- Corruption – A Comprehensive Study of its Origin, Growth and its Solution
- I. A Deep Perspective on the Present Position of India in the Light of the Critical Importance of Its Work in the Evolution of the Human Race
- II. A Perspective on the Age of Reason and Its Achievements
- III. The Economic Barbarism of Modern Man and Its Fallout
- IV. The Indian Scenario
- V. Where it may lead us – The Working of the Commercial and Utilitarian Spirit and its Possible Culmination
- VI. The Way Out
- VII. The Future of Humanity and India’s Future Role in it
A. The Future of Humanity
“The World-State must now either be brought about by a mutual understanding or by the force of circumstances and a series of new and disastrous shocks. For the old still-prevailing order of things was founded on circumstances and conditions which no longer exist. A new order is demanded by the new conditions and, so long as it is not created, there will be a transitional era of continued trouble or recurrent disorders, inevitable crises through which Nature will effect in her own violent way the working out of the necessity which she has evolved.” (CWSA 25: 463)
(a) The Basis for the Organisation of Human Unity
“Governments, societies, kings, police, judges, institutions, churches, laws, customs, armies are temporary necessities imposed on us for a few groups of centuries because God has concealed His face from us. When it appears to us again in its truth & beauty, then in that light they will vanish.” (CWSA 12: 465)
“The most important idea is that the unity of the human race can be achieved neither by uniformity nor by domination and subjection. Only a synthetic organisation of all nations, each one occupying its true place according to its own genius and the part it has to play in the whole, can bring about a comprehensive and progressive unification which has any chance of enduring. And if this synthesis is to be a living one, the grouping should be effectuated around a central idea that is as wide and as high as possible, in which all tendencies, even the most contradictory, may find their respective places. This higher idea is to give men the conditions of life they need in order to be able to prepare themselves to manifest the new force that will create the race of tomorrow.
All impulsions of rivalry, all struggle for precedence and domination must disappear and give way to a will for harmonious organisation, for clear-sighted and effective collaboration.” (CWM 12: 40)
“In principle, then, the ideal unification of mankind would be a system in which, as a first rule of common and harmonious life, the human peoples would be allowed to form their own groupings according to their natural divisions of locality, race, culture, economic convenience and not according to the more violent accidents of history or the egoistic will of powerful nations whose policy it must always be to compel the smaller or less timely organised to serve their interests as dependents or obey their commands as subjects. The present arrangement of the world has been worked out by economic forces, by political diplomacies, treaties and purchases and by military violence without regard to any moral principle or any general rule of the good of mankind. It has served roughly certain ends of the World-Force in its development and helped at much cost of bloodshed, suffering, cruelty, oppression and revolt to bring humanity more together. Like all things that, though in themselves unideal, have been and have asserted themselves with force, it has had its justification, not moral but biological, in the necessity of the rough methods which Nature has to use with a half-animal mankind as with her animal creation. But the great step of unification once taken, the artificial arrangements which have resulted would no longer have any reason for existence. It would be so in the first place because the convenience and good of the world at large and not the satisfaction of the egoism, pride and greed of particular nations would be the object to be held in view, in the second because whatever legitimate claim any nation might have upon others, such as necessities of economic well-being and expansion, would be arranged for in a soundly organised world-union or world-state no longer on the principle of strife and competition, but on a principle of cooperation or mutual adjustment or at least of competition regulated by law and equity and just interchange. Therefore no ground would remain for forced and artificial groupings except that of historical tradition or accomplished fact which would obviously have little weight in a great change of world conditions impossible to achieve unless the race is prepared to break hundreds of traditions and unsettle the great majority of accomplished facts.
