Sri Aurobindo on the second world war – An extract from The Role of South India in the Freedom Movement

In this context, we present the position taken by Sri Aurobindo. We present here a long letter approved and partly written by Sri Aurobindo in 1940. The textual basis of this statement was an essay written by Anilbaran Roy and submitted to Sri Aurobindo for approval. Sri Aurobindo thoroughly revised and enlarged the first four paragraphs and added seven new ones, transforming Anilbaran’s essay into an entirely new piece that may be considered his own writing. In revising, he retained Anilbaran’s third-person ‘Sri Aurobindo’.

Sri Aurobindo’s decision to give his moral support to the struggle against Hitler, which was made at the very beginning of the war, was based like all his actions on his inner view of things and on intimations from within. It was founded on his consciousness of the forces at work, of their significance in the Divine’s leading of the world, of the necessary outer conditions for the spiritual development in which he sees the real hope of humanity. It would not serve any purpose to speak here of this view of things: but some outer considerations of a most material kind easily understandable by everyone can be put forward which might help to explain his action to the general mind, although they do not give the whole meaning of it; it is only these that are developed here. The struggle that is going on is not fundamentally a conflict between two imperialisms—German and English,—one attacking, the other defending itself. That is only an outward aspect, and not the whole even of the outward aspect. For the Germans and Italians believe that they are establishing a new civilization and a new world-order. The English believe that they are defending not only their empire but their very existence as a free nation and the freedom also of other nations conquered by Germany or threatened by the push to empire of the Axis powers; they have made it a condition for making peace that the nations conquered shall be liberated and the others guaranteed against farther aggression. They believe also that they are standing up for the principles of civilization which a Nazi victory would destroy. These beliefs have to be taken into consideration in assessing the significance of the struggle. It is in fact a clash between two world-forces which are contending for the control of the whole future of humanity. One force seeks to destroy the past civilization and substitute a new one; but this new civilization is in substance a reversion to the old principles of dominant Force and a rigid external order and denies the established values, social, political, ethical, spiritual, altogether.

Among these values are those which were hitherto held to be the most precious, the liberty of the individual, the right to national liberty, freedom of thought; even religious liberty is to be crushed and replaced by the subjection of religion to State control. The new ethics contemn and reject all the principles that can be summed up in the word “humanitarianism”; all that is to it a falsehood and a weakness. The only ethical values admitted are those of dominant Force on the one side and, on the other, of blind obedience and submission, self-effacement and labor in the service of the State. Wherever this new idea conquers or can make its power felt, it is this order of things that it seeks to establish; it is not satisfied with setting itself up in one country or another, it is pushing for world conquest, for the enforcement of the new order everywhere, securing it,—this at least Germany, its principal agent, conceives to be the right method and carries it out with a scientific thoroughness by a ruthless repression of all opposition and a single iron rule. The other Force is that of the evolutionary tendencies which have been directing the course of humanity for some time past and, till recently, seemed destined to shape its future. Its workings had their good and bad sides, but among the greater values it had developed stood the very things against which the new Force is most aggressive, the liberty of the individual, national liberty, freedom of thought, political and social freedom with an increasing bent towards equality, complete religious liberty, the humanitarian principle with all its consequences and, latterly, a seeking after a more complete social order, which will organize the life of the community, but will respect the liberty of the individual while perfecting his means of life and helping in every way possible his development. This evolutionary world-force has not been perfect in its action, its working is still partial and incomplete: it contains many strong survivals from the past which have to disappear; it has, on the other hand, lost or diminished some spiritual elements of a past human culture which ought to recover or survive. There are still many denials of national freedom and of the other principles which are yet admitted as the ideal to be put in practice. In the working of that force as represented by Britain and other democracies there may not be anywhere full individual freedom or full national liberty. But the movement has been more and more towards a greater development of these things and, if this evolutionary force still remains dominant, their complete development is inevitable. Neither of these forces are altogether what we need for the future. There are ideas and elements in the first which may have their separate value in a total human movement; but on the whole, in system and in practice, its gospel is a worship of Force and its effect is the rule of a brutal and pitiless violence, the repression of the individual, not only a fierce repression but a savage extinction of all that opposes or differs from it, the suppression of all freedom of thought, an interference with religious belief and freedom of spiritual life and, in an extreme tendency, the deliberate will to “liquidate” all forms of religion and spirituality. On the side of the other more progressive force there are, often, a limited view, grievous defects of practice, an undue clinging to the past, a frequent violation of the ideal; but at the same time the necessary elements and many of the necessary conditions of progress are there, a tendency towards an enlargement of the human mind and spirit, towards an increasing idealism in the relation of men with men and of nation with nation and a tolerant and humane mentality. Both are, at present, or have been largely materialistic in their thought, but the difference is between a materialism that suppresses the spirit and a materialism that tolerates it and leaves room for its growth if it can affirm its strength to survive and conquer.

