Editor’s Note: On August 21, 2023, the Renaissance journal team organised an insightful and thought-provoking seminar on “INDIAN-NESS IN 21st CENTURY.” Organized in collaboration with Chair of Sri Aurobindo, Pondicherry University, the seminar celebrated 150 years of Sri Aurobindo.
The event brought together scholars, cultural experts and over hundred enthusiastic students from Pondicherry University, to examine the various dimensions of Indian identity in today’s globalized world. Its main aim was to uncover and understand the importance of perception, expression or feeling of being an Indian socially, culturally and spiritually.
As part of his contribution to the seminar, M. S. Srinivasan, senior research associate at Sri Aurobindo Society, wrote a thought-provoking article which beautifully elucidates the meaning of Indian-ness. We are delighted to feature it in the current issue.
The author reminds us that India is not just a geography or a concept but a living divine power. He points our attention to the integral vision of the original Vedic mind of India. This vision emphasizes striving toward a perfect balance between the inner and outer life with the outer life modelled on the spiritual foundation.
India – A living divine power
Is there something like Indian-ness?
The answer is relative depending on the perspective. Here is a point of view based on the perception that a Nation is not merely geographical or physical but is, in fact, like an individual, that is, a living entity with a body, life, mind, soul and with a unique temperament and genius.
In this perspective, to be an Indian means to be consciously or unconsciously open to and in tune with the soul and mind of India. But what does this mean in terms of individual and national character, temperament, qualities and values?
Here are some perceptions which may not conform to the present realities of India. One must, however, keep in mind that the ‘present’ India may not be the true self of India or express her highest potentialities. We present here our conception of the deeper and inner being of India which contains her unique genius and her higher possibilities.
First of all, an Indian does not consider his nation as a stretch of geography or a concept. He believes that India is a living divine power, a great goddess and an aspect of the universal Energy. His idea of patriotism is to become conscious of this divine soul of the nation and to adore and serve Her as the Mother.
The Indian sees or aspires to see in the geography of the nation, the body of the Mother. In the economic, social and political life of the nation, he sees Her vital force; in its culture and religion, art and literature, science and philosophy, Her Mind and Soul. In the history and cultural heritage of India, the Indian can discern the unique spiritual genius of the soul of India and her destiny.
The Indian religious temperament
The Indian has an inborn intuition and faith in a spiritual reality beyond Mind as the ultimate source and aim of life. This intuition need not necessarily manifest itself as a faith in God. It may express itself as a sincere and persistent quest for Truth. But the Indian mind is not satisfied with the outer truth of law and process and phenomenon. Its urge is for the deepest origin and essence of things.
For example, if he is a scientist he is not satisfied with knowing the laws and process of the outer form of matter. He searches further on for the spiritual origin and essence of matter.
If he is of a religious temperament he has an instinctive faith in the indwelling divinity. He searches for the divinity within rather than without. But he does not have any elitist contempt for the worshippers of outer form. He believes that the omnipresent Divine can manifest in any outer form or symbol.
The other characteristic of the Indian religious temperament is its non-dogmatic and universal approach to the divine reality. The Vedic dictum, “The Reality is one, but the sages call it variously” was deeply implanted into the Indian psyche. This supreme tolerance of the Indian psyche can accept even atheism as a religion and a path to God.
The Indian religious mind was able to accept Buddha who preached a non-theistic religion, as a divine incarnation. In fact, three of the greatest yogis of India, Buddha, Mahavira and Patanjali, preached non-theistic spirituality and believed that faith in a creative godhead was not necessary for spiritual salvation. All the three were accepted and venerated by Indian religious mind as great spiritual figures.
This is because the Indian believes that a sincere and selfless quest for Truth, in whatever field of activity, is as much a religious or spiritual attitude as an ardent faith and devotion to God.
The integral vision of the original Vedic mind of India
In terms of value-systems, the Indian believes the to be thinker greater than the man of action, and “the spiritual man greater than the thinker” (Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 20, pp. 126-127). This hierarchy of values is derived from the psychological hierarchy of Indian yogic psychology.
In Indian psychology, the spiritual self or spiritual intuition is greater than the intellect and intellect greater than the dynamic faculties of sensation and action. So the Indian ideal of self-development is that body, sensation, emotions and the faculties of action have to be under the control of the intelligent will, Budhi, in turn has to be guided and illumined by the spiritual intuition of the divine self.
The other important quality of the Indian temperament is its inwardness. He is by nature contemplative and philosophical. Turning inward in meditation to commune with the inner realities holds no terror or disgust for him as it is for most of the western mind.
But the inwardness of the Indian is not confined to meditation. He aspires to live inward not only during meditation but also during the waking life and action. To remain always centered in the inner depth of his spiritual self and live and act from within outwards is the ideal of the Indian soul.
The Indian mind will strive to extend this inwardness to all the activities of the individual and the collective life. In philosophy and science, it will search for the deeper psychological and spiritual truths, law and the forces which govern the outer form and phenomenon of life.
The Indian mind will search for this inner truth and law in every activity of human life, in economics, politics, education, art, commerce, business, science, technology. For example in ethics, it will emphasize on the inner goodness, selflessness and generosity of the mind, heart and soul rather than on the goodness of the outer act; in art the Indian aesthetic temperament aspires to see, feel and express the inner truth and beauty hidden behind the outer form.
Another quality of the Indian mind is its instinct for balance and harmony, especially between the inner and outer, spiritual and the secular, mundane and the material. The inner spiritual urge of the Indian mind is not something exclusive at the expense of the legitimate needs and realities of the outer life of the body and mind.
The Indian mind emphasizes strongly that the inner and the spiritual must be the foundation of life. But it also recognises that these inner, spiritual realisations have to express themselves in the outer life. And the outer life has to be modelled on the inner realities and values creating a perfect balance between the inner and outer life.
This is the integral vision of the original Vedic mind of India, which created the Indian culture and civilization. It was later diluted and distorted by exclusivist world denying philosophies.
The true Indian mind will strive to recover this original integral vision of Vedic seers and reapply it to the future evolution of humanity.
– M.S. Srinivasan
~ Design: Raamkumar