Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered a spontaneous and moving speech on the Independence Day which has been much appreciated not only by the media but also by people at large and to some it must have come as music to the ears. It was something very different from what people had gotten used to receiving on this auspicious day which is also the birth day of Sri Aurobindo.
In the June 2014 issue of this Monthly National Review, appraising the first three weeks of the new government, it was observed that, “The unambiguous message that has been radiating from all that the new government has been saying and doing, so far, may be summed up in the following fourfold formula: Sincere Dedication to the Nation, Hard Work, Harmony and Goodwill for All.” All the things in the above formula found ample expression in the Prime Minister’s address and all are very important but, the first one – a sincere dedication to the nation – is the most important of them all and seems to be, very rightly, at the core of Narendra Modi’s approach to all the multifarious problems facing the nation. It is becoming increasingly clear that the Modi Government marks the beginning of inevitable forthcoming resurgence of India during which, after a millennium of cruel subjugation to alien rule, “…Indians will witness a growing spirit of nationalism fed by the increasingly glowing achievements of their country and their countrymen around the world in all fields of endeavour. For the first time, after a very difficult millennium, Indians will have something to take pride in and this true pride and, based on it, the growing spirit of nationalism will tend to dissolve all the problems of our collective life which have become so very acute due to a blind and mechanical following of the western spirit and forms in this field. We all know that the problem had become so critical in the political field that it was threatening the integrity and even the very existence of the country. Love of power, money and progeny had become the common denominator of all the participants in the political arena. Now, with coming of the new Modi government, the flowering of the spirit of true – true, because consecrated to the divine as India has always been – nationalism will increasingly transmute all these lower loves into an all-consuming love for the Motherland.”1
However, in spite of all this, it does not seem to us that Sri Narendra Modi has sufficiently imbibed or understood the implications of the deeper Indian spiritual view of human life for the methods to be used for advance and the direction in which to advance, because his ideas about the development of the country – even as they point towards the right direction and are full of insights into our problems in various fields – and his expression of them seems entirely coloured – betraying no deeper or contrary note or suggestion – by the modern materialistic and utilitarian spirit and its approach to things.
When we talk of development and service of the poor (socialism) and our minds are turned towards the solution of these in the terms and by the processes offered by the West – which has miserably failed to truly solve these during the past one hundred years when it seriously addressed these – it clearly shows that we have not been able to arrive at a deeper approach and enter into the secret of their solution at the roots to which India alone has had the key.* “If India follows in the footsteps of Europe, accepts her political ideals, social system, economic principles, she will be overcome with the same maladies. Such a consummation is neither for the good of India nor for the good of Europe. If India becomes an intellectual province of Europe, she will never attain to her natural greatness or fulfil the possibilities within her. Paradharmo bhayavahah, to accept the dharma of another is perilous; it deprives the man or the nation of its secret of life and vitality and substitutes an unnatural and stunted growth for the free, large and organic development of Nature. Whenever a nation has given up the purpose of its existence, it has been at the cost of its growth. India must remain India if she is to fulfil her destiny. Nor will Europe profit by grafting her civilisation on India, for if India, who is the distinct physician of Europe’s maladies, herself falls into the clutch of the disease, the disease will remain uncured and incurable and European civilisation will perish…”3
Footnote 1 *“The individual cannot be perfect until he has surrendered all he now calls himself to the divine Being. So also, until mankind gives all it has to God, never shall there be a perfected society.”2
Thus, when we think in terms of the forthcoming industrialisation as a means of our betterment and development, it is good to remember the following words of Sri Aurobindo, “India can never so far forget the teaching which is her life and the secret of her immortality as to become a replica of the organized selfishness, cruelty and greed which is dignified in the West by the name of Industry. She will create her own conditions, find out the secret of order which Socialism in vain struggles to find and teach the peoples of the earth once more how to harmonize the world and the spirit.”4
To all the above, our pragmatic sense can only say, “All this is very well for the future direction but what about our present predicament where we have a huge army of Macaulay’s children*, wide-eyed over Western culture and the physical comforts and the raw life-satisfactions that it offers and in the allurement of which most of them grow intolerant of anything that would seem to come between them and their enjoyment of these blessed things. They eagerly look for the high-paying jobs in the industrial and service sectors to attain to the one and the only thing that seems to them really worth attaining.”
