Today we are publishing the text of a speech of Paul Richard on Sri Aurobindo which was delivered to the ‘Students Asiatic Union’ on 3 May 1919 at Waseda University in Tokyo.
Paul Antoine Richard was born on 17 June 1874 at Marsillargues, in the department of Hérault, in Languedoc (southern France). After finishing school, he enlisted in the army, and in October 1892 was sent to North Africa, where he served for four years. Returning to his homeland in 1897, he settled in Montauban (in the South-West of France), where he took up the study of theology. He preached in Montauban for two years, and in 1900 published a book-length “metaphysical essay”, Le corps du Christ après sa resurrection. Later in 1900 he became a member of the Reformed Church of France in Lille (in the North-East of France, near the Belgian border). Around this time he married Wilhelmine van Oostveen, a young lady of Amsterdam. Richard received his law degree from the Académie de Lille in July 1908. Before long he became a barrister at the Paris Court of Appeals. But his eagerness to enter into the world of politics was very much alive and therefore in February 1910 he joined the Ligue de Défense et de Propagande Républicaine Radicale et Radicale-Socialiste. In 1910 he visited Pondicherry and met Sri Aurobindo. On 5 May 1911 he married Mirra Alfassa alias the Mother. He returned to Europe after his divorce from the Mother; later he went to the United States of America where he taught as a university professor. His published works include To the Nations, The Lord of the Nations, The Scourge of Christ, The Dawn Over Asia, The Challenge of the Future, To India: The Messages of the Himalayas, New Asia, Messages from the Future, The Eternal Wisdom and The Seven Steps to the New Age. In 1967 Paul Richard breathed his last.
The said speech is quoted from Paul Richard’s book The Dawn Over Asia; it is interesting to note that this book was translated from the original in French by Sri Aurobindo.
With warm regards,
My friends, it is not only my word but my heart that I bring to you. It is my heart that salutes your young and fine association. For it unites two things that I love; one as one loves a mother—Asia, for Asia is the spiritual mother of the world; and the other as one loves a child—youth, the dawn of the future; for in you is the future of Asia, the future of the world.
And you are doing the work that should be done. Your society is creating the bonds of fraternity between students of different nations, is creating them also between those nations. In working to unify the thinking youth of Asia, it is working for the unity of Asia. It is unifying the Asia of to-morrow. For to-morrow Asia will be one.
In this unity there lie for her the promises of the future, of a higher life, a more perfect civilisation, with a great soul in it that shall be formed of that which is best in each. All the sensibility of Japan, all the intellectuality of China, all the spirituality of India will there enter into association. In this soul of the future, all the great thoughts of Asia will take their place. They will assemble together the gods of Vedism and of Shinto, the sister religions of Buddhism and Taoism, the pacified cults of Christianity and Islam. For all are only multiple forms of a single cult offered to the Infinite Being.
It is this soul of the future that will be created by the man of the future. Not the super-man of Nietzche, the super-man of the West, all the vanity and pride of whose force has only succeeded in bringing down in ruin upon him the old world. But the diviner man, the humaner god of Asia, creator of a new world. It is for this creation that the whole earth is being changed into a chaos; it is for this renewal, for this remoulding, that all the peoples are now in revolt against what they were, against what they wish no longer to be. And if men nowhere listen any longer to those who speak to them of human duties, it is because all, in the depths of their heart, feel awakening super-human possibilities.
Therefore, I come to say to you: prepare yourselves, prepare yourselves for the magnificent to-morrow. For the hour is coming of the great things, the hour of the great events, and also of the great men, the divine men of Asia. For there are already these men, these divine men—in Asia. All my life I have sought for them across the world. For all my life I have felt that they must exist somewhere in this world, that this world would die if they did not live. For they are its light, its heat, its life. It is in Asia that I have found the greatest among them, the leader, the hero of to-morrow.
He is a Hindu, he is named Aurobindo Ghose. He was born at Calcutta on the 15th August 1872. He is to-day 47 years old. While yet young he was sent to England to commence his studies. He remained there fourteen years. He acquired there all the knowledge of the West. And to him that did not suffice. He possesses also all the profound science, all the ancient wisdom of the East.
He returned to India at the age of twenty; was chosen for works of confidence by the Maharajah of Baroda, and occupied in the State an advantageous situation which would have satisfied the ambitions of many. But his were of another kind. In him lived the love of the Indian Motherland. Therefore he made this vow: “There is a burden on the breast of my mother. I will take no rest till I have delivered her.” He made too this greater vow: “One day I will see God face to face.” It is thus that he left one day the court of the Maharajah. As formerly the Buddha had done, he abandoned the sweets of his position, his worldly and material advantages. He departed to do his work, to accomplish his great and perilous mission.
At Calcutta to which he returned, he participated in the foundation of the National College, in order to save first of all the soul of his young fellow-citizens from the alien domination. He participated also in the conduct of a free organ “Bande Mataram,” around which organised itself a large group of enthusiastic young men. He wrote and he spoke. He spoke, and as his voice came from the depths of the soul, from the depths of the past and the future, Bengal hearing him awoke. It was the beginning of the great Hindu Renaissance, the beginning of the national movement which afterwards, from year to year, from province to province, gained the whole of India, preparing the irresistible impetus of to-day, and the victory of to-morrow.
Then he was put in prison—the school of the great and the just. But as no crime could be proved against him, no crime other than that of being the inspired prophet of the Indian Motherland, the voice announcing her liberation, he was released at the end of a year. But in this prison he had understood that his human strength would not suffice; that he needed the strength of the gods. And the gods came and spoke to him. Henceforth he looked only towards Heaven. Henceforth he saw Heaven everywhere and the Divine in all beings. While he was being tried before the tribunal, he had this experience that he saw no longer before him men, judges, jailers and prisoners, but in each of them, in the most honoured as in the despicable, the one image of Krishna, the individual form of the infinite Brahman.
He wrote still and founded the “Karma Yogin.” But it was to give this message to his people: “There can be no material Mukti, unless there is first a spiritual Mukti” afterwards he retired into solitude. He came to the South of India, to Pondicherry, where ten years ago, by a providential course of events, I met him for the first time. There he entered in the silence of a yoga which deepened during five years. When I met him again after these five years, he had gained the light, he had gained the power. The light owing to which nothing more henceforth, in heaven or on earth or in any world, can remain hidden from him. And the power through which everywhere his sovereign thought, without desire, without trouble, without haste, without fear, realises the will of the Eternal Truth.
Five other years have passed since then. Five years in the course of which, at my request, he has exposed in five volumes of a monthly publication, the most masterly, the most magnificent teaching of philosophy, of human and divine wisdom that men have ever received. Now, the day is coming when, after having been in the obscurity of his silence and retreat the saviour ofIndia, he will become in the full light of day the Guru of Asia, the teacher of the world. For it is always from Asia that have come the Saviours and the Teachers of this world.
To-day for the first time I proclaim in public his name. For it is without doubt you who should hear it the first. Let this name be henceforth to you, to your association, to the youth of Asia—to Asia, a symbol, a rallying cry, a programme.
For this name signifies Asia free and one— Asia resurgent. Asia in her glory!