The first principle of human unity, groupings being necessary, should be a system of free and natural groupings which would leave no room for internal discords, mutual incompatibilities and repression and revolt as between race and race or people and people.” (CWSA 25: 428-29)
“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.” (CWSA 12: 466)
(b) The Key Elements of the Future Economic System
“The aim of its economics would be not to create a huge engine of production, whether of the competitive or the cooperative kind, but to give to men—not only to some but to all men each in his highest possible measure—the joy of work according to their own nature and free leisure to grow inwardly, as well as a simply rich and beautiful life for all.” (CWSA 25: 257)
“… money would no longer be the sovereign lord; individual worth would have a far greater importance than that of material wealth and social standing. There, work would not be a way to earn one’s living but a way to express oneself and to develop one’s capacities and possibilities while being of service to the community as a whole, which, for its own part, would provide for each individual’s subsistence and sphere of action.” (CWM 12: 93-94)
(c) The Future Prospect
“The animal is satisfied with a modicum of necessity; the gods are content with their splendours. But man cannot rest permanently until he reaches some highest good. He is the greatest of living beings because he is the most discontented, because he feels most the pressure of limitations. He alone, perhaps, is capable of being seized by the divine frenzy for a remote ideal.” (CWSA 21: 51)
“The earliest preoccupation of man in his awakened thoughts and, as it seems, his inevitable and ultimate preoccupation,—for it survives the longest periods of scepticism and returns after every banishment,—is also the highest which his thought can envisage. It manifests itself in the divination of Godhead, the impulse towards perfection, the search after pure Truth and unmixed Bliss, the sense of a secret immortality. The ancient dawns of human knowledge have left us their witness to this constant aspiration; today we see a humanity satiated but not satisfied by victorious analysis of the externalities of Nature preparing to return to its primeval longings. The earliest formula of Wisdom promises to be its last, — God, Light, Freedom, Immortality.” (CWSA 21: 3-4)
“A mutual debt binds man to the Supreme:
His nature we must put on as he put ours;
We are sons of God and must be even as he:
His human portion, we must grow divine.
Our life is a paradox with God for key.” (CWSA 33: 67)
“The hour must come of the Transcendent’s will:
All turns and winds towards his predestined ends
In Nature’s fixed inevitable course
Decreed since the beginning of the worlds
In the deep essence of created things:
Even there shall come as a high crown of all
The end of Death, the death of Ignorance.” (CWSA 33: 708)
B. India’s Future Role
“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.” (CWM 13: 361)
(a) The Past Record of Indian Culture
“When we look at the past of India, what strikes us next is her stupendous vitality, her inexhaustible power of life and joy of life, her almost unimaginably prolific creativeness. For three thousand years at least,—it is indeed much longer,—she has been creating abundantly and incessantly, lavishly, with an inexhaustible many-sidedness, republics and kingdoms and empires, philosophies and cosmogonies and sciences and creeds and arts and poems and all kinds of monuments, palaces 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 Judaea 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 reechoed on the lips of Christ. Everywhere, as on her soil, so in her works there is the teeming of a superabundant energy of life. European critics complain that in her ancient architecture, sculpture and art there is no reticence, no holding back of riches, no blank spaces, that she labours to fill every rift with ore, occupy every inch with plenty. Well, but defect or no, that is the necessity of her superabundance of life, of the teeming of the infinite within her. She lavishes her riches because she must, as the Infinite fills every inch of space with the stirring of life and energy because it is the Infinite.” (CWSA 20: 7-8)
“The ancient Indian culture attached quite as much value to the soundness, growth and strength of the mind, life and body as the old Hellenic or the modern scientific thought, although for a different end and a greater motive. Therefore to everything that serves and belongs to the healthy fullness of these things, it gave free play, to the activity of the reason, to science and philosophy, to the satisfaction of the aesthetic being and to all the many arts great or small, to the health and strength of the body, to the physical and economical well-being, ease, opulence of the race,—there was never a national ideal of poverty in India as some would have us believe, nor was bareness or squalor the essential setting of her spirituality,—and to its general military, political and social strength and efficiency. Their aim was high, but firm and wide too was the base they sought to establish and great the care bestowed on these first instruments. Necessarily the new India will seek the same end in new ways under the vivid impulse of fresh and large ideas and by an instrumentality suited to more complex conditions; but the scope of her effort and action and the suppleness and variety of her mind will not be less, but greater than of old. Spirituality is not necessarily exclusive; it can be and in its fullness must be all-inclusive.” (CWSA 20: 34)
“…Indian civilisation has been the form and expression of a culture as great as any of the historic civilisations of mankind, great in religion, great in philosophy, great in science, great in thought of many kinds, great in literature, art and poetry, great in the organisation of society and politics, great in craft and trade and commerce. There have been dark spots, positive imperfections, heavy shortcomings; what civilisation has been perfect, which has not had its deep stains and cruel abysses? There have been considerable lacunae, many blind alleys, much uncultured or ill-cultured ground: what civilisation has been without its unfilled parts, its negative aspects? But our ancient civilisation can survive the severest comparisons of either ancient or mediaeval times. More high-reaching, subtle, many-sided, curious and profound than the Greek, more noble and humane than the Roman, more large and spiritual than the old Egyptian, more vast and original than any other Asiatic civilisation, more intellectual than the European prior to the eighteenth century, possessing all that these had and more, it was the most powerful, selfpossessed, stimulating and wide in influence of all past human cultures.” (CWSA 20: 79)
