Village Reconstruction model: in the views of Gandhi, Tagore & Aurobindo

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To discuss with the notion of Swaraj, we also have to state about its other important auxiliaries, e.g. the national self-help scheme and self development procedure. Village reconstruction is thought to be a part of National self-help and National Self-development programme. Now if we investigate properly, then we could find out that the actual aim of the British rule was to destroy the social strength of India. How this foreign rule gradually destroyed Indian social life-structure, is vividly depicted in Sri Aurobindo’s own writings – ‘…the Village samiti is the seed of Swaraj…when a nation is in a natural condition, growing from within and existing from within and in its own strength, then it develops its own centres and correlates them according to its own needs. But as soon as for any reason this natural condition is interrupted and a foreign body draws to itself all the sources of nourishment and the natural centres, deprived of their sustenance, fail and disappear. It is for this reason that foreign rule can never be for the good of a nation, never work for its true progress and life, but must always work towards its disintegration and death…We in India had our own instruments of life and growth; we had the self-dependent village; we had the Zamindar as the link between the village units and the central governing body and the central governing body itself was one in which the heart of the nation beat. All these have been either destroyed or crippled by the intrusion of a foreign organism. If we are to survive as a nation we must restore the centres of strength which are natural and necessary to our growth, and the first of these, the basis of all the rest6, the old foundation of Indian life and the secret of Indian vitality was the self-dependent and self-sufficient village organism. If we are to organise Swaraj we must base it on the village.’
Sri Aurobindo on Village Reconstruction:
Hence for the revival of our beloved motherland Sri Aurobindo dreamt of reconstructing our villages. Now what are the steps of village reconstruction? There must remain some necessary steps in this regard. To find out them again we have to look into Sri Aurobindo – ‘The village must not in our new national life be isolated as well as self-sufficient, but must feel itself bound up with the life of its neighbouring units, living with them in a common group for common purposes. Each group again must feel a part of the life of the district, living in the district unity, so each district must not be engrossed in its own separate3 existence but feel itself a subordinate part of the single life of the province, and the province in its turn of the single life of the country. Such is the plan of reconstruction we have taken in hand, but to make it a healthy growth and not an artificial construction we must begin at the bottom and work to the apex. The village is the call of the national body and the cell-life must be healthy and developed for the national body to be healthy and developed. Swaraj begins from the village’. Thus it seems that as villages remain as the basis of an entire nation, so that we have to raise the cry for Swaraj from the villages.

Gandhi vs. Aurobindo on Village Reconstruction:
In this above context we can discover the enormous similarity of Gandhian thought with that of Sri Aurobindo. Actually Gandhi gave much more practical explanation of how to reconstruct a village thoroughly. Gandhi vividly demonstrated the true nature of self-sufficient village communities by mentioning – ‘My [Gandhi’s] idea of village Swaraj is that it is a complete republic….Thus every village’s first concern will be to grow its own food crops and cotton for its cloth. It should have a reserve for its cattle, recreation and playground for adults and children. Then if there is more land available, it will grow useful money crops, thus excluding Ganja, tobacco, opium and the like. The village will maintain a village theatre, school and public hall. It will have its own waterworks ensuring clean water supply. This can be done through controlled wells or tanks. Education will be compulsory up to the final basic course. As far as possible every activity will be conducted on the co-operative basis. There will be no castes such as we have today with their graded un-touchability. Non-violence with the technique of Satyagraha and non-co-operation will be the sanction of the village community. There will be a compulsory service of village guards who will be selected by rotation from the register maintained by the village. The government of the village will be conducted by the Panchayat of five persons annually elected by the adult villagers, male and female, possessing minimum prescribed qualifications. These will have all the authority and jurisdiction required. Since there will be no system of punishments in the accepted sense, this Panchayat will be the legislature, judiciary and executive combined to operate for its year of office. Any village can become such a republic today without much interference, even from the present Government, whose sole effective connection with the neighbouring villages and the centre if any’. This is the purpose of Gandhi’s creation of Village Government.

Tagore on Rural Reconstruction:
We also find out the Rural Reconstruction model even in the writings of Tagore. His familiarity was as a renowned poet, but he was also considered as one of the pioneer of rural development programme. He started rural reconstruction project at Sriniketan in 1921 aiming to make villagers self-reliant and able to use all rural resources fully. Tagore realized that this problem of rural reconstruction were manifold and it was co-related with health, economy, education etc. essential parts, and these parts are as well as inter-linked with each other. The objectives of the programme, in the words of Elmhirst depicted as follows – ‘from the outset, we had two main objectives, to survey the economic, social and scientific needs of the cultivator in his home, village and fields, and secondly to carry out our own laboratory experiments in health, education, craft, cultivation and animal husbandry’. Accordingly Tagore laid emphasis on economical background of villagers. Regarding economic development Tagore’s aspiration was to make the peasants self-developed and he truly realized that economic advancement should be done on the scientific ground. In this procedure, he considered education as one of the important corollaries, because the educational development of rural children remains as the foundation of the rural reconstruction programme. Without proper education nobody can be able to realize the essentiality of the village reconstruction procedure. And the village welfare department of the institute [Sriniketan] from the very beginning took the programme of health and sanitation in the surrounding villages. In the year 1929, the institute treated 6760 patients [Lal, Premchand, Reconstruction and Education in Rural India, London : George Allen and Unwin, 1932, p. 78]. Tagore firmly believed that poverty, disease, depopulation, joylessness and backwardness of rural area could be removed only through co-operative efforts of village reconstruction. In this regard, we can discover his theory is quite bit similar with that of Gandhi.

However unlike Gandhi Tagore was never so much fascinated with the idea of Charkha. He also tried to develop village life-style from the grass-root level near Shantiniketan, but not by Charkha. His theory is much more intense in its nature.

When Tagore took up this huge responsibility of rural reconstruction on his own shoulder, Birbhum region was fully backward area and the real situation of the villages under its head are worser than other villages of West Bengal.  The soil quality was poor. Peasant’s wage-earning is very much critical for their own sustenance.

For example, total 1,500 acres [1 acre= almost 2.5 bighas] of lands, in Birbhum district, are divided in the following table – 

Area
Bigha (s)

Wasteland and Khowai (eroded)
2,748.36

Homesteads
42.00

Tanks
42.00

Fallow & left for grazing
201.00

Under Cultivation
457.00

Other Lands
255.64

Tagore’s Model of Rural Reconstruction: Tagore Realized the main situation of villages and their several problems regarding health, sanitation, economy, livelihood, education, poverty etc. All of them are inter-related with each other. Tagore laid emphasis on the economic [agricultural and handicrafts] growth, education, health and sanitation, village organization etc in the villages around Birbhum. Sriniketan is the first example of such organization founded by Tagore. His main intention was as follows –

To solve the economic problems of Bengal peasants and to increase their life-structure;
To employ the agricultural knowledge of the students of Sriniketan out of the classroom; 
To develop the wage-earning procedure of the poor peasants in several/many villages around Santiniketan, district Birbhum.

Tagorean Model
Programmes :
Economic; Educational; Information Communication; Health Programmes; Village Organizations; Research & Training;
Implementations :
Social Workers : Gram Karmi; Samaj Karmi

Economic Programmes :
Industrial Activity : organization of creation & sale; training for village artisans : wood work, leather work, poultry, weaving & tailoring, embroidery
Agricultural Activity
Dairy & Poultry
Food Stores
Afforestation
Leather Work & Fishery
Flood Relief etc Multiple Activity
Educational Programmes:
Night school,
Shiksha satra & charcha,
Lok shiksha sansad,

Information communication:
Seminar,
Feeder club,
Mobile library [Chalantika],
Village fair, celebration of festivals

Health programmes:
Anti-malarial activity;
Public health work;
Welfare : Leprosy control, Maternity, Birth control, Child health care etc

Village organization:
Women’s society;
Yugasangah;
Child organization;
Yatra club

Training programmes:
Rural survey;
Agricultural training;
Training for village women & midwives;
Vocational training;
Social work programmes;
Land tenure programme;
Teacher’s training

All these are, unbelievably, part of Tagore’s educational programme schedule. 
Village Reconsruction & Swaraj:
Thus village reconstruction is one of the important organizations of National Self-help movement. For the development of a strong nation, the village also has to be developed. So village samiti appears as an indispensable instrument of the National development procedure. What is the process of the so-called development of Palli Samiti? In its answer we have to quote from Sri Aurobindo – ‘It is to set up village schools in which our children will grow up as good citizens and patriots to live for their country and not for themselves or for the privilege of dependent life in a dependent nation. It is to take up the work of arbitration by which we shall recover control of the administration of justice, of self-protection, of village sanitation, of small local public works, so that the life of the village may again be self-reliant and self-sufficient, free from the habit of dependence rooted in the soil. Self-help and self-dependence, the first conditions of Swaraj depend for their organisation on the village Samiti’.

Sri Aurobindo mainly wanted to develop the life-structure of Indian masses from the grass-root leve. And for this we need to develop the villages, the cetre of our national life, from inner as well as outer potentia. Hence for the fulfillment of swaraj theory, we need to concentrate on the Palli Unnayan programmes as following Sri Aurobindo, Tagore, Gandhi etc contemporary Indian  thinkers.
Necessites of Village Reconstruction:
Hence we could discover two such necessities of village reconstruction as following Sri Aurobindo. The first one is, for the true attainment of Swaraj, we must awake the political sense of the masses. In this endeavor, the reconstruction programme seems mandatory, as it will help to develop the lives of the villagers. Thus we should start our mission of political reconstruction from the grass-root level, i.e. the villages. In a democratic state the villages remain as the core of the nation and without the development of rural masses, the development of urban people as well as that of the entire nation seems impossible. Without evoking the political sense of common masses, the dream of attaining Swaraj cannot be fulfilled at all. And Palli Samiti is alone compatible in work of evoking the political sense of rural India. ‘The work of the village Samiti will be to make the masses feel Swaraj in the village, Swaraj in the nation. They cannot immediately rise to the conception of Swaraj in the nation, they must be trained to it through the perception of Swaraj in the village. The political education of the masses is impossible unless you orgainse the village Samiti’.

Actually Sri Aurobindo’s main intention was to make India as the spiritual guide of other nations. And for doing this, India’s political mastery seems very much essential. However for making a whole nation politically developed, we have to develop the political sense of the masses. Most people of a nation reside in villages, so we should develop the political sense of the villagers at first of all. By the improvement of village life-structure, and then by the mandatory advancement of that of cities, we can be able to develop the life-structure of the entire India. Hence the development of Palli Samiti remains as an indispensable part of India’s political advancement. This is the first necessity according to him.

The second necessity is this reconstruction of village Samiti will be helpful enough to destroy the separative attitude between Hindu and Muslim races. It also seems helpful in uniting them not only from the political stand-point, but also from the bottom of their heart. The foreign rule truly destroyed this so-desired Hindu-Muslim unity as it conceived this one as a great threat against its rule of two decades over India.  The ancient Hindu rule, even the Muslim eras were different from this British era not only in their thought and culture, but also on its nature. The Hindu and even the Muslim rajas and jamindars, in the ancient time, felt themselves as parts of the ruled persons and so mutual love, trust and worship remain between both the ruler and the ruled. They strictly maintained the unity between both the Hindu and the Muslim these two completely separate sects as it seemed mandatory for their self-preservation. But the foreigners advocate diversity bet5ween these two sects; so that they will become powerless by constant fighting and quarrelling among them and never could even try to preach for the necessary political liberty. Sri Aurobindo very wisely advocated the importance of Palli Samiti in this regard – ‘It will destroy the aloofness, the separateness of our lives and bring us back the sense of community, the habit of mutual assistance and mutual beneficience…It will introduce arbitration courts and, by healing our family feuds and individual discords, restore the lost sense of brother hood. It will seek out the sick and give them medical relief. It will give justice, it will give protection and when all are thus working for the good of all, the old unity of our lives will be restored, the basis of Swaraj will have been laid in the tie which binds together the hearts of the people’. Thus by spreading communal love by sharing every work, every happiness, every custom little bit each other, Hindu-Muslim unity could be achieved and when religious as well as social unity will be attained in this way, then the political unity of entire India cannot remain far behind.

