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I. 1893-1910: Revolutionary Writings

I

1893-1910

(After thirteen years in England where he received a thoroughly Western education, Sri Aurobindo returned to India on February 6, 1893, at the age of twenty.

Bankim Chatterji's Anandamath, which contained �Bande Mataram,� the hymn to the Motherland, had been published eleven years earlier. Swami Vivekananda had just come to the end of his first pilgrimage round India, and was preparing to sail for America. But it was going to take another dozen years for their call to their countrymen to find expression in the political field. For the present, the eight-year-old Indian National Congress, whose members were mostly drawn from the Anglicized upper classes of society, had full faith in British fair-mindedness and the �providential character� of British rule in India, and year after year swore its �unswerving allegiance to the British crown�; it was content with submitting petitions which were simply ignored by the Colonial rulers. There was another twelve years to go before the start of the open struggle for freedom in 1905, and twenty-five years before Mahatma Gandhi's entry on the political scene in 1918.

Sri Aurobindo was twenty-one when he wrote a series of nine articles, �New Lamps for Old�, in the Indu Prakash, a Marathi-English Bombay daily; in these articles, which had to be stopped following pressures on the newspaper's editor, Sri Aurobindo took stock of the prevailing situation and launched into a detailed and forceful criticism of the �mendicant policy� of the Congress. A few extracts:)

August 7, 1893

������� We cannot afford to raise any institution to the rank of a fetish. To do so would be simply to become the slaves of our own machinery.

***

August 21, 1893

������� Our actual enemy is not any force exterior to ourselves, but our own crying weaknesses, our cowardice, our selfishness, our hypocrisy, our purblind sentimentalism.

***

August 28, 1893

������� I say, of the Congress, then, this�that its aims are mistaken, that the spirit in which it proceeds towards their accomplishment is not a spirit of sincerity and whole-heartedness, and that the methods it has chosen are not the right methods, and the leaders in whom it trusts, not the right sort of men to be leaders;�in brief, that we are at present the blind led, if not by the blind, at any rate by the one-eyed.

***

December 4, 1893

������� To play with baubles is our ambition, not to deal with grave questions in a spirit of serious energy. But while we are playing with baubles, with our Legislative Councils, our Simultaneous Examinations, our ingenious schemes for separating the judicial from the executive functions,�while we, I say, are finessing about trifles, the waters of the great deep are being stirred and that surging chaos of the primitive man over which our civilised societies are superimposed on a thin crust of convention, is being strangely and ominously agitated.

***

(On his return to India, Sri Aurobindo joined the Baroda State Service; from 1897 to early 1906 he taught French and English at the Baroda College, eventually becoming its principal. These years gave him a first-hand experience of the dismal condition of education in India and made him feel an acute need for a true national education.)

Early 1900s (?)

������� If the physical training it [the Indian University system] provides is contemptible and the moral training nil, the mental training is also meagre in quantity and worthless in quality.... In order for a student to get a degree let us make it absolutely necessary that he shall have a good education. If a worthless education is sufficient in order to secure this object and a good education quite unessential, it is obvious that the student will not incur great trouble and diversion of energy in order to acquire what he feels to be unnecessary. But change this state of things, make culture and true science essential and the same interested motive which now makes him content with a bad education will then compel him to strive after culture and true science.... We in India have become so barbarous that we send our children to school with the grossest utilitarian motive unmixed with any disinterested desire for knowledge; but the education we receive is itself responsible for this....

������� It is a fundamental and deplorable error by which we in this country have confused education with the acquisition of knowledge.... Amount of knowledge is in itself not of first importance, but to make the best use of what we know. The easy assumption of our educationists that we have only to supply the mind with a smattering of facts in each department of knowledge and the mind can be trusted to develop itself and take its own suitable road is contrary to science, contrary to human experience.... Much as we have lost as a nation, we have always preserved our intellectual alertness, quickness and originality; but even this last gift is threatened by our University system, and if it goes, it will be the beginning of irretrievable degradation and final extinction.

������� The very first step in reform must therefore be to revolutionise the whole aim and method of our education.1

*

������� Indian scholarship ... must clearly have one advantage [over the European], an intimate feeling of the language, a sensitiveness ... which the European cannot hope to possess unless he sacrifices his sense of racial superiority.... For to the European Sanskrit words are no more than dead counters which he can play with and throw as he likes into places the most unnatural or combinations the most monstrous; to the Hindu they are living things the very soul of whose temperament he understands and whose possibilities he can judge to a hair. That with these advantages Indian scholars have not been able to form themselves into a great and independent school of learning is due to two causes, the miserable scantiness of the mastery in Sanskrit provided by our universities, crippling to all but born scholars, and their lack of a sturdy independence which makes us over-ready to defer to European authority.2

***

(From 1900 onward, Sri Aurobindo began contacting revolutionary groups in Maharashtra and Bengal, and tried to coordinate their action with the help of his brother, Barindra Kumar Ghose, and Jatindranath Banerjee; at Sri Aurobindo's initiative, P. Mitter, Surendranath Tagore, Chittaranjan Das and Sister Nivedita soon formed the first secret council for revolutionary activities in Bengal. Although an effective coordination between the various groups remained elusive, some of them, such as P. Mitter's Anusilan Samiti, played a considerable part in spreading the Nationalist ideal. Their chief weapon was the establishment of centres in numerous towns and villages, where young men were given intellectual, moral and physical training, and were inspired to work for India's liberation.

