The Weight of Mediaevalism
India is a land of plenty. She is rich in every respect.
She is Bankim Chandra’s land of hurrying streams and bright orchard
gleams, sujalām-suphalām. Here flourished great
kingdoms, here flourished arts and sciences and crafts, grew industry,
commerce, trade. From here spread wisdom and knowledge all over the
Even today India is rich in every respect. Indians may be poor but India is not poor. The soul of the country is as bright
as the sun in a clear cloudless sky. But it is unfortunate that we
do not live in it. We do not live in the bright splendour of its
day. We do not know our own souls. We have lost contact with our
inner being. We are sleeping the sleep of mediaeval ages. The unfortunate
history of the last thousand years is weighing heavily on our mind
and heart and body, on our spirit. But the backlash of time must
be removed. We must return to the foundational principles and values
of our nation. We must see the causes where we failed. We must awake
to the call of Vivekananda.
Let us see what
happened during the last couple of centuries. Emperor Shahjahan spent
crores of rupees in seven years to get his famous peacock throne
made. It was studded with some of the costliest precious stones,
with rare diamonds and emeralds. But alas! It is no more there now.
The raider Nadir Shah was attracted by it and took it away with him.
Later the East India Company snatched it and shipped it to England. But it was not to reach there. The ship carrying
it sank in the sea and the attempt to recover it proved futile.
And about Taj Mahal? The labour cost alone by today’s wages comes to about
Rs. 2000 crores. 20,000 workers toiled for 22 years and 1000 elephants
were employed to transport the construction material. No doubt here
is a piece of wonder, enchanting in its lyricism. But then that is
how the taxpayers’ money was squandered.
The ancient Indian
precepts of governance were different. They affirmed that the taxes
collected from the citizens represent the wages of the king. These
were paid to him for the performance of kingly duties, duties towards
the people of the kingdom. He is expected to give them protection.
He is expected to maintain law and order. He is expected to promote
activities of trade and commerce. Indeed he must promote not only
arts and sciences and industries but also culture. He stands for
values and must unswervingly uphold these.
But during the period
of recent history, of some thousand years, India slipped into a terrible abyss of darkness. Invasion
after relentless invasion sucked away the vitality of the country.
The bright days of abundant prosperity turned into the nights of
spiritual and cultural destitution. When Europe was making giant
strides in various walks of life, India remained covered under the tamas of the age. Foolish
battles were fought and won for foolish gains. We were in deep sleep.
In the 1757 Battle
of Plassey the Nawab of Bengal was defeated by Clive. Another dishonour was inflicted on the psyche of the country.
Clive claimed from Mir Jafar £ 40 million and huge personal revenue of £ 30,000 a year. India was since then systematically plundered and reduced
to a lifeless object. The land of rich hurrying streams and bright
orchard gleams, sujalām-suphalām, became a forlorn
country, as if forsaken by the Goddess of Greatness.
“It is a country
of inexhaustible riches and one which cannot fail to make its masters
the richest corporation in the world.” This is what Clive wrote back
home after arriving in India. Since then has been the systematic “transfer of poverty” to
that country of inexhaustible riches. The last ten centuries were
the worst in Indian history.
But what about today? Are we awake? Maybe we are just emerging out of the
distasteful sleep of history. But we have not yet shed dullness of
the night which is still weighing pretty heavily on our souls. We
have not recovered our true national identity. We are still slaves
of habit that has no business to persist. In every field of our current
activity we want to be a la mode by following ideas and manners of
the industrially advanced societies. We are apish. We are copyists,
twice removed from reality; we are a copy of copy.
Our brushes do not
paint the noble goddess of the country. Our chords do not play the
true music. The song of the soul is not to be heard. In our music
the deeper echoes of life are absent. Most of the
time our creations are but titillating creations. These can
be hardly satisfying. These cannot lift us up to the worlds of truth
and beauty and joy. We want secular art but it leaves no room for
the spirit’s expression.
can never be creative. Imitative societies can never be taken seriously.
