The need in the country – Sri Aurobindo in 1909

THE KARMAYOGIN comes into the field to fulfil a function

which an increasing tendency in the country demands.

The life of the nation which once flowed in a

broad and single stream has long been severed into a number

of separate meagre and shallow channels. The two main floods

have followed the paths of religion and politics, but they have

flowed separately. Our political activity has crept in a channel

cut for it by European or Europeanised minds; it tended always

to a superficial wideness, but was deficient in depth and

volume. The national genius, originality, individuality poured

itself into religion while our politics were imitative and unreal.

Yet without a living political activity national life cannot, under

modern circumstances, survive. So also there has been a stream

of social life, more and more muddied and disturbed, seeking

to get clearness, depth, largeness, freedom, but always failing

and increasing in weakness or distraction. There was a stream

too of industrial life, faint and thin, the poor survival of the

old vigorous Indian artistic and industrial capacity murdered by

unjust laws and an unscrupulous trade policy. All these ran in

disconnected channels, sluggish, scattered and ineffectual. The

tendency is now for these streams to unite again into one mighty

invincible and grandiose flood. To assist that tendency, to give

Ourselves 19

voice and definiteness to the deeper aspirations now forming

obscurely within the national consciousness is the chosen work

of the Karmayogin.

There is no national life perfect or sound without the chaturvarnya.

The life of the nation must contain within itself the life

of the Brahmin,—spirituality, knowledge, learning, high and

pure ethical aspiration and endeavour; the life of the Kshatriya,

—manhood and strength moral and physical, the love of battle,

the thirst for glory, the sense of honour, chivalry, self-devotion,

generosity, grandeur of soul; the life of the Vaishya,—trade,

industry, thrift, prosperity, benevolence, philanthropy; the life

of the Shudra,—honesty, simplicity, labour, religious and quiet

service to the nation even in the humblest position and the most

insignificant kind of work. The cause of India’s decline was

the practical disappearance of the Kshatriya and the dwindling

of the Vaishya. The whole political history of India since the

tyranny of the Nandas has been an attempt to resuscitate or

replace the Kshatriya. But the attempt was only partially successful.

The Vaishya held his own for a long time, indeed, until

the British advent by which he has almost been extinguished.

When the chaturvarnya disappears, there comes varnasankara,

utter confusion of the great types which keep a nation

vigorous and sound. The Kshatriya dwindled, the Vaishya dwindled,

the Brahmin and Shudra were left. The inevitable tendency

was for the Brahmin type to disappear and the first sign of

his disappearance was utter degeneracy, the tendency to lose

himself and while keeping some outward signs of the Brahmin

to gravitate towards Shudrahood. In the Kaliyuga the Shudra is

powerful and attracts into himself the less vigorous Brahmin, as

the earth attracts purer but smaller bodies, and the Brahmatej,

the spiritual force of the latter, already diminished, dwindles to

nothingness. For the Satyayuga to return, we must get back the

Brahmatej and make it general. For the Brahmatej is the basis

of all the rest and in the Satyayuga all men have it more or less

and by it the nation lives and is great.

All this is, let us say, a parable. It is more than a parable, it is

a great truth. But our educated class have become so unfamiliar

20 Karmayogin, 19 June 1909

with the deeper knowledge of their forefathers that it has to

be translated into modern European terms before they can understand

it. For it is the European ideas alone that are real to

them and the great truths of Indian thought seem to them mere

metaphors, allegories and mystic parables. So well has British

education done its fatal denationalising work in India.

The Brahmin stands for religion, science, scholarship and

the higher morality; the Kshatriya for war, politics and administration;

the Vaishya for the trades, professions and industries;

the Shudra for labour and service. It is onlywhen these four great

departments of human activity are all in a robust and flourishing

condition that the nation is sound and great.When any of these

disappear or suffer, it is bad for the body politic. And the two

highest are the least easy to be spared. If they survive in full

strength, they can provide themselves with the two others, but

if either the Kshatriya or the Brahmin go, if either the political

force or the spiritual force of a nation is lost, that nation is

doomed unless it can revive or replace the missing strength. And

of the two the Brahmin is the most important. He can always

create the Kshatriya, spiritual force can always raise up material

force to defend it. But if the Brahmin becomes the Shudra, then

the lower instinct of the serf and the labourer becomes all in

all, the instinct to serve and seek a living as the one supreme

object of life, the instinct to accept safety as a compensation for

lost greatness and inglorious ease and dependence in place of

the ardours of high aspiration for the nation and the individual.

When spirituality is lost all is lost. This is the fate from which

we have narrowly escaped by the resurgence of the soul of India

in Nationalism.

But that resurgence is not yet complete. There is the sentiment

of Indianism, there is not yet the knowledge. There is a

vague idea, there is no definite conception or deep insight. We

have yet to know ourselves, what we were, are and may be;

what we did in the past and what we are capable of doing in

the future; our history and our mission. This is the first and

most important work which the Karmayogin sets for itself, to

popularise this knowledge. The Vedanta or Sufism, the temple

Ourselves 21

or the mosque, Nanak and Kabir and Ramdas, Chaitanya or

Guru Govind, Brahmin and Kayastha and Namasudra, whatever

national asset we have, indigenous or acclimatised, it will seek

to make known, to put in its right place and appreciate. And the

second thing is how to use these assets so as to swell the sum of

national life and produce the future. It is easy to appraise their

relations to the past; it is more difficult to give them their place

in the future. The third thing is to know the outside world and

its relation to us and how to deal with it. That is the problem

which we find at present the most difficult and insistent, but its

solution depends on the solution of the others.

We have said that Brahmatej 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 Brahmatej; which is rather spirituality, the force and energy

of thought and action arising from communion with or selfsurrender

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. The re-awakening of that force in three hundred millions

of men by the means which our past has placed in our hands,

that is our object.

The European is proud of his success in divorcing religion

from life. Religion, he says, is all very well in its place, but it

has nothing to do with politics or science or commerce, which it

spoils by its intrusion; it is meant only for Sundays when, if one

is English, one puts on black clothes and tries to feel good, and if

one is continental, one puts the rest of theweek away and amuses

oneself. In reality, the European has not succeeded in getting rid

of religion from his life. It is coming back in Socialism, in the

Anarchism of Bakunin and Tolstoy, in many other isms; and

in whatever form it comes, it insists on engrossing the whole

of life, moulding the whole of society and politics under the

law of idealistic aspiration. It does not use the word God or

22 Karmayogin, 19 June 1909

grasp the idea, but it sees God in humanity. What the European

understood by religion, had to be got rid of and put out of life,

but real religion, spirituality, idealism, altruism, self-devotion,

the hunger after perfection, is the whole destiny of humanity

and cannot be got rid of. After all God does exist and if He

exists, you cannot shove Him into a corner and say: “That is

your place, and, as for the world and life, it belongs to us.” He

pervades and returns. Every age of denial is only a preparation

for a larger and more comprehensive affirmation.

The Karmayogin will be more of a national review than a

weekly newspaper. We shall notice current events only as they

evidence, help, affect or resist the growth of national life and

the development of the soul of the nation. Political and social

problems we shall deal with from this standpoint, seeking first

their spiritual roots and inner causes and then proceeding to

measures and remedies. In a similar spirit we shall deal with

all sources of national strength in the past and in the present,

seeking to bring them home to all comprehensions and make

them applicable to our life, dynamic and not static, creative and

not merely preservative. For if there is no creation, there must

be disintegration; if there is no advance and victory, there must

be recoil and defeat.




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