Formation of Village Samiti is therefore urgently necessary in the view of Sri Aurobindo. Village Samitis are, therefore, conditions to be fulfilled for the achievement of Swaraj or political freedom. Because for political freedom, the arousal of political sense of common masses along with the most desired and even the most controversial Hindu-Muslim unity seem mandatory. And Palli Samitis are the criterion to make these two essential goals possible. Hence for attaining Swaraj, we need to advance our national self-help or national self-development programmes along wit6h our on-going national movements. Thus the formation of Palli Samitis must remain as our practice of Swaraj. In the Kishoregung Speech (Kishoregung area is situated in Mymensingh district, East Bengal) Sri Aurobindo ordered the entire Bengal to guide entire India in this endeavor.

In brief, this is Sri Aurobindo’s thesis regarding the several necessities of village reformation.
Relation between Village & Nation:
Now, in this context, we can search for the answer of the stated question – what is the relation between a nation and its constituent, i.e. the villages? Actually the national life cannot proceed towards a glorifying future without the advancement of its rural life. In the article named “Back to the Land” Sri Aurobindo clearly depicted that – ‘It is an ascertained principle of national existence that only by keeping possession of the soil can a nation persist; the mastery of the reins of government or the control of the trade and wealth of a country, does not give permanence to the people in control. They reign for a while and then the virtue departs out of them and they wither or pass away and another takes their place; but they tillers of the soil, ground down, oppressed, rack-rented, miserable, remain, and have always the chance of the day overthrowing their oppressors and coming by their own. When a small foreign oligarchy does the trading and governing and a great indigenous democracy the tilling of the soil, it is safe to prophesy that before many generations have passed the oligarchy of aliens will be no more and the democracy of peasants will still be in possession’.   

So it can be easily seen that the village is, in Sri Aurobindo’s view, the basis in where the cry for swaraj is basically rooted.

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Swaraj Theory: as evaluated by Sri Aurobindo

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In Sri Aurobindo’s social-political thought Swaraj is thought to be the starting-point of his inward journey towards the union with the Divine. His actual purpose is to make the Life Divine so that we can realize the inherent divinity within us. Yoga is just a way to fulfill such dream. Social-political thought is another path to achieve that dream. However, it is not so well-known and well-discussed like his principles of Yoga. His social-political doctrine remains almost hidden from the eyes of his critics. Most of the critics interpret Sri Aurobindo as a great Yogi, profound Mystic as well as an exceptional philosopher. However in this endeavor we find the enormous help from his books respectively named as The Bande Mataram; The Synthesis of Yoga; The Human Cycle, the Ideal of Human Unity, War and Self-Determination; Speeches; On Himself and The Ideal of Karmayogin. Sri Aurobindo’s main goal is somewhat spiritual in nature and politics remains definitely as one of its significant corollaries. ‘Our aim will therefore be to help in building up India for the sake of humanity – this is the spirit of the Nationalism which we profess and follow. We say to humanity “The time has come when you must take the great step and rise out of a material existence into the higher, deeper and wider life towards which humanity moves. The problems which have troubled mankind can only be solved by conquering the kingdom within….For that work the freedom and greatness of India is essential, therefore she claims her destined freedom and greatness, and it is to the interest of all humanity, not excluding England, that she should wholly establish her claim”.’

Swaraj is the actual cry of India and its country-men at the time of British rule over it. The true meaning of Swaraj may not be considered the same even by the two different contemporary philosophers. To Mahatma Gandhi Swaraj appears as Self-Rule; to Bal Gangadhar Tilak Swaraj as the Birth Right of Indian citizens; to Sri Aurobindo it is the Sanātana Dharma; to Rabindranath Tagore it appears as the sign of humanity and to Swami Vivekananda it is nothing else than the showering of love towards our beloved motherland. From K.C. Bhattacharya’s renowned article named Swaraj in Ideas we can quote his unique idea about swaraj ‘Man’s domination over men is felt in the most tangible form in the political sphere. There is however a subtler domination exercised in the sphere of ideas by one culture on another, a domination all the more serious in the consequence, because it is not ordinarily felt. Political subjection primarily means restraint, it is possible to resist it or to bear it as a necessary evil and to keep free in spirit. Slavery begins when one ceases to feel the evil and it deepens when the evil is accepted as good. Cultural subjection is ordinarily of an unconscious character and it implies slavery from the very start. When I speak of cultural subjection, I do not mean the assimilation of an alien culture. That assimilation need not be an evil; it may be positively necessary for healthy progress and in any case it doe3s not mean a lapse of freedom. There is cultural subjection only when one’s traditional cast of ideas and sentiments is superseded without comparison or competition by a new cast representing an alien culture which possesses one like a ghost. This subjection is slavery of the spirit: when a person can shake himself free from it, he feels as though the scales fell from his eyes. He experiences a rebirth and that is what I call Swaraj in Ideas.’ Thus, to K.C. Bhattacharya, swaraj seems to be the union of Indian educational system with that of Western one by which cultural transaction between both halves of the world help a lot to make India socio-culturally powerful. But here the notion of ‘rebirth’ is not taken in its actual sense. Rebirth does not mean the birth of the soul enjoying a new body, just for the sake of completing its own karma of the previous birth. This ‘rebirth’ means the birth of India or gaining freedom from the bondage of political slavery for our countrymen from the grasps of the foreign i.e. the British masters after two long decades of their rule over India. 

In its etymological sense swaraj may stand for independence, perhaps this is the best explanation of calling it as self-governance or complete independence by the nationalist leaders as well as by Sri Aurobindo. In another sense, the word ‘swa’ stands for ‘self’ and the word ‘raj’ stands for ‘rule’. In this way swaraj can be considered as self-rule. Perhaps this is the inner reason of Gandhi’s describing swaraj as nothing else than self-rule. 

However before entering into Sri Aurobindo’s notion of swaraj let us discuss the contemporary political criteria for preaching it so strongly.

In the history of Indian politics Swaraj played extremely important role in achieving Indian independence. The cry for Swaraj was aroused after the crude incident of Bengal Partition took place in 1905 by the order of Lord Curzon. The Nationalist leaders, among whom Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai, Bipin Chandra Pal and Aurobindo Ghose were more well-known, who first raised their voices in the favor of Swaraj.

Actually the main defect of the British rule was that after colonize india, they destroyed Indian educational structure by thinking it absurd theories as it did not focus on the glory of Europe. They wanted to focus on the past and present achievements of West so that ‘native’ Indians could be ashamed of their educational background. Their main intention was to create some English-minded ‘Babus’ [i.e. clerks], local ‘Zamindars’ and enlightened ‘Maharajas’ of several provinces of india, so that being obsessed of foreign education, they became  fully obedient to the British government. But the result was proved not so satisfactory. Being educated of modern educational system, common Indians, specially enlightened Bengalis, soon started to realize their own downfall i.e. the lack of political liberty. Soon under the head of Bengal and its enlightened political leaders India collected enough power to urge to get back its freedom; and in this way India accepted Bengal as its guide. Being aware of their drawback, the British rulers planned to play a trick. In 1905, Lord Curzon, ordered to split Bengal in two halves; one was known as the East Bengal [today known as Bangladesh; where the muslim community was major in number] and the West Bengal [our own state; where the hindu community was joined with Bihar and Orissa]. It’s actually a shameful trick to separate the enlightened Bengalis into the hindu-muslim races. But the effect of this Bengal Partition in 1905 was devastated. Not only Bengal, but the entire India, burst into anger. Entire India became united in such a sudden blow. Anti-Partition movement [Banga Vanga Birodhi Andolon, 1905] had been started in its protest all over India. Bengali political leaders started raksha bandhan utsab, to unite the hindu and muslim races. Tagore and other Bengali political leaders came down to roads in the protest against this dirty plan of Bengal Partition of 1905. To see its devastating popularity all over India, the British government had to draw their foot back. They became bound to reject their own Bengal Partition Bill, 1905 and after some time Lord Curzon himself was also transferred from India to his home, England. In this way the famous Bengal Partition Bill was shelved. But the rage and hatred of Indians over British government was not at all decreased. In such a political background, several violent revolutionary activities increasd in Bengal, Mharastra and Punjab. Among the leaders of Indian National Congess, some leaders directly or indirectly was in favor of this revolutionary acts, which made INC divided into two parts – moderates and extremists in 1906. To handle this furious political atmosphere, the British government unwillingly agreed to give India Dominion Status, so that before attaining freedom or swaraj Indians would be given proper training to achieve it. Thus in this respect swaraj became synonymous with freedom.  

However Sri Aurobindo found it completely a silly thinking that the British government would help to prepare Indians to gain freedom and left India just like gentlemen. This was actually another trick came out as a result of the tricky brains of the foreign rulers. They actually encertian their rule in this disguise and to dismiss India’s chance to attain political liberty by calling India and its masses not prepared for attaining it whenever we ask for independence to them. His doubt was not at all a mere scary dream and it was proved as true after his disappearance from Indian politics and Gandhi’s taking his baton. 

Eventually the Nationalist party (established in 1906) became immensely popular as they always gave importance to the mass-opinion. In their sincere effort, the Indian Struggle movement began to take concrete shape. Then, as an immediate consequence, not only the British government but also the Moderate Congress leaders became very anxious by this unwanted growth in popularity of the Nationalists. 

At that time a feeling of inherent hatred and distrust ruled over both parties within the Indian National Congress. The Moderates tried hard to keep complete control over the whole Congress, while the Nationalists demanded for Self-government or Swaraj by the means of Swadeshi and Boycott; and feared that the Moderates would dismiss this proposal without further consideration. In this complicated atmosphere, the Calcutta session of Congress was held in 1906. The Nationalists nominated Tilak as the president; whereas the Moderates stopped their voices by declaring the name of Dadabhai Naoroji, the Grand Old Man of India. In spite of that the New Party managed to pass their resolution concerning Swaraj. Being unable to stop them, the Moderates played a clever trick in which Mr. Naoroji, a well-known Moderate leader, in his presidential address identified Swaraj with Self-government within the British Empire i.e. Colonial Self-government, the most debated political notion of that age.  

The political situation started to worsen in the Nagpur session of Congress in 1907. Here the differences between the moderates and the extremists became much more prominent. Extremists also gained enough power to give tough fight to moderates. But moderates never were in favor to give the baton of INC [Indian national Congress] in the hands of extremists. They never accepted swaraj in the sense of independence, rather as colonial self-government. They were in the mood to patch up with the British administration and to work as a colony under this foreign government. Due, to the enormous faith over their foreign masters, they never even dare to think about raising their voices in the protest against their masters and in the favor of attaining political liberty. But the nationalists were in the favor of achieving independence, so they wanted to pass out their bill to call swaraj as independence. Thus nationalists again tried to dominate Mr. Tilak as the President of INC, but moderates again refuted their legitimate demand by nominating Pherozshah Mehta, a renowned moderate leader and well-known British admirer. Eventually Mehta’s selection was the indication to refute the demand of nationalists. Swaraj was taken in the sense of colonial self-government again, rather as independence. Nationalists became furious of this step, but could not stop to take this resolution as moderates were indeed so huge in number. In its consequence the famous split between the Loyalists and Extremists became mandatory which took actual shape in the Surat Congress at December, 1907.

