India's Rebirth by Sri Aurobindo

  • By Sri Aurobindo
  • August, 15 2001

Essays, Letters and Articles 1910 - 1922     

Background – For sometime after moving to Pondicherry Aurobindo thought of returning to India, but he soon saw that enough had been done to change the whole face of Indian politics and the whole spirit of Indian people to make Swaraj its aim. Also the magnitude of the spiritual work before him became more and more clear to him, and he saw that that’s what he needed to concentrate on. The following are excerpts from articles that in Arya, an English monthly published by him from 1914 to 1921.

1910-12                                                                                                                 Decline of India and Rise
The patriot attributes our decline to the ravages of foreign invasion and the benumbing influence of foreign rule, the discipline of European materialism finds out the enemy, the evil, the fount and origin of all ills, in our religion and its time-honored social self expression. Such expressions have a brighter and obscure side but are not the result of impartial thinking.

Few societies have been so tamasic, so full of inertia and contentment in increasing narrowness as Indian society in later times. Few have attached greater importance to authority. Every detail of our life has been fixed for us by Shastra and custom, every detail of our thought by Scriptures and its commentators – more often by commentators than scriptures. Only in the filed of individual spiritual experience, have we cherished the ancient freedom and originality out of which our past greatness sprang. Otherwise we should long ago have been like Greece and Rome of the Caesars, as dead nations.

The result of this well-meaning bondage to the outer forms of Hinduism has been an increasing impoverishment of the Indian intellect, once the most gigantic and original in the world. The most striking instance is our continued helplessness in the face of new conditions and new knowledge imposed on us by the Europeans. We have not mastered European conditions and knowledge; rather we have been seized, subjected and enslaved by them. Rejection is possible only if we have an intelligent possession of what we wish to keep. But to do that we must know our Hinduism first egg through out our lives we do things without knowing why we do them. Nothing is our own, all is derived. As little as have understood the new knowledge, we have only understood what the Europeans want us to think about themselves. Our English Culture has increased tenfold the evil of our dependence instead of remedying it.

How shall we recover our lost intellectual freedom? By reversing, for the time being, the process by which we lost it, by liberating our minds in all subjects from the thralldom to authority. The Anglicized ask us to abandon authority, revolt against superstition to have free minds. What they mean is that we should renounce authority of the Vedas for Max Muller, the Monism of Sankara for the Monism of Haeckel, the dogmatisms of Pandits for the dogmatisms of European thinkers, scientists and scholars. Let us break our chains in order to be free, in the name of truth, not in the name of Europe.

Our first necessity, if India is to survive and do her appointed work in the world, 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…

Let us not, either, select at random, make a nameless hotchpotch and then triumphantly call it the assimilation of East and West. We must begin by accepting nothing on trust from any source whatsoever, by questioning everything and forming our own conclusions. We need not fear that we shall by that process cease to be Indians or fall into the danger of abandoning Hinduism. India can never cease to be India or Hinduism to be Hinduism, if we really think for ourselves. It is only if we allow Europe to think for us that India is in danger of becoming an ill-executed and foolish copy of Europe…. We must…. Take our stand on that which is true and lasting. But in order to find out what in our conceptions is true and lasting, we must question all alike rigorously and impartially. The necessity of such a process not for India, but for all humanity has been recognized by leading European thinkers. It was what Carlyle meant when he spoke of swallowing all formulas. It was the process by which Goethe helped to reinvigorate European thinking. But…. Europe has for some time ceased to produce original thinkers, though it still produces original mechanicians…. China, Japan and the Mussulman states are sliding into a blind European imitativeness. In India alone there is self-contained, dormant, the energy and the invincible spiritual individuality which can yet arise and break her own and the world’s fetters.