Footnote 2* On 10-12-1836 Lord Macaulay wrote to his father claiming that if the course of education in India continued on the lines designed by him, there will not be a single Hindu left in Bengal after 30 years, all would either become Christians or would remain Hindu only in name. They would not have any faith in the Veda or in their religion. Macaulay’s system of education continued even after Independence and has been growing stronger and more pervasive ever since.
Now, given our present national subjection to the Western mental ideal of democracy and its accompanying huge soulless political machinery developed to execute it, no democratically elected government can reasonably be expected to neglect the materialistic aspirations of this ever growing and increasingly vocal army of Macaulay’s children. It seems obvious that, whether or not we like it, we are going to have to undergo the modern process of industrialisation, at least in the immediate future. If we believe that there is divine providence behind all that happens, then we can look upon the above as something unavoidable and perhaps even necessary to enable India to carry out its God-given work for humanity. For, given the psychology of modern man which takes the level of income as almost the sole or at least the most important determinant of the well-being and worth of persons and nations, an economically underdeveloped and militarily weak India, even if otherwise endowed, can hardly be expected to be equal to the task that is expected of her in the future. Sri Aurobindo had sensed this inevitability even a hundred years ago. In 1919, expressing his views on the issue of our taking over of good (leaving out the bad) things of the European culture, he wrote, “Obviously, if we ‘take over’ anything, the good and the bad in it will come in together pell-mell. If we take over for instance that terrible, monstrous and compelling thing, that giant Asuric creation, European industrialism, – unfortunately we are being forced by circumstances to do it, – whether we take it in its form or its principle, we may under more favourable conditions develop by it our wealth and economic resources, but assuredly we shall get too its social discords and moral plagues and cruel problems, and I do not see how we shall avoid becoming the slaves of the economic aim in life and losing the spiritual principle of our culture.”5
In his Independence Day address the Prime Minister talked about Sri Aurobindo’s and Swami Vivekananda’s vision of India as the World Guru and asked all his countrymen to work for it. But this is something which cannot possibly come true unless we are able to rise above the modern materialistic man’s way of thinking and handling the serious problems facing humanity. Therefore, the issue of how to minimize the adverse effects of the modern model of economic and political development and to rise above it as soon as possible should be the one important preoccupation of a truly national government and of all who are able to have a deeper view of the present condition of humanity which is facing the prospect, simultaneously, of unprecedented opportunities and perils in the future.
Now, the most important question before us is how to go about organising Indian society in the light of the above discussion? Before we can profitably proceed further, it should be pointed out that the problem with the forthcoming industrialisation is not so much – only just a little – with the mechanised production using machines which can do the work of hundreds or thousands of manual workers and thus create wealth, but the psychology or the material utilitarian spirit* that accompanies and grows with it. In appearance the action of this utilitarian spirit is like that of a canker (in the fruit) which leaves the outsides of a fruit practically unscathed even while eating the core. But for those who can look behind the surface appearances, the action is much more like the rust which not only spreads or expands laterally but also digs into ever deeper and deeper layer of the metal and does not stop until it has turned it to dust. Starting from the spheres of politics, business, industry and finance, the utilitarian spirit in India has already made very deep inroads even in the area of essential services that practically must remain free from it if they are ever going to perform their sacred and indispensable tasks. Due to the progressive deterioration in the quality of service under the spell of utilitarianism, the real contribution of this sector (of our economy) to our national well-being has been falling even as its nominal share in the GNP increased from 38.2% in 1960-61 to 54.7% in 2010-11 which only shows how, in one of the many ways in which the national or per capita product figures are deceptive when taken as indicators of people’s well-being. Actually, the progressive deterioration in the quality of all essential services is the most serious problem faced by the country today and one of its most perilous offshoots is the progressively deteriorating quality of air, water and food available to people at large which is playing havoc with their health and well-being.
