Swaraj and Boycott as envisioned by Sri Aurobindo

Textbook, 2013
92 Pages, Grade: 1,0



1. Preface

2. Chapter One: Introduction

3. Chapter Two: Swaraj

4. Chapter Three: Boycott

5. Chapter Four: Conclusion

6. References

7. Index


When I got admission in my Post-graduate class at Jadavpur University in 2004 then Life Divine of Sri Aurobindo was mandatory to read in our course study. While going through that book I felt quite attracted to the beauty of Sri Aurobindo’s writings and decided to go on further reading on him. The spiritual bent of his mind even being one of the famous political leaders of Indian National Congress made me amazed. In 1905 Aurobindo Ghose was very popular nationalist leader of Indian national Congress just like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai and Bipin Chandra Pal. But he left his promising political career at the peak time of 1910 and went on living in first Chandennagore and then at Pondicherry. He actually took the solitary confinement from his political career even though he was quite aware about the ongoing situation of India till death. He believed that his engagement in Indian political movement is also due to the divine plan. In his book Life Divine the spiritual outlook was revealed. However when I went through his other books like T he Foundations of Indian Culture, The Ideal of Human Unity, The Human Cycle then there is no room left for me to understand the profound knowledge of Sri Aurobindo on every arena of Indian as well as World politics.

In this dissertation I have gone through the political topics like Swaraj and Boycott as conceived by Sri Aurobindo. When we go through Sri Aurobindo’s social-political thought we cannot leave these topics aside. As a political leader and social reformer he in his social-political thought praised all of them and therefore I tried hard to discover whether there is any slight possibility of spirituality hidden there. The result is mesmerizing which has been discussed elaborately in my conclusion. In this endeavor whether I am successful or an utmost failure I do not know. I only know that in fact I am performing my duty as following the Gita

Karmaņyevādhikāraste mā phaleṣu kadācana M ā karmmaphalahetubhūrmmā te sangohastvakarmmāṇi ||2/47||

Thanks to my family for their earnest support in my endeavor. Thanks to the publisher, Laxmi Publication, for publishing my book. Without their sincere effort it could not see daylight.

Place: Kolkata

Date: 25/07/2016

Debashri Banerjee

Prof. Debashri Banerjee

Asst. Prof. & H.O.D,

Dept. of Philosophy,

C.R.P. College, West Bengal

Chapter One: Introduction

One of the frequently heard objections against Indian culture has been relating to its political immaturity. Most of the Western critics discovered the absence of political awareness among Indians and they presumed that this is accounted for all the failures of India in the domain of economics and politics. India can be rich in its socio-religious background, but not in the political background of it. These objections of the critics are based on the popular misconceptions about Indian history, culture and politics. In the present dissertation I would like to elaborate the views of Sri Aurobindo to combat against all such silly objections. While going through this discussion we would also like to make his views relating to the nature and role of the Indian society and politics crystal-clear.

In this proposed dissertation our basic aim is to develop Sri Aurobindo’s political thought invariable to bring Indian independence on 15th August, 1947. He was completely reluctant to call himself either as a Yogi or a philosopher, but to his disciples he appears both. Here could raise a severe question – how as a student of Philosophy I can co-relate between philosophy and social-political thought? As a student of Philosophy I am trying hard to show the inherent relationship of Sri Aurobindo’s social-political thought along with his philosophical doctrine. Actually, we cannot be able to differentiate between his social-political thought with the arena of his entire philosophical doctrine. It is really hard to decide whichever of his writings are meant for philosophy and whichever for social-political thought. Even though his entire life-span is thought to be divided into two prominent eras by his critics – the hard-core politician [1905- 1910] and a profound yogi [1910-1950], but in my view this division is not appropriate in nature. He was actually a yogi in the disguise of politician in his entire life-time.

