THE VYASA OF THE PRESENT AGE
A Rishi is characterised by his seer-vision. Whatever he writes or states is like something seen before the very eyes and described in toto with minute precision right to the inmost depths. Such is Nolini Kanta, our Nolinida, as he is revealed through his writings.
For nearly half a century, his prolific pen served both Bengali and English literature with volumes of writings whose proper value remains as yet to be grasped by the present Age — maybe the future will do the needful. Once his name was suggested by one of his ardent lovers to be included in the panel of names for the Deshikottam title — the highest honour conferred by Vishwa Bharati University. But, alas! the Deshikottam title was deprived of the honour of being associated with a divine personality such as Nolinida.
His seer-vision rightly brought out the truth in essence in his estimate of things literary or otherwise creative, of persons and of circumstances. This is amply illustrated in his writings but his estimate of Sri Aurobindo justifies the title of this article as we see him, visualising the movements of the Divine Incarnate and enumerating the truth of his teachings and ideals like Veda Vyasa of ancient times. While speaking about “The Ideal of Sri Aurobindo”, how beautifully and with what emphasis he writes: “Our ideal — the ideal of Sri Aurobindo — we may say without much ado, is to divinise the human, immortalise the mortal, spiritualise the material. Is the ideal possible? Is it practicable? Our task will be precisely, first of all, to show that it is possible, next that it is probable and finally that it is inevitable.” He literally finishes his task in the article by bringing forth with his seer-vision “the essential unity and identity of the duality” that we see “between Matter and Spirit, between body and soul or between the human and the divine” and has shown that “spiritualisation of Matter is an inevitable consummation that is being worked out by evolutionary Nature”. He goes on to say in continuance of his prophetic vision: “Matter will yield completely, and life-power too, only to the direct touch and embrace of the Divine’s own self.”
As if to put his seal on my statement, he continues: “In this age we stand at some such critical juncture in Nature’s evolutionary history. Its full implications, the exact degree of immediate achievement, the form and manner of the Descent are things that remain veiled till the fact is accomplished. Something of it is revealed, however, to the eye of vision and the heart of faith…”
In his article “The Message of Sri Aurobindo” how beautifully in a plain and simple way he packs the sum and substance of all that Sri Aurobindo says, in a single sentence: “… Man is growing and has to grow in consciousness till he reaches the complete and perfect consciousness, not only in his individual, but in his collective, that is to say, social life.”
He quotes Sri Aurobindo formulating the stages of human evolution — “Family, nationality, humanity are Vishnu’s three strides from an isolated to a collective unity. The first has been fulfilled, we yet strive for the perfection of the second, towards the third we are reaching out our hands and the pioneer work is already attempted” — and then the seer Vyasa in him promptly adds: “But the supreme secret lies in Vishnu’s fourth stride, from humanity to divinity. That is the goal of the evolution….”
Commenting on the general tendency of the bulk of humanity to leave Sri Aurobindo aside at the moment on the plea that “His ideal of a divine life upon earth… is not of today or even of tomorrow” and hence “One has to live first, live materially before one can hope to live spiritually”, the Vyasa in him burst forth as if to inspire the present age to follow the path of the incarnate Divine: “To say that because an ideal is apparently too high or too great for the present age, it must be kept in cold storage is to set a premium on the present nature of humanity and eternise it: that would bind the world to its old moorings and never give it the opportunity to be free and go out into the high seas of larger and greater realisations.
“The highest ideal, the very highest which God and Nature and Man have in view, is not and cannot be kept in cold storage: it is being worked out even here and now, and it has to be worked out here and now.” And comparing the time taken for the first manifestation of life in dead Matter in the form of the plant world, followed by the other stages of animal and human forms appearing on earth, he says that even though the age of animal life was much shorter than that of plant life — since “man is already more than a million or two years old — it is fully time that a higher order of being should be created out of him”.
He understood Sri Aurobindo and the Mother to the core so as to recognise their impersonal personality and adore them or rather live them accordingly. In his salutations to Sri Aurobindo he defines the greatness of a person as “the greatness of the impersonal in him” and goes on to say: “Sri Aurobindo from his very birth was such an impersonal personality — and, in the very highest sense”. But he knew that his mantric utterance might not be fully grasped by the human heart and intellect. So he explains later that this “impersonalisation is in reality a re-personalisation”, that is to say, not “a complete negation and annihilation of all personality” but in reality “the replacement of the ego by the true person”, and he finally elucidates that the “impersonalisation involves or culminates in divinisation which means the descent of the Divine, the supreme Person” and that “such is the content of Sri Aurobindo’s consciousness, such is the work that is being pursued under the stress of that consciousness towards the realisation of a new, a divine world” — like Vyasa’s revealing assessment for the men of his time who did not understand what Sri Krishna stood for.
