Sri Aurobindo in Bengal, Part 17

“…day after day, He showed me His wonders and made me realise the utter truth of the Hindu religion….
“…In the communion of Yoga two messages came. The first message said, ‘I have given you a work and it is to help to uplift this nation. Before long the time will come when you will have to go out of jail, for it is not my will that this time either you should be convicted or that you should pass the time, as others have to do, in suffering for their country. I have called you to work, and that is the Adesha for which you have asked. I give you the Adesha to go forth and do my work.’ The second message came and it said, ‘Something has been shown to you in this year of seclusion, something about which you had your doubts, and it is the truth of the Hindu religion. It is this religion that I am raising up before the world, it is this that I have perfected and developed through the Rishis, saints and Avatars, and now it is going forth to do my work among the nations. I am raising up this nation to send forth my word. This is the Sanatana Dharma, this is the eternal religion which you did not really know before, but which I have now revealed to you…. When therefore it is said that India shall rise, it is the Sanatana Dharma that shall rise. When it is said that India shall be great, it is the Sanatana Dharma that shall be great. When it is said that India shall expand and extend herself, it is the Sanatana Dharma that shall expand and extend itself over the world. It is for the Dharma and by the Dharma that India exists. To magnify the religion means to magnify the country. I have shown you that I am everywhere and in all men and in all things, that I am in this movement, and I am not only working in those who are striving for the country but I am working also in those who oppose them and stand in their path. I am working in everybody and whatever men may think or do they can do nothing but help in my purpose. They are also doing my work, they are not my enemies but my instruments. In all your actions you are moving forward without knowing which way you move. You mean to do one thing and you do another. You aim at a result and your efforts subserve one that is different or contrary. It is Shakti that has gone forth and entered into the people. Since long ago I have been preparing this uprising and now the time has come and it is 1 who will lead it to its fulfilment.’”

“…But what is the Hindu religion? What is this religion which we call Sanatana, eternal? It is the Hindu religion only because the Hindu nation has kept it, because in this Peninsula it grew up in the seclusion of the sea and the Himalayas, because in this sacred and ancient land it was given as a charge to the Aryan race to preserve through the ages. But it is not circumscribed by the confines of a single country, it does not belong peculiarly and for ever to a bounded part of the world. That which we call the Hindu religion is really the eternal religion, because it is the universal religion which embraces all others. If a religion is not universal, it cannot be eternal. A narrow religion, a sectarian religion, an exclusive religion can live only for a limited time and a limited purpose. This is the one religion that can triumph over materialism by including and anticipating the discoveries of science and the speculations of philosophy. It is the one religion which impresses on mankind the closeness of God to us and embraces in its compass all the possible means by which man can approach God. It is the one religion which insists every moment on the truth which all religions acknowledge that He is in all men and all things and that in Him we move and have our being. It is the one religion which enables us not only to understand and believe this truth but to realise it with every part of our being. It is the one religion which shows the world what the world is, that it is the Lila of Vasudeva. It is the one religion which shows us how we can best play our part in that Lila, its subtlest laws and its noblest rules. It is the one religion which does not separate life in any smallest detail from religion, which knows what immortality is and has utterly removed from us the reality of death.”

Uttarpara Speech by Sri Aurobindo

On 6th May, 1909, the Alipore Sessions judge, Mr. Beachcroft, who was Sri Aurobindo’s classfellow at Cambridge, acquitted Sri Aurobindo of all charges and released him. The release was foreknown to Sri Aurobindo, because it had been promised and predicted by God to him. God had destined a much vaster role for him than that of a mere political leader. Outwardly, his release was a signal triumph of the devoted, self-sacrificing services of C.R. Das. Along with Sri Aurobindo, Devavrata Bose, Narendra Bakshi, Nolini Gupta, Bejoy Nag, Purna Sen etc. were also released. C.R. Das appealed to the High Court on behalf of the other accused, some of whom had been sentenced to death. Barin and Ullaskar had their death sentences commuted into transportation for life.

After his release, Sri Aurobindo put up at the office of Sanjivani, the organ edited by his uncle, Krishna Kumar Mitra, who was at that time in Agra jail. The political atmosphere of the country was bleak and forlorn. Most of the leaders were either in jail or away from India. There was discontent seething underground, but the surface was deceptively calm. Bureaucratic repression had only intensified national indignation which bided its time for an explosion. And Sri Aurobindo stood alone to revive the patriotic fire and direct it through effective channels.

He was invited to Uttarpara, a small town some miles from Calcutta, to speak at the annual meeting of the Dharma Rakshini Sabha. He delivered there his famous Uttarpara Speech, from which we have quoted some lines above, which was a revelation of some of the spiritual experiences he had in the jail and of his changed outlook on life and its divine potentials and destiny. Amarendra Chatterji, who had gone from Uttarpara to fetch Sri Aurobindo for speaking to the Sanatana Dharma Rakshini Sabha, writes, “I went to the Sanjivani office to fetch Sri Aurobindo. I saw him there absolutely quiet, as if he was in meditation. So I did not talk long with him. We went by train to Uttarpara. Many of the audience also came there by the same train. The train arrived at 3 o’clock. The time for the meeting was 5.30 p.m. The jamindar of Uttarpara, Raja Pyari Mohan, and his son Michhri Babu had come to the station to receive Sri Aurobindo. After taking a little rest and tea at the house of Surendranath Chattopadhyaya a regular procession was organised. The meeting was fixed at the open courtyard of the Library on the eastern side, on the west bank of the Ganges. Sri Aurobindo was the only speaker. There were about ten thousand men in the audience. His voice was not voluminous and so the audience kept pin-drop silence in order to be able to hear him.

