Undermining the Adesh page 204

Sri Aurobindo received an Adesh(Divine command) from his Divine guide, Krishna, to go to Chandernagore and then to Pondicherry.   The author tries to rationalize this Adesh below and in the process undermines Sri Aurobindo.

Years later Aurobindo explained that when he heard Ramchandra’s warning, he went within and heard a voice—an adesh—that said “Go to Chandernagore.” He obeyed it without reflection. Had he given it any thought, however, he would have found good reasons to comply. Chandernagore was a French possession, one of five scattered enclaves that made up the French settlements in India. Outside the jurisdiction of the British police, it had become an important center of nationalist activity. For a man with a British warrant against him, it was the best place near Calcutta to go. The adesh also came at an opportune moment. Aurobindo had written ten days earlier that he would “refrain from farther political action” until a “more settled state of things supervenes”—something that was unlikely to happen very soon. This period of political paralysis coincided with his own wish to retire from politics and spend more time practicing yoga. In December, he had looked into the possibility of buying land outside Calcutta to found a spiritual ashram.134

Nothing came of this idea, but his urge to leave politics remained. It was only his awareness that his party depended on him that kept him in the field. But the return of Shyamsundar and the other deportees meant that the movement would not be leaderless if he left: In addition, the arrival of his uncle Krishna Kumar Mitra meant that his last family duty—looking after his aunt and her children—had come to an end.

This is not to suggest that he thought all this through when he decided to leave Calcutta. By his own account, his “habit in action was not to devise beforehand and plan but to keep a fixed purpose, watch events, prepare forces and act when he felt it to be the right moment.”135 The moment for his departure had come. As he sailed up the Hooghly in his little wooden boat, he probably was not looking further ahead than the next few days.

(Lives, p 204)

In retrospective accounts, Aurobindo mentioned his adesh and the need to concentrate on yoga as the reasons for his withdrawal from politics. But he also remarked that from the end of 1909 he had been pondering the course of the movement, and had decided “that the nation was not yet sufficiently trained to carry out his policy and programme.”Two possible alternatives presented themselves to him: a Home Rule movement along Irish lines and a Gandhi-style movement of passive resistance. Whatever their virtues—and both would be used with some success—he knew that he could never lead such movements. That would have meant drawing back from the goal of independence, and it was not in his nature to do this.147

(Lives, p 209)

The author has sought to rationalize the “Adesh” by offering various reasons for why it made sense, but the reality is that the Divine Command comes through a vision or a voice which has no rational reasons.  All the reasons which are offered above make it seem as if Sri Aurobindo was escaping the British in a premeditated fashion, probably because he was afraid of prison or because he thought the goal of independence had receded.

Furthermore, the quote of Sri Aurobindo that is used to justify the Adesh:

habit in action was not to devise beforehand and plan but to keep a fixed purpose, watch events, prepare forces and act when he felt it to be the right moment

is not applicable to the Adesh and cannot be used in this context.  Sri Aurobindo made this remark with respect to his previous political life, as we can see from the source below:

(Biographical passage written by someone): Sri Aurobindo had acquired a measure of intellectual pre-eminence as a result of his stay in England; but that was not enough, and he was certainly not happy. His deeper perplexities remained; he did not know what exactly he should do to make himself useful to his countrymen or how he should set about doing it. He turned to yoga so that he might be enabled to clarify his own floating ideas and impulses and also, if possible, perfect the hidden instrument within.

(Sri Aurobindo issued a correction to this passage): There was no unhappiness. “Perplexities” also is too strong: Sri Aurobindo’s habit in action was not to devise beforehand and plan, but to keep a fixed purpose, watch events, prepare forces and act when he felt it to be the right moment. His first organised work in politics (grouping people who accepted the idea of independence and were prepared to take up an appropriate action) was undertaken at an early age, but took a regular shape in or about 1902; two years later he began his practice of Yoga — not to clarify his ideas, but to find the spiritual strength which would support him and enlighten his way.

(On Himself, CWSA p 107)

This remark cannot be used to justify the “Adesh“.

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1 Response to Undermining the Adesh page 204

  1. anahata says:

    Here is proof that people get misled by Heehs account of the Adesh and the rationale behind Sri Aurobindo’s withdrawal to Pondicherry. Hari Ramesh, student at Williams College wrote his thesis on Sri Aurobindo titled “Tracing Swaraj in the Political Theory of Sri Aurobindo Ghose”. On page 11 of the thesis he writes:

    In early 1910, somewhat abruptly, Aurobindo left the field of formal politics. The departure of such a prominent figure in the Indian nationalist movement invited (and, indeed, continues to invite) a great degree of speculation. There were, without a doubt, a number of intricately connected reasons why Aurobindo renounced this political position (e.g. pressure that the British government would arrest him on charge of sedition, frustration with the political moment in Bengal, and Aurobindo’s own developing religious and spiritual philosophies). It is, however, beyond the scope of this thesis to venture any explanations regarding Aurobindo’s intentions .

    Thesis is online at

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