Part 3 : Back to the roots
Goparaju Ramachandra Rao 1902-1975
This thinker was called Gora, and used to fight for social equality during the decolonisation era. He was a Brahmin and he chose life with untouchables in slums and poverty.
He was close to Gandhi and he often said that he shared all his ideas except religion, which he thought brought only misery. This is the second axis of his thoughts: he differentiated atheism from materialism and called himself a positive atheist, which means that he was in favour of freedom of the individual, leading to a responsibility for his or her actions.
He used to say that nothing in this traditional society pushed him towards atheism. However his thoughts are to be understood in the continuity of a slow evolution of the mores starting in Bengal and Maharastra in the 19th century. Many reforming tendencies appeared and then influenced Andhra Pradesh (Gora's state of origin) at Veersalingam's time, an essayist from the 20th century.
Those thinking trends then led to social reforms trying to fight against the cast system and to improve women's and widows' rights but also religious reforms, as some Hindu practices were put into question at that period of time. A reforming movement had thus already started at Gora's time, but he added atheism to it, which did not exist before and it is this radicalisation of rationalist thinking that makes his ideas so counter-current to India's.
In 1938 he wrote Positive Atheism, in which he develops his thinking: rather than being against religion and god(s), Gora explains that his vision of life aims at making each and every one more responsible, taking more initiatives without being slowed down by religion and materialism, both of which make the people submitted to external forces.
|Man's reaction to his world has been of two kinds: first, he surrenders to the forces of his world and drifts in the stream of its factors; second, he asserts himself upon the surroundings and harnesses the factors to satisfy his needs [...]
Surrender loses initiative and breeds passivity, whereas living needs activity [...]
All cats live equal; all larks fly equal; all humans also ought to live equal.
- Positive Atheism
Check out Gora's writings on http://www.positiveatheism.org/tochgora.htm
Rabindranath Tagore 1861-1941
Tagore is a landmark in the field of Indian literature. People remember his poems, which he translated in English and that became very famous among English-speaking elite.
He's also famous for the amount of his work: he wrote thousands of poems and theatre plays! He also wrote novels, music pieces, essays and short stories, and even drawings, paintings and sketches.
Also called as the poet in India, a friend of Gandhi's, Tagore conveyed his reforming ideas through his writings, and he's the one who wrote the lyrics of national Indian and Bengali hymns.
The Nobel Prize he got in 1913 brought him success and made him travel all around the world to convey his message of peace.
His most famous work is the one that brought him success and Nobel Prize: Gitanjali, 103 poems that celebrate God and call the reader for meditation through contemplation of Nature and a sense of wonder. Both the English version that Tagore himself translated and that was introduced by the Irish poet Yeats, as well as the French version that André Gide translated are worth being read, for they are authentic hymns of life and wonder of Nature, and they "make forget all troubles in the world" as an English critic puts it.
He came and sat by my side but I woke not. What a cursed sleep it was, O miserable me!
The night was dark when we went away
She dwelt here by the pool with its landing-stairs in ruins. Many an evening she had watched the moon made dizy by the shaking of bamboo leaves, and on many a rainy day the smell of the zet earth had come to her over the young shoots of rice.
Check out Tagore's writings on http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Author:Rabindranath_Tagore
Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950)
This great Indian thinker is a philosopher, activist and a leader of a new form of yoga.
Even if he studied in the United Kingdom, he lived in India and fought for independence, which led him to go to jail for one year in 1909. Sri Aurobindo is also the founder of Pondicherry's ashram. It is when he founded it that he built his theories and he deepened his thinking.
Beware if you intend to read his writings: his thoughts are complicated and controversial! He wants to analyse human evolution process, starting from Darwin's vision but not neglecting human spirituality, which is the key towards the future human that Sri Aurobindo sees after monkeys and humans. This future human would have a new conscience: the current man cannot understand it, but he can prepare himself to evolve towards it.
His most important piece of work is The Life Divine, in which he explains his vision of man's evolution, and how to prepare nowadays consciences to take part to this evolution.
This is the very core of his thoughts: to his mind, human conscience is too limited, falling into materialist denial when it sees Man only from a technical point of view, or spiritualist denial when it only focuses on immaterial and goes away from present life.
Those two denials have to be overcome so that man can evolve.
But his work is not only a theoretical one; his influence also lies on the practical aspect of his ideas. To make conscience evolve, our spirituality has to be developed, which means practicing integral yoga (developed by Sri Aurobindo and aiming at uniting being and divine), religion, spiritual philosophy or occultism.
Through those practices man will be able to understand the limits of his conscience, to reach the divine and access to a new form of his evolution.
The ancient dawns of human knowledge have left us their witness to this constant aspiration; today we see a humanity satiated but not satisfied by victorious analysis of the externalities of Nature preparing to return to its primeval longings. The earliest formula of Wisdom promises to be its last, - God, Light, Freedom, Immortality
The principle of Yoga is the turning of one or of all powers of our human existence into a means of reaching the divine Being. In an ordinary Yoga one main power of being or one group of its powers is made the means, vehicle, path. In a synthetic Yoga all powers will be combined and included in the transmuting instrumentation.
Check out Aurobindo's writings on http://surasa.net/aurobindo/synthesis/