As a result the most important Congress Partition took place at the Surat session on 27th December, 1907. Here in the order of Mr. Tilak and Sri Aurobindo this famous split was done in reality. Actually Mr. Tilak was always blamed for this split, but Sri Aurobindo himself admitted his own trick to order nationalist leaders to split Congress into two halves.

Now, apart from stating the mere political background, let us try to focus on how Sri Aurobindo deduced the meaning of swaraj as independence.

Now what is meant by the Colonial Self-government? Sri Aurobindo explored that under the head of Colonial Self-government; India like all other colonies would get the chance of Imperial Conference of the Colonial Prime Ministers and put all demands before the Secretary of States in a five-minute interview. Is this enough for India? No, not at all sufficient for a huge country like India. Actually under the disguise of Self-government within the British Empire, our foreign rulers tried to keep India under its control so that in the name of any Governor or Lieutenant General it would rule over India throughout coming few centuries. Under this Colonial rule, India would pretend to enjoy its power of representation similar with representation in the Local Board, Local Legislative Councils or Municipal Board. Common masses would remain as enslaved as they were under the British [dominating] Government. Tortures of every kind, political or non-political murders and slaughters of Indian as cows would take place as usual, but perhaps under a sophisticated disguise. Whenever asking for taking their own share in these hazardous circumstances, the British rulers would give a suitable excuse that they are not in the governmental power, as it was controlled by the Elected Representatives of Major Indian Political Parties. The prominent example would be The United states of America as a colony under England and its struggle movement before the achievement of its freedom from the British Rulers. Americans had to show their anger in the occasions of Boston Tea Party and had to fight for liberty under the guidance of George Washington who later also became the first President of America.

The demand for Self-government is actually another touchstone essential for making a free national India. For making India completely liberated from the dominative British rule, the establishment of self-government seemed completely mandatory. India in its process of formation needed some time to become self-sufficient and the practice of self-government would be helpful enough in this endeavor. Here Indians had been given the opportunity to develop its own government where the members of the Governmental body, Secretary of the States etc Administrative Powers had to be totally nested upon the strong shoulders of the Indians. Common Indian masses had to elect their own Representative Bodies enjoying the overall administrative, judicial, social, political as well as cultural liberty. In a self-governed country, not the proposed Colony as suggested by the moderate Congress leaders, foreign rulers should not get enough opportunity to enjoy the administrative, judicial, Social, political workings of the Indian nominated Representatives. Then, they will not at all get the scope to dominate, enslave, torture our Indian counterparts; and India will be liberated from the shackles of the British Bureaucracy from its appropriate sense. Truly comprehending this situation, as a good political thinker and leader, Sri Aurobindo was in the favour of getting self-governance i.e. independence, instead of colonial self-governance, from the hands of British masters.

However the idea of colonial self-government never struck appealing to Sri Aurobindo’s thought. In his intelligence this Prayer and Petition thesis was reveled just as an advanced form of ‘begging’ [which actually means pleading] advocated by the Moderates in front of the British bureaucracy. For that reason he even criticized the Moderate Congress Leaders as ‘the Bunch of Beggars’. He criticized this theory as it could not be applicable in practice because of the lack of its method. On the contrary, self-government could be attained very easily by the help of Swaraj as its method. Because Swaraj was the open demand of the Indians for attaining self-government, so he gave so much emphasis on it. While we look at the history of politics, we see that Swaraj in the sense of independence was basically indispensable at that time in India, but unfortunately this thesis by the Congress leaders only after the appearance of Mahatma Gandhi in the political field.

In this above way, Sri Aurobindo derived the political meaning of swaraj as independence.

Now let us concentrate on the spiritual sense of swaraj. Sri Aurobindo described it as a “parash pathar” or alchemic stone of Indian politics’ without whose help the revival of ancient Indian glory never become possible. If we analyze the inherent meaning of his concept of swaraj, then we will surely discover that swaraj, in his opinion, is far from the reach of politics alone. Swaraj is a somewhat spiritual concept without being just a political one. From the Vedas he quoted the word Sva-Mahimni i.e. the union of the individual with the Divine. For achieving this kind of swaraj we have to prepare ourselves fully to concentrate on the evocation of our Inner Being so that we can call for the Divine and make him bound to come down upon the earth.

What is the meaning of swaraj? From the Vedas, Sri Aurobindo quoted the word Sva-Mahimni i.e. union of individual with the Divine. However it is quite difficult to co-relate Sri Aurobindo’s political notion of swaraj with this spiritual meaning of the Vedas. It may stand in two ways – (a) spiritual swaraj stands as the means of achieving the divine life and for this reason we also need the help of Yoga in this pure endeavor; and (b) political swaraj advocated by Sri Aurobindo is just a means for gaining this spiritual unity with the Divine. Both of the senses are equally important in his view. In his many articles he preached that the political independence must stand as the starting-point of the spiritual divinity i.e. the Vedic meaning of swaraj. However this swaraj is not quite different in sense than the well-known definition of political swaraj as the second one is just an important corollary of the first one. Without political freedom the actual gain of spiritual freedom is not at all achievable. Political dependence makes men used to slavery and slavery brings gradual destruction of an entire nation. In Sri Aurobindo, the spiritual sense of swaraj, thus, stands as the union with the divine in one sense, and moksa in another sense [however we can reconcile both of them as mukti is the ultimate pathway to be united with God]; and in the political sense of swaraj, stands as independence.

His doctrine of swaraj is co-related with that of nationalism. In his keen observance India seems to urge for nationalistic demands. This demand of nationalism is not a mere political propaganda as it appears to other philosopher’s eyes. It is a religion that directly comes from God. The revival of India’s past glory seems as the Sanatana Dharma to Sri Aurobindo. India has to guide all other nations towards the attainment of spirituality. The spiritual guidance of India becomes mandatory for other spiritually backward countries. And for achieving excellence in spiritual mastery India has to attain its political liberty first. Swaraj is just the means of attaining such political freedom. So swaraj in Sri Aurobindo’s doctrine seems to be nothing else than Sanatana Dharma.  

Now what is the actual meaning of sanatana dharma? According to Sri Aurobindo, swaraj could stand for sanatana dharma. In the etymological sense, we can translate it as Eternal religion, as the word ‘sanatana’ stands for ‘eternal’ and the word ‘dharma’ stands for ‘religion’. But why Sanatana Dharma is believed to be the Eternal Religion proposed by God himself? And why Swaraj, as a mere mandatory political tool for liberating India from the bondage of foreign country, seems comparable with the metaphysical notion of Sanatana Dharma or Eternal Religion? Actually as an urdent believer of God, he demonstrated that political movement of India is nothing else but is a plan of the Divine. The Divine Plan is nothing else but to make Indians spiritually uplifted so that they can easily re-unite with the Supreme in the process of Involusion. [Evolution = Sachchidananda → Supermind → several Mental Stages, e.g. Overmind, Illumined Mind, Intuitive mind → Mind→ Life → Matter. Involusion = Matter → Life → Mind→ Mental stages → Supermind→ Sachchidananda.] In the process of Evolution, Sachchidananda or the Almighty, with the help of Maya or Avidya, wants to illustrate his Lila and for creating the world, separates himself into material, spiritual, earthern levels as well as in lively creatures like man, animals, insects, trees etc. And in the opposite process, namely the Involution, after some certain time-gap every lively or non-lively creature, especially men and animals, has to be destroyed and united with the Almighty as they actually emerge from it before. In this way, we can find out some inherent touch of his metaphysical doctrine into the social-political one. The main aim remains behind the spiritual divinization of human race by uniting them with the Supreme or Sachchidananda and in this way by making their life the ‘Divine Life’. If political freedom lacks in the country, then no countrymen can breathe openly and even dream to indulge themselves into the process of achieving spiritual upliftment. And if political liberty is under the Divine rule of God, then Swaraj, as its ultimate essential device, also has to be included within the master plan. It also has to be preached as a Divine Religion for this above reason. And as Swaraj is considered to be a part of the Divine Plan, so just like its Eternal creator it has the eternal character too. In my opinion, perhaps this is the easiest explanation of calling Swaraj as the Sanatana Dharma or Eternal Religion.    

Let us quote Sri Aurobindo’s notion of Sanatana Dharma to support my own presumption. In the book Bande mataram, he wrote that- ‘It is not a political Programme…not by National Education alone, Nationalism is a religion that has come from God; Nationalism is a creed which you shall have to live…It is not by any mere political Programme, not by Swadeshi alone, not by Boycott alone, that this country can be saved…These are merely ways of working; they are merely particular concrete lines upon which the spirit of God is working in a Nation…God is doing everything. We are not doing anything. When he bids us suffer, we suffer because the suffering is necessary to give others strength. When he throws us away, he does so because we are no longer required…He has a work for this great and ancient nation. Therefore he has been born again to do it, therefore he is revealing himself in you not that you may rise merely by human strength to trample underfoot the weaker peoples, but because something must come out from you which is to save the whole world. That something is what the ancient Rishis knew and revealed, and that is to be known and revealed again today, it has to be revealed to the whole world and in again today, it has to be revealed to the whole world and in order that he may reveal himself, you must first realise him in yourselves, you must shape your lives, you must shape the life of this great nation so that it may be fit to reveal him and then your task will be done, and you will realise that what you are driving today is no mere political uprising, no mere political change, but that you have been called upon to do God’s work.’ So Sanatana Dharma seems to be God’s divine religion by whose help the political freedom of India would be attained.

In the notion of Sri Aurobindo, thus, nationalism is not just a political agitation, rather it is a divine religion as per directed by God. The men are all tools in the hands of God so that He could arrange his divine plan – to make India the spiritual guide of all nations. This divine religion namely Nationalism is the means by whose help India would gain its spiritual liberty via the attainment of escape from the political bondage. For that reason, no bureaucracy has the power to demolish this religion of God. Nationalism is naturally immortal; and it is nothing else than the divine plan of the Supreme, thus nobody could get enough chance to refute this divine plan of Sachchidananda. Therefore a true nationalist, according to him, has to realize himself as a messenger of God who has been created to be used in God’s divine plan of attaining India’s political liberty, and when he can be able to belief it whole-heartedly, then only he truly understand the exact sense of Nationalism.  In this way, the spiritual sense of swaraj and political sense of swaraj can be reconciled in Sri Aurobindo’s social and political thought.  
              
On February, 1908 at Nasik Sri Aurobindo lectured that in our Vedanta philosophy the word swaraj means mukti or salvation. The soul when it is free from all worldly temptetations can have gained swaraj or mukti.

We become acquainted how superbly he reconciled between the spiritual and political senses of swaraj and makes it a corollary of spiritual sense of swaraj. Again in his Dhulia Speech, 1908 we become acquainted with the true sense of swaraj as depicted by Sri Aurobindo clearly. Here he explained ‘There has been much discussion about the definition of swaraj. Swaraj has been defined as self-government. It has been defined by Dadabhai Naoroji as self-government colony. In our view, self-government is merely one aspect of swaraj…..The meaning of Swaraj, in our ancient literature, is the spiritual condition of the soul which attains to Mukti. When the soul is independent of everything but itself, when it exists in the joy of its light and greatness, when it is Mukta that is Swaraj. According to our ancient philosophy, sarvam paravasham duhkham sarvam atmavasham sukham: All dependence upon others is misery; all dependence upon ourselves is bliss. This is the fundamental truth.’ Swaraj, in Sri Aurobindo’s view, stands for salvation or mukti. However this salvation is not only individual salvation, rather the collective salvation. Because, according to him, an individual without the support of others cannot be able to evoke the Supreme within so that he comes down to the earth for making the Life Divine. 