As an ardent believer of God [ Brahman ], whatever he had done in his life is considered to be following the Supreme Command. His concentration on serious politics and sudden retirement from it to lead the life of a Yogi, are all thought to be decided by God. As a favorite follower of the Almighty, whatever he had done is all planned by him. If we evaluate his life-story, then we can find out clear evidences of it. The main goal of his political writings was to upgrade the human living so that by realizing ones oneness with the Supreme he can comprehend the Ultimate truth ‘ Sarvam Khalu Idam Brahman ’ i.e. every worldly creatures are nothing else than God’s manifestation upon the earth. It is the līlā or creation of the Supreme so that he can in the process of involution, by the help of māyā or nescience, conceal himself and in the other process named evolution he can detach himself from the coverage of māyā. And by the Self-realization or tattva - jňāna the limited man can become yogya (attainable) of spiritual independence so that he can at last become similar (svarup) of the Almighty.

In the opinion of Sri Aurobindo, all passive resisters must encourage uplifting themselves from the boundary of their ego and being completely attached to whatever responsibilities nested upon their shoulders by the Almighty, they then can be able to advance their beloved mother-land to the highest limits. Thus for the political independence of India, as viewed by him, the spiritual liberty of all its country-men are absolutely necessary in nature. Here we quote from Sri Aurobindo’s own writings – ‘Whoever believes in God, rises above his lower self; for God is the true self of the Universe and of everything within the Universe. When we rely upon our lower self, we are left to that lower self, and succeed to fail according to our strength of body or intellect under the law of our past life and actions. There is one law for the lower self and another for the higher. The lower self is in the bondage to its past; the higher is lord of the past, the present and the future. So the will of the lower self is born of ahaṅkāra, but the will of the higher self is beyond ahaṅkāra and cannot be limited by it. It is omnipotent’.1 In this above quotation Sri Aurobindo clearly clarified how a freedom-fighter has to upsurge him from the lower mental region to the higher or supramental region. In this upper region he could be able to unite with the Brahman and for the sake of the well-being of the entire human society, can call forth him upon the earthen level. This is actually been described by Sri Aurobindo as the most promising stage of Life Divine necessary for the upbringing of the Collective Salvation or the spiritual independence of the entire human race. Hence for the attainment of India’s Political Independence its Spiritual Independence also seems totally mandatory.

And in this endeavor, Sri Aurobindo’s political tools, e.g. swaraj and boycott, serve as the instruments in the hands of the Divine. ‘What is needed now is a band of spiritual workers whose tapasya will be devoted to the liberation of India for the service of humanityThe force of a great stream of aspiration must be poured over the country, which will sweep away as in a flood the hesitations, the selfishness, the fears, the self-distress, the want of fervor and the want of faith which stand in the way of the spread of the great national awakening of 1905. A mightier fountain of the spirit must be prepared from which this stream of aspiration can be poured to fertilize the heart of the nation. When this is done, the aspiration towards liberty will become universal and India be ready for this great effort’2. In this way we can discover the spiritualistic overtone hidden behind Sri Aurobindo’s merely social-political concepts like swaraj and Boycott.

In the second chapter I want to discuss the role played by swaraj over masses in pre-independent India. However I am not interested to discuss only the historical aspect of Sri Aurobindo’s Swaraj, but also the philosophical aspect of it. Hence, his swaraj is not only a social-political tool, but also a philosophical tool. It has philosophical side, in fact, a rarely advocated by the critics of Sri Aurobindo. I want to focus on this inner philosophy behind his political theory of Swaraj.

In the next chapter I would focus on the role of boycott as the essential corollary of Indian politics. Boycott is the mere political form of passive resistance and it aims at the refusal of the unjust coercive laws passively instead of indulging into direct active revolt. I would go through the history of boycott movement of India at that time in brief in this regard. Boycott, as a political concept, has five different aspects according to Sri Aurobindo, i.e. administrative or executive boycott, economic boycott, judicial or legislative boycott, educational boycott and social boycott. There is a controversy between Gandhi and Aurobindo in the context of accepting boycott. The term ‘boycott’ has inherent spiritual overtone hidden behind it which would be discussed in this chapter.

