India's Rebirth by Sri Aurobindo

  • By Sri Aurobindo
  • August, 15 2001
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1929 to 1938    

Background – After 1926 Aurobindo withdrew completely leaving the Ashram to Mother. This section consists mostly excerpts from some of Aurobindo’s letters.

Undated
The world is not either a creation of Maya or only a play, lila, of the Divine, or a cycle of births in the ignorance from which we have to escape, but a field of manifestation in which there is a progressive evolution of the soul and the nature in Matter and from Matter through Life and mind to what is beyond Mind till it reaches the complete revelation of Sachchidananda in life. It is this that is the basis of [Sri Aurobindo’s] Yoga and gives a new sense to life.

October 23, 1929              Muslim problem
(From a letter to a Muslim disciple who started making violent demands which he tried to justify on “religious” grounds.)

You say that you ask only for the Truth and yet you speak like a narrow and ignorant fanatic who refuses to believe in anything but the religion in which he was born. All fanaticism is false, because it is a contradiction of the very nature of God and of Truth. Truth cannot be shut in a single book, Bible or Veda or Koran, or in a single religion. The Divine Being is eternal and universal and infinite and cannot be the sole property of the Mussulmans or of the Semitic religions only, those that happened to be in a line from the Bible and to have Jewish or Arabian prophets for their founders. Hindus and Confucians and Taoists and all others have as much right to enter into relation with God and find the Truth in their own way.

All religions have some truth in them, but none has the whole truth; all are created in time and finally decline and perish. Mahomed himself never pretended that the Koran was the last message of God and there would be no other. God and Truth outlast these religions and manifest themselves anew in whatever way or form the Divine Wisdom chooses. You cannot shut up God in the limitations of your own narrow brain or dictate to the Divine Power and Consciousness how or where or through whom it shall manifest; you cannot put up your puny barriers against the divine Omnipotence. These again are simple truths, which are now being recognized all over the world; only the childish in mind or those who vegetate in some formula of the past deny them.

You have insisted on my writing and asked for the Truth and I have answered. But if you want to be a Mussulman, no one prevents you. If the Truth I bring is too great for you to understand or to bear, you are free to go and live in a half-truth or in your own ignorance. I am not here to convert anyone; I do not preach to the world to come to me and I call no one I am here to establish the divine life and the divine consciousness in those who of themselves feel the call to come to me and cleave to it and in no others.

January 14, 1932
The traditions of the past are very great in their own place, in the past, but I do not see why we should merely repeat them and not go farther. In the spiritual development of the consciousness upon earth the great past ought to be followed by a greater future.

July 31, 1932                      Gandhi Decision Making 
As for Gandhi, why should you suppose that I am so tender for the faith of the Mahatma? I do not call it faith at all, but a rigid mental belief and what he calls soul-force is only a strong vital will which has taken a religious turn. That, of course, can be a tremendous force for action, but unfortunately Gandhi spoils it by his ambition to be a man of reason, while in fact he has no reason in him at all, never was reasonable at any moment in his life and, I suppose, never will be. What he has in its place is a remarkable type of unintentionally sophistic logic. Well, what this reason, this amazingly precisely unreliable logic brings about is that nobody is even sure and, I don’t think, he is himself really sure what he will do next. He has not only two minds but three or four minds, and all depends on which will turn up topmost at a particular moment and how. It will combine with others. There would be no harm in that; on the contrary these might be an advantage if there were a central Light somewhere choosing for him and shaping the decision to the need of the action. He thinks there is and calls it God-but it has always seemed to me that it is his own mind that decides and most often decides wrongly. Anyhow I cannot imagine Lenin or Mustapha Kemal not knowing their own minds or acting in this way-even their strategic retreats were steps towards an end clearly conceived and executed. But whatever it be it is all mind action and vital force in Gandhi. So why should he be taken as an example of the defeat of the Divine or of a spiritual Power? I quite allow that there has been something behind Gandhi greater than himself and you can call it the Divine or a Cosmic Force which has used him, but then there is that behind everybody who is used as an instrument for world ends, -behinds Kemal and Lenin also; so that is not germane to the matter.