Now in analyzing Sri Aurobindo’s notion of Swaraj we have to start our discussion with the Divine as every earthen creature is nothing except God himself. Even the so-called human race is a kind of manifestation of this Divine. But due to their sheer ignorance or Avidya they never become able to assemble with the Brahman. Swaraj stands as a back-bone of such realization because it is a method for realizing the inner divinity of mankind i.e. the arousal of the Supreme inherent within. Being influenced by the Vedanta philosophy, Sri Aurobindo clarified the meaning of Swaraj as Mukti or Salvation. There are several forms of salvation according to Vedanta philosophy – Samipyo Mukti i.e. salvation making men nearer to the Divine, Sajujyo Mukti i.e. the salvation where men can be similar with the Divine, Sarupyo Mukti i.e. the salvation where men becomes Divine-like and can evoke a divine life within the region of the divine body. While going through Sri Aurobindo, we can demonstrate that the purpose of his appraisal of Swaraj is to make men’s life a divine life and if Swaraj = Mukti / Salvation then Swaraj can be called specifically as Sarupyo Mukti because it is always helpful to make human race Divine-like in Sri Aurobindo’s thesis as all earthen creatures including humans are nothing else than God or Sachchidananda himself.     
        
By the way, swaraj, in Sri Aurobindo’s opinion, does not mean only the political freedom, but the freedom of the individual, freedom of the community, freedom of the nation which are the different forms of social freedom along with his most preached notion of the spiritual freedom.

In this context, we have to discuss what he meant by these threefold freedom in a brief manner. Social freedom means the freedom of human mind, soul and intellect from the bondage of selfishness and material interests. This social freedom actually makes men nearer to the realization of universal brotherhood necessary for achieving world union. Without political freedom, no common man can grow beyond his boundary of material self. The community made up of the individuals lacking the political freedom will not discover any great ideal to follow; hence feel helpless when attacked by the strong on e and find no other way except helpless self-surrender. The lack of political freedom transforms a man into an identity-less slave. In the land of such slaves the attainment of the third freedom i.e. spiritual freedom remains totally impossible. When a man becomes completely indifferent of other’s pains, sufferings and sorrows; then he is actually forgetting that God resides not only within him, but also in others, so to help others is a way to serve God. That unfortunate man lacks his spiritual freedom.

In Sri Aurobindo’s opinion, India had immense spiritual freedom, but by blindly imitating the foreign culture it had lost the whole of it. And for the recovery of India’s spiritual freedom he proposed that we need to gain our political freedom and in this noble endeavor Swaraj would guide us. That is why he gave so much stress upon Swaraj as through it he actually tried to revive the lost glory of ancient India.

However it is quite difficult to reconcile Sri Aurobindo’s political notion of Swaraj and its inherent metaphysical senses. Swaraj, according to him, stands for the divine union between the human race and the Supreme Almighty; which is quite abstract in nature. From the metaphysical point of view it seems alright, but not from the social-political point of view. Actually whatever stands as the meaning of Swaraj to Sri Aurobindo, is not appropriate from the social-political side. In the Indian Political life from 1905 to until 1947 [approximately] Swaraj stood as a legitimate crave for the Self-Dependence of India and Indians in the form of the Complete Self-Governance by the help of Elected Representatives dealing with the administrative, judicial etc essential governmental works. The idea of “Sva-Mahimni” of Upanishad seems highly inappropriate in this respect. How could, through a mere political device used for achieving Liberty, we can be re-united with the Brahman? How this apparently impossible looking fact will become possible – is a big question to be dealt with. Its answer is hidden behind the metaphysical background of the doctrine concerning Sri Aurobindo. He is in the actual sense a yogi, a profound mystic who accidentally or may be incidentally became engaged into the political activities of the Pre-Independent India. His plan behind making India liberated is the spiritual plan to make it the ultimate spiritual guide of all materialistic nations, especially Europe. Hence it is quite clear that behind his all political notions, regarding Swaraj, Boycott etc, the inherent touch of metaphysics is predominant. Thus it is not at all inconceivable how metaphysical sense remains existent behind his political notion of Swaraj. All other politicians, like Gandhi, Gokhle etc thought Swaraj as a means of attaining independence from the British domination, whereas Sri Aurobindo took it as a tool of men’s achieving liberty from the grip of ignorance and discovering his own soul which is as divine as the Almighty. In this way, if Swaraj is considered to be Mukti or Salvation in its metaphysical sense, then it could be considered as the similar notion as Vedanta doctrine’s Svarupya Mukti, where human being has to become similar with God. 

Although Sri Aurobindo was not so fond, as it appears to me, of the Vedanta notion of the Indian Philosophy. In fact he perhaps cannot even admit this above-stated easy-derived conclusion from the metaphysical sense of his political notion named Swaraj. The metaphysical inherent sense behind Swaraj is quite difficult to understand. Swaraj stands for Complete Self-Governance or complete Independence. And in Vedas, as depicted by Sri Aurobindo, it stands nothing else but for Muktī or Mokşa or Nirvana or Salvation or Dissolution. 

However the philosophy behind Sri Aurobindo’s Swaraj thesis is that, he mainly wanted to focus on the Spiritual aspect of our country, India; and the political advancement is just the gateway of the desired spiritual advancement by Sri Aurobindo. India is always spiritually much advanced than other nations, but due to the lack of political advancement it never been credited to be spiritually developed. So political freedom is much more essential for proving India as a spiritually free and developed country. This is the actual spiritual aim behind his theory of Swaraj.

But Gandhi’s doctrine of Swaraj is quite prominently different from that of Sri Aurobindo in nature.

In this context we may compare Sri Aurobindo’s doctrine of Swaraj with that of Gandhi’s concept. Actually after the disappearance of Sri Aurobindo from the field of Indian politics, Mahatma Gandhi appeared. Gandhi understood the importance of Swaraj and in his hand its meaning expanded from Colonial Self-government to complete Self-government or Purna Swaraj. Hence in this way Gandhi could be called as a true successor of Sri Aurobindo because he practicalized the notion of Swaraj dreamt by his ancestor.

Gandhi’s swaraj is mostly known to be Hind Swaraj. Hind Swaraj is not merely a protest against violence; it is also a protest against the ongoing administrative system. To Gandhi swaraj is a delicate thing and the means to achieve it is also a much more delicate process. Actually over his thought of Hind Swaraj, the influence of Tolstoy and Ruskin is prominent. Basically Tolstoy’s Kingdom of God is Within is the basis of Gandhi’s swaraj or self-rule where he also, like Sri Aurobindo, advocated the arousal of the Kingdom of God within our own selves.

The practical meaning of Swaraj in Gandhi is quoted from the book named Young India – ‘By Swaraj I (Gandhi) mean the government of India by the consent of the people ascertained by the vote of the largest number of the adult population, male or female, native-born or domiciled who have contributed by manual labour to the service of the State and who have taken the trouble of having their names registered as voters [his own definition of self-rule]….Swaraj means even under dominion status a capacity to declare independence at will. So long we have not achieved that capacity, we have no swaraj…..The cryptic meaning of swaraj I (Gandhi) have often described to be within the Empire if possible, without if necessary.’ Hence Gandhi always wanted to provide self-rule for all common people, whether rich or poor it does not matter to him at all. He accepted even dominion status and also the sense of independence whenever thought to be mandatory.  We can discover that Gandhi’s self-rule = dominion status of nation + independence of masses. Actually he was not completely in the mood of rejecting the British raj from India. He was also in the favor of making a stable nation with political freedom, whether within the foreign rule or not it does not matter to him. But the political turmoil of India of Gandhi’s time actually forced him to preach for complete independence as self-rule or swaraj after satyagraha movement of 1917, varat charo movement of 1942. Hence Gandhi’s self-rule seems somewhat different in nature than that of Sri Aurobindo’s concept of independence.  

However we can notice enough similarity between their theories. From the Vedas Sri Aurobindo discovered the true meaning of Swaraj as Sva-mahimni i.e. arousal of the inner Divinity of the individual along with the nation.  So, in his view, Swaraj is concentrating on the realization of Divinity of man and nation by the ideals of independence, unity and liberty. And Gandhi also desired Swaraj or self-rule for all people, which is nothing less than the realization of Divinity within individual upon this earth. Gandhi’s theory of Swaraj was greatly influenced by Tolstoy and like him Gandhi also mentioned that every man has to follow his conscience seeking to know the kingdom of God lying within. Therefore, in both of their notions, Swaraj stands for not only complete independence, but also the discovery of the inner Divinity.

But while discussing about the means of achieving Swaraj, we may find out inherent differences in their thoughts concerning Swaraj. Even though both of them agreed to accept passive resistance as a means of Swaraj, but from commonsense viewpoint, Sri Aurobindo’s theory is much more acceptable than that of Gandhi. There arises a question – do we need to accept the path of active resistance or stop within the limited boundary of passive resistance? In its answer while Gandhi took passive resistance as the ultimate end, Sri Aurobindo advocated the use of active resistance whenever seems urgent. Actually in the time of Indian political movement from 1917 onwards, Gandhi’s Swaraj based on ahimsa or non-violence took the form of passive resistance, even though he did not accept this sense of Swaraj openly. He always emphasized on the non-violent form of movement, even somewhat unnecessarily. In his view, passive resistance must be the ultimate way to be strictly followed. Even for the sake of self-defence an individual does not get any chance to use violent means as it will assault the inherent Divinity within the wrong-doer. This is originally an absurd thought. In British India, the upraising voices of Indians to protest against the British bureaucracy had been stopped abruptly. The foreign rulers tried every possible means to stop the development of Indian national movement demanding independence of India. Here we find Sri Aurobindo’s theory is justifiable as he mentioned rightly that when our political leaders are restricted to make peaceful and armless gatherings against the British government, then we should not reject the path of passive resistance; but when our voices has been stopped abruptly to protest against the British constituency, then the help of active resistance is mandatory. Under British India, the situation had been worsened in such a way that it became utterly impossible to follow the path of passive resistance strictly. When our own house has been caught in fire, then we cannot simply enjoy the sight. When someone tries to murder us, then our whole attention will be directed towards preventing him, whether violently or non-violently that does not matter. In this respect Sri Aurobindo was absolutely right not to consider passive resistance as the ultimate means. In the book Bande Mataram he claimed that when the limits of coercions would be enlarged in a devastating way such that it can destroy our national life, then we have left no room other than to choose the path of active violence. Actually, even after this, if we choose passive resistance as the only method then it would be the sign of our cowardice. In that case, active resistance should be strictly followed by us as our most holy duty performed towards our mother-land. It has to be explored further how Sri Aurobindo’s doctrine of Swaraj is able to overcome the limitation arisen in the case of Gandhi’s concept of Swaraj. 

Both Sri Aurobindo and Tagore advocated for the revival of the inner divinity within human being. From Tagore Studies we become acquainted with this spiritualistic approach of Tagore ‘….the dharma (principle) of life which thinks and doubts, accepts and rejects, progresses, changes and evolves, cannot, according to orthodoxy, be a part of the Hindu Dharma…. The fact stands out clearly today that the Divinity dwelling within the heart of man cannot be kept immured any longer in the darkness of particular temples. The day of the Ratha-Yatra, the Car Festival, has arrived when He shall come out on the high way of the world, into the thick of the joys and sorrows, the mutual commerce, of the throng of men. Each of us must set to work to build such car as we can, to take its place in the grand procession. The material of some may be of value, of others last till the end. But the day has come at last when all the cars must set out.’  Thus, according to Tagore, even though the Almighty remain the same, the materials compare themselves to the Supreme. Hence the spiritualistic attitude of Sri Aurobindo and Tagore helped both of them to preach for the complete self-surrender towards the feet of the Almighty.   However there also arises dissimilarity between both of them. While Sri Aurobindo considered everything on the earth as the manifestation of the Divine, Tagore preached the superiority of God above all earthly creatures.   

