Sri Aurobindo and India’s Rebirth by Michel Danino: Review

Title: Sri Aurobindo and India’s Rebirth

Author: Michel Danino

Publication: Rupa Publication

Pages: 264

Price: Rs 395

August 17, 1924: A few months earlier, Gandhi sent his son Devdas to Pondicherry to see Aurobindo. He asked my views about non-violence. I told him, “Suppose there is an invasion of India by the Afghans, how are you going to meet it with non-violence?” That is all I remember. I do not think he put me any other question.

The above incident mentioned on page number 164 of Sri Aurobindo and India’s Rebirth edited by Padma Shri Michel Danino, French-born Indian author and published by Rupa Publications brings to the fore revolutionary, philosopher, littérateur and seer, Shri Aurobindo’s doubts about Mahatma Gandhi’s method to attain freedom and insistence on ahimsa. The author, in his compilation of various political articles, speeches and letters written to his disciples by Sri Aurobindo, tries to touch upon several questions which are still relevant in today’s socio-political context.

Despite Danino’s dedicated work of compiling several aspects of Sri Aurobindo’s vision and thoughts, as a reader, I could not resist myself from picking upon the seer’s non-acceptance of Gandhian methods.

June 23, 1926: When Gandhi’s movement was started; I said that this movement would lead either to a fiasco or to great confusion. And I see no reason to change my opinion. Only I would like to add that it has led to both. Author’s reference to Sri Aurobindo’s opinion about Gandhi’s satyagraha and non-violence movement to be a fiasco, as well as a method of great confusion, speaks volumes about the ideological differences both these greats had.

When Sri Aurobindo was arrested in May 1908, there were two unpublished articles which the police seized and were produced as evidence in the Alipore Bomb case, as the prosecution hoped to show that they were seditious and advocated violence to overthrow British rule in India. Danino’s inclusion of both these articles helps a reader, identify the ideological divide between the two great minds.

Excerpts from one of the unpublished articles seized: It is a barren philosophy which applies a mechanical rule to all actions or takes a word and tries to fit all human life into it. The sword of the warrior is as necessary to the fulfilment of justice and righteousness as the holiness of the saint. Ramdas is not complete without Shivaji. To maintain justice and prevent the strong from despoiling, and the weak from being oppressed is the function for which the Kshatriya was created. Therefore, says Lord Krishna in the Mahabharata, God created battle and armour, the sword, the bow and the dragger.

To all those who strive to nurture their intellect with the fodder of quality read, Sri Aurobindo and India’s Rebirth is certainly one such source. The very fact that with more than 60 years after his passing, Sri Aurobindo’s penetrating insights on issues pertaining to nation building continues to resonate.

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