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Archive for the ‘South Asia’ Category

The BookI am going to write about a book by Kosha Shah, who is a resident of Auroville (www.auroville.org.in). She deals with India and her neighbours in South Asia. The book is published by Auroville Arts and is priced at Rs. 80. It has 84 pages and is divided into 7 chapters. There is both an introduction and a conclusion. There is a message in the beginning and an annexure at the end. The author provides us with a bibliography at the end.

The author has been for the last several years researching and working with the large body of thought of Sri Aurobindo with particular reference to his Social and Political writings. In this book she deals with issues concerning South Asia and India treating them in the light of Sri Aurobindo and Mother’s vision, thoughts, messages, recommendations on the subject.

It would be a good idea to introduce the readers to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother; hence, a brief biography.

Sri Aurobindo was born in Calcutta on 15 August 1872. At the age of seven he was taken to England for education and in 1890 went up to King’s College, Cambridge. Here he stood in the first class in the Classical Tripos and also passed the final examination for the Indian Civil Service. Returning to India in 1893, he worked for the next thirteen years in the Princely State of Baroda in the service of the Maharaja and as a professor in Baroda College. During this period he also joined a revolutionary society and took a leading role in secret preparations for an uprising against the British Government in India.

After the Partition of Bengal in 1905, Sri Aurobindo quit his post in Baroda and went to Calcutta, where he soon became one of the leaders of the Nationalist movement. He was the first political leader in India to openly put forward, in his journal Bande Mataram, the ideal of complete independence for the country. Prosecuted twice for sedition and once for conspiracy, he was released each time for lack of evidence.

Sri Aurobindo had begun the practice of Yoga in 1905 in Baroda. In 1908 he had the first of several fundamental spiritual realisations. In 1910 he withdrew from politics and went to Pondicherry in order to devote himself entirely to his inner spiritual life and work. During his forty years in Pondicherry he evolved a new method of spiritual practice, which he called the Integral Yoga. Its aim is a spiritual realisation that not only liberates man’s consciousness but also transforms his nature. In 1926, with the help of his spiritual collaborator, the Mother, he founded the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Among his many writings are The Life Divine, The Synthesis of Yoga and Savitri. Sri Aurobindo left his body on 5 December 1950.

The Mother was born Mirra Alfassa in Paris on 21 February 1878. A pupil at the Academie Julian, she became an accomplished artist, and also excelled as a pianist and writer. Interested in occultism, she visited Tlemcen, Algeria, in 1905 and l906 to study with the adept Max Theon and his wife. Her primary interest, however, was spiritual development. In Paris she founded a group of spiritual seekers and gave talks to various groups.

In 1914 the Mother voyaged to Pondicherry to meet Sri Aurobindo, whom she at once recognised as the one who for many years had inwardly guided her spiritual development. After a stay of eleven months she was obliged to return to France due to the outbreak of the First World War. A year later she went to Japan for a period of four years.

In April 1920 the Mother rejoined Sri Aurobindo in Pondicherry. When the Sri Aurobindo Ashram was formed in November 1926, Sri Aurobindo entrusted its full material and spiritual charge to the Mother. Under her guidance, which continued for nearly fifty years, the Ashram grew into a large, many-faceted spiritual community. In 1952 she established Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, and in 1968 an international township, Auroville. The Mother left her body on l7 November 1973.

The Independance Day message of Sri Aurobindo issued by him on August 15th 1947 forms the forward to the book. Sri Aurobindo was a freedom fighter Himself and was the first person who demanded full freedom from the British as a leader in the Freedom Struggle. In this message, he articulates his his dreams:

– of a revolutionary movement which would create a free and united India,

– for the resurgence and liberation of the peoples of Asia and her return to her great role in the progress of human civilization

– for a world-union forming the outer basis of a fairer , brighter and nobler life for all mankind,

– the spiritual gift of India to the world which he says had already begun.

– A step in evolution which would raise man to a higher and larger consciousness and begin the solution of the problem which have perplexed and vexed him since he first began to think and to dream of individual perfection and a perfect society.

He concludes with a pregnant sentence: “Such is the content which I put into date of India’s liberation; whether or how far this hope will be justified depends upon the new and free India.”

The partition was a tragedy of immense dimensions. Lord Mountbatten in 1971 aggrieved by the genocide in Bangladesh uttered that he regretted partition at that moment like never before. The partition was a result of a colonial power which excelled in the ancient Roman strategy of divide and rule. Families were separated from families, friends from friends, properties and estates were abandoned overnight, a blood bath followed and the nightmare of the partition days still haunt many of the people of the sub-continent. “The partition must go,” said Sri Aurobindo.  

In the introduction, the author discusses the first dream of Sri Aurobindo outlined in his Independance Day Message and speaks of the first positive step taken by the regional confederation: South Asian Association of Regional Co-operation (SAARC).

The first chapter deals with South Asia, the Indian Sub-Continent and beyond. In this chapter, the diversity in the racial origins  and religious inclinations of the people of South Asia has been discussed. The author points out to a certain homogeneity amongst the people of the sub-continent irrespective of their racial past. Describing the true map of India which is what Mother envisaged as the real and undivided India, one can see it till today in the Playground of Sri Aurobindo Ashram. The Mother is quoted here:

“The map was made after the partition.

It is the map of the true India in spite of all passing appearances, and it will always remain the map of the true India, whatever people may think about it.”

Fatima Bhutto, the granddaughter of the late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto talked about the South Asian region last week during her visit to Jaipur, India and said the greater India comprised India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Myanmar. “It’s her vision”, she said, “to see that these sister nations build bridges and end their differences”.

To be continued . . .

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