The need of an aggressive defence of Indian culture

 

There arises the necessity of a defence and a strong, even

an aggressive defence; for only an aggressive defence can be

effective in the conditions of the modern struggle. But here we

find ourselves brought up against an opposite turn of mind and

its stark obstructive temper. For there are plenty of Indians

now who are for a stubbornly static defence, and whatever

aggressiveness they put into it consists in a rather vulgar and

unthinking cultural Chauvinism which holds that whatever we

have is good for us because it is Indian or even that whatever

is in India is best, because it is the creation of the Rishis. As if

all the later clumsy and chaotic developments were laid down

by those much misused, much misapplied and often very much

forged founders of our culture. But the question is whether a

static defence is of any effective value. I hold that it is of no

value, because it is inconsistent with the truth of things and

doomed to failure. It amounts to an attempt to sit stubbornly

still while the Shakti of the world is rapidly moving on her way,

and not only the Shakti of the world but the Shakti in India also.

It is a determination to live only on our past cultural capital, to

eke it out, small as it has grown in our wasteful and incompetent

hands, to the last anna: but to live on our capital without using

it for fresh gains is to end in bankruptcy and pauperism. The

past has to be used and spent as mobile and current capital for

some larger profit, acquisition and development of the future:

but to gain we must release, we must part with something in

order to grow and live more richly,—that is the universal law of

existence. Otherwise the life within us will stagnate and perish

in its immobile torpor. Thus to shrink from enlargement and

change is too a false confession of impotence. It is to hold that

India’s creative capacity in religion and in philosophy came to

an end with Shankara, Ramanuja, Madhwa and Chaitanya and

in social construction with Raghunandan and Vidyaranya. It is

to rest in art and poetry either in a blank and uncreative void

or in a vain and lifeless repetition of beautiful but spent forms

and motives. It is to cling to social forms that are crumbling and

will continue to crumble in spite of our efforts and risk to be crushed in their collapse.

Aggressive defence implies a new creation from this inner

and commanding vision and while it demands a bringing of what

we have to a more expressive force of form, it must allow also

an effective assimilation of whatever is useful to our new life

and can be made harmonious with our spirit. Battle, shock and

struggle themselves are no vain destruction; they are a violent

cover for Time’s great interchanges. Even the most successful

victor receives much from the vanquished and if sometimes he

appropriates it, as often it takes him prisoner. The Western attack

is not confined to a breaking down of the forms of Eastern

culture; there is at the same time a large, subtle and silent appropriation

of much that is valuable in the East for the enrichment

of occidental culture. Therefore to bring forward the glories of

our past and scatter on Europe and America as much of its

treasures as they will receive, will not save us. That liberality

will enrich and strengthen our cultural assailants, but for us it

will only serve to give a self-confidence which will be useless

and even misleading if it is not made a force of will for a greater

creation. What we have to do is to front the attack with new and

more powerful formations which will not only throw it back,

but even, where that is possible and helpful to the race, carry the

war into the assailant’s country. At the same time we must take

by a strong creative assimilation whatever answers to our own

needs and responds to the Indian spirit. In certain directions,

as yet all too few, we have begun both these movements. In

others we have simply created an unintelligent mixture or else

have taken and are still taking over rash, crude and undigested

borrowings. Imitation, a rough and haphazard borrowing of

the assailant’s engines and methods may be temporarily useful,

but by itself it is only another way of submitting to conquest.

A stark appropriation is not sufficient; successful assimilation

to the Indian spirit is the needed movement. The problem is

one of immense difficulty and stupendous in its proportions and

we have not yet approached it with wisdom and insight. All

the more pressing is the need to awaken to the situation and

meet it with original thinking and a conscious action wise and

powerful in insight and sure in process. A mastering and helpful

assimilation of new stuff into an eternal body has always been

in the past a peculiar power of the genius of India.

 

VOLUME 20

THE COMPLETE WORKS OF SRI AUROBINDO  P75-80

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