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At the Feet of The Mother

Sri Aurobindo and the Sanatana Dharma 1: Restoring the Sanatana Dharma

The world is witnessing momentous changes since the decade starting from 2014 and more specifically since 2020. While some of these changes may appear confusing to the surface vision a deeper look would reveal that there is a gradual but decisive shift of the world along the lines revealed by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. This shift that is being observed geopolitically, biologically and environmentally is at its bottom a spiritual shift. What we are witnessing is yet a beginning. Much more is likely to come, will come since we are going through those moments of great transition from one Age to another when men are no more left to their own resources. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother called it the Hour of God during which the world and humanity passes through tumultuous changes driven by the hand of God. Among these changes there is the resurgence of Sanatana Dharma and its gifts to the world. It is important therefore that we turn to Sri Aurobindo for help in making us understand Sanatana Dharma that we see Sri Aurobindo mention in his very first public talk after release from the Alipore Jail. This statement delivered during the famous Uttarpara Speech may well be considered as Sri Aurobindo’s first vision and mission statement:      

‘He placed the Gita in my hands. His strength entered into me and I was able to do the sadhan of the Gita. I was not only to understand intellectually but to realise what Srikrishna demanded of Arjuna and what He demands of those who aspire to do His work, to be free from repulsion and desire, to do work for Him without the demand for fruit, to renounce self-will and become a passive and faithful instrument in His hands, to have an equal heart for high and low, friend and opponent, success and failure, yet not to do His work negligently. I realised what the Hindu religion meant. We speak often of the Hindu religion, of the Sanatana Dharma, but few of us really know what that religion is. Other religions are preponderatingly religions of faith and profession, but the Sanatana Dharma is life itself; it is a thing that has not so much to be believed as lived. This is the dharma that for the salvation of humanity was cherished in the seclusion of this peninsula from of old. It is to give this religion that India is rising. She does not rise as other countries do, for self or when she is strong, to trample on the weak. She is rising to shed the eternal light entrusted to her over the world. India has always existed for humanity and not for herself and it is for humanity and not for herself that she must be great….

When you go forth, speak to your nation always this word that it is for the Sanatana Dharma that they arise, it is for the world and not for themselves that they arise. I am giving them freedom for the service of the world. When therefore it is said that India shall rise, it is the Sanatana Dharma that shall rise. When it is said that India shall be great, it is the Sanatana Dharma that shall be great. When it is said that India shall expand and extend herself, it is the Sanatana Dharma that shall expand and extend itself over the world. It is for the dharma and by the dharma that India exists. To magnify the religion means to magnify the country. I have shown you that I am everywhere and in all men and in all things, that I am in this movement and I am not only working in those who are striving for the country but I am working also in those who oppose them and stand in their path. I am working in everybody and whatever men may think or do they can do nothing but help on my purpose. They also are doing my work; they are not my enemies but my instruments. In all your actions you are moving forward without knowing which way you move. You mean to do one thing and you do another. You aim at a result and your efforts subserve one that is different or contrary. It is Shakti that has gone forth and entered into the people. Since long ago I have been preparing this uprising and now the time has come and it is I who will lead it to its fulfilment.”….

 What is this religion which we call Sanatana, eternal? It is the Hindu religion only because the Hindu nation has kept it, because in this peninsula it grew up in the seclusion of the sea and the Himalayas, because in this sacred and ancient land it was given as a charge to the Aryan race to preserve through the ages. But it is not circumscribed by the confines of a single country, it does not belong peculiarly and for ever to a bounded part of the world. That which we call the Hindu religion is really the eternal religion, because it is the universal religion which embraces all others. If a religion is not universal, it cannot be eternal. A narrow religion, a sectarian religion, an exclusive religion can live only for a limited time and a limited purpose. This is the one religion that can triumph over materialism by including and anticipating the discoveries of science and the speculations of philosophy. It is the one religion which impresses on mankind the closeness of God to us and embraces in its compass all the possible means by which man can approach God. It is the one religion which insists every moment on the truth which all religions acknowledge, that He is in all men and all things and that in Him we move and have our being. It is the one religion which enables us not only to understand and believe this truth but to realise it with every part of our being. It is the one religion which shows the world what the world is, that it is the lila of Vasudeva. It is the one religion which shows us how we can best play our part in that lila, its subtlest laws and its noblest rules. It is the one religion which does not separate life in any smallest detail from religion, which knows what immortality is and has utterly removed from us the reality of death…..

 This Hindu nation was born with the Sanatana Dharma, with it it moves and with it it grows. When the Sanatana Dharma declines, then the nation declines, and if the Sanatana Dharma were capable of perishing, with the Sanatana Dharma it would perish. The Sanatana Dharma, that is nationalism.’ [CWSA 8]