“He was heard in pin-drop silence. The reception he got was extraordinary….”[1]

On the 19th June Sri Aurobindo launched a weekly paper — Karmayogin in English, devoted to nationalism, religion, literature, science, philosophy etc. It was to be the mouthpiece of his new visions and aspirations, and his global envisaging of the future of India and the world. It was widely acclaimed, and had not therefore, to struggle against financial difficulties, as its predecessor, Bande Mataram, had to do. In the very first editorial of the first issue, under the caption, Ourselves, Sri Aurobindo wrote: “The Karmayogin comes into the field to fulfil a function which an increasing tendency in the country demands. The life of the nation which once flowed in a broad and single stream has long been severed into a number of separate meagre and shallow channels. The two main floods have followed the paths of religion and politics, but they have flowed separately. Our political activity has crept in a channel cut for European or Europeanised minds; it tended always to a separate wideness, but was deficient in depth and volume. The national genius, originality, individuality poured itself into religion, while our politics were imitative and unreal. Yet without a living political activity national life cannot, under modern circumstances, survive. So also there has been a stream of social life, more and more muddied and disturbed, seeking to get clearness, depth, largeness, freedom, and always failing and increasing in weakness or distraction. There was a stream too of industrial life, faint and thin, the poor survival of the old vigorous Indian artistic and industrial capacity murdered by unjust laws and an unscrupulous trade policy. All these ran in disconnected channels, sluggish, scattered and ineffectual. The tendency is now for these streams to unite again into one mighty, invincible and grandiose flood. To assist that tendency, to give voice and definiteness to the deeper aspirations now forming obscurely within the national consciousness is the chosen work of the Karmayogin.

***

“There is no national life perfect or sound without the caturvarṇya. The life of the nation must contain within itself the life of the Brahmin, — spirituality, knowledge, learning, high and pure ethical aspiration and endeavour; the life of the Kshatriya, — manhood and strength, moral and physical, the love of battle, the thirst for glory, the sense of honour, chivalry, self-devotion, generosity, grandeur of soul; the life of the Vaishya, — trade, industry, thrift, prosperity, benevolence, philanthropy; the life of the Shudra, — honesty, simplicity, labour, religious and quiet service to the nation even in the humblest position and the most insignificant kind of work. The cause of India’s decline was the practical disappearance of the Kshatriya and the dwindling of the Vaishya. The whole political history of India since the tyranny of the Nandas has been an attempt to resuscitate or replace the Kshatriya. But the attempt was only partially successful. The Vaishya held his own for a long time, indeed, until the British advent by which he has almost been extinguished. When the caturvarṇya disappears, there comes vamasaṅkara, utter confusion of the great types which keep a nation vigorous and sound. The Kshatriya dwindled, the Vaishya dwindled, the Brahmin and Shudra were left. The inevitable tendency was for the Brahmin type to disappear and the first sign of his disappearance was utter degeneracy, the tendency to lose himself and while keeping some outward signs of the Brahmin to gravitate towards Shudrahood. In the Kaliyuga the Shudra is powerful and attracts into himself the less vigorous Brahmin, as the earth attracts purer but smaller bodies, and the brahmatej, the spiritual force of the latter, already diminished, dwindles to nothingness. For the Satyayuga to return, we must get back the brahmatej and make it general. For the brahmatej is the basis of all the rest and in the Satyayuga all men have it more or less and by it the nation lives and is great.

“All this is, let us say, a parable. It is more than a parable, it is a great truth. But our educated class have become so unfamiliar with the deeper knowledge of their forefathers that it has to be translated into modern European terms before they can understand it. For it is the European ideas alone that are real to them and the great truths of Indian thought seem to them mere metaphors, allegories and mystic parables. So well has British education done its fatal denationalising work in India.

“…And the two highest castes are the least easy to be spared. If they survive in full strength, they can provide themselves with the two others, but if either the Kshatriya or the Brahmin goes, if either the political force or the spiritual force of a nation is lost, that nation is doomed unless it can revive or replace the missing strength. And of the two the Brahmin is the most important. He can always create the Kshatriya; spiritual force can always raise up material force to defend it. But if the Brahmin becomes the Shudra, then the lower instinct of the serf and the labourer becomes all in all, the instinct to serve and seek a living as one supreme object of life, the instinct to accept safety as a compensation for lost greatness and inglorious ease and dependence in place of the ardours of high aspiration for the nation and the individual. When spirituality is lost all is lost. This is the fate from which we have narrowly escaped by the resurgence of the soul of India in Nationalism.

“But that resurgence is not yet complete. There is the sentiment of Indianism, there is not yet the knowledge. There is a vague idea, there is no definite conception or deep insight. We have yet to know ourselves, what we were, are and may be; what we did in the past and what we are capable of doing in the future; our history and our mission. This is the first and most important work which the Karmayogin sets for itself, to popularise this knowledge. And the second thing is how to use these assets so as to swell the sum of national life and produce the future. It is easy to appraise their relations to the past; it is more difficult to give them their place in the future. The third thing is to know the outside world and its relation to us and how to deal with it. That is the problem which we find at present the most difficult and insistent, but its solution depends on the solution of the others.

“We have said that brahmatej is the thing we need most of all and first of all… what the Europeans mean by religion is not brahmatej; which is rather spirituality, the force and energy of thought and action arising from communion with or self-surrender to that within us which rules the world…. This force and energy can be directed to any purpose God desires for us; it is sufficient to knowledge, love or service; it is good for the liberation of an individual soul, the building of a nation or the turning of a tool. It works from within, it works in the power of God, it works with superhuman energy. The reawakening of that force in three hundred millions of men by the means which our past has placed in our hands, that is our object.”


[1] Life of Sri Aurobindo — A.B. Purani.

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