Ancient or pre-Buddhistic Hinduism sought Him both in the world and outside it, it took its stand on the strength and beauty and joy of the Veda, unlike modern or post-Buddhistic Hinduism which is oppressed with Buddha’s sense of universal sorrow and Shankara’s sense of universal illusion,-- Shankara who was the better able to destroy Buddhism because he was himself half a Buddhist. Ancient Hinduism aimed socially at our fulfillment in God in life, modern Hinduism at the escape from life to God. The more modern ideal is fruitful of a noble and ascetic spirituality, but has a chilling and hostile effect on social soundness and development; social life under its shadow stagnates for want of belief and delight, sraddha and ananda. If we are to make our society perfect and the nation is to live again, then we must revert to the earlier and fuller truth.

1910 – 1914                The Veda
– During this period Aurobindo made a deep study of the Veda and struck by the light it threw on his own experiences, rediscovered its lost meaning. A series of extracts from early manuscripts on the Veda.

I seek a light that shall be new, yet old, the oldest indeed of all lights…. I seek not science, not religion, not Theosophy, but Veda- the truth about Brahman, not only about His essentiality, but about His manifestation, not a lamp on the way to the forest, but a light and a guide to joy and action in the world, the truth which is beyond opinion, the knowledge which all thought strives after-yasmin vijnate sarvam vijnatam [which being known, all is known]. I believe that Veda to be the foundation of the Sanatan Dharma; I believe it to be the concealed divinity within Hinduism, -but a veil has to be drawn aside, a curtain has to be lifted. I believe it to be knowable and discoverable. I believe the future of India and the world to depend on its discovery and on its application, not to the renunciation of life, but to life in the world and among men.

Men set up an authority and put it between themselves and knowledge. The orthodox are indignant that a mere modern should presume to differ from Shankara in interpreting the Vedanta or from Sayana in interpreting the Veda. They forget that Shankara and Sayana are themselves moderns, separated from ourselves by some hundreds of years only, but the Vedas are many thousands of years old. The commentator ought to be studied, but instead we put him in place of the text. Good commentaries are always helpful even when they are wrong, but the best cannot be allowed to fetter inquiry. Sayana’s commentary on the Veda helps me by showing what a man of great erudition some hundreds of years ago thought to be the sense of the Scripture. But I cannot forget that even at the time of the Brahmanas the meaning of the Veda had become dark to the men of that prehistoric age…. I find that Shankara had grasped much of Vedantic truth, but that much was dark to him. I am bound to admit what he realized; I am not bound to exclude what he failed to realize. Aptavakyam, authority, is one kind of proof; it is not the only kind: pratyaksa [direct knowledge] is more important.

The heterodox on the other hand swear by Max Muller and the Europeans…. The Europeans have seen in our Veda only the rude chants of an antique and primitive pastoral race sung in honor of the forces of Nature, and for many their opinion is conclusive of the significance of the mantras. All other inter-pretation is to them superstitious. But to me the ingenious guesses of foreign grammarians are of no more authority than the ingenious guesses of Sayana. It is irrelevant to me what max Muller thinks of the Veda or what Sayana thinks of the Veda. I should prefer to know what the Veda has to say for itself and, if there is any light there on the unknown or on the infinite, to follow the ray till I come face to face with that which it illumines.

Europe has formed certain views about the Veda and the Vedanta, and succeeded in imposing them on the Indian intellect… When a hundred world-famous scholars cry out, “This is so”, it is hard indeed for the average mind, and even minds above the average but inexpert in these special subjects not to acquiesce…

Nevertheless a time must come when the Indian mind will shake off the darkness that has fallen upon it, cease to think or hold opinions at second and third hand and reassert its right to judge and enquire in a perfect freedom into the meaning of its own Scriptures.

