Sri Aurobindo’s 150th birth anniversary celebrations and the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence are underway through the great national and global changes happening across India and the world. These changes contain in them the seeds of the progressive realization of the five dreams of Sri Aurobindo for India and the world.
We have made tremendous advances in science and technology, economy and politics and across our cultural systems. We have also complimented these changes with a revival of our cultural values. Yet, despite this immense material progress, our spiritual journey – as envisioned by Sri Aurobindo – is still at a nascent stage. Presently, we are at a stage where, due to our rapidly precipitating voracious material appetite, we are facing insurmountable obstacles that will determine our collective future. For, our material advancements in all fields are now being confronted by deeper challenges in the form of environmental crisis and unsustainability of the present economic system, which is leading to greater psychological suffering which “money” and the so-called “development” cannot address. These challenges force us to rethink the selfishness inherent in the utilitarian foundations of our entire present systems. Their failure also opens a space for the searching humanity to turn towards its deeper self and begin the transition to the next level of human evolution through the spiritual path.
The Five Dreams of Sri Aurobindo
At the momentous hour of India’s Independence, Sri Aurobindo had enunciated his five dreams for the future of India and the world. Sri Aurobindo had thus written:
“August 15th, 1947 is the birthday of free India. It marks for her the end of an old era, the beginning of a new age. But we can also make it by our life and acts as a free nation an important date in a new age opening for the whole world, for the political, social, cultural and spiritual future of humanity.
August 15th is my own birthday and it is naturally gratifying to me that it should have assumed this vast significance. I take this coincidence, not as a fortuitous accident, but as the sanction and seal of the Divine Force that guides my steps on the work with which I began life, the beginning of its full fruition. Indeed, on this day I can watch almost all the world-movements which I hoped to see fulfilled in my lifetime, though then they looked like impracticable dreams, arriving at fruition or on their way to achievement. In all these movements free India may well play a large part and take a leading position.
The first of these dreams was a revolutionary movement which would create a free and united India. India today is free but she has not achieved unity. At one moment it almost seemed as if in the very act of liberation she would fall back into the chaos of separate States which preceded the British conquest. But fortunately it now seems probable that this danger will be averted and a large and powerful, though not yet a complete union will be established. Also, the wisely drastic policy of the Constituent Assembly has made it probable that the problem of the depressed classes will be solved without schism or fissure. But the old communal division into Hindus and Muslims seems now to have hardened into a permanent political division of the country. It is to be hoped that this settled fact will not be accepted as settled for ever or as anything more than a temporary expedient. For if it lasts, India may be seriously weakened, even crippled: civil strife may remain always possible, possible even a new invasion and foreign conquest. India’s internal development and prosperity may be impeded, her position among the nations weakened, her destiny impaired or even frustrated. This must not be; the partition must go. Let us hope that that may come about naturally, by an increasing recognition of the necessity not only of peace and concord but of common action, by the practice of common action and the creation of means for that purpose. In this way unity may finally come about under whatever form – the exact form may have a pragmatic but not a fundamental importance. But by whatever means, in whatever way, the division must go; unity must and will be achieved, for it is necessary for the greatness of India’s future.
Another dream was for the resurgence and liberation of the peoples of Asia and her return to her great role in the progress of human civilisation. Asia has arisen; large parts are now quite free or are at this moment being liberated: its other still subject or partly subject parts are moving through whatever struggles towards freedom. Only a little has to be done and that will be done today or tomorrow. There India has her part to play and has begun to play it with an energy and ability which already indicate the measure of her possibilities and the place she can take in the council of the nations.
