In order to plan for the future, we must consolidate the present by first understanding the past. The past is made up of things, events and people. Things and events can be found in nature: but many are man-made. Some are good, many are bad — but good or bad, it is in the mind of man that they start. Hence the necessity to develop good tendencies in one’s mind
There are degrees of development, and only a very few achieve that degree of superlative goodness which allows them to be positive and constructive all the time. This influences and is reflected in those who are lucky enough to associate with and to become inspired by these illumined minds, and who subsequently carry on the good work.
People who possess these illumined minds are not people in the ordinary sense for, from a young age, they start seeing things and events that lie beyond the immediate present, and they display talents and skills far beyond their known age.
For those who are born in another age, it should be a duty to find out and learn about such great saints, draw inspiration from their exemplary lives often lived in great sacrifice, and put into practice as much as possible of the lessons they have taught. Sri Aurobindo’s life and ideas set in motion the course of events that was to engage people in the ultimate liberation of India. But once having triggered the process, after an active involvement of only a few years, he quietly withdrew and became a centre of silent light diffusing quietly.
He spent the last 40 years of his life in the place he was ordered by an inner voice to go to Pondicherry in South India, where he was joined by the lady who was drawn to him by an invisible force to become his disciple and carry on his work after his death in 1950. She was Mirra Richard, a French national of Turkish origin, who after an initial stay joined the ashram with her husband Paul, never to leave Indian soil again, after the end of the First World War. Known at first as The Mother of Pondicherry, later she was addressed simply as The Mother.
Sri Aurobindo returned to India in 1893 after spending fourteen years in England, in Cambridge and London, from the age of seven. He had mastered several languages, including Greek, Latin and French, and he was a stickler for exactitude in word meanings. Because of the limitations and constraints that accompany translations, he took pains while translating from Sanskrit into English to go into etymology, and this is one of the strengths of his literary style. Dr David Frawley, of the American Institute of Vedic Studies, has expanded on this further in the introduction to his book “Wisdom of the Ancient Seers”.
Sri Aurobindo took care to underline that he was not a philosopher in the sense this word is understood, although we usually refer to his “philosophy”. It would be more appropriate to call this his vision – for he saw with an inner eye and heard within what he then tried to put into words coming from the mind. It is like trying to explain the sweetness of sugar by describing the physical and chemical properties of the sugar crystal. They are not the real thing – for this you have to taste the sugar, to undergo the actual experience. Hence for him mere philosophising was not enough: one had to translate philosophical values into actual practice, and this is what he undertook to do by showing the way both directly and through his writings which continued unabated.
His work has been gathered into 30 volumes, more continues to be written about him, and it would be impossible and pretentious to try even to do justice to him in such a few words. However, let us see what he said about philosophy.
He wrote: “Philosophy is concerned with two things: the fundamental truth of existence, and the forms in which existence presents itself to experience.” He had demonstrated that the truth of existence is Spirit, and this led him to observe that “Spirit being the truth of existence, life can be only its manifestation; Spirit must be not only the origin of life but its basis, its pervading reality and its highest and total result.”
Sri Aurobindo followed through these ideas in his weekly magazine The Arya, explaining lengthily and showing how the psychological development of man based on spiritual values was important for his social advancement. He gave examples from the Vedas, reinterpreting their message for contemporary man. He cited the “Gita as a powerful application of truth of Spirit to the longest and most difficult part of the truth of life, to action, and a way which action can lead us to birth into the Spirit and can be harmonised with the spiritual life.”
Characteristically, Sri Aurobindo defined what was understood by “arya”. He wrote: “Intrinsically, in its most fundamental sense, Arya means an effort or an uprising and overcoming. The Aryan is he who strives and overcomes all outside him and within him that stands opposed to human advance. Self-conquest is the first law of his nature.”
What a far cry from the racial superiority and arrogance which Hitler gave to this term!
Charity begins at home, and perhaps it is time we conquered ourselves if we want to advance. Time for the true Aryas to arise, to rise and shine.