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A perennial quest
By Manoj Das


MANOJ DAS pays tribute to Sri Aurobindo on his 127th birth anniversary today.

If mankind only caught a glimpse of what infinite enjoyments, what perfect forces, what luminous reaches of spontaneous knowledge, what wide calms of our being lie waiting for us in the tracts which our animal evolution has not yet conquered, they would leave all and never rest till they had gained these treasures. But the way is narrow, the doors are hard to force, and fear, distrust and scepticism are there, sentinels of Nature, to forbid the turning away of our feet from her ordinary pastures.

Sri Aurobindo, Thoughts and Aphorisms

THE departing century leaves behind a vision of human destiny which is, probably, optimism.But can optimism be subject to scrutiny by our intellect? This depends on the scope we grant to intellect, heeding this warning: "We should take care not to make the intellect our god; it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality." (Einstein: Out Of My Later Years).

The intellect, tempered a bit by humility, can go a long way in appreciating Sri Aurobindo's vision. Indeed, the most significant discoveries of modern science instruct us to be humble. Take for example the grand unified theory of Nature, recreating for us the good old concept of the Brahman the one and indivisible reality: "Without electromagnetism there would be no atoms, no chemistry or biology, and no heat or light from the sun. If there were no strong nuclear force then nuclei could not exist, and so again there would be no atoms or molecules, no chemistry or biology, nor would the sun and stars be able to generate heat and light from nuclear energy. Even the weak force plays a crucial role in shaping the universe. If it did not exist, the nuclear reactions in the sun and stars could not proceed, and supernovae would probably not occur, and the vital life-giving heavy elements would therefore be unable to permeate the universe. Life might well be impossible. When we remember that these four very different types of force, each one vital for generating the complex structures that make our universe so active and interesting, all derive from a single, simple superforce, the ingenuity of it all literally boggles the mind." (Paul Davies: Super Force).

Does this the mind-boggling superforce at work in this universe have a scheme to execute on the earth through the process of evolution?

Sri Aurobindo's perception is, it has. The biological concept of evolution, of course, does not go further than stating a phenomenon. Sri Aurobindo reinterprets it in the Vedantic light: if life evolved out of matter, and mind out of life, it was because life was already involved in matter and mind was involved in life. If that is so, there is no reason why a principle loftier than mind but involved in mind, could not evolve, changing or transform mankind into a new race, the Supramental.

Mankind, at present, is going through an evolutionary crisis, he says. Mind has given man all it could in terms of knowledge, science, technology and has added as much as it could to his search for happiness. At the same time it has landed him in an impasse marked by paradox. Far from feeling that he had "arrived", man rather feels lost amidst his monumental achievements in technology and lifestyles, polity and politics.

The destination, at this rate, cannot but be the abyss, unless man is rescued by the intervention of a new consciousness.

For this man must cultivate an aspiration; he must liberate himself from his bondage to ego and ignorance from his animal inheritance of instincts and passions masked by civilization.

But man need not despair, for, in a sense, the process of evolution itself is a process of this liberation. The appearance of the earliest forms of life as plants out of the apparently lifeless matter was a step towards the liberation of the imprisoned consciousness. A far greater degree of freedom of consciousness - and an exercise of that freedom in infinitely different ways - was possible with the emergence of the primeval creatures, from worms, insects, butterflies and td the birds to the whales and the dinosaur.

Needless to say, man is the only creature who has never stopped growing. With relentless zeal not only has be adapted himself to the changing environment, but has also made the environment meet his demands. Emerging from the world of primeval Nature he has created for himself new worlds of art, architecture, literature, music, philosophy and of a perennial quest for the meaning of life.

Thus, if the process of evolution itself is a movement of consciousness realising its own freedom from its bondage to material and other limitations, the 20th Century has witnessed the most momentous events and ideas ensuring greater freedom for man in several fronts. It saw the collapse of imperialism, colonialism, monarchy and feudalism - all paving the way for man's social, political and economic freedom. Democracy, socialism, 'emancipation' of women from age-old taboos and discrimination, end of apartheid - all point in the same direction.

But the greatest of all freedom is yet to be achieved - our freedom from ignorance. Sri Aurobindo believes that this last freedom is not a mere possibility, but a certainty inherent in the very nature of the evolutionary process of human destiny.

Sri Aurobindo




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