Sri Aurobindo on Indian Culture

But there are other cultures led by a different conception

and even an opposite motive. And by the law of struggle which

is the first law of existence in the material universe, varying

cultures are bound to come into conflict. A deep-seated urge

in Nature compels them to attempt to extend themselves and

to destroy, assimilate and replace all disparates or opposites.

Conflict is not indeed the last and ideal stage; for that comes

when various cultures develop freely, without hatred, misunderstanding

or aggression and even with an underlying sense of

unity, their separate special motives. But so long as the principle

of struggle prevails, one must face the lesser law; it is fatal to

disarm in the midmost of the battle. The culture which gives up

its living separateness, the civilisation which neglects an active

self-defence will be swallowed up and the nation which lived by

it will lose its soul and perish. 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.

Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo Vol 20 p 57

But many questions may arise,—and principally whether

such a spirit of defence and attack is the right spirit, whether

union, harmony, interchange are not our proper temperament

for the coming human advance. Is not a unified world-culture

the large way of the future? Can either an exaggeratedly spiritual

or an excessively temporal civilisation be the sound condition

of human progress or human perfection? A happy or just reconciliation

would seem to be a better key to a harmony of Spirit, Mind and Body. And there is the question too whether the forms

of Indian culture must be preserved intact as well as the spirit.


To these queries the reply of the author (Sir John Woodroffe) is to be found in his law of graduality of the spiritual advance of humanity, its need of

advancing through three successive stages.

The first stage is the period of conflict and competition

which has been ever dominant in the past and still overshadows

the present of mankind. For even when the crudest forms of

material conflict are mitigated, the conflict itself still survives

and the cultural struggle comes into greater prominence. The

second step brings the stage of concert. The third and last is

marked by the spirit of sacrifice in which, because all is known

as the one Self, each gives himself for the good of others. The

second stage has hardly at all commenced for most; the third

belongs to the indeterminate future. Individuals have reached

the highest stage; the perfected Sannyasin, the liberated man,

the soul that has become one with the Spirit, knows all being as

himself and for him all self-defence and attack are needless. For

strife does not belong to the law of his seeing; sacrifice and self-giving

are the whole principle of his action. But no people has

reached that level, and to follow a law or principle involuntarily

or ignorantly or contrary to the truth of one’s consciousness is

a falsehood and a self-destruction. To allow oneself to be killed,

like the lamb attacked by the wolf, brings no growth, farthers no

development, assures no spiritual merit. Concert or unity may

come in good time, but it must be an underlying unity with a

free differentiation, not a swallowing up of one by another or an

incongruous and inharmonious mixture. Nor can it come before

the world is ready for these greater things. To lay down one’s

arms in a state of war is to invite destruction and it can serve no

compensating spiritual purpose.


Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo Vol 20 p 58-60



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