None of them can be progressive. In fact sooner than later they will
become slaves. They will become slaves to more powerful societies.
Tamas will prevail. It shall dull the faculties of courage, stateliness,
honour, free thought, sublimity of feeling, of will to be and will
to improve and advance. The spirit of adventure, the spirit of climbing
the mountains or crossing the dangerous seas or launching ourselves
into the depths of starlit spaces will disappear.
they shall prove the heroes who will steal the Promethean fire.
We are looking for
adventurers marching in celebration of the Truth. It is for them
that the Lady of the Lake is
holding in her uplifted hand the sword of triumph. Whence shall come
We do not have men “fit for the times”. But there is the expectation that the
soul of the country shall awake. It shall arise from the Yajna of
the Tapasvins. It shall arise like a radiant goddess. The ancient
Rishis lived in forests, but one-sixth of their tapasya went as a
state tax for the welfare of the land. It is that which sustained
every excellence of the society. We have to do that kind of national
We are reminded of the story of Savitri narrated in the Mahabharata. She was
a Tapasvini. She could argue with Yama. She told him a few precious
things of the spirit in powerful mantric words. By these she could
prevail over him. She told him that “it is by the Truth the saints
lead the sun; it is by askesis the saints uphold the earth; all the
three divisions of time, the past, present and future, find their
refuge in the saints. Noble persons in the midst of the saints have
never any grief.” Yama as the Upholder of the universal Law recognised
the merit in her utterances and released the soul of her husband.
In that merit alone can we make our country free from the deathful
circumstance of life.
Unless such Tapasvins are born there is not much hope. But Tapasvins cannot
be made to order. The obligation is on us. We have to discern our
best faculties and promote them. Not imposition but freest expression
should be the principle. Those who have nobility in them, those who
cherish values of life, who aspire for the good of the society, they
should be willing to uphold high ideals. They should be willing to
sacrifice their immediate gains. Unmindful of the harshness of conditions
we must dedicate ourselves to the cause. This should be done howsoever
complex be the operative factors, whatever be the day-today problems.
If we are willing to keep aside our little considerations then we
will have served the country. In that service we will have found
the worthwhile meaning of our life. In it our arts, our literature,
our sciences, philosophies, our commerce, our sports, everything
will have found an authentic assertion of our soul.
Once a young French student wrote: “The pyramids have been eroded by the desert
wind, the marble broken by earthquakes, and gold stolen by the robbers.
But the Veda is recited daily by an unbroken chain of generations.” No
buffeting winds blow the Veda away. It weathers all the storms of
time. We must hold on to it.
But today we have lost contact with the Veda. We are importing ideas from the
Western masters. We are adopting their models. We are after the “winner’s
version” of life. We have been looking outside India for everything—ideas,
values, opportunities, jobs, comforts. We want to have food as prepared
in the ‘advanced’ countries. It seems we wish to serve others at
our own cost. The socio-political system we have embraced is not
really our own. We need a Mountbatten to solve—or is it to create?—a
Kashmir problem. We have mortgaged our thinking as if to please alien
Take the example of the Ottoman Empire. It was breaking down at the end of
the First World War. But in India it was seen as a blow to the prestige
of Islam. Therefore, it became a part of political calculation to
oppose the move. Thus was born the harmful Khilafat movement.
In the context of the freedom struggle Mahatma Gandhi writes about it as follows: “To
the Musalmans Swaraj means, as it must, India’s ability to deal effectively
with the Khilafat question.” He further adds: “It is impossible not
to sympathise with this attitude… I would gladly ask for postponement
of the Swaraj activity if we could advance the interest of the Khilafat.” What
was in the Ottoman Empire that we should have sold ourselves for
it? When the Western world was making tremendous strides in different
branches of learning, in science, technology, industry, commerce,
here was a decadent regime that had outlived its purpose. Khilafat
cannot be more precious than Swaraj. In it India’s freedom had a
lower priority. In it India was denied India’s nationhood. This was
unfortunate, if not calamitous.
