WAR AND POLITICS:
World War II, in which India also was involved, began in 1939, a year after Sri Aurobindo's accident and ended in 1945 with the victory of the Allies. India's long struggle for liberty came to an end in 1947 when she became independent. This was one of the most exciting phases in our twelve years' stay with Sri Aurobindo. We had the unique opportunity of watching with him, from his room and, following step by step, the long course and rapid development of these two historic events: on the one hand, the great danger to Europe and the whole world; on the other, opportunity given to India to gain her freedom by her cooperation with the Allies. We shared with Sri Aurobindo his hopes and fears, his anticipations, prognostications and prophecies. He allowed us some glimpses into his action and gave a calm assurance of the victory of the divine cause. For the Mother had declared that it was her war. Hitler's star was in the ascendant for a time. His Panzer divisions racing through France making Paris' fate hang in the balance, his Luftwaffe over London, Rommel's overrunning of North Africa, the Allied invasion of Europe, the Battle of Stalingrad - all these and many other episodes kept us in breathless suspense.
But in the midst of all these dramatic upheavals, Sri Aurobindo never lost his calm equanimity though he knew very well indeed what was at stake. He said that Hitler was the greatest menace the world had to face and that he would stop at nothing to achieve his sinister object, even destroy the whole civilisation; for "An idiot hour destroys what centuries made", as we find in a verse in Savitri.
An account of what was said and done in Sri Aurobindo's room during this period will be revelatory in many respects. First of all, it will dispel the prevailing universal misconception that Sri Aurobindo was a world-shunning Yogi immersed in his own sadhana. It will show, on the contrary, how much he was concerned with the "good of humanity". Far from taking only a passive interest in the vast conflict, the modern Kurukshetra, where the fate of the entire world was being decided, he actively participated in it with his spiritual Force and directed that very fate to a victorious consummation. The account will also bring to light Sri Aurobindo's acute political insight and wide knowledge of military affairs. Although he had left public life in 1910 and lived thereafter in seclusion for nearly half a century, he always kept in touch with all world- movements through outer and inner means. Perhaps people will find it difficult to believe and many will flatly deny that such a spiritual force exists; and it will be hard for them to swallow that, if at all it exists, a man acquiring and possessing it can apply it to an individual or cosmic purpose. But fortunately we have Sri Aurobindo's own word for it and our personal experience in its support. In fact his integral Yoga aims at nothing less than bringing down the supramental consciousness and changing the present terrestrial consciousness by its dynamic power and light. We shall also witness Sri Aurobindo's vital interest in India's struggle for freedom, for which he had himself launched the first movement, awakening the country to her birthright and , aiding her later by his decisive spiritual force towards its achievement.
Though we in the Ashram are not supposed to take part in politics, we are not at all indifferent to world affairs. In fact, Sri Aurobindo has said that we are immensely interested in them. The journal Mother India which was a semi-political fortnightly, and came out two years after India's Independence, was edited by one of the sadhaks who was living in Bombay and the editorials were sent to Sri Aurobindo for approval before publication. Sri Aurobindo gave many long and regular interviews to a political leader of Bengal and gave him advice and directions regarding the contemporary situation. The Mother too has said that the Supermind cannot but include in its ultimate work for world-change the political administration, since all secular well-being rests in the hands of the governing power of the country. Besides, the War was not a simple political issue among the big nations. The Nazi aggression meant "the peril of black servitude and a revived barbarism threatening India and the world". It was a life-and-death question for the spiritual evolution of the new man, for the emergence of a new race which the Mother and Sri Aurobindo had come to initiate and establish on the earth. And the victory of Hitler's Germany would mean not only the end of civilisation, but also the death of that great possibility. It is in this sense I have called this War a modern Kurukshetra.
Let us then go back to the crucial year 1938 when dark war-clouds were gathering and rumblings were heard all over Europe. There was a strong possibility that fighting would break out in December, just a week or two after the night of November 23, when Sri Aurobindo had his accident. But, as he indicated in our talks, his Force pushed it back to a later date, for war at that time would have been a great hindrance to his work. It is possible to surmise that the irresistible forces which no human power could check turned their fury on one who had checked them. Long before Hitler's actual invasion of Poland, long before any other person, Sri Aurobindo had seen this dark Asuric Power rising in Germany and striding over Europe, making Hitler its demoniac instrument, a pseudo-colossus, a self-acclaimed Napoleon. Therefore he supported the Allies and warned India of the forthcoming peril, much to the chagrin and indignation of our blind country- men. Future events proved his forecast right to the letter.
We used to have discussions on the international political situation from the very start. Hitler's insane lust for power, England's political bankruptcy, America's suicidal policy of non-intervention, Russia's shrewd Machiavellian diplomacy: all were subjects of the verbal to-and-fro in Sri Aurobindo's room. Chamberlain's ill-famed peace mission, Colonel Beck's militant interview with Hitler, France's betrayal of Czechoslovakia evoked vigorous protests or praises from us. Sri Aurobindo observed how one nation after another was hypnotised by Hitler's asuric māyā and submitted to his diabolical charm, how the intellectuals did not raise any voice against the Hitlerian menace. On seeing a photograph of Chamberlain and Hitler taken during their meeting at Munich, Sri Aurobindo said that Chamberlain looked like a fly before a spider, on the point of being caught - and he actually was caught! Of course, the German dictator had already put Mussolini in his pocket. Only Colonel Beck seemed to have kept some manly individuality. Many other issues Sri Aurobindo discussed with us, as will be evident from the book Talks with Sri Aurobindo, as though we were all keen-sighted states-men and generals; and the talks were usually enlivened by Sri Aurobindo's genial humour. In these talks he imparted to us a clear vision of the issues at stake, but never imposed his views. When we dared to differ or failed to follow him, he patiently explained to us where we were wrong. His physical nearness made us realise, with an extraordinary lucidity, what terrible inhuman forces were trying to overcast the world with an abysmal darkness from which a supreme Divine Power alone could save it.
For all the war-news we had to depend on the daily newspapers, since members of the Ashram were not supposed to have radios. Somebody in the town began to supply us with short bulletins; when the War had taken a full-fledged turn, the radio news was transmitted to Sri Aurobindo's room so he might follow the war- movements from hour to hour. Here we find a notable instance of the spiritual flexibility of his rules and principles. What had been laid down for a particular time and condition, would not be inviolable under altered circumstances. Sri Aurobindo, who was once a mortal opponent of British rule in India, came to support the Allies against the threat of world-domination by Hitler. "Not merely a non-cooperator but an enemy of British Imperialism", he now listened carefully to the health bulletins about Churchill when he had pneumonia, and, we believe, even helped him with his Force to recover. It is the rigid mind that cries for consistency under all circumstances. I still remember Sri Aurobindo breaking the news of Hitler's march and England's declaration of war. For a time the world hung in suspense wondering whether Hitler would flout Holland's neutrality and then penetrate into Belgium. We had very little doubt of his intention. It was evening; Sri Aurobindo was alone in his room. As soon as I entered, he looked at me and said, "Hitler has invaded Holland. Well, we shall see." That was all. Two or three such laconic but pregnant remarks regarding the War still ring in my ears. At another crucial period when Stalin held a threatening pistol at England and was almost joining hands with Hitler, we were dismayed and felt that there would be no chance for the Divine, were such a formidable alliance to take place. Sri Aurobindo at once retorted, "Is the Divine going to be cowed by. Stalin?" When, seeing Hitler sweeping like a meteor over Europe, a sadhak cried in despair to the Guru, "Where is the Divine? Where is your word of hope?" Sri Aurobindo replied calmly, "Hitler is not immortal." Then the famous battle of Dunkirk and the perilous retreat, the whole Allied army exposed to enemy attack from land and air and the bright summer sun shining above. All of a sudden a fog gathered from nowhere and gave unexpected protection to the retreating army. We said, "It seems the fog helped the evacuation." To 'which 'Sri Aurobindo remarked, "Yes, the fog is rather unusual at this time." We, of course, understood what he meant. It was after the fall of Dunkirk and the capitulation of France that Sri Aurobindo began to apply his Force more vigorously in favour of the Allies, and he had "the satisfaction of seeing the rush of German victory almost immediately arrested and the tide of war begin to turn in the opposite direction".
