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Monday, April 16, 2007

The Future Poetry is the most intelligent expression of Indian mind in criticism in recent times

Dhirendra Mishra Literary Heaven
Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950) is one of the most influential figures of the Indian renaissance. He is renowned today as the propounder of Integral Yoga, the prophet of Life Divine, but we often insidiously let pass the fact that Aurobindo was also a British-trained literary scholar, a literary critic and a prolific poet. He worked all his life to show that the New Consciousness developed by certain yogic discipline would influence the affairs of mankind. His popularity as a mystic has drawn admirers and followers alike, resulting in a plethora of works on him and his Integral Yoga. This counts for the lesser attention paid to Sri Aurobindo as a critic. His monumental works like-- The Future Poetry, Letters on Poetry, Literature and Art, and Talks on Poetry etc. when taken together place Aurobindo on the highest plinth of criticism in India in recent times. C. D. Narasimhaiah recognizes Aurobindo as the inaugurator of the tradition of Indian Literary criticism in modern times.
Sri Aurobindo seems highly impressed by English poetry, but at the same time he does not agree with western emphasis on intellectual value of art. Sri Aurobindo's vision and thought has a very broad pedestal that incorporates in itself the history and development of human civilization. In his view the role and import of Indian art and culture in the development of human civilization has been remarkable. It is only through Aurobindo’s theory of poetry that we can best be aware of the importance he attached to art and culture in leading towards the spiritual evolution of mankind. His vital and unique body of critical work calls for serious attention, and it would be to the benefit of criticism in general and of poetry in particular to look for what Sri Aurobindo finds deficient in the tradition of English poetry.
Western readers and critics may find deep interest in Sri Aurobindo’s claim that “English poetry is powerful but imperfect, strong in Spirit but uncertain and tentative in form, extraordinarily stimulating but not often quite satisfying.” In India, as Sri Aurobindo observes, where the general critical climate and critical intelligence lacks, his seminal and epoch making work opens a new arena. Aurobindo remarked in the very first chapter of The Future Poetry- “It is not often that we see published in India literary criticism which is of the first order, at once discerning and suggestive, criticism which forces us both to see and think.”
For Aurobindo, says C. D. Narasimhaiah, this function is two-fold—Prayojana, an immediate utility which is Chitta-Vistara or Ahalada, also a means of sense relaxation; and the ultimate end of poetry is Purushartha which many think as Lokkotara, that is, super-mundane experience or ecstasy. For Aurobindo, the poet is capable of perceiving the universe in its complete wholeness and putting across his writing the creative rhythm and beauty of the universe, ensuing in a sense of fulfillment. Sri Aurobindo wrote—
“Vision is the characteristic power of the poet, as is discriminative thought the essential gift of the philosopher and analytic observation the natural genius of the scientist. . . Therefore the greatest poets have been always those who have had a large and powerful interpretative and intuitive vision of Nature and life and man and whose poetry has arisen out of that in a supreme revelatory utterance of it. . . Sight is the essential poetic gift. The archetypal poet in a world of original ideas is, we may say, a Soul that sees in itself intimately this world and all the others and God and Nature and the life of beings and sets flowing from its centre a surge of creative rhythm and world-images which become the expressive body of the vision; and the great poets are those who repeat in some measure this ideal creation, "kavayah satyasrutah", seers and hearers of the poetic truth and poetic word.” [The Future Poetry, pp. 29-30]
Sri Aurobindo places Homer, Shakespeare, Dante, Valmiki, and Kalidasa on one plane, for in his erudition despite differences in content and outlook their greatness lies in the essential oneness of vision and revelation of poetic truth. In The Future Poetry, Sri Aurobindo analyzes the development of English poetry, indicates the significance and direction of its drift, and then traces the lines of its future development. Sri Aurobindo indicated that the poetry of the future would embody a harmony of five eternal powers: Truth, Beauty, Delight, Life and the Spirit.
Sri Aurobindo’s theory of art assimilates the stirring belief that through poetry nature, God and humanity can all be expressed. He believed that it is the sublime source, an elevated consciousness, from which all poetry or intuitive thinking emanates. In his book, The Future Poetry, Aurobindo says that the poetry of the future will be the true breath of poetic inspiration and creation; it will be mantrik and, as such, it will have the power to awaken consciousness. Sri Aurobindo wrote in The Future Poetry that--
"The Mantra, poetic expression of the deepest spiritual reality, is only possible when three highest intensities of poetic speech meet and become indissolubly one, a highest intensity of rhythmic movement, a highest intensity of interwoven- verbal form and thought-substance, of style, and a highest intensity of the soul's vision of truth."
For Sri Aurobindo mantra was the innate medium of poetry. It was his firm belief that the ‘future poetry’ be it in English or in any other language—will increasingly adhere to mantra, and thereby effacing the influence of the role of—the intellect, the senses, even the imagination—both in the creation and communication of poetry.
Aurobindo believed that intuitive or mantrik poetry could be a potent aid to the transformation of consciousness and the life requisite to achieve the great spiritual destiny of mankind that he foresaw. Sri Aurobindo's poetry itself, particularly his epic poem Savitri, expressed his spiritual thought and vision in the fullest and most powerful means. He believed that intelligence and imagination play but a little role in true poetry which is rather a creation of the soul. And the ultimate end or the target of poetry is also neither the intelligence, the emotions, nor the vital nature, but rather again it is the soul.
Sri Aurobindo exhibits in his The Future Poetry--- “a cosmic consciousness with a global perception." His chief concern here is to present how “ poetry in the past has done that in moments of supreme elevation; in the future there seems to be some chance of its making it a more conscious aim and steadfast endeavour”. The Future Poetry is the most intelligent expression of Indian mind in criticism in recent times; it embodies the epochs of many cultures and most appreciably points to the infinite possibilities in future. A responsible criticism of this sort reflecting a sense of history and obligation to the present can be a valuable directive to those involved in poetic creation.
While estimating Sri Aurobindo’s influence on criticism in India, we find not as great an impact of his monumental works as the authority they possess. There is near-sterile condition arising from the failure of the Indian critic to capitalize and carry on the tradition of criticism laid down by Sri Aurobindo. His epoch making work The Future Poetry and three Volumes of correspondence contain some of the best criticism of our time, and make a case for the desirability to Indianize Indian literary criticism. Slowly but steadily the critical climate in India is changing. Successors of Sri Aurobindo like— Anand K Coomaraswamy, K R Srinivas Iyengar, C D Narasimhaiah, etc. keenly felt the need of treading on the luminous trail blazed by Sri Aurobindo.
In Sri Aurobindo's philosophy synthesizes the disparity and the contrasting points arrived at in Western thought. By aligning these points with the ancient Indian wisdom, Aurobindo comes up with an integral vision. A vision that is both universal as well as contemporary. Sri Aurobindo has not only engrained several masterpieces in the field of literature and criticism, but as a critic he has envisioned and anticipated the path that modern critics would follow.
It is, however, the need of the hour to make an Indian approach to show that Western discipline in criticism has yielded remarkable results no doubt, but turning to other possible modes and new explorations could result in un-trodden perceptions, fresh insights and indigenous accomplishments. Posted by Dhirendra Mishra at 2:18 PM

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