“What the soul sees and has experienced, that it knows; the rest is appearance, prejudice, and opinion.” ― Sri Aurobindo
Sri Aurobindo was a pivotal figure in the history of the Indian renaissance and Indian nationalism. Romain Rolland viewed him as the pinnacle of East-West synthesis and the 'Prince among Indian thinkers'. Dr. Radhakrishnan referred to Aurobindo as 'the most accomplished Indian thinker of the modern era.' Tagore dubbed him the 'Messiah of Indian culture and civilization.' C.R. Das referred to Aurobindo as a 'poet of patriotism, a prophet of nationalism, and a lover of humanity.'
He attempted to reconcile western philosophy's materialist trend with Indian philosophy's idealist legacy. Ramakrishna and Vivekanand's Vedantic philosophy also influenced Aurobindo's thinking. He believed that the Vedantic sages' and Buddha's writings reflected the genius of the Indian mind. However, Aurobindo asserts that the Indian intellectual tradition eventually grew restricted in outlook and lost its dynamism and vibrancy. In contrast, western philosophy retained its vitality and continued to evolve. Aurobindo desired to synthesise the best aspects of both the Indian and Western intellectual traditions.
Sri Aurobindo's contribution to modern Indian political thought can be conveniently summarized as follows: his concept of spiritual nationalism and motherland divinity; his exposition of the ideal of complete freedom from foreign rule; his contribution to the theory of boycott and passive resistance; and finally, his vision of India's destiny in world affairs and his ideal of human unity.
He voiced the notion that the British political system was not the finest, as the Indian intelligentsia largely assumed. He also criticized the lack of social liberty and equality. As a result, he concluded that copying British ways will not serve our country's interests. Regarding the nature of British rule in India, he stated that "it is founded on mercantile principles and is exploitative in nature." It must consequently be weakened from within in order to attain the country's freedom and independence.
Aurobindo viewed the British authorities' behavior as rude and insulting and arrogant. He argued that the British-established administration structure in India was fundamentally unsuited for the Indians, their socioeconomic system, their thinking, and their genius. He was particularly critical of anglophone Indians who saw the British way of life and culture as admirable. He did not object, however, to learning from the British experience, albeit he was opposed to mindless aping of European ideas and aspirations. He took issue with Indians' rising tendency to forget the past and to lack a strong vision for the future.
Aurobindo recognized that the concept of passive resistance would be successful if there was an all-out boycott of the British. Along with his economic boycott theory, he advanced his position on national education. Along with his economic boycott theory, he emphasized the importance of Swadeshi. Along with the boycott of educational institutions, he expressed his opinions on national education. Along with the judicial boycott, he stressed the importance of establishing national arbitration courts. He also urged Indians to engage in social boycotts.
Aurobindo's political ideology was founded on his concept of spiritual nationalism and the motherland's divinity. Aurobindo infused nationalism with a spiritual dimension.
In 1908 he said in a public meeting in Bombay, "Nationalism is not a mere political programme; Nationalism is a religion that has come from God; Nationalism is a creed which you shall have to live . If you are going to be nationalist, if you are going to assent to this religion of nationalism, you must do it in the religious spirit. You must remember that you are the instrument of God". He elevated the demand for national freedom to a religious faith so that the masses could be awakened.
According to Aurobindo's understanding, the 'nation' is a mighty'shakti' comprised of all the Shaktis of the nation's millions of units. As such, it is a living entity. In countless writings and poems, he revealed his profound feelings of love and devotion to the homeland. He felt that such patriotism might perform wonders. Thus, Aurobindo's notion of nationalism incorporated a spiritual dimension, in contrast to the common patriotic use of the term.
Nationalism, he believes, is more than a political movement. It is neither a political platform nor a pastime for the intellect. Nationalism, he believes, is comparable to religion. It is a faith and a creed that one must adhere to. It is a religion that originated from God. As a result, it is incapable of being crushed. Even when external forces strive to stifle it, it reemerges and endures because of the strength of God inside it. Natilonalism is indestructible. It cannot die, as it is not a human creation. nonetheless, is a creation of God. To be a nationalist, one must labour for his or her country. Nationalism, he believed, was a profound and fervent religious sadhana.' This is the distinction between Aurobindo's understanding of nationalism and the concept of nationalism as viewed by other thinkers and political activists during his lifetime.
In the context of his notion of spiritual nationalism,' it is argued that, while it was dubbed spiritual nationalism, it was actually religious in the conventional sense, and so reactionary in nature. It was an attempt to rouse the masses emotionally, diverting their attention away from real issues like poverty, economic exploitation, and inequality. It was an appeal to Hindu religious sensibilities disguised as a celebration of the land's cultural history.
His advocates argue that this is not true as he drew inspiration from Vedas which were secular texts, it was given a religious connotation only after communism made its way.
Aurobindo's final contribution was his vision of India's destiny as a world power and his ideal of human oneness. At a time when British authority was firmly established in India, Aurobindo had the foresight to envision India as a liberated nation and her contribution to the world community. He believed that India possessed a spiritual message that the world's people urgently needed. He was a proponent of the concept of human unity. He argued for India's independence in the larger interest of humanity. He said
"Our ideal of patriotism proceeds on the basis of love and brotherhood and it looks beyond the unity of the nation and envisages the ultimate unity of mankind it is a unity of brothers, equal and free men that we seek, not the unity of master and serf, of devourer and devoured". ~ Aurobindo