“I admit, as ancient Indian thought admitted, that material and economic capacity and prosperity are a necessary, though not the highest or most essential part of the total effort of human civilisation. In that respect India throughout her long period of cultural activity can claim equality with any ancient or mediaeval country. No people before modern times reached a higher splendour of wealth, commercial prosperity, material appointment, social organisation. That is the record of history, of ancient documents, of contemporary witnesses; to deny it is to give evidence of a singular prepossession and obfuscation of the view, an imaginative, or is it unimaginative, misreading of present actuality into past actuality. The splendour of Asiatic and not least of Indian prosperity, the wealth of Ormuz and of Ind, the “barbaric doors rough with gold”, barbaricae postes squalentes auro, were once stigmatized by the less opulent West as a sign of barbarism. Circumstances are now strangely reversed; the opulent barbarism and a much less artistic ostentation of wealth are to be found in London, New York and Paris, and it is the nakedness of India and the squalor of her poverty which are flung in her face as evidence of the worthlessness of her culture.” (CWSA 20: 119-20)
“The whole root of difference between Indian and European culture springs from the spiritual aim of Indian civilisation. It is the turn which this aim imposes on all the rich and luxuriant variety of its forms and rhythms that gives to it its unique character. For even what it has in common with other cultures gets from that turn a stamp of striking originality and solitary greatness. A spiritual aspiration was the governing force of this culture, its core of thought, its ruling passion. Not only did it make spirituality the highest aim of life, but it even tried, as far as that could be done in the past conditions of the human race, to turn the whole of life towards spirituality. But since religion is in the humanmind the first native, if imperfect form of the spiritual impulse, the predominance of the spiritual idea, its endeavour to take hold of life, necessitated a casting of thought and action into the religious mould and a persistent filling of every circumstance of life with the religious sense; it demanded a pervadingly religiophilosophic culture. The highest spirituality indeed moves in a free and wide air far above that lower stage of seeking which is governed by religious form and dogma; it does not easily bear their limitations and, even when it admits, it transcends them; it lives in an experience which to the formal religious mind is unintelligible. But man does not arrive immediately at that highest inner elevation and, if it were demanded from him at once, he would never arrive there. At first he needs lower supports and stages of ascent; he asks for some scaffolding of dogma, worship, image, sign, form, symbol, some indulgence and permission of mixed half-natural motive on which he can stand while he builds up in him the temple of the spirit. Only when the temple is completed, can the supports be removed, the scaffolding disappear. The religious culture which now goes by the name of Hinduism not only fulfilled this purpose, but, unlike certain credal religions, it knew its purpose. It gave itself no name, because it set itself no sectarian limits; it claimed no universal adhesion, asserted no sole infallible dogma, set up no single narrow path or gate of salvation; it was less a creed or cult than a continuously enlarging tradition of the Godward endeavour of the human spirit. An immense many-sided manystaged provision for a spiritual self-building and self-finding, it had some right to speak of itself by the only name it knew, the eternal religion, sanatana dharma. It is only if we have a just and right appreciation of this sense and spirit of Indian religion that we can come to an understanding of the true sense and spirit of Indian culture.”(CWSA 20: 178-79)
“This great and ancient nation was once the fountain of human light, the apex of human civilisation, the examplar of courage and humanity, the perfection of good government and settled society, the mother of all religions, the teacher of all wisdom and philosophy. It has suffered much at the hands of inferior civilisations and more savage peoples; it has gone down into the shadow of night and tasted often of the bitterness of death. Its pride has been trampled into the dust and its glory has departed. Hunger and misery and despair have become the masters of this fair soil, these noble hills, these ancient rivers, these cities whose life-story goes back into prehistoric night. But do you think that therefore God has utterly abandoned us and given us up for ever to be a mere convenience for the West, the helots of its commerce, and the feeders of its luxury and pride? We are still God’s chosen people and all our calamities have been but a discipline of suffering, because for the great mission before us prosperity was not sufficient, adversity had also its training; to taste the glory of power and beneficence and joy
was not sufficient, the knowledge of weakness and torture and humiliation was also needed; it was not enough that we should be able to fill the role of the merciful sage and the beneficent king, we had also to experience in our own persons the feelings of the outcaste and the slave. But now that lesson is learned, and the time for our resurgence is come. And no power shall stay that uprising and no opposing interest shall deny us the right to live, to be ourselves, to set our seal once more upon the world.” (CWSA 7: 707-08)
“The movements of the nineteenth century in India were European movements, they were coloured with the hues of the West. Instead of seeking for strength in the spirit, they adopted the machinery and motives of Europe, the appeal to the rights of humanity or the equality of social status and an impossible dead level which Nature has always refused to allow. Mingled with these false gospels was a strain of hatred and bitterness, which showed itself in the condemnation of Brahminical priestcraft, the hostility to Hinduism and the ignorant breaking away from the hallowed traditions of the past. What was true and eternal in that past was likened to what was false or transitory, and the nation was in danger of losing its soul by an insensate surrender to the aberrations of European materialism. Not in this spirit was India intended to receive the mighty opportunity which the impact of Europe gave to her. When the danger was greatest, a number of great spirits were sent to stem the tide flowing in from the West and recall her to her mission; for, if she had gone astray the world would have gone astray with her.