In the conclusion I would like to focus on the unique contribution of Sri Aurobindo, as a Politician not as a Yogi, in the realm of contemporary and recent social-political structure of India. He was well-known as a mystic and yogi in the latter half of his life-time after his departure to Chandernagore and from there to Pondicherry in 1910, but none tried to understand his yogic contribution over Indian society and politics. Very easily we can distinguish between the earlier part as eminent politician (1972-1910) and the latter part as profound mystic (1910- 1950) of his life. It was thought by most of his critics and followers that after 1910 he was completely detached from the Indian politics, but it is not true at all. His writings published after 1910 on Arya, Karmayogin etc newspapers, were the clear sign of his ever active mind relating to Indian politics. In 1920 he even attended a Meeting of Indian National Congress presided by Jawarlal Nehru. At the auspicious date of 15th August, 1947 he even delivered an On-Air Lecture to congratulate the common Indians for achieving the so-desired political independence. So it is proved that he was never seriously retired from the domain of Indian politics.

Chapter Two: Swaraj

In Sri Aurobindo’s social-political thought swaraj is an important topic to begin with. Apparently the plain and simple word ‘ swaraj’ has deeper significance and in the context of Indian social-political and cultural history has far-reaching implications. In the context of Sri Aurobindo’s social and political thought the word ‘ swaraj’ has also received various interpretations. Some of the critics often have interpreted Sri Aurobindo as a great yogi, profound mystic as well as an exceptional philosopher. Naturally from their perspective when the idea of swaraj has been interpreted; it has been loaded with metaphysical, spiritual as well as mystical overtones. It is thought by some interpreters that swaraj signifies the starting-point of an individual’s inward journey towards the aspiring union with the Divine. His actual purpose is to make the Life Divine so that we can realize the inherent divinity within us. No doubt Sri Aurobindo’s main goal is somewhat spiritual in nature and politics remains definitely as one of its significant corollaries.

Sri Aurobindo’s aim is to help in building up India for the sake of humanity – this he viewed as the spirit of Nationalism which would show us the path of universal humanity. The idea of universal humanity as preached by Sri Aurobindo also requires to be clearly deciphered. In the present century to speak about politics and spiritualism in the same breath would undoubtedly sound most ridiculous and absurd. It is hard to believe that politics and spirituality can ever have any sort of inter-relatedness. To the contrary, Sri Aurobindo’s social-political philosophy has viewed politics as instrumental to spiritual freedom. He declared that India should gain its spiritual mastery lacked by several materialistic nations like Europe. This ‘destined freedom and greatness’3 of India is nothing but spiritual in nature. Indian spirituality is the touch-stone by whose help the materialistic attitude of the Western nations can be transformed into the spiritualistic one. For the achievement of the spiritual freedom, India must at first of all gain its political liberty. Because no nation existing in the realm of political servitude, can be able to attain the spiritual salvation as dreamt by Sri Aurobindo. Hence for Sri Aurobindo’s aim of gaining spiritual liberty, politics or political freedom remains as an important corollary. His theory of swaraj serves as the gateway to achieve this political liberty.

Now let us begin our discussion with the explanation and analysis of the notion of swaraj as found in the ancient literatures to the modern one.

A. Etymological Meaning of Swaraj:

In the etymological sense, ‘ swa’ stands for ‘self’ and ‘ raj’ stands for ‘rule’. Hence swaraj literally may be taken to mean self-rule. But this type of over-simplification is really harmful in consequence. We have to understand first the inherent meaning of ‘ swa’ or ‘self’. The word ‘ swa’ or ‘self’ seems to have two senses accordingly as it is taken to stand for individual or group. Hence ‘ swa’ means –

1. One man
2. One group

Hence ‘self-rule’ or ‘ swaraj’ seems to stand for two meanings or connotations –

1. The rule by a man i.e. Autocracy
2. The rule by a group i.e. Democracy

Then what is swaraj ? Is it autocracy or democracy? Now, for understanding it, let us try to comprehend the meaning of swaraj.