When that day comes we shall, I think, discover that the imposing fabric of Vedic theory is based upon nothing more sound or true than a foundation of loosely massed conjectures. We shall question many established philological myths, - the legend, for the instance, of an Aryan invasion of India from the north, the artificial and inimical distinction of Aryan and Dravidian which an erroneous philology* has driven like a wedge into the unity of the homogenous Indo-Afghan race; the strange dogma of a “henotheistic”** Vedic naturalism; the ingenious and brilliant extravagances of the modern sun and star myth weavers…      

Religious movements and revolutions have come and gone or left their mark but after all and through all the Veda remains to us our Rock of the Ages, our eternal foundation…. The Upanishads, mighty as they are, only aspire to bring out, arrange philosophically in the language of later thinking and crown with supreme name of Brahman the eternal knowledge enshrined in the Vedas. Yet for some two thousand years at least no Indian has really understood the Vedas.

I find in the Aryan and Dravidian tongues, the Aryan and Dravidian races not separate and unconnected families but two branches of a single stock. The legend of the Aryan invasion and settlement in the Punjab in Vedic times is, to me, a philological myth.

1914 –1915                Medical Science
Medical Science has been more a curse to mankind than a blessing. It has broken the force of epidemics and unveiled a marvelous surgery; but also, it has weakened the natural health of man and multiplied individual diseases; it has implanted fear and dependence in the mind and body; it has taught our health to repose not on natural soundness but a rickety and distasteful crutch compact from the mineral and vegetable kingdoms.

Machinery is necessary to modern humanity because of our incurable barbarism. If we must encase ourselves in a bewildering multitude of comforts and trappings, we must need do without Art and its methods; for to dispense with simplicity and freedom is to dispense with beauty. The luxury of our ancestors was rich and even gorgeous, but never encumbered.

December 1914
(After great study Aurobindo rejected the Aryan invasion theory as a figment of European imagination. On the issue of Tamil and Sanskrit he said “it seems to me that the original connection between the Dravidian and Aryan tongues was far closer and extensive than is usually supposed and there is a possibility that these two languages were derived from one lost primitive tongue”).

Vivekananda was a soul of puissance if ever there was one, a very lion among men, but the definite work he has left behind is quite incommensurate with our impression of his creative might and energy. We perceive his influence still working gigantically, we know not well how, we know not well where, in something that is not yet formed something leonine, grand, and intuitive, up heaving that has entered the soul of India and we say, “Behold, Vivekananda still lives in the soul of his Mother and in the souls of her children.”

Background – On 29/3/1914 Aurobindo met Mirra, a French lady who later came to be known as Mother. She returned to India in 1920. These two passages are from letters that he wrote to her while World War I was raging.

August, 1915
That stupendous effort [of Western materialism and civilization] is over; it has not yet frankly declared its bankruptcy, but it is bankrupt. It is sinking in a cataclysm as gigantic and as unnatural as the attempt, which gave it birth. On the other hand, the exaggerated spirituality of the Indian effort has also registered a bankruptcy; we have seen how high individuals can rise by it, but we have seen also how low a race can fall which in its eagerness to seek after God ignores His intention in humanity. Both the European and the Indian attempt were admirable, the Indian by its absolute spiritual sincerity, the European by its severe intellectual honesty and ardor for the truth; both have accomplished miracles; but in the end God and Nature have been too strong for the Titanism of the human spirit and for the Titanism of the human intellect.

March, 1916                  Sanskrit
Sanskrit ought to still to have a future as a language of the learned and it will not be a good day for India when the ancient tongue ceases entirely to be written or spoken. But if it is to survive, it must get rid of the curse of the heavy pedantic style contracted by it in its decline with the lumbering impossible compounds and the overweight of hairsplitting erudition.

December, 1916                One God
It is only a few religions which have had the courage to say without any reserve, like the Indian, that this enigmatic World-Power is one Deity, one Trinity, to lift up the image of the Force that acts in the world in the figure not only of the beneficent Durga, but of the terrible Kali in her blood-stained dance of destruction and to say, “This too is the Mother; this also know to be God; this too, if thou hast the strength, adore.” And it is significant that the religion, which has had this unflinching honesty and tremendous courage, has succeeded in creating a profound and widespread spirituality such as no other can parallel. For truth is the foundation of real spirituality and courage is its soul.

