Research, Essays, Commentaries – Inspired by the Social-Cultural-Political Thought of Sri Aurobindo (PLUS a bit of photography too!)
It was exactly three months ago, he suddenly recalled. The day when he first arrived here in Kashi, the city of light.
Sitting on the steps of the ghāt with Ma Ganga flowing serenely at that time of the night – was it after midnight already, Yuvaan had no idea — he felt calm inside, simply being with the quietness all around him, silently watching the flow of the water and a few flowers and spent diyas floating near the steps of the ghāt from the evening ārti. Or maybe he wasn’t looking at anything, he was just seeing through them – to something beyond, to something invisible.
Yuvaan let his mind go back in time…. yes, it was three months back. The picture of that day came to his mind, the day when he left his home in Delhi for this journey — journey unlike any other journey he had taken in his young life of 22 years. A journey which was not a tour to ‘see’ places, nor a planned vacation to tourist places that he had taken a plenty with his family.
In many ways, this was a journey into the unknown. But that’s exactly how Yuvaan had wanted it.
He didn’t want to know where this journey would take him, he didn’t actually know what he was looking for — just knew he had to start the journey: the journey to discover for himself where he came from – the land he called his motherland, and the spirituality which many masters claim is the soul of India.
He somehow instinctively felt that the textbooks he had studied during his recently completed undergraduate degree were not giving him what he was seeking. The information — yes that’s what it was, merely information, it couldn’t be called knowledge— was sketchy, fragmented, superficial, but more importantly, soul-less.
He needed to feel, to experience the soul of India.
Three months had gone by. But he still remembered, as if it was just yesterday, the impact of those words he had read standing in that quaint little bookstore. He had been in Kashi for just a day then. The words were now coming before his eyes — “not a piece of earth….a power, a godhead, a Devi…”.
Mother India is not a piece of earth; she is a Power, a Godhead, for all nations have such a Devi supporting their separate existence and keeping it in being. Such Beings are as real as and more permanently real than the men they influence but they belong to a higher plane, are part of the cosmic consciousness and being and act here on earth by shaping the human consciousness on which they exercise their influence. It is natural for man who sees only his own consciousness individual, national or racial at work and does not see what works upon it and shapes it, to think that all is created by him and there is nothing cosmic and greater behind it.
These words and several others had stayed with Yuvaan ever since he came across them in a little book he found in that bookstore in a dark alley on the day after he had first landed in Kashi, three months ago.
The words — “Mother India is a Power, a Godhead….” continue to charm him and invite him. But invite him where? Three months later, he felt he had some answers. The book had given him some clues, had opened some doors. The time he had spent at a few more places in India, the people he had met during the past three months had also given him some insights.
The book was titled “India’s Rebirth” and contained a selection of quotes and excerpts from some of the writings of Sri Aurobindo. Who was Sri Aurobindo? He had wondered for a few minutes. Then he vaguely remembered that this name was mentioned in school history textbooks as one of the freedom fighters.
Now three months later, he had read up a whole lot more about Sri Aurobindo. And read some more of his writings as well.
Yuvaan recalled how he had finished the first 20 pages of the book that same afternoon while sitting on the steps of Ma Ganga, and how struck he was with each passage. He had stopped reading only when it had become too dark to read. He recalled how he felt almost blown away by the power and force of the words he was reading. Those words written in 1900s were a call not only for the people of that time but also rang a hundred percent true for Yuvaan’s own times, he thought.
What India needs especially at this moment is the aggressive virtues, the spirit of soaring idealism, bold creation, fearless resistance, courageous attack; of the passive tamasic spirit of inertia we have already too much. We need to cultivate another training and temperament, another habit of mind. We would apply to the present situation the vigorous motto of Danton, that what we need, what we should learn above all things is to dare and again to dare and still to dare.
The leaders can only deserve reverence by acting in the spirit of the chief servants of their country and not in the spirit of masters and dictators.
We have to fill the minds of our boys from childhood with the idea of the country, and present them with that idea at every turn and make their whole young life a lesson in the practice of the virtues which afterwards go to make the patriot and the citizen. If we do not attempt this, we may as well give up our desire to create an Indian nation altogether; for without such discipline nationalism, patriotism, regeneration are mere words and ideas which can never become a part of the very soul of the nation and never therefore a great realised fact. Mere academical teaching of patriotism is of no avail.
He clearly remembered the goose bumps he had felt when he read:
We should be absolutely unsparing in our attack on whatever obstructs the growth of the nation, and never be afraid to call a spade a spade. Excessive good nature, chakshulajja [the desire to be always pleasant and polite], will never do in serious politics. Respect of persons must always give place to truth and conscience; and the demand that we should be silent because of the age or past services of our opponents, is politically immoral and unsound. Open attack, unsparing criticism, the severest satire, the most wounding irony, are all methods perfectly justifiable and indispensable in politics. We have strong things to say; let us say them strongly; we have stern things to do; let us do them sternly. But there is always a danger of strength degenerating into violence and sternness into ferocity, and that should be avoided so far as it is humanly possible.
So much power, such strength, such force and so much truth! How come he had never read anything like this before?
And now, the experience of that evening’s Ganga ārti once again came alive before his eyes.
He remembered he was about to go back to his room to continue reading there but one look at the Ganga and the people gathering at the ghāt for the evening ārti had made him stop.
 CWSA, 28:482
 CWSA, 6:487-488
 CWSA, 6:207
 CWSA, 6:455
 CWSA, 6:309