matriwords

Research, Essays, Commentaries – Inspired by the Social-Cultural-Political Thought of Sri Aurobindo (PLUS a bit of photography too!)

A Series Inspired by India’s Rebirth – 3

Author: Beloo Mehra (2019). Published under the title ‘When Young India Awakes’ in Sri Aurobindo’s Action, Vol. 50 (2 & 3), pp. 16-19.

Continued from Part 2


 

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CHAPTER II

The words that continued to float around in his mind that evening…. Sri Aurobindo’s words, words that he had read in that little book just an hour back….

While others look upon their country as an inert piece of matter – a few meadows and fields, forests and hills and rivers – I look upon my country as the Mother. I adore Her, I worship Her as the Mother. What would a son do if a demon sat on his mother’s breast and started sucking her blood?… I know I have the strength to deliver this fallen race. It is not physical strength – I am not going to fight with sword or gun – but the strength of knowledge….[1]

Each nation is a Shakti or power of the evolving spirit in humanity and lives by the principle which it embodies. India is the Bharata Shakti, the living energy of a great spiritual conception, and fidelity to it is the very principle of her existence. For by its virtue alone she has been one of the immortal nations; this alone has been the secret of her amazing persistence and perpetual force of survival and revival.[2]

Is this indeed the Shakti, the power, the living energy that Sri Aurobindo speaks of, Yuvaan wondered as he looked around? This group of people gathered at the ghāt, to pray to Mother Ganga, which is not merely a river for them. It is the mother who gives her all to her children, who purifies their being by taking in all the muck and dirt they throw into her. And yet she flows freely and gives freely. The steadfast faith which brings these countless people to the ghāt, at the feet of their Ma Ganga— is this what Sri Aurobindo speaks of as a fidelity to the “living energy of a spiritual conception”? Is this deep faith of her people the virtue by which India has been one of the immortal nations?

What does it all mean? Yuvaan wanted to know everything, but he wasn’t restless. Something about the words, something about where he was and what was happening around him assured that everything would be revealed in time. He had been put in touch with the right key; the door of right knowledge would open when he was ready to walk in.

More words came to his mind….

For what is a nation? What is our mother-country? It is not a piece of earth, nor a figure of speech, nor a fiction of the mind. It is a mighty Shakti, composed of the Shaktis of all the millions of units that make up the nation, just as Bhawani Mahisha Mardini sprang into being from the Shakti of all the millions of gods assembled in one mass of force and welded into unity.[3]

This great and ancient nation was once the fountain of human light, the apex of human civilisation, the exemplar of courage and humanity, the perfection of good Government and settled society, the mother of all religions, the teacher of all wisdom and philosophy. It has suffered much at the hands of inferior civilisations and more savage peoples; it has gone down into the shadow of night and tasted often of the bitterness of death. Its pride has been trampled into the dust and its glory has departed. Hunger and misery and despair have become the masters of this fair soil, these noble hills, these ancient rivers, these cities whose life story goes back into prehistoric night. But do you think that therefore God has utterly abandoned us and given us up for ever to be a mere convenience for the West, the helots of its commerce, and the feeders of its luxury and pride? We are still God’s chosen people and all our calamities have been but a discipline of suffering, because for the great mission before us prosperity was not sufficient, adversity had also its training; to taste the glory of power and beneficence and joy was not sufficient, the knowledge of weakness and torture and humiliation was also needed; it was not enough that we should be able to fill the role of the merciful sage and the beneficent king, we had also to experience in our own persons the feelings of the outcaste and the slave. But now that lesson is learned, and the time for our resurgence is come. And no power shall stay that uprising and no opposing interest shall deny us the right to live, to be ourselves, to set our seal once more upon the world.[4]

The ārti began soon, and the thousands of diyās lit up the entire surroundings with the powerful rhythmic sounds of bells, gongs, dhols and nagādās creating a deeply contemplative environment which somehow led Yuvaan to a profound place of silence within.