The third dream was a world-union forming the outer basis of a fairer, brighter and nobler life for all mankind. That unification of the human world is under way; there is an imperfect initiation organised but struggling against tremendous difficulties. But the momentum is there and it must inevitably increase and conquer. Here too India has begun to play a prominent part and, if she can develop that larger statesmanship which is not limited by the present facts and immediate possibilities but looks into the future and brings it nearer, her presence may make all the difference between a slow and timid and a bold and swift development. A catastrophe may intervene and interrupt or destroy what is being done, but even then the final result is sure. For unification is a necessity of Nature, an inevitable movement. Its necessity for the nations is also clear, for without it the freedom of the small nations may be at any moment in peril and the life even of the large and powerful nations insecure. The unification is therefore to the interests of all, and only human imbecility and stupid selfishness can prevent it; but these cannot stand for ever against the necessity of Nature and the Divine Will. But an outward basis is not enough; there must grow up an international spirit and outlook, international forms and institutions must appear, perhaps such developments as dual or multilateral citizenship, willed interchange or voluntary fusion of cultures. Nationalism will have fulfilled itself and lost its militancy and would no longer find these things incompatible with self-preservation and the integrality of its outlook. A new spirit of oneness will take hold of the human race.
Another dream, the spiritual gift of India to the world has already begun. India’s spirituality is entering Europe and America in an ever increasing measure. That movement will grow; amid the disasters of the time more and more eyes are turning towards her with hope and there is even an increasing resort not only to her teachings, but to her psychic and spiritual practice.
The final dream was a step in evolution which would raise man to a higher and larger consciousness and begin the solution of the problems which have perplexed and vexed him since he first began to think and to dream of individual perfection and a perfect society. This is still a personal hope and an idea, an ideal which has begun to take hold both in India and in the West on forward-looking minds. The difficulties in the way are more formidable than in any other field of endeavour, but difficulties were made to be overcome and if the Supreme Will is there, they will be overcome. Here too, if this evolution is to take place, since it must proceed through a growth of the spirit and the inner consciousness, the initiative can come from India and, although the scope must be universal, the central movement may be hers.
Such is the content which I put into this date of India’s liberation; whether or how far this hope will be justified depends upon the new and free India.” (CWSA 36, 2006, pp. 474-477).
The Present State of Affairs and the Path Towards Fulfilment
In light of the five dreams of Sri Aurobindo, the present state of India and the world needs to be understood. Over the course of 75 years of India’s Independence, both India and the world have witnessed a vast magnitude of changes in different fields of life. In India, in the last eight years alone, the face of our economy and politics, society and culture, religion and scientific advancement have undergone significant changes. We have emerged out of the shell of self-recoil to which we would often take recourse. Today, we stand as a proud nation, which, as the Prime Minister aptly pointed out in his Independence Day speech, does not need certificates from the world. Our national life has become more dynamic externally, while internally we have been compelled to think better and aim higher by a resurgent wave of cultural and religious nationalism pervading the country.
If we look at the five dreams of Sri Aurobindo in this light, then they are either fulfilled or are on the course of being fulfilled.
First, a free and united India was created through a revolutionary freedom struggle. Although the country was united only in the sense that serious divisions of separate states could not threaten to break away from the nation, for the politics of the country – thriving on dividing the country along religious and caste lines – would not allow a comprehensive unity to take place. The majority community (the Hindus) has itself remained highly divided over the last many decades, especially along caste lines and communal lines under the delusional garb of secularism. This has done much damage to the collective psyche. The country and its leaders failed to realize that unless the majority community stands strong and united there can be no national unity and respect from other nations or communities. Indeed, the weakness of the Hindus and their attempts to appease other religions has been at the heart of the Hindu-Muslim divide. Over the last eight years, we have seen some changes in a positive direction, as the nationalist Hindu resurgence has been spreading.
Second, the resurgence of Asia is still unfolding, with countries like India and China leading the way. Asian countries have been trying to evolve modern political systems and societies which are different from the West. Instead of blindly following the western form of individualistic democracy, where every person lives for himself and pursues his own selfish interests, Asian societies, true to their national genius, continue to be communal in nature. Asia is also emerging as the key centre of global affairs in less than a century after decolonization. It has become the hub of global trade, political power and thriving vitality, overshadowing Europe entirely in importance. India has in some ways, since Independence, focused less on the material aspects of foreign policy and more on the civilizational connections, even willing to bear material costs in doing so.
