Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Savitri Era alternative

[Another important incident is revealed by Sri Aurobindo's biography (Published by Publication Division in the series of Builders of Modern India, by M.P. Pandit 1983 P.270) that Hedgewar the then secretary of C P Provincial Congress went to Pondicherry to draw back Aurobindo, who had been living sequesteral life since 1910 and was considered by Hedgewar as only alternative to fill the lull created by Tilak's death before the Nagpur Congress, in to politics. Hedgewar requested him to accept the Presidentship of the Congress in that hour of great crisis of leadership. Being a pioneer of cultural renaissance and a man of non compromising character, Aurobindo was fittest person to lead the Congress and freedom struggle. However Aurobindo moderately declined. (Explanatory letter of Sri Aurobindo dated August 30, 1920, Sri Aurobindo himself Vol.26, P.432-34, Sri Aurobindo birth centenary library). Author : Rakesh Sinha]

[But mostly the association of Indian civilisation with spirituality seemed mulishly insistent, which could be slippery in the context of nationalist activism. Swami Vivekananda, who interpreted India to the West in nationalist idioms, sought to strike a balance between the spiritual and the material. For, mere reflective spirituality could be a recipe for retreat; what Indians needed was “nerves of steel”; and if Indians needed to learn from the West, the West too had much to learn from the East. It was a striking riposte to the familiar colonial prose. Aurobindo, a revolutionary who turned a philosopher-sage, developed the same idea, though at a more abstract level, and highlighted the difference between the East and the West without conceding the inferiority of the former. B. SURENDRA RAO]

[The renaissance in thought initiated by Bankim Chatterjee, Sri Aurobindo, Swami Vivekananda, Dr. Ambedkar, and Mahatma Gandhi in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in harmonizing the material growth and spiritual advancement, was aborted after 1950 when the Soviet Union’s influence took hold in the academia and intellectual discourse. Dr. Swamy's Keynote address points to the Twentieth Congress of Vedanta at JNU Campus, December 28 2011]

[On the high-role of the epics in forming and sustaining the collective life, Sri Aurobindo too, in line with his above cited contemporaries, saw them as vehicles of popular culture and as instruments that made available to the masses in a simple language and colourful manner the deep and arcane knowledge contained in the Vedas, Upanishads and other such texts: - Anirban Ganguly, Research Associate, VIF]

One major challenge at Savitri Era is to decouple the role of Sri Aurobindo from this brand of meta-narrative, and it is not an easy task. The fact that no one is bothered by such characterisation of him is an alarming aspect. In fact, it suits many factions and they are rather happy about it. Sri Aurobindo's writings on Indian culture and his commentaries on religious texts come handy for these sections to appropriate him for their muscular nationalism and civilisational chauvinism.

"Sri Aurobindo belongs to the future," and his message is universal. Attempting to bind him to any past religion or particular nation is anachronistic as well as anomalous. No doubt, his teaching valorises the wisdom emerging from ancient India, but he makes them relevant for the whole world. Along with The Mother, he produces a synthesis encompassing the aesthetic, intellectual, and religious needs of man irrespective of caste, race, or culture.

Leftists in India are sympathetic towards Islam and Western thought wrestles with Christianity. Hindutva has a well oiled machine (Meera Nanda), and the media plays a friendly tournament with religion. Thus, there are no takers for the alternative Sri Aurobindo offers, and in the absence of institutional support perversions and prejudices sprout. [TNM55]

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