need of his country’s future, so he divined also its political need. He, first of our great publicists, understood the hollowness and inutility of the method of political agitation which prevailed in his time and exposed it with merciless satire in his ‘Lokarahasya’ and ‘Kamalakanter Daptar’. But he was not satisfied merely with destructive criticism, he had a positive vision of what was needed for the salvation of the country. He saw that the force from above must be met by a mightier reacting force from below, the strength of repression by an insurgent national strength. He bade us leave the canine method of agitation for the leonine. The Mother of his vision held trenchant steel in her twice seventy million hands and not the bowl of the mendicant.
It was the gospel of fearless strength and force which he preached under a veil and in images in Ananda Math and Devi Chaudhurani. And he had an inspired unerring vision of the moral strength which must be at the back of the outer force. He perceived that the first element of the moral strength must be tyaga, complete self-sacrifice for the country and complete self-devotion to the work of liberation. His workers and fighters for the motherland are political byragees who have no other thought than their duty to her and have put all else behind them as less dear and less precious and only to be resumed when their work for her is done. Whoever loves self or wife or child or goods more than his country is a poor and imperfect patriot; not by him shall the great work be accomplished. Again, he perceived that the second element of the moral strength needed must be self-discipline and organisation. This truth he expressed in the elaborate training of Devi Chaudhurani for her work, in the strict rules of the Association of the “Ananda Math” and in the pictures of perfect organisation which those books contain. Lastly, he perceived that the third element of moral strength must be the infusion of religious feeling into patriotic work. The religion of patriotism, this is the master idea of Bankim’s writings. It is already foreshadowed in Devi Chaudhurani. In ‘Dharmatattwa’ the idea and in ‘Krishnachant’ the picture of a perfect and many-sided Karma Yoga is sketched, the crown of which shall be work for one’s country and one’s kind. In ‘Ananda Math’ this idea is the key-note of the whole book and receives its perfect lyrical expression in the great song which has become the national anthem of United India. This is the second great service of Bankim to his country that he pointed out to it the way of salvation and gave it the religion of patriotism. Of the new spirit which is leading the nation to resurgence and independence, he is the inspirer and political guru.
The third and supreme service of Bankim to his nation was that he gave us the vision of our Mother. The bare intellectual idea of the motherland is not in itself a great driving force; the mere recognition of the desirability of freedom is not an inspiring motive. There are few Indians at present, whether loyalist, moderate or nationalist in their political views, who do not recognise that the country has claims on them or that freedom in the abstract is a desirable thing. But most of us, when it is a question between the claims of the country and other claims, do not in practice prefer the service of the country; and while many may have the wish to see freedom accomplished, few have the will to accomplish it. There are other things which we hold dearer and which we fear to see imperilled either in the struggle for freedom or by its accomplishment. It is not till the Motherland reveals herself to the eye of the mind as something more than a stretch of earth or a mass of individuals, it is not till she takes shape as a great Divine and Maternal Power in a form of beauty that can dominate the mind and seize the heart that these petty fears and hopes vanish in the all-absorbing passion for the Mother and her service, and the patriotism that works miracles and saves doomed nations is born. The mantra had been given and in a single day a whole people had been converted to the religion of patriotism. The Mother had revealed herself. To some men it is given to have that vision and reveal it to others. It was thirty-two years ago that Bankim wrote his great song and few listened; but in a sudden moment of awakening from long delusions the people of Bengal looked round for the truth and in a fated moment somebody sang Bande Mataram. The mantra had been given and in a single day a whole people had been converted to the religion of patriotism. The Mother had revealed herself. Once that vision has come to a people, there can be no rest, no peace, no farther slumber till the temple has been made ready, the image installed and the sacrifice offered. A great nation which has had that vision can never again bend its neck in subjection to the yoke of a conqueror.
- Sri Aurobindo in ‘Bande Mataram’, April 1907.