1918 (From a letter answering a request for Sri Aurobindo’s opinion of a proposed law intended to facilitate marriages among Hindus of different castes.)

I can only say that everything will have my full approval which helps to liberate and strengthen the life of the individual in the frame of a vigorous society and restore the freedom and energy which India had in her heroic times of greatness and expansion. Many of our present social forms were shaped, many of our customs originated, in a time of contraction and decline. They had their utility for self-defence and survival within narrow limits, but are a drag upon our progress in the present hour when we are called upon once again to enter upon a free and courageous self-adaptation and expansion. I believe in an aggressive and expanding, not in a narrowly defensive and self-contracting Hinduism……

(From an introduction to a book titled Speeches and Writings of Tilak).             Tilak

The Congress movement was for a long time purely occidental in its mind, character and methods, confined to the English-education few, founded on the political rights and interests of the people read in the light of English history and European ideals, but with no roots either in the past of the country or in the inner spirit of the nation….. To bring in the mass of the people, to found the greatness of the future on the greatness of the past, to infuse Indian politics with Indian religious fervor and spiritually are the indispensable conditions for a great and powerful political awakening in India. Others, writers, thinkers, spiritual leaders, had seen this truth. Mr. Tilak was the first to bring it into the actual field of practical politics.

There are always two classes of political mind: one is preoccupied with details for their own sake, revels in the petty points of the moment and puts away into the background the great principles and the great necessities, the other sees rather these first and always details only in relation to them. The one type moves in a routine circle which may or may not have an issue; it cannot see the forest for the trees and it is only by an accident that it stumbles, if at all, on the way out. The other type takes a mountain-top view of the goal and all the directions and keeps that in its mental compass through all the deflections, retardations and tortuosities which the character of the intervening country may compel it to accept; but these it a abridge as much as possible. The former class arrogates the name of statesman in their own day; it is to the latter that posterity concedes it and sees in them the true leaders of great movements. Mr. Tilak, like all men of pre-eminent political genius, belongs to this second and greater order of mind.

April, 1918               Education
The greatest knowledge and the greatest riches man can possess are [India’s] by inheritance; she has that for which all mankind is waiting… But the full soul rich with the inheritance of the past, the widening gains of the present, and the large potentiality of the future, can come only by a system of National Education.

It cannot come by any extension or imitation of the system of the existing universities with its radically false principles, its vicious and mechanical methods, its dead alive routine tradition and its narrow and sightless spirit. Only a new spirit and a new body born from the heart of the Nation and full of the light and hope of its resurgence can create it…

The new education will open careers, which will be at once ways of honorable sufficiency, dignity and affluence to the individual, and paths of service to the country. For the men who come out equipped in every way from its institutions will be those who will give that impetus to the economic life and effort of the country without which it cannot survive in the press of the world, much less attain its high legitimate position. Individual interest and National interest are the same and call in the same direction.

Habituated individually always to the customary groove, we prefer the safe and prescribed path, even when it leads nowhere, to the great and effective ways, and cannot see our own interest because it presents itself in a new and untried form. But this is a littleness of spirit, which the Nation must shake off that it may have the courage of its destiny….

May, 1918
Man’s road to spiritual super manhood will be open when he declares boldly that all he has yet developed, including the intellect of which he is so rightly and yet so vainly proud, are now no longer sufficient for him, and that to uncase, discover, set free this greater Light within shall be henceforward his pervading preoccupation. Then will his philosophy, art, science, ethics, social existence, vital pursuits be no longer an exercise of mind and life, done for themselves, carried in a circle, but a means for the discovery of a greater Truth behind mind and life and for the bringing of its power into our human existence.