Her 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 the 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 he has perceived this divine equality, he is brother to the whole world, and in whatever position he is placed he serves all men as his brothers by the law of love, by the law of justice. 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.” (CWSA 7: 931-32)
“The spirit and ideals of India had come to be confined in a mould which, however beautiful, was too narrow and slender to bear the mighty burden of our future. When that happens, the mould has to be broken and even the ideal lost for a while, in order to be recovered free of constraint and limitation. We have to recover the Aryan spirit and ideal and keep it intact but enshrined in new forms and more expansive institutions. We have to treasure jealously everything in our social structure, manners, institutions, which is of permanent value, essential to our spirit or helpful to the future; but we must not cabin the expanding and aggressive spirit of India in temporary forms which are the creation of the last few hundred years. That would be a vain and disastrous endeavour. The mould is broken; we must remould in larger outlines and with a richer content.” (CWSA 8: 247)
“A spiritual ideal has always been the characteristic idea and aspiration of India. But the progress of Time and the need of humanity demand a new orientation and another form of that ideal. The old forms and methods are no longer sufficient for the purpose of the Time-Spirit. India can no longer fulfil herself on lines that are too narrow for the great steps she has to take in the future. Nor is ours the spirituality of a life that is aged and world-weary and burdened with the sense of the illusion and miserable inutility of all God’s mighty creation. Our ideal is not the spirituality that withdraws from life but the conquest of life by the power of the spirit.” (CWSA 13: 509)
Perspective on a Political System Likely to be Suitable to India During Her Transition to the Future
“There are three elements in European politics.
1. Mental idea or ideal of political -and social life.
2. Interest of the communities or classes.
3. Machinery of Government.
Now, in Europe people believe and think that if they succeed in bringing about a definite form of Govern¬ment on the lines of certain ideals such as Democracy, Monarchy, Socialism, Communism etc, then all the problems of humanity will be solved. They follow a mental ideal which they think to be the only truth and they create public opinion and try to catch, or get hold of, the machinery of the State.
Among all the conflicting ideals none has yet proved successful. It was thought that democracy would be the most successful form but after experience it is proved that it is far from being a success.
Next comes the interest of individuals and classes. It is really the interest which gets the better of the mental ideal and succeeds in getting hold of the machinery of the State, i.e., power.
In the beginning it was the priest and the monarch with his aristocracy who ruled. Then the aristocracy, the fighting class, with the common man under it, and then came the middle class, the merchant class, which is now having the machinery of power under what is called Democracy. And now there is the effort in countries like Russia where the proletariat are trying to rule.
Now for Machinery of the State. It is rigid and hard centralisation and mechanization of the life of the nation perfectly organised in all details to meet an aggression, to defend and to expand.
In the old Indian collective life the three Indian things were :
(1) spontaneously growing free communal units;
(2) the Dharma-idea;
(3) harmonising of national life by a central agency. In India we had nothing of the mental ideal in politics. We had a spontaneous and a free growth of communities developing on their own lines. It was not so much a mental idea as an inner impulse or feeling, to express life in a particular form. Each such communal form of life – the village, .the town, etc, which formed the unit of national life, was left free in its own internal management. The central authority never interfered with it.