Thus, we see, Sri Aurobindo was not simply a passive witness, a mere verbal critic of the Allied war policy. When India was asked to participate in the war effort, and the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, much to the surprised indignation of our countrymen, contributed to the War Fund, he, for the first time, made clear to the nation what issues were involved in the War. I remember the Mother darting into Sri Aurobindo's room quite early in the morning with a sheet of paper in her hand. I guessed that something private was going to be discussed and discreetly withdrew. Then Purani came most unexpectedly. "Ah! here is something afoot," I said to myself. A couple of days later the secret was revealed in all the newspapers: Sri Aurobindo had made a donation to the War Fund! Of course, he explained why he had done so. He stated that the War was being waged "in defence of civilisation and its highest attained social, cultural and spiritual values and the whole future of humanity...." Giving the lead, he acted as an example for others to follow. But, all over the country, protests, calumnies and insinuations were his lot. Even his disciples were nonplussed in spite of his explanation why he had made that singular gesture. A disciple wrote to the Mother, "The Congress is asking us not to contribute to the War Fund. What shall we do?" The answer given was: "Sri Aurobindo has contributed for a divine cause. If you help, you will be helping yourselves." Some were wishing for the victory of the Nazis because of their hatred for the British. The Mother had to give a stern admonition. She wrote: "It has become necessary to state emphatically and clearly that all who by their thoughts and wishes are supporting and calling for the victory of the Nazis are by that very fact collaborating with the Asura against the Divine and helping to bring about the victory of the Asura."
Here I may quote a fellow-sadhak's report on the Mother's pro-Allies attitude:
"P reported to the Mother my reactions to Sri Aurobindo's recent contribution to the War Fund. I did not know about it. Suddenly I saw the Mother quite unmindful of me, I thought it might be because She was very busy in those days. But I observed Her for three days, and was convinced that something was amiss. I approached Her and asked, 'Why are you ignoring me?' She said, 'You know it very well.' But I was puzzled. I guessed every other reason than the true one, which according to Her was serious. I did not think that P would report to Her my talks with him. So I begged her to tell me what I had done, because I was sure to rectify my grave error. To this She said, with severity, 'There are things that were settled long before you were even born. We have been working on them for a long time.
Now you with your infinitesimally small mind believe that all that is nothing, that Sri Aurobindo and I are wrong, and that you are right in your judgment!' I was taken aback; it flashed before me, 'What could be the reason?' Being nonplussed, I expressed my surprise, 'Is it something about the War that I spoke to P?' The Mother made the sign of Yes. I felt relieved and said, 'Oh, it was nothing. I just spoke to him casually; it was not at all serious.' But the Mother's face was stern and She said, 'Not serious? It was almost unbelievable that you of all persons could speak like that about Sri Aurobindo! Haven't you read all that He has given out to the Press?' I said, 'Yes, Mother, I have. But have not the British done anything wrong to India?' The Mother replied, 'We never said that they had not, nor do we say that in the future they will not do so any more. But today the question is not that; don't you understand it? When you see your neighbour's house on fire, and yet you do not go to help to put it out because he has done wrong to you, you risk the burning of your own house and the loss of your own life. Do you not see the difference between the forces that are fighting for the Divine and those for the Asuras?' I said, 'Yes, Mother, I do see; only what baffles me is that Churchill, whom you and Sri Aurobindo have chosen as your direct instrument, wants today India's help for his own country's existence; and yet says that His Majesty's government has no intention of liquidating its Empire!' The Mother said, 'But leave all that to the Divine. Churchill is a human being. He is not a yogi aspiring to transform his nature, Today he represents the Soul of the Nation that is fighting against the Asuras. He is being guided by the Divine directly and his soul is responding magnificently. All concentration must be now to help the Allies for the victory that is ultimately assured, but there must be no looseness, not the slightest opening to the Asuras. After the battle is won, if Churchill's soul can remain still in front and he continues to be guided by the Divine, he will go very fast in the line of evolution. But generally on earth it doesn't happen like that. His human mind and vital will take the lead after the crisis is over, and then he will come down to the level of the ordinary human being, though of a higher order.' "
When Dr. Rao, one of the consultant physicians attending on Sri Aurobindo, said that a lot of people in Madras were wondering how Sri Aurobindo, who had been so anti-British, could contribute to the War Fund, the Master explained to him at great length why he had taken that step. His intention was that Dr. Rao should speak about it to others when the occasion arose. Among the points already known, Sri Aurobindo disclosed his own occult action in the War. He said, "Do you know that Hitler is trying to get a foothold in South America and doing extensive propaganda there? It can lead to an attack against the U.S.A. He is now practically master of Europe. If he had invaded England after the collapse of France, he could have been in Asia by this time.... Now another force has been set up against his. Still the danger has not passed. He has a 50% chance of success. Up to the time when France collapsed, he was remarkably successful because he had behind him an Asuric Power which guided him; from that Power he received remarkably correct messages."
Rao: The trouble about India is that the British have not kept a single promise so far. Nobody trusts them.
Sri Aurobindo: The fact is they don't believe that India will help them if she is given Dominion Status. Otherwise they would have given it.
Rao: I don't think India will refuse to help.
Sri Aurobindo: Don't you? What about the Left Wing, the Communists, Bose, for instance? And it is not true that they have given nothing. It is the character of the British to go by stages. Whenever their self-interest is at stake they come to a compromise. They gave Provincial Autonomy and didn't exercise any veto power. It is the Congress which spoiled everything by resigning. If without resigning it had put pressure on the Centre, it would have got by now what it had wanted. It is for two reasons that I support the British, for India's own interest and for humanity; and the reasons I have given are external ones, there are spiritual reasons too.
Sri Aurobindo was not only fighting Hitler, he had also the onerous task of conquering the extreme antipathy of his own disciples towards the British. The Ashram ran the danger of being disbanded for our anti-British and pro-Hitler feelings. How many letters had Sri Aurobindo to write to his disciples to show their grave error and the danger of the Nazi victory! I quote only one such letter he wrote to a disciple, in 1942, "... You should not think of it as a fight for certain nations against others or even for India; it is a struggle for an ideal that has to establish itself on earth in the life of humanity, for a Truth that has yet to realise itself fully and against a darkness and falsehood that are trying to overwhelm the earth and mankind in the immediate future. It is the forces behind the battle that have to be seen and not this or that superficial circumstance.... There cannot be the slightest doubt that if one wins; there will be an end of all such freedom and hope of light and truth and the work that has to be done will be subjected to conditions which would make it humanly impossible; there will be a reign of falsehood and darkness, a cruel oppression and degradation for most of the human race such as people in this country do not dream of and cannot yet at all realise. If the other side that has declared itself for the free future of humanity triumphs, this terrible danger will have been averted and conditions will have been created in which there will be a chance for the Ideal to grow, for the Divine Work to be done, for the spiritual Truth for which we stand to establish itself on the earth. Those who fight for this cause are fighting for the Divine and against the threatened reign of the Asura."
