A Rishi’s Integral Vision of Society by RY Deshpande
Daniel Albuquerque’s Freedom and Future is a tête-à-tête between the one who is standing in our time and the timeless other who unfailingly is ever there in our midst, between the author and Sri Aurobindo through his works. The author regrets that he has come to this world rather late and that he did not have direct contact with Sri Aurobindo; he would have liked to have corresponded with him in person and posed to him questions, questions about the true nature of freedom and about the prospects the future holds for the world. But he has already realised the great truth that Sri Aurobindo is indeed very much here and that “his words are alive in his works and one can read and listen to his voice, if one cares to do so. One cannot avoid his presence while reading his writings.” It is this strong feeling of his presence that inspired him to write this dialogue and he is justifiably happy to have succeeded in it.
How does the author engage himself in the endeavour? Not that he would read selected passages from Sri Aurobindo’s works and model, apropos of these, suitable questions. That would be quite an easy manufacture, but then it would have the inevitable danger of making the whole exercise dull and jerkily deliberate, and hence also perhaps irrelevant. Nor is it a compilation of another kind, a long session of quotations. Instead, what we have here is the ever-living voice of the eternal Yogi and Rishi whose concern has always been to lead humanity in the ways of the spirit, as much as to infuse it with its dynamism.
No wonder therefore that, what Sri Aurobindo wrote some eighty-five years ago has the excellence of remaining pertinent even today. That makes the dialogue quite meaningful to the present context as well. His answers are valid now also and are quite applicable to our sociological, economic and cultural problems,—if only we know how to read them and profit from them, get light from them. Of course, the author is fully aware of the fact that no cut-and-paste method can be employed in the case of Sri Aurobindo; he appreciates that his writings invariably have several shades and nuances of meaning, always to be perceived and gathered in the overall textual development. It may also appear at times that this particular dialogue-mode has the defect of tending to become somewhat stiff and unyielding, but there is inspiration behind it and the breath of the living spirit vigorously blows over it, making it profitable as well as enjoyable.
In this imaginary dialogue, in six sessions with Sri Aurobindo, Albuquerque has restricted himself essentially to socio-political rather than literary, philosophical, poetic, scriptural, occult, yogic or spiritual aspects. The thematic contents of these discussions are generally in the context of India’s problems, though at times they also touch upon much wider issues. While the first session gives an overview of Sri Aurobindo’s life before his coming to Pondicherry, the other five deal with political freedom, economic liberation, prospects of science, the foundations of a new society to build the future order of the world, and religion and spiritual democracy. To just illustrate the method adopted by Albuquerque in conducting his dialogue with Sri Aurobindo, we may pick up an example: the question of the Individual versus the State. It is an age-old problem, the Sophoclean problem of Antigone, the fundamental conflict of freedom vis-à-vis the functioning of a powerful democratic government. While theoretically it is easy to postulate the complementary and harmonious working of the two, in practice there is the discordance and antagonism of an unreconciliatory character. Liberty in a country is possible only when also go hand in hand with it rights and duties, that in order to be free one must obey law. The Individual has certain duties towards the State. The State is there to take care of him by assuring him welfare and protection. But then it becomes a contentious issue also.