At present the balance in the development of human thought and action has been turning for some time against the larger evolutionary force and in favour of a revolutionary reaction against it.

This reaction is now represented by totalitarian governments and societies, the other tendency by the democracies; but democracy is on the wane everywhere in Europe, the totalitarian idea was gaining ground on all sides even before the war. Now with Hitler as its chief representative, this Force has thrown itself out for world-domination. Everywhere the results are the same, the disappearance of individual and national liberty, a rigid “New Order”, the total suppression of free thought and speech, a systematic cruelty and intolerance, the persecution of all opposition, and, wherever the Nazi idea spreads, a violent racialism denying the human idea; outside Europe what is promised is the degradation of the coloured peoples to helotry as an inferior, even a subhuman race. Hitler, carrying with him everywhere the new idea and the new order, is now master of almost all Europe minus Great Britain and Russia. There would be then nothing that could stand in his way except Russia; but Russia has helped his projects by her attitude and seems in no mood to oppose him. The independence of the peoples of the Middle East and Central Asia would disappear as the independence of so many European nations has disappeared and a deadly and imminent peril would stand at the gates of India. These are patent facts of the situation, its dangerous possibilities and menacing consequences. What is there that can prevent them from coming into realization? The only material force that now stands between is the obstinate and heroic resistance of Great Britain and her fixed determination to fight the battle to the end. It is the British Navy alone that keeps the war from our gates and confines it to European lands and seas and a strip of North Africa. If there were defeat and the strength of Britain and her colonies were to go down before the totalitarian nations, all Europe, Africa and Asia would be doomed to domination by three or four Powers all anti-democratic and all pushing for expansion, powers with regimes and theories of life which take no account of liberty of any kind; the surviving democracies would perish, nor would any free government with free institutions be any longer possible anywhere. It is not likely that India poor and ill-armed would be able to resist forces which had brought down the great nations of Europe; her chance of gaining the liberty which is now so close to her would disappear for a long time to come. On the contrary, if the victory goes to Britain, the situation will be reversed, the progressive evolutionary forces will triumph and the field will lie open for the fulfillment of the tendencies which were making India’s full control of her own life a certainty of the near future. It is hardly possible that after the war the old order of things can survive unchanged; if that happened, there would again be a repetition of unrest, chaos, economic disorder and armed strife till the necessary change is made.

