Editor’s note: We feature a few excerpts from K. R. Srinivasa Iyengar’s book titled ‘On the Mother: The Chronicle of a Manifestation and Ministry’‘ (Sri Aurobindo Ashram Press, 1978). These speak of the Mother’s and Sri Aurobindo’s yogic work in connection with the World War 2 events. We begin with a letter from Sri Aurobindo where he speaks of WWII as the “Mother’s War.” A few minor formatting changes have been made for this digital presentation, with no alteration in the text.
“This is the Mother’s war.”
I affirm again to you most strongly that this is the Mother’s war. You should not think of it as a fight for certain nations against others or even for India; it is a struggle for an ideal that has to establish itself on earth in the life of humanity, for a Truth that has yet to realise itself fully and against a darkness and falsehood that are trying to overwhelm the earth and mankind in the immediate future.
It is the forces behind the battle that have to be seen and not this or that superficial circumstance. It is no use concentrating on the defects or mistakes of nations; all have defects and commit serious mistakes; but what matters is on what side they have ranged themselves in the struggle. It is a struggle for the liberty of mankind to develop, for conditions in which men have freedom and room to think and act according to the light in them and grow in the Truth, grow in the Spirit.
There cannot be the slightest doubt that if one side wins, there will be an end of all such freedom and hope of light and truth and the work that has to be done will be subjected to conditions which would make it humanly impossible; there will be a reign of falsehood and darkness, a cruel oppression and degradation for most of the human race such as people in this country do not dream of and cannot yet at all realise.
If the other side that has declared itself for the free future of humanity triumphs, this terrible danger will have been averted and conditions will have been created in which there will be a chance for the Ideal to grow, for the Divine Work to be done, for the spiritual Truth for which we stand to establish itself on the earth. Those who fight for this cause are fighting for the Divine and against the threatened reign of the Asura.~ Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 36, pp. 463-464
Book Excerpts – War and Peace
The Mother’s New Year prayer for 1945 was partly an announcement of the coming victory and peace, and partly a hope and a warning that, unless the victorious powers fashioned a truthful and just peace, the fruits of victory would once again slip out of their hands:
The earth will enjoy a lasting and living peace only when men understand that they must be truthful even in their international dealings. O Lord, it is for this perfect truthfulness that we aspire.~ The Mother, CWM, Vol. 15, p. 168
On the eve of the New Year when the darkness hadn’t lifted yet, the Mother could already see the clear streaks of the dawn of victory, but also the gathering clouds far distant threatening to darken the day once more. There was the need to deal with the vanquished powers on a fair and truthful basis. And there was the even greater need for the victors to preserve a becoming sobriety and not to quarrel among themselves.
Towards the end of 1944, the Nazi forces counter-attacked and crossed into Belgium and Luxembourg again. But they were halted near the Meuse. This was no more than the last flicker of the dying candle. For with the New Year, the Allied and Russian armies began penetrating deep into Germany from the West and East respectively. By March, the Rhine had been reached and was soon crossed, and in April, Berlin itself was surrounded by the Russians.
Hitler’s death was announced on 1 May. The German forces surrendered not long after, and the war in Europe was over on 8 May. The war against Japan continued for three more months. Then, after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima (5 August) and Nagasaki (9 August) accounting for stunning devastation, Japan surrendered unconditionally, and 15 August was the day of complete victory.
In 1940, after the fall of France, Hitler had fixed 15 August as the day of his triumphant tryst with Britain.
That he — guided by the Asuric genius that was the Lord of his fevered thoughts and uncanny actions — should have thought of 15 August (Sri Aurobindo’s birthday) as his date with destiny was itself an indication that he was being blindly driven to hurl himself against the Divine.
From our archives:
August 15: Its World-Significance
In a conversation on 20 May 1940, Sri Aurobindo had said that Hitler’s fascination for 15 August was itself the sign that he was the enemy of the Divine’s work that was being attempted in the Ashram. He said, “and from the values concerned in the conflict it should be quite clear that what is behind him is the Asuric, the Titanic power”. (Evening Talks with Sri Aurobindo)
Actually, Hitler was to receive a major set-back on that day in the aerial Battle of Britain. Again, five years later, the capitulation of Japan on 15 August 1945 was another indication of the inner nature of the world conflict.
The Ashram at Pondicherry was inwardly in the thick of this fight, although superficially out of it. And the Mother’s and Sri Aurobindo’s force had been active all the time, and sometimes with decisive results.
Now that the Enemy was vanquished at last, the Mother gave a prayer on 15 August:
The Victory has come, Thy Victory, O Lord, for which we render to Thee infinite thanks-giving.
But now our ardent prayer rises towards Thee. It is with Thy force and by Thy force that the victors have conquered. Grant that they do not forget it in their success and that they keep the promises which they have made to Thee in the hours of danger and anguish. They have taken Thy name to make war, may they not forget Thy grace when they have to make the peace.~ The Mother, CWM, Vol. 15, p. 44
Victory had come in the East, as earlier in the West. But at what cost?