In a talk in 1940, Sri Aurobindo said: "There are forces which are trying to destroy the British and their empire – forces above and here in this world, I mean inner forces. I myself had wished for its destruction; but at that time I did not know such forces would arise. These forces are working for the evolution of a new world-order which would come following upon the liquidation of the Empire. But, for the advent of this new arrangement, the Empire needn't be destroyed. The new arrangement can be achieved more quietly by a change in the balance of forces, without much destruction. Had it not been for Hitler, I wouldn't have cared what power remained or went down. Now the question is whether the new world-order is to come after much suffering and destruction or with as little of it as possible. Destruction of England would mean victory for Hitler and in that case, perhaps after a great deal of suffering and oppression, and reaction to them, that world-order may come or may not, or it may come only after pralaya! Of course the issue has been decided by the Divine Vision and there can be no change. But nobody knows what the decision is."
These two long extracts are enough to show clearly Sri Aurobindo's vision of the play of forces, how they try through the use of human instruments to fulfil their purpose and also what Sri Aurobindo's part was in this mysterious play. I shall now give some extracts from our talks to demonstrate Sri Aurobindo's close watch on the trend of the War, his comments on the military movements of the contending parties, sometimes his anticipation of their strategic moves and the consequences that would ensue, or his own suggestions about the courses that could be followed. And all this came enlivened with a sense of quiet humour that made the grimness of the War itself appear light, even an enjoyable game of forces.
On 29.12.40 Savarkar gave a speech in which he said that the British could not be defeated. Sri Aurobindo commented: "Nonsense. They were saved by Divine Intervention. They would have been smashed if Hitler had invaded England at the right time after the fall of France,"
"Why didn't the Divine intervene in France?" one of us asked.
"Because the French were corrupt and had no power of resistance. The English had still some of their old virtues left, to which support could be given. The Mother says, 'The French have betrayed Czechoslovakia and thereby stand condemned.' "
Similarly, when France, after the fall of Dunkirk, rejected Churchill's proposal of a common citizenship for Britain and France so that they might carry on the fight as one country, the Mother seems to have considered it a rejection of the Divine Grace itself that had come to the help of France at the most opportune moment. The entire speech of Churchill was dictated in the occult way by the Mother, we were told.
To resume our talk:
Q: They say that Hitler will occupy Italy if Italy meets with reverses.
Sri Aurobindo: That is one of the possibilities. But it will be hard for Germany to keep so many people together.
Q: There is news that Hitler is trying to influence Bulgaria to allow him a passage or get it into the Axis orbit.
Sri Aurobindo: That is the danger now. I don't think the invasion of England is likely; if Britain cannot help with sufficient anti-tank guns, aeroplanes, etc., it will be difficult for the Balkan Powers to resist Germany.
Q: Turkey may come in to help Bulgaria if it is attacked.
Sri Aurobindo: Don't know. If Turkey waits till it is attacked, it will be too late. In that case, Hitler may turn towards Palestine and help Italy there, then move to Africa. Then he will ask Spain to join him so that the English army in Africa may be placed between the two forces.
Q: Hitler's entry into Rumania seems the first step towards the Balkans.
Sri Aurobindo: It is like all his moves a slow penetration, after which he may press 'towards Turkey, Egypt and Asia. What is wonderful is Stalin's attitude. He is quite silent.
Q: Any secret pact?
Sri Aurobindo: Even if there is one, how long will Hitler respect it if he wins? Then Russia will have either to resist or be effaced. Stalin counted on the exhaustion of the Axis as well as of England and France. Now if Hitler takes Turkey, Africa and Egypt, that will mean practically England's defeat. After that, what can Russia do? Hitler has a sufficiently big army to fight on two fronts while England can hardly spare her troops.
When Norway and Sweden had been threatened by Germany, Sri Aurobindo commented in. another talk, "It is a frightened self-interest that has overtaken these countries. Each of them thinks that it will be safe, whereas actually each will be swallowed up in turn. It seems the Allies will have to fight single-handed, if there is a World War, against Russia and Germany – a formidable combination.... There is no chance for the world unless something happens in Germany or else Hitler and Stalin quarrel. But there is no such likelihood at present."
April 14, 1940
About Chamberlain's inactivity when the Germans were preparing to attack Norway. Sri Aurobindo remarked, "So long as he is at the helm, nothing will happen. He applies only business intelligence to politics.... I can't understand the moves of the British. As soon as they heard of the German occupation, they could have occupied Bergen. Bergen would have been far away from Oslo and within their striking distance. If Germany had six destroyers, they could have brought twenty.... They seem to be enamoured of the idea of blockade by the Navy resulting in the starvation of Germany. They are daunted by the presence of the Siegfried Line on their east. They don't want to risk anything. They are tied up by their organisation while Hitler fixes himself to nothing."
April 15, 1940
About Hitler's entering the Baltic, somebody commented that Hitler had blundered by extending the war front. Sri Aurobindo remarked, "It was a rash thing to do. These things depend in the end on sea-power. Without sea-power you can't transport supplies, mechanised troops, etc.... Aeroplanes are only a powerful aid. You can't conquer a country with them."
May 20, 1940
Q: Hitler's declaration that before August 15 the War is to be finished and peace agreed upon seems significant.
Sri Aurobindo: That is the sign that he is the enemy of our work. And from the values involved in the conflict, it should be quite clear that what is behind him is the Asuric, the Titanic power....
Q: It is strange how he takes his decisions.
Sri Aurobindo: It is not he who takes the decisions. The Being behind him decided.... This Being comes here from time to time and sees what kind of work is going on.
Q: It knows that the work here is against its own interests?
Sri Aurobindo (laughing): Of course!... It is a very powerful Being. Paul Richard was in communion with this Being and the plans and methods he has written of in his book Lord of the Nations, are the same as carried out now. He has said there that the present civilisation is to be destroyed but really it is the destruction of the human values of civilisation that is aimed at and already in Germany Hitler had done it.... And he has destroyed these values wherever he has gone. Human beings by themselves are no match for the Asuras.... In Hitler's case it is not an influence but a possession, even perhaps an incarnation. The case of Stalin is similar. The vital world has descended upon the physical. That is why the intellectuals are getting perplexed at the destruction of their civilisation, of all the values they had cherished and stood for. They deny the existence of the world beyond the physical and so they are bound to be perplexed.
In another context, Sri Aurobindo observed, "It is a very simple thing to see that Hitler wants world-domination and his next move will be towards India."
On 29.5.40 the Mother gave us a message that the Asuras can't be victorious eternally against the Divine, The end of Hitler must come. Sri Aurobindo remarked: "That doesn't mean by the Allies.... If England goes down, there won't be any country left independent except Russia, Germany, Japan and Italy. I am talking of the old world. I think the next conflict will be between Russia and Germany. If Russia finds that England is in a difficult position, then Stalin will put pressure on Turkey and Rumania for the control of the Black Sea as he has done with the Baltic States. Hitler is not likely to keep quiet about the trouble in the Balkans. With Italy's help he may settle the Asia Minor and Balkan problem or he may allow Stalin a free hand now, knowing that he can settle with him afterwards."
We can see here that Sri Aurobindo envisaged a war between Russia and Germany, when there was hardly any possibility of it.
August 15, 1940
On this day – Sri Aurobindo's birthday – the radio news at noon said that 144 German planes had been brought down over England in half a day, the biggest number so far. We commented that it was the result of the Darshan. Sri Aurobindo laughed and said; "The day of Hitler's triumphal entry into England!"