B. Swaraj in Kautilya’s Arthashastra:

In Kautilya’s Arthashastra we get the descriptions of several states, namely swarajya or svarājya, dvairājya, vairājya and gaṇarājya. The leader of svarājya is called as svarāt or the sovereign king. The Nichya and Apachya states of Western India are cited as the proper instances of Swarajya. Nichya is the place near Indus River and Apachya is somewhat above of Nichya. The svarāts are considered as sovereign and self-sufficient rulers of these svarājyas. Svarājya is compared with a kind of Aristocracy as the ruler is nominated from other aristocrat members of the nation.4 And dvairājya, of the Sixth and Seventh centuries, is the rule of two similarly powerful rulers over one state. Lichchabi and Thakuri are two dvairājyas of ancient India. The two separate rulers could even make two different injunctions in the same project regarding the welfare of the nation. In the Inscription of Kathmandu we get its true proofs. In Nepal this Dwairajya rule lasted for long times than other Indian territories. This state is neither similar with democracy nor with aristocracy. Form the Mahabharata we get to know that in the popular province named Avanti, two rulers or Dvirāts, namely Binda and Anubinda ruled for sometimes.5 Both swarajya and dvairājya are the proper examples of the monarchies. Vairajya can be called as a kind of bureaucracy, as sometimes here bureaucrats or amātyas ruled on behalf of the monarch over a state. There remains immense possibility of tyrannical rule as the supreme administrative power is nested upon the shoulder of the bureaucrats on the behalf of the monarch. However vairājya is said to be the ancestor nation to that of the gaṇarājya. Vairājya is the states situated at the Northern side of India, e.g. Uttarkuru, Uttarmadra etc. The ruler of such country is known as virāts. Virāt is well-popular than svarāts or dvirāts as he is known as the sovereign king. Such king has to follow the opinions of his subordinate people. Hence the common masses living under the territory of vairajya and ruled by the virāt kings lived very happily. The historian Jayswal called vairājya as the first proper instance of the ‘Kingless constitution’.6 These states are the true examples of republics or republican states. However the gaṇarājya is best among all other states. When the common masses, being fade up with the rule of the virāts or his faithful deliberate Bureaucrats, withdraw the administrative power in their own hands, then Ganarajya is formed. The word gaṇarājya is made up of two different parts – ‘ gaṇa’ i.e. democracy lead by common people and ‘ rājya’ i.e. state. In this above way etymologically gaṇarājya stands for nothing else but ‘democratic state’. Gaṇarājya seldom called as gaṇasaṁgha which is, according to the historian R.C. Majumdar, a definite organization bound by laws and regulations.7 D. R. Bhandarkar said that gaṇasaṁgha has to be a combination of individuals formed for a definite object which object can be political in nature.8

However Jayswal indicated gaṇasaṁgha as another example of the Republican state, but it is more akin to ‘Democracy’ or democratic state than the Republican one.9 Saṁgha is described as ‘martial clans’ by R.P. Kangle as – ‘It may be assumed that the constitution of the Samgha was able to install a feeling of solidarity among the confederating units. The presence of a number of chiefs on the ruling council also prevented any sudden shift of policy, such as is likely to be the case with a single ruler, whose actions may be swayed by his personal whims.’10 But ordinarily saṁgha is known to be a guild; hence gaṇasaṁgha stands for ‘democratic guild-system’. In this way it can be concluded that gaṇarājya and gaṇasaṁgha are not completely synonymous in nature.

In Kautilya’s Arthashastra swaraj stands for the symbol of autocratic state or ‘ svarājya’ ruled by one autocratic ruler or monarch; and ‘ gaṇarājya’ stands for the democratic government governed by an independent group. But in modern times Swaraj stands for ‘ gaṇarājya’ i.e. the democratic government governed by an independent group. Now the word ‘ swa’ could stand for one man and also for one group. Hence swaraj can turn out to be the rule of one ruler (autocracy) or one group (democracy). Among these two senses the first sense of the word ‘ swaraj’ is applied by Kautilya where the entire nation is ruled by an autocratic ruler. However we cannot take the word swaraj in the same sense as employed by Kautilya. We have to take it in the second sense. In this sense swaraj becomes closer to democracy rather than autocracy as interpreted by Kautilya.

C. Sri Aurobindo’s view of Swaraj:

Sri Aurobindo had his unique thesis on swaraj where we can discover his inherent political sense along with the spiritual sense. His sense of swaraj is definitely democracy. In the political sense, it is the essential weapon in the hands of Indians so that the achievement of political freedom becomes possible. In the spiritual sense, it is the way to reconcile the human race with the Divine.

Now let us develop these ideas broadly.

(1) Political sense of Swaraj:

Now, while discussing Sri Aurobindo’s political sense of swaraj, let us try to focus on how he deduced the meaning of swaraj as political independence. For this we have to go through the political backdrop of India in brief.