Around this time, Sri Aurobindo wrote Bhawani Mandir, a pamphlet �for the revolutionary preparation of the country.� Thousands of copies of it were distributed clandestinely. A few excerpts:)

1905

������� India, the ancient Mother, is indeed striving to be reborn, striving with agony and tears, but she strives in vain. What ails her, she who is after all so vast and might be so strong? There is surely some enormous defect, something vital is wanting in us, nor is it difficult to lay our finger on the spot. We have all things else, but we are empty of strength, void of energy. We have abandoned Shakti and are therefore abandoned by Shakti. The Mother is not in our hearts, in our brains, in our arms.

������� The wish to be reborn we have in abundance, there is no deficiency there. How many attempts have been made, how many movements have been begun, in religion, in society, in politics! But the same fate has overtaken or is preparing to overtake them all. They flourish for a moment, then the impulse wanes, the fire dies out, and if they endure, it is only as empty shells, forms from which the Brahma has gone or in which it lies overpowered with Tamas and inert. Our beginnings are mighty, but they have neither sequel nor fruit.

������� Now we are beginning in another direction; we have started a great industrial movement which is to enrich and regenerate an impoverished land. Untaught by experience, we do not perceive that this movement must go the way of all the others, unless we first seek the one essential thing, unless we acquire strength.

������� Is it knowledge that is wanting? We Indians, born and bred in a country where Jnana has been stored and accumulated since the race began, bear about in us the inherited gains of many thousands of years.... But it is a dead knowledge, a burden under which we are bowed, a poison which is corroding us, rather than as it should be a staff to support our feet and a weapon in our hands; for this is the nature of all great things that when they are not used or are ill used, they turn upon the bearer and destroy him....

������� Is it love, enthusiasm, Bhakti that is wanting? These are ingrained in the Indian nature, but in the absence of Shakti we cannot concentrate, we cannot direct, we cannot even preserve it. Bhakti is the leaping flame, Shakti is the fuel. If the fuel is scanty how long can the fire endure?...

������� The deeper we look, the more we shall be convinced that the one thing wanting, which we must strive to acquire before all others, is strength�strength physical, strength mental, strength moral, but above all strength spiritual which is the one inexhaustible and imperishable source of all the others. If we have strength everything else will be added to us easily and naturally. In the absence of strength we are like men in a dream who have hands but cannot seize or strike, who have feet but cannot run....

������� If India is to survive, she must be made young again. Rushing and billowing streams of energy must be poured into her; her soul must become, as it was in the old times, like the surges, vast, puissant, calm or turbulent at will, an ocean of action or of force.

������� Many of us, utterly overcome by Tamas, the dark and heavy demon of inertia, are saying nowadays that it is impossible, that India is decayed, bloodless and lifeless, too weak ever to recover; that our race is doomed to extinction. It is a foolish and idle saying. No man or nation need be weak unless he chooses, no man or nation need perish unless he deliberately chooses extinction.

������� For what is a nation? What is our mother-country? It is not a piece of earth, nor a figure of speech, nor a fiction of the mind. It is a mighty Shakti, composed of the Shaktis of all the millions of units that make up the nation, just as Bhawani Mahisha Mardini sprang into being from the Shakti of all the millions of gods assembled in one mass of force and welded into unity. The Shakti we call India, Bhawani Bharati, is the living unity of the Shaktis of three hundred million people, but she is inactive, imprisoned in the magic circle of Tamas, the self-indulgent inertia and ignorance of her sons....

������� We have to create strength where it did not exist before; we have to change our natures, and become new men with new hearts, to be born again.... We need a nucleus of men in whom the Shakti is developed to its uttermost extent, in whom it fills every corner of the personality and overflows to fertilise the earth. These, having the fire of Bhawani in their hearts and brains, will go forth and carry the flame to every nook and cranny of our land.

***

(From a letter Sri Aurobindo wrote in Bengali to his wife, Mrinalini Devi, in which he tried to explain to her the call he felt to work for his country's freedom; this letter was seized by the police a few years later and produced as evidence in the Alipore Bomb Case.)

