Our country has produced a number of spiritual giants over the years from Sankaracharya to Swami Vivekananda. Sri Aurobindo occupies a prominent place among them. His defence of Indian civilisation and culture with essays on Indian spirituality, religion, art, literature and polity are the prominent part of his works. The West had tried hard to denigrate, belittle the country, its culture and civilisation through so many writings, for example, William Archer’s India and its Future, James Mill’s History of British India. Sri Aurobindo refuted these pathetic claims about India being uncivilised, superstitious. Unfortunately this colonial mindset persists even today which sees the country through the western prism relying on false theories and hence painting the country with the same colours. India and Hinduism are seen from a caste perspective making it look hierarchical and oppressive. What was written earlier on Hindu civilisation has today acquired a major shift. What was unacceptable earlier is now a politically correct version of incorrect things which is then taught to our children in schools till colleges.
The malice which Aurobindo has spoken about still continues and renaissance would not happen if India is not taught what India has been and what are the possibilities India can unfold for itself and for humanity in the future. The conflation of thought and the participation of civilisation in comity of nations is intertwined. Looking into history, it is seen that good universities have preceded the rise of civilisation. During 11th and 12th there was the scholastic movement in Europe emphasising on rationality. Different universities in all the Imperial Nations were established which unfolded, grew for about 350-400 years. Similarly in America, we saw various universities propping up in 1600s and 1700s and in a span of about 350 years USA became a world power. Conversely most of the universities in India were destroyed at the close of 12th century like Nalanda and Vikramshila. The impact has been that India is still reeling under the shadow of colonisation and it has still not manifested its full potential.
Universities in India do not talk about India from an insider’s perspective. We don’t have an understanding of the cosmology which is behind this culture and civilisation. We don’t have on a massive scale the understanding of the nuts and bolts on which this civilisation is built. If we don’t understand the fundamentals of it, we can never explain the civilisation and its ethos from within which is what Sri Aurobindo did. He said “the recovery of the old spiritual knowledge and experience in all its splendour, depth and fullness is its first and 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 the modern problems in the light of the 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 help to the future of humanity.” Recovery of old spiritual knowledge is what is most important for the resurgence of this country. He asks us to be good saadhaks, experience the yogic world and intellectually recover what has been lost.
The civilisation of this country has been brutalised for about 1000 years. Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang in his travelogues talks about the existence of monasteries which had numerous colleges attached to it. All these had been destroyed. From the works of Dharampala which were based on British writings, it is seen that Gurukula system was brutally destroyed as well. In Southern India there were at least 5 colleges in every district and one school in every village. Teachers here were not brahmins and students belonged to all castes which had women as well.
Hence it is important to study the correct history and illumine ourselves with the knowledge about the past of our country to feel a sense of pride, revitalise, revive it and take it further. Sri Aurobindo is not asking us to become regressive and station ourselves in the past but to go in the past, recover the treasure and move forward. He wants us to get into the tradition, recover the things from past and address the modern problem. The problem is that we have not compassionately examined the boons that this civilisation has encountered in the past. If the civilisational boons are attended, this country will come to peace and harmony.
For the recovery of ancient knowledge it is important to revitalise Sanskrit and vernaculars. Everyone student must learn at least three languages that is English, Hindi and Sanskrit. Most of the divine knowledge is embedded in Sanskrit and vernaculars and hence it is important to be conversant with them to actually examine what India has been. It is critically important because misrepresentation of India continues till date. It happens for 2 reasons, Reminiscence of colonisation and ignorance. It is disastrous to study our country from western perspective since it leads to misrepresentation and utter chaos. We have internalise the discourse which has come from the west and tried to understand India. In that process, we have not understood India but created a wrong picture of this vibrant civilisation. People of this country would not be able achieve their full potential until the problems are understood through the core principles. Western Civilisation has not transcended mind. Mysticism in west has not been the part of their civilisation. On the contrary our civilisation has taken insights from mystics who have gained the knowledge after transcending mind. They might differ a bit but core principles are similar. The goal is same. Buddhism and Vedanta have many commonality like transcendence of mind, impermanence of the world. We have been blessed to live in a country that was adorned by the sages who had these mystical experiences. We need to study such cosmological differences between Indian and western civilisation and throw light on the latter’s limitations and ultimately master this philosophy of yoga.
Sri Aurobindo said that very little of what existed in the ancient time has remained and very little of that is actually translated. There is still a lot to be done. This yoga needs to be the part of our university system which is what can bring about a real transformation. It is completely in consonance with what Sri Aurobindo has enunciated. Sri Aurobindo combined the core principle of various yoga which is needed to be practised. To bring about renaissance, we need to look within ourselves and conquer the forces that restrict us, reconstruct it. This is how new thoughts would flow within us. In the words of Sri Aurobindo “the work of the renaissance in India must be to make this spirit, this higher view of life, this sense of deeper potentiality once more a creative, perhaps a dominant power in the world. But to that truth of itself it is as yet only vaguely awake; the mass of Indian action is still at the moment proceeding under the impress of European motive and method and, because there is a sprit within us to which they are foreign, the action is poor in will, feeble in form and ineffective in results, for it does not come from the roots of our being. Only in a few directions is there a clear light of self-knowledge. It is when a greater light prevails and becomes general that we shall be able to speak, not only in prospect but in fact of the renaissance of India. Hence it is the time to uphold Sri Aurobindo’s ways for the renaissance of this country and growth of mankind for the highest intellectual revival.
This post is based on the content of the SangamTalks video shared above. It has been written by Ruchi Singh, a volunteer at #SangamTalks.
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