A month later, on the same date, 15.9.40, Sri Aurobindo said smiling, "England has destroyed 175 German planes, a very big number. Now invasion would be difficult. Hitler lost his chance after the fall of France. He had really missed the bus! If after the French collapse he had invaded England, by now he would have been in Asia. Now another force has been set up against him. Still the danger has not passed."
Apropos of this battle and its date, the editor of Mother India wrote, "...Hitler fixed in 1940 the 15th of August as the day on which he would complete his conquest of Western Europe by broadcasting from Buckingham Palace the collapse of Britain... and on that day the largest toll so far was taken of the Luftwaffe... we will designate it as the turning point in the Battle of Britain."
October 7, 1940
Some military correspondent wrote that Britain could take the offensive and invade Germany through the Adriatic. Sri Aurobindo remarked: "They are looking far ahead. But where will they land their troops? In Yugoslavia? That means violating Balkan independence. In that case with their troops in Palestine they can take Syria and then with Turkey siding with them they can proceed towards Germany. That would be much easier than through the Adriatic which is guarded by the Italians."
October 20, 1940
Yugoslavia, according to the radio, had signed a protocol with Germany regarding political and economic questions. Sri Aurobindo said, "Yugoslavia is now dependent on Germany economically and politically which means everything. If the news is true, that is the beginning of the end of the Balkans, because Bulgaria won't resist. Greece will be at her wits' end without the help of Turkey and what can Turkey do alone? So Hitler comes to Asia Minor and that means India. That was what I thought long before Hitler's intention about the Balkans was known. Now his move is quite clear. He will try to move towards the Mediterranean, take possession of the Suez and then Egypt, a simultaneous movement in Spain for Gibraltar with the help of France or without. After Egypt, he will try to take North Africa with Pétain's consent. If Petain refuses, he may be replaced by Laval. If both refuse, he will occupy the whole of France and the Mediterranean ports. All this will be most dangerous to England, and the English blockade won't be effective any more. In fact, I felt this danger from the very beginning of the War."
Well, these long extracts sum up Sri Aurobindo's vision of the War. They embody his active interest and participation by his spiritual Force in it. One wonders what would have been the fate of the world without Sri Aurobindo's actual intervention. I often marvelled at the grasp he showed of military affairs. Once I asked him in my letter whether he had any latent military capacity in him, his reply was, "Not in this life." When somebody asked the Mother why England was meeting reverses in spite of Sri Aurobindo's support, she replied, "If he had not helped Britain, she would have been swallowed up by Hitler long ago." Unfortunately I haven't kept further record of the talks on the War. When America joined the Allies and Hitler attacked Russia there was no doubt that behind both these movements, Sri Aurobindo's divine diplomacy played a great part just as his intervention or what he called the Divine Intervention saved England from invasion by Hitler. In October 1939, Sri Aurobindo wrote a poem on Hitler in which what he predicted came so literally true!
The closing lines are:
Thus driven he must stride on conquering all,
Threatening and clamouring, brutal, invincible,
Until he meets upon his storm-swept road
A greater devil - or thunderstroke of God.
How did Hitler come to meet a greater devil? What made him commit this colossal blunder? We human beings are no match for an Asura. Only an Asura can "tear the guts out of another Asura". In one other talks, the Mother was asked, "If Russia had been on Hitler's side, would things have been better?" She replied, "Oh, no! Then there would have been no hope for the world. It is by our coup de maître that they were on opposite sides. This is divine diplomacy. It is very successful." (Laughter) But the world does not know that a Supreme Force had worked for its deliverance.
"A Power worked, but none knew whence it came."
It will be interesting to note here how the Mother helped people even individually in her occult manner during the War. I have learnt it from the sadhika whom I have quoted elsewhere. She said, "Once we were having a talk on the Mother's trance in her presence, She was listening to it with an amused smile. Her personal attendant said, 'You don't know what embarrassing situations I had to face sometimes. Holding in her hand a glass of water I had given her to drink, she would go into trance and her body would sway from side to side, while I was waiting and waiting. In this way at any time she would go away somewhere in her trance.' Then the Mother explained, 'During these years of the war, people used to call me in their great distress and I appeared to them at once, leaving everything behind.'
" 'But, Mother,' I said, 'people don't know you.'
"Looking at me she replied, 'That doesn't matter. Wherever people call the Divine in any form, I answer to their call. I shall tell you what happened one day. The Germans were bombing France heavily. Two children, sister and brother, had gone to school. When they returned, they could not find their house nor their parents: they were destroyed. The elder sister clasping the brother began to call her parents and the brother was trembling in fear like a leaf. Suddenly a cry to God reached me surging from the depth of the heart. I had to go immediately. Making some provision for them I returned.' "
Let us now sum up Sri Aurobindo's vision of Hitler. Long before anyone knew much about Hitler and his aim and purpose, the Mother and Sri Aurobindo were under no illusions about him. Of course, he had spoken openly about his aim in his Mem Kampf, but no one perhaps took it seriously. Sri Aurobindo not only understood it but saw the dark occult force behind that made Hitler its effective instrument. He gave us occasional hints in our letters about Hitler and his being possessed by that force. In a letter in 1935 I wrote to him, "Since the descent of the Supermind will quicken the process, why not retrench the whole staff? We shall all flock back after the descent!"
Sri Aurobindo: How? I am not Hitler. Things cannot be done like that.... '
Again in 1936, I wrote to him, "Perhaps you send Force to Germany between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.?"
Sri Aurobindo: Who except the devil is going to give force to Germany? Do you think I am in league with Hitler and his howling tribe of Nazis?
How was it possible that an ordinary man could rise to such a height of power, exercise a command and influence over the whole German race, and receive admiration from Europe, even from the whole world? Sri Aurobindo calls it his asuric māyā that cast a spell upon the nations to such an extent that he was considered superior even to Alexander and Napoleon! Sri Aurobindo tore the veil from the face of that deception and showed us the dire truth. History has no parallel of a maniac using all kinds of falsehood, hypocrisy, perversity to capture the imagination of a cultured race like the Germans. Sri Aurobindo found his Mein Kampf – the Bible of the Nazis – a tissue of lies and would not touch it. Looking at a photograph in L'Illustration, he described Hitler, Goebbels and Goering, the trio, in unmistakable terms: "Hitler gives the impression of the face of a street-criminal. In his case it is successful ruffianism with a diabolical cunning and behind it the psychic of a London cabman, – crude and undeveloped. That is to say, the psychic character in the man consists of some futile and silly sentimentalism which finds expression in his paintings and weeps at his mother's grave. He is possessed by some supernatural Power and it is from this Power that the voice, as he calls it, comes. Have you noted that people who at one time were inimical to him come into contact with him and leave as his admirers? It is a sign of that Power. It is from this Power that he has constantly received suggestions and the constant repetition of the suggestions has taken hold of the German people. You will also mark that in his speeches he goes on stressing the same ideas – this is evidently a sign of that vital possession."
We heard something from the Mother to this effect in one of her talks. She said, "Hitler was an idiot. In his normal moments he was no better than a concierge or a cordonnier and behaved and spoke of things in a most idiotic and stupid manner. He was possessed and made an instrument of by some other power and only when that happened he did extraordinary things. People who have seen him at that time said how he thumped, cried and screamed. The Japanese ambassador said, 'This man is mad. It is dangerous to have any alliance with him.' It is strange how the whole German race was stupid enough to follow this man. Such a thing would not have been possible in France or other countries."
