The Asiatic Role – Sri Aurobindo

Bande Mataram

{ CALCUTTA, April9th, 1908 }

The Asiatic Role

The genius of the Hindu is not for pure action, but for thought

and aspiration realized in action, the spirit premeditating before

the body obeys the inward command. The life of the Hindu

is inward and his outward life aims only at reproducing the

motions of his spirit. This intimate relation of his thought and

his actions is the secret of his perpetual vitality. His outward

life, like that of other nations, is subject to growth and decay,

to periods of greatness and periods of decline, but while other

nations have a limit and a term, he has none. Whenever death

claims his portion, theHindu race takes refuge in the source of all

immortality, plunges itself into the fountain of spirit and comes

out renewed for a fresh term of existence. The elixir of national

life has been discovered by India alone. This immortality, this

great secret of life, she has treasured up for thousands of years,

until the world was fit to receive it. The time has now come for

her to impart it to the other nations, who are now on the verge of

decadence and death. The peoples of Europe have carried material

life to its farthest expression, the science of bodily existence

has been perfected, but they are suffering from diseases which

their science is powerless to cure. England with her practical

intelligence, France with her clear logical brain, Germany with

her speculative genius, Russia with her emotional force, America

with her commercial energy have done what they could for human

development, but each has reached the limit of her peculiar

capacity. Something is wanting which Europe cannot supply. It

is at this juncture that Asia has awakened because the world

needed her. Asia is the custodian of the world’s peace of mind,

the physician of the maladies which Europe generates. She is

commissioned to rise from time to time from her ages of selfcommunion,

self-sufficiency, self-absorption and rule the world

for a season so that the world may come and sit at her feet to

learn the secrets she alone has to give. When the restless spirit

of Europe has added a new phase of discovery to the evolution

of the science of material life, has regulated politics, rebased

society, remodelled law, rediscovered science, the spirit of Asia,

calm, contemplative, self-possessed, takes possession of Europe’s

discovery and corrects its exaggerations, its aberrations by the

intuition, the spiritual light she alone can turn upon the world.

When Greek and Roman had exhausted themselves, the Arab

went out from his desert to take up their unfinished task, revivify

the civilisation of the old world and impart the profounder

impulses of Asia to the pursuit of knowledge. Asia has always

initiated, Europe completed. The strength of Europe is in details,

the strength of Asia in synthesis. When Europe has perfected

the details of life or thought, she is unable to harmonize them

into a perfect symphony and she falls into intellectual heresies,

practical extravagances which contradict the facts of life, the

limits of human nature and the ultimate truths of existence. It

is therefore the office of Asia to take up the work of human

evolution when Europe comes to a standstill and loses itself in

a clash of vain speculations, barren experiments and helpless

struggles to escape from the consequences of her own mistakes.

Such a time has now come in the world’s history.

In former ages India was a sort of hermitage of thought and

peace apart from the world. Separated from the rest of humanity

by her peculiar geographical conformation, she worked out her

own problems and thought out the secrets of existence as in a

quiet ashram from which the noise of the world was shut out.

Her thoughts flashed out over Asia and created civilisations, her

sons were the bearers of light to the peoples; philosophies based

themselves on stray fragments of her infinite wisdom; sciences

arose from the waste of her intellectual production. When the

barrier was broken and nations began to surge through the Himalayan

gates, the peace of India departed. She passed through

centuries of struggle, of ferment in which the civilisations born

of her random thoughts returned to her developed and insistent,

seeking to impose themselves on the mighty mother of them

all. To her they were the reminiscences of her old intellectual

experiments laid aside and forgotten. She took them up, rethought

them in a new light and once more made them part

of herself. So she dealt with the Greek, so with the Scythian,

so with Islam, so now she will deal with the great brood of

her returning children, with Christianity, with Buddhism, with

European science and materialism, with the fresh speculations

born of the world’s renewed contact with the source of thought

in this ancient cradle of religion, science and philosophy. The

vast amount of new matter which she has to absorb, is unprecedented

in her history, but to her it is child’s play. Her

all-embracing intellect, her penetrating intuition, her invincible

originality are equal to greater tasks. The period of passivity

when she listened to the voices of the outside world is over. No

longer will she be content merely to receive and reproduce, even

to receive and improve. The genius of Japan lies in imitation and

improvement, that of India in origination. The contributions of

outside peoples she can only accept as rough material for her

immense creative faculty. It was the mission of England to bring

this rough material to India, but in the arrogance of her material

success she presumed to take upon herself the role of a teacher

and treated the Indian people partly as an infant to be instructed,

partly as a serf to be schooled to labour for its lords. The farce is

played out. England’s mission in India is over and it is time for

her to recognise the limit of the lease given to her. When it was

God’s will that she should possess India, the world was amazed

at the miraculous ease of the conquest and gave all the credit

to the unparalleled genius and virtues of the English people, a

fiction which England was not slow to encourage and on which

she has traded for over a century. The real truth is suggested

in the famous saying that England conquered India in a fit of

absence of mind, which is only another way of saying that she

did not conquer it at all. It was placed in her hands without her

realising what was being done or how it was being done. The

necessary conditions were created for her, her path made easy,

the instruments given into her hands. The men who worked for

her were of comparatively small intellectual stature and with few

exceptions did not make and could not have made any mark in

European history where no special Providence was at work to

supplement the deficiencies of the instruments. The subjugation

of India is explicable neither in the ability of the men whose

names figure as the protagonists nor in the superior genius of

the conquering nation nor in the weakness of the conquered

peoples. It is one of the standing miracles of history. In other

words, it was one of those cases in which a particular mission

was assigned to a people not otherwise superior to the rest of

the world and a special faustitas or decreed good fortune set

to watch over the fulfilment of the mission. Her mission once

over, the angel of the Lord who stood by England in her task and

removed opponents and difficulties with the waving of his hand,

will no longer shield her. She will stay so long as the destinies

of India need her and not a day longer, for it is not by her own

strength that she came or is still here, and it is not by her own

strength that she can remain. The resurgence of India is begun,

it will accomplish itself with her help, if she will, without it if

she does not, against it if she opposes.

VOLUME 6 and 7

THE COMPLETE WORKS OF SRI AUROBINDO

P 1020 Bande Mataram

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