Sri Aurobindo Institute of Indian Culture. (SAIIC) Shillong workshop, 26,Oct -7 Nov, 2006 - 1. Challenges before India—Constitution, Education, Religion

The book that Sri Aurobindo wrote at that time was National System of education. It is now 100 years old. And unfortunately even today it has hardly been studied by educationists of India. It's one of the tragedies.

In 1971, when Mother said problems of India have been given solution by Sri Aurobindo. And even though I was myself a part of a big experiment in education that was taking place under the direction of the Mother, I have to confess to myself that till 1971, this book I had not read with that searching eye which Mother now gave. Sri Aurobindo has given solutions to the problems of education, apart from many other problems. He has chalked out a real program of education for the country.

This was my discovery. And I can tell you that this discovery was as it were put on a test when I was asked to become education advisor to the Government of India. And I travelled all over India and met hundreds of thousands of teachers at all levels of education of our country. I met thousands of students and young people in India.

I have interacted with Vice Chancellors, registrars, professors and asked myself what is the problem of education in India. Of this I will talk a little later because it's a very important subject. Similarly Mother spoke to me about the problem of the Constitution of India.

I had the privilege of speaking to her Mother and learning from her because like a kid sitting at the feet of the Mother and asking the Mother what are the problems of India and where are the solutions. So she told me that the first thing you need to do in India is to change our constitution. These words are still ringing in my ears even now.

One of my greatest happiness in my life was to meet Dr. Subhash Kashyap. He is the one constitutional expert in India, the only one. I've met many, many politicians in our country, many Members of Parliament, of assemblies, I've talked to many people. I’ve never got this idea that our constitution needs to be changed, except from Dr. Subhash Kashyap. He's the only one. He had not read the Mother or Sri Aurobindo, when I met him for the first time he spoke with these very words—we need to change our constitution.

This was my great discovery in India. He is the one person in India, who vibrates with what Mother told me. And he has a key to the change of the Constitution. for which I will speak to you, what I learnt from him. What he said, it's extremely important. We speak of the problem of the east, why? Because of the future. And this is the knot in India. We speak of the founding fathers of the constitution and we think it is inviolable, something you cannot touch. It is done and done forever. This is where the problem of the constitution lies. We feel many things have been done, we believe that the parliamentary system was brought from England, and it is done, you can't touch it. This is a problem of India.

Why the spirit of search, questioning, who says parliament is the last word in the world, who says democracy as we understand today is the last word in the world, who says why should you not question this so-called dogma? How many people know that the so-called sacred constitution of India is a replica of the 1935 Act which was given to us by the British, the structure, the whole picture, it was already printed in 1935. In 1949 when our constitution was debated in constitutional assembly with lots of debates, there were very interesting details which are worth visiting again— question of language, question of religion, question of education,—but reduced ultimately to the formula given in 1935 and today we feel it is a closed chapter and we speak of basic features of the constitution. Subhash Kashyapji told me that unless we change the Constitution of India the rut that we have fallen into cannot be remedied.

This is certain. We have that very thing which is now considered inviolable. If this means a revolution then revolution is necessary. No great thing can be done unless the revolutionary spirit vibrates in our country—resurgence. I'm so happy with professor Dutta, he has now unfurled the flag of resurgence. India needs resurgence.

The third problem that Mother spoke to me was about religion.

A problem to which the professor made a reference when he read out the beautiful letter which has come from Bangladesh. Religion is not only India’s problem, it’s a world problem like the constitution is also a worldwide problem. Although you do not know what is the worldwide problem of the Constitution.

Religion we understand more easily as a worldwide problem, the constitution is also a worldwide problem. This is also a problem to be considered, religion is to be considered, education should be considered.

The question of nationalism is another problem of India. And we have not been able to touch it properly. Once again it is the east which gave the message of nationalism. Sri Aurobindo became the electrifying force of nationalism. Most of us have forgotten what India was in 1904 and what India became in 1908. These four years in the history of India are extremely important to notice: Who were the leaders in India at that time in 1904 and which are the leaders who came up in 1908. And what tremendous change was brought about in those four years.

It was the first time in Indian history that our nationalism came to be defined in these four years' time. There is a view at that time, shared by many people: India has always been a fragmented piece of land, plenty of religions, plenty of races, plenty of languages, it was never a nation, it can never be a nation. If you read the chapters and pages of Bande Mataram penned by Sri Aurobindo, analysis after analysis in shining terms, illuminating terms.