Footnote 3* “People and things, circumstances and activities seem to be viewed and appreciated exclusively from this angle. Nothing has any value unless it is useful. Certainly something that is useful is better than something that is not. But first we must agree on what we describe as useful – useful to whom, to what, for what? For, more and more, the races who consider themselves civilised describe as useful whatever can attract, procure or produce money. Everything is judged and evaluated from a monetary angle. That is what I call utilitarianism. And this disease is highly contagious, for even children are not immune to it.”6
According to Sri Aurobindo the three godheads of the soul – Liberty, Equality and Fraternity – are going to be the basis for the organisation of the Human Unity which must come about if the human race is at all going to survive. “Europe’s failure in truly giving form to the triple godhead of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity – brought to the forefront of European consciousness by the French Revolution – is perhaps one of the most important causes that led to the last two World Wars and fortunately the present state of defence technology is such that humanity can no longer afford a third one which may very well prove to be the last. Fraternity is the only base on which both equality and liberty can be built and it is because of the absence of the true spirit of this godhead (which exists only in the soul) that all attempts steeped in the spirit of Western Culture and based on taking either equality (Communistic or Socialistic forms of authoritarianisms) or liberty (capitalistic democratic forms) as their starting point or base have failed to establish the triple-godhead.
The basic reason behind this kind of difficult equation is simple. Men are created equal in the spirit but not in their outer nature and are endowed with varying assortment of abilities, capacities and qualities. People who are endowed with a strong vital nature, and consequently a powerful will, have always been able to stamp their will on all those around them. Such people will always come to occupy positions of importance and authority in any walk of life – especially in the political and economic fields because of the special attraction these have for the human vital ego – regardless of the nature of the outer form of a government or society. The past experience of humanity amply bears it out and the European experience of the last century only confirms it beyond any shadow of doubt. The crux of the matter is that the wolves will always dominate the sheep no matter where and in what kind of physical arrangement or structure they are put together. We all know how nature has put them together in humanity with a perfect similarity in the outer appearance and with no other distinguishable features. They differ only in capacities and force, the things which become visible only in action and manifestation and then who – except perhaps some other wolves who would have their own axe to grind – can stop them, certainly not the sheep. The only approach that can possibly tame the human wolf is the approach through the heart – not from its surface parts but from its depths where the soul has its station and where all feel oneness. Once the deep and inherent feelings of Love and Brotherhood are awakened in human hearts, the discords automatically begin to dissolve and humanity can smoothly advance towards the triple-godhead because it is only Love that can prevent the misuse of Liberty and it is only Brotherhood which can make Equality tolerable.
As pointed out above, European society has failed to organise fraternity – the base of the apex and hence has never been able to found a successful and enduring social and political structure. Socialism and Communism gave supreme importance to equality but failed to achieve either equality or the other arm of the triad – liberty. Capitalistic Europe gave the supreme importance to liberty but it also failed to achieve either liberty or equality. In the words of Sri Aurobindo, “….Two ideas of that formula Europe has pursued with some eagerness, Liberty and Equality; but she has totally rejected the third and most necessary, Brotherhood. In its place she has erected the idol of her heart, Machinery, and called it Association; for Association without Brotherhood is merely Machinery.”7
“Freedom, equality, brotherhood are three godheads of the soul; they cannot be really achieved through the external machinery of society or by man so long as he lives only in the individual and the communal ego. When the ego claims liberty, it arrives at competitive individualism. When it asserts equality, it arrives first at strife, then at an attempt to ignore the variations of Nature, and, as the sole way of doing that successfully, it constructs an artificial and machine-made society. A society that pursues liberty as its ideal is unable to achieve equality; a society that aims at equality will be obliged to sacrifice liberty. For the ego to speak of fraternity is for it to speak of something contrary to its nature. All that it knows is association for the pursuit of common egoistic ends and the utmost that it can arrive at is a closer organisation for the equal distribution of labour, production, consumption and enjoyment.
Yet is brotherhood the real key to the triple gospel of the idea of humanity. The union of liberty and equality can only be achieved by the power of human brotherhood and it cannot be founded on anything else. But brotherhood exists only in the soul and by the soul; it can exist by nothing else. For this brotherhood is not a matter either of physical kinship or of vital association or of intellectual agreement. When the soul claims freedom, it is the freedom of its self-development, the self-development of the divine in man in all his being. When it claims equality, what it is claiming is that freedom equally for all and the recognition of the same soul, the same godhead in all human beings. When it strives for brotherhood, it is founding that equal freedom of self-development on a common aim, a common life, a unity of mind and feeling founded upon the recognition of this inner spiritual unity. These three things are in fact the nature of the soul; for freedom, equality, unity are the eternal attributes of the Spirit.”8
It should be clear from all the above that a triangle cannot stand on its apex formed by the two sides representing Liberty and Equality, we cannot possibly found a collectivity on the formula of the French Revolution unless we first concentrate on the base of the triangle – Brotherhood – which exists only in the soul and the Spirit and can exist nowhere else without it. This leads us to the true solution – the imperative necessity of seeking for the spiritual Reality – The Truth of our Being.