Sri Aurobindo himself admitted his life-long admiration towards Swami Vivekananda. At time of his living in Alipore Jail, he heard the magnificent voice of Swamiji in meditation showing him the right path of life. In 1915, ten years after the Bengal Partition, Sri Aurobindo wrote – “Vivekananda was a soul of puissance if ever there was one, a very lion among men…we perceive his influence still working gigantically, we know not well how, we know not well where, in something that is not yet formed, something leonine, upheaving, that has entered the soul of India and we say ‘Behold, Vivekananda still lives in the soul of his Mother and in the souls of his children.”.

However Tagore and Vivekananda’s thesis was limited in the special arena of discussion. Tagore even though religious in nature, limited himself within the sphere of child-education. Viswa-Bharati is its prominent example. Vivekananda, on the contrary, being a humanitarian in nature, mainly limited himself in evoking the country-men so that the past glory of India could be survived. Sri Aurobindo also adopted these two qualities, but his arena is somewhat large in nature as he never let anything related to human life out of the reach of his discussion. Because Sri Aurobindo thought that the entire fulfillment of the human life would help him to make his life a Life Divine.  Thus we can consider in this way that Sri Aurobindo’s doctrine is somewhat superior to that of Tagore and Vivekananda.

Life Divine: Spiritual Aim Behind Aurobindo’s Politics & Education

Introduction:

Sri Aurobindo’s main aim of developing a social and political thesis is to make the Life Divine of the entire human folk. Collective Salvation is the motto of his dream about the divine life. His political life always set an example to young political aspirants and his yogic life make others spellbound by seeing the inherent charisma of Sri Aurobindo. Sri Aurobindo is thought to be a magnificent personality with the mind of a Yogi and the brain of an established politician, even though his disciples always consider him a Yogi more than a Politician. Most of them consider him as a great Yogi, profound Mystic as well as an exceptional philosopher. In this chapter I would like to focus on the inherent Spiritual Aim behind his entire Social and Political system.

In this above context let us first start with the concept of Philosophy of Religion as it seems quite complicated doctrine and very unusual to discover the relationship with this concept with that of Sri Aurobindo. Actually for touching the Spiritual background behind his Social-Political arena, the discussion about the Philosophy of religion seems mandatory in this respect. Whatever may be one’s private opinion concerning religion or one’s personal attitude to it, one cannot but admire that it is a most necessary and completely outstanding feature of human life. Whoever takes a comprehensive survey of human experience soon will find out the truth of religion – that it remained, remains and has to remain intact within every up-down of human life, history and culture, just as Comte mentioned, ‘religion embraces the whole of existence, and the history of religion resumes the entire history of human development’[1]. We should not go far from Max Muller that the true history of man is the history of religion.

[1] Comte, Positive Policy, vol. ii, quoted by A.S. Pringle-Pattison in The Idea of God in the Light of Recent Philosophy (1917), p. 137.

Philosophy of Religion:

Religion always implies an interpretation of the nature of reality: it involves an interpretation of the meaning of the whole universe in terms of its value for life. The religious consciousness does not merely ‘accept the universe’ as it is, but postulates even what is beneath this visible world i.e. the spiritual power deep-rooted available in everywhere of human life. Nevertheless, even the purely empirical study of religion proves to us that the religious consciousness itself points to a super-empirical reality as its ground and support, that therefore its essence is not to be understood empirically, that religion in its development strives for an ideal which derives its validity and authority from ‘beyond the veil of sense’ – i.e. ‘from the beyond that is within’, the world of spiritual values which transcends the empirical world of space, time, and events, and yet which is immanent within it as constituting its deeper meaning.  Without this ground and support religion is nothing more than a baseless dream, a beautiful illusion with no foundation of objective reality. The inner dissolving of religion into a mere subjective illusion cannot be concealed by its supposed beneficial effects in practice. It can be beneficial in practice only to the extent that the religious consciousness believes that it has the universe behind it. Religion means to be true as well as effective, and effective because true. It contains a knowledge (as yet imperfect, but true as far as it goes) of Supra-sensible realities, a knowledge which is capable of being progressively purified and made more accurate and also adequate. Hence the Philosophy of Religion cannot shrink the task, difficult though it undoubtedly is, of furnishing rational ground for the World view implied in the Religious Consciousness. Now let us start inquiring into three different phenomenons concerning the Philosophy of Religion, which are necessary to be studied for understanding its inherent features – 1. Philosophy of Religion has to study the phenomena of religious experience, perhaps for this above said reason; I want to call Sri Aurobindo’s inherent Spiritual Aim hidden behind his Social and Political thesis as the prominent example of Philosophy of Religion. This department of our subject is sometimes known to be the Phenomenology of Religion. Now, these phenomena may be studied from two points of view – firstly, from the point of view of the inner or subjective experience of the religious consciousness (the psychological point of view) and secondly, from the standpoint of religious experience as externalized as rites, institutions, events, myths, creeds, theologies (the historical point of view). These two points of view cannot be kept absolutely apart from each other. 2. We also have seen that from the study of the phenomena of religion and of its nature, laws, principles of development, we have to pass on to the question of the validity and adequacy of the religious view of the world. We have to justify it as a reasonable attitude for reasonable beings, or, if it cannot be justified, to show why it is an indefensible attitude. This problem divides into two corollaries – first, there is an epistemological problem. Is the mind of a man competent enough to pronounce judgment on the nature of reality? Is knowledge of the supra-sensible possible? Or is it a contradictory to human experiments in terms to speak as if human experiments could experience all subjects or objects that which actually transcends experience? And what is the true nature of religious knowledge? And what is the nature of the religious knowledge? Is it essentially of the same nature and acquired in the same process like that of a ‘secular’ knowledge? Or is it something qualitatively different from it and of such kind as to be able to penetrate to realms that are closed to ordinary knowledge and out of the reach of the ordinary faculties by which knowledge is acquired? Is faith a higher mode of knowing? Can religious consciousness be able to give you a superior kind of truth? Secondly, there is an ontological problem. Here the problem regarding religion has to be examined in the light of human mind; they have to be further inquired in the light of ultimate reality itself. Is the nature of reality such as to justify the religious view of whole world or it is just a sign of our error and illusion? And what specific form of religious belief, if any, is considered to be the most adequately describe, in other words, express the true nature of the Reality? And is there any format of religious belief ever possible in Reality?

Philosophy of Religion deals with such tricky questions. Actually there is no difference between these two questions in nature. Both of them deal with the same problem regarding the true nature of the super-natural substance of whose existence we always try to confirm. The question regarding the metaphysical, i.e. the supramental mold in Sri Aurobindo’s hypothesis regarding the Social-Political thought also, according to me, belongs to the criteria of the Philosophy of Religion. Actually Sri Aurobindo is a profound Yogi in his heart, so he can never believe the existence of anything in this enormous world without total surrender to the Almighty. However this path is not at all an easy one. In the path of achieving the political freedom, he dreamt of achievement of spiritual freedom as its important and gradual corollary. If we go through his life-story then we can be amazed to see that his decision to be a part in Indian politics was also guided by this dream of gaining Spiritual Superiority over other nations. He loved our Mother-Nation mostly above all, even his decisions of indulging in politics and retiring from it, were also not according to his own will, but according to the Divine Will of Supreme or God. His aim was an indispensable one not only for the upliftment of the country, but also for the development of his fellow countrymen. How could we ever deny his contribution in Indian politics as well as in Indian spirituality? Not only as a politician but also as an insightful mystic we have to remember him through the ages. Therefore we have to be indeed grateful towards Sri Aurobindo for teaching us the inherent value as well as the inevitability of spirituality hidden even behind the well-known and well-established concepts used in the realm of politics.

Spirituality & Polity in India:

In this endeavor, let us try to formulate Sri Aurobindo’s own thesis as found in two following paragraphs in the article named “The Life of Nationalism” in Bande Mataram – ‘…The Moderate legend of its origin is that it was the child of Lord Curzon begotten upon despair and brought safely to birth by skillful midwifery of Sir Bampfylde. Nationalism was never a gospel of despair nor did it owe its birth to oppression. It is no true account of it to say that because Lord Curzon favoured reaction, a section of the Congress Party lost faith in England and turned Extremist, and it is vain political trickery to tell the bureaucrats in their councils that in was their frown which created Extremism and the renewal of their smiles will kill it. The fixed illusion of these moderate gospellers is that the national life of India is merely a fluid mirror reflecting the moods of the bureaucracy, sunny and serene when they are in a good humor and stormy and troubled when they are out of temper, that it can have no independent existence, no self-determined character of its own which the favor of the bureaucracy cannot influence and its anger cannot disturb. But Nationalism was not born of persecution and cannot be killed by the cessation of persecution. Long before the advent of Curzonism and Fullerism, while the Congress was be-slavering the present absolutist bureaucracy with fulsome praise as a good and beneficent government marred by a few serious defects, while it was singing hymns of loyalty and descanting on the blessings of British rule, Nationalism was already born and a slowly-growing force. It was not born and did not grow in the Congress Pandal, nor in the Bombay, Presidency Association, nor in the councils of the wise economists and learned reformers, nor in the brains of the Mehtas and Gokhales, nor in the tongues of the Surendranaths and Lalmohuns, nor under the hat and the coat of the denationalised ape of English speech and manners. It was born like Krishna in the prison-house, in the hearts of men to whom India under the good and beneficent government of absolutism seemed an intolerable dungaeons, to whom the blessings of an alien despotic rule were hardly more acceptable than the plagues of Egypt, who regarded the comfort, safety and ease of the Pax Britannica, – an ease and safety not earned by our own efforts and vigilance but purchased by the slow loss of every element of manhood and every field of independent activity among us, – as more fatal to the life of the people than the poosta of the Moguls, with whom a few seats in the Council or on the Bench and right of entry into the Civil Service and a free Press and platform could not weigh against the starvation of the rack-rented millions, the drain of our life-blood, the atrophy of our energies and the disintegration of our national character and knowledge, and ideals; who looked beyond the temporary ease and opportunities of a few merchants, clerks and successful professional men to the lasting pauperism and degradation of a great and ancient people. And Nationalism grew as Krishna grew who ripened to strength and knowledge, not in the courts of princes and the schools of the Brahmins but in the obscure and despised homes of the poor and ignorant. In the cave of the Sannyasin, under the grab of the Fakir, in the hearts of young men and boys many of whom could not speak a word of English but all could work and dare and sacrifice for the Mother, in the life of men of education and parts who had received the mantra and put from them the desire of wealth and honors to teach and labor so that the good religion might spread, there Nationalism grew slowly to its strength, unheeded and unnoticed, until in its good time it came to Bengal, the destined place of its self-manifestation and for three years, unheeded and unnoticed, spread over the country, gathering in every place the few who were capable of the vision and waiting for the time that would surely come when oppression would begin in earnest and the people look round them for some way of deliverance.

