“If We Are to Live at All…”


One of the best things about reading Sri Aurobindo is that every time you re-read a passage you get a clearer understanding, a deeper insight, a brighter view of reality. Yes, a brighter view, because no matter how bad things may seem at the moment, the Force of Sri Aurobindo’s words — the words of a Mahayogi, a Rishi, an Avatar, bring to the reader’s awareness that light which can take away the darkness of despair, doubt and delusion.

This has been my experience at least, and of many others I know. This is true not only for matters concerning our petty personal lives, but also the life of our nation and our little and limited understandings of its past, present and future. Sri Aurobindo’s yogic insight into matters concerning the past, present and future of India (even though he was writing about these things in the last century) bring such wideness, depth and clarity that one is left with a sense of peace. Mind’s lingering doubts are put to rest, though given the nature of mind the doubts may raise their heads again. And that’s why I feel the need to revisit the Master’s words, again and again. Where else would I go to find the clarity and calm I am looking for?

Today I share a particular passage which speaks to the many questions or doubts that had been raising their head off and on within me during the past few weeks. With all that has been going on in the country lately, it is natural to sometimes feel a sense of loss of hope and optimism for the nation’s future. But that’s an escapist talk. What we need is a light that can bring us closer to the deeper truth, the truer truth.

I have read the following passage a few times now and I hope the readers, especially my Indian readers, will take the trouble to go through it carefully and with an open mind and heart. Let the force of the words, the truth of the words seep into the consciousness, let the truth do its work, because that indeed is what we need the most today — to be on the side of the truth, to be aware of how to be on the side of the truth.

“The spirit and ideals of our civilisation need no defence, for in their best parts and in their essence they were of eternal value. India’s internal and individual seeking of them was earnest, powerful, effective. But the application in the collective life of society was subjected to serious reserves. Never sufficiently bold and thoroughgoing, it became more and more limited and halting when the life-force declined in her peoples. This defect, this gulf between ideal and collective practice, has pursued all human living and was not peculiar to India; but the dissonance became especially marked with the lapse of time and it put at last on our society a growing stamp of weakness and failure. There was a large effort in the beginning at some kind of synthesis between the inner ideal and the outer life; but a static regulation of society was its latter end. An underlying principle of spiritual idealism, an elusive unity and fixed helpful forms of mutuality remained always there, but also an increasing element of strict bondage and minute division and fissiparous complexity in the social mass. The great Vedantic ideals of freedom, unity and the godhead in man were left to the inner spiritual effort of individuals. The power of expansion and assimilation diminished and when powerful and aggressive forces broke in from outside, Islam, Europe,the later Hindu society was content with an imprisoned and static self-preservation, a mere permission to live. The form of living became more and more narrow and it endured a continually restricted assertion of its ancient spirit. Duration, survival was achieved, but not in the end a really secure and vital duration, not a great, robust and victorious survival.

“And now survival itself has become impossible without expansion. If we are to live at all, we must resume India’s great interrupted endeavour; we must take up boldly and execute thoroughly in the individual and in the society, in the spiritual and in the mundane life, in philosophy and religion, in art and literature, in thought, in political and economic and social formulation the full and unlimited sense of her highest spirit and knowledge. And if we do that, we shall find that the best of what comes to us draped in occidental forms, is already implied in our own ancient wisdom and has there a greater spirit behind it, a profounder truth and self-knowledge and the capacity of a will to nobler and more ideal formations. Only we need to work out thoroughly in life what we have always known in the spirit. There and nowhere else lies the secret of the needed harmony between the essential meaning of our past culture and the environmental requirements of our future.

“That view opens out a prospect beyond the battle of cultures which is the immediate dangerous aspect of the meeting of East and West.”

~Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 20, pp. 91-92


Author’s Note: The month of April marks the anniversary of Matriwords. We take this opportunity to thank our readers, who have continued to support and encourage us during the past 3 years, despite several breaks and interruptions. Infinite gratitude goes to the Divine Mother who is the Guide and Source of everything we try to do through this little virtual space.

4 thoughts on ““If We Are to Live at All…”

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  1. About the last line (on “the meeting of East and West”), the Tibetan Buddhist teacher Robert Thurman began speaking about this theme more than 20 years ago.

    He said that the world is now going through (at least, potentially) a “global renaissance” which he predicts will ultimately have far greater, long lasting effects than the European Renaissance that took place some 500-600 years ago.

    As the earlier Renaissance took place as a result of the rediscovery (thanks to the Muslims who kept it alive) of the ancient Greek philosophy, poetry and general culture), the present Renaissance is a result of the entry of Asian culture – particularly Indian – into the west.

    Though this has been occurring for several centuries on a smaller scale, over the past 50 years the effect has been monumental.

    To give one striking example, several leading (Western) cognitive scientists have said that it is specifically their contact with Indian philosophy that led them to consider the possibility that consciousness, rather than matter, is a (if not “the”) fundamental force in the universe.

    Having said that, it seems unfortunate that, to date, the strongest influence the other way is from western materialistic thought to Asia. I’m aware that overall, Japanese, Chinese and Indian scientists are less materialistic than those in Europe and the US, but as far as I can tell, among mainstream scientists in the East, there hasn’t been a unified voice so far orienting science in a different direction.

    I’m stressing “Science” here, because once enough leading scientists begin moving in a more spiritual direction, I believe it will have epochal changes throughout – in economics, politics, education, the arts, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Don, you are right on the mark, once again, about the strongest influence at the moment being “from western materialistic thought to Asia.” Perhaps more time is needed for the Asian cultures and civilizations to wake up to their real/true group-soul and the sense of their overall mission in the overall march of humanity. I remember listening to/reading some of the talks of Robert Thurman about his call for an inner revolution of consciousness. It is a positive sign of things to come when we see growing influence of teachers like Thurman.

      Thanks for bringing up excellent points about the new directions in which science is moving. And I agree completely with your last sentence. I believe the Mother has also said something to the same extent somewhere – of real scientists being the closest to the spiritual seekers in their aspiration for the search for truth. Politics and business, as Sri Aurobindo also said, will be the last two fields of human activity to be touched by spirituality!


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