The real issue before India


There are deeper issues for India herself, since by following certain tempting directions she may conceivably become a nation like many others evolving an opulent industry and commerce, a powerful organisation of social and political life, an immense military strength, practising power-politics with a high degree of success, guarding and extending zealously her gains and her interests, dominating even a large part of the world, but in this apparently magnificent progression forfeiting its Swadharma, losing its soul. Then ancient India and her spirit might disappear altogether and we would have only one more nation like the others and that would be a real gain neither to the world nor to us. There is a question whether she may prosper more harmlessly in the outward life yet lose altogether her richly massed and firmly held spiritual experience and knowledge. It would be a tragic irony of fate if India were to throw away her spiritual heritage at the very moment when in the rest of the world there is more and more a turning towards her for spiritual help and a saving Light. This must not and will surely not happen; but it cannot be said that the danger is not there. There are indeed other numerous and difficult problems that face this country or will very soon face it. No doubt we will win through, but we must not disguise from ourselves the fact that after these long years of subjection and its cramping and impairing effects a great inner as well as outer

liberation and change, a vast inner and outer progress is needed



The essence of Religion


The deepest heart, the inmost essence of religion, apart from

its outward machinery of creed, cult, ceremony and symbol, is

the search for God and the finding of God. Its aspiration is to

discover the Infinite, the Absolute, the One, the Divine, who is

all these things and yet no abstraction but a Being. Its work is

a sincere living out of the true and intimate relations between

man and God, relations of unity, relations of difference, relations

of an illuminated knowledge, an ecstatic love and delight,

an absolute surrender and service, a casting of every part of our

existence out of its normal status into an uprush of man towards

the Divine and a descent of the Divine into man. All this has

nothing to do with the realm of reason or its normal activities;

its aim, its sphere, its process is suprarational. The knowledge

of God is not to be gained by weighing the feeble arguments

of reason for or against his existence: it is to be gained only by

a self-transcending and absolute consecration, aspiration and

experience. Nor does that experience proceed by anything like

rational scientific experiment or rational philosophic thinking.

Even in those parts of religious discipline which seem most to

resemble scientific experiment, the method is a verification of

things which exceed the reason and its timid scope. Even in those

parts of religious knowledge which seem most to resemble intellectual

operations, the illuminating faculties are not imagination,

logic and rational judgment, but revelations, inspirations, intuitions,

intuitive discernments that leap down to us from a plane

of suprarational light. The love of God is an infinite and absolute

feeling which does not admit of any rational limitation and does

not use a language of rational worship and adoration; the delight

in God is that peace and bliss which passes all understanding.

The surrender to God is the surrender of the whole being to a

suprarational light, will, power and love and his service takes

no account of the compromises with life which the practical

reason of man uses as the best part of its method in the ordinary

conduct of mundane existence. Wherever religion really finds

itself, wherever it opens itself to its own spirit,—there is plenty

of that sort of religious practice which is halting, imperfect, halfsincere,

only half-sure of itself and in which reason can get in a

word,—its way is absolute and its fruits are ineffable.





No construction without destruction


December, 1916

        This is certain that there is not only no construction here without destruction, no harmony except by a poise of contending forces won out of many actual and potential discords, but also no continued existence of life except by a constant self-feeding and devouring of other life. Our very bodily life is a constant dying and being reborn, the body itself a beleaguered city attacked by assailing, protected by defending forces whose business is to devour each other….

        It is good that we should be reminded of [this truth]; first, because to see it has for every strong soul a tonic effect which saves us from the flabbiness and relaxation encouraged by a too mellifluous philosophic, religious or ethical sentimentalism, that which loves to look upon Nature as love and life and beauty and good, but turns away from her grim mask of death, adoring God as Shiva but refusing to adore him as Rudra; secondly, because unless we have the honesty and courage to look existence straight in the face, we shall never arrive at any effective solution of its discords and oppositions. We must see first what life and the world are; afterwards, we can all the better set about finding the right way to transform them into what they should be. If this repellent aspect of existence holds in itself some secret of the final harmony, we shall by ignoring or belittling it miss that secret and all our efforts at a solution will fail by fault of our self-indulgent ignoring of the true elements of the problem….

        War and destruction are not only a universal principle of our life here in its purely material aspects, but also of our mental and moral existence. It is self-evident that in the actual life of man intellectual, social, political, moral we can make no real step forward without a struggle, a battle between what exists and lives and what seeks to exist and live and between all that stands behind either. It is impossible, at least as men and things are, to advance, to grow, to fulfil and still to observe really and utterly that principle of harmlessness which is yet placed before us as the highest and best law of conduct.[19] We will use only soul-force and never destroy by war or any even defensive employment of physical violence? Good, though until soul-force is effective, the Asuric force in men and nations tramples down, breaks, slaughters, burns, pollutes, as we see it doing today, but then at its ease and unhindered, and you have perhaps caused as much destruction of life by your abstinence as others by resort to violence…. Evil cannot perish without the destruction of much that lives by the evil….