Moderate leaders of Congress never accepted the broad sense of swaraj, i.e. complete independence, rather took it in the limited sense of colonial self-government as mentioned by Dadabhai Naoroji in the Calcutta session of Congress in 1906.11

Now what is meant by the Colonial Self-government? Sri Aurobindo explored that under the head of Colonial Self-government; India, like all other colonies, would get the chance of Imperial Conference of the Colonial Prime Ministers and put all demands before the Secretary of States in a five-minute interview.12 The Secretary of States is undoubtedly an Englishman who can never truly realize the needs of subordinate colonies. Is this enough for India? No, not at all sufficient for a huge country like India. Actually under the disguise of Self-government within the British Empire, in the view of Sri Aurobindo, our foreign rulers tried to keep India under its control so that in the name of any Governor or Lieutenant General it would rule over India throughout coming few centuries.13 Under this Colonial rule, India would pretend to enjoy its power of representation similar with representation in the Local Board, Local Legislative Councils or Municipal Board. Common masses would remain as enslaved as they were under the British Government. Whenever asked about their share in the politics, in the opinion of Sri Aurobindo, the British rulers would give a suitable excuse that they are not in the governmental power, as it was controlled by the Elected Representatives of Major Indian Political Parties.14

The prominent example would be The United states of America as a colony under England and its struggle movement before the achievement of its freedom from the British Rulers. Americans had to show their anger in the occasions of Boston Tea Party and had to fight for liberty under the guidance of George Washington, who later also became the first President of America, to achieve complete independence.

However the idea of colonial self-government never struck appealing to Sri Aurobindo’s thought. In his intelligence this Prayer and Petition thesis was reveled just as an advanced form of begging [which actually means pleading] advocated by the Moderates in front of the British bureaucracy. For that reason he even criticized the Moderate Congress Leaders as the bunch of beggars.15 He criticized this theory as it could not be applicable in practice because of the lack of its method. On the contrary, self-government could be attained very easily by the help of Swaraj as its method. Because Swaraj was the open demand of the Indians of that time for attaining self- government, so he gave so much emphasis on it. While we look at the history of politics, we see that Swaraj in the sense of independence was basically indispensable at that time in India, but unfortunately this thesis was accepted by the Congress leaders only after the appearance of Mahatma Gandhi in the political field.

The demand for Self-government, in the view of Sri Aurobindo, is actually essential for making India from political bondage. 16 For making India completely liberated from the dominative British rule, the establishment of self-government seemed completely mandatory to him. India in its process of formation needed some time to become self-sufficient and the practice of self- government would be helpful enough in this endeavor. Here Indians had been given the opportunity to develop its own government where the members of the Governmental body, Secretary of the States etc administrative powers had to be totally nested upon the strong shoulders of the Indians. Common Indian masses had to elect their own Representative Bodies enjoying the overall administrative, judicial, social, political as well as cultural liberty. In a self- governed country like that, not the proposed Colony as suggested by the moderate Congress leaders, foreign rulers should not get enough opportunity to enjoy the administrative, judicial, Social, political workings of the Indian nominated Representatives. Then, they will not at all get the scope to dominate, enslave, torture our Indian counterparts; and India will be liberated from the shackles of the British Bureaucracy from its appropriate sense. Truly comprehending this situation, as a good political thinker and leader, Sri Aurobindo was in the favor of getting self- governance i.e. complete independence, instead of colonial self-governance, from the hands of British masters.

In this above way, Sri Aurobindo derived the political meaning of swaraj as complete independence.

(2) Spiritual sense of Swaraj:

On February, 1908 at Nasik Sri Aurobindo lectured that in our Vedanta philosophy the word swaraj means mukti or salvation. The soul when it is free from all worldly temptations can have gained swaraj or mukti. The term swaraj, in the sense of sanatana dharma, has a spiritual overtone. Sri Aurobindo described it as a “parash pathar” or alchemic stone of Indian politics’17 without whose help the revival of ancient Indian glory never become possible. If we analyze the inherent meaning of his concept of swaraj, then we will surely discover that swaraj, in his opinion, is far from the reach of politics alone. Swaraj is a somewhat spiritual concept without being just a political one. From the Vedas he quoted the word sva-mahimni i.e. the union of the individual with the Divine. For achieving this kind of swaraj we have to prepare ourselves fully to concentrate on the evocation of our Inner Being so that we can call for the Divine and make him bound to come down upon the earth.

