Thursday, September 6, 2007

Only a handful of India's leading citizens, at home or abroad, appears to have taken his words seriously

India's Resurgence and the Legacy of Sri Aurobindo
On August 15th India celebrates sixty years of independence from British rule. The 135th birthday of Sri Aurobindo, who was one of the chief architects of that independence, is also celebrated on India's National Day by thousands of people around the world. Today India, with a booming economy and on the verge of becoming a 'super power' is a very different place from the India of 1947, when at the stroke of midnight, Independence was declared. Yet, what has come to be known as the 'resurgence' of India, was foreseen long before by Sri Aurobindo, even as far back as the first decades of the twentieth century. He spoke not only of a free and prosperous India, he spoke of a nation with a mission to lead humanity into a new age, even into a new stage of human evolutionary development.
Up to the present time, only a handful of India's leading citizens, at home or abroad, appears to have taken his words seriously for what they really were - a mission statement and a blueprint for future action, containing not only the outline of measures to be taken, but also a risk assessment of problems that would arise along the way. Honoured by political leaders for his contribution to the struggle for India's freedom, and by the spiritually minded as a great soul and master of yoga, Sri Aurobindo may one day convince India that her true destiny is to inaugurate a spiritual rebirth for the whole of mankind. This part of his message should not be set aside as merely the visionary dream of a poet.
In some traditions the sixtieth year of a cycle is held to be significant, heralding change and new beginnings. Whether or not this belief is justified, a sixtieth anniversary is a good time to pause and reflect upon what Sri Aurobindo said about India's destiny, and its implication for the world. His broadcast message of August 1947 is a good place to start.
'August 15th 1947 is the birthday of free India. It marks for her the end of an old era, the beginning of a new age. But we can also make it by our life and acts as a free nation an important date in a new age opening for the whole world, for the political, social, cultural and spiritual future of humanity. August 15th is my own birthday and it is naturally gratifying to me that it should have assumed this vast significance. I take this coincidence, not as a fortuitous accident, but as the sanction and seal of the Divine Force that guides my steps on the work with which I began life, the beginning of it's full fruition. Indeed On this day I can watch almost all the world movements which I hoped to see fulfilled in my lifetime, although then they looked like impracticable dreams, arriving at fruition or on their way to achievement. In all these movements free India may well play a large part and take a leading position….'
The message continues with an outline of the five goals to which he had directed a lifetime of effort: first of all a free and united India; then the resurgence and regeneration of the peoples of Asia; thirdly, a world-union 'forming the outer basis of a fairer, brighter and nobler life for all mankind'; after that the spiritual gift of India to the world; and finally 'a step in evolution which would raise man to a higher and larger consciousness'. This final goal, Sri Aurobindo predicted, would have formidable difficulties to overcome, but the initiative, and even the central movement, could come from India.
More clearly than anyone, the Mother had understood the importance of Sri Aurobindo's message. In reply to a question, she had answered: 'His Independence Day Message issued on August 15th, 1947 needs to be read and re-read and its significance explained to millions of his compatriots. India needs the conviction and faith of Sri Aurobindo.'
Sixty years later we look back and can see why Sri Aurobindo had laid so much emphasis on the problem of human unity. He regarded the partition of India, with its consequence of communal strife, as a disaster to be remedied as soon as possible. 'India is free,' he said 'but she has not achieved unity.' India's destined role, to lead the world first towards greater unity and then in its evolution towards a higher consciousness, would be seriously hampered and delayed if the first step - internal unity - could not be achieved.
Human unity then is fundamental, and needs to be recognised as such. The obstacles are indeed formidable. The great mantra of the French revolution - Liberty, Equality, Fraternity - has never yet been realised in any society, because Fraternity (which is nothing other than human unity in practice) has always been sacrificed on the twin altars of individual liberty and forcibly imposed equality. This is the tragic drama that continues to be played out on the world stage. It will come to an end only when the consciousness of the human race can widen itself sufficiently to embrace the true Liberty and the true Equality as they are in themselves - 'eternal aspects of the Spirit'. Returning to this question in The Human Cycle Sri Aurobindo wrote:
