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At the Feet of The Mother

Sri Aurobindo in Baroda, Part 5


India, my India, where first human eyes awoke to heavenly light,
All Asia’s holy place of pilgrimage, great Motherland of might!
World-mother, first giver to humankind of philosophy and sacred lore,
Knowledge thou gav’st to man, God-love, works, art, religion’s opened door.[1]

Six months after Sri Aurobindo’s arrival at Baroda, he started contributing a series of political articles under the general title, “New Lamps for Old” to Induprakash, a weekly paper edited in Bombay by his Cambridge friend, K.G. Deshpande. “They were begun at the instance of K.G. Deshpande,… but the first two articles made a sensation and frightened Ranade and other Congress leaders. Ranade warned the proprietor of the paper that, if this went on, he would surely be prosecuted for sedition. Accordingly the original plan of the series had to be dropped at the proprietor’s instance. Deshpande requested Sri Aurobindo to continue in a modified tone and he reluctantly consented, but felt no farther interest and the articles were published at long intervals and finally dropped of themselves altogether.”[2]

Regarding his interview with Mahadeo Govind Ranade, Sri Aurobindo says in his Bengali book, Kara Kahini, (The Story of my prison life): “I remember when, back home from England, fifteen years ago, I started writing in the Induprakash of Bombay, strongly protesting against the Congress policy of prayer and petition, the late Sri Mahadev Govind Ranade, seeing how these articles were acting on the minds of the youth, exhorted me, from the moment I met him, for two quarters of an hour, to leave off such writing and take up some Congress work. He wished to entrust me with the work of jail reform. I was surprised and displeased at this request and refused it.”[3] Questioned about the significance of the title of the series, Sri Aurobindo said: “This title did not refer to Indian civilisation but to Congress politics. It is not used in the sense of Aladdin story, but was intended to imply the offering of new lights to replace the old and faint reformist lights of the Congress.”[4]

The editor of the Induprakash introduced New Lamps for Old with the following statement. The series was published anonymously.

“We promised our readers sometime back a series on our present political progress by an extremely able and keen observer of the present times. We are very much pleased to give our readers the first instalment of that series. The title under which these views appear is ‘New Lamps for Old’, which is suggestive, though a metaphorical one. The preface will take us over to the next issue. The views therein contained are not those that are commonly held by our politicians, and for this reason they are very important. We have been convinced that efforts in political progress are not sustained but are lacking in vigour. Hypocrisy has been the besetting sin of our political agitation. Oblique vision is the fashion. True, matter of fact, honest criticism is very badly needed. Our institutions have no foundation and are in hourly danger of falling down. Under these circumstances, it was idle, nay criminal, to remain silent while our whole energy in political progress was spent in a wrong direction. The questions at issue are momentous. It is the making or unmaking of the nation. We have, therefore, secured a gentleman of great literary talents, of liberal culture and of considerable experience, well versed in the art of writing, at great personal inconvenience and probable misrepresentation, to give out his views in no uncertain voice, and, we may be allowed to add, in a style and direction peculiarly his own. We beseech our readers’ most careful and constant perusal on his behalf and assure them that they will find in these articles matter that will set them thinking and stir their patriotic souls.”[5]

Thus did Sri Aurobindo’s political thought launch out upon its breath-taking career. His first shots were aimed, not at the British bureaucracy who were fleecing India of all her resources and stamping out her political aspiration and initiative, but at the Indian National Congress, which had deluded itself and deluded the nation into thinking that it was India’s potential deliverer. Sri Aurobindo, as we have already seen, had followed the activities of the Congress even when he was in England. At Baroda he studied them more closely for six months; and it was with an unerring intuition that he laid his finger on the basic defects and disabilities which were standing in the way of its success. He was, in fact, the first to subject the policies and methods of the Congress to a ruthless scrutiny and incisive logic, and expose them to the nation at large. “Sri Aurobindo stands out as the first exponent of the new revolutionary political thought and idealism which inspired national effort, struggle, and suffering through half a century and achieved for India her full political freedom in 1947. It was Sri Aurobindo’s rare insight and inner vision that first detected the inherent defects of the traditional Congress method of political work which was so far based on what was rightly described as mendicant politics — the politics of small administrative reforms, passing pious Resolutions as appeals to the foreign rulers, and ignoring the fundamental need of the country, that of its total freedom from foreign rule itself.”[6]

