India's Rebirth by Sri Aurobindo

  • By Sri Aurobindo
  • August, 15 2001

1938 to 1940      

In 1938 Aurobindo fell down while walking in concentration and broke his right leg. Two of his disciples who met him everyday thereafter recorded his views on the Indian political scene, the rising threat of Nazism and World War II which he followed closely.

December 25, 1938                       Belief in Freedom
I have no faith in government controls, because I believe in a certain amount of freedom-freedom to find out things for oneself in one’s own way, even freedom to commit blunders. Nature leads us through various errors and mistakes; when Nature created the human being with all his possibilities for good and ill she knew very well what she was about. Freedom for experiment in human life is a great thing. Without the freedom to take risks and commit mistakes there can be no progress……

[But] everything is moving towards mechanization in Europe. The totalitarian States do not believe in any individual variation and even non-totalitarian States are obliged to follow them; they do it for the sake of efficiency-but whose efficiency? It is the efficiency of the States as an organized machine, not that of the individual. The individual has no freedom, he doesn’t grow. Organize by all means, but there must be scope for freedom and plasticity.

December 27, 1938
The old Indian system grew out of life; it had room for everything and every interest. There were monarchy, aristocracy, democracy; every interest was represented in the government While in Europe the Western system grew out of the mind: they are led by reason and want to make everything cut and dried without any chance of freedom or variation. If it is democracy, then democracy only - no room for anything else. They cannot be plastic.

India is now trying to imitate the West Parliamentary government is not suited to India. But we always take up what the West has thrown off.

(A disciple :) What is your idea of an ideal government for India?

My idea is like what Tagore once wrote. There may be one Rashtrapati at the top with considerable powers so as to secure a continuity of policy, and an assembly representative of the nation. The provinces will combine into a federation united at the top, leaving ample scope to local bodies to make laws according to their local problems ..

The Congress at the present stage-what is it but a fascist organization? Gandhi is the dictator like Stalin, I won’t say like Hitler: what Gandhi says they accept and even the Working Committee follows him; then it goes to the All-India Congress Committee which adopts it, and then the Congress. (I must mention that in 1920-21 Gandhi started the Khilafat agitation without consulting the Congress Working Committee, a decision that most of us will realize was a blunder and sowed the seeds for Pakistan. His dictatorial attitude was again proved in 1947 when he nominated Nehru although the Committee wanted Sardar Patel to be India’s first PM.)

There is no opportunity for any difference of opinion, except for Socialists who are allowed to differ provided they don’t seriously differ. Whatever resolutions they pass are obligatory on all the provinces whether the resolutions suit the provinces or not; there is no room for any other independent opinion Everything is fixed up before and the people are only allowed to talk over it-like Stalin’s Parliament. When we started the [Nationalist] movement we began with idea of throwing out the Congress oligarchy and open the whole organization to the general mass.

Srinivas Iyengar retired from Congress because of his differences with Gandhi…

He made Charkha a religious article of faith and excluded all people from congress membership who could not spin How many even among his own followers believe in his gospel of Charkha? Such a tremendous waste of energy just for the sake of a few annas is most unreasonable.

Give [people] education, technical training and give them the fundamental organic principles of organization, not on political but on business lines. But Gandhi does not want such industrial organization, he is for going back to the old system of civilization, and so he comes in with his magical formula “Spin, spin spin.” C. R. Das and few others could act as a counterbalance. It is all a fetish. (Do these comments give you provide you with an insight into why we followed the socialistic system of governance post independence where making profit was a dirty word unlike in the ancient India where as Infosys Chief Narayan Murthy says today, make wealth but share it too.)

January 8, 1939,           Gandhi’s non-violence in Germany success or!
(A disciple :) Gandhi writes that non-violence tried by some people in Germany has failed because it has not been so strong as to generate sufficient heat to melt Hitler’s heart.

I am afraid it would require quite a furnace!… The trouble with Gandhi is that he had to deal only with Englishmen, and the English want to have their conscience at ease. Besides the Englishman wants to satisfy his self-esteem and wants world-esteem But if Gandhi had had to deal with the Russians or the German Nazis, they would have long ago put him out of their way.