What is the spiritual meaning of swaraj ? From the Vedas, Sri Aurobindo quoted the word sva- mahimni 18 i.e. union of individual with the Divine. This concept of sva - mahimni, derived from the Vedas, shows that individual being is nothing else divinity hidden within. We have to evoke this divinity for our own betterment. Due to the sheer existence of avidyā or ignorance we can mistaken us as different from the Divine. But when this avidyā ceases to exist then we will truly realize that we are nothing else but the representation of the same Brahman. This avidyā has to cease to exist when ātma - jňana or tattva - jňana (self-knowledge) comes in the mind of jīvātman.

Then j ī v ātman becomes the same with Paramātman.

For attaining this spiritual goal we need to fulfill the dream of attaining the political liberty of a nation. The arousal of the inner divinity within an individual can make him nearer to Brahman by following the path of mukti; but it is not at all a sufficient position, even though be considered as the necessary position in individual life. The nation also has to identify the inner divinity of all men residing within. In this way we can truly realize us nothing but the manifestation of Brahman. But for this we need to achieve the political liberty of India.19 Here beautifully Sri Aurobindo correlated the spiritual sense of swaraj with its political meaning.

D. Aurobindo on Swaraj & Nation:

Before indulging into Sri Aurobindo’s theory of swaraj we have to start with the concept of nation as implicitly related with it. Sri Aurobindo’s notion concerning nation is somewhat unique as compared to others. According to him, a nation is considered to have an inner unity, termed as centripetal unity, instead of an empire which has a loose political unity i.e. centrifugal unity.20 A nation is utterly different from that of an empire. A nation is practically considered to be indestructible, until it destroys from within. Empire is political machinery, and hence in due course of time it has to be crushed. But because a nation is not a political unit, hence it seems to be immortal in nature. The nation has three different bodies, e.g. gross, subtle and causal. The gross or physical part, comprised of geographical lands, can be destroyed with time but nation has to sustain because of its causal or consciousness part.

Whenever we indulge into the discussion about the notion of swaraj the concept of nation, in the sense of nation-state, is included within the fold of this discussion. Swaraj was just a cry taken first by the Nationalist leaders and then by Indian masses so that by the help of attaining political freedom we can uplift our own country, India. Hence with the question of swaraj the question of nation, i.e. the nation-state as considered by Sri Aurobindo, is correlated and its discussion seems mandatory with the first one.

E.Nation with Soul Factor: Aurobindo:

Generally nation is never considered to be nation-state as we discover in Sri Aurobindo’s doctrine. Nation, according to him, is a lively object with soul and mind unlike state.21 The nation with the immense possibility of having soul within is thus called to be the Nation-soul by Sri Aurobindo. If we call it simply as nation, then the existence of soul inherent within cannot be described fully. State is limited within its geographical identity, but nation is expanded behind the geographical identity of it.

We can give two different explanations for calling nation as Nation-soul by Sri Aurobindo as following his book The Human Cycle.22

The first explanation is as follows. Nation is made up of matter, but matter itself, according to Sri Aurobindo, is not non-living in nature. Matter has immense hidden potentialities of being awaken by the call of the Absolute Being i.e. God. It is known to be the Supto Caitnya or hidden consciousness within. Hence the nation made up of it has to be conscious in nature. Thus the conscious nation is declared by Sri Aurobindo as nation-soul.23

In its second explanation of Sri Aurobindo we can say that a nation is made up of several individuals having souls and minds as their inner characteristic features. The individual with soul can, in the sociological structure, be united in a group for the sustence of itself and its race. In this way the individual can be divided into several different groups. However for maintaining their existence, whenever found necessary, these groups should realize to be united within a stronger head. And this stronger head is none other than the nation itself. Thus briefly speaking, individual-soul has to be united as the Group-soul which can later be expanded into the so-called Nation-soul.24

Nation devoid of soul factor, according to Sri Aurobindo, is not at all acceptable. Nation, as a living entity, cannot be made without the existence of soul hidden behind. However it is really very difficult to understand how nation has got the soul within. In general, nation or rāstra is never thought to be soulful like Sri Aurobindo. Can an ordinary person devoid the knowledge of philosophy understand the notion of nation-soul? Perhaps there is no such common man, without the knowledge of philosophy, can realize the true meaning of nation-soul. By the way, let us try to ensure how nation-soul can be possible in reality. If we go through the philosophy of Sri Aurobindo, then we can discover the hidden touch of metaphysics everywhere. A common man can never thought of a nation with soul. But he, as a renowned metaphysician, never thought of a nation devoid of soul.