The Congress was started more with the object of saving the British Empire from danger than with that of winning political liberty for India. The interests of the British Empire were primary, and those of India only secondary; and no one can say that the Congress has not been true to that ideal. It might be said with justice and reason that the founders of the Indian National Congress considered the maintenance of the British rule in India of vital importance to India herself.[7] The movement (of the Congress) did not appeal to the nation. The leaders lacked that faith which alone makes it possible to make great sacrifices for it.[8]

The first article of the series appeared on the 7th August, 1893.[9] Like many other English-educated Indians, Sri Aurobindo also, when he was in England, had hailed the Indian National Congress as a timely and efficient instrument of political salvation. “It is within the recollection of most of us”, said he, “to what giddy an eminence this body was raised, on how prodigious a wave of enthusiasm, against how immense a weight of resisting winds. So sudden was it all that it must have been difficult, I may almost say impossible, even for a strong man to keep his head and not follow with the shouting crowd. How shall we find words vivid enough to describe the fervour of those morning hopes, the April splendour of that wonderful enthusiasm? The Congress was to us all that is most dear, most high and most sacred; a well of living water in deserts more than Saharan, a proud banner in the battle of Liberty, and a holy temple of concord where the races met and mingled…”[10]

But it did not take long for the first impression to wear off. A closer scrutiny revealed the canker in the apple. “…If the blind lead the blind, shall they not both fall into a ditch?” … “I myself two years ago would not have admitted that it (this apophthegm of the Galilean Prophet) can be truthfully applied to the National Congress. Yet that it can be so applied, — nay, that no judicious mind can honestly pronounce any other verdict on its action, — is the first thing I must prove, if these articles are to have any raison d’être. I am quite aware that in doing this my motive and my prudence may be called into question. I am not ignorant that I am about to censure a body, which to many of my countrymen seems the mightiest outcome of our new national life; to some a precious urn in which are guarded our brightest and noblest hopes; to others a guiding star which will lead us through the encircling gloom to a far distant paradise: and if I were not fully confident that this fixed idea of ours is a snare and a delusion, likely to have the most pernicious effects, I should simply have suppressed my own doubts and remained silent. As it is, I am fully confident, and even hope to bring over one or two of my countrymen to my own way of thinking, or, if that be not possible, at any rate to induce them to think a little more deeply than they have done.”[11] This was, then, the object of this frank and forthright criticism — to induce the English-educated men to think deeply on the political problems of the country and escape from the spell of an unthinking admiration of the Congress. To awaken and stimulate the thinking mind of a subject people is to set it firmly on the road to freedom.

“…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.”[12]

If Sri Aurobindo’s indictment of the British Government is strong and sharp, his exposure and denunciation of the weaknesses of his own people is mercilessly scathing. His censure of the Congress is so ruthless, because he wishes the Congress well, and would like to see it mend its ways and become effectively national. “Our actual enemy is not any force exterior to ourselves, but our own crying weaknesses, our cowardice, our selfishness, our hypocrisy, our purblind sentimentalism. I cannot really see why we should rage so furiously against the Anglo-Indians and call them by all manner of opprobrious epithets. I grant that they are rude and arrogant, that they govern badly, that they are devoid of any great or generous emotion, that their conduct is that of a small coterie of masters surrounded by a nation of helots. But to say all this is simply to say that they are very commonplace men put into a quite unique position. Certainly it would be very grand and noble, if they were to smother all thought of their own peculiar interests, and aim henceforth, not at their own promotion, not at their own enrichment, but at the sole good of the Indian people. But such conduct we have no right to expect save from men of the most exalted and chivalrous character; and the sort of people England sends out to us are not as a rule exalted and chivalrous, but are usually the very reverse of that. They are really very ordinary men, — and not only ordinary men, but ordinary Englishmen, — types of the middle class or Philistines, in the graphic English phrase, with the narrow hearts and commercial habit of mind peculiar to that sort of people. It is something like folly to quarrel with them for not transgressing the law of their own nature. If we were not dazzled by the artificial glare of English prestige, we should at once acknowledge that these men are really not worth being angry with: and if it is idle to be angry with them, it is still more unprofitable to rate their opinion of us at more than a straw’s value. Our appeal, the appeal of every high-souled and self-respecting nation, ought not to be to the opinion of the Anglo-Indians, no, nor yet to the British sense of Justice, but to our own reviving sense of manhood, to our own sincere fellow-feeling — so far as it can be called sincere, — with the silent and suffering people of India. I am sure that eventually the nobler part of us will prevail, — that when we no longer obey the dictates of a veiled self-interest, but return to the profession of a large and genuine patriotism, when we cease to hanker after the soiled crumbs which England may cast to us from her table, then it will be to that sense of manhood, to that sincere fellow-feeling that we shall finally and forcibly appeal.”[13]