August 30, 1905

������� While others look upon their country as an inert piece of matter�a few meadows and fields, forests and hills and rivers�I look upon my country as the Mother. I adore Her, I worship Her as the Mother. What would a son do if a demon sat on his mother's breast and started sucking her blood?... I know I have the strength to deliver this fallen race. It is not physical strength�I am not going to fight with sword or gun�but the strength of knowledge....3

***

(Alarmed by the rising force of Bengali feeling against British rule, Lord Curzon, the Viceroy, partitioned Bengal in 1905. This faithful application of the �divide-and-rule� policy aimed both at breaking the growing political agitation in Bengal and at using the Muslim-dominated East Bengal as the thin end of a wedge between Hindus and Muslims�a policy that was to culminate in the partition of India forty years later.

Bengal responded to its partition by massive and unanimous protests, in which many personalities took part, such as Rabindranath Tagore, Surendranath Banerji, Bepin Chandra Pal, Ashwini Kumar Dutt.... The ideal of Swadeshi, which called for the boycott of British goods, spread widely.

In March, 1906, Barin Ghose with a few others started the fiery Bengali weekly, the Yugantar, to which Sri Aurobindo contributed several articles. In August, B. C. Pal launched the famous English daily, the Bande Mataram; Sri Aurobindo joined it and soon took up its editorship, side by side with his behind-the-scenes activities with, among others, B. G. Tilak and Lala Lajpat Rai.

Day after day till May, 1908, Sri Aurobindo used the pages of the Bande Mataram to breathe inspiration, force and clarity of purpose into the nascent Nationalist movement; his first preoccupation, in the face of fierce opposition from the British authorities, the self-righteous Anglo-Indian press and most of the Congress Moderates, was in his own words �to declare openly for complete and absolute independence as the aim of political action in India and to insist on this persistently in the pages of the journal; [Sri Aurobindo] was the first politician in India who had the courage to do this in public and he was immediately successful. The [Nationalist] party took up the word Swaraj to express its own ideal of independence and it soon spread everywhere.... The greatest thing done in those years was the creation of a new spirit in the country.�4 The following passages are from the Bande Mataram.)

September 1, 1906

������� The true policy of the Congress movement should have been from the beginning to gather together under its flag all the elements of strength that exist in this huge country. The Brahman Pandit and the Mahomedan Maulavi, the caste organisation and the trade-union, the labourer and the artisan, the coolie at his work and the peasant in his field, none of these should have been left out of the sphere of our activities. For each is a strength, a unit of force; and in politics the victory is to the side which can marshal the largest and most closely serried number of such units and handle them most skilfully, not to those who can bring forward the best arguments or talk the most eloquently.

������� But the Congress started from the beginning with a misconception of the most elementary facts of politics and with its eyes turned towards the British Government and away from the people.

***

September 4, 1906

������� We objected so strongly to this measure [Bengal's Partition] because it was calculated to strike a serious blow at the political power of the Bengalee-speaking race. Our second objection was that it was professedly wanted by the Government to create a Mahomedan province with Dacca as its capital, and the evident object of it was to sow discord between the Hindus and the Mahomedans in a Province that had never known it in the whole history of the present British connection.... There is in [the present] agitation a consciousness of a new strength, the quickening of a new life, the inspiration of a new ideal. This agitation is not an agitation merely against Partition or against any other particular measure of the Government.... The attainment of absolute national autonomy,�it is this alone that will settle down this movement....

������� The idea that by encouraging Mahomedan rowdyism, the present agitation may be put down, is preposterous; and those who cherish this notion forget that the bully is neither the strongest nor the bravest of men; and that because the self-restraint of the Hindu, miscalled cowardice, has been a prominent feature of his national character, he is absolutely incapable of striking straight and striking hard when any sacred situation demands this. Nor has it been proved even in recent British-concocted disputes between Hindus and Mahomedans in different parts of India, that the mild Hindu is so absolutely helpless and incapable of defending his rights and liberties as he is painted to be by his foreign enemies.

***

September 13, 1906

������� The idea that the election of a Mahomedan President will conciliate the anti-Congress Mahomedans is a futility which has been repeatedly exposed by experience.

*

������� Ever since the birth of the Congress, those who have been in the leadership of this great National Movement have persistently denied the general public in the country the right of determining what shall and what shall not be said or done on their behalf and in their name. The delegates have been gathered from all parts of the country, not to deliberate upon public matters, but simply to lend their support to the decisions that had already been arrived at by secret conclaves of half a dozen men.

***

December 31, 1906

������� The leaders can only deserve reverence by acting in the spirit of the chief servants of their country and not in the spirit of masters and dictators.

***

April 5, 1907

������� Politics is the work of the Kshatriya and it is the virtues of the Kshatriya we must develop if we are to be morally fit for freedom.

***

April 8, 1907

������� We reiterate with all the emphasis we can command that the Kshatriya of old must again take his rightful position in our social polity to discharge the first and foremost duty of defending its interests. The brain is impotent without the right arm of strength.

