Essays on Social Action
India and the Changing World presents a collection of essays on social action. Social action comprises both, action of the individual as well as action of collective society, along with their concomitant interactions. The scope of the essays is the human condition and the emphasis is on India’s future role in its world-wide development. In essence, the given position is as follows.
World union is our compelling destiny. This shall emerge as a federation of heterogeneous nation-states whose citizens espouse internationalism. Several social forces are at work to shape this fate, and most visible amongst these are science and secular humanism. The rational and moral principles of science and secular humanism are necessary; but they are not sufficient to constitute a basis for an enduring world union. A synthesis of materialist and spiritual pursuit, of reason and faith, is ineluctable. This insight must guide our personal and social action.The spiritual pursuit of society has largely been weakened or lost. This has come about, on the one hand, due to encrusting religions and fatalistic or escapist spirituality, and on the other hand, due to the action of science, imperialism and ideological domination. What we need is not the materialist’s denial of the spirit or the ascetic’s withdrawal from matter, nor a grudging compromise of reason and faith such as secular humanism, but rather a vibrant synthesis in which matter and spirit complete and enhance each other.
Though the spiritual pursuit of society has been lost elsewhere, India has preserved her deep spiritual knowledge. Over the ages this knowledge has got encrusted into rigid forms. India’s mission now is to shake off these limitations and realise a living synthesis of matter and spirit—a spiritual humanism—which shall serve as a basis for world union. India has awakened to her mission; but she is opposed, on one side, by those who seek to revert to an anachronistic past, and on the other, by those who deny her spiritual heritage. It is by the action of individuals all over the world who reject neither spirit nor matter but seek their inclusive synthesis that we shall persevere and succeed in opening a path to an enduring and harmonious world union.
But even spiritual humanism is only a bridge to something beyond, the human form and society only a laboratory of Nature. Terrestrial evolution presses onward to superhuman goals under her subtle insistence. Without spiritual humanism we shall be her transient obstacles; with it, her conscious collaborators in the unfolding mystery of manifestation.
The vast sweep of the subject along with the brevity of this discourse have necessitated that India and the Changing World is a search for an essential kernel of principles and not for a panoply of possibilities, for a vision of the superstructure and not for a detailed architectural drawing, for an orientation and not for a navigational chart. In that, I believe, is also its value. Yet it does cast sufficient light on the alternatives, the goals and the paths to them for us to recognise the milestones and measure the progress made and the destinations reached, and for us to guide our pragmatic behaviour and social action. This kernel of principles, the superstructure, the orientation and the attending possibilities and paths have been seen and expounded and our progress anticipated in the social and political thought of Sri Aurobindo. In the light of this body of work, India and the Changing World seeks insight for action in our present condition.
This treatise consists of four essays. The essay India and the Changing World presents a broad survey and analysis of our present condition. It is based on my talk at the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education on 15 February 1992, subsequently published in Mother India, August 1992, a monthly publication of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry. The essay India’s Mission: A Path to World Union is ostensibly a critique of certain comments on a secular India. Deeper yet, it shows the limitations of an exclusive rational and moral approach and affirms that the synthesis of spiritual humanism is the way forward. The essay Blueprint for a Modern India presents a vision of a dynamic India of the future, an India that not only excels by all rational measures but also hews a successful path to harmony and world union. In the essay Basis for a Future World, the paradigm that India is labouring to develop is viewed in a world-wide context as the foundation of a new individual and social order.
These essays employ various techniques—multifaceted survey and analysis, rational exposition and argument and intuitive and inspiring vision. They have been written by me mainly for myself, to understand the principles and forces at work in today’s society, and in this environment, the possibilities, directions and bases for fruitful action, both personal and social. The results of this effort, I feel, are equally applicable to others in India and the world. These essays do not constitute a scientific thesis, but rather, are a statement of intuition, and must be critiqued from that stand-point. Yet an attempt has been made not to flout rationality at any point, and the message is cogently given, that reason and secular humanism are necessary, but these alone are not sufficient for a harmonious world union; a synthesis of matter and spirit, of reason and faith, a spiritual humanism, is inescapable as the basis of a new individual and social order.
13th April 1993
(Note: In addition to the first essay, the last three essays were also published in various issues of Mother India. )