For, that an absolute rule will one day begin to coerce and trample on the subject population is an inevitable law of nature which none can escape. The master with full power of life and death over his servant can only be gracious so long as he is either afraid of his slave or else sure that the slave will continue willing, obedient and humble in his servitude and not transgress the limits of the freedom allowed him by his master. But if the serf begins to assert himself, to insist on the indulgence conceded to him as on a right, to rebel against occasional harshness, to wag his tongue with too insolent a licence and disobey imperative orders, then it is not in human nature for the master to refrain from calling for the scourge and the fetters. And if the slave resists the application of the scourge and the imposition of the fetters, it becomes a matter of life and death for the master to enforce his orders and put down the mutiny. Oppression was therefore inevitable, and oppression was necessary that the people as a whole might be disposed to accept Nationalism, but Nationalism was not born of oppression. The oppression and slaughters committed by Kamsa upon the Yadavas did not give birth to Krishna but they were needed that the people of Mathura might look for the deliverer and accept him when he came. To hope that conciliation will kill Nationalism is to mistake entirely the birth, nature and workings of the new force, nor will either the debating skill of Mr. Gokhale nor all Dr. Ghose’s army of literary quotations and illusions convince Englishmen that any such hope can be admitted for a moment. For Englishmen are political animals with centuries of political experience in their blood, and though they possess little logic and less wisdom, yet in such matters they have an instinct which is often surer than reason or logic. They know that what is belittled as Extremism is really Nationalism and Nationalism has never been killed by conciliation; concessions it will only take as new weapons in its fight for complete victory and unabridged dominion. We desire our countrymen on their side to cultivate a corresponding instinct and cherish an invincible faith. There are some who fear that conciliation or policy may unstring the new movement and others who fear that persecution may crush it. Let them have a robuster faith in the destinies of their race. As neither the milk of Putna nor the hoofs of the demon could destroy the infant Krishna, so neither Riponism nor Poona prosecutions could check the growth of Nationalism while yet it was an indistinct force; and as neither Kamsa’s wiles nor his vişakanyās nor his mad elephant nor his wresters could kill Krishna revealed in Mathura, so neither a revival of Riponism nor the prison of discord sown by bureaucratic allurements, nor Fullerism plus hooliganism, nor prosecution under cover of legal statues can slay Nationalism now that it has entered the arena. Nationalism is an avatāra and cannot be slain. Nationalism is a divinely appointed śakti of the Eternal and must do its God-given work before it returns to the bosom of the Universal Energy from which it came.’[1]

[1] Sri Aurobindo, ‘The Life of Nationalism’, Bande Mataram, p. 597-600

Spirituality & Education in India:

In Indian context the role of spirituality is utterly predominant, be it the case of ethics, politics or even education. In ancient India, education was given on the basis of religion and spirituality.  The pupils have to be of high-caste unless they are believed not to receive compatible for good education.  Karna and Eklavya in Mahavarata are the perfect examples of such manipulation. The basis of this differentiation between children of four social classes, e.g. Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Sudras actually dependent upon the spiritual base of India.  It is strongly believed that Brahmanas emerge from the Head of the Deity and hence power of knowledge is their birth-right; the Kshatriyas emerge from the Arms of the Deity and hence they are believed to have power, chivalry, heroic attitude; the Vaishyas emerge from the Thighs of the Deity and hence they have the power of production, business etc; and the Sudras emerge from the Feets of the Deity and hence they are deprived of any rights except servitude, obedience etc. Hence from this Vedic example it becomes crystal clear that in ancient time religion remained as the basis of education as except Brahmanas (and partially Kshatriyas and sometimes Vaishyas; but in very small amount) nobody was thought to be able to receive education. Education is thought to be the Mantras or hymns (as conceived by the Vedas) of prayer enchanted to please the Deity, and being the highest class of the society only Brahmanas can get this opportunity. Hence spirituality and education from their primitive stages are totally inseparable from each other.

Sri Aurobindo on Spirituality of India:

In the book named Bande Mataram Sri Aurobindo clearly depicted his above stated dream of making India the spiritual guide of other nations. ‘….our own efforts and the impulse given or the work done by the leading men, whether Moderates or Extremists, have been so small, petty and inefficient that they are absolutely insufficient to explain the extraordinary results. The machinery has been absurdly inadequate, the organization nil, the means at our disposal pitiably small, the real workers few and mostly obscure, and yet the Indian world has stood amazed and the Anglo-Indian aghast at the vast and incommensurate results of an apparatus so inefficient. We believe, therefore, that Divine Power is behind the movement, that the Zeitgeist, the Time-Spirit, is at work to bring out a mighty movement of which the world at the present juncture has need, that that movement is the resurgence of Asia and that the resurgence of India is not only a necessary part of the larger movement but its central need, that India is the keystone of the arch, the chief inheritress of the common Asiatic destiny’[1]. The old Mangolian dynasty and also the Muslim [called as the Mohamedan one by Sri Aurobindo] dynasty ruled over Asia for some times, but both of them are not able to reconcile several cultures as well as their fundamental features as superbly as India does. So, in his opinion, not these two, but Indian civilization was destined to fulfill the so long cherished spiritual aim of God or Sachchidannda. This is the actual sense of Sri Aurobindo’s dream of India’s gaining Spiritual Mastery all over the entire world.

[1] Sri Aurobindo, Bande Mataram, ‘The Question of the Hour’, p. 391

Actually the arrival of British merchants in India, according to Sri Aurobindo, was also destined by God as a part of his plan. In his opinion, whatever has happened with our motherland and our beloved countrymen was also pre-determined by Him. ‘What is it that you seek, rulers who are eager to confuse the interests of a handful of white administrators with the welfare of humanity, or what is it that your dream, traders who think that God made this India of ours only as a market for your merchandise? This great and ancient nation was once the fountain of human light, the apex of human civilization, 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 civilizations 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 convenience for the West, the hosts 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 outcast and the slave. But now that lesson is learned, and the time for our resurgence is come. And no power shall stay that uprising and no opposite interest shall deny us the right to live, to be ourselves, to set interest us even in our evening and midnight has been broken into pieces and their glory turned into a legend of the past. Yet you venture to hope that in the hour of our morning you will be able to draw back the veil of night once more over our land as if to read you a lesson. God has lighted the fire in a quarter where you least feared it and it is beginning to eat up your commerce and threaten your ease. He has raised up the people you despised as weaklings and cowards, a people of clerks and babblers and slaves and set you to break their insurgent spirit and trample them into the dust if you can. You have tried every means except absolute massacre and you have failed. And now what will you do? Will you learn the lesson before it is too late or will you sink your Empire in the mire of shame where other nations have gone who had not the excuse of the knowledge of liberty and the teachings of the past? For us, for you, today everything is trembling in the balance, and it is not for us who have but reacted passively to your action, it is for you to decide’[1].

[1] Sri Aurobindo, Bande Mataram, ‘The Vanity of Reaction’, p. 560-561

Sri Aurobindo’s main aim of life is to make the Supermind bound to descent upon the earthen level, so that it can help in the spiritual advancement of our beloved countrymen. Therefore, with the political advancement, the spiritual development of India and Indians seems indivisibly correlated with. However in this present chapter, I am trying to grasp the true nature of this spirituality inherent within the realm of Indian politics, as conceived by Sri Aurobindo.

Reference:

  1. Sri Aurobindo, Bande Mataram, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1972 (Fifth Impression 1997).
  2. Sri Aurobindo, On Nationalism, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1986.
  3. Sri Aurobindo, Speeches: on Indian Political and National Education, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1922 (7th Edition, 2005).
  4. Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Karmayogin, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1918.
  5. Singh, Karan, The Prophet of Indian Nationalism: A Study of the Political Thought of Sri Aurobindo Ghosh 1893-1910, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai, 2000.
  6. Sri Aurobindo, The Renaissance in India and Other Essays on Indian Culture, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1997.
  7. Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle, The Ideal of Human Unity, War and Self-Determination, Lotus Press, 1970 (2nd edition).

 

The Theory of Education: In The Light of Aurobindo & Tagore

The definition of true education is a very debatable concept about which the agreement has yet to be established. Generally we denote by the word ‘education’ the system of education received by us during our school and college days. But is this denotation is appropriate?  If yes, then education will stand just for bookish knowledge encouraged by our traditional educational institutes. Education certainly not means that. In its true sense, education should be that training, both mental and physical, of the children, which will enable them to reveal their internal capabilities as well as introduce them with the knowledge of all things belonging in this vast world. According to swami Vivekananda, by which education we learn to control and dominate our moral wills and to limit their speed completely that education should be considered as the proper kind of education[1]. It will encourage the pupils not only to learn from books, but also from nature.  Because a person, who does not believe that Nature is the best teacher of a child, is actually rejecting one of the most significant principles of education. A child, deprived from the nature, is unable to utilize his bookish informations due to lack of appropriate training. In books, he will learn the process how to acquire and memorize some information, but unable to know about their utility; however in nature he will both learn the fact as well as its usage. Thus, the prospective of education over our whole life seems quiet vast; as it does not remain limit only within the small boundary of books, but expanded throughout our whole life-experiences. In this present paper, I will try to compare between the educational theories of Sri Aurobindo and Tagore, whose writings will help us to understand properly the true picture of our present educational conditions and also to reform it whenever found necessary.

[1] Swami Vivekanander Bani Sanchayan, p. 22

[1] On Education, p. 32

Tagore also realized that the traditional system of education under the British rule was nothing but a kind of silly joke made with the future of Indian students. In his opinion, in the name of education we make children bound to gather or even swallow several types of bookish information. So, the pupils are really very unfortunate as no one other than them suffers from such a tremendous pressure of education and have to bear extreme pain in their procedure of learning. Such signs of terror and mechanism are existent in every where of this traditional system of education. Hence education in this is making men mechanical, but fails to awake the Real man within him. But if education can be obtained by the pupil with happiness and freedom of acceptance, then their power of thinking and reasoning will naturally be developed. In this way the inner human being of every child will come out with fullest potentialities. He had a firm belief that ‘Freedom of the Soul’ is gained in no other means than ‘a free way of education and learning procedure of the Indian children’.  Thus, we can discover from their concepts that character building was accepted by both of them as the integral part of education.

Now let us discuss of their concepts regarding the role of the teacher in the educational system. Sri Aurobindo mentioned that the tutor should produce himself as a helper and guide of the child. He must not impose something which seems external to the student or try to taught him; for to force the child to learn something against his will, means to demolish his natural process of growth. To compare a child with lifeless clay that can be molded in any way as the teacher wish is barbarous in nature. So, anything brought from outside should be offered to his mind, but not imposed. In his opinion, the basic goal of education should be in helping the growing soul of a child to be perfect in every respect. And in this noble endeavor the tutor should take an essential part.

We can have a similar response from Tagore when he exclaimed that in the traditional system of education, the teacher took the form of businessman to whom giving education is just like selling goods and his basic intention was mainly earning money by selling his bookish information. For this give and take relationship of the teachers formed with the educational system, the pupils become completely unable to respect them from the bottom of their hearts and lots of frightfulness and hatred remain stored in their mind. Thus, for giving education we need that type of teachers who will take this huge responsibility of education as their only means of living. In this way, the teacher will be able to understand the pupil’s mind and can try to solve his problems without thinking it inferior in importance. Education of this kind will be proved as blessings towards the students. Hence, both Sri Aurobindo and Tagore admitted the fact that knowledge can not be sold, rather given by the masters. Thus, the value of education is not dependent on money, but on the mutual respect and devotion between teacher and student.

Both of them also agreed about the role of nature played over the student mind. According to Sri Aurobindo, education grasped from Nature is the proper education as it is the best medium of learning procedure. Our traditional education can only make the children frighten and hamper their natural process of growth. The relation formed between child and books is the relation of terror and distance. But only under the supervision of Nature, students will become properly educated and this education is however much more practical, sound, interesting and higher in qualities than our traditional one. Hence, in his opinion, ‘It is by allowing Nature to work that we get the benefit of the gifts she has bestowed on us’[1], we can prepare a child to gain a free and natural growth which was rather impossible through our education process dependent completely upon books.

[1] On Education, p. 35

In this context, Tagore also mentioned that the persons, detached from nature, can only be glad of being traditionally educated after receiving some sorts of Degrees and Diplomas, but infact they are not needed for the recreation of our nation in a newer way. Because they are completely ignorant of the real fact that nature plays a vital role to teach a child. In our traditional system, we detach a child from the nature’s lap, and confine him within the clumsy atmosphere of institutions. Education grasped from nature gives a child enough chance to learn freely, and do not forcefully impose anything upon his weak shoulders as a burden. For the inner growth of a child, education acquired from nature play a very essential role. May be that is the reason for which both Tagore and Sri Aurobindo preferred the education of children given within the boundary of ashram.

