World will come to know the essence of India through the writings of Aurobindo.Rabindranath Tagore
Aurobindo Ghosh belonged to the extremist phase of INC and was critique of moderates. He was against constitutional methods and gave the theory of passive resistance. He also said to have prepared the ground for Gandhi.
The biggest contribution of Aurobindo is the theory of Indian nationalism. He has given the philosophy of freedom, the idea of human unity. There is a transition in the life of Aurobindo. He left active politics, moved towards the spiritual upliftment.
Aurobindo Ghosh is called as the prophet of Indian nationalism. According to Rabindranath Tagore, “World will come to know the essence of India through the writings of Aurobindo.”
Aurobindo is called as great synthesizer. He has synthesized all philosophies of both east and west into an integrated philosophy.
Early nationalists / moderates.
Aurobindo Ghosh was dis-satisfied with the view of early nationalists with respect to the British Raj. Early nationalists like Surendranath Banerjee, Dadabhai Nairoji considered British rule as ‘blessing in disguise’. They believed that British are the source of modernization and hence they should stay in India. They were fearful that if more direct resistance and aggressive attitude is taken, British will leave India. Hence they proposed mild constitutional methods. The methods of prayers, petitions, protests within legislature. They had great faith in the British sense of justice. They wanted Swaraj within British empire. They wanted India to be given dominion status like other colonies.
Response of Aurobindo Ghosh
Aurobindo Ghosh has written series of articles titled NEW LAMPS FOR OLD in the newspaper INDUPRAKASH. In these articles he has criticized the approach of early nationalists. He argued that foreign rule is never a blessing, not even a blessing in disguise. Foreign rules stop the natural growth of the nation. It is nothing but evil. Aurobindo Ghosh was the first person who talked about the goal of ‘Purna Swaraj‘. He wanted complete independence and not the dominion status.
According to Aurobindo Ghosh, emergence of India as a nation has divine mission. Emergence of India as a nation is for the benefit of humanity and not just Indians. Universal spirit is now with India. Universal spirit has chosen India to spread its message. India cannot spread the message from the state of slavery. Since universal spirit is with India, India is bound to emerge as a free nation. Hence entire international community should support the rise of India as a nation.
Hence he suggested that we need to change the strategy. He had no faith in constitutional methods. Because British government in India is not constitutional, it is despot. They are not answerable to Indians. Hence constitutional methods will not work. Direct action is required. Direct action can be of two types – 1_Armed Resistance. 2_Passive Resistance.
Aurobindo was not against the use of force. However he believed that choice of the strategy depends on the situations. In Indian situation, armed resistance may not be the best strategy. Hence go for passive resistance.
Strike at the very root of British colonialism. For British rule, India as a source of raw materials, India as a market for British products. Hence he suggested swadeshi and boycott. He was the main inspiration behind the swadeshi movement in Bengal. He suggested to boycott British courts, British administration to convince Indians that they can live without British institutions. He also proposed national education. He was convinced that British schools are meant only for the production of ‘loyalists’. Hence passive resistance, boycott, swadeshi is the only viable option.
Aurobindo on Indian nationalism
Colonial masters had thrown the challenge on identity of India as a nation. They held that India is not a nation, it is nothing more than ‘geographical expression’.
Nationalists response came into two forms.
1) From liberals / early nationalists. They accepted that India is not a nation but India is ‘nation in making’. (Surendranath Banerjee).
2) Extremists leaders like Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal, Aurobindo Ghosh rejected the approach of both – colonial masters as well as early nationalists. They had established that India is a nation, India was nation from the beginning.
Aurobindo Ghosh had applied the concepts of German scholars which held that nation is natural, nation has a spirit. Spirit may be dormant but cannot be denied. He suggested that the old men of India (moderates) need new lamps to see the spirit of India as a nation.
Aurobindo Ghosh held that it is irrelevant to understand Indian nationalism through the western ideas put forward by colonial masters. To understand nationalism, we have to look at ‘historical processes’ which are taking place within India. Moderates are unable to see the spirit of nationalism among youth. To meet the spirit, we need the ‘bold theory of nationalism’.
Aurobindo Ghosh also warned moderates to stop praising British. If we continue to praise British, it will weaken the morale of those who aim to fight British.
Aurobindo’s concept of nation in general.
Aurobindo has spiritualized the concept of nation. Inspired by German scholars, he held that every nation is a reflection of one or the other dimension of the universal spirit. In this way, he also established that ultimately all humans are part of universal spirit. Thus in his theory of nationalism, we can also see his idea of ‘human unity’ or the integral view of humanity. Thus Aurobindo represented the civilizational values of India. The value of Vasudhaiva Kutumbkam. This value was also expressed by Vivekananda when he addressed people in USA as ‘brothers and sisters of America…’.
Thus Aurobindo Ghosh never believed that the idea of nation is against the idea of cosmopolitism.
According to him, the aim of every nation should be ‘to seek its own fulfillment’, to be aware of its own potentiality. It will be foolishness if we imitate the others. Aurobindo believes in the ideal of Geeta According to Geeta one should follow the law of one’s own being. When one follows his own dharma, it leads to rebirth but when one leaves his own dharma and follow the dharma of other, it only leads to ‘successful suicide’.
However he does not suggest that we should cling to everything that is Indian or avoid everything that is western. We have to negate the evils, we have to take the good features of both. He also shows that the fall of India happened because we emphasized too much on tamas or dark elements. He also held that British rule was a necessity. It is like a hammer of the God to punish, eliminate tamas and arrive at the original spirit.
He suggested that universal spirit has expressed itself in different nations /civilizations. Greeks represented the dimension of beauty, Romans represented the dimension of ethics, Britishers represents materialism/utilitarianism.