Still there were others who dreamt of melting the heart of Hitler by non-violence. Sri Aurobindo remarked that his heart could be melted in only one way, – by bombing it out of existence! Speaking about non-violence Sri Aurobindo told us in a talk on 28th October, 1940: "Gandhi has been forestalled in non-violence in Poland. The Polish (the Jews?) adopted non-violence against the Nazis and do you know the result? The Polish lady who is Ravindra's' friend wrote to Gandhi the account of the German oppression against the non- violent people. She cites 3 or 4 instances: 1) About 300 school-boys refused to salute Hitler. The result was that they were taken before their parents and shot down in their presence, 2) Some school-girls were taken to the soldiers' barracks and molested by them till they all died....
Such is the outcome of non-violence towards Nazism. I hope Gandhi does not want all that to happen in India. Perhaps he will say that the Poles have no love in their heart for the Germans."
When half the world was dazzled by the glamour
¹. A disciple.
of Hitler's victory and considered him greater than Alexander and Napoleon, when others were groaning under the iron wheels of his war-machine, and still others hoped to change his heart by non-violence, Sri Aurobindo's vision of Hitler never wavered for a moment – he, a dwarf Napoleon with a rudimentary psychic being whose heart was beyond any possibility of change, became the vessel of an Asuric Power which ultimately led him to his nemesis.
Along with the European war, India's political problem naturally played a prominent part in our discussion, Mahatma Gandhi's attitude, the Congress policy, the Hindu-Muslim problem, Jinnah's intransigence and the Viceroy's role as the peace-maker, all this complicated politics and our Himalayan blunders leading to the rejection of the famous Cripps' Proposals, were within our constant purview.... The upshot of the whole discussion till the arrival of the Cripps' Mission can be put in a few words; the Congress made a big mistake by resigning from the Ministry. The Government was ready to offer us Dominion Status which we should have accepted, for it was virtually a step towards independence. We should have joined the war-effort. That would have created an opportunity to enter into all military departments and operations in air, on sea and land; hold positions, become efficient and thus enforce our natural right for freedom.
When Gandhi complained that the Viceroy did not say anything in reply to all his questions, Sri Aurobindo said to us in one of our talks on October 7th, 1940:
"What will he say? It is very plain why he did not. First of all, the Government doesn't want to concede the demand for independence. What it is willing to give is .Dominion Status after the War, expecting that India will settle down into a common relationship with the Empire. But just now a national government will virtually mean Dominion Status with the Viceroy only as a constitutional head. Nobody knows what the Congress will do after it gets power. It may be occupied only with India's defence and give such help as it can spare to England. And if things go wrong with the British, it may even make a separate peace leaving them in the lurch. There are Left Wingers, Socialists, Communists whom the Congress won't be able to bring to its side, neither will it dare to offend them and if their influence is sufficiently strong, the Congress may stand against the British. Thus it is quite natural for them not to part with power just now as it is also natural for us to make our claims. But since we haven't got enough strength to back us, we have to see if we have any common meeting ground with the Government. If there is, a compromise is the only practical step. There was such an opportunity, but the Congress spoiled it. Now you have to accept what you get or I don't know what is going to happen. Of course, if we had the strength and power to make a revolution and get what we want, it would be a different matter. Amery and others did offer Dominion Status at one time. Now they have changed their position because they have come to know the spirit of our people. Our politicians have some fixed ideas and they always go by them. Politicians and statesmen have to take account of situations and act as demanded by them They must have insight."
"But it is because of the British divide-and-rule policy that we can't unite," we parried.
"Nonsense!"¹ Sri Aurobindo rebuffed. "Was there unity in India before the British rule?... Does Jinnah want unity? His very character shows what he wants – independence for the Muslims and rule over India if possible. The old spirit."
In the impasse created partially by the bankruptcy of the Congress policy, Providence came to the rescue in the form of the Cripps' Proposals which, if accepted, would have changed the fate of India. But the forces of distrust, discontent and wanting everything at once, led to a failure to see the substance of Swaraj, as Sri Aurobindo has said, in the offer. There was a pother about small points and overlooking of the central important objective to be attained. Sri Aurobindo found in the proposal a fine opportunity for the solution of India's intricate problems and her ultimate liberation. We may note that the proposals envisaged a single, free, undivided India setting up a united front against the enemy. He promptly sent a message to Sir Stafford Cripps welcoming the Proposals and recommended their acceptance to the Indian leaders. The message was as follows: "I have heard your broadcast. As one who has been a nationalist leader and worker for India's Independence, though now my activity is no longer in the political but in the spiritual field, I wish to express my
¹. Sri Aurobindo meant not that the British never followed the policy of divide-and-rule, but that divisions were already there for them to take advantage of and increase.
appreciation of all you have done to bring about this offer. I welcome it as an opportunity given to India to determine for herself, and organise in all liberty of choice, her freedom and unity and take an effective place among the world's free nations. I hope that it will be accepted, and right use made of it, putting aside all discords and divisions. I hope too that friendly relations between Britain and India replacing the past struggles, will be a step towards a greater world union in which, as a free nation, her spiritual force will contribute to build for mankind a better and happier life. In this light, I offer public adhesion, in case it can be of any help to your work."
Sir Stafford Cripps replied, "I am most touched and gratified by your kind message allowing me to inform India that you, who occupy a unique position in the imagination of Indian youth, were convinced that the declaration of His Majesty's Government substantially confers that freedom for which Indian Nationalism has so long struggled."
Sri Aurobindo also sent messages through Mr. Shiva Rao to Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Nehru that Cripps' offer should be accepted unconditionally. Lastly, he sent his envoy to Delhi to appeal to the Congress leaders for its acceptance, for sanity and wisdom to prevail. At this crucial moment Sri Aurobindo could not remain a passive witness to the folly that was about to be committed. His seer-vision saw that the Proposals had come on a wave of divine inspiration. The scene is still fresh in our memory. It was the evening hour. Sri Aurobindo was sitting on the edge of his bed just before his daily walking exercise. All of us were present; Duraiswamy, the distinguished Madras lawyer and disciple, was selected as the envoy, perhaps because he was a friend of Rajagopalachari, one of the prominent Congress leaders. He was to start for Delhi that very night. He came for Sri Aurobindo's blessings, lay prostrate before him, got up and stood looking at the Master with folded hands and then departed.
He was carrying with him an urgent appeal by Sri Aurobindo to the Congress Working Committee. Sisir Kumar Mitra reports in The Liberator, "the viewpoints which Sri Aurobindo instructed his envoy to place before the Congress leaders... (1) Japan's imperialism being young and based on industrial and military power and moving westward, was a greater menace to India than the British imperialism which was old, which the country had learnt to deal with and which was on the way to elimination. (2) It would be better to get into the saddle and not be particular about the legal basis of the power. Once the power came into our hands and we occupied seats of power, we could establish our positions and assert ourselves. (3) The proposed Cabinet would provide opportunities for the Congress and the Muslims to understand each other and pull together for the country's good, especially at that time of the crisis. (4) The Hindu Mahasabha also being represented, the Hindus, as such would have a chance of proving their capacity to govern India not only for the benefit of the Hindus but for the whole country. (5) The main problem was to organise the strength of India in order. to repel the threatened aggression."