Sri Aurobindo saw the necessity of the freedom of India differently. For him
India was not an inert piece of matter. He saw in her a mighty Shakti.
He called that Shakti India. She was for him Bhavani Bharati. He
knew her as the Mother and worshipped her so. How could he rest content
if she remained chained? How could he postpone her freedom even for
a day? He entered into politics to get into the mind of the people
a settled will for freedom. When he saw that the freedom of India
was an assured fact he moved on to greater issues, issues of existence
itself. For that he attempted all and in the process achieved all.
He invoked the supreme grace to descend and transform the lot of
our mortality. The grace has come down to bestow on us the boons
of her plenty and prosperity. We have to only open ourselves to her
wonderful gifts of happiness. That is the expectation from us.
Today India is free. Her freedom was god-ordained. Exceptional souls had come
here to make it a reality. They came and paid the price for winning
it. They came and did national Tapasya. They have done their splendid
bit and now we must attend to our duties. We must perform the duties
in the greatness of our national spirit. The living spirit of the
country will undoubtedly lead us to truer glories only if we go by
it. Freedom has come but we have forgotten the Veda. We no longer
remember the spirit that had inspired us to live and grow in the
nobility of the nation. We are as yet slaves to others.
During the colonial days there was a set of people who thought that for them
there should always be an England in India. Now there is a similar
group which thinks that there should be for the neo-professionals
and neo-elite an America in India. There should be for them American
banks, American industries, American management, American institutions,
even American restaurants and American food.
No wonder, we lack the spirit of authentic nationalism. No wonder we do not
have our own programmes. We do not have our own priorities. No wonder
that we do not have our own science, our own literature, our own
national life. There can be Indian life only when India recovers
its Indianness. That is the imperative. When we Indians shall live
according to the nation's swabhāva and swadharma,
then only will there be India’s happy fulfilment.
The Social Foundations
If we read the history
of civilisation we get a mixed feeling. There have been glorious
moments. There have also been disappointments. Yet the best in man
was ever driven by a secret urge. There was always an urge in him
that spoke of the nobility of life. Whether he was aware of it or
not, an impulse towards perfection ever pushed him towards loftier
aims. The sculptures of Phidias, the caves of Ajanata, the Gopurams
of the South Indian temples, the paintings of the Sistine Chapel
have given to the soul of man a character of divinity. In him he
possesses a sense of immortality. In his quest he is secretly guided
by some authentic truth. Even today the study of Nature is taking
him to occult domains which were unknown to him so far. Stepping
into the vastness of space is undeniably a wondrous achievement of
the modern man. Cycles of evolution in the past went through rough
and difficult times, but mankind was always on the march.
As early as 1914
Sri Aurobindo saw a promising future for the human race. Not only
that; he set himself to work out the deeper possibilities that wait
for it. He brought those richer possibilities closer to us. They
are now realisable certainties. He has established on earth heavenly
foundations that Light, Freedom, Immortality, God may dwell here.
is a fourfold being. In him operates the fourfold force of the
soul. He is a worker
and a skilled craftsman; he is engaged in commerce; he is a warrior
and a conqueror; he is also a seeker of knowledge and a savant. Through
the occupations according to his nature is his search, the search
of life in the affirmative spirit. Thus functions the order of society
for man’s authentic welfare. In it is assured his true progress.
In that progress
man is the link between what must be and what is. He is the footbridge
thrown across the abyss, as the Mother says.
Even in our present
excessive materialistic mood we strive to exceed ourselves. A certain
degree of solidity is the valuable gain of this endeavour. But we
should also be on our guard. The dichotomy of spirit and matter seems
to have deepened today. If the philosophy of yesteryears desubstantiated
everything material, science has despirited human effort and human
dignity. Our literature and art, our religion, our thought, everything
is driven by vitalistic enjoyment. We are alienating ourselves from
the sense of truth and beauty. We know not affection and aesthetic
happiness so well cherished by a refined soul.
man of commerce is the supreme ruler. The world trade center is
the symbol of our
prosperity. Man of learning, man of art, man of strength, man of
works, everyone is meant for the man of industry and business. Everything,
every nut and bolt of the collective machinery is organised around
him. Everyone has to participate in the economic enterprise. The
state apparatus, legal system, wage structure, market mechanism,
media, pressure groups, the entire system serves only his purpose.
