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Sri Aurobindo

Bande Mataram

Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908

Bande Mataram. February 21, 1908

The Soul and India's Mission

Wind and Water

Wind and water are always types of the human soul in our literature. Wind is so light a substance that we cannot grasp it, water so fluid that we cannot seize it. When the soul is in a state of lightness and fluidity, it is then that it is compared to wind and water. When it is hard and rigid, then it is a stone. Wind and water are the light and fluid soul, stone the hard and rigid. Soul is variable and not easily distinguished from the European description of mind. Such a description may seem fanciful but it is true. Whoever has practised prāṇāyāma knows that sometimes the breath is as light and fluid as wind or water, sometimes as hard and rigid as stone. This changefulness of the soul is the true reason for māyā. If the soul were not changeable, it would be too much akin to the brahman but because it is changeable, it lays itself open to the influence of māyā.

Light

Light is an emanation from the sun, but the sun is itself an emanation from God. When it is full of Him, then it is full of light. So the ancient Rishis used to say that He was in the sun. Yo'sau puruṣaḥ etc. But this was only a manner of speaking. When the sun is full of God's presence, it is full of light and heat, when it is empty of Him, the light and heat are withdrawn. So too the human soul is like the sun: When it is full of light and heat, it is said to be alive, when the light and heat are withdrawn, it is said to die. But this too is only a manner of speaking. The soul is imperishable. When the body feels the presence of God within, it is conscious of life, but when the light and heat of His presence are withdrawn it ceases to become active and conscious. This is called death. There is no hard and fast line to be drawn between life and death. The one is only the positive, the other the negative of God's presence.

Body and Soul

Soul is a presence, body a piece of māyā. When the body is full of the presence of the soul it lives, but when the soul withdraws from it it dies. In other words, the soul while in the body feels a sense of imprisonment which ceases as soon as the body falls from it. This is the work of māyā who lives by creating the sense of restriction in the illimitable and free brahman. Māyā is the negative quality of brahman making for darkness, vidyā, the positive quality making for light. They subsist together in the soul, and sometimes one prevails, sometimes the other. When māyā prevails, the soul thinks itself bound, when vidyā prevails, it thinks itself free. But there is no bondage. So too when a people feels itself bound and subject it acquiesces in its bondage, but the moment a light from God is sent into it, and the prophet of God is commissioned from on high, the nation wonders at its blindness and wakes to the sense of its inalienable freedom.

Immortality

Death, we have said, is a mere phase. There is no death, only the change from bondage to freedom. Death of the body is the first release from physical bondage, death of the soul the last release from spiritual bondage. The soul does not really die, but merely shakes off the false sense of separateness from brahman. Who then will fear death? Death is no enemy, no King of Horrors, but a friend who opens the gates of Heaven to the aspiring soul. Heaven is a myth in the opinion of modern science, but if Heaven means eternal happiness then Heaven is no myth. It is the state of the soul released from māyā, rejoicing in the sense of its own illimitable being; and those attain it who are in this world able to rise above the self to the knowledge of the higher self either by yoga or by selfless action for the sake of others.

Heaven awaits the patriot who dies for his country, the saint who passes from this life with the thought of God in his heart, the soldier who flings his life away at the bidding of his nation, all who can put the thought of self away from them.

Rest

When the soul is at rest, peace unutterable becomes its possession. How is rest to be attained? By the thought of brahman. Whoever thinks of Him at the time of death, passes into Him. Not the mere act of intellectual cognition, but the thought which dwells in the heart. The heart is the meeting place of God and the Soul. When the two meet then all action ceases, and rest becomes the possession of the soul. Whoever wishes to realise this truth must try to seek God in his heart. If he can find Him there he will experience rest.

Final Cessation

Nirvana is the goal of the soul's progress. Nirvana is the cessation of all phenomenal activity. Saints and sages are agreed in all religions on this one common truth, that so long as the phenomenal world is present to the soul, there can be no communion with God. Whoever imagines that by communion with the phenomenal world he can reach God is committing error, for the two are incompatible. The West is full of interest in phenomena, and it is for this reason that no great religion has ever come out of the West. Asia on the other hand is full of interest in Brahman and she is therefore the cradle of every great religion. Christianity, Mahomedanism, Buddhism and the creeds of China and Japan are all offshoots of one great and eternal religion of which India has the keeping.

India's Mission

So with India rests the future of the world. Whenever she is aroused from her sleep, she gives forth some wonderful shining ray of light to the world which is enough to illuminate the nations. Others live for centuries on what is to her the thought of a moment. God gave to her the book of Ancient Wisdom and bade her keep it sealed in her heart, until the time should come for it to be opened. Sometimes a page or a chapter is revealed, sometimes only a single sentence. Such sentences have been the inspiration of ages and fed humanity for many hundreds of years. So too when India sleeps, materialism grows apace and the light is covered up in darkness. But when materialism thinks herself about to triumph, lo and behold! a light rushes out from the East and where is Materialism? Returned to her native night.

 

Later edition of this work: The Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo.- Set in 37 volumes.- Volumes 6-7.- Bande Mataram: Political Writings and Speeches. 18901908 .- Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 2002.- 1182 p.