***

April 13, 1907

������� We should be absolutely unsparing in our attack on whatever obstructs the growth of the nation, and never be afraid to call a spade a spade. Excessive good nature, chakshu lajja [the desire to be always pleasant and polite], will never do in serious politics. Respect of persons must always give place to truth and conscience; and the demand that we should be silent because of the age or past services of our opponents, is politically immoral and unsound. Open attack, unsparing criticism, the severest satire, the most wounding irony, are all methods perfectly justifiable and indispensable in politics. We have strong things to say; let us say them strongly; we have stern things to do; let us do them sternly. But there is always a danger of strength degenerating into violence and sternness into ferocity, and that should be avoided so far as it is humanly possible.

***

April 16, 1907

������� There are periods in the history of the world when the unseen Power that guides its destinies seems to be filled with a consuming passion for change and a strong impatience of the old. The Great Mother, the Adya Shakti, has resolved to take the nations into Her hand and shape them anew. These are periods of rapid destruction and energetic creation, filled with the sound of cannon and the trampling of armies, the crash of great downfalls, and the turmoil of swift and violent revolutions; the world is thrown into the smelting pot and comes out in a new shape and with new features. They are periods when the wisdom of the wise is confounded and the prudence of the prudent turned into a laughing-stock....

*

������� The supreme service of Bankim [Chandra Chatterji] to his nation was that he gave us the vision of our Mother.... It is not till the Motherland reveals herself to the eye of the mind as something more than a stretch of earth or a mass of individuals, it is not till she takes shape as a great Divine and Maternal Power in a form of beauty that can dominate the mind and seize the heart that ... the patriotism that works miracles and saves a doomed nation is born....

������� It was thirty-two years ago that Bankim wrote his great song and few listened; but in a sudden moment of awakening from long delusions the people of Bengal looked round for the truth and in a fated moment somebody sang Bande Mataram. The Mantra had been given and in a single day a whole people had been converted to the religion of patriotism. The Mother had revealed herself.

***

April 23, 1907

������� Each nation must practise the political creed which is the most suited to its temperament and circumstances; for that is the best for it which leads most surely and completely to national liberty and national self-realisation.

***

May 11, 1907

������� In this grave crisis of our destinies let not our people lose their fortitude or suffer stupefaction and depression to seize upon and unnerve their souls. The fight in which we are engaged is not like the wars of old in which when the king or leader fell, the army fled. The King whom we follow to the wars today, is our own Motherland, the sacred and imperishable; the leader of our onward march is the Almighty Himself, that element within and without us whom sword cannot slay, nor water drown, nor fire burn, nor exile divide from us, nor a prison confine.

������� ...

������� Let there be no fainting of heart and no depression, and also let there be no unforeseeing fury, no blindly-striking madness. We are at the beginning of a time of terrible trial. The passage is not to be easy, the crown is not to be cheaply earned. India is going down into the valley of the shadow of death, into a great horror of darkness and suffering. Let us realise that what we are now suffering, is a small part of what we shall have to suffer, and work in that knowledge, with resolution, without hysteria.... The first need at the present moment is courage, a courage which knows not how to flinch or shrink.

***

May 23, 1907

������� Where the will of a higher Power is active in a great upheaval, no individual is indispensable.

***

May 28, 1907

������� We have to fill the minds of our boys from childhood with the idea of the country, and present them with that idea at every turn and make their whole young life a lesson in the practice of the virtues which afterwards go to make the patriot and the citizen. If we do not attempt this, we may as well give up our desire to create an Indian nation altogether; for without such a discipline nationalism, patriotism, regeneration are mere words and ideas which can never become a part of the very soul of the nation and never therefore a great realised fact. Mere academical teaching of patriotism is of no avail.

***

June 7, 1907

������� What India needs especially at this moment is the aggressive virtues, the spirit of soaring idealism, bold creation, fearless resistance, courageous attack; of the passive tamasic spirit of inertia we have already too much. We need to cultivate another training and temperament, another habit of mind. We would apply to the present situation the vigorous motto of Danton, that what we need, what we should learn above all things is to dare and again to dare and still to dare.

***

June 19, 1907

������� Apart from the natural attachment which every man has to his country, its literature, its traditions, its customs and usages, patriotism has an additional stimulus in the acknowledged excellence of a national civilisation. If Britons love England with all her faults, why should we fail to love India whose faults were whittled down to an irreducible minimum till foreign conquests threw the whole society out of gear? But instead of being dominated by the natural ambition of carrying the banner of such a civilisation all over the world, we are unable to maintain its integrity in its own native home. This is betraying a trust. This is unworthiness of the worst type. We have not been able to add anything to this precious bequest; on the contrary we have been keeping ourselves and generations yet unborn from a full enjoyment of their lawful heritage....