The reason is that the life of mankind has become in fact a large though loosely complex unit and a world-order recognizing this fact is inevitable. It is ceasing to be possible for national egoisms to entrench themselves in their isolated independence and be sufficient for themselves, for all are now dependent on the whole. The professed separate self-sufficiency of Germany ended in a push for life-room which threatens all other peoples; nations which tried to isolate themselves in a self-regarding neutrality have paid the penalty of their blindness and the others who still maintain that attitude are likely sooner or later to share the same fate; either they must become the slaves or subservient vassals of three or four greater Powers, or a world-order must be found in which all can be safe in their freedom and yet united for the common good. It will be well for India, if in spite of the absorption of her pressing need, she recognizes that national egoism is no longer sufficient. She must claim freedom and equality for herself in whatever new order is to come or any post-war arrangement, but recognize also that the international idea and its realization are something that is becoming equally insistent, necessary and inevitable. If the totalitarian Powers win, there will indeed be a new world-order,—it may be in the end, a unification; but it will be a new order of naked brute Force, repression and exploitation, and for the people of Asia and Africa a subjection worse than anything they had experienced before. This has been recognised even by the Arabs who were fighting England in Palestine before the war; they have turned to her side. Not only Europe, Asia and Africa, but distant America with all her power and resources is no longer safe, and she has shown that she knows it; she has felt the peril and is arming herself in haste to meet it. In the other contingency, there will be not only the necessity for a freer new order, but every possibility of its formation; for the idea is growing; it is already recognised as an actual programme by advanced progressive forces in England and elsewhere. It may not be likely that it will materialise at once or that it will be perfect when it comes, but it is bound to take some kind of initial shape as an eventual result in the not distant future. These are some of the more obvious external considerations which have taken form in Sri Aurobindo’s contribution to the War Fund accompanied by his letter. It is a simple recognition of the fact that the victory of Great Britain in this war is not only to the interest of the whole of humanity including India, but necessary for the safeguarding of its future. If that is so, the obligation of at least a complete moral support follows as a necessary consequence. It is objected that Britain has refused freedom to India and that therefore no Indian should support her in the War. The answer arises inevitably from the considerations stated above. The dominant need for India and the World is to survive the tremendous attack of Asuric Force which is now sweeping over the earth. The freedom of India, in whatever form, will be a consequence of that victory. The working towards freedom was clear already in the world and in the British Empire itself before the War; Eire, Egypt had gained their independence, Iraq had been granted hers; many free nationalities had arisen in Europe and Asia; India herself was drawing nearer to her goal and the attainment of it was coming to be recognised as inevitable. If the totalitarian new order extends over Asia, all that will disappear; the whole work done will be undone. If there is the opposite result, nothing can prevent India attaining to the object of her aspirations; even if restrictions are put upon the national self-government that is bound to come, they cannot last for long. In any case, there is no moral incompatibility between India’s claim to freedom and support to Britain in the struggle against Hitler, since it would be a support given for the preservation of her own chance of complete liberty and the preservation also of three continents or even of the whole earth from a heavy yoke of servitude. There remains the objection that all War is evil and no war can be supported; soul-force or some kind of spiritual or ethical force is the only force that should be used; the only resistance permissible is passive resistance, non-cooperation or Satyagraha. But this kind of resistance though it has been used in the past with some effect by individuals or on a limited scale, cannot stop the invasion of a foreign army, least of all, a Nazi army, or expel it, once it is inside and in possession; it can at most be used as a means of opposition to an already established oppressive rule. The question then arises whether a nation can be asked to undergo voluntarily the menace of a foreign invasion or the scourge of a foreign occupation without using whatever material means of resistance are available. It is also a question whether any nation in the world is capable of this kind of resistance long enduring and wholesale or is sufficiently developed ethically and spiritually to satisfy the conditions which would make it successful, especially against an organized and ruthless military oppression such as the Nazi rule; at any rate it is permissible not to wish to risk the adventure so long as there is another choice. War is physically an evil, a calamity; morally it has been like most human institutions a mixture, in most but not all cases a mixture of some good and much evil: but it is sometimes necessary to face it rather than invite or undergo a worse evil, a greater calamity. One can hold that, so long as life and mankind are what they are, there can be such a thing as a righteous war,—dharmya yuddha. No doubt, in a spiritualised life of humanity or in a perfect civilisation there would be no room for war or violence, —it is clear that this is the highest ideal state. But mankind is psychologically and materially still far from this ideal state. To bring it to that state needs either an immediate spiritual change of which there is no present evidence or a change of mentality and habits which the victory of the totalitarian idea and its system would render impossible; for it would impose quite the opposite mentality, the mentality and habits on one side of a dominant brute force and violence and on the other a servile and prostrate nonresistance.4

Sri Aurobindo on the Hindu-Mulsim problem. An extract from A Vision of United India

Let us see what Sri Aurobindo had to say on the Hindu–Muslim problem.

In the course of a conversation, a disciple observed: “There is also the question of Hindu–Muslim unity which the non-violence school is trying to solve on the basis of their theory”.

Sri Aurobindo replied: “You can live amicably with a religion whose principle is toleration. But how is it possible to live with a religion whose principle is ‘I will not tolerate?’ How are you going to have unity with these people? Certainly Hindu-Muslim unity cannot be arrived at on the basis that Muslims will go on converting Hindus while Hindus shall not convert Mohammedans. You can’t build unity on such basis. Perhaps the only way of making the Mohammedans harmless is to make them lose their faith in their religion”.1

Later he said:

“The attempt to placate the Mohammedans was a false diplomacy. Instead of trying to achieve Hindu-Muslim unity directly, if the Hindus had devoted themselves to national work, the Mohammedans would have gradually come of themselves…. This attempt to patch up a unity has given too much importance to the Muslims and it has been the root of all these troubles”.2

Again in 1923 Sri Aurobindo remarked:

“I am sorry they are making a fetish of this Hindu-Muslim unity. The best solution would be to allow the Hindus to organize themselves and the Hindu-Muslim unity would take care of itself, it would automatically solve the problem. Otherwise we are lulled into a false sense of satisfaction that we have solved a difficult problem when in fact we have only shelved it”.3