“Prompted by our English instruction we have deputed to a mere machine so arduous a business as the remoulding of our entire destinies, needing, as it does, patient and delicate manual adjustment and a constant supervising vigilance — and this to a machine not efficient and carefully pieced together but clumsy and made on a rude and cheap model. So long as this temper prevails, we shall never realise how utterly it is beyond the power of even an excellent machine to renovate an effete and impoverished national character and how palpably requisite to commence from within and not depend on any exterior agency.”[14]

“To commence from within” was the central secret of the reconstruction of national character, which Sri Aurobindo taught as early as 1893, and continued to insist upon all through his life. To touch into life the well-springs of the national being, to make its latent or dormant forces stream forth in a steady current and flow through all its fibres, to raise it from the darkness and inertia of tamas into a whirl of creative energies, and thereby bring about a radical transmutation of its whole existence in accord with the essential urges of the present and the vision and prescience of its future destiny — this was the ideal and method Sri Aurobindo consistently followed so long as he was in politics, and, with a universal sweep and a more powerful dynamic and unfaltering drive, when he was in spiritual life. Politics was the gateway through which he entered into the surging tide of the national life. But he did not remain long at the gateway. He called upon his countrymen to rally under his banner and set about clearing the foreground of the weeds that had covered the passage. He gave the initial inspiration, held up the ideal and the prospectus, and left it to those who were meant for that work to pursue the national objective on the lines chalked out by him, and himself plunged into the flood and rode the waves, in order that he might the better prepare the spiritual and psychological climate and conditions in which, and in which alone, the great destiny of India could be fully and perfectly realised. As we have said before, his politics was a prelude to his much vaster work of a universal sweep, and not just a small fragment, severed from the main body and representing a false start and a mistaken excursion.”[15]

To those who asserted that “in all ages and all countries it is the thinking classes who have led the unthinking, and in the present state of our society we are bound not only to think for ourselves, but also to think for those who are still too ignorant to exercise that important function”, Sri Aurobindo retorted: “If we are bent upon adopting England as our exemplar, we shall certainly imitate the progress of the glacier rather than the progress of the torrent. From Runnymede to Hull riots is a far cry; yet these seven centuries have done less to change partially the political and social exterior of England than five short years to change entirely the political and social exterior of her immediate neighbour. But if Mr. Ghose’s[16] dogmatic utterance is true of England, I imagine it does not apply with equal force to other climes and other eras. For example, is it at all true of France? Rather we know that the first step of that fortunate country towards progress was not through any decent and orderly expansion, but through a purification by blood and fire. It was not a convocation of respectable citizens, but the vast and ignorant proletariat that emerged from a prolonged and almost coeval apathy and blotted out in five terrible years the accumulated oppression of thirteen centuries…. Is it at all true that the initiators of Irish resistance to England were a body of successful lawyers, remarkable only for a power of shallow rhetoric, and deputed by the sort of men that are turned out at Trinity College, Dublin? At any rate that is not what History tells us…. Just as the main strength of that ancient strenuous protest resided in the Irish populace led by the princes of their class, so the principal force of the modern subtler protest resides in the Irish peasantry led by the recognised chiefs of a united people. I might go on and cull instances from Italy and America…”[17]

We have already, in the first chapter, referred to Sri Aurobindo’s love of France, which was the result of a natural attraction.[18] We have also seen how much Ram Mohan Roy admired France. And it is interesting to know that Swami Vivekananda had the same admiration for that most cultured country in Europe. In a passing comparison between England and France, Sri Aurobindo wrote: “But if we carry our glance across the English Channel, we shall witness a very different and more animating spectacle. Gifted with a lighter, subtler and clearer mind than their insular neighbours, the French people have moved irresistibly towards a social and not a political development. It is true that French orators and statesmen, incapacitated by their national character from originating fit political ideals, have adopted a set of institutions curiously blended from English and American manufactures; but the best blood, the highest thought, the real grandeur of the nation does not reside in the Senate or in the Chamber of Deputies; it resides in the artistic and municipal forces of Parisian life, in the firm settled executive, in the great vehement heart of the French populace — and that has ever beaten most highly in unison with the grand ideas of Equality and Fraternity, since they were first enounced on the banner of the great and terrible Republic…. They chose not the fierce, sharp air of English individualism, but the bright influence of art and letters, of happiness, a wide and liberal culture, and the firm consequent cohesion of their racial and social elements…. To put it in a concrete form, Paris may be said to revolve around the Theatre, the Municipal Council and the French Academy, London looks rather to the House of Commons, and New York to the Stock exchange.”[19]

