Ancient India made a great attempt to build a civilisation based on spiritual and psychological principle. But this attempt achieved only a limited success and in later ages broke-down somewhere in the middle. The future India has to discover the causes of this past success and failure and make a greater attempt to fulfill her God-given mission.
Vedic vision; great attempt of past India; mission of future India.
The Vedic Vision
The foundation of Indian civilisation is the vision and the attempt of Vedic sages to build human society based on psychological and spiritual principles. In this Vedic vision, both the Individual and the Collectivity are the equal expressions of the Divine Being. The outer collective life of man is the expression of the four fundamental psychological powers in Man, which we may call as Mentor, Marshal, Merchant and the Worker. First is the intellectual, ethical and aesthetic being which seeks for knowledge, values and ideals, the power of the Mentor. The second is the will and vital force of the Marshal, which seeks for power, strength, mastery, conquest, achievement, expansion. The third is the powers of mutuality, coordination, organisation, and harmony, which seeks for harmonious relationship and an efficient, productive and practical adaptation with life, people and Nature, the power of the Merchant. The fourth is the faculty of the physical being with its urge for work and service and material execution or craftsmanship, the Worker. One of these powers may dominate or lead in the soul or nature of the individual, determining his typal nature as Mentor or Marshal, Merchant or Worker.
In the outer collective life these four-fold psychological powers in man express themselves through their corresponding four-fold social organs: Culture, Polity, Economy and Labour. The Mentor through Culture and its activities like religion, ethics, education, scholarship, learning, philosophy and literature; the Marshal through Polity made of government, administration, leadership, laws and order and defense; the Merchant through the Economy made of trade, commerce and professions; the Worker through the labour-force in the lower levels of the social hierarchy.
In the Vedic conception these four psychological powers in man are in turn the diminished or partial expressions of the four fold cosmic Powers of the Spirit.
These four powers are called in the Indian spiritual tradition as Maheshwari, the power of Wisdom which conceives the broad principles and order of the world; Mahakali, the power of Strength which empowers, energizes and enforces what the power of Wisdom conceives; Mahalakshmi the power of Harmony which orchestrates the rhythm, relations, connectivities and synergies of things; Mahasaraswati, the power of Work which executes with minute attention to detail and deft craftsmanship what the other three directs. In a scientific and psychological perspective, these four powers may be viewed as four fundamental functions of the Creative Process in all the levels of manifest existence: Cosmic, Collective and Individual.
In a schematic presentation of the Vedic social paradigm, there will be at the apex the Divine and His Four-fold Cosmic powers, which express themselves in the human psychology as the four human types and four psychological powers of the Mentor, Marshal, Merchant and Worker, which in turn manifest in the outer collective life as the four organs of the social body: Culture, Polity, Economy, Labour. The Vedic ideal for the individual is to organize and integrate the four-fold powers of the Mentor, Marshal, Merchant and Worker around the innermost spiritual center of the individual. The Vedic social ideal has two aspects or dimensions. In the social level it is to make the four social organs work together in synergic harmony for the common good of the social body as a whole. At the spiritual level it is to make the human society into a conscious expression of the four-fold cosmic powers through their corresponding human instruments and social institutions.
The Great Attempt of Past India
An intuitive spiritual vision requires a living and flexible insight into human life and nature to implement it faithfully in society. Both these conditions were to a certain extent fulfilled in ancient Vedic India by the presence of the illumined spiritual personalities as the leaders of culture and society. The Vedic ideal of the spiritual man is not that of a world-shunning ascetic but an integral soul who was able to integrate spiritual consciousness with a full worldly life. As Sri Aurobindo explains, the Vedic conception of the spiritual man is, “one who has lived fully the life of man and found the word of the supra-intellectual, supramental, spiritual truth. He has risen above these lower limitations and can view all things from above, but also he is in sympathy with their effort and can view them from within; he has the complete inner knowledge and the higher surpassing knowledge. Therefore he can guide the world humanly as God guides it divinely, because like the Divine he is in the life of the world and yet above it.” In the Vedic India, the spiritual vision and ideals of the Rishis had a general pervading influence on the society.
