Today we are publishing a tribute of Barindra Kumar Ghose (1880—1959), the noted revolutionary, journalist and author to his elder brother and spiritual guide, Sri Aurobindo. This tribute, titled Sri Aurobindo: The Recluse of Pondicherry (As I Understand Him), was published in The Statesman on 29 August 1933.
With warm regards,
SRI AUROBINDO: THE RECLUSE OF PONDICHERRY
(As I Understand Him.)
Barindra Kumar Ghose.
To write and express what Sri Aurobindo and his present spiritual mission stand for is a presumption on my part, because it cannot truly be done except by himself. What we can do is to give a mental idea and outline of the truth which he represents. To use ordinary and accepted phraseology in doing it will be misleading. Like the other religious and spiritual giants ofIndiahe has hardly any mission to preach. He has rather a Truth to unfold and manifest, he sits there silent in his plentitude and glory actually living that truth so that seekers may come, realise and attain.
In order to understand him we must first divest our mind of all the customary chain of ideas and association which our political obsessions bring. The political Aurobindo whom we knew has ceased to exist. Call after call from his country went forth to him to join the battle of independence waging inIndiafor her political liberation. The first Rishi of Bandemataram, the first expounder of the ideal of complete independence, the first true prophet of Nationalism and passive resistance was fondly expected to come forward with his newly accumulated power and put his hand to the wheel of Swaraj. Devidas [sic] Gandhi, Lala Lajpat Rai and Deshbandhu went one after another to draw him out of his seclusion and failed. The great World-poet Rabindranath went to seek and receive from him the true message ofIndiato the west and to humanity, and came away baffled. We may as well expect the silent sunlit peaks of the Himalayas to be vocal. We may as well dream of the Sun-god coming down and condescending to act as a magnified electric arc for our gaudy bazar of cheap commodities of life.
Even now wherever one goes the only question one has to answer is, “Will Aurobindo come back?” In spite of Sri Aurobindo’s continued silence and complete dissociation from active politics this fond hope and delusion of his return seem to persist in the minds of his countrymen. Some of them who have a strong political obsession to the exclusion of everything else nurse a grievance against him for not taking up politics again. Obsession is obsession—blind and unreasoning. For them my answer is that Sri Aurobindo—your political leader—is dead and gone or at least has changed out of recognition. He will never come back, not in the sense you fondly persist in expecting.
There has come in all his outlook of life such a complete orientation that the very basis of life has been shifted and for him all the standards and values of things have as a result, undergone a thorough and profound change. Human growth always means that. When you really grow, you grow out of the old into the new. The growth is either gradual and perceptible or swift and incalculable as the case may be. So far as ordinary vital and physical man is concerned his mental and intellectual growth comes very slowly and its stages are perceptible to our comprehension. The horizon and the perspective of life remaining the same, there comes a resetting of values and a comparative widening of outlook.
But the case of greater personalities is quite different. There the change is so swift and comprehensive that the stages overlap each other and are rushed through in their intensive pace and there is a sense of being swung out of one’s orbit. For such as us it is next to impossible to grasp and realize what it means to be lifted so to say, out of ourselves, and begin to re-live life from a completely new plane of consciousness. A rebirth like that comes only in the life of rare personalities like Buddha or Ramkrishna when centuries of deeper human evolutions are crowded together, re-lived and transcended in the brief span of a few years. Naturally they become the centre of a new civilization, the seed of a new culture.
It is not strange then that the country does not know the present Sri Aurobindo of poised calm and inner illumination, standing apparently aloof from all that is signified our outer existence and ardent national aspirations. It is not strange either when they in their ignorance fail to comprehend this poise of severe detachment and mistake it for the callous apathy of a sannyasin to things mundane. Desire-driven as we are, having no clear vision and a true sense of proportion of things we naturally misjudge him. Our baffled desires cry aloud against anything which does not lend itself to their fulfilment. We begin to dislike what does not serve our purpose, and dub it either useless or selfish.
A cobbler when asked what was the best thing in the world said, “Nothing like leather.” A child-mind wrapped up in his doll does not comprehend the soul-lifting beauty of the dawn or the call of snowy peaks against a dark sky. Because the sublime language of the dawn and the peaks does not fit into that child’s world of petty joys and restless desires, it cannot be said that the dawn and the rest of it are redundant and meaningless. That is real wisdom which can rise to a great height and from there know the right place of each and every thing in the scheme of life and their inter-relation.
To understand Sri Aurobindo of supreme detachment and perfectly self-poised dynamism, you must try and understand how such higher power really acts. Shallow people only call activity that which is in restless movement to the physical eye. They do not understand power in static state and the apparently quiet and far-reaching effect of its silent urge. Only in the world of matter and its superficial activity are quick and intense developments seen, because there you are faced with force energized or in manifestation. Behind matter, in the realm of power there is hardly any movement manifest to the naked physical eye, an active dynamo surcharged with power is more silent and quieter than a huge pile of machinery driven by its electrical energy and intensely active in a whirr of hundred wheels, belts and shafts.
If that is so in the material plane of physical energy how much more so is it in the subtler plane of the spirit? You cannot see great cosmic energy, and yet its panorama of infinite play is seen everywhere in nature. You cannot visualise the silent and yet mighty pull of the sun and the earth and yet it is also there. It keeps an incalculable number of heavenly bodies in swift and ordered movement. You cannot feel the impalpable life-urge in the spring and yet it quickly clothes entire nature in a green mantle of foliage and multicoloured flowers. You cannot see the sea of thoughts and emotions in the mind of a Lenin or a Rabindranath and yet it helps to mould the human world anew.
Power is not always visible. In its deeper and subtler planes it is less and less manifest and yet more and more potent, cosmic and creative. In that sense energy let loose and in the process of being spent up is weak both in potency and in volume. There is such a thing as an intensity of weakness which often looks very much like power. Our restless desire-driven being is death in motion, and the self-poised calm yogi is, in comparison, life held in reserve. In order to understand how Sri Aurobindo and his like act you must yourself be quiet and psychically conscious.
India is waking up from her age-long sleep and along with the process of awakening the Truth which she stands for is unfolding petal by petal. That Truth is multiple and many-faced like a thousand-petalled lotus. Her spirituality, her art, her poetry, the wonderful change that is being wrought in her politics; all these are some of the facts of her deeper reality—her soul. Whatever you do you cannot efface a single aspect of this many-sided Truth, because the integral soul of India is working out her complete unfolding, producing her harmoniously co-ordinated symphony of life. Being obsessed by one aspect you may try to smother the others, but you will only succeed perhaps in changing their forms and bring about a new orientation in the process of manifestation. Stop them you cannot.
In order to understand India you must not only understand Rammohan, Bankim Chandra, Vivekananda, Rabindranath, Abanindra, Nandalal, Tilak, Deshbandhu and Mahatma Gandhi but you must ultimately try and understand Sri Aurobindo. The soul of India which gave the Vedas and the Upanishads to the world, which gave Shankaracharya, Buddha, Sri Chaitanya to humanity has become all the richer and more complex in the centuries that have rolled by. It has grown both in height, width, richness and multiplicity. If you fail to understand Sri Aurobindo you miss the key toIndia’s Truth of Life from which her culture proceeds. If you try to understand him in the terms of your own limitations and prejudices you miss no less the great message of the world-mother about to be delivered to Humanity.
The Statesman, 29 August 1933.