“Our national effort must contract a social and popular tendency before it can hope to be great and fruitful…. The proletariat among us is sunk in ignorance and overwhelmed with distress. But with that distressed and ignorant proletariat — now that the middle class is proved deficient in sincerity, power and judgment — with that proletariat resides, whether we like it or not, our sole assurance of hope, our sole chance in the future. Yet he is set down as a vain theorist and a dreamy trifler who would raise it from its ignorance and distress. The one thing needful, we are to suppose, the one thing worthy of a great and statesman-like soul is to enlarge the Legislative Councils until they are big enough to hold Mr. Pherozeshah Mehta and other geniuses of an immoderate bulk. 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 super-imposed on a thin crust of convention is being strangely and ominously agitated.”[20]

Not only did Sri Aurobindo expose the deficiencies and errors of the Congress, but his political knowledge and insight led him to predict the dire consequences of its half-hearted and opportunist policies upon the teeming, sweating, and starving masses of the Indian people, driven to desperation by ravaging famines and the oppressive laws and levies of the Government. “Already a red danger-signal has shot up from Prabhas Pattan[21] and sped across the country, speaking with a rude eloquence of strange things beneath the fair surface of our renascent, enlightened India; yet no sooner was the signal seen than it was forgotten. Perhaps the religious complexion of these occurrences has lulled our fears; but when turbulence has once become habitual in a people, it is folly that will reckon on its preserving the original complexion. A few more taxes, a few more rash interferences of the Government, a few more stages of starvation, and the turbulence that is now religious will become social…. I again assert as our first and holiest duty the elevation and enlightenment of the proletariat….”[22]

Sri Aurobindo heard the distant rumbling of the live volcano of the “ailing and tortured” Indian proletariat, and warned the Congress that the volcano might erupt any day in shooting columns of burning lava, if courageous sincerity and self-sacrificing zeal, integrity and political foresight were not immediately applied to the solution of the national problems. But neither the Congress nor the British Government were in a mood to listen. They merrily jogged along between blinkers. And what was the result? Within a few years of the warning, the pent-up indignation of the people burst up, shaking the country to its very foundations. Political tragedies are often the outcome of the rulers’ obstinate blindness to the writing on the wall.

The series, New Lamps for Old, ends[23] on the ringing note of the awakening and political education of the Indian masses, without which it were mere folly to hope to achieve anything substantial and stable. Sri Aurobindo forecast the line of action which the Congress had to adopt afterwards, but, then, it was not the Congress of the mendicant Moderates, but of those who, chafing at the fetters of slavery, resolved to sacrifice themselves, if need be, on the altar of national freedom. Freedom became for them a matter of life and death. As Sri Aurobindo expressed it later: “It is light and air that favour growth. Cooped and cabined, we only pine and die.”[24]

“…The proletariat is, as I have striven to show, the real key of the situation. Torpid he is and immobile; he is nothing of an actual force, but he is a very great potential force, and whoever succeeds in understanding and eliciting his strength, becomes by the very fact master of the future. Our situation is indeed complex and difficult beyond any that has ever been imagined by the human intellect; but if there is one thing clear in it, it is that the right and fruitful policy for the burgess, the only policy that has any chance of eventual success, is to base his cause upon an adroit management of the proletariat. He must awaken and organise the entire power of the country and thus multiply infinitely his volume and significance, the better to attain the supremacy as much social as political. Thus and thus only will he attain to his legitimate station, not an egoist class living for itself, but the crown of the nation and its head.”[25]