We need to revisit these eight words of Sri Aurobindo: We believe India is rising as a nation.

In 1904, most of the leaders of India were weak, even the aim of National Congress which was set up in 1885 by a British had one important message or mission to gain some rights from the British parliament to be able to breathe under the benign umbrella of the British. And even that right we had to struggle for and little by little, that was the idea, little by little, you move step by step. This was the climate in 1904. At that time there was no voice in India saying that India must have complete freedom from the British.

Today this word complete freedom, complete independence is not vibrating. Today our students may not understand or not know its importance but it's very important to underline the word complete independence. Sri Aurobindo defined complete independence in fiery words. He got tremendous support from Tilak who said: swaraj is my birthright and I shall have it.

Impressive words of Tilak and how much was opposed Tilak himself when in 1907, when Indian National Congress met in Surat and his idea of complete independence was going to be defeated in that Congress, defeated officially.

Because there was a voice of swaraj and people were frightened and a proposal was made on the rostrum and tilak said I want to speak. Imagine Tilak went and said I want to speak and they refused, he cannot speak today. We can't even imagine this aspect of history at all and this voice of swaraj was going to be muted and there is one young man sitting at the back with the great pulse of the east in his hands and he would gave a sign to young people of Bengal, it was better to disrupt the congress rather than to mute the word of swaraj and these young people disrupted the congress session and did not allow that resolution which refused swaraj to be passed. It was Sri Aurobindo who was sitting quietly, he commanded his lieutenants of Bengal. East was rising in the west, it was Surat and at the command of Sri Aurobindo, a silent command, this is the power of the yogi and the young people rose up and the session was broken. Years thereafter Indian national congress could not meet. It was only in 1911, then Tilak was already sent over to Mandalay, he was grinding the grains in the jail. People do not know up to 1929 congress did not pass the resolution for independence, up to 1929. This is a history which people do not know. Leaders after leaders could not dare to speak of complete independence as the goal of India’s freedom struggle. Only in 1929 congress where this resolution was adopted and even then this resolution was not actually followed until 1942 when Quit India was announced, even up to 1942! It's a very important history of India. The message that came from the east—India should be completely free—today we take it for granted as if it's a very simple matter. The teachers of the course of history this has to be reckoned.

It was some superhuman agency that ushered in this idea of nationalism, of national independence and it's going on and on. If you read the history of India from inside it is Sri Aurobindo who brought freedom to India. It was he who was working for it all the time. Things which are not seen, are never recorded.

In fact most important events of history have never been recorded. If today we speak of Joan of Arc, who knows three great ideas which are today so much spread out in the world— Liberty, Equality, Fraternity— arose from France at the time of French revolution that is because French became a nation. She is a maker of that nation. A young girl of 17, a shepherdess. It's a wonderful story of a 17 years old girl. She said I hear the voice of god. This is the power of yoga. I hear the voice of God who tells me Britishers, because Britishers were also invading France at that time, have to be defeated but the king of France was absconding, hiding, he should be told he has to rise. He should be anointed as a king for free France and this girl who only knew how to tend to sheep at the most, she was told, you will command the army of France. It's an incredible story of the world. We must visit Mark Twain. Mark Twain is a very famous humorist but the one most serious book has written is a biography of Joan of Arc. He has spent years and years in the study of this remarkable woman. At the age of 17 she knew nothing of the army. In one year's time she was commanding the French army. She was riding the horse with a sword. She marched over Orléans, conquered Orléans, first victory for free France as it were. The whole of France was raised up within six months. In eight years time she changed the whole history of France. By 21 she was already burnt at the stake. That's what she gave, her life for her mission. It is a power of yoga, God's voice telling her, “you will command the army of France” and she did. It's a miracle. People ask for miracles but if you read this story, the incredible story, how did this happen!

Similarly if you read the history of India then ask a question: what is nationalism of India and how India became free when in 1904 people were so afraid of speaking of freedom, that Tilak was refused to speak at the national congress session about freedom of India. And India became free in 1947, it’s the story of a miracle, it is the power of yoga. This is the new vibration that we must again rekindle in India.

