24 October, 2020

The Elusive Aura Of Aurobindo

A cusp figure straddling the spiritual and political. How do Aurobindo’s ideas relate to the Hindu right, to Gandhi, to today’s debates?

Illustration by Saahil
The Elusive Aura Of Aurobindo

In the middle of the current ‘nation-wide’ debate on nationalism, I am reminded of Sri Aurobindo. After all, he was a man hailed by most leading nationalists of his time, across ideologies. But the man Aurobindo was most impressed with was perhaps Bal Gangadhar Tilak. Among other things, he significantly praised Tilak for his balance between “progressive ideas” and “conservative temperament”. It is interesting that Aurobindo should recognise this paradox in Tilak as exceptional. It does throw some light on what Aurobindo perhaps regarded as a desirable balance for a nationalist.

In 1936, Aurobindo declined from meeting Jawaharlal Nehru, citing, “Jawaharlal is coming on a political mission and as president of the Congress, while we have to steer clear not only of politics but of the shadow of politics.” Aurobindo did not see the ashram as a site for politics the way Gandhi did. Though like Gandhi, Aurobindo believed the ashram to be a place for intense activity. But his project of “Swaraj” was primarily about...



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