������� According to Sidgwick, physical expansion proceeds from a desire for spiritual expansion and history also supports the assertion. But why should not India then be the first power in the world? Who else has the undisputed right to extend spiritual sway over the world? This was Swami Vivekananda's plan of campaign. India can once more be made conscious of her greatness by an overmastering sense of the greatness of her spirituality. This sense of greatness is the main feeder of all patriotism. This only can put an end to all self-depreciation and generate a burning desire to recover the lost ground.

***

June 22, 1907

������� He [a leader in Bengal] has not the qualities of a politician�robustness, backbone, the ability to will a certain course of action and the courage to carry it out.... No man who shrinks from struggle or is appalled by the thought of aggression can hope to seize and lead the wild forces that are rising to the surface in twentieth-century India.

***

July 3, 1907

������� The East is more ancient by many thousands of years than the West, but a greater length of years does not necessarily imply a more advanced age.... Asia is long-lived, Europe brief, ephemeral. Asia is in everything hugely mapped, immense and grandiose in its motions, and its life-periods are measured accordingly. Europe lives by centuries, Asia by millenniums. Europe is parcelled out in nations, Asia in civilisations. The whole of Europe forms only one civilisation with a common, derived and largely second-hand culture; Asia supports three civilisations, each of them original and of the soil. Everything in Europe is small, rapid and short-lived; she has not the secret of immortality.

***

July 25, 1907

������� Spiritual power in the present creates material power in the future and for this reason we always find that if it is material force which dominates the present, it is spiritual which moulds and takes possession of the future....

������� Since the spiritual life of India is the first necessity of the world's future, we fight not only for our own political and spiritual freedom but for the spiritual emancipation of the human race.... For it is not among an enslaved, degraded and perishing people that the Rishis and great spirits can long continue to be born.

***


(On August 15, 1906, a few days after the start of the Bande Mataram, the Bengal National College had opened in Calcutta with Sri Aurobindo as its Principal; it was one of the first experiments in the search for a true national education. Its foundation had been made possible by the generous financial assistance of Subodh Mullick, one of Sri Aurobindo's collaborators in his secret action. In spite of his charge of the Bande Mataram, Sri Aurobindo found time to teach Indian history and geography, English history, political science, as well as French, German and English....

A year later, on August 16, 1907, the British government, alarmed by the spread and impact of the Bande Mataram, arrested Sri Aurobindo under a sedition law; he had turned thirty-five the day before. He owed his acquittal a month later to the government's failure to prove that he was the editor of the dreaded journal. It was then that Rabindranath Tagore wrote his famous poem to Sri Aurobindo, whom he saluted as �the voice incarnate, free, of India's soul.�

A few days after his arrest, Sri Aurobindo, released on bail, resigned his post of Principal of the Bengal National College. A few excerpts from a speech he delivered before the students and teachers, who had assembled to express their �heart-felt sympathy.�)

August 23, 1907

������� When we established this college and left other occupations, other chances of life, to devote our lives to this institution, we did so because we hoped to see in it the foundation, the nucleus of a nation, of the new India which is to begin its career after this night of sorrow and trouble, on that day of glory and greatness when India will work for the world. What we want here is not merely to give you a little information, not merely to open to you careers for earning a livelihood, but to build up sons for the Motherland to work and to suffer for her. That is why we started this college and that is the work to which I want you to devote yourselves in future. What has been insufficiently and imperfectly begun by us, it is for you to complete and lead to perfection. When I come back I wish to see some of you becoming rich, rich not for yourselves but that you may enrich the Mother with your riches. I wish to see some of you becoming great, great not for your own sakes, not that you may satisfy your own vanity, but great for her, to make India great, to enable her to stand up with head erect among the nations of the earth, as she did in days of yore when the world looked up to her for light. Even those who will remain poor and obscure, I want to see their very poverty and obscurity devoted to the Motherland. There are times in a nation's history when Providence places before it one work, one aim, to which everything else, however high and noble in itself, has to be sacrificed. Such a time has now arrived for our Motherland when nothing is dearer than her service, when everything else is to be directed to that end.... Work that she may prosper. Suffer that she may rejoice. All is contained in that one single advice.

***

September 22, 1907

������� Caste was originally an arrangement for the distribution of functions in society, just as much as class in Europe, but the principle on which the distribution was based in India was peculiar to this country.... A Brahmin was a Brahmin not by mere birth, but because he discharged the duty of preserving the spiritual and intellectual elevation of the race, and he had to cultivate the spiritual temperament and acquire the spiritual training which could alone qualify him for the task. The Kshatriya was a Kshatriya not merely because he was the son of warriors and princes, but because he discharged the duty of protecting the country and preserving the high courage and manhood of the nation, and he had to cultivate the princely temperament and acquire the strong and lofty Samurai training which alone fitted him for his duties. So it was with the Vaishya whose function was to amass wealth for the race and the Sudra who discharged the humbler duties of service without which the other castes could not perform their share of labour for the common good.... Essentially there was, between the devout Brahmin and the devout Sudra, no inequality in the single virat purusa [Cosmic Spirit] of which each was a necessary part. Chokha Mela, the Maratha Pariah, became the Guru of Brahmins proud of their caste purity; the Chandala taught Shankaracharya: for the Brahman was revealed in the body of the Pariah and in the Chandala there was the utter presence of Shiva the Almighty....

