Sri Aurobindo’s Call to the Youth of India

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All great and new creation has to come from the youth.  And India at present needs such a new and massive creative effort to fulfill her mission in the world.  The central thrust of the effort involves a cultural regeneration, building a New India on the foundation of the inborn genius of our ancient civilization and culture.

At present we are facing a massive cultural onslaught from the globalised media dominated by the West.  This by itself is not something bad.  In the globalised world of the future, we cannot prevent a close intermingling of cultures and we must know how to deal creatively with it.  Besides, the modern western ethos is not something evil as some of the militant and orthodox fanatics of Indian culture make it out to be.  There are many things in the western ethos which we may have to learn and which will do a lot of good to our nation.  But the main problem at present is that many of our modern youth are lured not by the true and positive genius of the western culture but by its superficial, glamorous and degenerate forms.

This alien influence cannot be conquered by infantile condemnations or violent censoring as such an approach is counter-productive. The only creative way of dealing with it is to counter it with an alternative and much more powerful, elevating and beautiful new creation, which produces better results in the outer life.  Fortunately, the seeds of such a new creation are in our own ancient culture.  If we can recover these cultural treasures and make it into a creative force for nation-building it will not only make our own nation great and glorious but also make her a leader of the future world.  Here comes the importance of Sri Aurobindo’s vision of India.  In his writings on India, Sri Aurobindo had laid out all the broad lines and principles for the regeneration of India.

Sri Aurobindo had a tremendous faith in the youth of India.  “Our call is to the young”  wrote Sri Aurobindo. “It is the young who can build the new world — not those who accept the competitive individualism, the capitalism or materialistic communism of the west as India’s future nor who enslaved to old religions formulas and cannot believe in the acceptance and transformation of life by the spirit, but all who are free in the mind and heart to accept the completer truth and a greater ideal.”

This greater ideal is as Sri Aurobindo points out “transformation of life by the spirit.”  What does that mean and how is India or the cultural revival of India connected with this higher ideal? According to Sri Aurobindo, a nation’s culture, not its economics, politics or technology has to be the foundation and inspiring source of nation-building.  This is because the essential ethos and genius of a nation is revealed in its culture.  Culture is the deeper and higher part of the national consciousness.  It is the expression of the intellectual, ethical, aesthetic and spiritual energy of a nation.  A nation’s culture is a more direct expression of its higher mind and soul than its economics or politics and therefore more reflective of the unique genius of the nation.  Thus, Sri Aurobindo laid the greatest emphasis on the revival and regeneration of Indian culture.

Even during the early days of Indian freedom struggle when he was a fire-brand nationalist, Sri Aurobindo wrote: “Patriotism is good, excellent, divine only when it furthers the end of universal humanity.  Nationality divorced from humanity is a source of weakness and evil and not of strength and good.”  Sri Aurobindo emphasized on the regeneration of Indian culture because he felt such a regeneration is indispensable not only for the future greatness of India but also for the future of the world.

Each Nation, according to Sri Aurobindo, is an organic living being with a Body, Life, Mind and a Soul and is a unique and integral part of the global consciousness of humanity.  Each nation has a unique mission to fulfill in the evolutionary destiny of humanity and is endowed with a correspondingly unique genius to fulfill this mission.

What is the unique genius of India and her unique contribution to the world?  It is not Information Technology.  That is a fad which will pass when the Chinese, who are at least as intelligent as the Indians, learn English and become the master of software!  We cannot build a great nation on the foundation of ongoing technological fads.  Nor does the genius of India lie in philosophy or religion as they are normally understood.  The word used by Sri Aurobindo to denote the Indian genius is spirituality.  “Spirituality is the master-key of the Indian mind” says Sri Aurobindo.  But popular conception of spirituality equates it with religion.  However, there is as much difference between popular religion and true spirituality as between looking at a photo or caricature of a person and coming into direct contact with him and embracing him.  Spirituality is based on the intuition or experiencing of a supreme, universal and infinite Reality beyond mind which is the innermost essence, depth, source, and self of our own being and the universe.  The core of spirituality is the effort and aspiration towards coming into some form of direct contact or union with this supreme source of our own being and the universe.  To use the ocean and wave analogy, at present we are living in the surface waves of our being while the aim of spirituality is to get away from the surface wave to the oceanic depth and source of our being.

Here comes the difference between popular religion and spirituality.  The popular religion and its practices never make any effort to get away from the surface being; they are satisfied with living in the surface and worshipping some image, dogma or symbol of the Reality.  But spirituality makes a sincere and systematic effort to get beyond the surface and enter into direct contact or union with the supreme source of our being.  What is called as yoga in India is the method or path for coming into direct contact or union with the supreme Reality.  In fact the central effort or endeavour of ancient Indian culture is a great spiritual experiment in which every possible approach to the supreme Supramental Reality is lived, experimented, tested, verified and systematized with as much scientific rectitude as that of modern science in its study of matter.  This immense spiritual effort has given birth to the great science of yoga which is the pragmatic core of Indian philosophy and spirituality.  As Sri Aurobindo explains “the assertion of a higher than mental life is the whole foundation of Indian philosophy and its acquisition and organization is the veritable object of yoga”.

The future mission of India is to build a new civilization based on the principles of spirituality and yoga.  The central effort involved here is to recover the spiritual intuition and vision of life and apply it comprehensively to every activity of the individual and collective life¾in education, philosophy, art, science, technology, politics, governance, economics, business, commerce and self-development.  As Sri Aurobindo sums up succinctly the future mission of India:

“The recovery of the old spiritual knowledge and experience in all its splendour, depth, fullness is its first, most essential work; the flowing of this spirituality into new forms of philosophy, literature, art, science and critical knowledge is the second; an original dealing with modern problems in the light of Indian spirit and the endeavour to formulate a greater synthesis of a spiritualised society is the third and most difficult.  Its success on these three lines will be the measure of its helps to the future of humanity”.

This is the call of Sri Aurobindo to the youth of India.