A Series Inspired by India’s Rebirth – 6

Author: Beloo Mehra (2019). Published under the title ‘When Young India Awakes’ in Sri Aurobindo’s Action, Vol. 50 (6), pp. 8-11
CONTINUED FROM Part 5

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When Young India Awakes

CHAPTER V

The train was on time, 1:55am. And luckily, Aman was able to convince a fellow passenger to switch seats so that Yuvaan could stay with their group. After some chit-chat for about half an hour, each of them stretched out on their reserved berths.

But Yuvaan wasn’t sleepy. He took out his book and started reading in the dim reading light near his berth.

“A painful but necessary work had to be done, and because the English nation were the fittest instrument for his purpose, God led them all over those thousands of miles of alien Ocean, gave strength to their hearts and subtlety to their brains, and set them up in India to do His work, which they have been doing faithfully, if blindly, ever since and are doing at the present moment. The spirit and ideals of India had come to be confined in a mould which, however beautiful, was too narrow and slender to bear the mighty burden of our future. When that happens, the mould has to be broken and even the ideal lost for a while, in order to be recovered free of constraint and limitation…. We must not cabin the expanding and aggressive spirit of India in temporary forms which are the creation of the last few hundred years. That would be a vain and disastrous endeavour. The mould is broken; we must remould in larger outlines and with a richer content. For the work of destruction England was best fitted by her stubborn individuality and by that very commercialism and materialism which made her the anti-type in temper and culture of the race she governed. She was chosen too for the unrivalled efficiency and skill with which she has organised an individualistic and materialistic democracy. We had to come to close quarters with that democratic organisation, draw it into ourselves and absorb the democratic spirit and methods so that we might rise beyond them…. We have to throw away the individualism and materialism and keep the democracy. We have to solve for the human race the problem of harmonising and spiritualising its impulses towards liberty, equality and fraternity.” [1]

 

What did I just read – this is the first thought that immediately came to Yuvaan’s mind as he read this paragraph? Is Sri Aurobindo saying that the British rule came to India to serve a very specific, but hidden purpose for the future of India? This type of thinking process was something he had never come across in anything he had read about British colonialism in India. Wasn’t Sri Aurobindo a freedom fighter, a revolutionary, a true nationalist? So, what exactly was he saying in this passage, Yuvaan wanted to understand deeply? So, he read the passage again, and again.

And soon he felt he was beginning to understand. The purpose Sri Aurobindo speaks of here in this passage is this – to break and destroy the mould in which the ideals and spirit of India had been confined over the course of history. India needed a jolt, to put it in simple words. The ruthlessness of the colonial rule was that jolt, that destructive force that would eventually lead India to wake up and find herself again. From this destruction of the old, decrepit mould newer forms would emerge, taking some influences from Western civilisation which has some fundamental differences from the core of Indian civilisation. This is how India will renew herself, making her truth and wisdom once again relevant for her children and for humanity at large.

Yuvaan could feel a certain calmness come over him as he felt he had understood something on a much deeper level. What a remarkable insight Sri Aurobindo had given him, to see how a deeper, hidden force guides the destiny of nations, the experiences that nations go through! He felt blessed.

Yuvaan’s eyes were beginning to feel heavy, his body was tired too. His body perhaps needed some rest but his mind and heart sought more of what he was reading. These words, these ideas, thoughts – he needed to be with them, be with Sri Aurobindo, he felt.

For the last couple of hours, he hadn’t even once thought about his mother. Why, he wondered.

He looked at his cell phone to check the time. It was almost 4:00am. He got up, stretched his legs for a bit, walked the length of the compartment a couple of times, and finally lay down on his berth. And soon his body and mind both gave in to sleep.

It was after 7:00am when Yuvaan woke up and saw Pranav and Aman chatting away on the seat in front of him. Rishi was still sleeping soundly on his upper berth.

“Hope we were not disturbing you,” that was Aman.

“No, no, I slept soundly, though it was only for a few hours…I was reading earlier.”

“Rishi told me that your mom is in the hospital.”

“Yes, in Rishikesh…. that’s why I am going there.”

“I hope she feels better soon.”

“Thanks, I hope so too!… do you know what time they will serve that special railway breakfast?” smiled Yuvaan.

“You hungry? No worries!” Pranav pulled out his backpack and started taking out bags of masala flavoured potato chips.

The three of them quickly freshened themselves up and were soon enjoying the munchies and chatting about movies, sports, restaurants. It was a pleasant morning, and the train was running at its normal speed…time was passing pleasantly.

“Look, who is up! Good morning, Rishi!” Pranav saw Rishi sitting up on his upper berth.

“You guys eating again?!”

“Join us. And by the way, we are not only eating, we are also talking… about food….and other things.”

“Yeah, yeah…food is number one thing on your mind, I know!”

“Well, I enjoy good food and good company…like yours,” joked Aman, and added, “now come down and give us the benefit of some of your wisdom, guruji.”

“Hey Rishi, I meant to ask you, … What is this guruji business, I noticed he called you guruji earlier also?” asked Yuvaan.

There was laughter all around.

“That’s a joke from our college days,” Rishi turned to Yuvaan. “I suppose it has to do with the fact that these guys were always coming to me for notes, asking questions about course topics, and I was always helping them. Right, guys?”

“Well, yes…but then there is something more guru-like in Rishi,” added Pranav. “You see, Rishi here is quite a serious type of person when it comes to things such as…, let’s see… questions about life, etc. He is one of those spiritual types.”

“Spiritual types? What does that mean?” Rishi smiled and patted Pranav on the shoulder.

“Well, I mean, don’t you meditate and all? You are always attending some or the other lecture on spirituality. You even went for some spiritual retreats or camps.”