������� Caste therefore was not only an institution which ought to be immune from the cheap second-hand denunciations so long in fashion, but a supreme necessity without which Hindu civilisation could not have developed its distinctive character or worked out its unique mission.

������� But to recognise this is not to debar ourselves from pointing out its later perversions and desiring its transformation. It is the nature of human institutions to degenerate, to lose their vitality, and decay, and the first sign of decay is the loss of flexibility and oblivion of the essential spirit in which they were conceived. The spirit is permanent, the body changes; and a body which refuses to change must die. The spirit expresses itself in many ways while itself remaining essentially the same but the body must change to suit its changing environments if it wishes to live. There is no doubt that the institution of caste degenerated. It ceased to be determined by spiritual qualifications which, once essential, have now come to be subordinate and even immaterial and is determined by the purely material tests of occupation and birth. By this change it has set itself against the fundamental tendency of Hinduism which is to insist on the spiritual and subordinate the material and thus lost most of its meaning. The spirit of caste arrogance, exclusiveness and superiority came to dominate it instead of the spirit of duty, and the change weakened the nation and helped to reduce us to our present conditions.

***

October 7, 1907

������� This great and ancient nation was once the fountain of human light, the apex of human civilisation, the exemplar of courage and humanity, the perfection of good Government and settled society, the mother of all religions, the teacher of all wisdom and philosophy. It has suffered much at the hands of inferior civilisations and more savage peoples; it has gone down into the shadow of night and tasted often of the bitterness of death. Its pride has been trampled into the dust and its glory has departed. Hunger and misery and despair have become the masters of this fair soil, these noble hills, these ancient rivers, these cities whose life story goes back into prehistoric night. But do you think that therefore God has utterly abandoned us and given us up for ever to be a mere convenience for the West, the helots of its commerce, and the feeders of its luxury and pride? We are still God's chosen people and all our calamities have been but a discipline of suffering, because for the great mission before us prosperity was not sufficient, adversity had also its training; to taste the glory of power and beneficence and joy was not sufficient, the knowledge of weakness and torture and humiliation was also needed; it was not enough that we should be able to fill the role of the merciful sage and the beneficent king, we had also to experience in our own persons the feelings of the outcaste and the slave.

***

October 23, 1907

������� There is a cant phrase which is always on our lips in season and out of season, and it is the cry for unity. We call it a cant phrase because those who use it, have not the slightest conception of what they mean when they use it, but simply employ it as an effective formula to discourage independence in thought and progressiveness in action. It is not the reality of united thought and action which they desire, it is merely the appearance of unity.... It is a habit of mind born of the spirit of dependence and weakness. It is a fosterer of falsehood and encourages cowardice and insincerity. �Be your views what they may, suppress them, for they will spoil our unity; swallow your principles, they will spoil our unity; do not battle for what you think to be the right, it will spoil our unity; leave necessary things undone, for the attempt to do them will spoil our unity;� this is the cry. The prevalence of a dead and lifeless unity is the true index of national degradation, quite as much as the prevalence of a living unity is the index of national greatness.

***

December 6, 1907

������� [The British] began of course long ago, the attempt to make capital of the religious diversities of Indian society and recently the policy of setting the Mahomedans as a counterpoise to the Hindus has been openly adopted. In the new Legislative Councils the Mahomedans are to have representation not as children of the soil, an integral portion of one Indian people, but as a politically distinct and hostile interest which will, it is hoped, outweigh or at least nullify the Hindus.... The Hindus have become self-conscious, they have heard a voice that cries to them, �Arise from the dead, live and follow me,� and they are irresistibly growing into a living and powerful political force.

������� ...

������� The latest brilliant device [of the British bureaucracy] is an attempt to reshuffle the constituent elements of Indian politics and sort them out afresh on the basis not only of creed, but of caste.... [Caste] has not and should not be allowed to have any political meaning.

***

December 17, 1907

������� When the word of the Eternal has gone abroad, when the spirit moves over the waters and the waters stir and life begins to form, then it is a law that all energies are forced to direct themselves, consciously or unconsciously, willingly or against their will, to the one supreme work of the time, the formation of the new manifest and organised life which is in process of creation....