July, 1918
Therefore the individuals who will most help the future of humanity in the new age will be those who will recognize a spiritual evolution as the destiny and therefore the great need of the human being…. They will especially not make the mistake of thinking that this change can be effected by machinery and outward institutions; they will know and never forget that it has to be lived out by each man inwardly or it can never be made a reality for the kind…

Failures must be originally numerous in everything great and difficult, but the time comes when the experience of past failures can be profitably used and the gate that so long resisted opens. In this as in all great human aspirations and endeavors, an a priori declaration of impossibility is a sign of ignorance and weakness, and the motto of the aspirant’s endeavor must be the solitary ambulando of the discoverer. For by the doing the difficulty will be solved. A true beginning has to be made; the rest is a work for Time in its sudden achievements or its long patient labor…

August, 1918                     India’s Past
When we look at the past of India, What strikes us… is her stupendous vitality, her inexhaustible power of life and joy of life, her almost unimaginably prolific creativeness. For three thousand years at lest, -it is indeed much longer, -she has been creating abundantly and incessantly, lavishly, with an inexhaustible many-sidedness, republics and kingdoms and empire, philosophies and cosmogonies and sciences and creeds and arts and poems and all kinds of monuments, places and temples and public works, communities and societies and religious orders, laws and codes and rituals, physical sciences, psychic sciences, systems of Yoga, systems of politics and administration, arts spiritual, arts worldly , trades, industries, fine crafts, - the list is endless and in each item there is almost a plethora of activity. She creates and creates and is not satisfied and is not tired; she will not have an end of it, seems hardly to need a space for rest, a time for inertia and lying fallow. She expands too outside her borders; her ships cross the ocean and the fine superfluity of her wealth brims over to Judea and Egypt and Rome; her colonies spread her arts and epics and creeds in the Archipelago; * her traces are found in the sands of Mesopotamia; her religions conquer China and Japan and spread westward as far as Palestine and Alexandria, and the figures of the Upanishads and the sayings of the Buddhists are re-echoed on the lips of Christ. Everywhere, as on her soil, so in her works there is the teeming of a superabundant energy of life…

Indeed without this opulent vitality and opulent intellectuality India could never have done so much as she did with her spiritual tendencies. It is a great error to suppose that spirituality flourishes best in an impoverished soil with the life half-killed and the intellect discouraged and intimidated. The spirituality that so flourishes is something morbid; hectic and exposed to perilous reactions. It is when the race has lived most richly and through most profoundly that spirituality finds its heights and its depths and its constant and many-sided fruition.

November, 1918                             What is Spirituality?
We are sometimes asked what on earth we mean by spirituality art and poetry or in political and social life, - a confession of ignorance strange enough in any Indian mouth at this stage of our national history…. We have here really an echo of the European idea, now of sufficiently long standing, that religion and spirituality on the one side and intellectual activity and practical life on the other are two entirely different things and have each to be pursued on its own entirely separate lines and in obedience to its own entirely separate principles...

Spirituality [does not mean] the molding of the whole type of the national being to suit the limited dogmas, forms, tenets of a particular religion, as was often enough attempted by the old societies… Spirituality is much wider than any particular religion…. True spirituality rejects no new light, no added means or materials of our human self-development.

It means simply to keep our center, our essential way of being, and our inborn nature and assimilate to it all we receive, and evolve out of it all we do and create…. [India] can, if she will give a new and decisive turn to the problems over which all mankind is laboring and stumbling, for the clue to their solutions is there in her ancient knowledge. Whether she will rise or not to the height of her opportunity in the renaissance, which is coming upon her, is the question of her destiny.
February, 1919

Even in failure there is a preparation for success: our nights carry in them the secret of a greater dawn.