Outwardly, our foreign engagement with Asia has varied – and mostly lacked – in dynamism, which is now changing. While immediately after Independence, India led the Asian countries at global forums, this dynamism began to dilute in the post-Nehru era, especially when Indian foreign policy became ensnared with Communist Russia, due to the need to handle challenges from Pakistan and China and other neighbourhood problems. India preferred to look inward, focus on its own challenges and on its economy and preferred to maintain non-alignment in world politics. It is only in recent times that a true dynamism and vitality is once again visible in Indian foreign policy. Modi is the only Prime Minister who has not attended a single summit of the archaic Non-Aligned Movement. Indeed, now India prefers to describe itself as an independent power, and one that is shedding its inhibitions. It is as part of this dynamism that India has once again begun to engage with the rest of Asia.
Third, an incipient world-union has been visible since the end of the Second World War. Institutions like United Nations and various regional organizations have endured, although they are mainly toothless. We are nowhere near a true world union politically, for, that would be impossible without a strong expression of the spirit which alone can have the true uniting power by overriding the protective, narrow instinct of nationalism. However, we have achieved at least some measure of unity. This became evident when the testing times came upon us in the form of the recent Russia-Ukraine war. The war itself was an unprecedented event in the aftermath of the Second World War – a blatant attack on not just Ukraine, but on the very principle of nationalism and a civilised world order. It was only the united will of the world that prevented Russia from succeeding in its evil design. This shows that we may not truly have a world-union yet, but we have achieved certain measure of unity and international conscience.
Fourth, the gift of India’s spirituality to the world is spreading in a very subtle way. It is a process that has been humbly going on for decades, but now with India reawakening to its nationalist spirit and assuming a place of power and importance in world affairs, this gift becomes even more significant. The appeal of Hindu culture and yogic practices have spread across the whole Globe, especially among Western nations. The power of the devotional cult of Krishna has penetrated even the Islamic countries in the neighbourhood. All this is a part of the larger movement of the awakening of Sanatana Dharma.
Finally, humanity is now facing its greatest challenges which have no solution except a spiritual one. Although Sri Aurobindo called this evolution of mankind to a higher level of consciousness a ‘personal hope and an idea’, yet its inevitability is now before us. We are facing a crisis in all spheres of life. Our physical environment, food, water and air have become insufferable, we are under constant emergencies and siege of disease and ill-health, our outer systems and institutions have failed to deliver, and we are facing as individuals and societies, intense psychological distress and perversion. Our technological advancement has only further buttressed this process. Instead of being a messiah that humanity saw in it, Science has become a handmaiden of our baser instincts and desires which hasten us on the way to our own demise.
This present state of affairs leaves us with little choice but to aspire to a life that can carry us to a higher level of consciousness and eventually to a higher level of human evolution itself. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother had spoken of the latter as the state of the Supramental, where one of the main characteristics would be the transition from mental-rational human to a superhuman and divine spiritual mechanism. India, amongst all the nations on this earth, with her gift of innate spirituality, is best positioned to initiate this transition. However, India herself has gone through – and is still going through – and will have to go through much grind, to bring out her future possibilities.