The Rishi, in the ancient Vedic culture was an influential and respected figure in society who actively shaped its values and moulded its institutions. Religion centred around the idea of sacrifice to the gods was the dominant motive-force which governed the life of even the common man. There was a loose, flexible and mobile social structure translating as faithfully as possible and with an organic and intuitive spontaneity the original spiritual vision of the Rishis. The other unique feature of the ancient Vedic culture is that this spiritual influence on the society came not only from the Rishi living in the forest and the ashram but also from the ruling kings many of whom were deep spiritual thinkers and accomplished Yogis. As Swami Vivekananda says in one of his lectures:
“In various Upanishads we find that this Vedanta philosophy is not the outcome of meditation in the forests but the very best parts of it were thought out and expressed by brains which were busiest in the everyday affair of life… the people who discovered these truths of Vedanta were neither living in caves nor forests, nor following the ordinary vocations of life, but men who we have every reason to believe led the busiest lives, men who had to command armies, to sit on thrones and look to the welfare of millions and all these in days of absolute monarchy. Yet they could find time to think out these thoughts, to realise them and to teach them to humanity… we cannot conceive of any man busier than an absolute monarch, a man who is ruling over millions of people, and yet, some of them were deep thinkers.”
But the reign of the Yogi and the Rishi cannot last long. The demands of the evolutionary cycles of Nature bring in other powers and faculties of human consciousness which have to be developed. The reign of the spiritual and intuitive mind of the sage is soon replaced by the intellectual, ethical and religious mind of the thinker, scholar and the priest. This was what happened in India. The spiritual ideal of Moksha was still preserved but reserved only for the individual. And the collectivity, for all practical purposes, was governed by the ethico-religious and social ideal of Dharma, and regulated by the intellectual, ethical, religious mind of the interpreters of Dharma with all its characteristic imperfections like rigidity and tradition-bound conventionality. So, in spite of a sincere effort to regulate society according to the religious and moral ideas of Dharma, the attempt ended in a rigid and stagnant society imprisoned within the walls of caste and customs.
As usual, the immense difficulty of transforming the vital consciousness of man which is the source of his economic, social and political life proved too formidable for the moral and religious mind.
Here comes the role of future India. We must remember here that the ultimate goal of the Indian conception of life is a spiritual liberation and perfection, Moksha, and not a mental or moral perfection of Dharma. And the original collective ideal of the Vedic sages is not merely Dharma-rajya but a spiritualised society conceived as a direct expression in human life of the fourfold powers of the creative Divinity in Man. This means the spiritual ideal of Moksha need not be reserved for a few exceptional individuals but becomes a definite possibility for the entire human race. Ancient India discovered the secret of individual spiritual liberation, Moksha. The future India, to complete and fulfill her destined work and mission, has to discover the secret of collective spiritual perfection and a more integral individual spiritual perfection, not as an end in itself but as a means for the collective redemption of Mankind. This is the real Mission of India, her yet unaccomplished work, her future destiny. Let us now briefly examine this future work of India in a historical perspective.
The Mission of Future India
The essential principle of the ancient Indian social endeavour in the post-vedic age is a spiritual vision of life, seen and conceived in a spiritual consciousness, trying to mould society through the instrumentation of a mental and moral force and a religio-philosophic culture. This is undoubtedly a great attempt – the highest ever made and at a much higher level than the attempt of the modern pragmatic Western civilisation or even the more idealistic Graeco-Roman culture. Its ideals and values are the highest ever conceived by human mind. Its diagnosis of the human malady and the solution it offered are right in their broad and essential principles. Where then lies the cause of failure? It is in the nature of the transforming force applied on the society. Though the diagnosis is right in its essence, the force of therapy applied is not sufficiently deep, powerful and precise to cure the malady at its roots. Here comes the importance of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s spiritual vision of Transformation. Sri Aurobindo has indicated very clearly and precisely the strategic trouble-spot which is the cause of the persistent failure of all human attempts at social transformation; it is the will of the vital ego in man obstinately clinging to its desire for egocentric enjoyment and possession.
