Savitri Era of those who adore, Om Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Sri Aurobindo gives the mantra of true equality and harmony

New Nationalism – Beyond Caste & Division
Anirban Ganguly anirbangan@gmail.com
Our colonial masters kept us deliberately divided through religion and caste in order to consolidate their hold on us and deliver a near fatal blow to the concept of an Indian nationality. This is a known, appreciated and much lamented fact. We remain confined even today in the same boundaries of division and are still reeling under the impact of that astutely delivered blow to our nation. This too is a known fact but accepted with helplessness, resignation, and indifference and for some with glee. The cyclic unrest, disharmony and bitterness created by the caste based reservation issue points to the fact that a new nationality in India has not fully grown and remains stunted even six decades after independence.
The fact that all divisions have to evaporate if India has to advance in the light of a new nationalism towards a greater well being stares us into the face and demands acceptance but as in the past so also now our policymakers of all shades deliberately look the other way. The attempt to provide equal opportunities in education and growth right from the initial levels and years can come about with a rock-political will for reorganizing and restructuring the system but sadly it is this political will that is absent among politicians and the effort at restructuring is avoided by most of them because the end of caste and religious divisions is bound to drastically alter their own composition and clout.

Sri Aurobindo considers the present day caste system a ‘gross meaningless parody’ of the ancient varna system which he believes to be more of a psychological and nature type. Without denigrating the past, unlike some of our modern day reformers who go to foreign lands to appeal before foreign tribunals to intervene and set things right in the Indian social system, Sri Aurobindo asserts that the modern system is a distortion of the ancient which had provided great security, impetus to growth and resilience to society then and was accepted and adjusted to quite easily. This was so because of its organic development; it grew out of the necessity of the age, flexibility and its lack of rigidity in terms of heredity. He writes:

“…At first, birth does not seem to have been of the first importance in the social order, for faculty and capacity prevailed; but afterwards, as the type fixed itself, its maintenance by education and tradition became necessary and education and tradition naturally fixed themselves in a hereditary groove. Thus the son of a Brahmin came always to be looked upon conventionally as a Brahmin…”

The new nationalism that must eventually establish itself and bring about a united Indian nationality shall recognize the individual first and foremost as a soul beyond the purview of caste and status and shall strive for the equal development of all without exception. Having perceived the ‘One’ in all in the true spirit of the Sanatana Dharma it shall proceed for the upliftment of all and thus naturally sublimate differences and antagonisms. Sri Aurobindo describes in no uncertain terms the new nationalism and its attitude to cast and overall national development in that perspective in the bold and incisive columns of the Bande Mataram in 1907, a hundred years ago:

“…The baser ideas underlying the degenerate perversions of the original caste system, the mental attitude which bases them on a false foundation of caste, pride and arrogance of a divinely ordained superiority depending on the accident of birth, of a fixed and intolerant inequality, are inconsistent with the supreme teaching, the basic spirit of Hinduism which sees the one invariable and indivisible Divinity in every individual being. Nationalism is simply the passionate aspiration for the realisation of that Divine Unity in the nation, a unity in which all the component individuals, however various and apparently unequal their functions as political, social or economic factors, are yet really and fundamentally one and equal. In the ideal of nationalism which India will set before the world, there will be an essential equality between man and man, between caste and caste, between class and class, all being…different but equal and united parts of the Virat Purusha realised in the nation…Indian Nationalism must by its inherent tendencies move towards the removal of unreasoning and arbitrary distinctions and inequalities…”

It is evident that the issue has never been looked at or tackled from the above point of view mainly because it requires a certain degree of selflessness, a deeper intuitive understanding of the Indian spiritual tradition and the ability to carry out impartial action all of which are at a short supply in our public life today. The present system has tried to bring about a rapprochement only by a mechanism of safeguards, which has, instead of mitigating, kept alive the very animosities, and divisions it was meant to remove. An outward mechanism alone can never totally eradicate inequalities and biases, which have deep psychological roots. They have to be approached by an understanding from the deeper level of the heart, by providing the right perspective of our philosophical and spiritual ideals and by making accessible to all equal opportunities of self-development. Sri Aurobindo continues in the same article:

“…It does not require much expenditure of thought to find out that the only way to rid the human mind of abuses and superstitions is through a transformation of spirit and not merely of machinery. We must educate every Indian, man, woman and child, in the ideals of our religion and philosophy before we can rationally expect our society to reshape itself in the full and perfect spirit of the Vedantic gospel of equality…Education on a national scale is an indispensable precondition of our social amelioration…”

The new nationalism thus shall believe in the ‘Divinity in every individual’ and the realization of that unity in the nation and shall first call for a total abolition of the modern caste-system and its practises and shall then demand the abrogation of all mechanisms which prolong its existence. Reservations in the name of religion and caste only keep alive, deepen and widen that divide which our past masters desired and developed – it survives today as a colonial relic and if India is to mature and develop a deep rooted and binding nationality these relics will have to be forever interred. The new nationalism shall have the gumption and the élan to ‘overleap every barrier’ and to reach out far and wide with the message and light of unity, strength, love and progress and in keeping with its deep spiritual moorings it shall exclude or overlook none from its refreshing sweep. While he attempted to evolve this nationalism in the first decade of the last century in Bengal Sri Aurobindo described its attributes and nature in dynamic words:

“…The new [nationalism] overleaps every barrier; it calls to the clerk at his counter, the trader in his shop, the peasant at his plough; it summons the Brahmin from his temple and takes the hand of the Chandala in his degradation; seeks out the student in his College, the schoolboy at his books, it touches every child in its mother’s arms; and the secluded zenana has thrilled to its voice; its eye searches the jungle for the Santal and travels the hills for the wild tribes of the mountains. It cares nothing for age, sex or caste or wealth or education or respectability; it mocks at the talk of a stake in the country; it spurns aside the demand for a property qualification or a certificate of literacy. It speaks to the illiterate or the man in the street in such rude vigorous language as he best understands, to youth and the enthusiast in accents of poetry, in language of fire, to the thinker in the terms of philosophy and logic, to the Hindu it repeats the name of Kali, to the Mahomedan it spurs to action for the glory of Islam. It cries to all to come forth, to help in God’s work and remake a nation, each with what his creed or his culture, his strength, his manhood or his genius can give to the new nationality. The only qualification it asks for is a body made in the womb of an Indian mother, a heart that can feel for India, a brain that can think and plan for her greatness, a tongue that can adore her name or hands that can fight in her quarrels…”

It is only in the development of this nationalism that India can truly be reborn; it is only in its growth and spread that lies India’s salvation, her unity, strength and overall progress. To try to bring about all of these in the present day spirit of reservations and quotas in the existing system is bound to be a futile exercise which shall benefit none but the self-seeker and breed further unbridgeable divisions. Sri Aurobindo gives the mantra of true equality and harmony and it is the only mantra to be followed to true lasting happiness and fulfillment of national growth, there is no other way – nanya pantha. Are we ready? Do we have the determination and conviction to spread that mantra? Can free India begin to chant it at last?

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