A Brief Trajectory of India’s Growth Since Independence
With the coming of the British in the eighteenth century, India progressively moved – very slowly in the beginning – towards the monstrous artificial organisation of the bureaucratic and industrial State. In the decades after Independence in 1947, it culminated in the creation of a huge and intricate web of economic, political, educational, legal, judicial and administrative set up run by a corrupt and inefficient bureaucratic machinery of the Central, State and Local governments. The action of all these seems to have replaced or at least thoroughly restricted the action of the traditional web of Dharma which while accommodating the spontaneous principle of life – not subjecting it (the life-being) to the constructed mental ideals as in the West – subjected it to a lofty idealism received by Indian mind (not constructed by itself) through the illuminations, inspirations and higher experiences of the spirit. This resulted in a greater, freer and loftier play of the powers of life because of the elevating influence of the greater controlling power. The post-independence elected governments – enamoured of the ideal of democratic socialism – attempted to control the life and thinking of the people to push them in this direction. But all such attempts failed because of the gift of a special genius with which Nature has endowed all Indians; the genius for spontaneously organising the necessary machinery for an unbridled pursuit of life’s instincts and intuitions against any external control. The enactment of more and more elaborate law and rules and construction of more novel institutions and increasingly intricate administrative machinery to regulate the life and actions of individuals amounted, in effect, – in spite of the appearances to the contrary – to no more than an attempt to plug the round holes by driving square pegs into them. This left plenty of room on all the four sides of the peg (of external laws and regulations) for the free play of life’s ingenuity which came to be labelled “Corruption” but was, to a certain extent, a manifestation of the survival instinct of the system from some of the most inept, psychologically untenable and often even outrightly foolish governmental laws and provisions. As things stand, even today the attempt of the system to buy its way out of the clutches of the self-serving governmental bureaucratic machinery accounts for a good proportion of what would be legally termed corruption. During the past seven decades, the virile survival instinct of the system – especially the economic system – always got better of the more and more elaborate attempts of the government to regulate (strangulate) it.
The situation on this front at present has become really ominous with the new tools that the continuing advancements in IT are going to put in the hands of the governments around the world. Still, human ingenuity can be expected to outdo – perhaps with a little longer time lag – the governmental efforts to regulate it beyond a point. The governments around the world and, especially, the Modi government in India is so allured by the IT’s potential – especially for controlling corruption by leaving less and less room for the play of human craftiness – that it is trying hard to have the government exercise an increasingly pervasive control over the functioning of individuals and institutions with a view to improve the quality of their functioning and thus help lead the country towards the path of Progress. Even after the bitter experience of past one hundred years, humanity, at large, seems to be in no mood to pay heed to Sri Aurobindo’s warning that no outer machinery can help it to achieve perfection unless it changes its consciousness – what one is within that one shall enjoy outside. No outer machinery can rescue one from the law of one’s being. Yet, with the projected advancements in science and technology the continuing frantic attempts to regulate the life of individuals and collectivities are likely to reach such dangerous levels as to prove suicidal for the human race. Even as it is, the scenario is frightful even in democratic countries like India. If we take the free play of life in ancient India under the web of Dharma as akin to the free flow of Ganga then all the novel institutions and the jungle of laws and regulations that have sprung up during the pursuit of the Western notion of Vikas are like so many huge drainage pipes – Courts, Hospitals, Police, Government Departments, Political Parties, Parliament, Assemblies, Universities, Colleges, and the epitomes of, what Sri Aurobindo termed, ‘organised selfishness, cruelty and greed,’ – the Industries and what not. All these are continuously delivering filth into the incorruptible – but increasingly scarce and dammed – waters of the Ganga of life. Anyone who comes into contact (and for the duration he is bound to remain into contact) with the above mentioned monuments of modern culture, becomes a lesser person – comes down into a lower poise of his normal consciousness which makes him more self-centered and vulnerable to the action of the lower forces behind greed, lust and ambition. It is only due to the all-pervasive and invincible action of the Divine Grace that, in spite of the relentless non-stop action of the Levers of Downward-Pull, the country is still in one piece and even seems to be getting along smoothly in some areas and in some sense.
In the light of the above discussion, there seems to be, apparently, no way out of the present situation as there appears to be no prospect in sight of any let-up in the continuous action of the centres of degradation with their built-in tendency to help and reinforce each other. All the attempts of the last seven decades to change and improve the condition seem to have been either ineffective or have contributed to further deterioration. Thus, one does not know where to begin and with what? The Drainage Pipes continue to pour filth and corrupt the life of all the individuals while all the “wise people” keep sitting on the fence helplessly watching the show. It is truly a dismal scenario.