“Wow! That’s wonderful, Rishi,” said Yuvaan, “you know, this book that I am reading, India’s Rebirth…I mean I have only read a little bit of it yet, but at so many places there are passages where Sri Aurobindo talks about spiritual strength or spiritual force….Let me show you something…you will know what I mean.”

Digging out the book from his bag Yuvaan stared shuffling through the pages.

“See, here…let me read this fascinating passage here, alright!… Ok, here it is.”

“…Brahmateja [spiritual force] is the thing we need most of all and first of all. In one sense, that means the pre-eminence of religion; but after all, what the Europeans mean by religion is not Brahmateja; which is rather spirituality, the force and energy of thought and action arising from communion with or self-surrender to that within us which rules the world. In that sense we shall use it. This force and energy can be directed to any purpose God desires for us; it is sufficient to knowledge, love or service; it is good for the liberation of an individual soul, the building of a nation or the turning of a tool. It works from within, it works in the power of God, it works with superhuman energy.” [2]

“That is quite heavy stuff there!” said Aman, shaking his head.

“Yes, it is, isn’t it? But it is also so fascinating. I mean I never knew I would enjoy reading something like this, and not only that but I would also start enjoy thinking about these things…. This book is quite something. It is full of such deep words, but somehow they all ring so true, even though I am not sure I fully understand many of these things.”

“Here, let me read it myself,” Rishi took the book from Yuvaan’s hands.

A few moments later, he just repeated the last couple of sentences…

“….it is good for the liberation of an individual soul, the building of a nation or the turning of a tool. It works from within, it works in the power of God, it works with superhuman energy.” [3]

He then quietly returned the book to Yuvaan.

“Well…?”

“Well, what?”

“Aren’t you going to tell us more, guruji?”

“There is nothing to tell, I am not sure I fully understand it, or even partially understand it. But I liked what I read, I mean really liked it! …. I think I will read the whole book later.”

“Yes, you must,” said Yuvaan. And then a few moments later, added, “but you see there is also so much here about such practical things, so many things relevant to our education, our politics, bureaucracy, etc…. Ok, so it was all written in early 1900s during the freedom struggle, but it is amazing how much of it still holds true today.”

Yuvaan was getting excited as he continued to shuffle through the pages of the book.

“See, here it is… take a look at this passage here.”

“…the spiritual and intellectual divorce from the past which the present schools and universities have effected, has beggared the nation of the originality, high aspiration and forceful energy which can alone make a nation free and great. To reverse the process and recover what we have lost, is undoubtedly the first object to which we ought to devote ourselves. And as the loss of originality, aspiration and energy was the most vital of all these losses, so their recovery should be our first and most important objective.” [4]

“And listen to this… you’ll love it.”

“In India … we have been cut off by a mercenary and soulless education from all our ancient roots of culture and tradition…” [5]

“A purely scientific education tends to make thought keen and clearsighted within certain limits, but narrow, hard and cold…. For man intellectually developed, mighty in scientific knowledge and the mastery of the gross and subtle nature, using the elements as his servants and the world as his footstool, but underdeveloped in heart and spirit, becomes only an inferior kind of asura using the powers of a demigod to satisfy the nature of an animal.” [6]

“Between them music, art and poetry are a perfect education for the soul; they make and keep its movements purified, self-controlled, deep and harmonious. These, therefore, are agents which cannot profitably be neglected by humanity on its onward march or degraded to the mere satisfaction of sensuous pleasure which will disintegrate rather than build the character. They are, when properly used, great educating, edifying and civilising forces.” [7]

Yuvaan was excitedly reading and wanted to continue reading but Rishi interrupted.

“Isn’t this amazing how he so perfectly describes what some of us, or maybe many of us who have gone through our modern education system have intuitively felt it. There is something missing in our education, something deep, something which would make our educational experiences more meaningful, more real and inspiring. I like how he speaks of music, art and poetry as education for the soul. And that’s so missing in our education, how sad! How sad indeed!”

“You said it, man!” That was Pranav who had a deep love for music and had been learning guitar for several years. “How I wish our system would have really encouraged learning of music…I mean, my experience during my school and college years would have been so different if I had been allowed to give more time to my music.”

“Right …,” Rishi started to say something more but immediately stopped. He needed to get his thoughts together. But before that he felt he really needed to read this book himself.

“This book sounds great, Yuvaan! I want to read it after you are done with it…. I am a very fast reader, you know. I will return the book to you within a couple of days,” said Rishi.

“No problem! I will be happy to lend this book to you, but I don’t think you will be able to read it so quickly. Or maybe you shouldn’t read it quickly, I think.”

“Oh, I get what you are saying…”

“Rishi, here…. you can start reading it on your phone if you like…”, that was Aman. “I just googled it and it seems a full downloadable version is also available.”

“Great! I am on it, right away, send me the link, please!”

“Done. Check it…. but please, please, please….can we first get some hot chai, looks like a station is about to come.”

“Yes, chai would be so welcome right now…oh, it is 8:00am already, and still no breakfast!

“About 6 or 7 more hours till we reach Haridwar,” Pranav said, getting up from the seat and straightening his back. “I wish I had my guitar with me right now! But we can always sing…you know, like they show in movies.”

They all laughed as they walked together to the compartment exit door and got down to enjoy some chai on the platform.

To be continued…


 

Notes

[1] CWSA, 8:247-248

[2] CWSA, 8:21

[3] ibid

[4] CWSA, 8:245

[5] CWSA, 1:433

[6] CWSA, 1: 438-439

[7] CWSA, 1:448

 

Read earlier parts of the series:

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

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