Research, Essays, Commentaries – Inspired by the Social-Cultural-Political Thought of Sri Aurobindo (PLUS a bit of photography too!)
Man is a fourfold being. In him operates the fourfold force of the soul. He is a worker and a skilled craftsman; he is engaged in commerce; he is a warrior and a conqueror; he is also a seeker of knowledge and a savant. Through the occupations according to his nature is his search, the search of life in the affirmative spirit. Thus functions the order of society for man’s authentic welfare. In it is assured his true progress.
In that progress man is the link between what must be and what is. He is the footbridge thrown across the abyss, as the Mother says.
Even in our present excessive materialistic mood we strive to exceed ourselves. A certain degree of solidity is the valuable gain of this endeavour. But we should also be on our guard. The dichotomy of spirit and matter seems to have deepened today. If the philosophy of yesteryears desubstantiated everything material, science has despirited human effort and human dignity. Our literature and art, our religion, our thought, everything is driven by vitalistic enjoyment. We are alienating ourselves from the sense of truth and beauty. We know not affection and aesthetic happiness so well cherished by a refined soul.
It is perhaps worthwhile to have a brief perusal of the fourfold order of society the ancient Seers and Rishis had formulated in their deep and enduring wisdom. When the Vedic hymn describes the four limbs of the great Cosmic Being, or when in a moment of great revelation the Avatar of the Gita asserts that it is indeed he who has created this division of quality and active functioning, we have at once in it an important truth of creative organisation whose roots are in the luminous soil of sustaining spirituality.
What we have to understand from this basic formulation is that, as Sri Aurobindo explains, “the fourfold function of social man was considered as normally inherent in the psychological and economic needs of every community and therefore a dispensation of the Spirit that expresses itself in the human corporate and individual existence” (Essays on the Gita, CWSA, Vol. 19, pp. 512-513). This has the merit to make one’s own natural work as the natural function which will give one the desired kind of fruit and fulfilment. Action should be properly regulated, niyatam karma, and should surge up from the source of one’s swabhava that really constitutes one’s true and inner personality trying to express itself in nature to be the true individual. It should be more evolved from within and should be consonant with one’s own build-up. Prosperity, happiness and ever-widening avenues of progress and growth are at once assured in it. It is in that spirit that the Veda spoke of corn rich with milk.
The kind of artificiality we have currently with us because of the division between the haves and have-nots, antagonism between capitalist and socialistic doctrines, between corporate management and federated working classes, strikes, hartals, violence ensuing from these conflicting standpoints and these methods of handling the issues, processes, their demands without attention to duty, these class struggles, are totally alien to the principle of regulated action, niyatam karma. These have become so much magnified now that we have lost sight of truer issues and powers and potentialities which can really lead to noble and dynamic life in the luminous ambience of the spirit.
We must also remember that the external details which were applicable at the time of the Gita may not be valid in the present-day context, but the essentials get altered in the least. The learned man and the seer might have gone away, as also the warrior and the king, and the man of commerce and wealth, and the worker arrived, but niyatam karma cannot be dismissed.
If this formulation of the Gita has an insistent validity then instead of dismissing it as an antediluvian theory, or a theory which is purported to be Brahminical in character, we must ask the question as to what extent we have been able to live in the spirit which in a very profound way maintains the regulated action as the proper mode of collective action.
But the unfortunate thing is that in the decline of the age we have forgotten these basic truths and we pride ourselves in following truths that are not applicable to us; we do not recognise our swabhava and we do not follow swadharma, the law of righteous conduct that promotes every merit of this world as much as the celestial gain. In fact, the entire stress should be on the growth of the soul and its expression. We have to recover the lost contact from the inexhaustible source of dynamic creativity.
There are specific modes of the natural dharma of our age, and we have to understand that particular one which pertains to mutuality and exchange that is the characteristic feature of this civilisation; we have to understand what is exactly meant by Vaishyahood in the ancient Indian order of society. This is the term, writes Sri Aurobindo,
that brings out into relief the practical arranging intelligence and the instinct of life to produce, exchange, process, enjoy, contrive, put things in order and balance, spend itself and get and give and take, work out to the best advantage the active relations of existence. In its outward action it is this power that appears as the skilful devising intelligence, the legal, professional, commercial, industrial, economical, practical and scientific, mechanical, technical and utilitarian mind. This nature is accompanied at the normal level of its fullness by a general temperament which is at once grasping and generous, prone to amass and treasure, to enjoy, show and use, bent upon efficient exploitation of the world or its surroundings, but well capable too of practical philanthropy, humanity, ordered benevolence, orderly and ethical by rule but without any high distinction of the finer ethical spirit, a mind of the middle levels, not straining towards the heights, not great to break and create noble moulds of life, but marked by capacity, adaptation and measure. The powers, limitations and perversions of this type are familiar to us on a large scale, because this is the very spirit which has made our modern commercial and industrial civilisation. But if we look at the greater inner capacities and soul-values, we shall find that here also there are things that enter into the completion of human perfection. The Power that thus outwardly expresses itself on our present lower levels is one that can throw itself out in the great utilities of life and at its freest and widest makes, not for oneness and identity which is the highest reach of knowledge or the mastery and spiritual kingship which is the highest reach of strength, but still for something which is also essential to the wholeness of existence, equal mutuality and the exchange of soul with soul and life with life. Its powers are skill… self-spending… giving and ample creative liberality, mutual helpfulness… enjoyment, a productive, possessive, active opulence luxurious of the prolific Ananda of existence. A largeness of mutuality, a generous fullness of the relations of life, a lavish self-spending and return and ample interchange between existence and existence, a full enjoyment and use of the rhythm and balance of fruitful and productive life are the perfection of those who have this Swabhava and follow this Dharma. (Synthesis of Yoga, CWSA, Vol. 24, pp. 745-746)
Human psychology of the individual and collective modes of behaviour seen by the Rishi and the enlightened social organiser in the working of the spirit has been the foundation that has endured all the tests of time. Society must organise itself around it, not in a blind or mechanical manner but by recognising the truths that are behind its creative springs which ever sustain it. In them is the true social order and social harmony.
In a hurry to follow the Western model of industrialisation and the giant creation of the associated implements of commerce, banking, trade, management methods, setting up of professional schools, the necessary infrastructural support that is essential for carrying out this mammothian enterprise we may very likely face problems of psychological mismatches and maladjustments, import social disorders and cruel inadequacies which will be quite difficult to remove. Non-recognition of this basic principle of our life has already caused considerable damage to us.
India must hearken to the call of her national dharma. She was alive, says Sri Aurobindo, to the greatness of material laws and force. She also saw the invisible that surrounds the visible. She knows that man has power to exceed himself. She saw the myriad gods beyond man, God beyond the gods, and beyond God his own ineffable eternity. Then with a calm audacity of her intuition she declared that man could become the spirit, become a god, become one with God, become the ineffable Brahman. Man’s manhood lies in becoming godly.
This means that we must get back to the native power of the spirit. We must discover it and live in it. This is the great agenda for us to work. If spiritual unfolding is the hidden truth, then man as he is cannot be the last term of his evolution. His mind is capable of opening to what exceeds it.