We may remind ourselves of Talthybius's mission to Troy in Sri Aurobindo's epic poem Ilion: Achilles made an offer by which Troy would be saved and the honour; of the Greeks would be preserved, a harmonising offer, but it was rejected. Similarly, Duraiswamy went with India's soul in his "frail" hands and brought it back, downhearted, rewarded with ungracious remarks for the gratuitous advice. Sri Aurobindo even sent a telegram to Rajagopalachari and Dr. Munje urging them to accept the Proposals. Dr. Indra Sen writes, "We met the members individually and the sense of the reactions were more or less to this effect: Sri Aurobindo has created difficulties for us by his message to Cripps. He doesn't know the actual situation, we are in it, we know' better... and so on." Cripps flew back a disappointed man but with the consolation and gratified recognition that at least one great man had welcomed the idea. When the rejection was announced, Sri Aurobindo said in a quiet tone, "I knew it would fail." We at once pounced on it and asked him, "Why did you then send Duraiswamy at all?" "For a bit of niskama karma"¹ was his calm reply, without any bitterness or resentment. The full spirit of the kind of "disinterested work" he meant comes out in an early letter of his - (December 1933), which refers to his spiritual work: "I am sure of the results of my work. But even if I still saw the chance that it might come to nothing (which is impossible), I would go on unperturbed, because I would still have
¹. Disinterested work the essence of which is that the work is inwardly dedicated to the Divine with no attachment to the result.
done to the best of my power the work that I had to do, and what is so done always counts in the economy of the universe."
After the War, the Labour Government of U.K. sent a Cabinet Mission to India in 1946 for fresh talks. Asked to give his views on the mission by Amrita Bazar Patrika, a leading daily in the country, Sri Aurobindo said:
"Sri Aurobindo thinks it unnecessary to volunteer a personal pronouncement... His position is known. He has always stood for India's complete independence which he was the first to advocate publicly and without compromise as the only ideal worthy of a self-respecting nation. In 1910 he authorised the publication of his prediction that after a long period of wars, world-wide upheavals and revolutions beginning after four years, India would achieve her freedom. Lately he has said that freedom was coming soon and nothing could prevent it. He has always foreseen that eventually Britain would approach India for an amicable agreement, conceding her freedom. What he had foreseen is now coming to pass and the British Cabinet Mission is the sign. It remains for the nation's leaders to make a right and full use of the opportunity. In any case, whatever the immediate outcome, the Power that has been working out this event will not be denied, the final result, India's liberation, is sure."
We know the aftermath of the rejection of the Cripps' Proposals as well as the failure of the Cabinet Mission: confusion, calamity, partition, blood-bath, etc., and the belated recognition of the colossal blunder. Then when the partition had been accepted as a settled fact, Sri Aurobindo's "bardic" voice was heard once again, "But by whatever means, in whatever way, the division must go; unity must and will be achieved, for it is necessary for the greatness of India's future." Past events have justified Sri Aurobindo's solemn warning and recent events point to the way to liquidation of that division.¹
Let me again draw upon the fellow-sadhak from whom I have already quoted. He brings out the Mother's stand on the Cripps-question:
"Then came the famous Cripps' Proposals. In the evening Sir Stafford Cripps broadcast his Proposals to the Indian people, from Delhi; they were discussed everywhere. In P's room the radio was installed and a connection made to Sri Aurobindo's room so that he might listen to the war-news and reports from all quarters of the globe, except from the Axis zones.
"The next day at about 2 p.m., after the All India Radio news at 1.30, there was a hot discussion among three sadhaks, including P, in his room. P took the standpoint of the purely spiritual man, who judges by looking at what is behind appearances. It seemed that he had already spoken with the Mother and thus was arguing forcefully for the acceptance of the Proposals. The second person was an experienced politician of the Gandhian Congress days and took the negative position. He argued the pros and cons of the Proposals and was of the opinion that the Indian leaders would reject them. The third a novice, with no political experience, was more for its acceptance. The discussion became
¹. We are happy to see that Sri Aurobindo's prediction has been half- fulfilled, for Bangla Desh (East Pakistan) is now entirely independent.
hotter and hotter, so much so that the Mother, while going from Her bath-room to Her dressing room, was attracted by the unusual volume of sound. She did not enter Her dressing room, but turned Her steps towards P's room. Before entering there, She heard part of the argument. Then She stepped in and asked, 'What is it all about?' P said that one person argued that Cripps' offer would not be accepted by the Indian leaders. The Mother felt amused and inquired, 'Why?' By then She had sat on the chair that was in front of Her. It was a very unusual and interesting scene; the Mother, still in Her beautiful Japanese kimono just out of the bath, didn't seem to care to change Her dress, and was more interested in the arguments against the acceptance. Then She began to talk with a very calm and distinct voice. One could see that She who had entered a few minutes ago had been transported somewhere else and the voice was coming from that plane....
"She said something to this effect: 'One should leave the matter of the Cripps' offer entirely in the hands of the Divine, with full confidence that the Divine will work everything out. Certainly there were flaws in the offer. Nothing on earth created by man is flawless, because the human mind has a limited capacity. Yet behind this offer there is the Divine Grace directly present. The Grace is now at the door of India, ready to give its help. In the history of a nation such opportunities do not come often. The Grace presents itself at rare moments, after centuries of preparation of that nation. If it is accepted, the nation will survive and get a new birth in the Divine's consciousness. But if it is rejected the Grace will withdraw and then the nation will suffer terribly, calamity will overtake it.
" 'Only some months ago, the same Grace presented itself at the door of France, immediately after the fall of Dunkirk, in the form of Churchill's offer to her to have joint nationality with England and fight the enemy. Sri Aurobindo said that it was the right idea, and it would also have helped His work immensely. But France could not raise herself above the ordinary mind, and rejected it. So the Grace withdrew and the Soul of France has gone down. One doesn't know when the real France will be up again.
" 'But India with her background of intense spiritual development through the ages, must realise the Grace that is behind this offer. It is not simply a human offering. Of course its form has been given by the human mind, and it has elements of imperfection in it. But that does not matter at all. Have faith in the Grace and leave everything to the Divine who will surely work it out.
" 'My ardent request to India is that she should not reject it. She must not make the same mistake that France has done recently and that has plunged her into the abyss.'
"As soon as She had finished speaking She hurried back to Her dressing room, without a word or a look at anybody. Later, on the same day, the first of April, 1942, when She returned from the Prosperity after the distribution, She disclosed that, Sri Aurobindo had already sent a telegram to Sir Stafford, and the latter had reciprocated very heartily, and both the telegrams were being put on the notice board by Nolini. We then read the messages and were very much encouraged.
"But the next day or the day after it, the Congress announced that it had rejected the offer. The Mother was quite unperturbed; She only said, 'Now calamity will befall India.'
"The events that followed in India right up to now need no mention.. We have been paying all along for our mistake."
The next issue, if not so great in magnitude, was the Japanese aggression. Japan, like a minor Hitler, had established its supremacy in the East. But Sri Aurobindo had never taken Japan's aggression very seriously. On the contrary, he once remarked that should Hitler become supreme in the West and turn his forces towards the East, Japan's power might be useful in confronting Hitler and checking his advance. This remark supporting as it were Japan's blaze of imperial conquest baffled me at the time. Did he want Japan's rise to serve as a counterblast to Hitler's problematic thrust towards the East? Or could it be read as a move to force America into the War? At any rate it was quite evident from our talks that Japan's dramatic conquests did not disturb him, as did Hitler's. But it was only when Japan's design on India, aided by some of our misguided patriots, was palpably clear, that Sri Aurobindo, as he himself avowed, used his spiritual Force against Japan and "had the satisfaction of seeing the tide of Japanese victory which had till then swept everything before it, change immediately into a tide of rapid, crushing and finally immense and overwhelming defeat".