There was not the idea of “interest” in India as in Europe, i.e., each community was not fighting for its own interest; but there was the idea of Dharma, the function which the individual and the community has to fulfil in the larger national life, There, were caste organisations not based upon a religio-social basis as we find nowadays; they were more or less groups organised for a communal life. There were also religious communities like the Buddhists, the Jains, etc. Each followed its own law – Swadharma – unhampered by the State. The State recognised the necessity of allowing such various forms of life to develop freely in order to give to the national spirit a richer expression.
Then over the two there was the central authority, whose function was not so much to legislate as to harmonise and see that everything was going on all right. It was administered by a Raja in cases, also, an elected head of the clan, as in the instance of Gautama Buddha. Each ruled over either a small State or a group of small States or republics. One was not at the head to put his hand over all organisations and keep them down. If he interfered with them he was deposed because each of these organisations had its own laws which had been established for long ages.
The machinery of the State also was not so mechanical as in the West – it was plastic and elastic.
This organisation we find in history perfected in the reign of Ghandragupta and the Maurya dynasty. The period preceding this must have been a period of great political development in India. Every department of national life, we can see, was in charge of a board or a committee with a minister at the head and each board looked after what we now would call its own department and was left free from undue interference of the Central authority. The change of kings left these boards untouched and unaffected in their work. An organisation similar to that was found in the Town and in the Village and it was this organisation that was taken up by the Mohamedans when they came and it is that which the English also have taken up. The idea of the King as the absolute monarch was never an Indian idea. It was brought from Central Asia by the Mohamedans.
The English in accepting this system have disfigured it considerably. They have found ways to put their hand on and grasp all the old organisations, using them merely as channels to establish more thoroughly the authority of the Central Power. They discouraged every free organisation and every attempt at the manifestation of the free life of the community. Now attempts are being made to have the Co-operative Societies in villages, there is an effort at, reviving the Panchayats. But these organisations cannot be revived once they have been crushed and even if they revived they would not be the same.
If the old organisation had lasted it would have been a successful rival of the modern form of government.
Disciple : Is it possible to come back to old forms in modern times ?
Sri Aurobindo : You need not come back to the old forms but you can retain the spirit which might create its own new forms.
They could not last, firstly, because there was the flagging of national energy owing to various causes. Secondly, the country was too vast and the means of communication not efficient enough to permit all national forces being concentrated on a particular point. Chandragupta could not have very easily reached the farthest end of his dominion so as to put all available national strength to a single purpose. If India had been a small country it would have been much more easy and with the modern means of communication I am sure it would have succeeded.
It has been a special feature of India that, she has to contain in her life all the most diverse elements and assimilate them. This renders her problem most intricate.
Disciple : If it is India’s destiny to assimilate all the conflicting elements, is it possible to assimilate the Mohamedan element also?
Sri Aurobindo : Why not ? India has- assimilated elements from the Greeks, the Persians and other nations. But she assimilates only when her Central Truth is recognised by the other party, and even while assimilating she does it in such a way that the elements absorbed are no longer recognisable as foreign but become part of herself. For instance, we took from the Greek architecture, from the Persian painting etc.
The assimilation of the Mohamedan culture also was done in the mind to a great extent and it would have perhaps gone further. But in order that the process may be complete it is necessary that a change in the Mohamedan mentality should come. The con¬flict is in the outer life and unless the Mohamedan learn tolerance I do not think the assimilation is possible.
The Hindu is ready to tolerate. He is open to new ideas and his culture has got a wonderful capacity for assimilation, but always’ provided that her Central Truth is recognised.
Disciple : Did India have the national idea in the modern sense ?
Sri Aurobindo : The “Nation” idea India never had. By that I mean the political idea of the nation. It is a modern growth. But we had in India the cultural and spiritual idea of the nation.
Disciple : Is it possible to continue the modern idea of the nation with the spontaneously growing institutions of the old times?
Sri Aurobindo : The modern political consciousness of the national idea has come to Europe recently. It arose either by a slow growth as in England and Japan on account of their insular position more or less, or in , response to outside pressure as with the French who got it after their conquest by the Britons. Practically, the French began to be a nation after the appearance of Joan of Arc. Up to that time England found always some allies among the French nobles. Italy got it not more than a century ago, and the Germans as late as the time of Bismarck.