January 14, 1934        Aim of Yoga
[The aim of the yoga I practice] is to manifest, reach or embody a higher consciousness upon earth and not to get away from earth into a higher world or some supreme Absolute. The old yogas (not quite all of them) tended the other way-but that was, I think, because they found the earth as it is a rather impossible place for any spiritual being and the resistance to change too obstinate to be borne… But the fundamental proposition in this matter was proclaimed very definitely in the Upanishads which went so far as to say that Earth is the foundation and all the worlds are on the earth and to imagine a clean-cut or irreconcilable difference between them is ignorance: here and not elsewhere, not by going to some other world, the divine realization must come.

Undated (1934)           Must India disown her past to?
As for the Hindu-Muslim affair, I saw no reason why the greatness of India’s past or her spirituality should be thrown into the waste paper basket in order to conciliate the Moslems who would not at all be conciliated by such policy. What has created the Hindu-Moslem split was not Swadeshi, but the acceptance of the communal principle by the Congress (here Tilak made his great blunder), and the further attempt by the Khilafat movement to conciliate them and bring them in on wrong lines. The recognition of that communal principle at Lucknow made them permanently a separate political entity in India, which ought never to have happened; the Khilafat affair made that separate political entity an organized separate political power.

August 18, 1935
I regard the spiritual history of mankind and especially of India as a constant development of a divine purpose, not a book that is closed and the lines of which have to be constantly repeated. Even the Upanishads and the Gita were not final though everything may there in seed…I may say that it is far from my purpose to propagate any religion, new or old, for humanity in the future. A way to be opened that is still blocked, not a religion to be founded is my conception of the matter.

September 10, 1935            Gandhi vs Aurobindo thinking
There is no connection between the spiritual truth and knowledge in which I live and Mahatma Gandhi’s ideals and ways of life. If it were so, then I would have to live like him for surely you do not suppose that my truth and knowledge are only in the mind and are not intended to have a practical manifestation in life! I have always written that my Yoga is intended for the manifestation of a new principle of life and works are an essential part of my Yoga. If that manifestation were already there, there would be no need for my bringing down into life this new spiritual principle. Mahatma Gandhi’s life expresses his own ideas of the true truth and the true knowledge. These ideas are not mine.

The principle of life, which I seek to establish is spiritual Morality is a question of man’s mind and vital, it belongs to a lower plane of consciousness. A spiritual life therefore cannot be founded on a moral basis; it must be founded on a spiritual basis. This does not mean that the spiritual man must be immoral-as if there were no other law of conduct than the moral. The law of action of the spiritual consciousness is higher not lower than the moral, -it is founded on union with the Divine and living in the Divine Consciousness and its action is founded on obedience to the Divine Will.

October 19, 1935                      Conversion to Buddhism
(A disciple sought Sri Aurobindo’s comments on the following statement of Gandhi in response to a call by Dr. Ambedkar for mass conversions among the depressed classes: “But religion is not like a house or a cloak which, can be changed at will. It is more an integral part of one’s self than of one’s body. Religion is the tie that binds one to one’s Creator and while the body perishes as it has to, religion persists even after that.”)

If it is meant by the statement that the form of religion is something permanent and unchangeable, then it cannot be accepted. But if religion here means one’s way of communion with the Divine, then it is true that that is something belonging to the inner being and cannot be changed like a house or a cloak for the sake of some personal, social or worldly convenience. If a change is to be made, it can only be for an inner spiritual reason, because of some development from within. No one can be bound to any form of religion or any particular creed or system, but if he changes the one he has accepted for another, for external reasons, that means he has inwardly no religion at all and both his old and his new religion are only an empty formula. At bottom that is I suppose what the statement drives at. Preference for a different approach to the Truth or the desire of inner spiritual self-expression are not the motives of the recommendation of change to which objection is made by the Mahatma here; the object proposed [by Dr. Ambedkar] is an enhancement of social status and consideration which is no more a spiritual motive than conversion for the sake of money or marriage. If a man has no religion in himself, he can change his credal profession for any motive; if her, he cannot; he can only change it in response to an inner spiritual need. If a man has a bhakti for the Divine in the form of Krishna, he can’t very well say. “I will swap Krishna for Christ so that I may become socially respectable.”

May 17, 1936                                      Gandhi secrecy
There is no necessity to reveal one’s plans and movements to those who have no business to know it, who are incapable of understanding or who would act as enemies or spoil all as a result of their knowledge….No moral or spiritual law commands us to make ourselves naked to the world or open up our hearts and minds for public inspection. Gandhi talked about secrecy being a sin but that is one of his many extravagances.