In 1926, Sri Aurobindo remarked:

“Look at Indian politicians: all ideas, ideas-they are busy with ideas. Take the Hindu-Muslim problem: I don’t know why our politicians accepted Gandhi’s Khilafat agitation. With the mentality of the ordinary Mahomedan it was bound to produce the reaction it has produced: you fed the force, it gathered power and began to make demands which the Hindu mentality had to rise up and reject. That does not require Supermind to find out, it requires common sense. Then, the Mahomedan reality and the Hindu reality began to break heads at Calcutta. (This refers to the riots in Calcutta the previous month). The leaders are busy trying to square the realities with their mental ideas instead of facing them straight”.4

extract from A Vision of United India on the Armed Forces- Kittu Reddy

Chapter 12
The Armed Forces in India

We have today in India a fine and living example of this national and secular approach in the Armed Forces. It will, therefore, not be out of place to make a study of their working. For indeed, they represent a fine example of unity in diversity, secularism and patriotism. Not only have they a magnificent record of bravery, valour and selfless service but also and, far more important, they have been one of the chief instruments in keeping the unity and integrity of the country intact. What are the factors that have made such a record possible? We shall bring out some of the significant ones.

The jawan and the officer of the modern Indian Armed Forces is the inheritor of a long culture of heroism and valour. In fact, he is the final product in the long chain of warriors, which this country has produced. For in the Indian tradition, there is nothing nobler than waging a war in the service of Truth and Justice – Dharma. As the Gita says: “To a warrior, there is nothing nobler than a righteous war. Happy are the warriors to whom a battle such as this comes. It opens a door to heaven”. It is this spirit that has to permeate the whole national life of India. This war has to be fought by every citizen of India, and this war is the war between the higher nature and the lower nature of man.

The officer of the Indian Armed Forces has the ability to lead from the front. This has been demonstrated in the two World wars and later in the Indo–Pak wars and the war against the Chinese. Today we see it in the leadership qualities of the officers taking part in the low intensity conflict both in Jammu & Kashmir and the Northeast. This ability to lead from the front has to become one of the traits of the Indian citizen. In other words, every Indian citizen has to stand up and be ready to be counted for what he believes is the Truth.

The training imparted in the Indian Armed Forces is another important factor. The traditions, the customs of gallantry and honour drilled into the minds of all members of the Army, the highest form of comradeship, the esprit de corps both in peace and battle play a key role in the functioning of the Armed Forces. This sense of unity, while respecting the traditions of Indian culture should be the motto of every Indian citizen.

The Indian Armed Force is truly Indian in its deepest sense. The soldiers and officers of the Indian Armed Forces are first and foremost Indians. Their love of India transcends all regions, castes and religions. They are thus psychologically upholding the unity of the country. All Indians must emulate this. They must be first and foremost Indians.

The Indian Armed Force is secular in the best sense of the term. Whatever the religion of the soldier and officer, they are respectful of all religions and take part in all the festivals of the different religions; yet they are deeply religious and follow the deeper traditions and practices of their own religion.

The Indian Army is well known all over the world for its professionalism. This professionalism is sustained by a relentless pursuit of both knowledge and its execution in the practical and material field. It might be called “the seeking for perfection on the material plane”.

These qualities should become the basis of the national life. This would automatically solve many of the divisive problems that beset India today.

To these should be added the urge and desire for perfection on the psychological plane. It should become one of the chief motivating elements in the life of the Indian citizen, whether he be a soldier and officer or an ordinary citizen that he should aspire to become a perfect human being, perfect in all the parts of his being and in close touch with the Divine within him. For then he will realise what the heroes and warriors of India, both in the past history and in the freedom movement had realised – that the Indian nation is not just a piece of land nor a collection of people, but a living spiritual entity, a soul.

“Even as the individual has a soul which is his true self, governing more or less openly his destiny, each nation too has its soul which is its true self, moulding its destiny from behind the veil: it is the soul of the country, the national genius, the spirit of the people, the centre of national aspiration, the fountain-head of all that is beautiful, noble, great and generous in the life of a country. True patriots feel its presence as a tangible reality. It is this, which has been made almost into a divine being and all who love their country, call it ‘Mother India’ (Bharat Mata), and it is to her that they daily address a prayer for the welfare of their country”.

“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”.

“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”.