If the will in a race or civilization is towards death, if it clings to the lassitude of decay and the laissez-faire of the moribund or even in strength insists blindly upon the propensities that lead to destruction or if it cherishes only the powers of dead Time and puts away from it the powers of the future, if it prefers life that was to life that will be, nothing, not even abundant strength and resources and intelligence, not even many calls to live and constantly offered opportunities will save it from an inevitable disintegration or collapse, But if there comes to it a strong faith in itself and a robust will to live, if it is open to the things that shall come, willing to seize on the future and what it offers and strong to compel it where it seems adverse, it can draw from adversity and defeat a force of invincible victory and rise from apparent helplessness and decay in a mighty flame of renovation to the light of a more splendid life. This is what Indian civilization is now realizing to do as it has always done in the eternal strength of its spirit.

April, 1919                       Asceticism?
There is nothing in the most ascetic notice of the Indian mind like the black gloom of certain kinds of European pessimism, a city of dreadful night without joy here or hope beyond, and nothing like the sad and shrinking attitude before death and the dissolution of the body which pervades Western literature. The note of ascetic pessimism often found in Christianity is a distinctly Western note; for it is absent in Christ’s teachings. The mediaeval religion with its cross, its salvation by suffering, its devil-ridden and flesh-ridden world and the flames of eternal hell waiting for man beyond the grave has a character of pain and terror alien to the Indian mind, to which indeed religious terror is a stranger…

Indian asceticism is not a mournful gospel of sorrow or a painful mortification of the flesh in morbid penance, but a noble effort towards a higher joy and an absolute possession of the spirit… Practiced not by the comparatively few who are called to it, but preached in its extreme form to all and adopted by unfit thousands, its values may be debased, counterfeits may abound and the vital force of the community lose its elasticity and its forward spring. It would be idle to pretend that such defects and untoward results have been absent in India. I do not accept the ascetic ideal as the final solution of the problem of human existence; but even its exaggerations have a nobler spirit behind them than the vitalistic exaggerations which are the opposite defect of Western culture.

May, 1919                Hinduism
The inner principles of Hinduism, the most tolerant and receptive of religious systems, is not sharply exclusive like the religious spirit of Christianity or Islam; as far as that could be without loss of its own powerful idiosyncrasy and law of being, it has been synthetic, acquisitive, inclusive…

Europe where men have constantly fought, killed burned, tortured, imprisoned, persecuted in every way imaginable by human stupidity and cruelty for the sake of dogmas, words, rites and forms of church government, Europe where these things have done duty for spirituality and religion, has hardly a record which would entitle it to cast this reproach in the face of the East…

[Hinduism] is in the first place a non-dogmatic inclusive religion and would have taken even Islam and Christianity into itself, if they had tolerated the process.

1919 (?)
All difficulties can be conquered, but only on condition of fidelity to the Way that you have taken. There is no obligation on any one to take it, -it is a difficult and trying one, a way for heroes, not for weaklings, -but once taken, it must be followed or you will not arrive.

Hunger-striking to force God or to force anybody or anything else is not the true spiritual means. I do not object to Mr. Gandhi or any one else following it for quite other than spiritual purposes, but here it is out of place; these things, I repeat, are foreign to the fundamental principle of our Yoga…

I myself have had for these fourteen years, and it is not yet finished, to bear all the possible typical difficulties, troubles, downfalls and backslidings that can rise in this great effort to change the whole normal human being…. We are the pioneers hewing our way through the jungle of the lower Priority. It will not do for us to be cowards and shirkers and refuse the burden, to clamor for everything’s to be made quick and easy for us. Above all things I demand from you endurance, firmness, heroism, and -the true spiritual heroism. I want strong men. I do not want emotional children.

The mentality of the West has long cherished the aggressive and quite illogical idea of a single religion for all mankind, a religion universal by the very force of its narrowness, one set of dogmas, one cult, and one system of ceremonies, one array of prohibitions and injunctions, one ecclesiastical ordinance. That narrow absurdity prances about as the one true religion which all must accept on peril of persecution by men here and spiritual rejection or fierce eternal punishment by God in other worlds. This grotesque creation of human unreason, the parent of so much intolerance, cruelty, obscurantism and aggressive fanaticism, has never been able to take firm hold of the free and supple mind of India.