He is the wielder of political power. He is the shaper of even democracy.
Our professional commitments have to be functional to meet his demands.
In the process we have become efficient slaves. We have lost something
precious. The integrality of man’s personality is absent. In the
harsh commercial buzz no voice of the soul is heard. Affluence has
made us empty and superficial.
Is there a deeper
relationship between economics and culture? If culture does not take
note of poverty then it is bound to disappear. But in the absence
of culture if we are to get economic crudity, our gain becomes a
pathetic loss. The earlier dichotomy of spirit and matter now gets
transferred to the dichotomy of economics and culture.
spectacle we witness today is the spectacle of what Sri Aurobindo
barbarism”. We are in service of the vital man, man of ambition and
greed and lust. The successful capitalist and organiser of industry
is the superman of the commercial age. Today the craving of this
superman has grown on a ubiquitous scale. It is even argued that
we are reaching the End of History. The days of petty battles are
over and man can devote himself to the pursuits of life. This is
the picture given to us by Fukuyama. In it globalised capitalism
would usher in unending progress. But we are full of hubris and self-assertive
arrogance. Another clash of a more subtle kind has entered into the
world of inequalities. Conflict of civilisations is becoming acuter.
We are unable to resolve the disharmonies that issue out from it.
Values that make life warm and endearing are lacking in our money-based
relationships. Life has become efficient sans enjoyment.
We must therefore
ask the question whether India should follow the western model of
a competitive economic system. We might acquire a certain discipline
and organisational efficiency. We might become a nation like many
other commercially prosperous nations. We might possess social, political,
industrial, military system as powerful as of an advanced nation.
But that would spell disaster if we are to lose our national character,
our innate swadharma and swabhāva. That would
be a tragic irony, says Sri Aurobindo, if this is to happen. We will
have failed in the world. Which also implies that we will have failed
in our soul’s expectations of ourselves.
We study the ideas
of Kenneth Arrow and James Buchanan and Amartya Sen. But we never
ask if these are pertinent to us at all. The aspect of relationship
between the individual and the society is rarely seen in the Indian
context. The fact that we are also a product of an outstanding culture
is not taken into account. Individual choices leading to collective
decisions is one side of the coin, the pragmatic or the down-to-earth
side. But there is the other side also, that of an enlightened society
promoting the prospects of an individual. Both are complementary
to each other. One cannot be severed from the other. But the unfortunate
thing is that progress and economics become synonymous in the entire
business of the day.
Money is undoubtedly
a force of action and its role in the commerce of the world cannot
be dismissed. It is necessary for the fullness of the outer life.
But it cannot possess us. It is meant for a truer and more harmonious
ordering of vital and physical existence.
In ancient India vitta included
wealth, riches, prosperity, management, finance. It was given a preeminent
position and formed a part of the national development. It was recognised
that economic well-being does not depend only on the material resources.
The entrepreneurial class, the Vaishya had a significant role to
play in the organisation of the society. The emphasis was not on
consumption, on acquisition and possession. It was on spending, sharing,
giving. Thus the Mahabharata advocates in unmistakable terms the
patronage of commerce and trade. “The power of production in the
Vaishyas should always be encouraged. They make the realm strong,
enhance agriculture, develop its trades... A wise king should be
favourable to them. There is no greater wealth in the kingdom than
But in the ancient
Indian wisdom economic development and wealth maximisation were not
the aims in their own right. Progressive socio-moral fitness and
increasing commitment to the Law of the Right were held as its culminating
ideal. Dharma, Artha, Kama were not ends in themselves, but were
a means to a nobler end. That end was Moksha, liberation from the
littleness of our mortality. The trader was also accompanied by the
sage, the warrior, and the labourer.