This consciousness is more political than anything else and it aims at the organisation of the national forces for offence and defence. If you accept the ideal of nations going on fighting and destroying for ever, then you have to give up the cultural and spiritual free growth of the nation and follow in the footsteps of European nations.
Disciple : In America – U.S.A. – each state makes its own laws – there the central authority is not oppressive.
Disciple : But the State legislates about everything. America, in fact, is a country of laws and regulations and not free growth.
Sri Aurobindo : The present-day national spirit and the centralised mechanical organisation of the State are logical conclusions or consequences of “nations” – of “armed nations” ; you feel more and more justified in centralising everything once you have begun.
But there is no reason to suppose that the present-day ideal of nationhood which is only aggressive and defensive would last for ever. If this state of affairs is to last for ever then you can give up all hope for humanity. Only a cataclysm, in that case, can save humanity.
Disciple : If the spirit of nationalism is given up by the European nations, what will they follow ?
Sri Aurobindo : Do you want me to prophesy ? But the modern tendency seems : to be towards some kind of internationalism.
Disciple : What do you think of Tagore’s idea of India becoming the meeting-ground of the West and the East ?
Sri Aurobindo : What do you mean by the meeting of the West and the East ? You mean like the meeting of the tiger and the lamb ?
Disciple : Meeting like brothers and equals.
Disciple : Why meet in India ? We can meet in London, as their brother ! (Laughter)
Sri Aurobindo : We in India take time to assimilate and put into life this new national idea of the West. Other Asiatic nations like the Japanese and the Turks have been able to catch it. There is a great difference between the Indian and the Japanese mind. The Japanese have got the mental discipline and capacity to organise. We in India have not that sort of ordered and practical mind. In Japan everyone lives for the Mikado and the Mikado is the symbol of the nation – he embodies the spirit of the nation. Everyone is prepared to die for him. This we could never have in India; Japan was more feudal in its past than any other Asiatic nation.
Disciple : Is there no similarity between the political insti¬tutions of the Middle Ages and the organisations of Chandragupta in India ?
Sri Aurobindo : There is only a superficial resemblance.; We had no feudalism as it was practised in Europe.
Disciple : Was there no penal system in ancient India ?
Sri Aurobindo : There were no jails as we have them now.
Disciple : No jails !
Disciple : What will non-co-operators do ?
Disciple : The laws of Manu – do they represent the ancient penal code of the past?
Sri Aurobindo : Manusmriti is a compilation made by the Brahmins and it is not very old. It was, I believe, somewhere about the first century that the laws were compiled. They must be embodying, of course, the former laws. There were punishments in those days, fines, corporal punishments, mutilation and even capital punishment.
Disciple : If we had all these things, why have we Indians come to our present condition ?
Sri Aurobindo : Present-day Indians have got nothing to boast of from their past. Indian culture to-day is in the most abject condition, like the fort of Jinji – one pillar standing here, and another ceiling there and some hall out of recognition somewhere!”(A. B. Purani’s talks with Sri Aurobindo)
“Sri Aurobindo remarked. “When I see Pondicherry and Calcutta Corporation I begin to wonder why I was so eager for democracy. Pondicherry and Calcutta Corporation are the two object lessons which can take away all enthusiasm for self-government.”
Disciple : Was the Calcutta Corporation so bad before the Congress came there?
Sri Aurobindo : No. There was not so much scope for it, – at least we did not know of such scandals. It is the same thing with other municipal Governments. In New York and Chicago the whole machinery is corrupt. Sometimes the head of the institution is like that. Sometimes a Mayor comes up with the intention of cleaning out the whole, but one does not know after cleaning which one was better. The Mayor of Chicago was a great criminal but all judges and police-officers were under his pay. In France also it is about the same thing.
It is not surprising that people got disgusted with Democracy.
England is comparatively less corrupt. The English are the only people who know how to work the Parliamentary system. Parliamentary Government is in their blood.
Disciple : It seems that our old Indian system was the best for us. How could it succeed so well?
Sri Aurobindo : The old Indian system grew out of life, it had room for everything and every interest. There were monarchy, aristocracy, democracy. Every interest was represented in the Government. While in Europe the Western System grew out of the mind. They are led by reason and want to make everything cut and dried without any chance of freedom or variation. If it is democracy, then democracy only. No room for anything else. They cannot be plastic.
