Not many are aware of the fact that Sri Aurobindo had granted an interview to a correspondent of The Hindu in early 1915. This interview was quoted in full by Lala Lajpat Rai in his book Young India along with an introduction titled Arabinda Ghosh—Vedantist and Swarajist.
The text of the interview has been uploaded in the online forum of Overman Foundation along with Lala Lajpat Rai’s introduction.
With warm regards,
Arabinda Ghosh—Vedantist and Swarajist
It is difficult to say to which of these classes, if to either at all, Arabinda Ghosh belonged to or still belongs. At one time it was believed that he belonged to the first class, to which most of the other Bengalee extremists belonged, but whether that belief was right and whether he still thinks on the same lines, it is difficult to say. One thing is certain, that he was and is quite unlike Har Dayal in his line of thought. In intellectual acumen and in scholastic accomplishments he is perhaps superior to Har Dayal, but above all he is deeply religious and spiritual. He is a worshipper of Krishna and is a high-souled Vedantist. Even simpler and more ascetic in his life and habits than Har Dayal, he is for an all-round development of Indian Nationalism. His notions of life and morality are pre-eminently Hindu and he believes in the spiritual mission of his people. His views may better be gathered from an interview, which he recently gave to a correspondent of The Hindu, of Madras. We quote the interview almost bodily and in the words of the interviewer.
“But what do you think of the 1914 Congress and Conferences?” I insisted.
He spoke almost with reluctance but in clear and firm accents. “I do not find the proceedings of the Christmas Conferences very interesting and inspiring. They seem to me to be mere repetitions of the petty and lifeless formulas of the past and hardly show any sense of the great breath of the future that is blowing upon us. I make an exception of the speech of the Congress President which struck me as far above the ordinary level. Some people, apparently, found it visionary and unpractical. It seems to me to be the one practical and vital thing that has been said in India for some time past.
“The old, petty forms and little narrow, make-believe activities are getting out of date. The world is changing rapidly around us and preparing for more colossal changes in the future. We must rise to the greatness of thought and action which it will demand upon the nations who hope to live. No, it is not in any of the old formal activities, but deeper down that I find signs of progress and hope. The last few years have been a period of silence and compression in which the awakened Virya  and Tejas of the nation have been concentrating for a great outburst of a better direct energy in the future.
“We are a nation of three hundred millions inhabiting a great country in which many civilisations have met, full of rich material and unused capacities. We must cease to think and act like the inhabitants of an obscure and petty village.”
“If you don’t like our political methods, what would you advise us to do for the realisation of our destiny?” was the next question.
He quickly replied: “Only by a general intellectual and spiritual awakening can this nation fulfil its destiny. Our limited information, our second-hand intellectual activities, our bounded interests, our narrow life of little family aims and small money-getting have prevented us from entering into the broad life of the world. Fortunately, there are ever-increasing signs of a widened outlook, a richer intellectual output and numerous sparks of liberal genius which show that the necessary change is coming. No nation in modern times can grow great by politics alone. A rich and varied life, energetic in all its parts, is the condition of a sound, vigorous national existence. From this point of view, also the last five years have been a great benefit to the country.”
I then asked what he thought of the vastly improved relations that now exist between the Briton and the Indian in our own country and elsewhere.
“It is a very good thing”, he said and he explained himself in the following manner: “The realisation of our nationhood separate from the rest of humanity was the governing idea of our activities from 1905 to 1910. That movement has served its purpose. It has laid a good foundation for the future. Whatever excesses and errors of speech and action were then disclosed came because our energy, though admirably inspired, lacked practical experience and knowledge.
“The idea of Indian nationhood is now not only rooted in the public mind, as all recent utterances go to show, but accepted in Europe and acknowledged by the Government and the governing race. The new idea that should now lead us is the realisation of our nationhood not separate from, but in the future scheme of humanity. When it has realised its own national life and unity, India will still have a part to play in helping to bring about the unity of the nations.”
I naturally put in a remark about the Under-Secretary’s ‘Angle of Vision.’
“It is well indeed,” observed Ghosh, “that British statesmen should be thinking of India’s proper place in the Councils of the Empire, and it is obviously a thought which, if put into effect must automatically alter the attitude of even the greatest extremists towards the Government and change for the better all existing political reasons.
“But it is equally necessary that we Indians should begin to think seriously what part Indian thought, Indian intellect, Indian nationhood, Indian spirituality, Indian culture have to fulfil in the general life of humanity. The humanity is bound to grow increasingly on. We must necessarily be in it and of it. Not a spirit of aloofness or of jealous self-defence, but of generous emulation and brotherhood with all men and all nations, justified by a sense of conscious strength, a great destiny, a large place in the human future—this should be the Indian spirit.”
The oneness of humanity is a topic dear to the heart of Babu Arabinda Ghosh and when I (i.e., the interviewer) suggested to him that Vedantic ideas would be a good basis for unity, his reply was full of enthusiasm:
“Oh, yes”, he said, “I am convinced and have long been convinced that a spiritual awakening, a re-awakening of the true self of the nation is the most important condition of our national greatness. The supreme Indian idea of the oneness of all men in God and its realisation inwardly and outwardly, increasingly even in social relations and the structure of society is destined, I believe, to govern the progress of the human race. India, if it chooses, can guide the world.”
And here I said something about our “four thousand” castes, our differences in dress and in “caste marks”, our vulgar sectarian antipathies and so on.
“Not so hard, if you please,” said Mr. Ghosh with a smile. “I quite agree with you that our social fabric will have to be considerably altered before long. We shall have, of course, to enlarge our family and social life, not in the petty spirit of present-day Social Reform, hammering at small details and belittling our immediate past, but with a large idea and more generous impulses. Our past with all its faults and defects should be sacred to us. But the claims of our future with its immediate possibilities should be still more sacred.”
His concluding words were spoken in a very solemn mood:
“It is more important that the thought of India should come out of the philosophical school and renew its contact with life, and the spiritual life of India issue out of the cave and the temple and, adapting itself to new forms, lay its hand upon the world. I believe also that humanity is about to enlarge its scope by new knowledge, new powers and capacities, which will create as great a revolution in human life as the physical science of the nineteenth century. Here, too, India holds in her past, a little rusted and put out of use, the key of humanity’s future.
“It is in these directions that I have been for some time impelled to turn my energies rather than to the petty political activities which are alone open to us at the present moment. This is the reason of my continued retirement and detachment from action. I believe in the necessity at such times and for such great objects, of Tapasya , in silence for self-training, for self-knowledge and storage of spiritual force. Our forefathers used that means, though in different forms. And it is the best means for becoming an efficient worker in the great days of the world.”
 Force, energy and vitality.
 Life of meditation and self-denial.