The relevance of Sri Aurobindo’s Philosophy Today
Sri Aurobindo, India’s best known nationalist, freedom fighter, philosopher, yogi, guru and poet, believed that if the country is to survive and...
Sri Aurobindo, India’s best known nationalist, freedom fighter, philosopher, yogi, guru and poet, believed that if the country is to survive and do her appointed work in the world, the first necessity is that the youth of India should learn to think on all subjects, to think independently and fruitfully. The article by late Nani A Palkhivala, who was an eminent jurist, great scholar and a renowned orator is reproduced on the occasion of Sri Aurobindo’s 141st birth anniversary on August 15
“A catastrophe may intervene, and interrupt or destroy what is being done, but even then the final result is sure. For, unification is a necessity of Nature, an inevitable movement. Its necessity for the nations is also clear, for without it the freedom of the small nations may be at any moment in peril and the life even of the large and powerful nations insecure.”
August 15 is the birthday of free India. It is also the birthday of Sri Aurobindo, one of the greatest men that ever lived. He combined an intellect of the highest order with a rarely equalled spiritual force and a vision that transcended the limits of time and space.
He had unshakable faith in the future of this great country. Having predicted the eventual independence of India three decades before the event, he wrote a Declaration on August 15, 1947, which is of momentous significance. After stating that the coincidence between the birthday of free India and his own was not a fortuitous accident, but rep¬resented the sanction and seal of the Divine Force that guided his steps in all his life-work, he dealt with the evolution of mankind and India’s role in the unfolding future. World movements had begun in which free India might well play a large part and take a leading position.
Deploring the fact that the old communal division into Hindus and Muslims seemed to have hardened, he predicted that in the years ahead, India and Pakistan would ultimately come closer together and stand united. In his own words, “Unity may finally come about under whatever form—the exact form may have a pragmatic but not a fundamental importance. But by whatever means, in whatever way, the division must go; unity must and will be achieved, for it is necessary for the greatness of India’s future.”
The ideal of human unity
Sri Aurobindo in the same Declaration on Independence Day gave expression to his vision of the ideal of human unity. “Nature is slow and patient in her methods. She takes up ideas and half carries them out, then drops them by the wayside to resume them in some future era with a better combination. She tempts humanity, her thinking instrument, and tests how far it is ready for the harmony she has imagined; she allows and incites man to attempt and fail, so that he may learn and succeed better another time”.
He foresaw a world union providing a fairer, brighter and nobler life for all mankind. That unification of the human world is under-way; the momentum is there and it must inevitably increase and conquer. “A catastrophe may intervene, and interrupt or destroy what is being done, but even then the final result is sure. For, unification is a necessity of Nature, an inevitable movement. Its necessity for the nations is also clear, for without it the freedom of the small nations may be at any moment in peril and the life even of the large and powerful nations insecure.”
He wanted developments such as dual or multilateral citizenship, interchange or fusion of cultures. Nationalism having fulfilled itself must lose its militancy and should no longer find the international outlook incompatible with self-preservation. The European Common Market today seems to be a partial fulfilment of Sri Aurobindo’s prediction.
Message to students
Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy was expressed in words which are within the comprehension of any thinking man. His message to students was memorable: “There are times in a nation’s history when Providence places before it one work, one aim, to which everything else, however high and noble in itself, has to be sacrificed. Such a time has now arrived for our Motherland when nothing is dearer than her service, when everything else is to be directed to that end. If you will study, study for her sake; train yourselves, body and mind and soul, for her service. You will earn your living that you may live for her sake. You will go abroad to foreign lands that you may bring back knowledge with which you may do service to her. Work that she may prosper. Suffer that she may rejoice. All is contained in that one single advice.”
He wanted India to benefit from the developments in the West. “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.”
The role of the State
The core of Sri Aurobindo’s political philosophy is that the State exists for the individual and not the individual for the State.
Sri Aurobindo expressed his views about the ideal form of government in the following words: “The Government is for the people. It must provide for stability as well as progress. Stability may be achieved by unity and co-operative action, and progress by free individual growth. The Government should be run by people who are selfless, unegoistic, scrupulously honest and capable. Their allegiance should be to the whole country; they should serve the interests of the whole country and not of any party. If the present Constitution does not permit such men, irrespective of parties, to be in the Government, then the Constitution should be changed.” He further observed that it is the energy of the individual which is the really effective agent of collective progress.
The falsehood of modern political life
Sri Aurobindo believed that the State failed in its duties because the ruling class did not represent “the best minds of the nation or its noblest aims or its highest instincts”. His portrait of the average politician is incisive and devastating:
“The modern politician in any part of the world does not represent the soul of a people or its aspirations. What he does usually represent is all the average pettiness, selfishness, egoism, self-deception that is about him and these he represents well enough as well as a great deal of mental incompetence and moral conventionality, timidity and pre-tence.
Great issues often come to him for decision, but he does not deal with them greatly; high words and noble ideas are on his lips, but they become rapidly the claptrap of a party. The disease and falsehood of modern political life is patent in every country of the world and only the hypnotised acquiescence of all, even of the intellectual classes, in the great organised sham, cloaks and prolongs the malady, the acquiescence that men yield to everything that is habitual and makes the present atmosphere of their lives.
Yet it is by such minds that the good of all has to be decided, to such hands that it has to be entrusted, to such an agency calling itself the State that the individual is being more and more called upon to give up the government of his activities. As a matter of fact, it is in no way the largest good of all that is thus secured, but a great deal of organized blundering and evil with a certain amount of good which makes for real progress, because Nature moves forward always in the midst of all stumblings and secures her aims in the end more often in spite of man’s imperfect mentality than by its means.”
Sri Aurobindo believed that if India is to survive and do her appointed work in the world, the first necessity is that the youth of India should learn to think,—to think on all subjects, to think independently, fruitfully, going to the heart of things, not stopped by their surface, free of prejudgments, shearing sophism and prejudice asunder as with a sharp sword, smiting down obscurantism of all kinds as with the mace of Bhima (A warrior of ancient India).
The greatest contribution of Sri Aurobind to philosophy is the vast body of his writings which deal with the adventure of consciousness, man’s striving to reach the Supramental. He believed that the next step in evolution would raise man to a higher and larger consciousness which would offer the solution for the problems which have perplexed and vexed him since he first began to think and to dream of individual perfection and a perfect society.
It is a measure of the distressing apathy of our nation that the works of Sri Aurobindo are not studied throughout the length and breadth of India. The words of wisdom from the writings of this great spirit deserve to be taught in every school and college. No other thinker of modern times has seen so vividly the pattern of the human cycle down the ages and in the aeons of existence that lie ahead. His life-work will always remain a feasting presence, full of light.
Swami Vivekananda had profoundly influenced Sri Aurobindo on several vital issues and that influence is clearly perceptible in his August 14, 1947 message to the nation. We may recall that the Maha Yogi has categorically pronounced that Bhagavan Ramakrishna was an Avatar and Swami Vivekananda was the radiant glance of Siva.
(Courtesy: Goteti Ramachandra Rao, former OSD to Late NT Rama Rao, former CM)