This vision statement is a first clear indication of his Avatarhood since, as the Gita says, one of the main work of the Avatar is to restore the Sanatana Dharma, the eternal Law that governs all things. The restoration of the Sanatana Dharma ensures a spiritual continuity to the evolutionary march of mankind. It is dharma, the eternal Law inbuilt in creation in the very nature of things that preserves the cosmic order. Man however has been given a relative freedom to consciously align himself with this eternal Law, Sanatana dharma, or to play at cross purposes with it. Aligning with the dharma, the natural law of progress that ensures unity in diversity, helps the individual and mankind grow more and more consciously, harmoniously, smoothly. The Sanatana Dharma sees in creation not so much a struggle for survival as an evolutionary unfolding or a progressive manifestation of the Divine Will hidden in the core of everything. The struggle and the strife are no doubt there when the individual creature or species is affirming its own differentiated unity. But sooner or later it must be replaced by a happy and harmonious blossoming together with the world around us. The sense of differentiation that we experience on the surfaces of life is the result of the forces of division which ensure individualisation. However once the individual is formed and distinct types created, the deeper forces of unity and oneness must come into play to ensure that each individual enriches the totality rather than threatens to stamp the other units out of existence by the sole domination of one single unit of life. The right balance is maintained by the wrestle and embrace of these two forces working everywhere and in each element of creation, those that keep us aligned to the centre and thereby ensure harmony and a cosmic order as opposed to those that try to divide, separate and eventually throw us off-centre creating disharmony and disorder. The former are forces of harmonious integration, a victorious mastery that enriches and ennobles what it masters and conquers, the Deva. The latter are forces of disintegration and disruption, an artificial or false possession of things, creating semblance of unity by compulsion and annulling the differentiation, the Asura. When the forces of disruption emerging from the subconscient Asuric past dominate the earth overrunning it with fire of lust and greed and wanton ambition and jealousy and fear and hate them there is the dharmasya glani, the decline of dharma as the Gita puts it. One of the works of the Avatar, the Divine become human, is to put his weight on the side of dharma to break the forces of downward gravitation and disintegration and rescue and restore the forces of dharma. The Avatar is himself the embodiment of the Dharma who resets the wheel of Time in alignment with the Divine Will and gives a boost to the march of mankind silently from within. The outward consequences follow inevitably. 

This work is not about religious revival as it is about bringing forward the spiritual core. It is also not about restoring old ritualistic practices but about awakening the soul and the spirit of Sanatan Dharma which will then decide new forms in which its truth can express through moulds appropriate to each Age. This is a daunting task that Sri Aurobindo and the Mother had undertaken as an important part, almost as the backbone of the superstructure of the New Creation that they had come to establish. Sri Aurobindo expressed this in what can be considered as his Vision and statement: 

1) To reexplain the Sanatana Dharma to the human intellect in all its parts, from a new standpoint. This work is already beginning, & three parts of it are being clearly worked out. Sri Krishna has shown me the true meaning of the Vedas, not only so but he has shown me a new Science of Philology showing the process & origins of human speech so that a new Nirukta can be formed & the new interpretation of the Veda based upon it. He has also shown me the meaning of all in the Upanishads that is not understood either by Indians or Europeans. I have therefore to reexplain the whole Vedanta & Veda in such a way that it will be seen how all religion arises out of it & is one everywhere. In this way it will be proved that India is the centre of the religious life of the world & its destined saviour through the Sanatana Dharma.

 2) On the basis of Vedic knowledge to establish a Yogic sadhana which will not only liberate the soul, but prepare a perfect humanity & help in the restoration of the Satyayuga. That work has to begin now but will not be complete till the end of the Kali.

 3) India being the centre, to work for her restoration to her proper place in the world; but this restoration must be effected as a part of the above work and by means of Yoga applied to human means & instruments, not otherwise.

 4) A perfect humanity being intended society will have to be remodelled so as to be fit to contain that perfection.  

[CWSA 36:177-178]

It is perhaps due to this silent occult action that we see a gradual but clear increase in interest in the Sanatana Dharma. The degree and quantum of this increase may never be known since Sanatana Dharma is largely free of any external markers such as conversion, obligatory rituals or outer marks of identification. However due to better means of communication it has now become very easy to access information and thereby read and compare for oneself the path that one wishes to follow. The world is no more a closed space where people lived in a small geographical unit and died with the same belief systems and religion they were born into. Besides the advancement of Science and a host of new ideas and ideologies are challenging established belief systems and their cosmology and world view. It is here that the Sanatana Dharma is likely to find the most appeal with its wideness and suppleness, its freedom and richness, its inclusivity and multiplicity of approaches, its scientific temper and rational rigour integrating Reason and Faith, the simplicity of Monistic religions and the complexity of Creation itself, the various goals that mankind puts before itself in different stages of its development and the one final ultimate goal of human life, its celebration of life as well as its renunciation of life, its accommodation and eventual reconciliation of wide extremes and opposite poles of One existence, its acceptance of progress, evolution and change thereby admitting constant reforms within with passage of time while keeping the inner core intact, its acceptance of free will as well as fate, Law and liberty, its insistence on karma as the determinant of the future rather than mere belief in a doctrine. All this and much more is likely to find an increasing appeal as world advances in thought and the human mind grows in wideness and complexity. A narrow movement of thought clamped to its limited surroundings may be satisfied with one single book and one saviour, but as thought and vision take a wider sweep, man cannot be satisfied forever with rigid dogmas and cults, outdated rituals and limited beliefs. Its spirit is bound to expand beyond what religion can offer, beyond the proposed heavens for the dead and a post-mortem salvation of man. It is bound to turn towards the exploration of the infinite and the eternal, its wings are destined to grow wide and rise out of the bounded religious and ideological view towards the endless spiritual horizons. There is no religion that caters to this spiritual aspiration and the need for flight beyond the last horizon except the Sanatana Dharma. It is Sanatana Dharma that had laid the deep and strong foundations for the inner life of man in the past. It is Sanatan Dharma that will yet show the way to the future and guide mankind out of its turbulent present to his secure peaceful and luminous future.

Sri Aurobindo asked one of his disciples to write the following in response to a question indicating an important line of the work he had undertaken:

‘Sri Aurobindo has asked me to write to you the following:

“Your feeling that there should be reintegration of Indian Culture under modern conditions is quite right. It is the work that has to be done. And as far as Sri Aurobindo can see at present Indian Spiritual Culture has a great and bright future before it. It is the future power that might dominate the world.

So, your efforts in carrying out that work are quite in the right direction and in carrying out that work you would have his full support and blessings.”

 [CWSA 36: 513]

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