India's Rebirth by Sri Aurobindo

  • By Sri Aurobindo
  • August, 15 2001

1923 – 1926        

Background - During this period Aurobindo used to have daily talks with a few disciples on a wide variety of topics, from yoga to the prevailing national / international situation. The following excerpts are excerpts from talks, noted down by his disciples.

April 9, 1923                        Community based on Dharma
The ancients based their society on the structure of religion – I do not mean narrow religion but Dharma. The whole social fabric was built up to fulfill that purpose. There was no talk of individual liberty, but there was absolute communal liberty. Every community was free to develop its own religion. Each community had its own Dharma and within itself was independent, every village – city had its own organization quite free from all political control and within that every individual was free. The whole community in India was a very big one and the community culture based on Dharma was not thrown into a kind of (political or national) organization that would resist external aggression. (This note has two answered two questions. It explains why our country has so many clans with distinctive cultures or customs but the Central Idea across regions is the same. I realized this on a recent holiday to Himachal Pradesh. Spiti Valley has its language, culture. Go to Kinnaur District and it’s different, go to Chamba and it’s different. The local deity has a different name but if you go deeper it is invariably Shiva’s wife, Parvati. Parvati is also worshipped in the North and East but in a different avatar. Secondly it is one of the reasons why India has never invaded another country. Since Sanathan Dharam is not a proslyticising religion and due to the absence of a King type of authority, local chieftains never invaded another country. There are many more reasons too – later.)

April 18, 1923       Hindu-Muslim unity
(Sri Aurobindo :) I am sorry they are making a fetish of this Hindu-Muslim unity. It is no use ignoring facts; some day the Hindus may have fight the Muslims and they must prepare for it Hindu-Muslim unity should not mean the subjection of the Hindus. Every time the mildness of the Hindu has given way. The best solution would be to allow the Hindus to organize themselves and the Hindu-Muslim unity would take care of itself, it would automatically solve the problem. Otherwise we are lulled into a false sense of satisfaction that we have solved a difficult problem when in fact we have only shelved it.

July 23, 1923              Gandhi’s Ahimsa

I believe Gandhi does not know what actually happens to the man’s nature when he takes to Satyagraha or non-violence. He thinks that men get purified by it. But when men suffer, or subject themselves to voluntary suffering, what happens is that their vital being gets strengthened. These movements affect the vital being only and not any other part. Now when you cannot oppose the force that oppresses, you say that you will suffer. That suffering is vital and it gives strength. When the man who has thus suffered gets power he becomes a worse oppressor….

What one can do is to transform the spirit of violence. But in this practice of Satyagraha it is not transformed. When you insist on such a one-sided principle, what happens is that cant, hypocrisy and dishonesty get in and there is no purification at all. Purification can come by the transfoemation of the impulse of violence, as I said. In that respect the old system in India was much better: the man who had the fighting spirit became the Kshatriya and them fighting spirit was raised above the ordinary vital influence. The attempt was to spiritualize it. It succeeded in doing what passive resistance cannot and will not achieve. The Kshatriya was the man who would not allow any oppression, who would fight it out and he was the man who would not oppress anybody That was the ideal.

You can live amicably with a religion whose principle is toleration. But how is it possible to live peacefully with a religion whose principle is “I will not tolerate you”? How are you going to have unity with these people? Certainly Hindu-Muslim unity cannot be arrived at on the basis that the Muslims will go on converting Hindus while the Hindus shall not convert any Mahomedan. You can’t build unity on such a basis. Perhaps the only way of making the Mahomedans harmless is to make them lose their fanatic faith in their religion….

That was the result of the passive resistance which they practised. They went on suffering till they got strong enough and, when they got power, they began to persecute others with a vengeance….

That is one of the violences of the Satyagrahi that he does not care for the pressure which he brings on others. It is not non-violence-it is not “Ahimsa”. True Ahimsa is a state of mind and does not consist in physical or external action or in avoidance of action. Any pressure in the inner being is a breach of Ahimsa.

For instance, when Gandhi fasted in the Ahmedabad mill-hands’ strike to settle the question between mill- owners and workers, there was a kind of violence towards others. The mill-owners did not want to be responsible for his death and so they gave way, without of course, being convinced of his position. It is a kind of violence on them. But as soon as they found the situation normal they reverted to their old ideas The same thing happened in South Africa. He got some concessions there by passive resistance and when he came back to India it became worse than before.

September 12, 1923          Contribution of Islamic Culture
The Mahomedan or Islam culture hardly gave anything to the world which may be said to be of fundamental importance and typically its own; Islamic culture was mainly borrowed from others. Their mathematics and astronomy and other subjects were derived from India and Greece. It is true they gave some of these things a new turn, but they have not created much. Their philosophy and their religion are very simple and what they call Sufism is largely the result of gnostics who lived in Persia and it is the logical outcome of that school of thought largely touched by Vedanta.

I have, however, mentioned [in The Foundations of Indian Culture] that Islamic culture contributed the Indo-Saracenic architecture to Indian culture. I do not think it has done anything more in India of cultural value. It gave some new forms to art and poetry. Its political institutions were always semi-barbaric.

June 2, 1924           Gandhi - Idolatory
Gandhi is wonderstruck that his interpretation of the Gita is seriously questioned by a Shastri. I am rather wonderstruck at his claim to an infallible interpretation of the Gita.

Yes, he has criticized Dayananda Saraswati who has, according to him, abolished image-worship and set up the idolatry of the Vedas. He forgets, I am afraid, that he is doing the same in economics by his Charkha and Khaddar, and if one may add, by his idolatry of non-violence in religion ad philosophy.

In that way every one has established idol-worship. He has criticized the Arya Samaj but why not criticize Mahomedanism? His statement is adulatory of the Koran and of Christianity which is idolatry of the Bible, Christ and the Cross. Man is hardly able to do without externals and only a few will go to the kernel.

August 17, 1924                  Gandhi - Ahimsa
A few months earlier, Gandhi sent his son Devdas to Pondicherry to see Aurobindo.

He asked my views about non-violence. I told him, “Suppose there is an invasion of India by the Afghans, how are you going to meet it with non-violence?” That is all I remember. I do not think he put me any other question.

December 4, 1925            Morality vs. Spirituality
(A disciple :) But people always confuse morality with spirituality.

Like the Christians to whom there is no difference between morality and spirituality. For Instance, take this fast now announced [by Gandhi]. It is a Christian idea of atonement for sin. All those reasons, which are given, make it rather ridiculous. Indian culture knew the value

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