A Fatherhood More Equal? Daily Letters 4 Apr, 2009 07:02:21PM (IST)
One should however not lose sight of the fact that the similarities between the freedom-movement-era religious nationalism and contemporary Hindu right wing nationalism "are superficial while the points of difference are deep," as Heehs writes in this outstanding biography of Sri Aurobindo."
Aurobindo favored an eclectic, basically Vedantic Hinduism, which he believed to be universal and 'the basis of the future world-religion.' But this 'wider Hinduism' was something that embraced 'Science and faith, Theism, Christianity, Mahomedanism and Buddhism and yet is none of these.' " (p. 99)
"The Hindu nation-builder," Sri Aurobindo wrote "shall not seek to superimpose his own ideals and methods on his Mohamedan brother, nor shall the Mohamedan, the Buddhist, or the Christian, seek to obliterate the essential characteristics of the Hindu culture and Hindu race." (Quoted in Heehs, p. 101)
Sri Aurobindo saw the interaction of Hindu and Muslim culture in India as an opportunity for the development of "a greater spiritual principle and formation which could reconcile the two or a political patriotism surmounting the religious struggle and uniting the two communities." (Quoted in Heehs, p. 118)
Those who believe that Sri Aurobindo turned more exclusively towards Hinduism in the later part of his life, might wish to consider his letter of November 1932 quoted by Heehs's in his study titled Nationalism, Religion, and Beyond (Delhi: Permanent Black, 2005, pp. 354-5):
"It is news to me that I have excluded Mahomedans from the Yoga. I have not done it any more than I have excluded Europeans or Christians. As for giving up one's past, if that means giving up the outer forms of the old religions, it is done as much by the Hindus here [in his Ashram in Pondicherry] as by the Mahomedans.... What is kept of Hinduism is Vedanta and Yoga in which Hinduism is one with Sufism of Islam and with the Christian mystics. But even here it is not Vedanta and Yoga in their traditional limits (their past), but widened and rid of many ideas that are peculiar to the Hindus. If I have used Sanskrit terms and figures, it is because I know them and do not know Persian and Arabic. I have not the slightest objection to anyone here drawing inspiration from Islamic sources if they agree with the Truth as Sufism agrees with it. On the other hand I have not the slightest objection to Hinduism being broken to pieces and disappearing from the face of the earth, if that is Divine Will. I have no attachment to past forms; what is Truth will always remain; the Truth alone matters." ULRICH MOHRHOFF PUDUCHERRY INDIA 12:02 PM