As part of the 25th edition of Kochi International Bookfest (10-19 December, 2022), a special seminar was organised on 14th December 2022 to celebrate the 150th Birth Anniversary of Sri Aurobindo. Dr. Beloo Mehra, Senior Academic Mentor, AuroBharati, Sri Aurobindo Society was invited as a guest speaker for this seminar.
The seminar was inaugurated and chaired by noted scholar, Dr. K. S. Radhakrishnana, who is the former Vice-Chancellor, Sree AdiSankara Sanskrit University, Kalady, and former Chairman of Kerala Public Service Commission. Shri J. Nandkumar, National Coordinator of Pragna Pravah was another panelist at the seminar.
Dr. Mehra spoke on the topic – Sri Aurobindo’s New Light on Sanatana Dharma. At the outset she reminded the audience that Sri Aurobindo has given a perfect definition or description of Sanatana Dharma in one of his essays on Indian culture. He speaks of it as an immense, many-sided and many-staged open framework for a spiritual self-building and self-finding by the individual, so vast and immense and all-inclusive that it could give itself no name, except that it is the Eternal Way, the Sanatana Dharma.
Dr. Mehra then pointed out that even a minute’s contemplation on this topic – Sri Aurobindo’s New Light on Sanatana Dharma – leads one to a realisation that Sri Aurobindo has written so much about Sanatana Dharma all of which is a new light. Whether one takes up his breath-taking work on the secret of the Veda, Upanishads, his profound essays on the Gita, his marvellous essays on Indian culture and civilisation, his translations from Ramayana and Mahabharata, his essays on the Mahabharata, his translations and essays on the works of Kalidasa, Bhratrhari, Andal, Vidyapati, Chandidas, and so many more. And in many of his conversations with his close disciples and the numerous letters – not to forget his political speeches from Bandemataram and Karmayogin days –we find deep insights on his fresh light on the truths of Sanatana Dharma.
But there is another – perhaps an even more significant way to explore the new light which this Mahayogi and Rishi of our times has thrown on Sanatana Dharma. This was his tremendous yogic work which brought down the next level of consciousness which would revolutionise the very pace and nature of evolution.
Recounting a piece of Sri Aurobindo’s writing from his revolutionary days, Dr. Mehra pointed out that Sri Aurobindo in 1908 spoke of two foundations of Hinduism – truth and manhood. And she elaborated that it is significant to note at this point that Sri Aurobindo’s entire yoga was a quest for that Supreme Truth, that Truth-consciousness which once established on the earth will make earthly life a divine life. He called this Truth-consciousness, this plane of consciousness above the plane of Gods, as Supermind – that which in the Veda was spoken of as Satyam, Ritam, Brhat – the Truth, the Right and the Vast.
What the Vedic rishis had only had a glimpse of, Sri Aurobindo brought down on the earth. For forty years, since his arrival in Pondicherry in 1910, his tremendous yogic work, his labour divine was to bring down this Truth-consciousness, the Supermind. And he persevered in this despite all the challenges and struggles on the path, the resistances from the earth-nature, the hostile attacks from the Inconscience and Matter.
Dr. Mehra said that while the Vedic Rishis had sung of an ascent to this plane of Truth-consciousness, Sri Aurobindo’s concern was wider as it included the work of ensuring a descent of this Truth-consciousness into the earthly plane, and of transforming the matter, life and mind in its Supramental Light so that their True nature is revealed. This is how he envisioned – rather ensured the possibility of -- a perfect divine life on earth.
She reminded the audience that Sri Aurobindo’s deep forays into the eternal truths of Sanatana Dharma however began much before his Pondicherry phase. Speaking of the deep transformative experience he had in Alipore Jail – his realisation of Vasudeva Sarvam Iti – which he recounted later in his famous Uttarpara speech, Dr. Mehra pointed out that it was Sri Krishna himself who showed Sri Aurobindo the deep truth of the eternal dharma and charged him with the work of raising India and humanity in the truth of Sanatana Dharma.
She added that one may say that Sri Aurobindo’s entire yogic work was dedicated to the very adesh he had received from Sri Krishna for expanding and extending the Sanatana dharma over the world. But this was not done in an external missionary zeal to spread the dharma. His work was to ensure that the religio-spiritual culture which goes by the name Sanatana Dharma, the Eternal Way, makes its next leap into the future after having gone through the necessary evolutionary stages.
Dr. Mehra substantiated her analysis with carefully selected excerpts from various writings and letters of Sri Aurobindo to illustrate the entirely new light that Sri Aurobindo throws on Sanatana Dharma and its fulfilment as it evolved through the Vedic-Upanishadic to Purano-tantric stages and readied itself for the next stage which will include an uplifting and transformation of entire life in the light of the spirit. It was for this fulfilment that Sri Aurobindo’s supramental yoga opens a new future for the humanity – provided the humanity readies itself to climb out of its present evolutionary crisis.
Earlier during the day, Dr. Mehra was invited for a brief discussion on her recently released book – Understanding Contemporary India in the Light of Sri Aurobindo. She had an opportunity to present copies of her book to both of her seminar co-panelists, Dr. K.S. Radhakrishanan and Shri J. Nandkumar. She also presented a copy of her book to Shri E. Nandkumar, President of the Kochi International Bookfest.