The ancient Rishis
recognised origin of the fourfold order of society in the wisdom
of the spirit. The Vedic hymn describes the four limbs of the great
Cosmic Being. The Avatar of the Gita asserts that it is he who created
this division of quality. In its active functioning we have the truth
of creative organisation itself. In fact everywhere and always was
present this fourfold order. The chaturvarna system is not
a Hindu but a spiritual fact. It has been present in all epochs and
all societies. There might be unacceptable imbalances. But they are
a crudity, a distortion. Elimination of crudity and distortion is
of course essential. But they cannot discredit the axiomatic truth
of things. The fourfold organisation of society is a dispensation
of the Spirit. This means that all our actions should be established
in its nature. That is what the Gita tells us. It speaks of niyatam
karma, ordained duty. The source of our action is in our swabhāva.
It is that which constitutes our true personality. Our prosperity,
our happiness, our progress are assured in it. The Veda speaks of
corn rich with milk. Let us eat and drink the milk of that richness.
Today we have made
artificial divisions of several kind. We have divisions between the
haves and have-nots, between the capitalist and socialistic doctrines,
between the corporate management and federated working classes. In
India we have imported class struggle from the West. We do not accept
any more the principle of regulated action, niyatam karma.
We expect dividends without attending to our duties. This is alien
to the Gita’s doctrine of desireless work, nishkāma karma.
Society must organise
itself around the living vision of the Rishi. It cannot be done in
a mechanical manner. We must discover the creative springs of the
truths that sustain it. In them is the effective social order and
social harmony. Non-recognition of this basic principle of our life
has already caused considerable damage to us. We should inquire as
to where lies Indianness for the Indians.
The Socialist world
got crushed under its own inadequacies. The Capitalist mode brought
disaster to itself because of its arrogance and excessive self-assertiveness.
We need not, and better not, go through that experience. In it the
sight of our own identity and our own destiny are absent. Our social
organisations never looked for opportunities elsewhere. Rather they
generated them in their own folds.
But we have introduced
ideas of socialistic economics, secularism, parliamentary democracy.
We take these as infallible instruments of progress. This has resulted
in the sponsorship of a state agenda. In all the walks of life, industry,
trade, commerce, transport, education, art, literature, thought,
science, sports everything has come under public ownership. The result
is a stiff and unbending bureaucracy with lack of national commitment.
It looks as though in the pursuit of ideas of secularism and democracy
whatever was Indian had to go.
a multi-religious and tradition-bound psychology secularism and
democracy become operationally
complicated. Failure of secularism is often taken as failure of democracy,
as much as the other way around also. In it everything gets institutionalised.
Freedom of the individual, equality of opportunities, fundamental
rights, sharing of the nation’s wealth start coming under state enforcement.
In our constitution all religions enjoy equal status. This is because
theocratic democracy is a contradiction in terms. But that seems
to be strange in many respects. In it the division between religions
gets hardened. It becomes difficult to apply the principle of sarvadharma
samabhāva. Instead, what we have are legalistic-doctrinaire
guarantees. As a result the practise of one’s faith without state
interference turns out to be impossible. The expression of true national
spirit thus remains insecure.
the state to be independent of faith or creed. This is perhaps understandable.
Retrograde religious biases have done more harm to society than good.
The traumatic experience of history is witness to it. But not to
recognise the intrinsic character of human nature is also a severe
limitation. Rationalised psychology of the age cannot be a substitute
for the ills of fundamentalism. The measure that must be applied
is the pursuit of perfection in the greatness of the human soul and
According to St
Augustine, God created man and left him free with justice and grace.
But man has always sinned against God; he misused the gifts. In contrast
to this, the Platonic freedom based itself upon the aspect of pure
reason. In it free democracy becomes the glory of the state republican.
We have in it trans-religious seeds of secularism. But the Grecian
emphasis is more on the socio-political aspects. It does not see
the possibilities that are there beyond the republican thinking.
But perhaps to see
the country as a personification of power is occultly more significant.
We must see the country as a goddess, the giver of rich fruits. Identification
with her is the only greatness that we should cherish and possess.
