Renaissance man of India
(former governor of J&K and a former Union minister)
May 30 : Every nation has its own special attributes: Germany has its organisational abilities, the United States has enterprise, Japan has adaptability and the United Kingdom has balance. The hallmark of India, in its hey-days, was the power and profundity of her mind and the purity and punctiliousness of her soul. It was this power and purity which made Indian civilisation one of the most creative and constructive civilizations in the world.
In his own inimitable style, Sri Aurobindo had noted: "For 3,000 years she has been creating abundantly and incessantly, lavishly… republics and kingdoms and empires, philosophies and cosmogonies and sciences and creeds and arts and poems and all kinds of monuments and public works, communities and societies and religious orders, laws and codes and rituals, physical sciences, psychic sciences, systems of yoga, 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".
The saints and sages of ancient India injected power and potency in the Indian mind. In turn, this power and potency added to the capacity of the sages and saints to think deeply on the phenomena around. One of the fundamental truths discovered by them was that the universe is an organic web in which every life is inextricably enmeshed with the other and that this web is permeated with cosmic force of which man and nature were constituents as well as contributors.
A philosophic structure, in the form of Vedanta, was raised and a way of attaining elevation of mind and moving towards truth, while carrying on with day to day work, was indicated through a comprehensive system of yoga.
Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, the power of the Indian mind, which had produced profound systems and structures, began to wane after the 7th century. Soon there was a near total desertification of the Indian mind, with small meadows of green appearing here and there occasionally. The "mighty evil" that had invaded the Indian mind and soul was, to a large extent, beaten back by a galaxy of profound thinkers and reformers who brought about a new awakening that led to the great renaissance of the later 19th century and early 20th century.
Out of the stalwarts of renaissance, Sri Aurobindo emerged as the strongest champion of the Indian spirit and expressed the highest confidence in its underlying strength. In no uncertain terms, he declared:
"India cannot perish, our race cannot become extinct, because among all the divisions of mankind it is to India that is reserved the highest and most splendid destiny, the most essential to the future of the human race. It is she who must send forth from herself the future religion of the entire world, the eternal religion which is to harmonise all religion, science and philosophies and make mankind one soul".
In Sri Aurobindo's thought, the Sanatan Dharm and India always appear as two sides of the same coin. But in his famous Uttarapar speech, delivered on May 30, 1909, he placed the former at a higher pedestal: "When, therefore, it is said that India shall rise, it is the Sanatan Dharm that shall rise. When it is said that India shall be great, it is the Sanatan Dharm that shall be great. When it is said that India shall expand and extend herself, it is the Sanatan Dharm that shall expand and extend itself over the world".
Sri Aurobindo makes it clear that Sanatan Dharm is designed to uplift the entire human race and not merely the Hindus:
"What is this religion which we call Sanatan, eternal. It is the Hindu religion only because the Hindu nation has kept it... But it is not circumscribed by the confines of a single country. That which we call the Hindu religion is really the eternal religion because it is the universal religion which embraces all others".
It needs to be underlined that in the post-Uttarpara-speech period, Sri Aurobindo committed himself mainly to the liberation of human consciousness. He made it clear: "Spirituality is India's only politics, the fulfillment of Sanatan Dharm its only swaraj". A regenerated India alone, he said, could free the world from its "enslavement to materialism" and for pointing it to the "way towards a dynamic integration of spirit and matter and to make life perfect with divine perfection". He believed that a greater evolution was the real goal of humanity.
After Sri Aurobindo's thought had undergone a subtle shift at Uttarpara on May 30, 1909, his vision was to liberate India's consciousness and bring back Sanatan Dharm as India's "national religion" — a religion which is all embracing, non-sectarian and eternal. His vision was to build a nation of karmayogis who would have a higher consciousness, be rid of egos, desires and attachments, have no joy over their successes and no grief over their failures, achieve inner rather than outer renunciation, perform passionless and impersonal actions and take themselves to such a height where no distinction is kept between their will and the will of the divine.
But what is position today? Has not a deep and dark shadow fallen between Sri Aurobindo's vision and the reality in India today? Do we find karmayogis around or see signs of liberation of India's spirit? Has there been any advance towards spirituality or higher level of human consciousness? Clearly, the answer to all such questions is in the negative. On the centenary day — May 30, 2009 — of Uttarpara speech, let all students and teachers of Sri Aurobindo's school of thought resolve that they would not lose heart on account of current dismal scenario and would work with a renewed sense of mission to ensure that the vision of the great prophet of the 20th century is fulfilled. Undoubtedly, the task is Herculean, the goal is distant and would take a long time to traverse. But let us not forget that even the longest journey begins with the first step.
Related post on Sri Aurobindo's Uttarpara speech