India – Past, Present and Future: An Exploration in the Light of Sri Aurobindo

I had the privilege and the honour to conduct a 3-hour-long interactive session at the recently concluded ‘Resurgent India’ workshop for the youth of India, organised by Sri Aurobindo’s Action, Puducherry during October 5-7, 2019. This session, conducted on the first day of the workshop was meant to provide an overarching orientation for the participants to get a ‘feel’ for some of the inner truths of India – her past ideals, her present concerns and her future destiny as a civilisational-nation.

This session was meant both as an anchoring or grounding session for the entire vision of the workshop, as well as a participatory self-learning experience for the young minds eager to ‘know’ and ‘feel’ some of the deeper truths about their motherland, and in the process about themselves as Indians.

The session was guided by a powerful truth expressed by Sri Aurobindo in these words: “The greatness of the ideals of the past is a promise of greater ideals for the future. A continual expansion of what stood behind past endeavour and capacity is the one abiding justification of a living culture.” (CWSA, 20: 85)

We explored some of the great ideals of our past, those which gave India a distinct identity and a stamp, ideals which made India shine in her own brilliant Light, – materially, vitally, intellectually and most importantly, spiritually – ideals which express India’s soul. But what is the soul of India, we asked this question. And we also asked an even more fundamental question – what is India? A mere piece of land but something more?

The greatest minds and souls, throughout the world and since time immemorial, have been seeking the Truth of Existence, the Ultimate Reality. Glimpses of this Truth, have manifested in various forms and expressions in many places in the world, but India is the only place where the memory of the Truth has been preserved for millennia. It is preserved in the consciousness of the place, in the mind of its race, in the memory of its people, in the very cells of its physical being.

This past of India is what makes India unique, and this is what gives India a unique mission for the evolutionary march of humanity, a uniquely destined role in the world. We will briefly explore this idea because our future – as individuals, as a nation, as world and humanity – is intimately connected with this.

In our session we briefly revisited Sri Aurobindo’s definition of culture as the expression of a consciousness of life which formulates itself in three aspects: a) a side of thought, of ideal, of upward will and the soul’s aspiration, b) a side of creative self-expression and appreciative aesthesis, intelligence and imagination, and c) a side of practical and outward formulation. We came up with a few relevant examples for each of these aspects. And we also discussed some ways to inculcate love for Indian culture as reflected in these aspects.

Some salient facets of what is generally spoken of as 21st century cultural scene in India were also briefly discussed. We examined if the outer picture of today’s India gives us some clues to India’s future destiny. We came up with a short list of key challenges facing today’s India, and see if we can find some guidance from Sri Aurobindo to address those.

And finally, this session also served as an opportunity to ask ourselves this question – What should be my work as an Indian, and how best I can contribute to India’s future, to the evolutionary march of India to her future – future that is more brilliantly shining than her past, that is more firmly centred in her true essence, in her soul.



A PowerPoint of the quotes I selected primarily from Sri Aurobindo’s works and a few other works can be accessed HERE.

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