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Sri Aurobindo and the Great Mystery of the Avatar

By: Francois Gautier

Last Updated: August 18, 2022, 15:53 IST

Most of Sri Aurobindo’s biographers, disciples and 2022 editorialists, will sweep under the carpet the endorsing of war and violence by the master. (Photo taken from www.sriaurobindoashram.org)

Most of Sri Aurobindo’s biographers, disciples and 2022 editorialists, will sweep under the carpet the endorsing of war and violence by the master. (Photo taken from www.sriaurobindoashram.org)

Sri Aurobindo hinted at the supreme sacrifice all avatars have to go through and that most avatars were misunderstood in their time, if not vilified

Sri Aurobindo, who was born on August 15 and whose 150th birth anniversary falls this year, spoke at length on the great mystery of Avatarhood: how god, he or she, manifests at different times of human history whenever needed, using different names and different scriptures, but always to help humanity in crisis. He also hinted at the supreme sacrifice all avatars have to go through; it is not only Jesus Christ who was crucified, but most avatars were misunderstood in their time, if not vilified.

Sri Aurobindo himself was shunned by the Congress moderate wing during his political years, imprisoned by the British and even after his death, most Indian history and school textbooks described him as a radical nationalist and ignored his extraordinary philosophical, poetic and yogic achievements.

It is true that in this year of celebration, things have improved and Sri Aurobindo has been elevated to a higher status. But one of the curses of Avatarhood is that when the master, who in his or her lifetime, gives a spiritual teaching beyond credos and rigid rules, his or her disciples quickly make it into a black-and-white religion because the human mind is linear and can only think in opposites.

Thus, the essence of the spiritual teachings of the avatars, becomes in time absolutely different from what the master gave to the world. We saw this phenomenon with Christianity, which used the wonderful non-sectarian teachings of Jesus Christ to make it into a monotheistic religion that wiped out entire civilisations in the name of the “true god”.

Sri Aurobindo’s teachings are still relatively young. However, one observes that, on the one hand, he is used for the propagation of a certain political idealism, and on the other, Sri Aurobindo’s and the Mother’s sayings, which were said in particular contexts, are used to forcibly push outdated, unfriendly environmental and bureaucratic projects.

What I would like to emphasise here also is that if the divine could act upon humanity from the heavens where he or she resides, then why would he or she need to take a human body and go through the pangs of birth, illness, obstacles of life and death? Hence, it is extremely important to understand that the power of the divine is most effective when he or she is upon this earth and can act directly to fulfil the divinity in man.

We know that Sri Aurobindo was a supreme yogi, a Himalaya of peace and silence as someone once remarked, and in this celebration year, we will see many articles, talks, videos on different aspects of this Avatarhood.

But who will talk about his re-enactments of the Bhagavad Gita’s message, where Lord Krishna says to Arjuna that sometimes where dharma is in danger, where truth and goodness are threatened, when your borders are being encroached and your women targeted, war and violence are necessary? The supreme knowledge that you kill only the body, because the soul is immortal and is born again and again to perfect itself and eventually help humanity when one attains yoginess is also a part of Lord Krishna’s teaching to Arjuna to encourage him to fight.

Sri Aurobindo once even said: “There is nothing wrong with war”. He and the Mother indeed encouraged the Allies to fight physically against the Nazis during the Second World War, as they perceived Hitler was an asura who could endanger the whole human evolution.

Speaking about Quisling, the Norwegian pro-Nazi dictator, Sri Aurobindo said: “He must be shot.” This must have scandalised some of his disciples. (The dictator was indeed executed in 1945 for treason).

Sri Aurobindo also, as early as 1950, predicted the rise of Chinese communism and deemed it as a threat to humanity and even a greater threat to India. “In Asia, a more perilous situation has arisen, standing sharply across the way to any possibility of a continental unity of the peoples of this part of the world, in the emergence of communist China. This creates a gigantic bloc which could easily englobe the whole of Northern Asia in a combination between two enormous Communist powers, Russia and China, and would overshadow with a threat of absorption South Western Asia and Tibet (prophetic as Tibet was annexed by China only in 1959) and might be pushed to overrun all up to the whole frontier of India, menacing her security and that of Western Asia with the possibility of an invasion and an overrunning and subjection by penetration or even overwhelming military force to an unwanted ideology, political and social institutions and dominance of this militant mass of Communism whose push might easily prove irresistible.”

Most of Sri Aurobindo’s biographers, disciples and 2022 editorialists, will sweep under the carpet the endorsing of war and violence by the master. Unfortunately, we see also in modern India, that even with a nationalist government at the helm, the Buddhist absolute non-violence and Gandhi’s rigid ahimsa at all cost, even if it allowed the enemy to trample you, have blunted the Kshatriya spirit of Indians.

Sri Aurobindo’s fighting vision, presence, power is thus most necessary to India at the moment when it is facing multiple enemies. We are witnessing hostile and ignorant attitude of western nations, particularly the United States, which instead of understanding that India is probably the most tolerant country in the world, accuse the Indian government of trampling upon minorities. Then of course, the Chinese are encroaching repeatedly upon Indian territories and make no secret of their contempt and their disdain for the other giant of Asia.

We are also worried about the threat of Islamisation. Arab countries invaded India for 10 centuries, razing hundreds of thousands of sacred temples, killing, enslaving and humiliating Hindus; and today there is the threat of Gulf countries, with the power of their petrol dollars, funding anti-India propaganda. It would be good here to remember what Sr Aurobindo said about Kashmir nearly 100 years ago. “In Kashmir the Hindus had all the monopoly. Now if the Muslim demands are acceded to, the Hindus will be wiped out.”

Today, in his 150th anniversary year, let us aspire to be worthy tools of Sri Aurobindo the Avatar, who is not here anymore on this earth to directly guide us.

The author is a French journalist and author of ‘A History of India as It Happened’ (Garudabooks.com). His upcoming book ‘Aurangzeb’s Iconoclasm: Illustrations from Primary Source’ will be released by UP CM Yogi Adityanath in June. He is also building a museum of true Indian history in Pune. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the stand of this publication.

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first published:August 18, 2022, 15:53 IST
last updated:August 18, 2022, 15:53 IST