An officer’s view of his military life

YESTERDAY, TODAY AND TOMORROW

SEVENTEENTH NATIONAL DEFENCE ACADEMY COURSE

 (Fifty five Years after Passing Out)

Yesterday

   Our yesterday began on 2nd Jan 1957. We joined the NDA, each one for his own personal purpose, but were fused together by the motto “Service before Self”. This motto is a distillation of an all time Truth that has filtered down to us from the Veda in the clear statement of the Bhagwad Gita and repeated in the world’s other spiritual traditions – “With Sacrifice as their companion are all people born”. All human action, with knowledge or in ignorance, regardless of personal motive, fulfils its purpose as a sacrifice to the Divine. Action willed as a sacrifice or service is superior to that done for the Egos’s desires. The NDA conditioned us towards this superior action by guiding our energies towards the conscious military protection of Mother India at the cost of limb or life if need be.

Our yesterday has taken us, after our training and commissioning, from the high casualty debacle against the Chinese in 1962 to the Kargil War of 1999 in which our own Khanna and Patney distinguished themselves by victoriously leading the Army and Air Force in J& K. In the intervening years there have been the counter insurgency actions in the East and West, the 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pak wars, and the intermittent skirmishes during the ‘no war–no peace’ episodes. The 1971 war with the liberation of Bangla Desh has been the crowning moment of our careers; we were then at the cutting edge of the fighting in the ranks of Maj, Sqn Ldr and Lt Cdr.

Today

Our today has been a vigorous taking up of civilian life with a sense of commitment to social welfare conditioned by years of military experience. We remember with gratitude our comrades who died for the Nation. Happily may we repeat, “With battles fought and won and laurels and medals a plenty, as faded veterans bald or gray, having sired daughters and sons and watching their offspring grow, we live with our spouses old, content with all we see and do”.

Tomorrow

Our tomorrow, which some of our departed comrades have crossed, will come with its surprises, merging into the certainty of Death. Before it comes with its last call we should say: “The day shall come when we must shed these names and forms and lives of ours; mourn not our deaths oh dear one, grieve not when our bodies burn. Our Souls shall have flown beyond time and space to rest and bloom in the Ether vast and pure of Oneness and Bliss Divine”.

Steps to be Taken Towards Pakistan – an extract from the book A Vision of United India

Steps to be Taken Towards Pakistan

Our policy should base itself on the following planks:

As seen in the earlier chapters, the biggest obstacle to unity in the subcontinent is the Pakistan Army and its sister establishments in Pakistan. The first step would be, therefore, to weaken the military. This has to be done by supporting the return of democracy in Pakistan. For in a democracy, the governments are obliged to respond to the basic needs of the people, and that will put pressure on large military budgets. At a later stage, one can even envisage the unification of the two Armies.

Second, constituencies in Pakistan whose livelihood and prosperity depend upon good relations with India should be nurtured. That will mean that we have to develop the growing trade relations between India and Pakistan. In this, India should take the initiative. The example of West Germany is a living testimony of this approach. We should not allow the initiative to rest with Pakistan. A probable step in this direction could be by declaring unilateral freeing of trade.

Third, we should help the secular minded people in Pakistan to come closer to us — through people to people and professional contacts, by throwing open opportunities for education and training, and cultural activities. The disillusionment of the middle class with the failure of Pakistan can play an important role in turning the tide in favour of India.

Fourth, on the political plane we must deepen our relations and understanding with the United States, Russia, China, and other neighbouring countries that see Islamic fundamentalism as a threat to the stability of their societies. Obviously, this is a large agenda and it requires a steady purpose, and time to fructify. But above all, it needs a national consensus covering all parties, with secularism, economic success, and a strong national defence as the underpinnings of our future.

Finally, and most important, we must reinterpret all the religions practised in India – Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and all other religions, which are practised in the country –– at a deeper level. The time has come when we have to begin to seriously consider what they all really mean and are in their soul, that is to say, in their very reality and essence. Once that is done, we shall realize that there are no real differences.


A Tribute to Late General BC Joshi – Kittu Reddy

General B.C Joshi- a tribute

 

It has been a little more than ten years since the sudden and untimely passing away of Gen BC Joshi. Gen Joshi became Chief of Army Staff on 2nd July 1993 and passed away on 18th November 1994. It will be both useful and instructive to look back at the contribution of the Late Chief to the Indian Army whose career was so abruptly cut short in the middle of his tenure. Not being myself a military man, it will be presumptuous on my part to evaluate his contributions on the military plane; but as a human being and purely from the human angle it will be worthwhile to gauge the influence he had on the Armed Forces and the Army in particular.