(The above article was sourced from Uday's blog at http://www.aryaputr.com/2012/08/rishi-bankim-chandra. Uday loves Mother-Sri Aurobindo and is grateful for everything. He currently works in New York, and writes periodically at www.aryaputr.com and www.floatingsuns.com)
He kept the vision of the Vasts behind:
A power was in him from the Unknowable,
An archivist of the symbols of the Beyond,
A treasurer of superhuman dreams,
He bore the stamp of mighty memories
And shed their grandiose ray on human life.
His days were a long growth to the Supreme.
- Sri Aurobindo, in ‘Savitri’
This and the following issues of the newsletter will be dedicated to Sri Aurobindo and his vision for humanity, in order to mark Sri Aurobindo’s 142nd birth anniversary on the 15th of August 2014. The remaining themes on integral education, namely, psychic and spiritual education will be taken up from the September issue. In this issue, Sri Aurobindo’s and the Mother’s vision for India is explored in a small measure.
This re-look at India comes at a crucial period of time when the political scenario undergoes a shift after a decade of rule through a congressional outlook. India appears to be looking upwards towards growth in many areas of life for its masses. At such a crucial point of turnaround for India, it is pertinent to re-visit Sri Aurobindo’s thoughts on India and envision the role of India in the larger scheme of things.
A part of India’s history in the recent past is explored through the writings of K.R. Srinivasa Iyengar, in our feature article, ‘War and Peace’, extracted from ‘On The Mother’, where he narrates the events that led to India’s independence from the time of Lord Mountbatten’s appointment as Governor-General of India to oversee the handover of power to Indians. Of the chaotic times that followed this event of, Sri Aurobindo wrote,
“I know what is preparing behind the darkness and can see and feel the first signs of its coming. Those who seek for the Divine have to stand firm and persist in their seeking; after a time, the darkness will fade and begin to disappear and the Light will come.”
The prospect of a free India was certainly a matter of Divine decree, according to Sri Aurobindo. Not only a free India, but a united India was Sri Aurobindo’s dream. Eventually, it was such an India that would lead the world into a golden era. The partition of India into India and Pakistan is often pondered over, in light of a united India. Sri Aurobindo advocated against the severance of Pakistan from India at that time. This was his response to the partition that took place despite his advice against it,
“… I am getting a birthday present of a free India on August 15, but complicated by its being presented in two packets as two free Indias: this is a generosity I could have done without, one free India would have been enough for me if offered as an unbroken whole.”
Here is a valuable message that The Mother sent to Indira Gandhi. It may well be taken seriously by all leaders. “Let India work for the future and set the example. Thus she will recover her true place in the world. Since long it was the habit to govern through division and opposition. The time has come to govern through union, mutual understanding and collaboration. To choose a collaborator, the value of man is more important than the party to which he belongs. The greatness of a country does not depend on the victory of a party, but on the union of all parties.”
His soul lived as eternity’s delegate,
His mind was like a fire assailing heaven,
His will a hunter in the trails of light.
An ocean impulse lifted every breath;
Each action left the footprints of a God,
Each moment was a beat of puissant wings.
The little plot of our mortality
Touched by this tenant from the heights became
A playground of the living Infinite.
He felt the beating life in other men
Invade him with their happiness and their grief;
Their love, their anger, their unspoken hopes
Entered in currents or in pouring waves
Into the immobile ocean of his calm.
(Savitri, Book 1 Canto 3)
Q: Mother, before 1947 you had said that India was suffering from something like cancer: each limb was trying to grow at the cost of the others. We could not see it at that time. Today all can see the cancer and even leprosy. But for your presence, the whole thing is dark as dark can be. Is a full destruction needed before India fulfills her mission? Will it take a very long time?
A: The Mother: When there is some work to do, the least one speaks of it the better it is.
- 17thMay 1967.
Q: Mother, in 1919 Sri Aurobindo wrote that the chaos and the calamities were perhaps the pangs of the birth of a new creation. How long are these pangs going to continue — in the Ashram, in India and eventually in the world?
A: The Mother: It will continue until the world is ready and willing to receive the new creation; the consciousness of this new creation is already at work upon earth since the beginning of this year.
If, instead of resisting, the people were collaborating, it would go quicker.