F.Inadequacy of State Idea: Aurobindo vs. Marx:

Both Sri Aurobindo and Karl Marx25 found the idea of state as an absurd idea in nature. Karl Marx claimed that state is the weapon of torture of the under-privileged class by the upper class of the society. However Sri Aurobindo also did not accept the concept of state, rather the notion of nation.

Now let us discuss their theories elaborately.

- Inadequacy of State: Marx:

However, Sri Aurobindo’s idea of inadequacy of state is sometimes compared with Marx’s idea of Statelessness. Both of them rejected the existence of any ideal state in reality. But the inner concept is truly very much different in nature. Sri Aurobindo was never in favor of Marx’s statelessness thesis. He called the state instead as a nation-state. Both of them conceived state as an inorganic weapon of repression, thus they were against this tyrannical side of the state theory. Now in this context let us concentrate on Marx’s theory in brief.

Marx as a believer of socialism, wanted to make the society similar for its all classes, whether aristocratic or labor class. In everywhere of the world the influence of the bourgeoisie class was predominant. The labor class did not get enough opportunity to earn their wages throughout the entire life. Marx always wanted to end up the class division in our society. In his opinion, there are two kinds of states – Capitalist and Welfare State. The reason behind his consent on the abolition of the state idea becomes fully clear from the book Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right written in 1843 is that:

i) the political state has to be dependent on its external influences given by the administration, instead of the inner potentialities of the individuals residing within;
ii) He as yet was saying nothing about the abolition of private property and did not express a developed theory of class, and the solution [he offers] to the problem of the state/civil society separation is a purely political solution, namely universal suffrage.26

In the book named Communist Manifesto (1848), Karl Marx first described properly the relation between the Law of Property and the entire State. The picture took its concrete shape in Das Capital (1867).

In the case of the nations which grew out of the Middle ages, the law of property has evolved through different stages – (1) feudal landed property, i.e. property captive in the hands of feudal lords; (2) corporative (moveable in nature) property, i.e. property or capital invested to modern capital system of the big industries; and (3) pure private property, where the property is owned by the bourgeois class and State has no control over it. This modern private property corresponds to the modern State, in which the owners of the property have to survive by means of taxation, and thus held responsible for the rise and fall of State funds. Through the emancipation of private property, the state could become a separate entity besides just being a civil society, but unfortunately it tends to become nothing more than a mere form of organization which the bourgeoisie necessarily adopt for having the mutual guarantee of their property and interests. Here the state lacks its independence as it has to sustain as a tool in the hands of the rich class. According to Marx, the independence of the State is only found in those countries where the concept of property has not yet completely developed to rule over class structures; where the property, done away with in more advanced countries, still have a better part to play; or where no section of the population can achieve dominance over the others in the context of property. The most perfect example of the modern State is North America. The modern state exists only for the sake of the sustenance of private property. With the gradual development of property in the hands of bourgeoisie, by the means of the advancement of commerce and industry, the rich class becomes richer and the poor class grows poorer. However this concept of property centralization in the hands of bourgeoisie was not accepted by Marx.27 He wanted to construct that type of socialism which will concentrate on the development of the Proletariat or labor class, instead of that of the bourgeois class. Since the state seems to be the eternal symbol of torture and tyranny over the labor class, he never admitted the theory of state. This is in brief his theory of statelessness.

However the limitation of Marx’s theory is that he never goes beyond the concept of state as the symbol of domination by the bourgeois class, and thus wanted to destroy it wholly. He always dreamt of making a free society with the social rise of the labor class. But he never wanted to use state (Sri Aurobindo used the term nation-state) as a gateway of spiritual development of human race, irrespective of their class identity, just like Sri Aurobindo. And there his thesis is not similar with that of Sri Aurobindo.