However, behind their establishment of ashrams in Pondicherry and Shantiniketan, another important factor acted silently. Both of them were tremendously fascinated with the ancient Indian educational culture where education was given by the gurus and received by students living within the natural atmosphere of Tapoban. But they both admitted that for the welfare of India we have to accept the truths demonstrated by modern Europe. According to Sri Aurobindo, it was falsely thought that we want to fetch back the old Tol systems of India in the name of national education as living in this advanced age it is definitely impossible to revive the ancient system in its oldest form. It is true that past had attained success in many respects, but only for that above reason, it will be quite unjust to refute all the scientific truths of enlightened Europe. Thus, in his view, education, being universal in nature, must be free from any national character or border. As a advocator of national system of education he clarified his position, ‘It is not a return to the fifth century but an initiation of the centuries to come, not a reversion but a break forward away from a present artificial falsity to her own greater innate potentialities that is demanded by the soul, by the Shakti of India’[1]. And to revive the true spirit of India we have to collaborate the modern scientific truth of Europe with the past glory of India. In this way, as he hoped, a greater future can emerge out of its foundation of Indian past along with the modern European present. In Sri Aurobindo Ashram he tried to lay the foundation of this dream.

[1]  On Education, p. 9

Like Sri Aurobindo, Tagore also visualized the same truth. While living in America, he saw the worst side of European culture – lust for power, lust for growth and lust for dominating others. However the goodness of Western culture lies in its cultivation of scientific knowledge by the help of which man can achieve a way to win over diseases, pain, death etc. and ancient Asia always concentrated on gaining spiritual knowledge by which we can ultimately reach our destination of moksa or liberation. In his opinion, by reconciling these two cultures altogether we can hope of achieving something new in form but old in spirit in the upcoming future for the welfare of human race. He clarified that with Europe, India has to establish the give and take relationship. Europe’s excessiveness of scientific thought and India’s life-long devotion towards spirituality have to be exchanged, because in Europe spiritual truth and in India scientific truth never touched their extreme limit. Hence, a greater India can emerge out of its unification with all, even Europe. And in this noble endeavor of unification, education also has to play a significant role. For that reason, within the national system of education, we have to unite the ancient glory of Indian educational system along with the inner goodness of modern European culture. In his Viswa-Bharati he actually started this process of constructing a new India by preparing all of its students as the new citizens of the newly-made India.

Sri Aurobindo mentioned that the medium of instruction must be such that it can touch our Indian soul, reflecting also our temperament, culture and basic needs. We want to learn English, Latin, French, German etc. languages following Westerns, which are the representatives of Western culture, thought and behavioral pattern. But the true fact is that we have no resemblance with them in any respect. For that reason the pattern of education which seems relevant in West, will not be so much applicable in India. And a child’s mother tongue is mostly required to gain his mastery over other secondary especially foreign languages. Only in it, our mental and logical faculties concerning judgment, comparison, reasoning, observation etc. will be flourished, which seems quite tough to develop on the basis of foreign languages. So, according to him, our mother tongue is the suitable medium of instruction for education, because only it can have the power to evoke a child’s innermost potentialities. And for that reason, the fundamental responsibility of the child, in his view, is to be the master in his own mother tongue, through which the mastery over other languages will be easily achieved.        

In the opinion of Tagore, the medium of instruction of education must be our own mother tongue, because we have lost most of our energies in learning such an unknown language like English in our early youth. But if this obstacle is removed then our language learning will be much easier. Being ironical to the lovers of English language, he mentioned that, many Bengali Babus do not even imagine that Shiksha-Saraswati can wear sari, and anyhow if this impossible will become possible, then she should loss her own her own status. His warning against this narrow mentality of the educated people was prevalent in everywhere of his thesis. Probodh Chandra Sen quoted Saddler Commission’s report where the fullest description of Tagore’s educational theory was given in brief – ‘the chief medium of instruction in schools should be the mother-tongue. He has four reasons for this belief; first, because it is through his mother-tongue that every man learns the deepest lessons of life; second, because some of those pupils who have a just claim to higher education cannot master the English language; third, because many of those who do not acquire English fail to achieve true proficiency in it and yet, in the attempt to learn a language so difficult to a Bengali, spend too large a part of the energy which is indispensable to the growth of the power of independent thought and observation; fourth, because a training conducted chiefly through the mother-tongue would lighten the load of education for girls…’[1].

[1]  Sen, P. C., p. 43

In Sri Aurobindo’s theory of education we find the mention of harmony between men and everything else. In his opinion, man gains harmony by the constant process of evolution of his several aspects such as physical, vital, mental, psychic, spiritual and supramental. According to him, a true and living education has to deal with three conditions ‘the man, the individual in his commonness and uniqueness, the nation or people and universal humanity – – that alone will be a true and living education which helps to bring out to full advantage, makes ready for the full purpose and scope of human life all that is in the individual man, and which at the same time helps him to enter into his right relation with the life, mind and soul of the people to which he belongs and with that great total life, mind and soul of humanity of which he himself is a unit and his people or nation a living, a separate and yet inseparable member’[1]. Thus, in his opinion, harmonization of man with his community as well as with universe will be possible through the true education. This harmonization procedure occupies a very crucial place in his theory as through it he later developed his notion Divinization of men.

[1]  On Education, p. 13-14

Tagore in his theory of education said that education must be meant for self-realization of man by the help of which he could find out his harmony with nature, with universe, with whole human race. So, also in his writing we discover the deep urge to explore man’s relation with anything affecting himself as in Sri Aurobindo. For the development of the individual, the necessity of identifying the individual soul along with the universal soul is extremely necessary. Hence education helps a man to overcome all the limitations of his individual personality as well as to search for his universal personality. And this universal personality of a man can be discovered not only within himself, but also in every single moment deploring his relationship with nature and environment. Thus R. N. Sharma truly evaluated that ‘He (Tagore) believes in an inner harmony between man and Nature and God. In man, again, the physical, the mental and the spiritual aspects are equally important and internally related. Therefore, like Sri Aurobindo, Rabindranath believes in a multisided education with physical, intellectual, moral and religious aims’[1].  This belief helped him in his construction of Viwsa-Bharati.

[1]  Sharma, R. N., Textbook of Educational Philosophy, p. 320 

Physical education, according to them both, plays a vital role in the child’s learning. Sri Aurobindo claimed that, for the total perfection of the being, the physical part of it can not be ignored as it is the basis upon which this perfection can be attained. Games and sports are not mere tools of amusements and fun, but the fields helpful enough to develop good habits and better qualities. Thus, we should accept the importance of sports, because by their help, our consciousness about the body awakes along with the arousal of the sporting spirit necessary to meet the challenges of both life and game. Therefore, in his view, for making the life divine we have to give necessary emphasis on developing the body divine. For this above reason, Sri Aurobindo and The Mother both gave so much stress upon the physical training of the children living at Pondicherry Ashram.

Tagore was very critical to our prevalent system of education as not giving importance on physical education. One of the aims of education, in his view, is physical development of children. In R. N. Sharma’s translation we find out Tagore’s point of view about the value of physical activities ‘Even if they (the children) learnt nothing, they would have had ample time for play, climbing trees, diving into ponds, plucking and tearing flowers, perpetrating thousand and one mischiefs on Mother Nature, they would have obtained the nourishment of the body, happiness of min and the satisfaction of the natural impulses of childhood’[1]. So, physical fitness, according to him, has to be achieved for the complete development of child; because then, he gets enough opportunity of proper development.

[1]  Ibid, p. 320

Both Sri Aurobindo and Tagore provided some reasonable grounds for their acceptance of the intimate value of the mental education. According to Sri Aurobindo, very child can imagine, create mental images, use analogy about the characters depicted in his school-books; hence, through proper mental education we have to encourage his hidden powers and inborn qualities to flourish which will otherwise lie dormant in him. He should not be confined within the boundary of bookish knowledge, rather should be encouraged to grow in his own way. He straight-forwardly claimed ‘Every child is an enquirer, an investigator, analyser, a merciless anatomist. Appeal to those qualities in him and let him acquire without knowing it the right temper and the necessary fundamental knowledge of the scientist. Every child has an insatiable intellectual curiosity and turn for metaphysical enquiry. Use it to draw him on slowly to an understanding of the world and himself. Every child has the gift of imitation and a touch of imaginative power. Use it to give him the groundwork of the faculty of the artist’[1]. Education of the mind given in such a way will help a child to be perfectly grown up in future.

[1]  On Education, p. 34

Tagore equally laid emphasis upon the mental aim of education. In his view, for proper livelihood we have to flourish two powers, i.e. the power of thinking and the power of imagination. However the prevalent educational system put too much stress upon the memory power and too little on thinking and imagination. But both of them are really indispensable for the growth of child life. For their lack of presence in our traditional system, we have to bear the burden of memorized knowledge, but do not learn to apply them in reality. But if the child from the very beginning learns how to apply his knowledge, then his mental capacity will be naturally flourished and the mind will, in fact, receive the appropriate opportunity to show its inherent abilities.

In his system of education, Sri Aurobindo did not differentiate between male and female. The education for men and women must be similar in every respect. He proposed that we should treat women as equal as men. Neglecting females will be very harmful for our society because, in his opinion, they are also very essential part of our social structure.  Therefore, no distinctions were made by him on the basis of sex division in his ashram. Even the same kind of physical exercises were given here to both male and female. The absurdity of the idea of sex division was reflected in The Mother’s voice ‘for God’s sake, can’t you forget that you are a girl or a boy and try to become a human being?[1]’. The main aim of Sri Aurobindo’s educational theory was to synchronize between both sexes by giving them same education, same training, same chance to grow; so that the proper advancement of the human race will become ultimately possible.

[1]  On Women, p. 48

Tagore’s theory was partially similar with that of Sri Aurobindo in the context of co-education. In his theory, every human being has natural right of education, so women should not be deprived from it. Educated female will be completely reluctant to their basic household works, this absurd theory was not at all accepted by him. Their mental propensities like kindness, respect, love, devotion, tolerance, shyness etc. will also not be affected by their learning. However, unlike Sri Aurobindo, he made distinction between the educations given to both men and women. In his view, knowledge has two aspects – pure knowledge and practical knowledge. In the case of pure knowledge both sexes will get equal right to gain it. But the practical knowledge received by both of them should be different according to the difference of their nature. Female are distinct from their male counterparts not only in their bodily formation, but also in their mental structure. So, he never admitted that the practical field of work for both male and female should be equal with each other. Thus, here we discover a basic difference within the theories of co-education advocated by Tagore and Sri Aurobindo.

However another vital difference between both of their theories is worthy to mention. In Sri Aurobindo’s theory, the main stress was given upon the underlying aim of realizing the supramental being within us and to be united with him. In the writings of  The Mother we notice the explanation of Sri Aurobindo’s hidden goal ‘As your surrender becomes more and more perfect and integral, it will carry with it the aspiration for identification, a total fusion with That to which you have given yourself, and little by little this aspiration will overcome all differences and all resistances, especially if the aspiration has, added to it, an intense and spontaneous love for then nothing can stand in the way of its victorious onset’[1].  So, Sri Aurobindo always remembered this unique goal of unification of human race with the Divine via educational theories and this was predominant behind his theory of education. Pavitra very clearly clarified this notion in his own book ‘Men and nations will be regarded as souls and group-souls, the Divinity concealed and to be self-discovered in its human individuals and collectivities, group-souls meant like the individuals to grow according to their own nature and by that growth to help each other, to help the whole race in the common work of humanity. And that work is to find the divine self in the individual and the collectivity and to realize spiritually, mentally, vitally, materially its greatest, largest, richest and deepest possibilities in the inner life of all and their outer action and nature’[2]. However, it seems quite complex in nature to common Indian educated masses, because here too much emphasis is given on this concept of Divinization. It indeed has practical significance, but for this complexity in understanding somewhere remains quite unappealing to the thought of common people.