But stupidity and ignorance are very obstinate.
Love and blessings. - 29th September 1969.
(‘More Answers from The Mother’, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust 1978, Published by Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Puducherry)
The year 1947 saw Lord Mountbatten as Governor-General of India in Wavell's place. Mountbatten was given a free hand to deal with the developing chaotic situation in the country. He had a mandate too to make firm arrangements for the transfer of power to Indian hands. Mountbatten's arrival, however, was the occasion for fresh communal riots in the Punjab, partly engineered it is said, by a group of British officers stationed there. The dance of destruction and the Rake's progress of cynicism went hand in hand, and faith seemed to knuckle under. Writing on 9 April 1947, Sri Aurobindo referred to this cynicism, this “refusal to believe in anything at all, a decrease of honesty, an immense corruption, a preoccupation with food, money, comfort, pleasure, to the exclusion of higher things, and a general expectation of worse and worse things awaiting the world”. The classic ruse of the hostile forces is to sow defeatism where faith and hope had reigned before.
Even so, Sri Aurobindo had no doubt that the Dawn wouldn't be delayed long:
“I know what is preparing behind the darkness and can see and feel the first signs of its coming. Those who seek for the Divine have to stand firm and persist in their seeking; after a time, the darkness will fade and begin to disappear and the Light will come.”
True enough, the 'leaders' of the country, having successfully, if also purblindly, polarised the people into suicidally aggressive attitudes, were now (most of them) only all too eager to leap into the dangled seats of power ignoring the larger interests of the country. They were tired old men, or not so old but very ambitious men, at any rate they were men seized by a sense of fatality; and they had been overtaken by events whose meaning they couldn't understand, and being both short-sighted and faint-hearted they made all kinds of noises and futile gestures. After a series of meetings with this miscellany of leaders, it became clear to Mountbatten that if Britain was to have some chance of safeguarding at least her vast commercial interests in India, she should withdraw soon after partitioning the country and handing over power to the 'two nations'. While things were still hanging in the balance, Sri Aurobindo seems to have made one more attempt through Surendra Mohan Ghose to get the Congress leaders to act on certain lines. But although some of the leaders said, "A very good thing, very good," nothing was really done - or could be done - to implement the suggestions. The leaders wouldn't follow Gandhiji's advice either and reject the Partition proposal outright. Caught in a vicious trap, partly of their own making, they were prisoners of puzzlement, and Mountbatten had his way with Jinnah and the Congress leaders alike.
On 2 June 1947, the day after the announcement regarding the Partition was made, the Mother issued a statement, with the full concurrence of Sri Aurobindo:
“A proposal has been made for the solution of our difficulties in organising Indian independence and it is being accepted with whatever bitterness of regret and searchings of the heart by Indian leaders.”
Why had Partition become necessary? Why indeed? It was because, said the Mother, of the “absurdity of our quarrels”, and only by accepting the Partition could people have a chance of living down that tragic absurdity! At the same time, the Mother added with her uncanny gift of near and far vision:
“Clearly, this is not a solution; it is a test, an ordeal which, if we live it out in all sincerity, will prove to us that it is not by cutting a country into small bits that we shall bring about its unity and its greatness; it is not by opposing interests against each other that we can win for it prosperity; it is not by setting one dogma against another that we can serve the spirit of Truth. In spite of all, India has a single soul and while we have to wait till we can speak of an India one and indivisible, our cry must be:
Let the soul of India live for ever!”
But what is meant by “the soul of India”? Has a nation - a human aggregate inhabiting a seemingly arbitrary geographical area - a soul of its own? As if answering these doubts, Nolini Kanta Gupta explained in an editorial that he wrote in August, based on one of the talks by the Mother:
“A nation is a living personality; it has a soul, even like a human individual. The soul of a nation is also a psychic being, that is to say, a conscious being, a formation out of the Divine Consciousness and in direct contact with it, a power and aspect of Mahashakti. A nation is not merely the sum total of the individuals that compose it, but a collective personality of which the individuals are as it were cells, like the cells of a living and conscious organism.”
