I have visited Auroville in Pondicherry a couple of times. Only as a traveler. Every time I picked up books from there to read. But never got around to read them. When this book ‘Sri Aurobindo and India’s Rebirth’ came to me for review, I picked it up. Edited by Michel Danino gave me the confidence that it would be easy and simple to read. I have enjoyed reading his earlier books.
Let me admit that this book is literally my introduction to Sri Aurobindo. I hardly knew anything about him till I turned a few pages of this book. Organized chronologically, there are small snippets from the works of Sri Aurobindo. His talks, letters, published works, and his conversations. You know the date, time, place, and context in which the words are said. You get to read the relevant bits where he shares his views on India.
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Key themes that come out are – India’s need to have its own way to rule itself. And not import parliamentary democracy. There is a repeated emphasis on focussing on the spiritual strength of India. Appeasing Muslims is not a solution to the Hindu-Muslim divide. Gandhi’s Ahimsa or Non-violence is a farce. He questions his fast unto death campaigns. Most of his ideas seem as relevant to India today. Even so, more than a century later. One wonders if we have indeed moved away from a colonial rule. We are as distant from our roots as we were then, if not more.
Some of the quotes from the book:
- Bhakti is the leaping flame, Shakti is the fuel.
- We have abandoned Sadhna of Shakti and so the Shakti has abandoned us.
- Europe lives by centuries, Asia by millenniums. Europe is parcelled out in nations, Asia in civilizations.
- Spiritual power in the present creates material power in the future. If material force dominates the present, spiritual will mold and take possession of the future.
- Dharma is the basis of democracy which Asia must recognize.
- It is Sanatan Dharma which for us in Nationalism.
- In ancient India, every community was free to develop its own religion – the law of its being.
- The old Indian system grew out of life, it had room for everything and every interest. There was monarchy, aristocracy, democracy; every interest was represented in the government.
- Indian Art demands of the artist the power of communion with the soul of things. The sense of spiritual taking precedence of the sense of material beauty, the fidelity of the deeper vision within.
- The mother tongue is the proper medium of education.
- Successful rejection is possible only if we have intelligent possession of what we wish to keep.
- Ancient Hinduism aimed socially at our fulfillment in God in life. Modern Hinduism is the escape from life to God.
- Spirituality is India’s only politics. The fulfillment of the Sanatana Dharma, its only Swaraj.
- The existence of poverty is proof of an unjust and ill-organized society. Our public charities are but the first tardy awakening in the conscience of a robber.
- There are philanthropists who would be troubled if the poor were not always with us, for they would then have no field for their charity.
- Gandhi is a European – truly, a Russian Christian in an Indian body.
- Gandhi is a dictator like Stalin.
Easy to Read
India’s Rebirth books language is simple and conversational most of the time. Sri Aurobindo is mostly addressing an audience. The snippets have been picked up very intelligently. You never lose the context. You pick up the exact point that the editor wants you to.
An easy, comfortable, yet thought-provoking book. Do pick it up and read it in bites. Think a lot between the bites.
I am tempted to pick up all his books to read. Especially his works on Veda and Savitri. Check them out.