Research, Essays, Commentaries – Inspired by the Social-Cultural-Political Thought of Sri Aurobindo (PLUS a bit of photography too!)
Matriwords is happy to present this important 5-part series, written by Subhodeep Mukhopadhyay. I came to ‘know’ Subhodeep through Indiblogger and gradually became more familiar with his wide-ranging and deep intellectual, philosophic and spiritual pursuits every time I visited his blogs, The Advaitist and The Tiny Man.
His well-reasoned and well-formulated comments on some of my blogposts in the past few months also helped me appreciate more his line of analysis (see here and here, for example). It became apparent that we share similar perspectives on topics such as: deep colonisation of the Indian mind, challenges for Indian civilisational renaissance, and the necessity to deal strongly with many divisive elements which have the potential to harm the integrity and unity of the Indian nation.
It was also clear that we have been reading some similar things, not only the spiritual and philosophic works of Sri Aurobindo, but also some of the path-breaking social-political-cultural analyses by an Indian-American public intellectual, Rajiv Malhotra. This convinced me that there is a definite need to bring some of that perspective to Matriwords.
In the present series, Subhodeep is presenting some highly important facts, perspectives and ideas. As rational individuals equipped with an ability to critically evaluate and assess different facts and perspectives, and as citizens of our motherland India who dream of a bright and glorious future for her, it is essential that we engage with these facts and perspectives with an open mind.
We recognise that to appreciate several of the points mentioned here further elaboration and analysis is required. In fact, many more essays will be necessary if these points are to be explored fully. We encourage interested readers to do their own study and analysis. And to facilitate that, a bibliography is given at the end of the series.
Accepting and/or engaging with some of these truths can be a bit challenging and even somewhat disturbing for some readers, especially if this is their first exposure to such an analysis. However, this doesn’t take away any of the truth-value of the claims made here.
In his primary work on political philosophy titled, The Ideal of Human Unity, Sri Aurobindo makes it very clear:
“At the present stage of human progress the nation is the living collective unit of humanity” (CWSA, Vol. 25, p. 304).
He explains that the unity of nations is possible only when each nation has first realised its intrinsic and essential unity.
But what makes the nation a living collective unity? And why should we care for the nation in this globalizing world?
The answer to such questions may be found in both the fundamentals of human psychology that have to do with the gradual self-development of the individual, as well as the natural tendency of humanity’s gradual progression from smaller to larger aggregates for their collective life. From family to clan to tribe to nation. Let us hear again from Sri Aurobindo:
“Self-sacrifice involuntary or veiled by forms of selfishness is,…the condition of our existence. It has been a gradual growth in humanity. The first sacrifices are always selfish—they involve the sacrifice of others for one’s own advancement.
“The first step forward is taken by the instinct of animal love in the mother who is ready to sacrifice her life for the young, by the instinct of protection in the male who is ready to sacrifice his life for his mate. The growth of this instinct is the sign of an enlargement in the conception of the self. So long as there is identification of self only with one’s own body and its desires, the state of the jiva is unprogressive and animal.
“It is only when the self enlarges to include the mate and the children that advancement becomes possible. This is the first human state, but the animal lingers in it in the view of the wife and children as chattels and possessions meant for one’s own pleasure, strength, dignity, comfort. The family even so viewed becomes the basis of civilisation, because it makes social life possible.
“But the real development of the god in man does not begin until the family becomes so much dearer than the life of the body that a man is ready to sacrifice himself for it and give up his ease or even his life for its welfare or its protection. To give up one’s ease for the family, that is a state which most men have attained; to give up one’s life for the honour of the wife or the safety of the home is an act of a higher nature of which man is capable in individuals, in classes, but not in the mass.
“Beyond the family comes the community and the next step in the enlargement of the self is when the identification with the self in the body and the self in the family gives way to the identification with the self in the community. To recognise that the community has a larger claim on a man than his family is the first condition of the advance to the social condition. It corresponds to the growth of the tribe out of the patriarchal family and to the perfection of those communal institutions of which our village community was a type.
“Here again, to be always prepared to sacrifice the family interest to the larger interest of the community must be the first condition of communal life and to give one’s life for the safety of the community, the act of divinity which marks the consummation of the enlarging self in the communal idea.
“The next enlargement is to the self in the nation. The evolution of the nation is the growth which is most important now to humanity, because human selfishness, family selfishness, class selfishness having still deep roots in the past must learn to efface themselves in the larger national self in order that the God in humanity may grow.
“There is a yet higher fulfilment for which only a few individuals have shown themselves ready, the enlargement of the self to include all humanity. A step forward has been taken in this direction by the self-immolation of a few to humanitarian ideals, but to sacrifice the interests of the nation to the larger interest of humanity is an act of which humanity in the mass is not yet capable.
“God prepares, but He does not hasten the ripening of the fruit before its season. A time will come when this also will be possible, but the time is not yet. Nor would it be well for humanity if it came before the other and lesser identification were complete; for that would necessitate retrogression in order to secure the step which has been omitted. The advance of humanity is a steady progress and there is no great gain in rushing positions far ahead, while important points in the rear are uncaptured.” (CWSA, Vol 8, pp. 137-139)
(A tip: In order to fully appreciate the depth and significance of this long passage, you may want to read it again, with as open and wide a mind as you can muster. Trying to apply some of the truths mentioned here to one’s own experience, observation and context helps further. ).
If India has to take her rightful position in the comity of nations and is destined to become once again the world’s spiritual guru, it is critical that she first puts her house in order. This necessitates that we as her children become armed with the knowledge of that which can be potentially harmful to her integrity, unity and sovereignty. The present series is an attempt to help us do that.
For anyone who still asks – why should I as an individual be concerned at all with things such as national unity and integrity, the answer is:
“The nation-unit is not formed and does not exist merely for the sake of existing; its purpose is to provide a larger mould of human aggregation in which the race, and not only classes and individuals, may move towards its full human development.” (CWSA, Vol. 25, p. 382)
India is hurtling at break-neck speed towards a great and wonderful future – a future of massive growth, superlative development and transformations at scales which are not even remotely imaginable.
We as Indians are finally on the cusp of unprecedented changes and after centuries of stagnation we start reaping the benefit of a “demographics dividend”[i]. (Times of India, 2016)
“Never before have there been so many young people. Never again is there likely to be such potential for economic and social progress. How we meet the needs and aspirations of young people will define our common future”. (Engelman, Monica, Levy, & Luchsinger, 2014)
Some other notable facts:
In other words, India is on a heady growth trajectory, the scale and magnitude of which is something most people today cannot wrap their heads around.
That’s where the good news ends.
[i] Demographics Dividend – the economic gains which can occur when a county’s working age population is larger than the population that is dependent
Image credit: Vijayal