The slothful logic of expediency, the infernal arithmetic of selfish 'party' calculations, the fear of the possible immediate danger (the eruption of a civil war) and the ignoring of the bigger danger to the national psyche and the security of the subcontinent, all had conspired to batter down Congress resistance and stampede the leaders into ignominious acquiescence. But at least, the Mother hoped and the Mother prayed, that "the soul of India" wouldn't be rent in two but would still maintain its native splendorous unity. Sri Aurobindo too, although he had perforce to accept the event, was far from satisfied. Someone asked him whether he could not have prevented the monstrous division of the country? What had happened to his Yogic Force - to the supramental action? Writing on 7 July 1947, Sri Aurobindo explained that, after all, he was using, not the infallible supramental, but only the overmental force which in its operation on individuals and human collectivities might meet with sinister resistances resulting in unforeseen distortions. And he added with a touch of wry humour:
“That is why I am getting a birthday present of a free India on August 15, but complicated by its being presented in two packets as two free Indias: this is a generosity I could have done without, one free India would have been enough for me if offered as an unbroken whole.”
(to be continued)
(‘On The Mother’, Chapter 32 – “War and Peace”, K.R. Srinivasa Iyengar, Sri Aurobindo Society, Pondicherry)
The Mother’s message to Indira Gandhi:
"Let India work for the future and set the example . Thus she will recover her true place in the world.Since long it was the habit to govern through division and opposition.The time has come to govern through union, mutual understanding and collaboration.To choose a collaborator, the value of man is more important than the party to which he belongs.The greatness of a country does not depend on the victory of a party, but on the union of all parties.”
Jawaharlal Nehru says in ‘The Discovery of India',
“All of us talk of India and all of us demand many things from India. What do we give her in return? We can take nothing from her beyond what we given her.”
Those were the days when the country was reeling under the yoke of foreign rule. The people of India had to earn the freedom of the country not by demands and petitions and asking but by rising against the mightiest country of the world at that time. In this process the Motherland had to be given hard work, and not only sweat and tears but life and blood itself.
There were plenty of people who gave and gave to the country. They gave their riches, their toil, their families, their energies to the country. And the country sustained them, unasked for.
Freedom came on 15th August 1947.
With it came the upsurge of selfishness, lust for money and power, ambition, self-aggrandisement. With the passing away of the old generation, of those in the old generation who had love of the country and were servitors of the country, a new generation came which does not even acknowledge the ideal of giving to the country. Everyone is interested in himself, in what he can get from the country, and for grabbing from the country no means is regarded as foul.
We are bereft of the idea of service to the country. We do not think and act keeping the country’s good in front of us. We wish to appropriate for ourselves everything that the country can give us, without caring for the fellow countrymen. For the posterity we have no sense of responsibility at all.
While doing so in relation to our country, are we not doing the same wrong as man is doing towards Nature? If we fail to amend ourselves, we will be punished by the laws of Nature.
In truth, our motherland has been giving us more than what she has been getting from us.
(From the Editor’s desk, “Some Socio-Spiritual Perspectives”, ‘Sri Aurobindo’s Action’, Shyam Sunder Jhunjhunwala, Sri Aurobindo Society, Pondicherry)
Sri Aurobindo Says: "India can best develop herself and serve humanity by being herself and following the law of her own nature. This does not mean, as some narrowly and blindly suppose, the rejection of everything new that comes to us in the stream of Time or happens to have been first developed or powerfully expressed by the West. Such an attitude would be intellectually absurd, physically impossible, and above all unspiritual; true spirituality rejects no new light, no added means or materials of our human self-development. It means simply to keep our centre, our essential way of being, our inborn nature and assimilate to it all we receive, and evolve out of it all we do and create."