The Present Condition – The Opposing Currents
Those who pin their hopes on Science and eulogise Western culture and would like to see India grow into a slightly modified copy of it feel that the ever growing advances in science and technology together will somehow or the other – not sure exactly how – resolve the current difficulties, for nature always works things out and there is no serious cause for alarm and fretting, which, those having a predisposition for such things will always tend do. This is one way of looking at the present scenario. On the other hand, those who put their trust in the religious spirit and traditional values pin their hopes on a return of the good old days by a replacement of the socio-economic system and utilitarian spirit of the present materialistic culture by the traditional Indian culture with its ethical and religious system and a widespread spirit of belief and piety. In their view, without a return to the enduring and well tested values and ways of being, there can be no security in blindly treading into an uncertain future on the heels of science and technology, for it can be clearly seen that the present course has been leading us towards an increasing corruption of the minds and hearts of the people.
Among those who are favourably disposed towards a religious or moral solution, there is a very small number who have a taste for and an actual experience of genuine spirituality. Such a group will tend to see the present crisis as the crisis of consciousness due to an imbalance between the “inner” and the “outer” progress. For, “Man has created a system of civilisation which has become too big for his limited mental capacity and understanding and his still more limited spiritual and moral capacity to utilise and manage, a too dangerous servant of his blundering ego and its appetites. For no greater seeing mind, no intuitive soul of knowledge has yet come to his surface of consciousness which could make this basic fullness of life a condition for the free growth of something that exceeded it. This new fullness of the means of life might be, by its power for a release from the incessant unsatisfied stress of his economic and physical needs, an opportunity for the full pursuit of other and greater aims surpassing the material existence, for the discovery of a higher truth and good and beauty, for the discovery of a greater and diviner spirit which would intervene and use life for a higher perfection of the being: but it is being used instead for the multiplication of new wants and an aggressive expansion of the collective ego. At the same time Science has put at his disposal many potencies of the universal Force and has made the life of humanity materially one; but what uses this universal Force is a little human individual or communal ego with nothing universal in its light of knowledge or its movements, no inner sense or power which would create in this physical drawing together of the human world a true life unity, a mental unity or a spiritual oneness. All that is there is a chaos of clashing mental ideas, urges of individual and collective physical want and need, vital claims and desires, impulses of an ignorant life-push, hungers and calls for life satisfaction of individuals, classes, nations, a rich fungus of political and social and economic nostrums and notions, a hustling medley of slogans and panaceas for which men are ready to oppress and be oppressed, to kill and be killed, to impose them somehow or other by the immense and too formidable means placed at his disposal, in the belief that this is his way out to something ideal. The evolution of human mind and life must necessarily lead towards an increasing universality; but on a basis of ego and segmenting and dividing mind this opening to the universal can only create a vast pullulation of unaccorded ideas and impulses, a surge of enormous powers and desires, a chaotic mass of unassimilated and intermixed mental, vital and physical material of a larger existence which, because it is not taken up by a creative harmonising light of the spirit, must welter in a universalised confusion and discord out of which it is impossible to build a greater harmonic life.” (CWSA 22: 1090-91)
In the case of India, in an attempt to have some perspective on the present “muddle”, one may usefully look upon it as the result of a conflict between the two opposing currents – a conflict that has become bitter and acute after Sri Narendra Modi’s government with a nationalist agenda came to power in 2014. Now, what are the two opposing currents? Sri Bipin Chandra Pal, writing during the early years of the last century on Sri Aurobindo’s genius, most aptly described the two currents running through the country since the middle of the nineteenth century. “One was the current of Hindu Nationalism – of the revived life, culture and ideals of the nation that had lain dormant for centuries and had been discarded as lower and primitive by the first batch of English-educated Hindus, especially in Bengal. The other was the current of Indo-Anglicism – the onrushing life, culture and ideals of the foreign rulers of the land, which expressing themselves through British law and administration on the one side and the new schools and universities on the other, threatened to swamp and drown the original culture and character of the people.” (The Mother India, January 2020, p. 43). The foreign culture had almost completely succeeded in doing during the first seven decades after Independence what it had been struggling (threatening) to do during the second half of the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century. The nationalist cause found some support only after the coming of the Modi government to power in 2014.
