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Where are We Going?

mppandit_words

Where are we going?

It is given to certain seers, Rishis, who can look beyond the barriers of physical space and time to foresee where this earthly evolutionary movement is leading, what is likely to happen. They do not see in terms of ten years and twenty years but in decades and they can give a preview of what is going to happen, what is likely to take place, what threatens to happen, and can be averted by necessary precautions. One of these notable seers was Sri Aurobindo.

When he was hardly fourteen as a student in England he foresaw a number of revolutionary changes coming over the globe. It was in the ’80s of the last century, and these impressions of the coming changes got themselves concretised by the time he was eighteen years of age. He speaks of those visions as his five dreams, dreams which give a prevision of what is in the making.

The first constituent was the freedom of India. It was unthinkable in the last decades of the 19th Century to think of freedom for a colonial country like India but he had the vision that India was going to be free, and that he had a part to play in it. And he had the satisfaction by 1920 of having the certainty that India was on the road to achieve freedom. But he was not satisfied. He was always anxious about what India would do with its freedom. When certain Congress leaders went to him in his exile in French India and asked him about the probability or the possibility of freedom for India, he said that India’s freedom was decreed and inevitable, but what he was worried about was what use India would make of that freedom. Later he anticipated a kind of mob-rule creeping up on the Indian soil, and in a series of papers (now assembled under the title “Foundations of Indian Culture”), written during the first World War, he said that India would be doing a grave mistake in adopting western institutions like the parliamentary system of government. This system, he pointed out, had not succeeded anywhere except in certain Anglo-Saxon countries. Everywhere else it had to be modified. It was not suited to the genius of India. He traced the historical development and said that in India we have to work from the village level upwards and not impose from top downwards. He warned one man, one vote, would be disaster, unless the voter was truly enlightened. After forty years we have realised or are in the process of realising that we need to rethink on many of our approaches to polity. I exclude politics from our purview this evening but speak of polity, how we govern ourselves, how we are to share our resources with all. A time has come when we need to take a new look. Sri Aurobindo has given clear hints that the old village panchayat model needs to be revived in its principle though not in the forms. He also drew attention to the dangers of becoming one more military power. He said, at most we can imitate the western countries and become a second-rate military power. But our strength is different. The role of India is not a political one. But it has something distinct to contribute to the world community and to that I will come later.

He speaks of India not as a piece of land but as a distinct personality. Writing in 1911 he said, God always reserves for himself one country to guard the higher knowledge. And in this cycle at least that country is India. India is a custodian of a very precious knowledge, knowledge of the Self, but not Self as divorced from life, as segmented from the world but as embracing the world. And he says the time has come for all the spiritual knowledge and power to come into the open and shape the lives of its people as a preliminary to playing its rightful role in the world.

Events that are happening may look as if they are going in a contrary direction. But this was also anticipated by the seers; it is like emptying the dregs of a cup before it is filled anew. All that is happening is not peculiar to India, it is happening everywhere because it is a world movement. Something else is growing behind the scene, behind all the disturbances. The forces of peace, the forces of order, of a higher consciousness, are gathering. What is happening to our local view, to our temporal view, are understandable obstructions presented by the past which refuse to recede into the background.

After all, forty years* is nothing in the life of a country which has lived vigorously for the last 5000 years at least of known history. We shall not over-condemn ourselves for what has happened or what is happening in the last four decades. We have to correct ourselves and come back to the truth of our genius. We are the one country in the world who have never invaded another country. Our reaching out to other people has been cultural, religious, spiritual, never political, economic or military. And that strain of development is being kept. We must not be deluded by immediate circumstance. India is gathering strength behind all the chaos which is a surface phenomenon. Something powerful, something vibrant is growing.

My other teacher, the Mother, had once said about thirty years ago, that a time will come in the history of India when all political parties will lose their relevance. People will laugh at political leaders. They will learn to organise themselves on a different basis. And what is happening with all the plethora of groupings, parties, strengthens my conviction that events are moving towards such a future, a future organised not on the basis of parties, not on the basis of group divisions, but on a national solidarity.

The second dream of which Sri Aurobindo speaks is the resurgence of Asia. Asia has been the Mother of all religions, of all movements for the raising of humanity. The giant of Asia was sleeping, it had to awake. Vivekananda gave the first signal of the yellow power that was slowly rising. And now in thirty or forty years we know that Asia has arisen. Between India, China and Japan, there is a potential which can truly contribute towards changing the face of the world. There are dark spots making us wonder whether certain countries have not got freedom too early before political maturity had been reached. But that can be said even of certain parts of our country – we have to take a larger view. Asia has arisen and is rising to play its due part.

The third dream was of a world union. Today there are about 150 countries. Between the League of Nations, the United Nations, the world unity movement has steadily taken shape. It may have failed to concretise itself on the political and the military level but on all other fronts – education, science, economics, health research, – there is a global approach which was unthinkable in the last century. There is a global mentality looking at problems from a world angle. And wherever stupid national rivalries do not clash, the world community has shown a great commonsense in building up one humanity. There is a misunderstanding that Sri Aurobindo envisages one-world state. No, he envisages a union of free conception, its own ideology, but gathering and functioning together for certain common purposes. And that movement, despite all their armed signals is steadily gathering strength. The UNESCO and the other specialised agencies of the UNO have done tremendous work. It is easy to criticise, Sri Aurobindo says, but the UNO has to be mended not ended. If it is ended, it will be a disaster which Nature will not allow. So a world movement is building behind the scenes, towards a certain conceptual unity translated in some spheres at least in practical terms.

