Daily Letters 4 Apr, 2009 07:02:21PM (IST) One should however not lose sight of the fact that the similarities between the freedom-movement-era religious nationalism and contemporary Hindu right wing nationalism "are superficial while the points of difference are deep," as Heehs writes in this outstanding biography of Sri Aurobindo.
"Aurobindo favored an eclectic, basically Vedantic Hinduism, which he believed to be universal and 'the basis of the future world-religion.' But this 'wider Hinduism' was something that embraced 'Science and faith, Theism, Christianity, Mahomedanism and Buddhism and yet is none of these.' " (p. 99)
"The Hindu nation-builder," Sri Aurobindo wrote "shall not seek to superimpose his own ideals and methods on his Mohamedan brother, nor shall the Mohamedan, the Buddhist, or the Christian, seek to obliterate the essential characteristics of the Hindu culture and Hindu race." (Quoted in Heehs, p. 101)
Sri Aurobindo saw the interaction of Hindu and Muslim culture in India as an opportunity for the development of "a greater spiritual principle and formation which could reconcile the two or a political patriotism surmounting the religious struggle and uniting the two communities." (Quoted in Heehs, p. 118)
Those who believe that Sri Aurobindo turned more exclusively towards Hinduism in the later part of his life, might wish to consider his letter of November 1932 quoted by Heehs's in his study titled Nationalism, Religion, and Beyond (Delhi: Permanent Black, 2005, pp. 354-5):
"It is news to me that I have excluded Mahomedans from the Yoga. I have not done it any more than I have excluded Europeans or Christians. As for giving up one's past, if that means giving up the outer forms of the old religions, it is done as much by the Hindus here [in his Ashram in Pondicherry] as by the Mahomedans.... What is kept of Hinduism is Vedanta and Yoga in which Hinduism is one with Sufism of Islam and with the Christian mystics. But even here it is not Vedanta and Yoga in their traditional limits (their past), but widened and rid of many ideas that are peculiar to the Hindus. If I have used Sanskrit terms and figures, it is because I know them and do not know Persian and Arabic. I have not the slightest objection to anyone here drawing inspiration from Islamic sources if they agree with the Truth as Sufism agrees with it. On the other hand I have not the slightest objection to Hinduism being broken to pieces and disappearing from the face of the earth, if that is Divine Will. I have no attachment to past forms; what is Truth will always remain; the Truth alone matters." ULRICH MOHRHOFF PUDUCHERRY INDIA
Daily Letters 4 Apr, 2009 09:45:38PM (IST) India actually got independance on 15th August, birthday of swami aurobindo. While he was in jail for following violent approach for getting india's independance, he got the spiritual message that he could contribute more to india getting independance by working for it at the spiritual level. He escaped from the prison in bengal, went to pondichery not under brittish control, established yogaasram there. mother aaryavallee, born in france, joined him there.a yogi tuning up with the absolute can release spiritual forces which will influence human behaviour around in such a way that they overcome differences and work together to achieve even an apparently impossible goal! No wonder that india's independance arrived on the birthday of aurbindo ghosh!
The poems composed by subramhanya bhaaratee in tamil seeking divine help for india's freedom, also operating from pondichery only, were another spiritual contribution to the hastening of independance. If both these had instead got jailed in the andamaans, the basically nonviolent accomplishment of independence, attributed to Gandhi, could have been much delayed or even denied. God has His own ways of optimally using powerful souls for bringing about epochal developments in world history. V. SESHADRICHENNAI INDIA
Daily Letters 5 Apr, 2009 01:10:48AM (IST) Oh , this man Francois Gautier at it again. That an Englishman Hume founded the Congress may be revelation to this pretentious Frenchman with his borrowed sense of history, but had he asked an eight standard Indian schoolboy he would have been told as much. He would even more be surprised to know that there were eminent Indians who demanded full freedom even before Sri Aurobindo. So Gandhi's call for full freedom after Aurobindo is neither here nor there. Bringing this matter up without proper political context of the time is mischievous.
Incidentaly is he sure Peter Heeh's book is banned in Orissa or his tutors cooked up this for him , so taht another irrelevant issue hogs the headlines? MANISH BANERJEE KOLKATA INDIA
Daily Letters 5 Apr, 2009 01:30:45AM (IST) "It is news to me that I have excluded Mahomedans from the Yoga... " (Sri Aurobindo, quoted by Mohrhoff).
What a refreshing and inclusive exposition of religion, compared to the narrow-minded and exclusivist rants of Gautier and his cohorts! ANWAR PATEL DALLAS TX UNITED STATES
Daily Letters 6 Apr, 2009 09:26:49AM (IST) "India actually got independance on 15th August, birthday of Swami aurobindo". There can be no greater tribute than India getting independent on 15th August to Aurobindo. Whether it was done knowningly or unknowingly, 15th August is itself a magnificient tribute to Aurobindo. The fact that none of the leaders like Gandhi, Nehru, or others got this I Day attached to their birthday is itself Gitas message of action through detachment.
