Research, Essays, Commentaries – Inspired by the Social-Cultural-Political Thought of Sri Aurobindo (PLUS a bit of photography too!)
Readers may recall that the group had just read a story about the four princes and Kimsuka tree. They had also pointed out a few insights revealed by the story, about the multiple aspects of truth, about our inability to comprehend the full truth in its entirety, about our tendency to think of partial truth as the whole truth, and about truth changing forms with time.
Now the task remained to explore how the story and its lessons could help us go deeper into our main line of inquiry – how to know India in the Indian way.
This post is a continuation of the previous one and will pick up the discussion from there.
Eesh: You know, I was thinking the same thing as I was listening.
M: Yeah? Tell us what you were thinking.
Eesh: I am not very sure about this, but I was thinking that we only have limited vision. What I mean is that we can only see things from the outer surface, can’t really go very deep. Like the princes in the story. Each one’s vision was limited by the season in which he went to the forest to see the tree. So they only saw one form of the tree. It was either in bloom or had only buds or had nothing, just a trunk of wood. Same thing applies to us when we look at a nation. No?
M: Yes, it does. Continue.
Eesh: I mean, if we look at the way things are in India today, I mean not really today as in “one day”, but at present, say, for the last few decades,…we will only see what is there now, and we will be ready to make our decision about India based on that observation. Am I making any sense?
M (smiling): Yes, yes, you are! Go on….that is, if you want to.
Eesh: Well, what I mean is that if we can’t ‘see’ what India was like in the past, how would we get the full picture? That’s it.
M: Hmm…I hear you! Let’s see if anyone else has something to say.
(Looks around, waits for a few moments.)
M: Well? Doesn’t anyone wish to add something?
Avi: You know, I was thinking that Eesh is talking more about the changing forms over time, like the tree changing during different seasons. But I thought we were going to discuss about the different sheaths, about the layers of the form, so to speak.
M: Interesting point! But can we not talk about both things? And if we think about it aren’t the two related?
Avi: Well, I suppose they are.
M: But you don’t sound convinced!
Avi: (smiles and stays silent).
Dia: May I say something?
Dia: Di, I think that the two things are definitely connected. A form changes over time, but something inside the form, something that is the core of it, remains the same even when the seasons change. Or in the case of nation, even when centuries pass. Like the tree doesn’t lose its ‘tree-ness’ even when it has no leaves, buds or flowers. Same way, a nation is still a nation at its core, even when the outer forms, the outer sheaths of the ‘nation-ness’ change. For example, the physical layer, the mental layer etc may undergo changes over time. Is this what you were trying to say?
M: Well, in a way, yes! But perhaps there is something more to it.
Avi: There always is!
M (smiling): Yes, there is. Because we are dealing with some pretty complex stuff here. So we can’t have simple or rather simplistic explanations of it, now can we?
Dia: So, what did I miss?
M: It is not a question of you missing anything. It is more a question of us – all of us here, together – trying to go deeper into uncovering as much as possible of our own layers of ignorance, and slowly walk toward a bigger and bigger picture. So we have to keep going and figure out what else could this connection mean – between the tree story and what we are discussing about the nation and its sheaths.
Colin: I could give it a shot.
M: Yes, please.
Colin: If I understood Dia’s point correctly, she is talking about the inner core of a nation. We discussed that a few weeks ago.
Falguni: Yes, yes, we did.
Dia: Here, let me look through my notes.
(Some learners are busy ruffling through notebook pages, handouts given in previous sessions. Mridula Di expectantly waits.)
Dia: See here, we said this. About this inner core, that it is something immortal, and that every nation is nothing but one particular manifestation of this universal and eternal Source.
Falguni: Yes, I remember it too. And we also said that seen this way each nation becomes essentially not only equal but also one part of the One Complete Source. Each nation is a unique manifestation of that Source, just like each individual soul is a unique manifestation of the the Super-Soul.
M: Great! I see you are keeping some great notes of our discussions. I am very impressed! Well done, you all! (She applauds).
(Some gentle applaud in the room follows.)
M: But we still have to go back to what Colin was saying earlier, or he had just started to say. Right, Colin?
Colin: Yes. So if there is this inner core of a nation, the soul, so to speak, I think what Dia was trying to say was that even when the outside sheaths or layers change or evolve over time, as long as the inner core can be identified ‘as it is’ the nation continues to exist, in a way. Like the tree in our story.
M: Hmm…good, now we are going somewhere, I think.
Binoy: But you don’t sound very convinced… (laughing).
M: (smiling): No, I am. But I think we have to be a bit careful here. We can’t just say that even when the outer layers change completely, the nation essentially will stay exactly the same. I mean, think about it. If a big part of India’s physical territory is gone or taken away, that changes its physical sheath drastically. Wouldn’t we think of it as some sort of a loss for our nation? Even though the loss is only physical, at least when seen from the outside.
Binoy: Of course, we will. I suppose, that’s why we still speak of the Partition of India!
Eesh: Yes. Both the partition of Bengal and the Punjab.
Binoy: Yes. So if I am following you correctly, you are saying that we can’t deny the truth of the outer sheaths, the outer layers of the nation.
M: Yes, we can’t. We shouldn’t. Each sheath is true and essential in its own way. And each adds to the uniqueness of that inner core, which makes it different from other nations. No?
Binoy: Hmm…I suppose so.
Dia: So does this mean that all those sheaths or layers that we discussed are also part of the essence, the inner core?
M: It is not about one being a part of another, it is about all parts existing together. Think in terms of a human being, an individual. Or yourself. What makes you, you?
Dia: Everything, I suppose.
M: Be specific. Then you will see it better.
Dia: My outer physical body, my emotional-vital part, my mental part, everything.
M: Yes, and yet in addition to all of this there is an inner you, the core of you.
Dia: Yes. And we discussed it is same for the nation too.
M: Yes, and also that there is a connection, a very real link between the outer and the inner. Though the inner is immortal and timeless so to speak, yet something about it also evolves along with the experiences of the outer parts.
Avi: Okay, it is beginning to get confusing now!
Eesh: Yes, for me too! (laughing).
Colin: No, no. I think we are with you, Di. Please go on!
M: I think we should stop now. But since this is a very important point we will pick it up from here in our next session.
Colin: Yes, we must.
Dia: Yes, yes. I thought we were just getting started! It is quite intriguing in a way, especially when we keep connecting it back to ourselves, the individual.
Falguni: Not to mention, the tree. Remember!
Binoy: Yes, the tree which started it all (laughing).
(Everybody joins in the laughter).
M: Yes, we will come back to all of this next time. Now let’s just sit quietly for a few minutes, let all this assimilate within and then quietly leave. But remember, next time we meet in our classroom inside, we will not have our session in the garden like we did today.
Avi: (smiling): Oh! Looks like we will have some more intense discussions next time!
M: (smiling): Yes, always! But next time I may also have some visual aids to help us further. So I will need some AV equipment. Ok, let’s now just be quiet for a few minutes and then leave in silence when we are ready. See you all next week!
(The group slowly settles into a silence, some close their eyes, others sit just quietly. The breeze blows gently in the background, a bird makes some chirping sound nearby, and the occasional sound of a horn or car passing by just outside the boundary wall of the garden can be heard faintly. The curious and eager minds are slowly beginning to enjoy some rest).