The gravamen of Sri Aurobindo’s charge against the Congress is contained in this short passage, already quoted above: “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 wholeheartedness, 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….” The absence of the right aim, the right spirit, the right methods, and the right men argues the lack of a keen sense of bondage and a deep, burning desire for freedom. Until there is that sense of bondage, the galling, torturing, intolerable sense that the life of a slave is worse than death, there can be no longing for freedom. One who is consumed by a yearning for freedom,[26] cares not for dangers and difficulties, not even for death. It is this lack of a sense of bondage and a longing for freedom, mumukṣutva, on the part of the Indian National Congress to which Sri Aurobindo attributes its failure to achieve anything substantial. Writing on mumukṣutva in his paper, The Bande Mataram, in 1906, he says:

“Mumukshutva or the longing for emancipation… is the most important pre-condition of political emancipation…. This longing implies as its own pre-conditions, one, the existence of bondage, and two, a keen sense of it. And the most disheartening feature in the present political leadership… is an almost utter absence of this sense. Our leaders are not at all conscious of their own and their country’s present political bondage. They do not, notwithstanding all their ravings against the Government, really feel the utter degradation and misery of their present position in the constitution of their State. Their sense of the disabilities and disadvantages of British despotism is personal and self-regarding. They complain because they are not appointed to high offices in the administration, and the appointment of a Bengali as the Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court, or of a Madrasee as Advocate General in Madras, sends up a chorus of congratulations from the whole body of the Indian press, who have not as yet arisen to a perception of the elementary truth that such isolated instances of official advancement do not and can never compensate for the serious intellectual and moral wrong which the government of one people by another, an alien people, always inflicts. The leader who today leads a most violent attack on the Government, is therefore found, the moment that Government admits him into its counsels or woos him with offers of honour and preferment, to support and defend it most enthusiastically. All this is due to the absence of that keen sense of bondage — of that mumukshuttva — which is an essential pre-condition of emancipation both of individuals and nations.”[27]

It was this keen sense of bondage, and an intense longing for freedom which Sri Aurobindo endeavoured to instil into his countrymen by various means, idealistic and practical. These means were of a complex and apparently contradictory nature, which baffled even some of his most devoted fellow-workers in the political field, for they did not possess the intuitive vision and foresight of India’s glorious destiny, the acute historical sense and political wisdom, and, above all, the illumined, resourceful suppleness with which he could deal with the complicated interplay of the psychological forces going on behind the stream of outer events.[28] His first contribution to Indian politics was, as we have already seen, a consuming thirst for the liberation of the country, a passion for complete and unqualified independence, which he infused into the Indian nation. And the sole driving force behind the application of the means he advocated, was the religion of patriotism, the worship of India as the Mother, for whose emancipation it must be a surpassing joy and rare privilege for her children to suffer and sacrifice themselves. This was his second contribution. His appeal was always to the religious or spiritual sense of the people, which is the only sense, as Swami Vivekananda knew and proclaimed, upon which is grounded the whole fabric of Indian life and culture. We shall learn much more and in greater elaboration about this gospel of spiritual Nationalism as we proceed.

[1] The first stanza of Dwijendralal Roy’s Bengali song, translated by Sri Aurobindo.
[2] Sri Aurobindo on Himself and on The Mother, page 27.
[3] The Liberator by Sisir Kumar Mitra, page 40. Sri Aurobindo met M. G. Ranade in Bombay some time in 1894 — The Life of Sri Aurobindo by A. B. Purani.
[4] Sri Aurobindo on Himself and on The Mother, page 27.
[5] Life of Sri Aurobindo by A.B. Purani.
[6] Dr. R.K. Mukherji in Sri Aurobindo’s Political Thought by Profs. Haridas Mukherjee and Uma Mukherjee.

In this connection it would be interesting to know what Swami Vivekananda thought about the Congress. In 1898 — five years after Sri Aurobindo had attacked the Congress policy of protest, petition and prayer — Aswini Kumar Datta, the saintly leader of the district of Barisal in Bengal and a great educationist and social worker, about whom we shall hear something from Sri Aurobindo himself later on, met Swami Vivekananda at Almora (in the Himalayas) and had the following talk with him:
ASWINI ВABU: But have you no faith in what Congress is doing?
SWAMIJI: No, I have not. But, of course, something is better than nothing, and it is good to push the sleeping nation from all sides to wake it up. Can you tell me what the Congress is doing for the masses? Do you think merely passing a few resolutions will bring you freedom? I have no faith in that. The masses must be awakened first…. But the essence of my religion is strength. The religion that does not infuse strength into the heart is no religion to me, be it of the Upanishads, the Gita or the Bhagavatam. Strength is religion, and nothing is greater than strength. — Life of Swami Vivekananda by his Eastern and Western Disciples, pp. 586-7.