Gandhi should be compared to personalities in Kal Yug and not in other Yugs. Gandhi took the non-violent approach right from his arrival in India from South Africa, whereas Aurobindo , who was different as mentioned by Gautier, could not back non-violence, probably due to his earlier track record and stereotyping being a norm then would have prevented Aurobindo in becoming non-violent and instead he became a yogi.
The clinging to dynastic politics is the main reason for not teaching about Aurobindo and many others. As the cyberspace advances more and more Aurobindo's work will be available easily. GAJANAN SYDNEY AUSTRALIA
Daily Letters 7 Apr, 2009 01:22:43PM (IST) The intellectual capacity of our nation is in a serious danger. There is no other conclusion I can draw if someone can be so nescient about Sri Aurobindo (that too when one confesses about his ignorance) and still have the gall to write advice to "right thinking people".
Sri Aurobindo doesnt need Francoise Gautier's endorsement, or lack of it to be judged. That he is one of the most important freedom fighters that any revolution, anywhere on the earth has produced - important because of the steely intellectual backbone that he provided to our fight, is a fact known and acknowledged by people who have nothing to do with the history of our nationalism. Aurobindo's bust adorns the highest forum of this land, our national parliament, but our intellectuals will avoid him like a plague. What a curse for our nation. VARUN GARDE BENGALURU INDIA
Daily Letters 9 Apr, 2009 03:27:03PM (IST) Manish Bannerjee : Just while we are talking about facts,>> 2. He abandoned his fight for freedom midway
Sri Aurobindo returned from England in 1893 and actively served the cause of freedom struggle until 1912. Thats 19 years. I dont see a trace of gratitude in your arrogant voice for a person who gave the first widely reaching battle cry against the moderate policy of "petition, prayer and protest" to the British, and raised the banner of complete self rule; For someone about who Lord Minto had to write "I can only repeat that he is the most dangerous man we have to reckon with".
Several leaders tried to reach out to Sri Aurobindo after his retirement from active politics of the freedom struggle including Rabindranath, who met him in 1928 and had this to write about his impression of Aurobindo's work: "You have the Word and we are waiting to accept it from you. India will speak through your voice to the world, `Hearken to me!'... Years ago I saw Aurobindo in the atmosphere of his earlier heroic youth and I sang to him: `Aurobindo, accept the salutations from Rabindranath.' Today I saw him in a deeper atmosphere of a reticent richness of wisdom and again sang to him in silence: `Aurobindo, accept the salutations from Rabindranath!' "
Surely if Rabindranath had reasons to accept Aurobindo's wisdom in following his calling, I see no authority by which we can be harsh and judgemental about the same? And I still haven't brought up Gandhi in this.
>>& took recourse to religiion.
Aurobindo had this to say about religion: "... religion often considers spiritual life as made up of renunciation and mortification. Religion thus becomes a force that discourages life and it cannot, therefore, be a true law and guide for life." (quote from : "The present crisis" http://www.mountainman.com.au/auro_3.html)
2. He grew long hair & a beard & set up himself up as a saint.
Did he indeed? Are we trying to pull of something of a difference between Gandhi the bald, shaved and clean, and Aurobindo the stereotypical baba with long hair and beard? I dont see any other motive of bringing up these facial features as Aurobindo. Oh btw, long hair and beard had been with him ever since his incarceration in the Uttarpara Jail.
3 He also wrote unintelligible thick books on religion.
Would you agree that Intellibility of books/tomes cannot be certified by a Manish Bannerjee? Suffice to say that Aurobindo had been writing since before moving to Puducherry, but then his writings were about the freedom struggle, i.e. were probably more intelligible to minds radically opposed to anything but corporeal.