- Inadequacy of State idea: Sri Aurobindo:

Sri Aurobindo like Marx never accepted the theory of state at all. His social-political doctrine is astonishingly related to the much lesser known aspect of it i.e. the psychological aspect. Hence his theory of state, even if we accept it, should be quite different in nature than that of the common theory of states. State is always limited within the geographical territory; hence it is not a living entity. It is considered as a non-living or material entity comprised with several geographical planes and lands. In his view, state or rāstra is not at all a similar object with nation. Nation or jāti is, on the contrary, a living entity comprised with individuals residing in the national territory; while state is organic entity.28 Individuals, as the parts of the nation, have several minds and souls; hence the nation, as a whole, comprised of individuals, has also unique minds and souls for its own. So nation as a union of the individual-minds and individual-souls also has its own nation-mind and nation-soul as its unique characteristics. Thus Sri Aurobindo’s nation, as a psychological entity, is supposed to contain mind and soul like any other living organisms.29 But state, as a non-living organism, cannot be related with individual mind or soul; hence the existence of state-mind or state-soul is just out of question. The state as a non-living entity is deprived of any existence of the soul hidden inside just like the nation.


1 Sri Aurobindo, Bande Mataram, “The Need of the Moment”, p. 764

2 Sri Aurobindo, Bande Mataram, ‘The Need of the Moment’, p. 766

3 Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of the Karmayogin, p.5-6

4 Bhaduri, N.P., Dandaniti, p. 82

5 Ibid, p. 82

6 Jayswal, K.P., Hindu Polity, Pt. I, p. 50

7 Majumdar, R.C., Corporate Life in Ancient India, p. 195-196

8 Bahandarkar, D.R., Some Aspects of Ancient Indian Polity, p. 80

9 Jayswal, K.P., Hindu Polity, Part. I, p. 53

10 Kangle, R.P., Kautiliya Arthashastra, Vol. III, p. 122-123

11 Sri Aurobindo, Bande Mataram, “The Results of the Congress”, p. 202

12 Sri Aurobindo, Bande Mataram, “Yet There is Method in It”, p. 205-206

13 Sri Aurobindo, Bande Mataram, “The President of the Berhampur Conference”, p. 228

14 Sri Aurobindo, Bande Mataram, “Yet There is Method in It”, p. 205

15 Ibid, p. 228

16 Sri Aurobindo, Bande Mataram, “The President of the Berhampur Conference”, p. 228

17 Sri Aurobindo, Bande Mataram, ‘Justice Mitter and Swaraj’, p. 513

18 Ibid, p. 513

19 Sri Aurobindo, Bande Mataram, “Justice Mitter and Swaraj”, p. 514

20 Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, ‘The Ancient Cycle of Prenational Empire-Building’, p. 102-103

21 21 Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle, p. 35

22 Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle, p. 35-43

23 Ibid, p. 35

24 Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle, p. 35

25 Karl Marx, German philosopher, was born in 5 May 1818 at Trier, Prussia (now Germany) and died in 14 March 1883 at the age of 64 in London. His famous books are Das Capital (1867-1894) and The Communist Manifesto (1848). [Karl Marx, Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia; http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Marx]

26 Marx’s theory of the State, Google.co.in; http://www.google.co.in/Marx/Marx’s_Theory_of_State

27 Marx’s theory of State, Google.co.in; http://www.google.co.in/Marx/Marx’s_Theory_of_State

28 Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, “The Inadequacy of State Idea”, p. 28

29 Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle, “The Discovery of the Nation-soul”, p. 35

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Swaraj and Boycott as envisioned by Sri Aurobindo
Jadavpur University
Doctor of Philosophy
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Authors comment: It is my first text book on my dissertation topic. I received several national awards as a meritorious student and scholar. I received several awards from Jadavpur University in 2004 and 2006. I am working as assistant professor in philosophy department of C.R.P. college and working as editor of IJES, Pakistan and Palgo journals, America. I am life member of GERA of Nepal.
swaraj, boycott, aurobindo
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Debashri Banerjee (Author), 2013, Swaraj and Boycott as envisioned by Sri Aurobindo, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/490833


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