The Only Way Out For Us
Once for all, we must realise in our mind, heart and soul that the modern ideal of progress and material prosperity, even when pursued efficiently, cannot lead us to a state basically different from the state of modern developed societies which has nothing to recommend for itself. Consider the loneliness and psychological and emotional deprivation of individuals resulting from an extreme concentration on one’s physical being – even to the extent of the exclusion of one’s nucleus family – and imagine the relentless suffering that comes one’s way from the feeling of not being loved or wanted by anyone and from the psychological disorders resulting from this – so common in “developed” societies – and it would be obvious that India is still much better than the advanced societies it is foolishly aspiring to imitate. This will be a state, lower – in terms of individual happiness and fulfillment – than where we are even at present, because we have not yet gone whole hog in the material pit and we still inherently trust the power of the eternal Indian spirit to prevent that from ever happening in the future. We may not sink to the bottom but as long as we are shut up in our present narrow surface consciousness with its enormous concentration on material pleasures and comforts, the effective pursuit and attainment of any ideal state (worthy of its name) is not really possible for us. The key to the whole problem lies, as India has always known, in a transition to a higher level of consciousness. For, at present level of consciousness, no matter how ingeniously and efficiently we organize our society, we cannot basically do too much better than the other materially advanced societies. In fact, this evolutionary world has been so planned as to have a built-in incentive for rising into ever higher and higher planes of consciousness, because the problem and difficulties at any level of consciousness – and they are different at different levels – are really solvable only at a higher level of consciousness.
We must turn to the Divine Magician for the attainment of a higher level of consciousness. “There is no fundamental significance in things if you miss the Divine Reality; for you remain embedded in a huge surface crust of manageable and utilizable appearance. It is the magic of the Magician you are trying to analyse, but only when you enter into the consciousness of the Magician himself can you begin to experience the true origination, significance and circles of the Lila. I say ‘begin’ because the Divine Reality is not so simple that at the first touch you can know all of it or put it into a single formula; it is the Infinite and opens before you an infinite knowledge to which all Science put together is a bagatelle.”9
It is to the Divine Magician that India must turn to for a true resolution of all her problems. And, as Vedanta tells us, He is not far, He is our very own self – the highest truth of our being and nature in which we are inseparably one with all existence. To aspire for the Divine is to aspire for the greatest possible perfection and fulfillment. “Whatever is man’s faith or sure Idea in him, that he becomes,” says Lord Krishna in the Gita. Now, this is the sheer truth of the workings of this universe which is at the very foundation of all Yoga systems. Thus, if a person whole-heartedly aspires for the Divine with an unshakable faith, he is sure to realise his essential identity with Him and eventually have his whole nature transformed into the Divine Nature.
The Indian society can, therefore do nothing better than to make the seeking, finding, and manifestation of the Divine on the part of its members as the first and the only aim of all its activities and endeavours. In the process it will tend to grow in knowledge, power and beauty and there will be an automatic dissolution of the problems that normally beset a society, including material deprivation and poverty. To make an effective start in this direction, “There must be a group forming a strong body of cohesive will with the spiritual knowledge to save India and the world. It is India that can bring Truth in the world. By manifestation of the Divine Will and Power alone, India can preach her message to the world and not by imitating the materialism of the West. By following the Divine Will India shall shine at the top of the spiritual mountain and show the way of Truth and organise world unity.”10
All this is not to suggest that we should – even if we could, which is impossible – go back to the past forms of ancient Indian culture. That will be an unnatural imposition on the present time spirit. Rather, we should do as Sri Aurobindo suggested, “You need not come back to the old forms, but you can retain the spirit which might create its own new forms….”11
We call upon all our brothers and sisters, the world over, to make a start in this direction in their own way.
1. The Resurgent India, A Monthly National Review, June Issue, page 15
2. Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo 12, page 466
3. Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo 07, page 1041
4. Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo 07, pages 905-06
5. Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo 20, page 46
6. Collected Works of the Mother 12, page 353
7. Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo 01, pages 547-48
8. Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo 25, pages 547-48
9. Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo 28, page 332
10. Collected Works of The Mother 07, pages 286-87
11. India’s Rebirth, Sri Aurobindo, Institute for Evolutionary Research, 2003, page 176