In that identification will come to us everything, all the boons
of life and thought and culture, the boons of the spirit itself.
Thus only we become Indians.
is not a state subject; nor is education, nor can be arts and literature
and sports and advancement of knowledge. Sponsorship of Art and Culture
by a government office is a laughable matter. Never will a dynamic
society allow these things to happen. A government’s concern should
be governance. It is the society that has to build cultural foundations.
It has to put forward progressive social aims. It has to generate
awareness to fulfill its own longings. It must do things in the nobility
of its expressive spirit. The foolish notion of human resources development
by the state is a dehumanising degradation. It is altogether non-Indian.
Academic excellence, arts, skills, vocative training, planning, professionalism,
these are surely the concerns of the society. They cannot be the
concerns of baboos and bureaucrats and careerists, least those of
politicians. We should not hand over our freedom to the snatchers
of freedom, to the slaves.
Sri Aurobindo is specific about our role in shaping the destiny of the world.
We have to first discover our soul. We have to know the truth of
our being. We have to establish ourselves in the greatness of values
that sustained us even in our difficult days. Not that we should
not assimilate what is noble and progressive in other societies.
We speak of social rights and social obligations in the manner of
Westerners. But we have forgotten ourselves. In Bande Mataram dated
16 March 1908 Sri Aurobindo wrote about these issues. He is forthright
to say that the ideas of rights and duties are not our ideas, but
are European ideas. In the Indian conception we think differently.
To us dharma is the foundation of every activity. In it there is
no division between the worldly and the spiritual aspects of life.
In it rights and duties lose their artificial antagonism. Dharma
is the basis of democracy. Indeed we have to be ready to follow dharma.
Dharma here of course does not mean the credal prescriptions, rites and rituals,
laws of social conduct, obeying the dicta of decadent Brahminical
authority. But what is true and eternal, what is sanātana,
what has the foundation in the higher principles, it is that we have
to comply with in our entire endeavour. Being driven by the inner
urge is to live in dharma. That is what India has to do. She must
awake to her nature; she must live in the dynamism of her glowing
spirit. That is nationalism. That is to be an Indian. Let us be so.
Let us be Indians.
Indian Spirit and Progress
When we speak of
dharma we also understand the nature of the battle that has to be
waged in the thick of life. The Mahabharata war was fought on the
ground of dharma. It was dharmakshetra where large warring
armies had gathered. Deafening conchs were blown and the holiday
of fight was about to begin.
Here was a perfect
episode which presented itself in the context of right living. Even
in the most adverse situation higher values had to be upheld. No
price was thought to be too small to pay. The Teacher of the Gita
exhorts us to follow our own dharma in every respect. He was not
giving here a meditative spiritual injunction. He was not talking
of satyadharma of the Isha Upanishad. He was preparing the
hero of the trophy to take up arms against a sea of insanity. He
was focusing on the secular aspect of the worldly issues. In it Arjuna
had to stand up and deliver the goods. He was told to follow what
was innate to him, built into his individuality. In that alone was
his assured victory. In that dharmayuddha rested the order
The thrust of the
entire argument is that we have to rise to our best capabilities.
We may not be aware of our soul and our spirit. But there is always
something in us which is admirable. The magnificent and noble and
worthy in our personality has to emerge and assert itself. In it
is our true manhood, our valour, our meritorious celebration.
We often say that
the Indian spirit has a certain universality. But this spirit in
its dharma-aspect is also specific. Each individual has his own dharma, swadharma,
to follow. He must discover it and live in it. To go by the dharma
of others, paradharma, forebodes evil. Of course dharma is
not to be understood in its modern sense. Dharma is not what we call
religion. It is the truth of one’s own central being. It is dynamic.
It is progressive. Its psychology is the operative basis of the spirit
itself. The real freedom of the individual is reposed in the dharma
alone. Its association is always with the higher fundamentals. The
western notion of dharma is restrictive. It lacks in its functioning
the inner quality that must govern the action of an individual. It
is not a creed, it is not a dogma; it is not doctrinaire theology.
