A Series Inspired by India’s Rebirth – 10

Author: Beloo Mehra (2019). Published under the title ‘When Young India Awakes’ in Sri Aurobindo’s Action, Vol. 50 (11), November 2019, pp. 8-10

CONTINUED FROM Part 9

Indian youth
When Young India Awakes

CHAPTER IX – continued

Yuvaan and Rishi had been chatting about this and that for more than an hour when Rishi’s host, one middle-aged gentleman named Jagdish Khurana returned from his factory and joined them in the comfortably arranged drawing room of the house.

Yuvaan found Jagdish Khurana, who was known to his friends, associates and employees as simply JK, to be quite a jovial and easy-going person, as the three men sat down for a relaxed dinner with JK’s wife and younger son. The older, college-going daughter of the family was out of town on a college tour.

JK owned a small factory on the outskirts of the Haridwar town which manufactured various types of colourful household products and toys, mostly made out of bamboo and other sustainable woods. The factory which now employed about 50 people had been started by JK twenty years ago when he was around 30, with a simple goal to make beautiful and safe toys for children, which would also not destroy the ecology. Yuvaan enjoyed the relaxed environment, and especially found JK to be a warm and positive person, full of wit and wisdom.

Next morning, Yuvaan was up at about 6:00am. Coming out of the guest room, he saw JK sitting in his lawn by himself. While Yuvaan was still debating whether he should go outside, JK turned around in his chair and seeing Yuvaan asked him to join. They sat for a few minutes in the silence, listening to the birds chirping and the gentle sounds of the quiet morning hour.

In a few minutes a servant brought for them some warm water mixed with lemon juice and honey. As they sipped the warm refreshing drink, JK told Yuvaan how in his early 20’s he had left his home and wandered around for a few months, mostly in northern India, and also spending some time in various ashrams.

He shared stories of his travels in the Himalayas and the places he saw, the people he met. It was during these travels that he had met one yogi who had taught him a simple meditation practice, something that he had been practicing ever since.

After a few moments of silence, JK added that after coming back from his ‘wanderings’ in the Himalayas, he felt he was a changed person, in the sense that he knew what he wanted to do with his life. He not only could see clearly the kind of work he would do to financially support himself and his family, but also that he must do that work in the spirit of an offering to the higher source from which everything emerges.

He became quiet as he said that…as if there was nothing more to add.

Soon the household was filled with the morning noises, and JK also got up to go inside and get ready for the day. Sitting by himself, Yuvaan found himself admiring JK, who was not only a successful businessman – as seen from his lifestyle – but was also a person with deep inner quest who seemed worldly-wise and philosophical at the same time.

Yuvaan felt blessed to have met JK. He was convinced that Nature was making him meet so many different teachers on his journey since he left Delhi. He felt a strong feeling of gratitude rising in him. He felt thankful to Rishi. He thanked that moment for its existence.  

The day was spent visiting a few temples in Haridwar, including the Ramakrishna Mission which Sadhuram, the gentle auto-driver in Rishikesh had told him about the day before. The evening was spent enjoying the Ganga ārti at Har-ki-pauri ghāt. Rishi was a great company throughout. The two talked about various things, including their host JK who, they both agreed, had attained and realized some special inner balance and harmony within himself.

Yuvaan told Rishi about this book he was reading, about the life of Sri Aurobindo. He admitted that the more he read about Sri Aurobindo, the more drawn he felt toward him and the more curious he was to learn about his work – both as a revolutionary and also as a spiritual guru.

JK’s family had some prior social engagement that evening. So, Rishi also decided to spend time at the ghāt by himself, while Yuvaan returned home and retired to his room. He wanted to spend some time with his book, with Sri Aurobindo.

As he sat in his bed reading, his mind began to imagine Sri Aurobindo sitting at a desk and writing page after page after page…in a state of complete peace.

“Peace is a part of the highest ideal, but it must be spiritual or at the very least psychological in its basis; without a change in human nature it cannot come with any finality. If it is attempted on any other basis (moral principle or gospel of Ahimsa or any other), it will fail and even may leave things worse than before.”[1]

This was quite an absorbing reading for him. All during his school and college years, Yuvaan had been taught about the ideal of ahimsa that Gandhiji had strongly advocated as the highest ideal for humanity. He recalled some of what was mentioned in his school textbooks about the Indian freedom movement, and the place that was given to the role of the ideal of non-violence.

And here he was reading that part of history which never made it in those textbooks. He was learning how Sri Aurobindo never concealed his opinion that a nation is entitled to attain its freedom by violence, if it can do so or if there is no other way. He found himself agreeing with Sri Aurobindo’s position that whether a nation should do so or not depends on what is the best policy, not on ethical considerations.