India is now trying to imitate the West. Parliamentary Government is not suited to India. But we always take up what the west has thrown off. Sir Akabar wanted to try a new sort of Government with an impartial authority at the head. There, in Hyderabad, the Hindu majority complains that thoughMohammedens are in minority they occupy most of the offices in the state. By Sir Akabar’s method almost every interest would have been represented in the Government and automatically the Hindus would have come in, but because of their cry of responsible Government the scheme failed. They have a fixed idea in the mind and want to fit everything to it. They can’t think for themselves and so take up what the others are throwing off.
Disciple : What is your idea of an ideal Government for India? It is possible in Hyderabad which has a Nizam.
But how to do the same in an Indian Constitution?
Sri Aurobindo: Sir Akabar’s is as good as any. My idea is like what Tagore once wrote. There may be one Rashtrapati at the top with considerable powers so as to secure a continuity of policy and an Assembly representative of the nation. The provinces will contribute to a Federation, united at the top, leaving ample scope to local bodies to make laws according to their local problems. Mussolini started with a fundamental of the Indian System but afterwards began bullying and bluffing other nations for the sake of imperialism. If he had persisted in his original idea, he would have been a great creator.
Disciple : Dr. Bhagwandas suggested that there should be legislators above the age of 40, completely disinterested like the Rishis.”
Sri Aurobindo : A chamber of Rishis! That would not be very promising. They will at once begin to quarrel. As they say; Rishis in ancient times could guide kings because they were distributed over various places.” (A. B. Purani’s talks with Sri Aurobindo)
“Sri Aurobindo : Life compromises between different elements, but mind while acting alone does not compromise. Mind takes up one thing – (one idea, or principles or anything like that) – and makes it absolute. Mind considers it as apart from and opposed to all other things.
Hegel boasted that in Europe they had succeeded in separating reason from life and you see their philosophy – it has nothing to do with life; it is all mental gymnastics, it does not form part of life.
While in India, philosophy has always been a part of life; it has an aim.
In the political philosophy of Europe you find, if they accept democracy, it is only democracy – all the rest is opposed to it. If monarchy, then it is only monarchy. That is what happened in Greece. They fought for democracy and opposed aristocracy and monarchy and in the end oligarchy came and monarchy – at last they were conquered by the Romans.
Disciple : Then what is the truth in all these attempts at political organization?
Sri Aurobindo : If you want to arrive at something true and lasting, you have to look at life and learn from it. That is to say, you must learn the nature of the opposition and contradictions and then reconcile them.
As regards government, life shows that there is a truth in monarchy – whether hereditary or elective. That is to say, there is a man at the top who governs. Life also shows that there is a truth in aristocracy, whether it is of strong or rich men – that of money or intellect.
The current fiction is, it is the majority that rules. Life also shows that the rule of the kind or of the aristocracy should be with the consent – silent or vocal – of the people who form the mass.
In ancient India, they recognized the truth of these things. That is why India has lasted through millenniums” (A. B. Purani’s talks with Sri Aurobindo)
“What I mean by acceptance of the effective idea of democracy,—the thing itself, never fully worked out, was present as an element in ancient Indian as in ancient European polity and society,—is that I find its inclusion in our future way of living, in some shape, to be a necessity of our growth. What I mean by assimilation, is that we must not take it crudely in the European forms, but must go back to whatever corresponds to it, illumines its sense, justifies its highest purport in our own spiritual conception of life and existence, and in that light work out its extent, degree, form, relation to other ideas, application. To everything I would apply the same principle, to each in its own kind, after its proper dharma, in its right measure of importance, its spiritual, intellectual, ethical, aesthetic, dynamic utility.” (CWSA 20: 47)
(b). The Future Role of India
Invocation – 15 August 1947
“O our Mother, O Soul of India, Mother who hast never forsaken thy children even in the days of darkest depression, even when they turned away from thy voice, served other masters and denied thee, now when they have arisen and the light is on thy face in this dawn of thy liberation, in this great hour we salute thee. Guide us so that the horizon of freedom opening before us may be also a horizon of true greatness and of thy true life in the community of the nations. Guide us so that we may be always on the side of great ideals and show to men thy true visage, as a leader in the ways of the spirit and a friend and helper of all the peoples.” (CWSA 13: 352)
“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 the 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 the sphere of morality, likewise, it is her mission to purge barbarism (mlecchahood) out of humanity and to aryanise the world. In order to do this, she must first re-aryanise herself.” (CWSA 6:84)