Men everywhere have common human failings, and intolerance and narrowness especially in the matter of observances there has been and is in India… But these things have never taken the proportions, which they assumed in Europe. Intolerance has been confined for the most part to the minor forms of polemical attack or to social obstruction or ostracism; very seldom have Hindus transgressed across the line to the major forms of barbaric persecution which draw a long, red and hideous stain across the religions history of Europe. There has played ever in India the saving perception of a higher and purer spiritual intelligence, which has had its effect on the mass mentality. Indian religion has always felt that since the minds, the temperaments, the intellectual affinities of men are unlimited in their variety, a perfect liberty of thought and of worship must be allowed to the individual in his approach to the Infinite.

The will of a single hero can breathe courage into the hearts of a million cowards.

No system indeed by its own force can bring about the change that humanity really needs; for that can only come by its growth into the firmly realized possibilities of its own higher nature, and this growth depends on an inner and not an outer change. But outer change may at least prepare favorable conditions for that more real amelioration, -or on the contrary they may lead to such conditions that the sword of Kaki* can alone purify the earth from the burden of an obstinately Asuric humanity. The choice lies with the race itself; for as it sows, so shall it reap the fruit of its Karma.

January 5, 1920
Dear Baptista,
I do not at all look down on politics or political action or consider have got above them. I have always laid a dominant stress and I now lay an entire stress on the spiritual life, but my idea of spirituality has nothing to do with ascetic withdrawal or contempt or disgust of secular things. There is to me nothing secular, all human activity is for me a thing to be Included in a complete spiritual life, and the importance of politics at the present time is very great. But my line and intention of political activity would differ considerably from anything now current in the field. I entered into political action and continued it from 1903 to 1910 with one aim and one alone, to get into the mind of the people a settled will for freedom and the necessity of a struggle to achieve it in place of the futile ambling Congress methods till then in vogue. That is now done and the Amritsar Congress is the seal upon it…. What preoccupies me now is the question what [the country] is going to do with its self-determination, how will it use its freedom, and on what lines is it going to determine its future?

April, 1920
[“These peoples would crumble to pieces if I did not do actions,” 3.24]

Why did I leave politics? Because our politics is not the genuine Indian article; it is a European import, just an imitation of European ways. But that too was needed. Both of us also engaged in politics of the European style; had we not done so, the country would not have risen. And we too would not have had the experience or obtained a full development … But now the time has come to take hold of the substance instead of extending the shadow. We have to awaken the true soul of India and in its image fashion all works. For the last ten years I have been silently pouring my influence into this European political vessel, and there has been some result. I can continue to do this wherever necessary But if I went out to do that work again, associating myself with the political leaders and working with them, it would be supporting an alien law of being and a false political life. People now want to spiritualize politics-Gandhi, for instance-but they can’t get hold of the right way. What is Gandhi doing? Making a hodge-podge called satyagraha out of ahimsa paramo dharmah [non-violence is the highest law], Jainism, hartal, passive resistance, etc.; bringing a sort of Indianized Tolstoyism into the country. The result-if there is any lasting result-will be a sort of Indianized Bolshevism. I have no objection to his work; let each one act according to his own inspiration. But that is not the real thing.

