Research, Essays, Commentaries – Inspired by the Social-Cultural-Political Thought of Sri Aurobindo (PLUS a bit of photography too!)
Yuvaan had been in Kashi for only two days. And he was already on his way elsewhere — to Rishikesh. His mother had gone for a holiday trip to Haridwar-Rishikesh-Mussoorie with a group of her friends, and had fallen terribly sick in Rishikesh and was hospitalised. His father, who was on a business trip abroad, called him just at the moment when he had settled himself in the bed with his book. For a few moments he didn’t know what to do….and then immediately remembered that the receptionist had told him about an all-night taxi service.
He quickly searched on his phone for the next available train, booked a seat, packed his things and waited for the taxi. Sitting in the back seat, he felt very restless. He wanted to call up his father but decided against it.
Yuvaan, in his restlessness, dug out the book from his backpack and started turning the pages. The cab driver was perceptive and turned on the light for the back seat. The first page Yuvaan opened, just randomly, gave him the much-needed shoulder to lean on:
“Bhakti is the leaping flame, Shakti is the fuel. If the fuel is scanty how long can the fire endure?”[i]
Bhakti, the leaping flame. Shakti, the fuel…
As these words were churning in his mind, he began to feel his restlessness quieten down a bit. He knew he needed to pray, pray for strength and more strength, for himself, for his mother. As his heart began to formulate a prayer, his hands instinctively went on turning the pages of the book, and toward the end of the book as he looked down, he found these words:
“This world is not really created by a blind force of Nature: even in the Inconscient the presence of the supreme Truth is at work; there is a seeing Power behind it which acts infallibly and the steps of the Ignorance itself are guided even when they seem to stumble…. In this vast and apparently confused mass of existence there is a law, a one truth of being, a guiding and fulfilling purpose of the world-existence.”[ii]
Some force, some power most certainly knew that that was the strength, the assurance he so badly needed at the moment. Even months and years later he would recall how safe and protected he had felt the instant he read those words.
While he didn’t really grasp what that “one truth of being” was or that “law” or that “guiding and fulfilling purpose of the world-existence” which was being spoken of in the passage. But there was something so reassuring about those words. Maybe it was the force of the Truth in those words, truth that one doesn’t really understand with mind but intuitively feels inside oneself. Who is to say?
The taxi continued to make its way in the dark night. Sri Aurobindo’s words were there to give him company. He started reading from where he had stopped that afternoon.
“We say to the nation, “It is God’s will that we should be ourselves and not Europe. We have sought to regain life by following the law of another being than our own. We must return and seek the sources of life and strength within ourselves. We must know our past and recover it for the purpose of our future. Our business is to realise ourselves first and to mould everything to the law of India’s eternal life and nature.”” [iii]
“We say to the individual and especially to the young who are now arising to do India’s work, the world’s work, God’s work: “You cannot cherish these ideals, still less can you fulfil them if you subject your minds to European ideas or look at life from the material standpoint. Materially you are nothing, spiritually you are everything. It is only the Indian who can believe everything, dare everything, sacrifice everything. First, therefore, become Indians. Recover the patrimony of your forefathers. Recover the Aryan thought, the Aryan discipline, the Aryan character, the Aryan life. Recover the Vedanta, the Gita, the Yoga. Recover them not only in intellect or sentiment but in your lives…. Difficulty and impossibility will vanish from your vocabularies. For it is in the spirit that strength is eternal and you must win back the kingdom of yourselves, the inner Swaraj, before you can win back your outer empire…. Recover the source of all strength in yourselves and all else will be added to you, social soundness, intellectual pre-eminence, political freedom, the mastery of human thought, the hegemony of the world.”” [iv]
What force, what power in these words….
“Seek the sources of life and strength within ourselves”
“Recover the Aryan character…Recover the Vedanta, the Gita, the Yoga. Recover them not only in intellect or sentiment but in your lives.”
What does it all mean? What does it mean to recover the Gita? How would one go about seeking the source of strength within oneself? What is the Aryan character? His mind was becoming full of such questions, but strangely there was no restlessness to find any answers right away. His heart seemed at peace, as if the words…no it wasn’t just the words but the truth in those words, the truth behind those words, which seemed to be calming him down.
He read some more.
“The future belongs to the young. It is a young and new world which is now under process of development and it is the young who must create it. But it is also a world of truth, courage, justice, lofty aspiration and straightforward fulfilment which we seek to create. For the coward, for the self-seeker, for the talker who goes forward at the beginning and afterwards leaves his fellows in the lurch there is no place in the future of this movement. A brave, frank, clean-hearted, courageous and aspiring youth is the only foundation on which the future nation can be built…. God does not want falterers and flinchers for his work, nor does he want unstable enthusiasts who cannot maintain the energy of their first movements.”[v]
Yes, yes, yes! This is what he had felt all along deep inside himself. He needed to be truthful, frank, clean-hearted and courageous. Indians needed to be all that. That was the only way to be, it was so simple and yet so difficult.
And for a brief moment his mind went back to those boring moral education classes he was forced to sit through in school. None of those ‘moral’ teachings did anything for him, he remembered. Rather, it was so boring to listen to those lectures on how to be a ‘good boy’ or a ‘good girl.’
“Here we are, Sir,” the taxi driver’s voice broke up the chain of his recollection. He had reached the railway station, and realised that he still had about three hours to wait for his train. Paying the driver and taking his single backpack he went straight to the waiting hall. He needed to be with his thoughts…how does one really, truly become brave, frank, clean-hearted and courageous?
[i] CWSA, 6:82
[ii] CWSA, 13:591-592
[iii] CWSA, 8:27
[iv] CWSA, 8:27-28
[v] CWSA, 8:168-169