        It is not enough that our own hands should remain clean and our souls unstained for the law of strife and destruction to die out of the world; that which is its root must first disappear out of humanity. Much less will mere immobility and inertia unwilling to use or incapable of using any kind of resistance to evil, abrogate the law; inertia, Tamas, indeed, injures much more than can the rajasic principle of strife which at least creates more than it destroys. Therefore, so far as the problem of the individual’s action goes, his abstention from strife and its inevitable concomitant destruction in their more gross and physical form may help his own moral being, but it leaves the Slayer of creatures unabolished.


        It is only a few religions which have had the courage to say without any reserve, like the Indian, that this enigmatic World-Power is one Deity, one Trinity, to lift up the image of the Force that acts in the world in the figure not only of the beneficent Durga, but of the terrible Kali in her blood-stained dance of destruction and to say, “This too is the Mother; this also know to be God; this too, if thou hast the strength, adore.” And it is significant that the religion which has had this unflinching honesty and tremendous courage, has succeeded in creating a profound and widespread spirituality such as no other can parallel. For truth is the foundation of real spirituality and courage is its soul.54


From Essays on the Gita by Sri Aurobindo

The modern age of commercialism But if Science has

The modern age of commercialism


But if Science has thus prepared us for an age of wider

and deeper culture and if in spite of and even partly by its

materialism it has rendered impossible the return of the true

materialism, that of the barbarian mentality, it has encouraged

more or less indirectly both by its attitude to life and its discoveries

another kind of barbarism,—for it can be called by

no other name,—that of the industrial, the commercial, the

economic age which is now progressing to its culmination and

its close. This economic barbarism is essentially that of the vital

man who mistakes the vital being for the self and accepts its

satisfaction as the first aim of life. The characteristic of Life is

desire and the instinct of possession. Just as the physical barbarian

makes the excellence of the body and the development of

physical force, health and prowess his standard and aim, so the

vitalistic or economic barbarian makes the satisfaction of wants

and desires and the accumulation of possessions his standard

80 The Human Cycle

and aim. His ideal man is not the cultured or noble or thoughtful

or moral or religious, but the successful man. To arrive, to

succeed, to produce, to accumulate, to possess is his existence.

The accumulation of wealth and more wealth, the adding of

possessions to possessions, opulence, show, pleasure, a cumbrous

inartistic luxury, a plethora of conveniences, life devoid

of beauty and nobility, religion vulgarised or coldly formalised,

politics and government turned into a trade and profession,

enjoyment itself made a business, this is commercialism. To the

natural unredeemed economic man beauty is a thing otiose or

a nuisance, art and poetry a frivolity or an ostentation and

a means of advertisement. His idea of civilisation is comfort,

his idea of morals social respectability, his idea of politics the

encouragement of industry, the opening of markets, exploitation

and trade following the flag, his idea of religion at best a pietistic

formalism or the satisfaction of certain vitalistic emotions. He

values education for its utility in fitting a man for success in

a competitive or, it may be, a socialised industrial existence,

science for the useful inventions and knowledge, the comforts,

conveniences, machinery of production with which it arms him,

its power for organisation, regulation, stimulus to production.

The opulent plutocrat and the successful mammoth capitalist

and organiser of industry are the supermen of the commercial

age and the true, if often occult rulers of its society.

The essential barbarism of all this is its pursuit of vital

success, satisfaction, productiveness, accumulation, possession,

enjoyment, comfort, convenience for their own sake. The vital

part of the being is an element in the integral human existence as

much as the physical part; it has its place but must not exceed its

place. A full and well-appointed life is desirable for man living

in society, but on condition that it is also a true and beautiful

life. Neither the life nor the body exist for their own sake, but

as vehicle and instrument of a good higher than their own.

They must be subordinated to the superior needs of the mental

being, chastened and purified by a greater law of truth, good and

beauty before they can take their proper place in the integrality

of human perfection. Therefore in a commercial age with its

Civilisation and Barbarism 81

ideal, vulgar and barbarous, of success, vitalistic satisfaction,

productiveness and possession the soul of man may linger a

while for certain gains and experiences, but cannot permanently

rest. If it persisted too long, Life would become clogged and

perish of its own plethora or burst in its straining to a gross

expansion. Like the too massive Titan it will collapse by its own

mass, mole ruet sua.