The prevalent religion is not the avatar of dharma. When the action
of an individual is based on dharma, then by that very virtue it
also at once becomes universal. To live in dharma is therefore to
live in perfect freedom. To live in it is to live in the nobility
of life. Dharma fulfills.
Not that in India
there were no sectarian wars and conflicts. There are present even
today discriminatory social class customs. But these have nothing
to do with dharma. Each individual has to discover his own law and
act in its stateliness. Dharma is founded in reality which takes
the individual on the path of progress. It is a reality that operates
at all the three levels, individual-cosmic-transcendental. We have
our own individual dharma. Each nation has its characteristic dharma.
There is the earth dharma. There is also the dharma of the gods.
It is in that respect
that India has done long and difficult spiritual tapasya. Even during
her darkest period the inner flame remained alert and alive. Now
the hour of God has come and in it the spiritual soul must get rekindled.
Dharma must be the guide.
says in despair: “I raise my hands and call out to men but no one listens
to me. Why should we not act in accord with dharma for the realisation
of all that we desire?” Why we don’t listen to dharma? If dharma
is an efficacious means to make progress, then why none pays heed
to it? That is indeed the question we have to answer. If dharma is
a power to shape our lives in the values of the spirit, we have to
also be receptive to receive the gifts of that power. It seems that
we have to pass through another cycle of social evolution.
If we trace the
history of human society we notice the four stages that marked the
collective growth. We have gone through the symbolic age of the mystic-spiritual
sense of higher life. Then came the mode of conventionalised living
with sets of rules of conduct. Soon began the period of reason and
of the exploration of material nature. We are still under its sway
with its gains and its problems. But if real progress is to be made
this too should pass away. The dharma of different epochs must advance
into the dharma of the timeless truth. Soon kāla dharma must
become kālātīt dharma. There must begin now
the dharma of the intuitive-perceptive greatness of man ready to
step into the vastness of the spirit. That is the sanātana
But we cannot think of the empyrean if we live in the darkness of the abyss.
In spite of the tremendous strides made by civilisation we have the
blood of time drenching our souls. During 1933-45 the Nazis under
Hitler exterminated 6 million Jews, 1.5 million gypsies and millions
of other undesirables. Pol Pot in 1975 abolished private property,
markets, banks, currency, newspapers, schools, hospitals and religion
and summarily executed 1.7 million people of Cambodia. In the 1970s
hundreds of thousands were killed in Uganda. Up to the beginning
of the twentieth century 40 million people were slayed in wars and
133 million in genocide. During the last hundred years some 37 million
in wars and 170 million in genocide lost their lives.
This record is no different than the record of, say, Chengis Khan. When his
son-in-law was shot dead by an unknown arrow there was a massacre
of 1.75 million people. He and his successors down to Timur Lane
slaughtered 30 million Chinese, Indians, Persians, Arabs, Russians,
Europeans. Loot, murder, rape, terrorism, only meant that some grey-bearded
vital force was let lose in sanguinary destruction.
How is dharma going to stand against it? By summoning our best into action.
The dharma of the individual, the dharma of each nation, the dharma
of the world, each has to invoke that which sustains it. Painful
is the path and full of danger. Long is the course and heavy the
price. But there can neither be a shortcut. We have to invoke our
best and act in sincerity by abiding in the dharma.
Take the American example. Its greatness flows directly from a deep source, “a
spirit of respect for the individual, a spirit of tolerance for differences
of faith or politics, a respect for freedom of thought as the necessary
foundation for all creativity and a spirit of unity that encompasses
all kinds of differences. Only a society which worships freedom could
constantly renew itself and its sources of power and wealth.” This
is what New York Times wrote editorially on 2 October 2001
in connection with the rebuilding of America after the terrorist
attack on the World Trade Center. That is the American dharma and
it shall always prove rewarding if followed in all earnestness.
times America may look like a “shining city
atop a hill.” It means that there can also be another kind of dharma.