Once again it is east, I worship east, I am from the west of India but I worship the east. Even it is recognized today that if the renaissance of India started, it started with Raja Rammohun Roy. Then great movements started in the east. The east itself requires to rise up again. The pulse of India’s future lies in the east: the problem of religion, the problem of constitution and the problem of education, the problem of nationalism. Once again they are concentrated in the eastern India in the form of the problem of patriotism. Once again in this global world people say where is the place for patriotism. Patriotism today is a regressive movement. Nationalism, internationalism in a global world is an acute problem. Today when I turn to people today and speak of nationalism, patriotism, I see cold eyes all about. What are you talking about, the world is becoming one, it is nationalism which is coming in the way. All the nations must now be drowned, all now must become one world, what a wise world, one world, one humanity.

But who is a greater apostle of one world greater than Sri Aurobindo. He is a single leader of India who has written a book called The Ideal of Human Unity, the only person who has written on this subject, the ideal of human unity is Sri Aurobindo. How many of us know where he has discussed this problem of one world? He stands for one world but human tendency is either you are parochial or you are nothing, nowhere. There is a complexity in the world, a subtlety in the world and that all problems in the world arise because of complexity and subtlety. This aspect is not understood properly. It is true that nationalism is not the highest. It is true that oneness of mankind is the highest but the highest does not disintegrate that which is true at other levels of existence. Sri Aurobindo said that nationalism rises out of the fact of variations in the national soul, that every nation is a soul and this soul cannot be killed, it's immortal soul. Just like a human being also may become one nation but you cannot therefore dissolve individuals. Every individual soul is unique, is immortal. It is not by destroying the variety, uniqueness of nations where the world can become one. Reality is always complex and all aspects have to be taken into account. Patriotism is not opposed to universal brotherhood. On the contrary, the more you become universal the more you become an individual, not in the sense of selfishness and uniqueness and narrowness in the sense of narrowness. There is a beautiful sentence of Sri Aurobindo: the individual becomes truly individual when he is universalized. If he is not universalized he cannot attain his individual-hood. The more he becomes wider, the more individual he becomes. This is the secret of individuality, the more you become an individual not in the sense of selfishness and uniqueness and in the sense of narrowness. It's a beautiful sentence of Sri Aurobindo. The individual becomes truly individual when he is universalized. If he is not universal, he cannot attain his individual-hood. The more he becomes wider the more individual he becomes. This is the secret of individuality. So it's a very important point in education. We speak of the development of the personality of the individual as one of the great aims of education but how do you develop the personality of the individual if you do not universalize individuals. Our students must become universal in their consciousness. It is when universality flowers that the individual attains his fullness which can evolve the whole universe within his form. So Sri Aurobindo says that universal can manifest through the individual. One Danton can create a French revolution. All great movements of the world, they concretize in some individuals. This is one of the great quotes of Carlyle who said that whole human history is history of a few biographies. If you take only a few biographies you get the whole world history. Therefore nationalism is not opposed to universality but it is true that if you do not understand either universality or individuality or nationalism, both will be lost because neither can be achieved. It is only when you have subtlety and complexity of individuality, of nationality, of regionality, and of continentality and universality, we shall see all these aspects and integrate them properly, we will find that each one rests upon the other. Each one flowers because of the others.

This was another problem that Mother taught me actually when I spoke to her, there were people in the ashram itself who said that patriotism is now a passe, is now gone you should have a universal regime and yet Mother told me that patriotism is not opposed to universality. On the contrary every individual should be a patriot. Every individual should breathe with his nation and he must know what his nation is. This is where all my doors were opened by the Mother one by one and I had the privilege of listening to the Mother herself directly on this question and she told me all this one by one. Question of human unity, this is the ideal Mother told me we must put forward for India. India must work for the unity of mankind. But by doing so you do not sell off your own nationality. In fact people become universal when you truly become Indian and this is the greatest lesson of India. It is India which is right from the beginning spoken of universal man. The last verse of the Rigveda, in fact the last portion of Rigveda is most enlightening. Not many of us have seen Rigveda as the greatest treasure not of India but of the whole world. This is also what Mother told me. We will not understand India totally unless you understand the Veda. And the poverty of India today is to turn Veda into a priesthood which is utilised only for the sake of ceremonies or marriages and so on.