Difficulty of self exceeding and self realisation The course

Difficulty of self exceeding and self realisation

 The course of evolution proceeding from the

vegetable to the animal, from the animal to the man, starts in

the latter from the subhuman; he has to take up into him the

animal and even the mineral and vegetable: they constitute his

physical nature, they dominate his vitality, they have their hold

upon his mentality. His proneness to many kinds of inertia, his

readiness to vegetate, his attachment to the soil and clinging

to his roots, to safe anchorages of all kinds, and on the other

hand his nomadic and predatory impulses, his blind servility

to custom and the rule of the pack, his mob-movements and

openness to subconscious suggestions from the group-soul, his

subjection to the yoke of rage and fear, his need of punishment

and reliance on punishment, his inability to think and act for

himself, his incapacity for true freedom, his distrust of novelty,

his slowness to seize intelligently and assimilate, his downward

propensity and earthward gaze, his vital and physical subjection

to his heredity, all these and more are his heritage from the

subhuman origins of his life and body and physical mind. It is

because of this heritage that he finds self-exceeding the most

difficult of lessons and the most painful of endeavours. Yet it

is by exceeding of the lower self that Nature accomplishes the

great strides of her evolutionary process. To learn by what he

has been, but also to know and increase to what he can be, is

the task that is set for the mental being.




The psychological unity of India as the true

The psychological unity of India as the true basis of political unity


In India, however, the situation was very different; it was more a cultural and spiritual

unity than a political and economical unity. For in India, the spiritual and cultural unity

was made complete at a very early time and it became the very basis of life of all this

great surge of humanity between the Himalayas and the two seas. The peoples of ancient

India were not so much distinct nations sharply divided from each other by a separate

political and economic life; rather, they were sub-peoples of a great spiritual and cultural

nation itself firmly separated physically, from other countries by the seas and the

mountains and from other nations by its strong sense of difference, its peculiar common

religion and culture.

The whole basis of the Indian mind is its spiritual and inward turn; its propensity has

always been to seek the things of the spirit and the inner being first and foremost and to

look at all else as secondary, dependent, to be handled and determined in the light of the

higher knowledge; the outer world was seen as an expression, a preliminary field or aid to

the deeper spiritual aim. In other words, this approach led to a tendency to create

whatever it had to create first on the inner plane and afterwards in its other and outer


The early mind of India understood the essential character of this problem. The Vedic

Rishis and their successors made it their chief work to found a spiritual basis of Indian

life and to effect the spiritual and cultural unity of the many races and peoples of the


What were the methods adopted by the ancients to bring about this spiritual and cultural


Observing the religious and spiritual tendency of the Indian people, the ancient seers

adopted a combination of different psychological and practical methods to bring about

spiritual and cultural unity.

As a first step, they created sacred religious places and distributed them all over the

country; some of the places are in Haridwar, Prayag near Allahabad, Gaya, Nasik,

Dwarka, Puri, Kumbakonam and Rameswaram.

Another method they adopted was the repetition of the sacred text, which every Indian

had to use every time he went to bathe:

Gangecha Jamunechaiva Godavari Sarasvatee

Narmada Sindhu Kaveri jalesmin sannidhim kuru

And it means: May the Ganges, the Yamuna. the Godavari, the Sarasvatee, the Narmada,

the Sindhu and the Kaveri enter into this water.


These are the great rivers of the Indian sub-continent and it is along the course of the

great rivers that the sacred stream of Indian culture flowed all over the land.

In addition, there were the legends of the gods and the two great epics – the Ramayana

and the Mahabharata -, which were read and moved people in every part of India. These

legends were known by every Indian family and created a deep psychological bond

among the people.

A very important factor in the unification of the people of India was language. The

Sanskrit language was not only a strong unifying force; it was also a powerful educating

one. In the words of the eminent historian, Suniti Kumar Chatterjee: “Sanskrit looms

large behind all Indian languages, Aryan and non-Aryan. It is inseparable from Indian

history and culture. Sanskrit is India. The progressive Unification of the Indian peoples

into a single nation can correctly be described as the Sanskritisation of India”.

Finally, there was the universal reverence of the Vedas all over the country from the

extreme North to the tip of South India.

Thus from a very early period of Indian history, the Indian subcontinent had fully realised

a very deep, though complex kind of organic unity at the back of all the apparent

diversities and multiplicities of the land and the people.

All these created a feeling that India was not just a geographical entity or a collection of

people merely having the same religion and language. The Indian nation became a living

being with a distinct personality, a dynamic psychological entity.

It is this feeling that has been expressed by poets and writers throughout the ages. In

modern times, this was the whole meaning of Bandemataram and is beautifully expressed

in the following words of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo.

India – a living personality

“Mother India is not a piece of earth; she is a Power, a Godhead, for all nations have such

a Devi supporting their separate existence, and keeping it in being. Such beings are as

real and more permanently real than the men they influence, but they belong to a higher

plane, are part of the cosmic consciousness and being and act here on earth by shaping

the human consciousness on which they exercise their influence