The truth of the Swami’s words can be best appreciated if we take them in their proper context of the then tamasic or inert state of the enormous mass of the Indian people. He felt the pulse of the nation, and with his characteristic boldness preached to it the paradoxical gospel of strength: “Your football will take you nearer to heaven than the Gita.” He knew that the supine masses had to pass through the storm and tumult of the rajasic or crude and turbid energies before they could rise into the quieter and cleaner atmosphere of moral and spiritual aspirations, the sattwic intelligence and equipoise. He did not make the fatal mistake of asking them to repress the foaming surges of their released energies and convert themselves overnight into moral types. He had the psychological knowledge that such drastic mass repressions are inevitably followed by dreadful explosions and upheavals. The law of evolution does not work on the rigid lines of human ethics.

[7] “For better, for worse, our destinies are now linked with those of England, and the Congress freely recognises that whatever advances we seek must be within the Empire itself….” — Gokhale.

“I am an inveterate. I am a robust optimist like Mahadeo Govind Ranade. I believe in divine guidance through human agency…. My steadfast loyalty (to the Crown) is founded upon the rock of hope and patience…. I accept British rule… as a dispensation so wonderful… that it would be folly not to accept it as a declaration of God’s will.” — Pherozeshah Mehta.

“I have never faltered in my faith in the British character. The British are justice-loving, fair-minded people. Go on with moderation, with loyalty to the British Rule and patriotism towards our country.” — Dadabhai Naoroji (Presidential speech at Lahore Congress, 1893).

[8] Young India by Lajpat Rai.
[9] The last article appeared on 6th March, 1894. The total number of articles on New Lamps for Old was nine.
[10] New Lamps for Old, August 7, 1893.
[11] New Lamps for Old, August 7, 1893.
[12] Ibid, August 28, 1893.
[13] New Lamps for Old, August 21, 1893.
[14] Ibid, October 30, 1893.
[15] “I entered into political action and continued it from 1905 to 1910 with one aim and one alone: to get into the mind of the people a settled will for freedom and the necessity of a struggle to achieve it, in place of the futile ambling Congress methods till then in vogue.” — From Sri Aurobindo’s letter to Barrister Joseph Baptista on January 5, 1920.
[16] Mr. Manmohan Ghose.
[17] New Lamps for Old, September 18, 1893.
[18] We quote his words again: “If there was attachment to a European land as a second country, it was intellectually and emotionally to one not seen or lived in in this life, not England, but France.” — Sri Aurobindo on Himself and on The Mother.
[19] Induprakash, October 30, 1893.

[20] New Lamps for Old, December 4, 1893.
[21] An ancient town in Sourashtra (Gujarat).
[22] Sri Aurobindo was one of the, if not the, first in India to preach “the elevation and enlightenment of the proletariat” long before the idea was conceived and propagated, but only in terms of crude material and economic welfare, by the prophets of the Russian Revolution, and gained currency all over Europe. But his ideal was the elevation of the proletariat to the high status of spiritual aristocracy, to Brahminhood, and not the levelling down of all grades of society to the shabby ranks of the material-minded proletariat. His preaching of spiritual Nationalism, if viewed from this angle, reveals its real objective — the attainment of political freedom as the first, indispensable base for the spiritual reconstruction of the race. His heart ached to see the proletariat sunk in abject poverty and squalor, and dead to any sense of the slavery in which they lived. He wanted them to be elevated and englightened, so that they might manifest the potential power, the divine fire, that lay buried within them. And it explains also his insistence on suffering and self-sacrifice on the part of the workers for national freedom, for it is through suffering and self-sacrifice alone that man attains to his divine manhood. “Work that she (Mother India) may prosper. Suffer that she may rejoice.” — Speeches of Sri Aurobindo.
[23] It did not really end, it was discontinued.
[24] Bande Mataram, daily edition, 31.10.1906.
[25] New Lamps for Old, March 6, 1894.
[26] “Strike off thy fetters! Bonds that bind thee down,
Of shining gold, or darker, baser ore…
Know, slave is slave, caressed or whipped, not free.” — Vivekananda
[27] Bande Mataram, daily edition, 31.10.1906.
[28] We shall enlarge upon this important point when we come to study Sri Aurobindo’s political thought and work in all their bearings.

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