The fourth dream was, what I referred to earlier, the spiritual gift of India to the world. If you look at history you will find that nature always charges one nation, one people with a particular destiny. Looking back into history you will see that the civilisation of Greece developed the intellect logic, aesthesis; Roman civilisation brought about Law and order, military organisation; countries of the Mediterranean like Egypt developed occultism, mysticism-religion on the esoteric side; China developed the ethical strain of the world soul. India has always been charged with the spiritual destiny. Do not confuse religion with spirituality. The essence of religions constitutes spirituality. Religions have become institutionalised, politicised and have lost their direction. A time has come when all humanity has to meet on the level of spirituality and not on religion. Spirituality is oneness of consciousness, unity, mutuality and harmony. These are the values cherished by spirituality.

I remember in one of my visits to the United States I met a very old gentleman, one of the Indians who had gone to the States early in the 1920s. He told us that in the beginning of the century some of the ascetics in the Himalayan region had told them that in this century large number of Indian yogis will be going to the West to give them the knowledge that we have built up for centuries; it was the West, they hoped, that would hold up the torch of knowledge. That was the beginning of the famous phrase that ‘the Sun will rise in the West’. That it has not happened must have some meaning, but this movement of spirituality towards the West, towards other countries, is not something new. Sri Aurobindo observes in “The Foundations of Indian Culture” that there is not a single philosophical doctrine in western philosophy which has not been adumbrated in the pregnant utterances of the Upanishads. The wisdom of India has gone through the Buddhist teachers and thence through the Christians all over Europe. There have been certain unfortunate malformations, deformations in this transmission of our heritage. Yet Indian spirituality can do much more service to the world at large. It has to be first lived and then communicated. It is not something to be preached, not something to be written about. One must live it, and India is the land where it is natural to live in the spirit of the soul. India is the one country where nobody raises his eyebrows if we say that God is within. Outside it is a blasphemy to think of God within yourself because man is far removed from God. But here even a child will tell you that God is within. This faith of the immanence of God is something special to India.

I referred to the Mother, my teacher. She would say that Indians do not realise the blessing of being born in India. It is something so natural for them to feel divinity around, to feel the potentiality of divinity within themselves. Spiritual communication with the rest of the world has started but what remains is to give it a right direction, to see that the right goods are exported, to see that it is not mixed up with commercialism. I do not know what our leaders of thought, leaders in other sectors are going to do about it but a great caution has to be exercised to see that the right brand of spirituality is reached to the world outside.

The last dream was a new step in the evolution of man. So far mind has been our leader, mental logic, mental reasoning; after centuries of following the lead of the mind, we have realised that mind is a very undependable leader, full of error. Mind limits, mind segments, mind fragments.

We are in the throes of a birth of new mind-vijnana – a new consciousness which carries unity with it. In the West it is known as holism: you consider everything from the standpoint of the whole; not just the eye, not just the ear, but the whole person. This truth of holism which is a reflection of the integral approach of spiritual consciousness is slowly gaining the higher mind of humanity. This presages the birth of a new consciousness where unity, sense of oneness will be common, will not have to be cultivated, but will be spontaneous. There will be unity of idea, unity of thought. The problem of harmonising with others, the individual and the society, which has plagued so many political philosophies, is an artificial one. In the Indian conception both the Vyashti and the Samashti, the individual and the collective, are terms of manifestation of something more, of something higher. Once you realise that in yourself, there is no conflict. In the latest philosophies of evolution in different countries, the thinkers are agreed that man today is on the verge of taking a leap to this higher stage of consciousness.

They call it by different names, but the movement initiated by Sri Aurobindo in the first decade of the century, affirmative spirituality, is gaining ground. God is here, you do not have to go to heaven. God is around you, you do not have to go to a forest. Life has a purpose, life is not meant to be rejected, to be despised; the body is not a snare but a temple of God. You have to realise God here, manifest God here. That was the bugle note of affirmative spirituality that was sounded early in the century and today this approach is being shared, expressed by the highest minds all over the world. Unexpected openings are taking place towards freedom of thought, freedom of faith.

On the whole, taking a dispassionate view, I do feel and I invite you to share with my faith that we are on the threshold of a new era. We are going through the birth pangs of a new age. The occultists foresaw centuries ago that 2000 AD will be the watermark in the history of man, a new age will begin. In a sense that age has already begun in certain individuals. It now has to be organised in the society. Negativism, pessimism are the mischief of the Adversary. I call upon you to detach yourself from local events, take a larger view and see that something new is growing. You and I have a part to play in this birth of a new world. And that is by reforming ourselves, by changing ourselves into better individuals in whom violence, anger, clash, are eliminated and benevolence, friendliness, love are cultivated.

M.P. Pandit

(M.P. Pandit came to the Ashram at a very young age. He is the author of a large number of books and articles on Integral Yoga and the Indian spiritual tradition. He was the Chairman of World Union International.)

(*India achieved Independence on 14th August 1947)

(Talk given at the India International Centre, New Delhi, on 5th July, 1988)