'Yet is brotherhood the real key to the triple gospel of the idea of humanity. The union of liberty and equality can only be achieved by the power of human brotherhood and it cannot be founded on anything else. But brotherhood exists only in the soul and by the soul: it can exist by nothing else. For this brotherhood is not a matter either of physical kinship or of vital association or of intellectual agreement. When the soul claims freedom, it is the freedom of its self-development, the self-development of the Divine in man and in all his being. When it claims equality, what it is claiming is that freedom equally for all and the recognition of the same soul, the same godhead, in all human beings. When it strives for brotherhood, it is founding that equal freedom of self -development on a common aim, a common life, a unity of mind and feeling founded upon the recognition of this inner spiritual unity. These three things are in fact the nature of the soul; for Freedom, Equality, Unity are the eternal aspects of the Spirit. It is the practical recognition of this truth, it is the awakening of the soul in man and the attempt to get him to live from his soul, and not from his ego, which is the inner meaning of religion, and it is that to which the religion of humanity must also arrive before it can fulfil itself in the life of the race. ' (Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle, Chap 34 )
As long as we live and act from the level of the rational mind, we live and act from the individual ego or the collective ego. This is not enough, however enlightened and well-intentioned we may feel ourselves to be, to bring about the radical change envisioned by Sri Aurobindo:
'A spiritualised society would live like its spiritual individuals, not in the ego, but in the spirit, not as the collective ego, but as the collective soul. This freedom from the egoistic standpoint would be its first and most prominent characteristic. But the elimination of the ego would not be brought about, as it is now proposed to bring it about, by persuading or forcing the individual to immolate his personal will and aspirations and his precious and hard won individuality to the collective will, aims and egoism of the society, driving him like a victim of ancient sacrifice to slay his soul on the altar of that huge and shapeless idol. For that would mean the sacrifice of the smaller to the larger egoism, larger only in bulk, not necessarily greater in quality nor wider or nobler, since a collective egoism, result of the united egoisms of all, is as little a god to be worshipped, as flawed and often an uglier and more barbarous fetish than the egoism of the individual.'
The challenge to India was to become precisely such a 'spiritualised society', to fulfil her destiny to lead the world. India alone could do this, for she had preserved for long ages the Truth of existence that has been called sanatana dharma, deeply embedded in the national soul. The spiritualized society envisioned by Sri Aurobindo does not exist at present anywhere in the world, not even in Auroville - the one place, founded by the Mother for the material realisation of Sri Aurobindo's vision, that is at least conscious of the goal of an actual human unity and consciously strives to achieve it. Auroville is a precious seed of the future planted on Indian soil and if it is to grow and flourish there, a symbiotic relationship with the nation as a whole is crucial. Auroville looks to India to nurture and protect this seed that is the most concrete expression of Sri Aurobindo's legacy. In turn the Aurovilian population, representative of the nations of the world, must absorb into itself the very qualities that distinguish the Indian national soul: the sense of an all-pervading Infinite; the synthetic tendency to embrace and harmonise opposing forces; the openness to exploration and experiment in every field of human endeavour.
'A spiritual religion is the only hope of the future. By this is not meant what is ordinarily called a universal religion, a system, a thing of creed and intellectual belief and dogma and outward rite. Mankind has tried unity by that means; it has failed and deserved to fail, because there can be no universal religious system, one in mental creed and vital form. The inner spirit is indeed one, but more than any other the spiritual life insists on freedom and variation in its self-expression and means of development. A religion of humanity means the growing realisation that there is a secret Spirit, a divine Reality, in which we are all one, that humanity is its highest present vehicle on earth, that the human race and the human being are the means by which it will progressively reveal itself here. It implies a growing attempt to live out this knowledge….' (Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity)
Will India make the attempt? Or will she, heedless of Sri Aurobindo's word of warning, walk in the footsteps of the capitalist economies of the West and fall into a trap - 'an inhuman social inequality and economic exploitation, an incessant class war and a monstrous and opulently sordid reign of wealth and productive machinery'? (Sri Aurobindo, War and Self Determination)

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