His seer-vision, the vision of light, penetrates the inner world and atmosphere created by the Words of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and he says or rather describes, while answering the questions — “why do we read the works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother? And if we read them, how to read them?” — thus: “The real purpose of coming in contact with the words of Mother and Sri Aurobindo is to become conscious, to acquire consciousness, to be more and more conscious, increase more and more in consciousness… To understand, that is to say, to seize by the mind, to grasp intellectually the writings of Mother and Sri Aurobindo is rather difficult. The easier, the more right way would be to enter into the atmosphere of the world that they have created with their words, to feel the vibration that the words emanate”. This reminds me of what he said in connection with my comparing his translations of Savitri into Bengali with the original: “Don’t try to get the meaning mentally. Read in between the lines, the white portions so to say, not with your mind but with your heart and try to grasp the atmosphere, the world these words create and carry”.
While commenting on the works of Sri Aurobindo, specially his poems and dramas, the seer Nolini Kanta describes the three words namely “Love conquering Death” to be “the central theme, the core of inspiration running through the whole of his (Sri Aurobindo’s) Poetic world culminating in the grand symphony of Savitri”. He further describes love and death thus: “It is the ego that ties man down to his lower consciousness which is the domain of death, and the only antidote of egoism is love, love human or divine.” Love depicted in the plays of Sri Aurobindo is according to Nolini Kanta, “divinely noble and beautiful… if it cannot claim to be the very delight of Brahman (Brahmananda) yet it is as the ancients declared, Brakmānanda-sahodara consanguineous, of one blood with Divine Delight.”
We have so far seen the Vyasa of the present Age revealing to us what the Incarnate Divine of the age stood for. But it would be no less absorbing to see how the seer looked into every aspect of life in its entirety — even in its socio-political and other subtle aspects of intricate human relations.
In his book The Coming Race containing a dozen of revelatory articles he envisages the coming of a new species upon earth in no uncertain terms and feels vividly that “the world is in the throes of a new creation and the pangs of that new birth have made Mother Earth restless.” He goes on to say that “the New Man — the divine race of humanity is already among us…. Only a thin veil covers it.” Then he visualises the New Man to be “what man is not, also what man is” and declares that “the New Man will be Master — and not slave… by being Swarat, Self-Master, he will become Samrat, World-master.” Then he shakes humanity with a volcanic explosion by pin-pointing the ultimate question “who among us are ready to be its (New Man’s) receptacle, its instrument and embodiment?”
According to him “every individual being lives to discover and to create.” And how strongly he inspires us to become the God in us saying: “It does not prove anything that I cannot become a Kalidasa, for that matter Kalidasa cannot become what I am… Not to do what others do, but what your soul impels you to do. Not to be others but your own self.”
While speaking on “Rationalism” — he beautifully admits that “Reason has this miraculous power of self-destruction or,… Reason is, at best, an organ of self-criticism and perhaps the organ par excellence for that purpose… but unless it gives up its exclusive absolutism, it will be perforce arbitrary and misleading.”
He gives as “the Mantra of the new age — Life with intuition as its guide and not Reason and mechanical efficiency, not Man but Superman.”
The world knows Nietzsche to be “all storm and fury” who wants to seize the kingdom of Heaven by violence like a titan, an asura. His “Superman is one who is the embodiment of greatest force.” But there is another aspect of Nietzsche which the Vyasa’s vision brings to light thus: “Nietzsche has an aristocratic taste par excellence — what he aims at is health and vigour and beauty. But above all it is an aristocracy of the Spirit… What Nietzsche wanted was a world purged of littleness and ugliness, a humanity, not of saints, perhaps, but of heroes, lofty in their ideal, great in their achievement, majestic in their empire — a race of titanic gods breathing the glory of heaven itself.”
His comments on Marxism bear the testimony of the Vyasa in him when he says that the two principal concepts of Marx viz. a change in the rulers will change the nature of action and reaction in a state or society and the majority determines the right to everything, are wrong. The proletariats or the shudras must attain to the status of brahmins by following a rigorous discipline and sadhana before this ruling of the country by the masses can hope to become successful.
