Sri Aurobindo's Thoughts on Indic Renaissance

Entrance to Ashram Pondicherry where is Maharshi Aurobindo Samadhi. Pranam.


“India is free but she has not achieved unity, only a fissured and broken freedom...The partition of the country must goin this way unity may come about under whatever form-the exact form may have a pragmatic but not a fundamental importance but the division must and will go." Maharshi Sri Aurobindo on August 15, 1947.


Aurobindo, the Revolutionary, the Yogi, the Philosopher, the Political Visionary has been the beacon light, always enabling us to sail through the biggest cyclones ever traumatizing our Dharma, Culture or Statecraft. His wisdom on each and every dimension of Indic ethos is such a gigantic treasure, which is truly unparalleled. Undoubtedly, he extensively influenced the minds of Indian populace by his path breaking ideas in the pre-independence era and his thoughts continue to be relevant even today.


The irony here is that Sri Aurobindo still does not get the attention in the national narrative that the man of his accomplishments deserves. This is a tragedy since Sri Aurobindo and his ideas, having mass appeal and relevance, are completely out of the present day discourse.


The Indic Renaissance that Sri Aurobindo had envisaged has yet to materialize. For it to percolate to each and every level of our society, his ideals need to be spread with great vigour and zeal. Sri Aurobindo had spoken of its importance, in the Indian context, by emphasizing the fact that Indian civilization is sui generis. (Latin word meaning of its own kind, unique). He wrote to his wife about his call to work for the country in 1905:


Many of us, utterly overcome by Tamas, the dark and heavy demon of inertia, are saying nowadays that it is impossible, that India is decayed, bloodless and lifeless, too weak ever to recover; that our race is doomed to extinction. It is a foolish and idle saying. No man or nation need be weak unless he chooses, no man or nation need perish unless he deliberately chooses extinction. For what is a nation? What is our mother-country? It is not a piece of earth, nor a figure of speech, nor a fiction of the mind. It is a mighty Shakti, composed of the Shaktis of all the millions of units that make up the nation, just as Bhawani Mahishamardini sprang into being from the Shakti of all the millions of gods assembled in one mass of force and welded into unity.


The problems that Sri Aurobindo spoke about then, when independence was a dream, continue to exist. We are still searching for remedies that seem far away.


Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual journey was in itself a mission to bring India out of the feculence which has affected the vitals of the culture and ethos of Bharat. India’s core has, since eternity, been its metaphysical roots. Sri Aurobindo understood this very early in life and thus moved ahead to strengthen his spiritual vision.The spiritual wisdom provided greater enlightenment to his ideas on Indic Renaissance, which he thought were incomplete without reviving the Indic quintessence of spirituality and mysticity. He called it Spiritual Nationalism, and wrote:


“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 be there in seed...”


According to Sri Aurobindo the spiritual paradigm of Indian philosophy was about keeping on moving on the path of self enquiry  and this perpetual momentum of thoughts was the crux of our ever evolving civilization. But unfortunately by giving up this impulse, a sense of inertia has deeply overpowered Indian society, which played a significant role in the decadence of Indic ethos. And the panacea, he considered, was going back to the Indian wisdom roots. In 1911 he wrote he a friend (excerpts):


Spirituality is India's only politics, the fulfilment of the Sanatana Dharma its only Swaraj. I have no doubt we shall have to go through our Parliamentary period in order to get rid of the notion of Western democracy by seeing in practice how helpless it is to make nations blessed. India is passing really through the first stages of a sort of national Yoga.”


The regeneration of this type of nationalism, a Dharmic Yajna, according to Sri Aurobindo, was a prerequisite for the emancipation of India from the imperial as well as intellectual bondage. He thus put forward a brilliant theory of nation and nationalism and endeavored to apply the principles of his spiritual sadhana, which he called ‘Internal Yoga’, to this nationalism.  He was a yogi, a practitioner of integral yoga who looked upon himself as the path finder, as somebody who has gone where nobody else had ever been.