Culled from somewhere: His writings in the weekly 'Bande Mataram' captured the imagination of all of India. The then British editor of the Statesman of Calcutta wrote many years later in 1950, in the Manchester Guardian: "...It was in 1906, shortly after Curzon's retirement, that Sri Aurobindo and his friends started Bande Mataram...it was full of leading and special articles written in English with brilliance and pungency not hitherto attained in the Indian press. It was the most effective voice of what we then called nationalist extremism.." These Sir are the facts. VARUN GARDE BENGALURU INDIA
Daily Letters 9 Apr, 2009 11:40:22PM (IST) Heehs refers to a number of accounts by Aurobindo’s co-revolutionaries that mention Aurobindo’s direct involvement in terrorist activities, including the assassination attempt on Kingsford, in Muzaffarpur:
“Jadugopal Mukherjee and Arun Chandra Guha write of Aurobindo not only as the founder of the revolutionary party but also as a member of a Russian-style ‘revolutionary tribunal’ that sentenced an unpopular judge to death. One writer goes so far as to have Aurobindo literally give his blessing to the young men chosen to carry out this mission.”6 The files of the Home Department of the British Government also contained detailed reports on Aurobindo’s presence at the top of the chain of command in many terrorist operations (Heehs, 1998, p. 51). Incidentally, while Aurobindo was represented by the notable attorney C. R. Das in his trial and was acquitted, Khudiram was left to take his chances with the justice system. Tagore in Ghare Baire (1916) wrote apprehensively of the revolutionary leader Sandip fleeing the scene of unrest to save his own skin while his young disciple Amulya got killed in action. A parallel is evident, though Khudiram was not the only ‘soldier’ abandoned by his celebrity leaders and Aurobindo was not the only leader who did not take the fall for his subordinates, and Tagore denied any connection between his fictional character and Aurobindo."
While I've no problem with Mr. Vijay Agarwal's voyeurous interest in M.K. Gandhi's bedroom or his bathroom if that is his favourite past time and I do not argue against the British Gov. Gen. Mr. Atlee's's attributing the raison de etre of the British leaving India primarily due to the INA trial and the RIN mutiny. etc., but even Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose paiid his highest regard to M.K.gandhi and called him father of the nation, who really had felt the pulse of the ordinary and marginalised Indian population and carried them along in a mass struggle in a largely non-violent way, and really practiced what he preached, though personally, I am more for the revolutionary's way of Indian freedom struggle. SHYAMAL BARUA KOLKATA INDIA
Daily Letters 9 Apr, 2009 11:39:38PM (IST) Varun Garde :: Q: "Sri Aurobindo returned from England in 1893 and actively served the cause of freedom struggle until 1912. Thats 19 years. I dont see a trace of gratitude in your arrogant voice for a person who gave the first widely reaching battle cry against the moderate policy of "petition, prayer and protest" to the British, and raised the banner of complete self rule; For someone about who Lord Minto had to write "I can only repeat that he is the most dangerous man we have to reckon with".U/Q::
While thanking Mr. Varun Garde for his balanced view on the subject and bringing this debate to its natural conclusion, may I add few lines from Dr. Rinki Bhattacharya Mehta's, Univ. Of Illinois, reasearch work, "The Bhagavad gita, Pistol, and the Lone Bhadralok" (www.jmmsweb.org/issues/volume1/number1/ pp77-98) as under:
"Aurobindo’s first contact with revolutionary ideas occurred as early as 1890, when he was in Cambridge, studying the classics and preparing for the Civil Service Examination. A recent volume by Elleke Boehmer (2002) details the influence of Irish nationalism on his thought, which would later intensify with his friendship with Margaret Noble, the Irish political activist who later came to be known as Nivedita, after she became Swami Vivekananda’s disciple (pp. 34-124). Boehmer speaks of Aurobindo’s continued support of armed revolutionary tactics that continued at least until his arrest in 1908. A significant current biographer of Aurobindo – Peter Heehs – has pointed out the lack of solid evidence for Aurobindo’s involvement with terrorist groups, especially Maniktala Secret Society of which his brother Barin was the leader. However, Heehs concurs with Amales Tripathi in the view that Aurobindo’s silences on the subject of his involvement spoke more than his non-admissions (Heehs, 1998, p. 43). It is significant that the Maniktala Secret Society grew out of the Calcutta Anushilan Samiti, an organization “founded in 1902 to promote physical, mental, and moral culture among Calcutta students” (Heehs, 1998, p. 18).
The ideological blueprint for this society came from Aurobindo’s Bhawani Mandir, or Bankim’s Anandamath, or both. Aurobindo, however, did not admit to knowledge of or involvement in terrorist activities at his trial that followed a 12-month incarceration, and he was acquitted. A sea-change is discernible in his writings following his prison term and acquittal. His earlier speeches and writings, while replete with references to Hindu mythological figures and allegories, more often than not dealt with direct, immediate political issues and events. His post imprisonment writings are exceptionally vague and general in nature, the political astuteness of his earlier articles drowned here in spiritual overtones. In his first significant public appearance, he spoke of the epiphanies he had in prison, and ended his speech with a revision of a particularly poignant political point he had made a year and a half earlier. I will touch upon the relevant portions of the two speeches that speak clearly of the ideological shift that had taken place in the speaker’s political stance.is worthwhile to remember, at this point, at least one young man – Khudiram Bose, who was hanged in 1910 for his attempt to kill Judge Douglas Kingsford – who probably received the instructions for the operation from Aurobindo, via middlemen. SHYAMAL BARUA KOLKATA INDIA