It was the Atom bomb that hastened the end of hostilities. On each of those two occasions, in the the course of a split second, lakhs of innocent human beings — men, women, children, the aged, the sick, the helpless, one and all — had been destroyed or mutilated in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The Atom bomb: what was it really? The Devil’s definitive weapon — or, somehow, a hope for the future? When the question was put to her, the Mother wrote dispassionately on 30 August 1945:
The Atomic bomb is in itself the most wonderful achievement and the sign of a growing power of man over material nature. But what is to be regretted is that this material progress and mastery is not the result of and in keeping with a spiritual progress and mastery which alone has the power to contradict and counteract the terrible danger coming from these discoveries.
We cannot and must not stop progress, but we must achieve it in an equilibrium between the inside and the outside.~ The Mother, CWM, Vol. 15, pp. 44-45
In other words, while there is a vast difference between the rugged stone implements which the paleolithic man used and the sophisticated atomic arsenal at the disposal of the modern man, in his basic inclinations and character man is still wolf to man: homo homini lupus!
Even where man has developed intellectual qualities, these are more often than not mere bond-slaves of the vitalistic pulls and desires. Without an inner advance, a radical change in consciousness and character, the current heady pace of technological change can only mean a quicker and a deadlier capacity to kill and overkill, a racing of mankind towards self-perversion and a global suicide club.
The choice is between integral Truth and annihilation!
Every scientific advancement, albeit achieved as a result of an inquiry in the realm of pure science, has permitted massive misuse as well as right use in the service of man. What engineers the wrong use is not the knowledge itself, but the vitalistic pull, individual or collective, that exploits that knowledge. Only, with the present pace in scientific advancement, the possibilities of proper use and criminal misuse have acquired a like exponential range.
As an answer to the threat posed by modern science and technology, one might ask for a moratorium on further research, or even the destruction of all machinery and a return to Nature.
But the Mother’s answer was different: an inner development matching the outer, an integral change in consciousness that equates consciousness with the whole force of Truth. The Mother’s answer to the danger posed by hectic scientific advancement was the transmuting power of Yoga, the discipline of soul-awakening and spiritual mastery.
The future of civilisation, then, would depend on how soon, and how successfully, man acquired the necessary self-mastery and world-mastery through Yoga. Here, as the Mother saw it, was a positive role for the Ashram.
[. .. .]
The War had indeed come to a grinding halt. Germany was under the occupation of the four Big Powers (USA, USSR, UK and France). The new Poland was a truncated nation as compared with the Poland of 1939. And Japan was under the American sway. On 20 November, the trial of the Nazi war criminals opened at Nuremberg.
In India, the general elections only polarised — more sharply even than before — the pro-Congress and the pro-Muslim League Provinces. Whether on the international or the Indian scene, the deployment of forces indicated potential confrontation rather than lasting reconciliation and harmony. The future was verily an ominous question-mark.
The Mother’s New Year prayer for 1946 fully brought out her vast concern for the unfolding ambiguous future :
Lord, it is Thy Peace we would have and not a vain semblance of peace, Thy Freedom and not a semblance of freedom, Thy Unity and not a semblance of unity. For it is only Thy Peace, Thy Freedom and Thy Unity that can triumph over the blind violence and the hypocrisy and falsehood that still reign upon earth.
Grant that those who so valiantly struggled and suffered for Thy Victory, may see the true and genuine results of that victory realised in the world.~ The Mother, CWM, Vol. 15, p. 168
The United Nations Organisation was being brought into existence.
But this too — like the League of Nations after the First World War — was only a concert of the victorious powers. Already USA and USSR were enacting confrontation and carving out spheres of influence . The world was getting divided again into the victors and the vanquished, and the haves and the have-nots .
Peace, Freedom, Unity: these were the godheads of the soul not just verbal fabrications.
The War against the Axis Powers had no doubt been won though at such a great cost, but not the war against violence and hypocrisy and falsehood. The violence was still there. America was determined not to share the secret of the Atom bomb with her former Allies. Russia was making frantic attempts to make bombs on its own.
Hypocrisy sat entrenched in politics and diplomacy. And the Lord of Falsehood, the Lord of the Nations, stalked imperiously abroad as of old.
Millions had died, millions had been maimed, millions had been impoverished — all because of the War. Millions of young men had sacrificed their lives to make the victory over the Axis Powers possible.
And yet, when the victory came, the double-dealing diplomats, the rapacious empire-builders, the creatures of the Lord of the Nations — the apes of perversion and greed — were taking over. The Mother’s occult vision could clearly see the political configuration ahead. And hence this Prayer of 1946 out of the depths of her being.
Read another excerpt from the same book HERE.
~ Design: Beloo Mehra