Once Indians attain expertise over internal yoga, it would enable India to again reassert itself as a civilization with pre-eminence of Knowledge and Consciousness. In March 1917 he wrote about the importance of Knowledge in the growth of civilization:


Civilisation can never be safe so long as, confining the cultured mentality to a small minority, it nourishes in its bosom a tremendous mass of ignorance, a multitude, a proletariate. Either knowledge must enlarge itself from above or be always in danger of submergence by the ignorant night from below. Still more must it be unsafe, if it allows enormous numbers of men to exist outside its pale uninformed by its light, full of the natural vigour of the barbarian, who may at any moment seize upon the physical weapons of the civilised without undergoing an intellectual transformation by their culture.... Knowledge must be aggressive, if it wishes to survive and perpetuate itself; to leave an extensive ignorance either below or around it, is to expose humanity to the perpetual danger of a barbaric relapse.


Writing so vehemently about this Civilizational Resurgence, Aurobindo lamented over the pervading despondency due to the lack of thought power, which was crucial for the rise of India as a World Guru.


Barin Ghose, Sri Aurobindo's brother, was sentenced to death in the Alipore Bomb Case. On appeal his sentence was commuted to deportation for life to the Andamans. After an amnesty he was released early in 1920. Thereafter he sought Sri Aurobindo’s guidance both from a political and a spiritual perspective.


Sri Aurobindo’s reply is a big motivator for all of us to arise, awake and goad ourselves into action. 


“I believe that the main cause of India's weakness is not subjection, nor poverty, nor a lack of spirituality or Dharma, but a diminution of thought-power, the spread of ignorance in the motherland of Knowledge. Everywhere I see an inability or unwillingness to think incapacity of thought or thought-phobia. Our civilisation has become ossified, our Dharma a bigotry of externals, our spirituality a faint glimmer of light or a momentary wave of intoxication. So long as this state of things lasts, any permanent resurgence of India is impossible. We have abandoned the sadhana of Shakti and so the Shakti has abandoned us. I want the vast radiation of the sun of Knowledge and in that luminous vastness an established ecstasy of infinite love and bliss and oneness.”


Sri Aurobindo believed that this Yajna for the realization of Shakti must begin with the youth of India. His views are expressed in this letter to friend Motilal Roy where he speaks about the importance of awakened youth:


Our call is to young India. It is the young who must be the builders of the new world,not those who accept the competitive individualism, the capitalism or the materialistic communism of the West as India's future ideal, not those who are enslaved to old religious formulas and cannot believe in the acceptance and transformation of life by the spirit, but all who are free in mind and heart to accept a completer truth and labour for a greater ideal.... It is with a confident trust in the spirit that inspires us that we take our place among the standard-bearers of the new humanity that is struggling to be born amidst the chaos of a world in dissolution, and of the future India, the greater India of the rebirth that is to rejuvenate the mighty outworn body of the ancient Mother.”


In this way Sri Aurobindo wanted to introduce a comprehensive and broad nationalism which would give an impetus to the rise of India as an intellectual flagbearer for the whole world, culturally and politically. His nationalism was not just the sentiment of the political unity but a Spiritual Sadhana which all Indians must perform for the resurgence of India.


The mantra for invoking this Sadhana, he considered, was the mantra ‘Bande Matram’ given by the celebrated Bengali novelist Bankim Chandra Chatterjee in his book “Ananda Math", which Aurobindo believed had the ability to become the driving force behind India’s Political and Spiritual emancipation. It was a Religion of Patriotism which inculcated among the masses a sense of discipline to keep them motivated towards attaining a broader perspective of liberation. 


Hence, Sri Aurobindo’s thoughts are sanatan, eternal. The ideals that he set for society, being the greatest harbinger of spiritual nationalism, are relevant now and in the years to come. Indians need to follow those ideals if India has to realize the goal of Renaissance and Rejuvenescence (revival).



1. India's Rebirth by Sri Aurobindo. Edited by Michel Danino 2018. 

2. The Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo, Sabda.

3. Essays from the Karmayogins, essays in Philosophy and Yoga.

4. Essays Divine and Human, Aurobindo, The Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo, Sabda.

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Also read

1. India’s Rebirth by Sri Aurobindo

2. India’s Rejuvienation – Swami Vivekananda’s vision

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