My contact with him was only during the last four years of his life – 1990-94. However, it was a close and warm relationship based on a deep mutual trust. It was in November 1990 that I met him first. He was then the Southern Army Commander based in Pune. In our meeting which lasted over an hour, we discussed many things including the condition in which India was and the importance of spirituality. There emerged clearly a man with an intense patriotism and a spiritual aspiration. One could feel palpably his intense love for India; at the same time he felt a deep sorrow at the degradation of the country. He had a deep faith in the future of India. This faith was reinforced by his contact with the writings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother for they had stated in unmistakable terms that India had a high destiny and a role to play in the future of the world. It was this sense of India’s mission that was the true source of his motivation and inspiration in the last years of his life. He was also convinced that the Armed Forces had a key role to play in the fulfilment of this mission.

He was aware that this mission was spiritual and that India’s greatness and swadharma lay in making spirituality the central motive force of all life. He ardently desired and hoped that the Army could become an embodiment of this spiritual aspiration. Once he was convinced of this aim, he set out working on it; the first step was to work on himself sincerely in the effort at self-improvement. It is true that right from childhood there was a clear sense and understanding of the importance of spiritual development. But it was only in later life and particularly after coming in contact with South India, that he felt the strong need for a spiritual life. In fact he used often to say that he discovered spirituality after becoming the Southern Army Commander. At the same time he had no illusions of the difficulty of the task. On one occasion, he told me that he was trying hard to get rid of the ego; but it was not at all easy for almost the whole of his life it was the ego that was the driving force of all action. And in his disarmingly childlike manner, he said: “Give me some time and I shall surely succeed”.

Immediately after that meeting in Pune and after my return to Pondicherry, I wrote a letter to him thanking him for the hospitality accorded to me; more importantly, I wrote to him that since he was ardently aspiring to raise the Indian nation through the Army, two conditions had to be fulfilled. In fact, I wrote to him that for the success of any great work two fundamental criteria had to be fulfilled; first, one must have a clear vision of what one wants to do and secondly, one must have the discipline and will to implement that vision. In my opinion, one of the few institutions in India which had the will and discipline were the Armed Forces; as far as the vision was concerned, a true vision of the essence and uniqueness of India was absolutely important. The essence of India lay in spirituality, a spirituality that not only discovers the Divine but also expresses it in life. I wrote that in the modern times, this vision was most beautifully expressed and formulated in the writings of Mother and Sri Aurobindo. They not only wrote about spirituality but also explained how to solve all the problems that humanity is facing in the light of spirituality. I therefore proposed to him that if he could familiarise himself with these writings he would discover that he was sitting on a gold mine; subsequently he could present these writings in simpler language to the Indian Army for their own betterment.

It is evident that this letter touched a deep chord within him; he did not reply immediately to me, but when we happened to meet a few months later, he told me that he was very touched by the letter and that he would like to frame it in gold. It was also evident that not only was he touched by this letter, but he was waiting to find some ways of putting this into practice.

Thus when he took over as the Army Chief in July 1993, the refrain in all his talks to the officers and jawans was dharma and mariyada. At the beginning it evoked consternation and doubt in the Armed Forces. Many questions were asked and doubts were raised whether we were not going back to the middle Ages. Questions were asked: “Is not the secular structure of our society being threatened?” But he knew that spirituality and particularly Indian spirituality does not go against secularism, rather it enhances and raises it.

So he stuck to his guns and gradually disbelief and misunderstanding gave way to a deeper understanding and consequently a seeking for spirituality has started in the Armed Forces. In this context, here is a passage taken from a talk of General Joshi on introducing spirituality in the Army.

The question was asked: “How do you plan to introduce spirituality in the Army?”

“Well, the first problem, the negative aspect of that is the amount of ignorance that exists within the army as indeed within the country; very often spiritualism is considered synonymous with religion, while you know it and I know it, it is not so. So the first attempt which I am doing is that in my attempt to introduce spiritualism in a formal kind of a way, make sure that our secular ethos is not allowed to be disturbed. Because some people who do not understand the totality of what spiritualism is all about, tend to mix it with normal, ritualistic, religious practices.

 

The second point is that I am not making it compulsory. I am exposing people at the pre-commissioning stage at the Indian Military Academy, at the National Defence Academy and subsequently right up to the highest school of learning we have at the National Defence College in Delhi, capsules with the assistance of Dr. Reddy articulated in the army language which is simpler to understand. We will give these packages to people, leave a spark in them and hope that the spark will ultimately turn into a raging inferno of thrust for learning.”