For the first three sessions of the month, we continued to study Sri Aurobindo's Bases of Yoga, focusing on the chapter 'Desire - Food - Sex'. Last month, we learnt about the origin of desire - how it is a wave and force of Nature thrown upon us and not something we should view as 'our own'. It is by attaining this clarity about the true nature of desire that we can more easily detach ourselves from it. This month, we focused more on how we should detach ourselves from the desire and greed for food. Sri Aurobindo does not advise us to fast for prolonged periods to achieve this. Instead, we should take food in moderation, offer it up to the Divine, see it as a mere physical necessity to maintain the body and gradually lose all desire for it - becoming increasingly calm and detached whether the food we eat is in line with our preferences or not. Next, we also studied Sri Aurobindo's advice to sadhaks about the need for complete mastery and elimination of the sex impulse. This requires a reliance on the Mother's force, coupled with detachment and rejection that must lead eventually to a complete expunging of the sexual desire from mind, vital, body and the wider subconscient. This is usually a long process, although it is necessary for the safe progress of the sadhana and the secure descent of the higher consciousness into one's being.
In the second session, after the study of ‘Bases of Yoga’, we also carried out the OM choir activity. Each member offered their best OM, and soon the room was full of a song chant of truth and love - a sincere symphony aspiring for the music of the higher spheres.
For the final sessions of both May and June, we watched ‘Meditations on Savitri’ on Book VI Canto II: “The Way of Fate and the Problem of Pain” After that, we read the Canto several times before having a discussion. This Canto sings of the sublime and impossible mystery of pain in a world where all is Sat-Chit-Ananda, Being-Consciousness-Bliss. In the session, we heard the chant of Narada, a song of vast rhythmic grandeur full of the magnificent music of Sri Aurobindo. As we contemplate the words through silence and sharing, we seek to grasp a little of the Truth and Power of the Savitri mantra. The Word we heard illuminates the mystery of suffering, inspiring a global and synthetic vision that helps us to see the hidden Bliss in cosmic pain.
It was the 1st of June and the first day of the month happened to fall on a Sunday—and what better way to start the month than with our monthly walk the from Sri Aurobindo Society, Singapore. This time, the venue for the Walk was near the Singapore Stadium, along the river. The weather was a pleasantly strange mix of bright sunshine and a joyful sprinkle of a mild drizzle. The patches of green near the meeting point set against the picturesque backdrop of the river and the vast stadium added to the charm of the venue. We chose one of the green patches for our warm-up exercises, and decided to make use of the scenic backdrop for a couple of group pictures, after which we started the walk.
The walking track at this venue starts near the Costa Rhu Condominium. The other side of the track had the River flowing by peacefully. There were several enthusiastic kayakers at the River who went for their Sunday morning routine. There were a few youngsters who were playing cricket and soccer on the green patches nearby. Soaking in the spirit and enthusiasm from all the people around, we started off briskly on the walking track. The track was lined on either side by a huge variety of flowering plants. There were clusters of bright yellow Allamandas, several varieties of coloured hibiscus flowers dotting the track all along. There were many shrubs with colourful leaves, adding to the colourful nature of the location. The icing on the cake was, of course, the marvellous double Rainbow showing up in the clear blue sky, as a result of the mild drizzle that had occurred earlier in the morning. The double rainbow arched splendidly such that all the majestic buildings in the City area looked like they were all under one Big Crown. The walking track ended at the Marina Barrage. The path leading up to the Barrage had the ocean on one side and the river on the other. The building at the Marina Barrage had 3 levels. We walked up to the third level to catch a glimpse of the view from the top. There were some kite fliers at the top, flying kites of various shapes and sizes. After a brief while on top, we started walking back to the Starting Point. By then the Sun was high up in the sky and the day was getting quite hot and humid. As always, the place had something fresh and new about it, which made us all feel good and rejuvenated.
Once done with the walk, we proceeded to our hosts’ (Anand and Vrunda) place in Tanah Merah. We were warmly welcomed into their beautiful home. Once everyone gathered there settled down, we started off with the Opening Meditation. After reading a few prayers and the names of people who were to celebrate their birthdays/anniversaries in the month of June, we had our delicious authentic Gujarati brunch served lovingly by Popatbhai Uncle and family. Looking forward to the next month’s Walk J
- Preethi Saroja