Gorbachev speaks of “Revolution from Above.” According to it revolutionary
changes will be initiated and implemented by the State authority. Perestroika
is held to be such a revolution. Revolution means construction as well
as destruction. Both are effected by the State. But howsoever an inverted
pyramid it may look, perhaps the State as an instrument of social changes
conveys to us a sense of another dharma.
But our affliction is of a different kind. Matthew Arnold complained
about it long ago. It is the disease of epistemological disintegration
of the intellectuals. The Western civilisation through Reason entered
into the Age of Anguish, without any apparent remedy to cure it.
Can the relentless wheel be halted? Can mankind be redeemed?
Pitirin A. Sorokin sees our way of life in a state of epochal transition.
There is ruin all around. There is the thick atmosphere of gloom
spread over us. But if mankind can avoid the catastrophe of world
wars, there can be the hope of seeing the dawn of a new magnificent
order. We are waiting to greet the coming generation of that dawn.
But the problem is not simple. To the proposition of Alexis Carrel’s “Man the
Unknown”, Teilhard de Chardin adds “Man to be”. This is certainly
a great improvement. But that does not yet offer solution to the
affliction we suffer from. We suffer from the Heideggerian angst.
Modern Man is in a state of alienation. He has lost faith; he has
lost belief in himself; he has even lent himself to the Marxian sun
under which there can exist no God.
From the age of rational thinking we have to move on to the age of intuition.
Perhaps here the Indian soul can be the leader of the march.
A Vedic Rishi asked for horses and cows and sons. He wished to live for a hundred
autumns. At the same time he lived in shining company of the gods
of heaven. He won splendours of immortality upon earth. In the Upanishadic
age Satyakama yearned for the knowledge of the Eternal. But he had
to qualify himself to receive it. He was told to rear four hundred
cows till they became one thousand. Then only could he be fit to
receive brahmajnāna. Thus was prepared the soul through
work in life to enjoy the heavenly fruit of immortality.
must hearken to the call of her national dharma. She was alive,
says Sri Aurobindo,
to the greatness of material laws and force. She also saw the invisible
that surrounds the visible. She knows that man has power to exceed
himself. She saw the myriad gods beyond man, God beyond the gods,
and beyond God his own ineffable eternity. Then with a calm audacity
of her intuition she declared that man could become the spirit, become
a god, become one with God, become the ineffable Brahman. Man’s manhood
lies in becoming godly.
This means that
we must get back to the native power of the spirit. We must discover
it and live in it. This is the great agenda for us to work. If spiritual
unfolding is the hidden truth, then man as he is cannot be the last
term of his evolution. His mind is capable of opening to what exceeds
it. Therefore there is a possibility that man should arrive at supermanhood.
This is what Sri Aurobindo asserts.
Thus we stand on
the verge of the last definitive transformation. When it is achieved,
the passage of the soul through the ignorance shall get terminated.
Supramental Truth and Light and Force shall descend. This shall open
out the way for the appearance of the gnostic life upon the earth.
The epiphanic possibilities of the spirit shall become a part of
the evolutionary growth and manifestation.
When the Avatar comes, he comes fundamentally with the intention of carrying
forward the evolutionary march, that in the terrestrial process may
enter higher and higher grades of life and consciousness. That manifestation
also makes his arrival meaningful.
In his arrival begins a new millennium. It means the coming of Nava Yuga. It
means the arrival of the everlasting day itself. In it
Nature shall live to manifest secret God,
The Spirit shall take up the human play,
This earthly life become the life divine.
But when Sri Aurobindo prophesied the life divine upon earth he also worked
to make it a reality here. By his intense yogic sadhana, by making
an unparalleled sacrifice in the Will of the Supreme, he “attempted
all and achieved all” for us.
Now it is our task to prepare ourselves and receive the splendid gifts he has
brought to us. Discovering the inner self, living in the nobility
of the spirit, aspiring to make our life an integral means are aspects
which we will have to pursue in this fulfilment. In that pursuit
shall be the beginning of mankind’s gnostic-spiritual dharma. That
shall be the Dharma of the Future. Let us welcome that Future.