Of Politics, Patriotism and Yoga

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Editor’s Note: In these passages, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother remind us why political work or politics as it is practiced today is not compatible with the path of Yoga. At the same time, as the Mother explains, the sentiment of patriotism or love for one’s country has a place in Integral Yoga which is not cut off from life.

Yoga and Political Work

Disciple: A has been doing political work as you know. So, the question from him would be: What is the connection between Yoga and political work?

Sri Aurobindo: The present-day political activity is intensely Rajasic in its nature and its reconciliation with Yoga is not easy. In fact, all those who took to this Yoga had to give up political activity.

Disciple: Why should it be so? There is acceptance of life in this Yoga, is there not?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, there is no rejection of life; you can say, life is accepted in this Yoga. But we regard the inner life as more important, the outer only as an expression, a form, of it.

Disciple: Can one not take up the outer action — say, political — in the Yoga?

Sri Aurobindo: External action can also be taken up in this Yoga but it must be in keeping with the inner life. The outside world regards all those who do this Yoga here as ‘lost’ to all work. But that is not the correct reading. It is not that we have no sympathy with the political aspirations of the country; only, we can’t go into them in the Rajasic way.

We leave it to the Higher Power to do what She likes.

Disciple: But you yourself did political work.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, I did it but it was done in the attitude I just now described — i.e. by leaving the work in the hands of the Higher Power.

Disciple: Suppose India accepts the Truth which the Yoga wants to bring down into life?

Sri Aurobindo: If the Truth which the Yoga wants to achieve is attained and if India accepts it, then it will give quite a new turn to Indian politics — different from European politics. It would be a profound change.

Sri Aurobindo, 21 January, 1925
Evening Talks with Sri Aurobindo, recorded by A.B. Purani, 3rd Edition, 1982/2007, pp. 135-136

Patriotism and Yoga

Patriotic sentiments are not incompatible with our yoga—far from it—to will for the strength and the integrity of one’s Motherland is a quite legitimate sentiment, the will that she may make progress and that more and more she may manifest, in full freedom, the truth of her being, is a fine and noble will which cannot be harmful for our yoga.

But one must not get excited, one must not plunge prematurely into action. One can and should pray, aspire and will for the victory of the truth and, at the same time, continue to discharge one’s daily duties and wait quietly for the unmistakable sign to come, indicating the action to be done.

~ The Mother, 27 October, 1962
CWM, Vol. 13, p. 356

Flip and Read:
National Symbols of India in the Light of Sri Aurobindo

Our Politics is Not the Genuine Indian Thing

Our business is not with the formless Spirit only; we have to direct life as well. Without shape and form, life has no effective movement. It is the formless that has taken form, and that assumption of name and form is not a caprice of Maya. The positive necessity of form has brought about the assumption of form.

We do not want to exclude any of the world’s activities. Politics, trade, social organisation, poetry, art, literature—all will remain. But all will be given a new life, a new form.

Why did I leave politics? Because our politics is not the genuine Indian thing; it is a European import, an imitation of European ways. But it too was needed. You [Barin] and I also engaged in politics of the European style. If we had not done so, the country would not have risen, and we would not have had the experience or obtained a full development. Even now there is a need for it, . . .

But now the time has come to take hold of the substance instead of extending the shadow.

We have to awaken the true soul of India and to do everything in accordance with it.

For the last ten years I have been silently pouring my influence into this foreign political vessel, and there has been some result. I can continue to do this wherever necessary. But if I took up that work openly again, associating with the political leaders and working with them, it would be supporting an alien law of being and a false political life. 

Gandhi’s Confused Spiritualisation of Indian Politics

People now want to spiritualise politics—Gandhi, for instance. But he can’t get hold of the right way.

What is Gandhi doing? Making a hodgepodge called satyāgraha out of “Ahimsa parama dharma”, Jainism, hartal, passive resistance, etc.; bringing a sort of Indianised Tolstoyism into the country. The result—if there is any lasting result—will be a sort of Indianised Bolshevism. I have no objection to his work; let each one act according to his own inspiration. But it is not the real thing.

If the spiritual force is poured into these impure forms—the wine of the spirit into these unbaked vessels—the imperfect things will break apart and spill and waste the wine. Or else the spiritual force will evaporate and only the impure form remain. It is the same in every field of activity.

I could use my spiritual influence; it would give strength to those who received it and they would work with great energy. But the force would be expended in shaping the image of a monkey and setting it up in the temple of Shiva. If the monkey is brought to life it may grow powerful, and in the guise of the devotee Hanuman do much work for Rama—so long as the life and strength remain. But in the temple of India we want not Hanuman but the Godhead, the Avatar, Rama himself.

~ Sri Aurobindo, April 1920
Writings in Bengali and Sanskrit: Letters to Barin

Lift High the Standard of Truth

Sri Aurobindo withdrew from politics; and, in his Ashram, a most important rule is that one must abstain from all politics―not because Sri Aurobindo did not concern himself with the happenings of the world, but because politics, as it is practised, is a low and ugly thing, wholly dominated by falsehood, deceit, injustice, misuse of power and violence; because to succeed in politics one has to cultivate in oneself hypocrisy, duplicity and unscrupulous ambition.

The indispensable basis of our Yoga is sincerity, honesty, unselfishness, disinterested consecration to the work to be done, nobility of character and straightforwardness. They who do not practise these elementary virtues are not Sri Aurobindo’s disciples and have no place in the Ashram. . . .

Sri Aurobindo always loved deeply his Motherland.

But he wished her to be great, noble, pure and worthy of her big mission in the world. He refused to let her sink to the sordid and vulgar level of blind self-interests and ignorant prejudices.

This is why, in full conformity to his will, we lift high the standard of truth, progress and transformation of mankind, without caring for those who, through ignorance, stupidity, envy or bad will, seek to soil it and drag it down into the mud. We carry it very high so that all who have a soul may see it and gather round it.

~ The Mother, 25 April 1954
CWM, Vol. 13, pp. 122-123

Truth Behind All Sincere Convictions

From the Divine’s point of view there is truth behind all sincere convictions. It is in the mental and practical application to life and action that the falsehood appears and disfigures everything.

The time has come when all those who are more or less connected with the Ashram and wish to base their action on Sri Aurobindo’s or my teaching must abstain from all these low movements of political polemic and remain on the higher levels of the spirit.

~ The Mother, 31 January 1955
CWM, Vol. 13, p. 123

Also read:
Indian Nationalism and Yoga

~ Design: Beloo Mehra & Ramajayam

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