He was also learning that Sri Aurobindo’s view and practice in this matter was the same as Balgangadhar Tilak’s who was another leading figure in Indian freedom movement. He wondered why the political views and immense contributions of such nationalist leaders who were by no means pacifists or “worshippers of ahimsa” were not sufficiently discussed in the Indian history textbooks!

His mind kept bringing forth more questions – what happens to the collective psyche of a people who are given an incomplete or partial or a certain ideologically-biased version of the history of their nation, of their people? Will they ever carry a healthy sense of identity as a people, as a nation? He didn’t have any clear answers but he also felt that he was beginning to see some hints.

Soon sleep came over him as his mind was still ruminating over these questions and others.

Next morning, he was up at around 4:30AM. He decided to walk to the nearest ghāt, and spend some time with Ma Ganga. Sitting there he felt a deep quietness within. And when there was enough day light, he took out his book and started reading.

“Sri Aurobindo’s habit in action was “not to devise beforehand and plan but to keep a fixed purpose, watch events, prepare forces and act when he felt it to be the right moment.” This has been, as we all know, the case with all those who are led by the inner light — not to occupy the mind with devising and planning, reasoning and debating and calculating on the flimsy basis of ambiguous and precarious sense-data and inference, but to keep it silent and wait upon the intuition of each moment for guidance in thought and action.”[2]

This was quite an insight, Yuvaan was in awe of what he had just read. It gave an important hint to understanding deeper human psychology. This explained how someone with a deeper vision, a deeper insight works. This also helped Yuvaan understand a bit more about what JK had been describing about his decision-making process with regard to his business. What does it mean to be led an inner light, he wondered? How does one attain this status? And what exactly is this inner light?

There was so much to ponder upon… so much to know about the deeper mysteries of life. Yuvaan started to feel a certain mental restlessness but one glance at the gentle flow of the river Ma Ganga, and the groups of people who had started to come there for their ritual bathing, or for their morning prayers and meditation, he knew instinctively that the answer as to “what is the inner light” lay within him.

He decided to carry on with his reading. And what he discovered next filled his heart with joy. He was beginning to ‘see’ Sri Aurobindo through the eyes of those who worked with him in those years of fiery revolutionary activity.

“To work the realism of the spirit of modern culture into the idealism of ancient Indian philosophy would not only secure for India her lost position as the teacher of humanity, but would perchance even save modern civilisation from total collapse and destruction under the pressure of a gross and greedy industrialism.”[3]

“[Sri Aurobindo] writes from divine inspiration, sattwic intelligence, and unshakable determination….”[4]

“…In intellectual acumen and in scholastic accomplishments, he is perhaps superior to Har Dayal, but above all, he is deeply religious and spiritual. He is a worshipper of Krishna and a high-souled Vedantist…. His notions of life and morality are pre-eminently Hindu and he believes in the spiritual mission of his people….”[5]

“He was a youngish man, I should think still under thirty. Intent dark eyes looked from his thin, clear-cut face with a gravity that seemed immovable, but the figure and bearing were those of an English graduate …. There is a religious tone, a spiritual elevation in such words, very characteristic of Aravinda Ghose himself…. Nationalism to him was far more than a political object or a means of material improvement. To him it was surrounded by a mist of glory…. Grave with intensity, careless of fate or opinion, and one of the silent men I have known, he was of the stuff that dreamers are made of, but dreamers who will act their dreams, indifferent to the means.”[6]

Yuvaan kept on reading and soon it was 7:00AM. He remembered he had told Rishi he would go jogging with him, so he closed his book and started walking back home.

As he was walking, he decided that later that afternoon he would resume his own journey – the journey that he started a few weeks back. He had no idea where he will head next. He didn’t want to go back to Varanasi, at least not yet. Where then? Maybe he did know, yes, he did. But his mind wasn’t fully convinced. He stopped under a roadside tree and closed his eyes for a moment, asked Ma Ganga to give him the strength to listen to that voice from within.

Yes, Baroda, it will be. Or Vadodara as it is now called. That’s where he will head next. To see where Sri Aurobindo had lived for 13 years after returning from England.

To be continued…


Notes

[1] CWSA, Vol. 36, p. 48

[2] Rishabhchand, Sri Aurobindo – His Life Unique, p. 116

[3] Character Sketches by Bepin Chandra Pal, as cited in Rishabhchand, p. 122

[4] B.G. Tilak’s comments in a Marathi journal named Keshari, translated and cited in Rishabhchand, p. 123

[5] Lala Lajpat Rai’s comments in his book Young India, as cited in Rishabhchand, p. 123

[6] Henry Nevinson, New Spirit for India, as cited in Rishabhchand, pp. 123-124

Read earlier parts in the series:

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8a, Part 8b, Part 9

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