India's Rebirth

Several minutes had passed after the ārti was over. The crowd had started to disperse; some were sitting on the steps of the ghāt in silent contemplation — alone or in small groups, some were standing in groups and talking in hushed voices, while a few others were just standing alone and waiting for nothing in particular. Yuvaan was also standing there, alone. But he really wasn’t alone. The words he had been reading all afternoon were giving him company, were giving him a lens through which he was taking in everything happening around him.

India can once more be made conscious of her greatness by an overmastering sense of the greatness of her spirituality. This sense of greatness is the main feeder of all patriotism. This only can put an end to all self-depreciation and generate a burning desire to recover the lost ground.[5]

It is an error, we repeat, to think that spirituality is a thing divorced from life…. It is an error to think that the heights of religion are above the struggles of this world.[6]

Yes, the whole experience of the Ganga ārti had something spiritual about it. Indeed, he felt that there was some mighty power which gave the outer act of the worship ritual the real force, the real meaning. And it was that power which continued to draw people to this external act, this outward expression of an inner worship. Is this the greatness of Indian spirituality that Sri Aurobindo speaks of? What is religion then? And how is it different from spirituality? Or are they same? And what does it all have to do with the soul of India?

He felt, no he knew, he would get more answers from the little book.  And he remembered something he had already read…he turned on the flashlight of his mobile phone and turning the pages of the book quickly found what he was looking for.

There is a mighty law of life, a great principle of human evolution, a body of spiritual knowledge and experience of which India has always been destined to be guardian, exemplar and missionary. This is the sanatana dharma….[7]

But what is the Hindu religion? What is this religion which we call Sanatan, eternal? It is the Hindu religion only because the Hindu nation has kept it, because in this Peninsula it grew up in the seclusion of the sea and the Himalayas, because in this sacred and ancient land it was given as a charge to the Aryan race to preserve through the ages. But it is not circumscribed by the confines of a single country, it does not belong peculiarly and for ever to a bounded part of the world. That which we call the Hindu religion is really the eternal religion, because it is the universal religion which embraces all others. If a religion is not universal, it cannot be eternal. A narrow religion, a sectarian religion, an exclusive religion can live only for a limited time and a limited purpose. This is the one religion that can triumph over materialism by including and anticipating the discoveries of science and the speculations of philosophy. It is the one religion which impresses on mankind the closeness of God to us and embraces in its compass all the possible means by which man can approach God. It is the one religion which insists every moment on the truth which all religions acknowledge that He is in all men and all things and that in Him we move and have our being. It is the one religion which enables us not only to understand and believe this truth but to realise it with every part of our being. It is the one religion which shows the world what the world is, that it is the Lila of Vasudeva. It is the one religion which shows us how we can best play our part in that Lila, its subtlest laws and its noblest rules. It is the one religion which does not separate life in any smallest detail from religion, which knows what immortality is and has utterly removed from us the reality of death.[8]

He read the passage again. And again. And again.

“Religion which insists every moment on the truth…”

“Religion which impresses on mankind the closeness of God to us…”

“Religion which shows the world what the world is…the Lila of Vasudeva”

“Religion which shows us how we can best play our part in that Lila….”

“Religion which does not separate life in any smallest detail from religion….”

 

These words kept floating in his being, in his mind and heart as he slowly paced down to the dharmashala where he was staying. He would finish the book tonight, he told to himself as he walked through the entrance door.

But Life had another plan.

To be continued…


Notes

[1] Sri Aurobindo, Letter written to Mrinalini, 30 August 1905

[2] CWSA, 20:57

[3] CWSA, 6:83

[4] CWSA, 7:707-708

[5] CWSA, 6:513

[6] CWSA, 13:12

[7] CWSA, 13:4

[8]CWSA, 8:11-12

About Beloo Mehra

Dr. Beloo Mehra is a Senior Associate at Sri Aurobindo Foundation for Indian Culture (SAFIC), Sri Aurobindo Society, Puducherry. She writes on issues related to Indian education, culture and society.

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