“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….” (CWSA 7: 1041)
“When I speak of acceptance and assimilation, I am thinking of certain influences, ideas, energies brought forward with a great living force by Europe, which can awaken and enrich our own cultural activities and cultural being if we succeed in dealing with them with a victorious power and originality, if we can bring them into our characteristic way of being and transform them by its shaping action. That was in fact what our own ancestors did, never losing their originality, never effacing their uniqueness, because always vigorously creating from within, with whatever knowledge or artistic suggestion from outside they thought worthy of acceptance or capable of an Indian treatment. But I would certainly repel the formula of taking the good and leaving the bad as a crudity, one of those facile formulas which catch the superficial mind but are unsound in conception. 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.” (CWSA 20:46)
“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.” (CWSA 7: 905-06)
“Of all the proud nations of the West there is an end determined. When their limited special work for mankind is done they must decay and disappear. But the function of India is to supply the world with a perennial source of light and renovation. Whenever the first play of energy is exhausted and earth grows old and weary, full of materialism, racked with problems she cannot solve, the function of India is to restore the youth of mankind and assure it of immortality. She sends forth a light from her bosom which floods the earth and the heavens, and mankind bathes in it like St. George in the well of life and recovers strength, hope and vitality for its long pilgrimage. Such a time is now at hand. The world needs India and needs her free. The work she has to do now is to organize life in the terms of Vedanta…..”(CWSA 7: 1086)
“The present mould of Hinduism has to be broken and replaced, but by knowledge and yoga, not by the European spirit, and it is an Indian and not an English mould that must replace it.” (CWSA 1:499)
“We do not believe that by multiplying new sects limited within the narrower and inferior ideas of religion imported from the West or by creating organisations for the perpetuation of the mere dress and body of Hinduism we can recover our spiritual health, energy and greatness. The world moves through an indispensable interregnum of free thought and materialism to a new synthesis of religious thought and experience, a new religious world-life free from intolerance, yet full of faith and fervour, accepting all forms of religion because it has an unshakable faith in the One. The religion which embraces Science and faith, Theism, Christianity, Mahomedanism and Buddhism and yet is none of these, is that to which the World-Spirit moves. In our own, which is the most sceptical and the most believing of all, the most sceptical because it has questioned and experimented the most, the most believing because it has the deepest experience and the most varied and positive spiritual knowledge,— that wider Hinduism which is not a dogma or combination of dogmas but a law of life, which is not a social framework but the spirit of a past and future social evolution, which rejects nothing but insists on testing and experiencing everything and when tested and experienced turning it to the soul’s uses, in this Hinduism we find the basis of the future world-religion. This sanatana dharma has many scriptures, Veda, Vedanta, Gita, Upanishad, Darshana, Purana, Tantra, nor could it reject the Bible or the Koran; but its real, most authoritative scripture is in the heart in which the Eternal has His dwelling. It is in our inner spiritual experiences that we shall find the proof and source of the world’s Scriptures, the law of knowledge, love and conduct, the basis and inspiration of Karmayoga.” (CWSA 8:26)
“Greece developed to a high degree the intellectual reason and the sense of form and harmonious beauty, Rome founded firmly strength and power and patriotism and law and order, modern Europe has raised to enormous proportions practical reason, science and efficiency and economic capacity, India developed the spiritual mind working on the other powers of man and exceeding them, the intuitive reason, the philosophical harmony of the Dharma informed by the religious spirit, the sense of the eternal and the infinite. The future has to go on to a greater and more perfect comprehensive development of these things and to evolve fresh powers, but we shall not do this rightly by damning the past or damning other cultures than our own in a spirit of arrogant intolerance. We need not only a spirit of calm criticism, but an eye of sympathetic intuition to extract the good from the past and present effort of humanity and make the most of it for our future progress.” (CWSA 20:235)
“In the whole creation the earth has a place of distinction, because unlike any other planet it is evolutionary with a psychic entity at its centre. In it, India, in particular, is a divinely chosen country.” (CWM 13: 376)
“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: 376)
“India must be saved for the good of the world since India alone can lead the world to peace and a new world order.” (CWM 13: 361)
“I pray to you to save India from the Indians.
Yes, it seems rather necessary.” (CWM 13: 363)