“Communism”, as he sees it, “is the synthesis of collectivism and individualism”, and this ideal or spiritual communism according to him is like the stars, the planets and the nebulae each of which “has its characteristic form and nature and function and yet all fulfil the same law of gravitation and beat the measure of the silent symphony of spaces.” But as it is practised now-a-days and applied as a panacea, the bare truth about it according to him is this: “Communism cannot save humanity. For if it means the Dictatorship of the proletariat, well, a healthy normal society will not bear or tolerate it long… A Lenin cannot prevent the advent of a Stalin… The class struggle… is a postulate all are not bound to accept… Man does not live by bread alone…. not even culture — the kind admitted by Communism… can be the be-all and end-all of human civilisation…. As a matter of fact Communism is best taken as a symptom of the disease society suffers from and not as a remedy.” He reflects on other isms like socialism, nationalism, internationalism and lastly even humanism also, to show their inadequacy to remedy all the ills humanity suffers from and finally the Vyasa in him declares: “Until and unless man surpasses himself, finds a focus and fulcrum outside and beyond his normal human — too human — self, he cannot entirely and radically change his nature and rebuild his society on an altogether different pattern. Man has to reach his divine status, become the Divine, within and outside, body and soul; then only can the ills to which he is exposed totally vanish and then alone can he enjoy individually and collectively a perfect life on earth.” But he knew that human beings would feel the task to be next to impossible, so he further adds to assure them, saying: “Naturally man is not expected to accomplish this mighty work alone and unaided, he can rest assured and comforted, for Nature herself is moving inexorably towards that consummation.”
About duty and Dharma he states: “The path of duty is heroic, the path of Dharma is of the gods, godly” — while he explains the superiority of Dharma over duty thus: “One has to compel oneself, one has to use force on oneself to carry out one’s duty — there is a feeling somehow of its being a bitter pill…. Dharma is not an ideal, a standard or a rule that one has to obey: it is the law of self-nature that one inevitably follows, it is easy, spontaneous, delightful.”
While commenting on the World War II and the Nazi Germany under Hitler, the seer the Vyasa categorically says: “The outrages committed by Spain in America, the oppression of the Christians by Imperial Rome, were wrong and, in many cases, even inhuman and unpardonable. But when we compare with what Nazi Germany has done in Poland or wants to do throughout the world, we find that there is a difference between the two not only in degree, but in kind. One is an instance of the weakness of man, of his flesh being frail; the other illustrates the might of the Asura, his very spirit is unwilling. One is undivine, the other antidivine, positively hostile…. The whole future of mankind, the entire value of earthly life, depends upon the issue of the present deadly combat… between the Asura and men, the human instruments of the gods… India’s destiny today hangs in the balance; it lies in the choice of her path.”
While speaking about the Atom Bomb he sees clearly that it is a warning — reason and moral sense could not move man, so Fear has been sent by the Divine Grace “that unless man changes, becomes master of himself, he cannot be truly master of the world. He cannot command the forces he has unleashed unless he has command over his own nature. The external immensity, the bloated mass that his physical attainments are, unless armoured and animated by an inner growth, will crash by its own weight.”
He visualises the ideal of internationalism in a single sentence thus: “Humanity is one and all nations are free and yet interdependent members of that one and single organism.”
In his book The Malady of the Century how clearly he sees the malady of the age and states specifically in a pregnant statement: “What is the malady of our age? It is that man has lost touch with his soul.”
According to the seer, “the modern age in its wide curiosity has neglected the penetrative and intensive movement and is therefore marred by superficiality… Even the entrance into the world of atoms and cells — of protons and electrons, of chromosomes and genes — is not really a penetrative or intensive movement… The microscope is only an inverted telescope.” While shedding light on a possible reconciliation of Asia and Europe Nolini Kanta says: “It is Asia who grasps the Truth with the hand of the Master, the Truth in its full and absolute truth and it is Asia who can show in fact and life how to embody it integrally… And Europe in accepting or embracing Asia comes back to the fountain-head of her own inner being and nature.”