However, the Nationalist cause was not altogether without support during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. It received tremendous support from Swami Vivekananda through his bold and inspiring speeches and from Sri Aurobindo through his fiery writings in the Bande Mataram. Describing the prestige and the supreme importance that this paper acquired during the early years of the Independence Movement, Sri B.C. Pal wrote, “The Nationalist school was without a daily English organ. A new paper was started. Aravinda was invited to join its staff. A joint-stock company was shortly floated to run it, and Aravinda became one of the directors. This paper – “Bande Mataram” – at once secured for itself a recognised position in Indian journalism. The hand of the master was in it from the very beginning. Its bold attitude, its vigorous thinking, its clear ideas, its chaste and powerful diction, its scorching sarcasm and refined witticism, were unsurpassed by any journal in the country, either Indian or Anglo-Indian. It at once raised the tone of every Bengali paper, and compelled the admiration of even hostile Anglo-Indian editors. Morning after morning, not only Calcutta but the educated community almost in every part of the country, eagerly awaited its vigorous pronouncements on the stirring questions of the day. It even forced itself upon the notice of the callous and self-centred British press. Long extracts from it commenced to be reproduced week after week even in the exclusive columns of the “Times” in London. It was a force in the country which none dared to ignore, however much they might fear or hate it; and Aravinda was the leading spirit, the central figure, in the new journal. The opportunities that were denied him in the National College he found in the pages of the “Bande Mataram,” and from a tutor of a few hundred youths he thus became the teacher of a whole nation.” (The Mother India, January 2020, p. 50)
The other opposing current which reposed its faith on the Western science and culture was nurtured by the leadership of the Congress and progressively became, especially after the Independence under the garb of “Democratic-Socialism” and “Secularism”, anti-Hindu and anti-National. So enamoured was Pundit Nehru – the first Prime Minister of independent India – of the prospect of being looked upon as an apostle of Peace and Internationalism that, as a result, his consciousness got deflected and often the national interest suffered and did not receive its due. It was never realised that we must first live as a nation – and that too as a strong nation – before we can effectively live in humanity and truly serve the international causes. India’s ages old belief in “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” – the whole earth as one family – never dissuaded the barbaric invaders from bringing an unspeakable misery and degradation through their acts of rape, plunder and butchery on those who held such a noble belief and a feeling of kindness and tolerance for all.
Through it all and all along the British rule in India, sustained efforts were being made in the country – especially among the educated classes – to cultivate in the European fashion, the intellect – which had an array of impressive achievements to show for itself in the power and prosperity of the imperial European nations. After the achievement of Independence in 1947, for the first time we really got a chance to apply it to our pressing national problems. In this course we increasingly started – as was in vogue in Europe – making use of the advice of experts – initially, and for a long time, either foreigners or foreign educated Indians – and of the special committees and Commissions (consisting of such experts) for a settled understanding and approach to our collective issues and problems. The result was that, during this process, most of our leaders, thinkers and policy makers increasingly suffered a refrigeration of their deeper parts and this left practically no room in their surface mentality for the expression of these parts – the intermediaries of the true sources of all light, power and love. Thus, there came to be left less and less room for the expression of the traditional spiritual genius of India. The trend for this kind of intellectual culmination must have been perceived by Sri Aurobindo even during the early years of the last century when he wrote, “If anyone thinks that we are merely intellectual beings, he is not a Hindu. Hinduism leaves the glorification of intellectuality to those who have never seen God. She is commissioned by Him to speak only of His greatness and majesty and she has so spoken for thousands of years. When we first received a European education, we allowed ourselves to be misled by the light of science. Science is a light within a limited room, not the sun which illumines the world. The Apara Vidya is the sum of science but there is a higher Vidya, a mightier knowledge. When we are under the influence of the lower knowledge, we imagine that we are doing everything and try to reason out the situation we find ourselves in, as if our intellect were sovereign and omnipotent. But this is an attitude of delusion and Maya. Whoever has once felt the glory of God within him can never again believe that the intellect is supreme. There is a higher voice, there is a more unfailing oracle. It is in the heart where God resides. He works through the brain, but the brain is only one of His instruments. Whatever the brain may plan, the heart knows first and whoever can go beyond the brain to the heart, will hear the voice of the Eternal.” (CWSA 7: 891-92)