January 16, 1939        Non-Violence
(A disciple :) Nama Saheb Sinde of Baroda has spoken to a youth conference emphasizing the need of military training for the defence of the country His speech was against the current vogue of non-violence.

It is good that someone raises his voice like that when efforts are being made to make non-violence the method of solving all problems … This non-violent resistance I have never been able to fathom… To change the opponent’s heart by passive resistance is something I don’t understand…. I am afraid Gandhi has been trying to apply to ordinary life what belongs to spirituality. Non-violence or ahimsa as a spiritual attitude and its practice is perfectly understandable and has a standing of its own. You may not accept it in toto but it has a basis in reality. You can live it in spiritual life, but to apply it to all life is absurd…. It is a principle, which can be applied with success if practiced on a mass scale, especially by unarmed people like the Indians, because you are left with no other choice. But even when it succeeds it is not that you have changed the heart of the enemy, but that you have made it impossible for him to rule…..

What a tremendous generalizer Gandhi is! Passive resistance, charkha and celibacy for all! One can’t be a member of the Congress without oneself spinning!

January 21, 1939

She [Nivedita] took up politics as a part of Vivekananda’s work…. Vivekananda himself had ideas about political work and spells of revolutionary fervor…. It is curious how many Sannyasins at that time thought of India’s freedom.

January 24, 1939                Solution to India’s problems
(A disciple:) There are so many difficulties [in finding out the cause of poverty], political, economic, etc.

I don’t think it is so insoluble a problem as all that. If you give the people education-by education I mean proper education, not the modern type-then the problem can be solved. People in England or France don’t have the kind of poverty we have in India. That is because of their education-they are not so helpless.

February 2, 1939                         Systems of Governance
Nowadays people want the modern type of democracy- the parliamentary form of government. The parliamentary system is doomed. It has brought Europe to its present sorry pass…. [In India] one should begin with the old Panchayat system in the villages and then work up to the top. The Panchayat system and the guilds are more representative and they have a living contact with people; they are part of the people’s ideas. On the contrary, the parliamentary system with local bodies-the municipal councils-is not workable: these councils have no living contact with the people; the councilors make only platform speeches and nobody knows what they do for three or four years; at the end they reshuffle and rearrange the whole thing, making their own pile during their period of power.

December 30, 1939       Singing of Vande Mataram
(A disciple:) There are some people who object to “Vande Mataram” as a national song. And some Congressmen support the removal of some parts of the song.

In the case the Hindus should give up their culture.

The argument is that the song speaks of Hindu gods, like Durga, and that is offensive to the Muslims.

But it is not a religious song: it is a national song and the Durga spoken of is India as the Mother. Why should not the Muslims accept it? It is an image used in poetry. In the Indian conception of nationality, the Hindu view would naturally be there. If it cannot a place there, the Hindus may as well be asked to give up their culture. The Hindus don’t object to “Allah-ho-Akbar”……

Why should not the Hindu worship his god? Otherwise, the Hindus must either accept Mohammedanism or the European culture or become atheists…..

I told C. R. Das [in 1923] that this Hindu-Muslim question must be solved before the Britishers go, otherwise there was a danger of civil war. He also agreed and wanted to solve it….

Instead do doing what was necessary the Congress is trying to flirt with Jinnah, and Jinnah simply thinks that he has to obstinately stick to his terms to get them. The more they try, the more Jinnah becomes intransigent.

May 5, 1940             Hitler invades India – Ahimsa!
(A disciple:) If Hitler invades India, Gandhi will declare we are all non-violent. Hitler will be delighted at it.

Yes, he will sweep off everybody with machine guns. Gandhi believes he can be converted.

It is a beautiful idea, but not credible. Does anybody really believe in his non-violence? Will he face an army with his charkha?

May 17, 1940                 Hitler / Stalin eyes on India!
It seems it is not five or six of our people [the Ashram’s disciples] but more than half that are in sympathy with Hitler and want him to win.