How concretely he sees “The spiritual genius of India” and utters like a mantra: “Other peoples may be the arms and the feet and the head of Humanity, but India is its heart, its soul” and by way of explanation adds: “for she cherishes always within her the Truth that lives for ever, the flaming God-head, the Immortal awake in mortality, as say the Vedas, amrto martyeṣu ṛtāvā.
We all are, at one time or other, deploring the present state of affairs in our country so far as the tendency to imitate Europe and to take life in terms of “eat, drink and be merry”, — wild seeking after material enjoyment and comfort and pleasures of life; even the knowledge of material science, in its outlook and development, is biased apparently by this strong upsurge. But the seer-vision of Nolini Kanta pierces the veil of appearance and sees that this new movement dawning in India of the new age is a sign of an attempt to synthesise the utter detachment of India and exclusive attachment of Europe, a synthesis which the genius of Europe could not even comprehend and even the wider and superior teachings and ideals of ancient India could not successfully make it effective.
While speaking about the collective life of human beings how beautifully he describes the development of sangha from samaj. It is the ignorant urge of the human beings to live together to meet the demands of body and life that created the samaj or society. But when they became conscious under the influence of the mind by virtue of the evolution of the mental faculty, they created a collective life and a collectivity which is called the sangha; with the evolution of the supermind, what sort of collective life and collectivity they will create is not yet revealed in name and form because prior to that the truth and nature of the supermind must first be established here on earth.
Then again, Nolini Kanta the seer sees the Irish sadhana for independence achieving the siddhi through three distinct steps or stages viz. first in the field of mind through the sadhana of their poets like A. E. and Yeats, second in the field of life through the sadhana for daily living with the help of cooperatives guided by leaders like George Russel and Plunkett and these two ultimately opened the vistas for the third in the field of the body through the sadhana of Griffith, De Vallera etc. for the liberation of Ireland — the political liberation of the country. He describes that the deficiency of India’s freedom movement lies in the fact that we are trying to jump from the first to the third without taking care of the second which is vital in the true sense of the term.
While speaking about the distinction between a true artist and a saint or a common human being he states that the true artist is a Rishi — his vision of things is not limited by the ignorance of the common man or by the sense of sin and virtue of a saint. He sees the truth in essence of things as it is and enjoys it as it is.
In his unique appreciation of Rabindranath as a poet and a seer he says: “A great literature seems to have almost invariably a great name attached to it, one name by which it is known and recognised as great… Such a great name is Rabindranath Tagore in Bengali literature. We need not forget Bankim Chandra, nor even Madhusudan: still one can safely declare that if Bengali language and literature belonged to any single person as its supreme liberator and fosterer — savitā and pūṣā — it is Rabindranath…. Tagore is a great poet: as such he is close to the heart of Bengal. He is a great seer: as such humanity will claim him as its own.”
To conclude, let me place before you a revelatory probe into matter where the seer — Vyasa — says: “Matter holds and expresses material energy…. what about mental energy and thought movements — can they too be made a function of Matter?…. The electronic computer seems to possess a veritable mathematical brain… may it not be capable also of poetic creation?…. To produce a first class poem through a machine at least a first class brain must work at it. But the pity is that a Shakespeare or a Milton would prefer to write straightaway a poem himself instead of trying to work it out through a machine which may give out in the end only a second class or worse production…. But… the attempt of the machine to embody or express something non-mechanical, to leap as high as possible from material objects to psychological values has a special significance for us today and is not all an amusing or crazy affair…. The yearning of Matter for Light is an extraordinary phenomenon of Nature: physically speaking, we have reached the equation of the two. But that light is only a first signpost or symbol: it invites Matter towards higher and freer vibration…. When the brain-mind indulges in fabricating clay-images of God, it is not merely a foolish or idle pastime: it indicates a deep ingrained hunger. All this reveals a will or aspiration in Matter, in what is apparently dead and obscure (acit), to move and reach out towards what is living and luminous and supremely living and luminous (cit). Matter finally is to embody and express the Spirit.”
 A Century’s Salutations to Sri Aurobindo — Nolini Kanta Gupta.
 In an introduction to Savitri, how beautifully he sums up the whole epic thus: “Savitri, the poem, the word of Sri Aurobindo, is the cosmic Answer to the cosmic Question. And Savitri, the person, the Godhead, the Divine Woman is the Divine’s response to the human aspiration.”
 Rachanavali, vol. 5, p. 5.
 Ibid., p. 17.
 Ibid., pp. 30-32.
 Ibid., p. 47.