We have no access to this great literature which is available to us. This Veda covers in the tenth mandala, in the last chapter there are two great messages which are given. It is deliberately addressed to the future. It's a very important thing the Veda’s last portion is addressed to the future and two messages are given:

तन्तुं तन्वन् रजसो भानुम् अन्व् इहि ज्योतिष्मतः पथो रक्ष धिया कृतान् |
अनुल्बणं वयत जोगुवाम् अपो मनुर भव जनया दैव्यं जनम् ||

Tantuṃ tanvan rajaso bhānum anv ihi jyotiṣmataḥ patho rakṣa dhiyā kṛtān |
Anulbaṇaṃ vayata joguvām apo manur bhava janayā daivyaṃ janam ||

Rig Veda 10.53.6

This is the first message, manur bhava first be man. Then, janayā daivyaṃ janam, be the divine man. Don’t say manhood is wrong, manur bhava, unless you first become man, you have no possibility of becoming divine man. But first be man— this is a great message of Rigveda for the whole humanity.

And the last one is:

सं गच्छध्वं सं वदध्वं सं वो मनांसि जानताम् |
देवा भागं यथा पूर्वे संजानाना उपासते ||

Saṃ gacchadhvaṃ saṃ vadadhvaṃ saṃ vo manāṃsi jānatām |
Devā bhāgaṃ yathā pūrve saṃjānānā upāsate ||

Rig Veda 10.191.2

This is the most brilliant, most difficult message to be implemented today. Saṃ gacchadhvaṃ, let everybody be united together to walk together; saṃ vadadhvaṃ, speak together; saṃ vo manāṃsi jānatām, share all your knowledge together, samani akutam, even your opinion should be similar.

We of course speak of differences of opinions and all that but the Veda says that you'll have opinions, all kinds of varieties, but ultimately you arrive at one great view. This is one of the most difficult things in the world to arrive at a great view. This is the future and this is the message Mother says you have to give to the world that Veda has spoken this great message for which the whole world is rising. It is in fact towards that that Sri Aurobindo put forward in the ideal of human unity. It's only he said very clearly, the deity that is in mankind has installed the idea of unity of mankind and nobody can abrogate it. It is that towards which mankind must move and will move. There is nobody in world history who has spoken these words with so much emphasis and clarity. The whole book he has written forward to explain how that unity of mankind can come about truly and rightly. It is a matter of great research. One of the greatest problems of India is that we do not understand this problem. It took me many years to understand that one of the problems of India is thinking of becoming global and all that sort of thing. We are thinking seriously about unity of mankind is one of the strange problems of India today, on one hand we do not care for nationalism because internationalism has come into the picture, on the other hand we do not know what is internationalism either and what is the unity of mankind, other problems which are lying across the unity of mankind and how to deal with them. This problem is which Sri Aurobindo has discussed at length and Sri Aurobindo has given the solution to that problem. How are you to move, how should India think about this unity of mankind? In which context Sri Aurobindo said and this was specifically what the Mother showed me—across the possibility of the unity of mankind is China—in very specific terms and it was my own revelation for me. In fact in 1949 this was his latest book that he wrote, the postscript chapter in The Ideal of Human Unity and he spoke of what he called the menace of China, the very word he used was “menace of China”. And he said that China will first of all overrun the frontiers of Tibet and then it will overrun the frontiers of India, this thing may happen. But this did not happen because.. Russia and China can combine together, at that time there was a great possibility of Russia and China coming together and it said like a gigantic rock and with that an unwanted ideologically will be imposed upon India. He worked against this possibility. We know what happened when China invaded India. Even today it is a mystery to everybody why the Chinese did not move forward. Nobody knows why. I have talked to the people who were in charge particularly here, Shillong itself was one of the battlefields. Something happened here in the east. Of course Bertrand Russel wrote a book called Unarmed Victory. And he feels that because he wrote a letter to some of the leaders at that time that there was unarmed victory. But till today nobody has understood why China did not move forward. That black picture which was about to rise, how it was eliminated. It was Sri Aurobindo who worked against this possibility. This is the power of yoga. Yoga does not mean that you have to work all the time externally. Nine tenths of the work of yoga is inward. Only one tenth is outer. What we understand is this nine tenths. Why are the problems of the world taking shape in the way in which they are taking shape? One of the problems of India is that we do not understand what is happening in the world. So many media, so much of talk but if you really ask the question, I asked many people, do you understand what is happening? Globalisation! This is a very simple answer—globalisation—one world, one mantra as it were and you say that you answered the question. This is happening. Is it really so? This is a problem for which Sri Aurobindo has given a solution.