September 13, 1936            What does Gita say on fighting
No doubt, hatred and cursing are not the proper attitude. It is also true that to look upon all things and people with a calm and clear vision, to be uninvolved and impartial in one’s judgments is a quite proper yogic attitude. A condition of perfect samata [equanimity] can be established in which one sees all as equal, friends and enemies included, and is not disturbed by what men do or by what happens. The question is whether this is all that is demanded from us. If so, then the general attitude will be of a neutral indifference to everything. But the Gita, which strongly insists on a perfect and absolute samata, goes on to say, “Fight, destroy the adversary, conquer.” If there is no kind of general action wanted no loyalty to Truth as against Falsehood except for one’s personal sadhana, no will for the Truth to conquer, then the samata of indifference will suffice. But here there is a work to be done, a Truth to be established against which immense forces are arrayed, invisible forces, which can use visible things and persons and actions for their instruments. If one is among the disciples, the seekers of this Truth, one has to take sides for the Truth, to stand against the forces that attack it and seek to stifle it. Arjuna wanted not to stand for either side, to refuse any action of hostility even against assailants; Sri Krishna, who insisted so much on samata, strongly rebuked his attitude and insisted equally on his fighting the adversary. “Have samata,” he said, “and seeing clearly the Truth fight.” Therefore to take sides with the Truth and to refuse to concede anything to the Falsehood that attacks, to be unflinchingly loyal and against the hostiles and the attackers is not inconsistent with equality… It is a spiritual battle inward and outward; by neutrality and compromise or even passivity one may allow the enemy force to pass and crush down the Truth and its children. If you look at it from this point, you will see that if the inner spiritual equality is right, the active loyalty and firm taking of sides is as right, and the two cannot be incompatible.

September 19, 1936
I do not take the same view of the Hindu religion as Jawaharlal [Nehru]. Religion is always imperfect because it is a mixture of man’s spirituality with his endeavors that come in trying to sublimate ignorantly his lower nature. Hindu religion appears to me as a cathedral-temple, half in ruins, noble in the mass, often fantastic in detail but always fantastic with a significance crumbling or badly outworn in places, but a cathedral-temple in which service is still done to the Unseen and its real presence can be felt by those who enter with the right spirit. The outer social structure which it built for its approach is another matter.

December 24, 1936            Gandhi’s Christian view
The view taken by the Mahatma in these matters is Christian rather than Hindu-for the Christian, self-abasement, humility, the acceptance of a low status to serve humanity or the Divine are things which are highly spiritual and the noblest privilege of the soul.

This view does not admit any hierarchy of caste; the Mahatma accepts castes but on the basis that all are equal before the Divine; a Bhangi [scavenger] doing his dharma is as good as the Brahmin doing his; there is division of function but no hierarchy of functions. That is one view of things and the hierarchic view is another, both having a standpoint and logic of their own which the mind takes as wholly valid but which only corresponds to a part of the reality. All kinds of work are equal before the Divine and all men have the same Brahman within is one truth, but that development is not equal in all is another.

The idea that it needs a special punya to be born as a Bhangi is, of course, one of those forceful exaggerations of an idea, which are common with the Mahatma and impress greatly the mind of his hearers. The idea behind is that his function is an indispensable service to the society, quite as much as the Brahmin’s but, that being disagreeable, it would need a special moral heroism to choose it voluntarily and he thinks as if the soul freely chose it as such a heroic service as reward of righteous acts-but that is hardly likely the service of the scavenger is indispensable under certain conditions of society, it is one of those primary necessities without which society can hardly exist and the culture development of which the Brahmin life is part could not have taken place.

But obviously the cultural development is more valuable than the service of the physical needs for the progress of humanity as opposed to its first static condition, and that development can even lead to the minimizing and perhaps the entire disappearance by scientific inventions of the need for the functions of the scavenger. But that, I suppose, the Mahatma would not approve of, as it would come by machinery and would be a departure from the simple life. In any case it is not true that the Bhangi life is superior to the Brahmin life and reward of a special righteousness. On the other hand, the traditional conception that a man is superior to other because he is born a Brahmin is not rational or justifiable. A spiritual or cultured man of pariah birth is superior in the divine values to an unspiritual and worldly-minded or a crude and uncultured Brahmin. Birth counts, but the basic value is in the man himself, in the soul behind and the degree to which it manifests itself in his nature.

November 17, 1938
All this promises a bad lookout when India gets purna Swaraj Mahatma Gandhi is having bad qualms about Congress corruption already. What will it be when purna Satyagraha reigns all over India?

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