We heard of the Japanese bombing of Calcutta and Vishakhapatnam, we also heard that Japanese warships had come to the Indian Ocean at Trincomali and the next information that reached us almost immediately was that they had exploded and sunk before they had time to invade India! In the North-East the I.N.A.¹ with the Japanese army at its back was triumphantly marching into Assam. The Indian army seemed to be in a panicky retreat, and the British Government, counting its imperial glory to be almost at an end, was preparing to leave India. The then Governor of Bengal seemed to have said at a cabinet meeting, "This time the game is up." When the words were reported to Sri Aurobindo he remarked, "Now the wheel will turn." For the Allies the situation at that moment was desperate everywhere, in Africa, in India, in Europe.
At this jubilant moment of the enemy, India's destiny intervened. A heavy downpour from heaven inundated the dense Assam jungles for days together, so that, bogged in the flood and mud, the invading army with its liberation force had to liberate itself from the wrath of Nature and beat an ignominious retreat. Yet rain during that season had never been heard of before.
In this context let us quote what the Mother said to a sadhak in 1927, when he asked how India was likely to get freedom. The Mother's prophetic reply was, "When a Japanese warship will come to the Indian Ocean." In fact, the Mother had visioned India's Independence In 1920. It was when she and Sri Aurobindo were in
¹ The Indian National Army of Subhash Bose.
meditation, and she reached a state of consciousness from which she told Sri Aurobindo: "India is free."
Sri Aurobindo: How?
The Mother: Without any fight, without a battle, without a revolution. The English themselves will leave, for the condition of the world will be such that they won't be able to do anything else except go away.
It took twenty-seven years for that vision of the truth-plane to actualise itself on the material plane. In those early days the Mother used to pay special visits to the rooms of the sadhaks. One day A asked her, "How is India likely to get freedom?" She replied, "Listen! The British did not conquer India. You yourselves handed over the country to the British. In the same manner the British will themselves hand over the country to you. And they will do it in a hurry as if a ship were waiting to take them away."' How true was the prophecy!
Today the achievement of India's freedom is attributed to various factors: the August movement, Non-cooperation, the Terrorist movement, the I. N. A. and others; the factor that played the decisive part is either not admitted or ignored altogether. From Sri Aurobindo's pronouncements we can assert that his Force was principally responsible for the success of the Allies and the defeat of the Japanese, thereby helping India to gain her freedom. In fact, India's freedom had been his constant dream from his very boyhood. Even during his intense sadhana in Pondicherry, it was always in his mind and he indefatigably worked for it in the yogic way till he became convinced that freedom was
¹. Narayan Prasad: Life in Sri Aurobindo Ashram (Pondicherry, 1965).
inevitable. As far back as 1935, when I asked him if he was working for India's freedom, he replied, "That is all settled, it is a question of working out only.... It is what she will do with her independence that is not arranged for - and so it is that about which I have to bother."
The other causes then could be considered no more than contributory, even if indispensable factors. Out of all these, I may make some comment on the claims of the I. N. A. Whatever significance there may be in its claims, the role it played was fraught with most dangerous consequences. I wonder how our countrymen had no apprehension of them. It was a fatal game the I.N.A. played, thinking that the Japanese, after the conquest of India, would peacefully leave the country letting the I.N.A. enjoy the fruit of its victory, or that India would be able to fight and drive them out. Sri Aurobindo pointing out what would have been our condition, had Japan entered India, said, "Japan's imperialism being young and based on industrial and military power and moving westward, was a greater menace to India than the British imperialism which was old, which the country had learnt to deal with and which was on the way to elimination."
Our Ashram came in for a good deal of suffering and inconvenience in the wake of the War: the wrath and abuse of our countrymen, the resentment of a number of our own inmates for our support of the War and the loss of some other valiant sons in the great holocaust. It had to open its doors to the children of all disciples who were in the danger zone, so we were all of a sudden changed into a large community without sufficient means to maintain ourselves. And due to the general embargoes and restrictions imposed by the Government the most necessary food supply was either cut off or reduced to a minimum. Last of all, and the greatest irony of fate, the Ashram in spite of all our help was suspected of being a nest of spies or enemy agents. Police search was apprehended and even the question of disbanding the Ashram was in the air. Perhaps the British Government had never entirely believed that Sri Aurobindo, once the most dangerous enemy of the British Empire, could really become their ally. Was he not still engaged in secret revolutionary activities, his war-contribution serving just as a smoke-screen? Unfortunately, in the Ashram itself there were some who wished for Hitler's victory, not for love of Hitler but because of their hatred of British domination. Sri Aurobindo conveyed through us a stern message to them: "If these people want that the Ashram should be dissolved, they can come and tell me and I will dissolve it instead of the police doing it.... Hitlerism is the greatest menace that the world has ever met."
Another inconvenience, but of short duration, that we had to pass through was the threat of bombing by the Japanese Air Force. As soon as the alert for a black-out was given, all lights in the Ashram had to go off. Sri Aurobindo sat up in bed, the Mother on a chair in Sri Aurobindo's room; the two of us who were on duty at the time also sat there, Champaklal very near the Mother.... After a short while when the all-clear signal was given, we would revert to our duty. One day, putting a dark shade over Sri Aurobindo's table lamp, the Mother said with a smile, "Your lamp lights up three streets, Lord." "So I should be darkened?" he asked smiling. In truth, I do not think that any Japanese aeroplane flew over Pondicherry. I was very much amused at the sight of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo taking this human precaution against any possible threat. But that is their way. Because they are Divine and possess a great occult power, one would suppose that all the human measures were otiose or a mere show as I thought in my callow days. But I saw in this case – and in many others – that the Mother was in grim earnest. Even if Sri Aurobindo and she were sure of an eventual success, they would keep applying the pressure of their Force till the issue was decided beyond any question.
A little later, there was a lot of preparation against possible bombing and bombardment. Sandbags were piled up and trenches dug. It is reported that when the Mother was apprised of the preparations, she remarked in private, "There is such a strong Presence of Divine Force and Peace in the atmosphere that an attack is most improbable."
I cannot end this chapter without noting how the whole Ashram was vitally interested in India's fight for freedom, though we are supposed erroneously to be absorbed only in our own spiritual liberation. When the news of the final victory came, we celebrated it as much as the people outside, particularly because it coincided with Sri Aurobindo's birthday. He was requested to give a message on this great occasion. I am reproducing at the end of this chapter the whole message called "Five Dreams".
"It was on this occasion that for the first time the Mother hoisted her flag over the terrace of Sri Aurobindo's room. The Mother called it the spiritual flag of India.
In the afternoon she appeared on her terrace when the members of the Ashram greeted her by singing Bande Mataram after which she called out, 'Jai Hind!' with such a look and gesture that we still remember the moment. The evening programme included the electric illumination of the courtyard inside the Ashram compound."¹
It will be very pertinent indeed to ask oneself how this identification took place, how and why this date was selected, what the reason behind it was. Surely, there must have been a process or occasion which led to the selection of this date. It may not have been very important to the general public, but it was of great importance to us, the disciples of Sri Aurobindo. Most accidentally I found the answer though the fact was well-known, perhaps, to the historians of India's freedom movement. The occasion has been mentioned in the book Freedom at Midnight "Partition of India had been decided upon by Lord Mountbatten – the Viceroy of India – and the Indian leaders had agreed to it. Now the question that remained to be decided was the Transfer of Power: on which date should it be done? A Press Conference was called by the Viceroy. Three
1. Narayan Prasad: Life in Sri Aurobindo Ashram.
2. pp. 164-65, by Larry Coffins and Dominique Lapierre.
hundred journalists from various countries had gathered. When he had concluded his talk, it was followed 'by a burst of applause....