“There are deeper issues for India herself, since by following certain tempting directions she may conceivably become a nation like many others evolving an opulent industry and commerce, a powerful organisation of social and political life, an immense military strength, practising power-politics with a high degree of success, guarding and extending zealously her gains and her interests, dominating even a large part of the world, but in this apparently magnificent progression forfeiting its Swadharma, losing its soul. Then ancient India and her spirit might disappear altogether and we would have only one more nation like the others and that would be a real gain neither to the world nor to us. There is a question whether she may prosper more harmlessly in the outward life yet lose altogether her richly massed and firmly held spiritual experience and knowledge. It would be a tragic irony of fate if India were to throw away her spiritual heritage at the very moment when in the rest of the world there is more and more a turning towards her for spiritual help and a saving Light. This must not and will surely not happen; but it cannot be said that the danger is not there.” (CWSA 36: 503-04)
A serious danger was certainly there then and is no less serious even now. The situation at present is so critical that even those who represent the Nationalist cause seem to suffer a great deal from the malady of the intellect. This is quite understandable because during the last seven decades, three generations of Indian students have been subjected to an increasingly inefficient and utilitarian Indian version of the English educational system and a huge machinery of the government and society which kept on becoming ever more complex and corrupt. In such a spineless condition of the national psyche, what a democratic government can do, even if it be a nationalist government, is limited by what could be appreciated or at least understood by the people at large. However, a broad direction may still be given, and is being given by the nationalist government under Sri Modi.
The Future from India’s Perspective
“India has become the symbolic representation of all the difficulties of modern mankind. India will be the land of its resurrection – the resurrection to a higher and truer life” (CWM 13:368).
As we have seen above, under the given circumstances, India now faces a choice before herself – a choice between utilitarian westernization, secularization and emasculation of our capabilities, or, rediscovering her true self and spirit and fulfilling her mission in humanity. Our challenges have multiplied manifold over the last decade. We have taken many progressive steps, over the last eight years, that have aided the process of national awakening. But with every such step – especially if it has been a big one like Ram Mandir or changing the status of Kashmir – the backlash from the enemies within and outside has also grown. Such backlashes have moved the government to give in to temptation and avoid the hard way, but the work must and does go on. The road is still long and full of tenacious obstacles, which tend to assume more and more subtle forms.
Indeed the situation at present is even more critical than at any point before; for, even those who champion the nationalist cause apparently suffer from the malady of the intellect. It is only by the revival of her deeper consciousness that India can truly embark upon a new future dawn. As the Mother had said, “The future of India is very clear. India is the Guru of the world. The future structure of the world depends on India. India is the living soul. India is incarnating the spiritual knowledge in the world. The Government of India ought to recognize the significance of India in this sphere and plan their action accordingly” (CWM 13: 361).
This was said by the Mother many decades ago, but it is only now that the government is awakening, a little, to this reality. From his speeches and approach, it is clear that the Prime Minister does have some understanding of the necessity of India’s revival. But the perspective is not yet clear. The government has to realize that such a revival, if it is to be sustainable cannot merely be economic or political or religious or cultural, but has to be at a deeper spiritual level. We may have undertaken many desirable actions over the last eight years, but they tend to be directionless because we, as a collectivity, remain soulless.
In the future of India lies the future of humanity. For, as Sri Aurobindo had said, “Her [India’s] mission is to point back humanity to the true source of human liberty, human equality, human brotherhood. When man is free in spirit, all other freedom is at his command; for Free is the Lord who cannot be bound. When he is liberated from delusion, he perceives the divine equality of the world which fulfils itself through love and justice, and this perception transfuses itself into the law of government and society…When this perception becomes the basis of religion, of philosophy, of social speculation and political aspiration, then will liberty, equality and fraternity take their place in the structure of society and the Satya Yuga return. This is the Asiatic reading of democracy which India must rediscover for herself before she can give it to the world…It has been said that democracy is based on the rights of man; it has been replied that it should rather take its stand on the duties of man; but both rights and duties are European ideas. Dharma is the Indian conception in which rights and duties lose the artificial antagonism created by a view of the world which makes selfishness the root of action, and regain their deep and eternal unity. Dharma is the basis of democracy which Asia must recognize, for in this lies he distinction between the soul of Asia and the soul of Europe. Through Dharma the Asiatic evolution fulfils itself; this is her secret” (CWSA 7: 930-32).