It is not that only good elements are expressed, even the evil elements are expressed. Fascism is a representation of the evil elements. Indian civilization represents the spiritual element or the dimension of universal spirit.
India represent the spiritual element, India should fulfill the divine mission to spread the message of spirituality. 19th century India is imitative, forgetful, artificial. Imitation leads to death, sterilization. India should be aware of its own role. Like individual, nation has a body, mind, soul, temper.
Aurobindo on ‘Indian’ nationalism
Aurobindo was critical of early nationalists, who believed that congress has to convene sessions at different places to arise the spirit of nationalism. Aurobindo held that Indian nationalism does not depend on ‘congress pandals’. Indian nationalism is eternal. He was influenced by ‘neo-vedantism’ of Vivekananda. Neo-vedantism? Neo-vedantism is a criticism of bramhinism. Vivekananda believed that bramhinism (caste system) has harmed the unity of India. He appealed to end bramhinism and to bring the original ‘sanatana dharma’. According to the values of sanatana-dharma, we all are children of one God. It was Vivekananda who first gave the concept of ‘unity in diversity’ existing in India on the basis of the values of sanatana dharma. According to Vivekananda, amidst the diversity which we find in the subcontinent exists the fundamental unity. This fundamental unity is expressed in ‘way of life’ observed on the subcontinent from east to west and north to south. This fundamental unity is the basis of Indian nationalism.
Vivekananda had appealed to youth in India. He appealed that nationalism should be the religion of the youth. He appealed to arise, awake and don’t stop till the goal is achieved. Aurobindo Ghosh has also based Indian nationalism on the idea of sanatana dharma. He also held that nationalism should become the religion of the youth. We need same level of commitment towards the nation which we have for the religion.
Aurobindo’s spiritual nationalism was also influenced by Bankimchandra Chatterjee’s idea of ‘mother India’ as ‘goddess Kali’. Bankimchandra Chatterjee appealed to the patriotism of the youth. He held that we all are children of mother India. We should not accept our mother in chains. He symbolized India with goddess Kali, the shakti. He warned that the shakti of mother India is challenging the British empire. This shakti is expressed in the millions of Indians who are ready to challenge the foreign rule. Even Aurobindo incorporated the idea and thus spiritualized the entire concept. Britishers should be fearful of the powers of millions of Indians.
According to Aurobindo Ghosh, ‘Nation is not a piece of land, nation is not a collection of human beings, nation is not a figure of speech, nation is not the figment of people’s imagination, nation is not a political program and nation is not intellectual pastime. Nation is a faith, nation is a religion, nation is divine, nation has a spirit. ‘
Aim of India as a nation
India has to deliver the divine message. The message of spirituality. Only India can deliver this message. It is God’s will. It is duty of Indians towards God. Now universal spirit is expressing itself in the form of Indian nationalism. God itself is driving the movement. The rise of India is unstoppable. Hence instead of opposing the rise of India, world should support the rise of India.
Other ideas of Aurobindo Ghosh
1] Aurobindo’s concept of Liberty/Freedom.
Freedom is supreme value. Freedom cannot be compromised. Freedom is essential for both – individual as well as nation. In the words of Aurobindo, ‘craving for freedom is lodged so deep in human heart that even thousands of arguments are powerless to disapprove it.’
Aurobindo analyzed existing concepts of freedom.
According to him, liberal/anarchic view of freedom is mechanical, it ignores the importance of society. Liberty should not be seen as a device to satisfy only one’s own impulses without taking into consideration the impulses of others. The biggest flaw of the above concept is it puts individual against the society.
Socialist concept of freedom: It gives primacy to society but completely ignores the individual. It force individual to give up freedom.
Any theory of freedom should be such which allows individual to achieve freedom in a way which is not detrimental to the society. To understand the meaning of freedom, the source is the soul. One should follow the message of the soul because only then we can have peace.
According to him, freedom is ‘obeying the law of our existence’. We are humans, we should not live like animals. We should live in harmony with others including environment. The real freedom is inner freedom. The real power is spiritual power. It is power to grow, it is power to move towards perfection. It is power to move towards the perfection of our nature. Freedom is not just the fulfillment of mental or physical needs, freedom is flowering of divine within us.
The solution of the problems do not lie in reason, but solution lies in soul. Solution lies in spiritual tendencies. It is only when we follow this inner freedom, we can create perfect social order, the ideal society. Thus liberty is the law of spiritual society. Liberty is possibility of achieving true spiritualization. Rights are following ‘swadharma’.
Aurobindo Ghosh was initially talking in terms of Swaraj for the nation, but later on started talking about the swaraj for individual. He shifted from political freedom to spiritual freedom. He gave the concept of Sacchidanand and Supermind. Sacchidanand means sat-cit-anand. The purpose of life is attainment of happiness or ananda.
Attainment of happiness is based on the realization of truth (satya or God) or realization of ultimate reality. The realization of God depends upon achieving the state of ‘Supermind’ or cit.
Supermind requires tapa/yoga. He gave the concept of integral yoga (Combination of dharma yoga, raja yoga, jnana yoga, bhakti yoga, karma yoga, hatha yoga). Internal yoga requires niscaya, tapa and sadhana.
2] Aurobindo on human unity
According to Aurobindo, aggregation is the law of nature. Nature expects all of us to come together. If we do not follow the law of nature, nature will destroy us. There is no other way out for the humanity except coming together. We cannot resolve the contemporary problems without coming together.
The idea of human unity comes from the civilizational values of sanatana dharma. This is the message which India has to spread. It is to be noted that Aurobindo’s ideas have become all the more relevant in the contemporary times when we see the rise of global challenges. It is beyond the capacity of humans or a single state to deal with these challenges alone.