"Suddenly... the anonymous voice of an Indian newsman cut across the chamber. His was the last question awaiting an answer.
" 'Sir,' the voice said, 'if all agree that there is a most urgent need for speed between today and the Transfer of Power, surely you should have a date in mind?'
" 'Yes, indeed,' replied Mountbatten.
" 'And if you have chosen a date, Sir, what then is that date?' pressed the questioner.
"A number of rapid calculations went whirring through the Viceroy's mind as he listened to those questions. He had not, in fact, picked a date. But he was convinced it had to be very soon....
"He stared at the packed assembly hall. Every face in the room was turned to his....
" 'Yes,' he said, 'I have selected a date for the Transfer of Power.'
"As he was uttering those words, the possible dates were still whizzing through his mind like the numbers of a spinning roulette wheel.... Suddenly the wheel stopped with a jar... Mountbatten's decision was instantaneous. It was a date linked in his memory to the most triumphant hours of his own existence, the day in which his long crusade through the jungles of Burma had ended with the unconditional surrender of the Japanese Empire....
"His voice constricted with sudden emotion, the victor of the jungles of Burma about to become the liberator of India announced:
" 'The final Transfer of Power to Indian hands will take place on August 15, 1947.'
"Louis Mountbatten's spontaneous decision... on his own initiative was a bombshell. In the corridors of the House of Commons, Downing Street, Buckingham Palace, no one had suspected Mountbatten was ready to ring the curtain down so precipitously on Britain's Indian adventure. In Delhi, the Viceroy's most intimate collaborators had no inkling of what Mountbatten was going to do. Not even the Indian leaders with whom he had spent so many hours had received a hint that he would act with such decisive haste."
Now, people may argue, "There is no mystery here. Mountbatten selected it because, as he says, that date marked a glorious achievement in his life." "But why with such decisive haste?" one may ask. "Because he did not want to face any opposition. If he had disclosed it in advance, there was every possibility of its being rejected on one ground or another." Whatever may be the urge to commemorate his own victory, he was instrumental in linking it with an occasion whose light will grow into a sun with the rolling of the years, while his own victory will pale into a shade. Left to our countrymen, none would have even dreamt of this date, but One who sees and decides everything gave this date the importance it deserved. Those who have some insight can perceive His inscrutable hand behind this memorable identification.
When one reads Sri Aurobindo's message one will not fail to note how much importance he has given to the role India alone can play in bringing about the unity of the whole of mankind. I do not know of any other great leader of India and worker for her future destiny who spoke in such glowing terms as we find in these "Dreams".
The Mother has emphasised the fact that this message should be distributed all over India, read and re-read by the people, for it contains the solution of all the problems the world is facing today.
August 15th, 1947 is the birthday of free India. It marks for her the end of an old era, the beginning of a new age. But we can also make it by our life and acts as a free nation an important date in a new age opening for the whole world, for the political,social, cultural and spiritual future of humanity.
August 15th is my own birthday and it is naturally gratifying to me that it should have assumed this vast significance. I take this coincidence, not as a fortuitous accident, but as the sanction and seal of the Divine Force that guides my steps on the work with which I began life, the beginning of its full fruition. Indeed, on this day I can watch almost all the world-movements which I hoped to see fulfilled in my lifetime, though then they looked like impracticable dreams, arriving at fruition or on their way to achievement. In all these movements free India may well play a large part and take a leading position.
The first of these dreams was a revolutionary movement which would create a free and united India. India today is free but she has not achieved unity. At one moment it almost seemed as if in the very act of liberation she would fall back into the chaos of separate States which preceded the British conquest. But fortunately it now seems probable that this danger will be averted and a large and powerful, though not yet a complete union will be established. Also, the wisely drastic policy of the Constituent Assembly has made it probable that the problem of the depressed classes will be solved without schism or fissure. But the old communal division into Hindus and Muslims seems now to have hardened into a permanent political division of the country. It is to be hoped that this settled fact will not be accepted as settled for ever or as anything more than a temporary expedient. For if it lasts, India may be seriously weakened, even crippled: civil strife may remain always possible, possible even a new invasion and foreign conquest. India's internal development and prosperity may be impeded, her position among the nations weakened, her destiny impaired or even frustrated. This must not be; the partition must go. Let us hope that that may come about naturally, by an increasing recognition of the necessity not only of peace and concord but of common action, by the practice of common action and the creation of means for that purpose. In this way unity may finally come about under whatever form - the exact form may have a pragmatic but not a fundamental importance. But by whatever means, in whatever way, the division must go; unity must and will be achieved, for it is necessary for the greatness of India's future.
Another dream was for the resurgence and liberation of the peoples of Asia and her return to her great role in the progress of human civilisation. Asia has arisen; large parts are now quite free or are at this moment being liberated: its other still subject or partly subject parts are moving through whatever struggles towards freedom. Only a little has to be done and that will be done today or tomorrow. There India has her part to play and has begun to play it with an energy and ability which already indicate the measure of her possibilities and the place she can take in the council of the nations.
The third dream was a world-union forming the outer basis of a fairer, brighter and nobler life for all mankind. That unification of the human world is under way; there is an imperfect initiation organised but struggling against tremendous difficulties. But the momentum is there and it must inevitably increase and conquer. Here too India has begun to play a prominent part and, if she can develop that larger statesmanship which is not limited by the present facts and immediate possibilities but looks into the future and brings it nearer, her presence may make all the difference between a slow and timid and a bold and swift development. A catastrophe may intervene and interrupt or destroy what is being done, but even then the final result is sure. For unification is a necessity of Nature, an inevitable movement. Its necessity for the nations is also clear, for without it the freedom of the small nations may be at any moment in peril and the life even of the large and powerful nations insecure. The unification is therefore to the interests of all, and only human imbecility and stupid selfishness can prevent it; but these cannot stand for ever against the necessity of Nature and the Divine Will. But an outward basis is not enough; there must grow up an international spirit and outlook, international forms and institutions must appear, perhaps such developments as dual or multilateral citizenship, willed interchange or voluntary fusion of cultures. Nationalism will have fulfilled itself and lost its militancy and would no longer find these things incompatible with self-preservation and the integrality of its outlook. A new spirit of oneness will take hold of the human race.
Another dream, the spiritual gift of India to the world has already begun. India's spirituality is entering Europe and America in an ever increasing measure. That movement will grow; amid the disasters of the time more and more eyes are turning towards her with hope and there is even an increasing resort not only to her teachings, but to her psychic and spiritual practice.
The final dream was a step in evolution which would raise man to a higher and larger consciousness and begin the solution of the problems which have perplexed and vexed him since he first began to think and to dream of individual perfection and a perfect society. This is still a personal hope and an idea, an ideal which has begun to take hold both in India and in the West on forward-looking minds. The difficulties in the way are more formidable than in any other field of endeavour, but difficulties were made to be overcome and if the Supreme Will is there, they will be overcome. Here too, if this evolution is to take place, since it must proceed through a growth of the spirit and the inner consciousness, the initiative can come from India and, although the scope must be universal, the central movement may be hers.
Such is the content which I put into this date of India's liberation; whether or how far this hope will be justified depends upon the new and free India.
All extracts and quotations from the written works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and the Photographs of
the Mother and Sri Aurobindo are copyright Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Pondicherry -605002 India.
The secret of success in Yoga is
to regard it not as one of the aims to be pursued in life, but as
the one and only aim, not as an important part of life, but as
the whole of life.