As this Asiatic evolution unfolds itself in the present times, the five dreams of Sri Aurobindo are being realized progressively. The first four dreams have already been realized or are on the course to being realized. India stands, today, as a strong, nationalist and united nation, which is discovering her roots of Sanatana Dharma. In the process of getting rid of the divisions which assailed her in the past, such as caste and regional divisions. She is also well on her way to reconciling the communal problem – the Hindu-Muslim problem – for which, as Sri Aurobindo had said, the only solution would be for Hindus to become strong and to ‘organize themselves’, and that is indispensable for achieving unity with the other religious communities.
In accordance with Sri Aurobindo’s dream, Asia is also on a resurgent path. Her nations are not only free but have also assumed important role in world affairs overshadowing the western countries. More importantly, Asian nations continue to preserve and even revive their ancient culture. China and India have especially made some progress in this regard. We have come a long way from when Asia was a playground for western power politics and exploitation to an Asia that is rapidly rising.
We have also seen the semblance of a world-union in its outer form in recent decades. This union is not only at a weakly institutional level, but also at a more substantive level, as borne out by the unity displayed by the world against the Russian aggression on Ukraine. This union will be further made deeper only on a spiritual basis. And here Sri Aurobindo’s fourth dream of India’s gift of spirituality to the world assumes utmost significance. This has happened for centuries as a natural and inevitable process and a part of India’s contacts with the world.
While there is scant evidence available in terms of numbers, yet the all pervasive process is visible everywhere, especially in the West. In 2009, American Newsweek magazine ran an article on religious trends in America. The headline read: WE ARE ALL HINDUS NOW, with the opening line reading that, “Recent poll data show that conceptually, at least, we are slowly becoming more like Hindus and less like traditional Christians in the ways we think about God, our selves, each other, and eternity” (Goldberg, 2020). Americans are adopting Indian systems and practices like yoga, meditation etc. in ever growing members. In 2018, some conservative estimates by America’s National Institute of Health showed that over 18 million Americans meditate and approximately 21 million adults and 1.7 million children practiced yoga regularly (Narayanan, 2018). Although it remains an underappreciated fact, many Hollywood movies too have adopted Hindu ideas. Indeed, the creator of Star Wars, George Lucas, learned from Joseph Campbell, who was a student of Hindu-Vedanta philosophy.
Similarly, Indian spirituality has had a major influence across Europe, especially in eastern Central and European countries, spanning Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Poland and others. An edited two-volume work, ‘The Handbook of Hinduism in Europe’, was the first academic study of Hinduism in all the countries of Europe, explaining how the religion has spread across Europe. In eastern Europe the typical development is an increased support for global Hindu movements, often guru and meditation oriented, and with ISKCON as an important player, while in Western Europe it is more of a temple culture (University of Bergen, 2020). Most recently, during the Russia-Ukraine war, the Hindu spiritual centers run by ISKCON were in news for providing shelter and food to displaced Ukrainians. There are around 54 such centers in Ukraine. In Poland, Art of Living, founded by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in 1981, was also helping the refugees. Further, China also hosts yoga centers. Thus, Indian spirituality has established deep roots across the world – the movement is not always obvious but is certainly ubiquitous and is further deepening.
Finally, the ascent of humanity towards the Supramental – the final dream of Sri Aurobindo – is not yet in evidence. We are still struggling through the dark vital-mental phase of our evolution and there is a long way to go. Here we face multiple challenges – including most prominently of the place of science and technology – as we are forced to confront our darkest corners, and it is being questioned if humanity can survive the problems faced by it such as war and environment.
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