He had a great faith in the destiny of India and was sure that the 21st century would belong to India. In a talk he said: “the subject I have chosen to speak to you on is ‘India’s destiny beyond 2000 and our role and contribution in it. ’ Let me say that it is my firm belief that the next century is going to be India’s century. It is not something new that I am saying. That clarion call for the tryst with destiny actually originated right here, when Sri Aurobindo in the early part of this century sounded out India to get ready for its destiny. Subsequently, towards the middle of the century, the Mother reiterated it. And she continued to do so till as recently as 1970. So this is your special legacy, this is your special heritage and I believe the time has now come to redeem this pledge, to take courage in both hands and to seek out our destiny.

 

Dr. Kittu Reddy and I some time ago found eight manifestations which are clear for one to see that it is indeed going to be so. Subsequently I have added the ninth manifestation to it and if you are prepared to look at the country and its events with Arjuna’s eyes, the writing on the wall is clear. But if you look at it with Duryodhan’s eyes I am afraid that even a Krishna may not be able to help you.”

 

Here is an example of some of the other steps he took in the Army to introduce spirituality. In an address by Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati to the Police Academy, Mumbai on the application of Yoga in Managing Stress, he said:

“When General B.C. Joshi, Chief of the Army Staff, was in command, he expressed his desire to bring yoga to the jawans of the army, especially those in high altitude areas and in desert areas. In high altitude areas army personnel suffer from isolation and lack of communication with their families and head office. If you are on duty at 21000 feet on Siachen glacier for days and days, you see nothing except snow, no other soul. Such conditions create a lot of psychological problems due to isolation and deprivation of communications. Our swamis went to the base camps to experience what the men at arms were undergoing. They went to camps in the Bikaner area to experience what the soldiers feel when they are on duty inside a tank, when they are on exercises in simulated conditions. In this way it was possible to devise a yoga program to manage the mental states of anxiety and frustration experienced by the soldiers.”

One of the main thrusts of General Joshi was on the human aspects of Army life. His main concentration was in the fields of education, housing for officers and jawans, improvement of working conditions particularly for the infantrymen and greening of Army lands in order to maintain the ecological and environmental balance. All this was aimed at improving ‘the quality of life’. However, he was aware that quality did not just mean a higher pay packet and better amenities. He knew that this was a double edged sword and if the tendency to consumerism was not kept under control, it would lead to excess greed and materialism. So he stressed at the same time an inner contentment which comes only when one is in contact with the deeper spiritual layers of one’s being. He thus tried to strike a balance between the reasonable needs of the soldier and officer and the deeper inner contact.

It was the same approach that he wanted to bring in the field of education. No doubt, he wanted the Army Schools to become centres of excellence which could compete with international standards; at the same time he sought to bring in a deep spiritual content in the education system.

Although he was from the Armoured Corps, he had great respect for the infantryman. He was well aware that it was the infantryman who bore the brunt of the work. He tried his best to do something for them.

He was very proud of the Indian Army. For him the self-respect of the officer and jawan was paramount. On one occasion as Western Army Commander, an officer of the Indian Army was humiliated by a drunken policeman. He put his foot down and took strong exception. He was even prepared to resign and as he wrote to me, ‘I am prepared to put my career on line’.

There were many steps which he wanted to implement or at least to initiate. One of the things that he initiated was the colleges for the children of the Armed Forces after they finished their schooling. That work is now well under way and is proving to be a great boon for the young students.

There were many other areas where he wanted to take the initiative. In the field of ecology he took steps and organised programmes for environmental degradation. In this context, Eustace D’Souza, a retired major-general of the Indian Army writes: Army headquarters, under the direction of General B.C. Joshi, has organized an 18-month programme in the Greater Himalayas which will end in October 1995. It is a multidimensional, multinational programme which encompasses adventure and ecology through such sports as hang-gliding, white-water rafting, and hot-air ballooning and trekking on foot and with animal transport. Participants in every event are required to report on the status of endangered species, deforestation, pollution and environmental degradation. The response has been enthusiastic.”

