WAR AND POLITICS: INDIA'S INDEPENDENCE Nirodbaran
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." Page – 126 Location: Home > E-Library > Works Of Disciples > Nirodbaran > Twelve Years With Sri Aurobindo > War And Politics