By Niladri Moitra
Staunch Aurobindonian, teacher and author, Manoj Das gave a speech recently in New Delhi, India, on the future of mankind, as envisioned in the philosophy of Sri Aurobindo
Interview with Manoj Das
In an interview with Life Positive, Prof Manoj Das expanded on his own belief system and Sri Aurobindo’s thoughts for mankind.
Of all the philosophies of India, why choose Sri Aurobindo?
He attracted me because of his belief that the present status of man is not the acme of evolution. As I delved deeper into Sri Aurobindo’s works, I realized that though suffering is bitter, it is an intermediary process through which man grows.
What do you find most appealing in Sri Aurobindo’s thought?
Sri Aurobindo brings in a touch of fulfillment. He sees man not only as what he is, but also as what he could be.
Sri Aurobindo talked about an evolution, which leads to the ”triumph of spirit over matter”. How do you see that?
It is decisive, but nobody can predict it. It all depends upon human receptivity, human willingness to transcend the present limitations and man’s preparedness to be disillusioned about his own hypocrisies. It is not a question of an individual transcending; it is the question of humanity transcending.
What would be the features of Superman?
Man will be in a position to enjoy the qualities, which he has been dreaming of since time immemorial. In Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo defines five goals that mankind is striving to achieve since the dawn of his consciousness: God, light, freedom, bliss and immortality. The supramental man will be in possession of these five goals.
Sri Aurobindo used to believe that man could achieve these goals while maintaining this physical form?
Yes, that is unique to Sri Aurobindo. The response from the Divine is called descent, and Sri Aurobindo was doing his tapasya (meditation, spiritual practice or work) for making that descent possible. That has happened at an occult plane. Even the process of transformation of the present humanity has already begun but is invisible and unknown to man.
Why are most Indians unaware of Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy, although he is popular abroad?
In India, there is a dearth of philosophers and mystics, and we are so stuck with conventional ideas that we can’t pay due attention to Sri Aurobindo. But gradually, more Indians are becoming conscious of his greatness.
How do you conceive the future? How can India contribute to the evolutionary process?
I am optimistic about the future. India can contribute to the transformation process by itself following this path, opening up spiritually, and transcending religious creeds. Spirituality is the spirit of the future. India has to become more aware of Sri Aurobindo’s vision for there is a great tradition of spiritual receptivity in India. Once they become conscious of Sri Aurobindo, that will be their greatest contribution to the transformation of the world.
Sri Aurobindo used to maintain that the knowledge contained in the Vedas regarding science and technology was lost in later works. How is a revival of the Vedic sciences going to help India?
Vedas are the revelations of human consciousness. Sri Aurobindo had said that India had all the potentiality of scientific advancement, but it went the wrong way. The philosophy of illusionism, that practical life is maya (illusion), sabotaged the whole process of India’s integral development. Those who took spirituality as asceticism became a class apart; others who could not afford to leave this world took themselves as doomed to be prisoners of MayaThis dichotomy between a life of spirituality and the worldly life is the greatest danger that India has ever experienced.
As with every species, man evolves in himself as well. And as he evolves, he acquires new roles and sets new goals. A dacoit turns to write an epic, and a fiery communist such as Professor Manoj DAs turns into an Aurobindonian, on the Mother’s call.
An inspired DAs visited the Aurobindo Ashram at Pondicherry where he met the Mother who asked the then lecturer of English to start teaching at the ashram’s school. Impressed by the Mother, he readily agreed.
But how did DAs turn to communism in the first place? ‘As a child,’ he recalls, ‘I saw my birthplace, Balasore in Orissa, India, devastated by a cyclone. The extent of human misery was shocking. I grew up searching for a remedy for human suffering and at that age, my idealistic young mind accepted communism as the final solution. But as I grew up, I realized that economic problems are not the only cause for human suffering.’
From here a transformation began. ‘I realized that suffering is a problem of consciousness. In due course, I started reading Sri Aurobindo’s works and finally found answers to the problems that had bothered me from childhood.’
Prof Das recently visited Delhi, India, to deliver a lecture on ‘Preface To The Future’ at Sri Aurobindo Centre. Here are some excerpts from his speech:
‘Today’s man is so preoccupied with his present that the future remains behind the curtain of his vision. He is not ready to ponder over the future because he feels it is very uncertain, and even a little inward thought digs out memories of a past burdened with agonies and woes.
‘The 20th century had begun with a hope that science and technology will establish a paradise on earth, and that the great ideals of democracy and socialism will abolish the enslavement of man. But today we see that most of these hopes have not been fulfilled and man still remains as unhappy as before. In fact, man’s search for happiness leads him to newer needs, which are being created by merchants who make money by promoting their goods and eventually by selling dreams. The old proverb that ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ has been transformed into ‘invention is the mother of needs’.
‘Sri Aurobindo says in Life Divine: ‘All human activities can be grossed under four heads: To know what is God, to realize light (knowledge), to attain freedom and bliss, and to become immortal.’ But we see that our craving for knowledge has been reduced to hunger for gathering more information, and our pursuit for bliss has led us into a state of anarchic freedom. So what is it that is sabotaging human aspiration?
‘The 20th century has seen more momentous events taking place than all the previous centuries. It witnessed the collapse of imperialism, colonialism, feudalism and monarchy. The 1980s saw a dreaded disease threatening mankind—AIDS, and then came the upsurge of terrorism. Amidst all this, one thing that has grown over the years is freedom. And the growth of freedom of the spirit is what the divine has planned as the next step in evolution.
‘The Mother says: ‘At one point of human history, the ego was the helper, but now the ego has become the barrier.’ So if humanity is to transcend the present limited boundaries, consciousness has to leap beyond the ego. There was a time when humanity was benefited by the ambitions of Alexander, for without him the East and the West could not have met. But now the ego is more obstructing the divine plan than supporting it.
‘In these changing times, we have to revise our value systems, as most of us have seen them failing to solve the problems of modern times. But above all, we have to firmly believe that amidst all the apparent chaos and confusion, there lies a divine plan trying to evolve us further into better beings.’
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