������� Nationalism depends for its success on the awakening and organising of the whole strength of the nation; it is therefore vitally important for Nationalism that the politically backward classes should be awakened and brought into the current of political life; the great mass of orthodox Hinduism which was hardly even touched by the old Congress movement, the great slumbering mass of Islam which has remained politically inert throughout the last century, the shopkeepers, the artisan class, the immense body of illiterate and ignorant peasantry, the submerged classes, even the wild tribes and races still outside the pale of Hindu civilisation, Nationalism can afford to neglect and omit none....

������� What Nationalism asks is for life first and above all things; life, and still more life, is its cry. Let us by every means get rid of the pall of death which stifled us, let us dispel first the passivity, quiescence, the unspeakable oppression of inertia which has so long been our curse; that is the first and imperative need.

***


(On December 27, 1907, the Nationalist party, with Sri Aurobindo presiding over its conference, broke away from the Congress Moderates at the tumultuous Surat session over the latter's refusal to reaffirm the demands of Swaraj, Swadeshi, Boycott and National Education, which had been adopted at the previous Calcutta session under the presidentship of Dadabhai Naoroji. It was going to take the Congress another twenty-two years to declare complete independence for its goal.)

January 19, 1908

(A few days after the Surat events, Sri Aurobindo had in Baroda a first decisive experience, that of Nirvana or the Brahman consciousness. Henceforth all his activities, including his speeches and writings, flowed from an �absolute silence of the mind.�

On his way back to Calcutta, Sri Aurobindo was asked to speak at many places. A few excerpts from a speech he gave before a large gathering at the Mahajan Wadi in Bombay:)

������� Belief is not a merely intellectual process, belief is not a mere persuasion of the mind, belief is something that is in our heart, and what you believe, you must do, because belief is from God. It is to the heart that God speaks, it is in the heart that God resides.... Here is a work that you have undertaken, a work so gigantic, so stupendous, the means for which are so poor, the resistance to which will be so strong, so organised ... and what means have you with which to carry out this tremendous work of yours? If you look at it intellectually, it is hopeless.... This intellectual process, if it is used honestly, if it is followed to the very end, leads you to despair. It leads you to death.

������� ...

������� What is the one thing needful? What is it that has helped the older men [of the Nationalist movement] who have gone to prison?... They have had one and all of them consciously or unconsciously one over-mastering idea, one idea which nothing can shake, and this was the idea that there is a great Power at work to help India, and that we are doing what it bids us.... They have this conviction within, not in the intellect but in the heart, that the Power that is guiding them is invincible, that it is Almighty, that it is immortal and irresistible and that it will do its work. They have nothing to do. They have simply to obey that Power. They have simply to go where it leads them. They have only to speak the words that it tells them to speak, and to do the thing that it tells them to do.... He himself is behind us. He himself is the worker and the work. He is immortal in the hearts of his people....

������� When you believe in God, when you believe that God is guiding you, believe that God is doing all and that you are doing nothing,�what is there to fear?... There is nothing to fear.... What can all these tribunals, what can all the powers of the world do to that which is within you, that Immortal, that Unborn and Undying One, whom the sword cannot pierce, whom the fire cannot burn, and whom the water cannot drown? Him the jail cannot confine and the gallows cannot end. What is there that you can fear when you are conscious of him who is within you? Courage is then a necessity, courage is natural and courage is inevitable.... You are protected through life and death by One who survives in the very hour of death, you feel your immortality in the hour of your worst sufferings, you feel you are invincible....

������� Try to realise the strength within you, try to bring it forward, so that everything you do may be not your own doing, but the doing of that Truth within you. Try so that every hour that you live shall be enlightened by that presence, that every thought of yours shall be inspired from that one fountain of inspiration, that every faculty and quality in you may be placed at the service of that immortal Power within you.... The leader is within yourselves.

***

February 19, 1908

������� When a great people rises from the dust, what mantra is the sanjivani mantra or what power is the resurrecting force of its resurgence? In India there are two great mantras, the mantra of �Bande Mataram� which is the public and universal cry of awakened love of Motherland, and there is another more secret and mystic which is not yet revealed.

***

February 20, 1908

������� Truth is the rock on which the world is built. Satyena tisthate jagat. Falsehood can never be the true source of strength. When falsehood is at the root of a movement, that movement is doomed to failure. Diplomacy can only help a movement if the movement proceeds upon truth. To make diplomacy the root-principle is to contravene the laws of existence.

***

February 22, 1908

������� Whatever plans we may make, we shall find quite useless when the time for action comes. Revolutions are always full of surprises, and whoever thinks he can play chess with a revolution will soon find how terrible is the grasp of God and how insignificant the human reason before the whirlwind of His breath. That man only is likely to dominate the chances of a Revolution, who makes no plans but preserves his heart pure for the will of God to declare itself. The great rule of life is to have no schemes but one unalterable purpose. If the will is fixed on the purpose it sets itself to accomplish, then circumstances will suggest the right course; but the schemer finds himself always tripped up by the unexpected.