[1]  On Education, p. 128-129

[2]  Pavitra, p. 40

But in Tagore’s theory we find out a kind of simplicity inherent, for which it seems so appealing to common masses. In his theory, he stressed upon the wage-earning for the poor villagers. Though he did not admit that education is a means of earning bread alone, but he admitted that as an intimate part of any sound educational system. In 1922, the Palli Sangathan Bibhag was made by him, which was renamed as Sriniketan in 1923. T. N. Ganguli discovered from ‘The Bulletin of Viswa-Bharati’ that ‘The objective of Sriniketan is to bring back life in its completeness into the villages making their self-reliant and self-respectful, acquired with the cultural standard of their own country and competed to make an efficient use of modern resources for the improvement of their (the villagers) physical, intellectual and economic condition’[1]. For giving education among villagers, Sriniketan was divided into various departments, e.g. agricultural department, industrial department, educational department, rural reconstruction department and samavaya. The foundation of Shiksha-Satra served as a means of not only their own earning livelihood, but also to equip them the necessary training for the improvement of the rural Bengal. 

[1]  Gangopadhyaya, T., p. 86

By the way, it is our task to explore both of their educational theories so that we could evaluate the present condition of educational system in India. Their dream was to construct a new India by reconciling its past glory along with the modern European advancement, which unfortunately remained unexplored even today. For the betterment of India, through the enhancement of its educational condition, we have to take their suggestions seriously.    

References:

  1. Basu, Bishnu and Binay Bandopadhyaya (ed.), Rabindranather Shikshabhavana, Pratibhas, Kolkata, 1989.
  2. Gangopadhyaya, Tapendranath, Rabindranather Shikshacinta Parikalpana o Proyog, Sahitya Prakash, Kolkata, 1995.
  3. On Women : Compiled from the writings of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Sri Aurobindo Society, Pondicherry, 2004.
  4. Pavitra (P. B. Saint-Hilaire), Education and The Aim of Human Life, Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, Pondicherry, 2002.
  5. Sen, Probodh Chandra, Rabindranather Shikshacinta (Rabindranath Tagore’s Thoughts on Education), Paschim Banga Rajya Pustak Parshad, Kolkata, 1982.
  6. Sharma, Ram Nath, Text Book of Educational Philosophy, Kanishka Publishers Distributors, New Delhi, 2000.
  7. Sri Aurobindo, Sri Aurobindo and The Mother On Education, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 2004.
  8. Sri Aurobindo and The Mother On Physical Education, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 2002.
  9. Swami Vivekanander Bani Sanchayan, Udbodhan Karyalaya, Kolkata, 2006.
  10. Tagore, Rabindranath, Shiksha, Viswa-Bharati, Kolkata, 1965.

 

The Theory of Time: In the perspective of Sri Aurobindo

The theory of time is a necessary concept in all traditions, whether Indian or Western. Without Time the existence of all worldly things are impossible. All of us are aware of three district phrases of Time – Past, Present & Future which are essential for the existence of anyone. So, Time is that which can not be ignored, however it seems quite difficult to discuss its nature in brief.

What is the meaning of Time? The etymological root of the term ‘kāla’ is  kal i.e. ‘to count’. In this sense, kāla signifies that object which counts the age of all. But the root  kal also signifies ‘to devour’. Hence, kāla also means the object that can bring death. Perhaps that is the reason why we call Shiva, the God who destroys the world, as Mahākāla.

In Indian tradition, several Vedas, Puranas along with Mahabharata discusses about the nature of Time. In Atharva Veda time is the originator & controller of all as well as the main cause behind the origination, maintenance & destruction of the entire world. Whereas in the philosophy of Kashmiri Saivism time is considered as the power of the Absolute. In the Puranas one finds the notion of four different Yugas or time-cycles – Satya, Treta, Dvapara and Kali. Similarly in Mahabharata time is compared with wire-holders or sutradhara (stage-manager) of the universe for which every worldly events take place. [1]

[1] As found from Balslave, A. N., A study of Time in Indian Philosophy, P. 11 – 12

In this article we want to discuss about Sri Aurobindo’s theory of Time.

Actually in Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy the notion of Time is implicitly present everywhere. Because of his acquaintance with the European culture, he calls Time as Zeitgeist following the European tradition. In his opinion, Zeitgeist or kāla is expressing itself behind every event taken place in the universe. Here we can notice the influence of the Vedas over his theory of Time, when he, following Vedas, clearly mentions that Time is the main cause behind every historical change. Whenever Sachchidananda i.e. the Absolute, in the involutionary process of creation, (for making lila) tries to manifest himself in the cosmic form, the first thing he needs is Time or kāla. Time also has a spiritual character in the sense that it is the Subjective self-extension of the spiritual reality (the Sachchidananda) for the purpose of cosmic manifestation. In his Life Divine we discover that, Time is the names for the self-extension of the one Absolute reality. According to him, ‘Thus by the very nature of the world-play as it has been realized by Sachchidananda in the vastness of His existence extended as Space and Time..’[1]

[1] Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, p. 122

From the earlier paragraph we can derive that, in Sri Aurobindo’s idea, Time is nothing but a power of God. Actually here we can co-relate his theory with difference Vedas. According to both Atharva Veda & Rig Veda, kala or Time is a cosmic force (Verma, V.P., Political Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo, p. 48).

Like these two Vedas also in Sri Aurobindo’s theory the main emphasis is given upon the creative aspect of Time as time is the helpful instrument or creative power necessary for God’s self-extension into the cosmic forms. Since time is considered helpful for the cosmic manifestation of the Absolute, so we can conclusively derive it as a force or power of God. This is actually the first interpretation of the notion of Time.

However in the second interpretation Time is itself considered as the Absolute. Sri Aurobindo calls Time-Spirit as Lord Krishna. In Gita we find Sri Krishna’s advice to Arjuna in Kurukshetra in this regard –

Kalo’smi lokaksayakrt pravrddho

lokan samahartumiha pravrttah.

rt’pi tvam na bhavisyanti sarve

ye’vasthitah pratyanikesu yodhah.

tasmattvamuttistha yaso labhasva

jitva satrun bhunksva rajyam samrddham.

mayaivaite nihatah purvameva

nimittamatram bhava savyasacin.

‘I am Time who waste and destroy the peoples; lo, I have arisen in my might, I am here to swallow up the nations. Even without thee all they shall not be, the men of war who stand arrayed in the opposing squadrons. Therefore do thou arise and get thee great glory, conquer thy foes and enjoy a great and wealthy empire. For these, they were slain even before and it is I who have slain them; be the occasion only, O Savyasachin.’[1]

[1] Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of the Karmayogin, p. 56-57

The Visvarupa or world-form of Sri Krishna, depicting him as Time-spirit, is not just a metaphor but a reality of the higher & subtler stages of existence. In Bhagavatgita it is clearly demonstrated. From Gita, Sri Aurobindo derives the truth about the utter helplessness of human beings in front of all powerful kala who is basically responsible for whatever happens in their lives, either the misery or the happiness. So, the creation, preservation as well as destruction of the world & worldly–creatures will happen at the will of Lord Krishna who himself is Zeitgeist or Kala. From Atharva Veda we can derive similar notion about time, as it also considers Time as the creator, sustainer & destroyer of the universe which can be none else than God himself. Hence we can conclude that perhaps indirectly Atharva Veda also accepts Time as God.

Now let us compare Sri Aurobindo’s notion of Time with that of Indian philosophical systems. It is really very much amazing to discover the similarity of his theory and that of the Nyaya system. Both of them consider Time as the real and eternal substance. Eternity is that quality which has been admitted by them both.  However Sri Aurobindo divides the Time-Spirit into three divergent statuses – ‘First, there is the timeless immboile status which is supremely self-concentrated and self-immersed and is without developments of consciousness in movement or eventuation. Secondly, there is the status of simultaneous integrality of Time. It is a stable whole-consciousness of the successive historical relations of all manifested things and phenomena. Thirdly, there is the temporal movement of the self-awareness in terms of history effectuating what was seen in the stable vision’[1]. From this above quoted portion we can also derive his similarity with the Jaina notion of Time. The Jaina system accepts the two different types of Kala – Absolute Time or Paramarthika Kala & conventional Time or Vyavaharika Kala. The Absolute Time is actually the timeless or eternal entity. Whereas the Conventional Time is the same Absolute Time limited within the fixed time-span. In the same way, the Absolute Spirit or Sachchidananda is the timeless entity, and when he manifests himself into the different cosmic forms within some limited time-span, they can be known as the temporal forms of the same Absolute entity.

[1] Verma, V.P., Political Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo, p. 47

However his theory of Time is quite different from every other discipline. No other Indian tradition considers the Absolute as the Time-Spirit like Sri Aurobindo. In his view, Time is nothing but Basudeva himself busy in creation by the help of self-extension. ‘The impetus of the Mahakala fulfills itself in Time. When there is an impulsion from the secret reality, time and the divine mother take charge of it and work for its fulfillment. When the spiritual being designs to work in a particular direction, then all the external cosmic forces are organized and harnessed for the successful execution of that. The sole task that becomes imperative is the effective realization of that one single purpose. Really speaking, the help or resistance of man is irrelevant because if the Time-Spirit is insistent it would not desist till its purpose has been realized’[1]. Man’s helplessness in front of Time reminds us about his being the tool in the hands of the Absolute who uses him and all his fellow-beings to fulfill his Divine purpose of creating the universe. May be that is the reason why Sri Aurobindo derives (perhaps logically) that the Time-Spirit is nothing but Basudeva himself.

[1] Verma, V. P., Political Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo, p. 46

Our discussion can be ended with this high note of discovering the uniqueness of Sri Aurobindo’s notion of Time where Time = God or the Divine Spirit. Perhaps his deep faith over Basudeva leads him towards this conclusion. (As could be seen in his Uttarpara Speech where he describes his experience of Basudeva among everyone & everybody at Alipore Jail). Thus whatever is the reason behind, basically his theory of Time is influenced by his metaphysical beliefs which occupy the central role in his philosophy.

Bibliography:

  1. Balslave, Anindita Niyogi, A study of Time in Indian Philosophy, Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, 1999.
  2. Verma, V. P., Political Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo, Motilal Banarasidas, Patna, 1960.
  3. Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1919. (Seventh edition 2006).
  4. Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Karmayogin, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1918. (Second Impression 2007).

 

[As extracted from my same named article published in the International Journal named Research Revolution, edited by Shekhar Chourasia, February, 2013]

 

Contribution of Sri Aurobindo over Indian education system

Sri  Aurobindo was one of the popular nationalist politician at  the time of of Indian freedom movement. The famous split behind the moderates and extremists at the Nagpur session of Congress was actually due to the master plan of his. He was very famous among his followers even as a yogi and mystic. 

But the educational thesis of Sri Aurobindo till now not drawn the attention of common people due to his extreme command on language, frequent use of foreign languages & poetic flow of writing. His educational theory was mainly written in English which helps to sustain the mysticism surrounding.

His educational theory tried to introduce the new type of education combining the past glory of the east with the scientific discoveries of the west.

His integral education was mainly interpreted by the Mother  in five stages of human life – physical, vital. mental, physic and spiritual educations.

Tagorean and Gandhian educational theories even though hinted about the existence of spiritual education as men as of evoking the real man hidden within, but it is actually Sri Aurobindo’s c contribution to differentiate between last two types of educations.