The mental and moral force released by the religious, aesthetic, moral and intellectual cultures of the world is ultimately found to be too weak for the much more formidably stronger instincts and desires of the vital being in man which is the ruler of his behaviour and action in the economic, social and political life of the collectivity. This is what finally happened to the ancient Indian attempt. How to prevent this collapse again? According to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, the only solution is a life-transforming spirituality which brings down a supramental spiritual consciousness and power and its direct government over the mind, life and body of the individual and the collectivity, acting directly on them and transforming human life as a whole in all the levels of its being.
This means the creation of a full-fledged spiritual culture which will give a total spiritual direction and motivation to the whole of life and to every department of life – economics, society, politics, industry, commerce, education and culture. This is probably the social ideal of the Vedic sages. In the Vedic age there was a partial attempt to implement the ideal within the limitation of the human society at that age. But in the post Vedic age the integrality of the vedic vision, especially the collective dimension, is lost. The ideal of spiritual perfection is reserved for the individual. For the collectivity, the highest ideal conceived is the ideal of Dharma-rajya which is the state of a harmonious society in which each individual and collectivity live in total harmony with their own typal self-nature, swadharma and in doing so in spontaneous harmony with others and the whole. Even this is only the theoretical ideal in the minds of the thinkers. For all practical purposes, what was attempted or sought to be achieved was a harmonious society regulated by the moral and religious ideals of Dharma embodied in the shastra, like for example Manudharma Shastra.
So we cannot call the post-vedic Indian culture as a “spiritual” culture. It is a religio-philosophic culture pervaded at every point by a spiritual influence created by an unbroken tradition of spiritual seeking. It is this all-pervading spiritual influence and the receptivity of the collective consciousness of the nation to this spiritual influence which constitute the uniqueness of Indian Culture.
But after the Vedic and Upanishadic period the spiritual influence mostly remained either outside or behind the society and in later times even turned away from the society rejecting it as an illusion, Maya, and never took direct control of life. But this direct control of life by the Spirit is precisely what must happen to realise the ideal of “spiritualisation of the human race” which is the integral vedic ideal rediscovered in our modern age by Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.
The Task Ahead
The future India, to complete and fulfill her destined mission, has to move in this direction shown by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s vision. The spiritual consciousness should no longer remain merely as a benign influence at the apex of the cultural mind of the community but has to spring up from every section of the society-in Economy, Polity, Culture, Labour and the Masses and begin to directly govern life through the instrumentation of a spiritualised mind and vital force. This means, as the Mother points out “to replace the mental government of the intelligence by the government of a spiritualised consciousness.” This requires a triune task:
First, create and diffuse a new system of education based on the psychological and principles of Indian yoga.
Second, create an elite core of leadership with a strong moral character, and an intuitive spiritual intelligence.
Third, create an outer environment which provides sufficient encouragement, motivation and opportunities for the mental, moral aesthetic and spiritual development of individuals.
This in short is the work which India has to do for humanity. But first India has to make a sincere attempt to realise these ideals in her own collective life and prove to the world by some concrete results the economic, social and political viability of her cultural values. For this a beginning has to be made in thought and culture to work out the developmental implications of Indian spiritual values to the modern society. The image and the vision which were held before our people during the freedom movement is the image of the enslaved Mother India to be freed from the foreign rule. The image and the vision which we who belong to modern India have to hold before us are the image of the glorified Mother India leading humanity to spiritual freedom, unity and perfection.
The author is a student and practitioner in the path of integral yoga.