(A disciple, laughing:) Half?
No, it is not a matter to laugh at. It is a very serious matter. . If these people want that the Ashram should be dissolved, they can come and tell me and I will dissolve it instead of the police doing it. They have no idea about the world and talk like children. Hitlerism is the greatest menace that the world has ever met-if Hitler wins; do they think India has any chance of being free? It is well-known fact that Hitler has an eye on India. He is openly talking of world-empire…

I hear K. [a disciple] says that Russia can come now and conquer India. It is this kind of slave mentality that keeps India in bondage. He pretends to spirituality; doesn’t he know that the first thing that Stalin will do is to wipe out spirituality from India?

May 21, 1940              Vajpayee please digest
(A disciple:) Gandhi writes in the Harijan that there is not mush to choose between Imperialism and Fascism. He finds very little difference.

There is a big difference. Under Fascism he wouldn’t be able to write such things or say anything against that State. He would be shot.

And he still believes that by non-violence we can defend our country.

Non- violence can’t defend. One can only die by it.

He believes that by such a death a change of heart can take place in the enemy.

If it does, it will be after two or three centuries.

May 28, 1940               Gandhi’s attitude to Muslims
Have you read what Gandhi has said in answer to a correspondent? He says that if eight crores of Muslims demand a separate State, what else are the twenty-five crores of Hindus to do but surrender? Otherwise there will be civil war.

(A disciple:) I hope that is not the type of conciliation he is thinking of.

Not thinking of it, you say? He has actually said that and almost yielded. If you yield to the opposite party beforehand, naturally they will stick strongly to their claims. It means that the minority will rule and the majority must submit. The minority is allowed its say, “We shall be the ruler and you our servants. Our hard [word] will be law; you will have to obey.” This shows a peculiar mind I think this kind of people are a little cracked.

June 21, 1940                Kashmir
In Kashmir, the Hindus had all the monopoly. Now if the Muslim demands are acceded to, the Hindus will be wiped out.

July 4, 1940               Gandhi’s Non-Violence
(A disciple:) Gandhi has offered his help through the Vice-roy to the British government and asked the British to lay down their arms and practice non-violence.

He must be a little cracked.

While asking them to lay down their arms, he wants them to keep up their spirit.

And be subjected in practice!

This refers to an open letter, which Gandhi addressed to the British a few days earlier: “I appeal for cessation of hostilities…. Because war is bad in essence. You want to kill Nazism. Your soldiers are doing the same work of destruction as the Germans. The only difference is that perhaps yours are not as thorough as the Germans…. I venture to present you with a nobler and a braver way, worthy of the bravest soldiers. I want you to fight Nazism without arms or…with non-violent arms. I would like you to lay down the arms you have as being useless for saving you or humanity… Invite Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini to take what want of the countries you call your possessions. Let them take possession of your beautiful island with your many beautiful buildings. You will give all these but not your souls nor your minds…” (Amrita Bazar Patrika, July 4, 1940, “Method of Non-violence Mahatma Gandhi’s appeal to every Briton.”)

October 12, 1940                   Congress resigning in 1939
I don’t think India will refuse to help if we get something.

You think so? I am not sure. What do you think of the left-wingers, Communists, Subhas Bose, for instance? And it is not true that they [the British] have given nothing…. They gave provincial autonomy and didn’t exercise any veto power. It is the Congress that spoiled everything by resigning. If without resigning they had put pressure at the Centre they would have got by now what they want. It is for two reasons I support the British in this war: first in India’s own interest and secondly for humanity’s sake, and the reasons I have given are external reasons, there are spiritual reasons too.

November 28, 1940                        Gandhi’s Ahimsa
Something in him takes delight in suffering for its own sake. Even the prospect of suffering seems to please him… It is the Christian idea that has taken hold of him.

Besides, he seems to think that after him his theory and creed of non-violence will continue. I don’t think so. A few people will be there, but anything like a wide-scale influence like that of his personality does not seem possible….

Fast and Satyagraha changing the heart of the opponent is absurd. What they can do is exert pressure and secure some concession.

The English are not quite wrong when they say that the Indian must settle their own differences. The Lucknow Pact has become a big political blunder. The Mahomedans, they want to rule India.

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