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 “through phobia’. Whatever may have been in the mediaeval period, now this attitude is the sign of a great decline. The mediaeval period was a night, a time of victory for the man of ignorance; the modern world is a time of victory for the man of knowledge. It is the one who can fathom and learn the truth of the world by thinking more, searching more, laboring more, who will gain more Shakti. Look at Europe, and you will see two things: a wide limitless sea of thought and the play of a huge and rapid, yet disciplined force. The whole Shakti of Europe lies there. It is by virtue of this Shakti that she has been able to swallow the world, like our Tapaswins of old, whose might held even the gods of the universe in awe, suspense and subjection. People say that Europe is rushing into the jaws of destruction. I do not think so. All these revolutions, all these up settings are the initial stages of a new creation. Now look at India: a few solitary giants aside, everywhere there is your” simple man”, that is your average man who will not think and cannot think, who has not the least Shakti but only a momentary excitement…. The difference lies there. But there is a fatal limitation to the power and thought of Europe. When she enters the field of spirituality. Her thought-power stops working. There Europe sees everything as a riddle, nebulous metaphysics, yogic hallucination-“It rubs its eyes as in smoke and can see nothing clearly.” Still in Europe there is now a great striving to surmount even this limitation Thanks to our forefathers, we have the spiritual sense, and whoever has this sense has within his reach such Knowledge, such Shakti that with one breath he could blow away like a blade of grass all the huge power of Europe. But to get that Shakti, Shakti is needed. We, however, are not worshippers of Shakti; we are worshippers of the easy way…. Our civilization has become ossified, our Dharma bigotry of externals, our spirituality a faint glimmer of light or a momentary wave of intoxication. So long as this state of things lasts, and permanent resurgence of India is impossible.

We have abandoned the sadhana of Shakti and so the Shakti has abandoned us. We practice the yoga of love, but where there is no Knowledge or Shakti, loves does not stay, narrowness and littleness come in. In narrow and small mind, life and heart, love finds no room. Where in Bengal is there love? Nowhere else even in this division-ridden India is there so much quarrelling, strained relations, jealousy, hatred and factionalism as in Bengal. In the noble heroic age of the Aryan people there was not so much shouting and gesticulating, but the endeavor they set in motion lasted many centuries. The Bengali’s endeavor lasts for a day or two. You say what is needed is emotional excitement, to fill the country with enthusiasm. We did all that in the political field during the Swadeshi period; but all we did now lies in the dust…. Therefore I no longer wish to make emotional excitement, feeling and mental enthusiasm the base. I want to make a vast and heroic equality the foundation of my yoga; in all the activities of the being, of the adhar [vessel] based on that equality, I want a complete, firm and unshakable Shakti; over that ocean of Shakti 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. I do not want tens of thousands of disciples; it will be enough if I can get as instruments of God a hundred complete men free from petty egoism. I have no faith in the customary trade of guru. I do not want to be a guru. What I want is that a few, awakened at my touch or at that of another, will manifest from within their sleeping divinity and realize the divine life. It is such men who will raise this country.

August 30, 1920
A gigantic movement of non-cooperation merely to get some Punjab officials punished or to set up again the Turkish Empire, which is dead and gone, shocks my ideas both of proportion and of common sense.

January, 1921
India has never been nationally and politically one. India was for close on a thousand years swept by barbaric invasions and for almost another thousand years in servitude to successive foreign masters… But in India at a very early time the spiritual and cultural unity was made complete and became the very stuff of the life of all this great surge of humanity between the Himalayas and the two seas, Invasion and foreign rule, the Greek, the Parthian and the Hun, the robust vigor of Islam, the leveling steam-roller heaviness of the British occupation and the British system, the enormous pressure of the Occident have not been able to drive or crush the ancient soul out of the body her Vedic Rishis made for her.

December 1, 1922
As you know, I do not believe that the Mahatma’s principle [of non-cooperation] can be the true foundation or his program the true means of bringing out the genuine freedom and greatness of India, her Swarajya and Samrajya. On the other hand… I hold that school [of Tilakite nationalism] to be out of date. My own policy, if I were in the field, would be radically different in principle and program from both; however it might coincide in certain points. But the country is not yet ready to understand its principle or to execute its program.
Because I know this very well, I am content to work still on the spiritual and psychic plane, preparing there the ideas and forces, which may afterwards at the right moment and under the right conditions, precipitate themselves into the vital and material field….

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