After the experience of militancy in Punjab as the Western Army Commander, General Joshi proposed raising of the Rashtriya Rifles to tackle militancy in Jammu and Kashmir. Here is an extract from an article:

The Rashtriya Rifles was raised by Chief of Army staff General B C Joshi in 1990 for the exclusive role of fighting insurgency in Kashmir. In 1993, the Indian army expanded its role in the Kashmir Valley when it deployed the Rashtriya Rifles. The 36-battalion formation, a light elite counterinsurgency force, was formed specifically to compensate for weak and untrustworthy local police and increasingly well-armed insurgents in Kashmir. The reputation of Rashtriya Rifles as a specialised anti-terrorist force has a tremendous impact on the militant’s psyche who avoid any kind of direct confrontation with RR troops. Secondly, due to the proactive nature of operations conducted by well-trained and well-equipped troops, militants lost a number of their cadres, arms and equipment which was a grave setback to them. Such pressures against the militants have been continuously maintained by RR troops in a relentless manner. The motivation of all ranks to perform better has it roots in various factors such as a sense of pride to get selected in a special force with a separate identity, dress and organisation. Each individual is given here the opportunity to prove his mettle in operational field.

 

At the same time he was aware that it was not enough to raise the RR; what was needed was that the menace of terrorism from across the border had to be hit at the very roots.  Major General Ashok K Mehta (retd) writes in an article on ending the menace of terrorism:

“Around mid-1994, then army Chief General B C Joshi had strongly advocated hot pursuit and targeting the source of insurgency. But the idea was dropped even though Pakistan did not then possess a nuclear shield. Renewed counterinsurgency operations and political dialogue with Pakistan were able to contain militancy. By 1998, after a peaceful election, Srinagar was restored as a tourist destination and economic activity revived. Jammu and Kashmir had attained normalcy. But then Kargil happened and shattered the peace.”

Today despite all appearances the situations is still fluid and tenuous.

The country is now facing a very great crisis of character and morality. The fall from dharma is so great that questions are being raised about the future direction that the Indian nation is taking. Despite the economic growth, there are many divisive and demeaning factors in public life which are hampering the fulfilment of its higher destiny.  It is evident that General Joshi had diagnosed the problem correctly; this clearly reveals the depth of his insight. What we need today is the courage and conviction of men like General Joshi. To disregard the call of dharma will be at our peril. It is time we woke up. It was the dream of General Joshi that at least the Armed Forces kept flying the flag of dharma amid the chaos of the national life.

To close, it may be said that the greatest contribution of General Joshi to the Armed Forces and indeed to the Indian nation was his call to awaken to the need of dharma and spirituality in public life. There are hundreds and thousands of Indians who even today follow the path of dharma and spirituality in their personal life. But the need of the hour is to make dharma and spirituality the central motive force of our public life. We cannot but be grateful to General Joshi for giving this clarion call to the Army. It is now for the Army and the nation to follow it.

Kittu Reddy

2004

History and Culture of India – a new approach

History and Culture of India – a new approach

I am presenting here a book written by me titled History and Culture of India – a new approach. As of now this book is available only in the printed version. It is likely that in the near future a version in the eBook format will be made available. The publisher of this book is Standard Publishers India based in Delhi. The price of the book is Rs 1295/. It may be purchased directly from the publisher whose email is: standardpublishersindia@gmail.com The cell number of the manager whose name is Mohinder Kumar Vashisht is 09871009093. I am presenting below a brief introduction to the book.

The Genesis of the book

It was in February 1973. Three teachers of the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education were having a discussion with the Mother on education. During the discussion Mother remarked that it was necessary that the books on History and more particularly on Indian History be written in the light of Sri Aurobindo. She looked at me and suggested that I could take up this work.

The approach in the book

History, as it has been conceived and written in the modern times has generally limited itself to the narration of events and based its interpretation almost entirely on the rational and objective approach ignoring all other psychological and subjective factors. This predominance is so great that most modern historians and some political thinkers have concluded that objective necessities are by law of Nature the only really determining forces; all else is result or superficial accidents of these forces. Scientific history has been conceived as if it must be a record and appreciation of the environmental motives of political action.

Indian history in particular loses much of its true significance when looked at only from this external view point. This book is an attempt to look at Indin history not only from the external but also from the psychological and subjective point of view. Starting from the Vedic and Upanishadic ages it traces the evolution of India to the building of empires; it is followed by a description of the invasions of Muslims and English and the psychological impact that they had on the people of inda. This is followed by a detailed description of the Freedom Movement with a special emphasis of the psychological forces that were in play till the attainment of Independence. Finally it concludes with a vision of the future of India. We hope that this book will give a true and deeper understanding of Indian culture. We also hope that it will set a trend for a truer and more comprehensive history and culture of India,