***

February 24, 1908

������� National education cannot be defined briefly in one or two sentences, but we may describe it tentatively as the education which starting with the past and making full use of the present builds up a great nation. Whoever wishes to cut off the nation from its past is no friend of our national growth. Whoever fails to take advantage of the present is losing us the battle of life. We must therefore save for India all that she has stored up of knowledge, character and noble thought in her immemorial past. We must acquire for her the best knowledge that Europe can give her and assimilate it to her own peculiar type of national temperament. We must introduce the best methods of teaching humanity has developed, whether modern or ancient. And all these we must harmonise into a system which will be impregnated with the spirit of self-reliance so as to build up men and not machines....

***

March 5, 1908

������� India is the guru of the nations, the physician of the human soul in its profounder maladies; she is destined once more to new-mould the life of the world....

***

March 6, 1908

������� When the poison of Western education was first poured into our veins, it had its immediate effect, and the Hindus [of Bengal], who were then the majority of the Bengali-speaking population, began to stream away from the village to the town....

������� Only the race which does not sacrifice the soundness of its rural root of life to the urban brilliance of its foliage and flowering, is in a sound condition and certain of permanence.... We must now turn to the one field of work in this direction which we have most neglected, the field of agriculture. The return to the land is as essential to our salvation as the development of Swadeshi or the fight against famine. If we train our young men to go back to the fields, they will be able to become mentors, leaders and examples to the village population.... The problem is urgent in its call for a solution, and the mere organisation of village associations will be only partially effective if it is not backed up by a system of instruction which will bring the educated Hindu back to the soil as a farmer himself and a local leader of the peasantry of the race.

***

March 16, 1908

������� It has been said that democracy is based on the rights of man; it has been replied that it should rather take its stand on the duties of man; but both rights and duties are European ideas. Dharma is the Indian conception in which rights and duties lose the artificial antagonism created by a view of the world which makes selfishness the root of action, and regain their deep and eternal unity. Dharma is the basis of democracy which Asia must recognise, for in this lies the distinction between the soul of Asia and the soul of Europe.

***

March 28, 1908

������� We are Hindus and naturally spiritual in our temperament, because the work which we have to do for humanity is a work which no other nation can accomplish.... The grand workshop of spiritual experiment, the laboratory of the soul has been India....

***

March 31, 1908

������� The increasing poverty of the masses has been the subject of innumerable pamphlets, speeches and newspaper articles, but we are apt to think our duty done when we have proved that the poverty problem is there; we leave the solution to the future and forget that by the time the solution comes, the masses will have sunk into a condition of decay from which it will take the nation many decades to recover. We have been accustomed to deal only with the economical side of this poverty, but there is a moral side which is even more important. The Indian peasantry have always been distinguished from the less civilised masses of Europe by their superior piety, gentleness, sobriety, purity, thrift and native intelligence. They are now being brutalised by unexampled oppression; attracted to the liquor shops which a benevolent Government liberally supplies, bestialised by the example of an increasingly immoral aristocracy and gradually driven to the same habits of looseness and brutality which disgrace the European proletariats. This degeneration is proceeding with an alarming rapidity. In some parts of the country it has gone so far that recovery seems impossible.... We have heard of villages where the liquor shop and the prostitute, institutions unknown twenty-five years ago, have now the mastery of the poorest villagers. Many of the villages in West Bengal are now well supplied with these essentials of Western civilisation.... These conditions of the worst districts tend to become general and unless something is done to stem the tide of evil, it will sweep away the soul of India in its turbid current and leave only a shapeless monstrosity of all that is worst in human nature.

***

April 11, 1908

������� The Mother's feet are on the threshold, but she waits to hear the true cry, the cry that rushes out from the heart, before she will enter.... The Mother asks us for no schemes, no plans, no methods. She herself will provide the schemes, the plans, the methods better than any we can devise. She asks us for our hearts, our lives, nothing less, nothing more.

������� ...

������� Regeneration is literally re-birth, and re-birth comes not by the intellect, not by the fullness of the purse, not by policy, not by change of machinery, but by the getting of a new heart, by throwing away all that we were into the fire of sacrifice and being reborn in the Mother. Self-abandonment is the demand made upon us. She asks of us, �How many will live for me? How many will die for me?� and awaits our answer.

***

April 12, 1908

������� Do not be afraid of obstacles in your path, it does not matter how great the forces are that stand in your way.... Do not think that anything is impossible when miracles are being worked on every side. If you are true to yourself there is nothing to be afraid of. There is nothing unattainable by truth, love and faith. This is your whole gospel which will work out miracles.

***

April 14, 1908

������� Distrust is the atmosphere of modern politics, mutual suspicion and hatred the secret spring of action. Under the fair outside of its material civilisation, a deep-seated moral disease is at work eating into the vitals of European society of which a thousand symptoms strike the eye.... If India follows in the footsteps of Europe, accepts her political ideals, social system, economic pr