Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Sri Aurobindo is re-infusing the resplendent and robust life-dynamism of the ancient Aryan and Greek founders and builders of society

Sri Aurobindo recommends the swift and assertive resplendent dynamism of life itself, it fulfilling itself in the richness and plenty of the world Science, Culture and Integral Yoga
A Rishi’s Integral Vision of Society by RY Deshpande on Mon 10 Sep 2007 06:30 AM PDT Permanent Link
The truth of capital importance is that, the dismissal of the spirit from the world is as lopsided as of the world from the spirit, a fact that was never recognised by mediaeval thought and religion. In a certain sense we may therefore say that Sri Aurobindo is actually re-infusing the resplendent and robust life-dynamism of the ancient Aryan and Greek founders and builders of society; he wants us to receive the gifts of the spirit in the wholesomeness of the individual and of the organised collectivity. That indeed is the entire thrust in the thesis of freedom and future.
When Sri Aurobindo speaks of sanātana dharma as a nationalist’s creed, he does not speak about it in a sectarian sense. Nor is the definition of nationalism restrictive in any constricted fashion; in fact, people often find patriotism and nationalism difficult to define. Even Tagore thought that the concept of a nation is not an Indian concept but of an alien origin, the one which we have borrowed from the Western thinking. But it must be well recognised that nationalism is not a mere political programme based on occidental ideologies.
“Nationalism is a religion that has come from God. Foundation of nationalism is the country and not race.” It is that which indeed sees “the Motherhood of God in the Country”. At the same time, we have to properly understand that Sri Aurobindo is not recommending a theocratic society or a theocratic form of governance of some particular brand. In fact such a system can never work in the freedom of the spirit and the soul. During the Second World War he saw the grave danger in our not comprehending and following the spirit of true nationalism. One example of it is the non-acceptance of Sir Stafford Cripps’s Proposals containing the Dominion Status for India. Sri Aurobindo not only found the offer deserving our positive consideration; he actually went out of his way and made a special appeal to the worthy and esteemed leaders of the time to unreservedly go for it. Unfortunately, however, the advice was rejected and the partition of the country became inevitable. We are too well aware of the horrendous consequences of that deplorable rejection which has easily set back, by several decades, the clock of real progress, of destiny itself.

People oftentimes confuse swadéśi with patriotism. So too they generally mix up sanātana dharma with religion. But all that is patently wrong and mistaken, even ill-conceived, is retrograde. Religion, a living religion and not a creedal religion, promotes the aspirations of human soul in a great way; but very rarely does it understand that spiritual life cannot be based on dogma or any kind of fetish, not on any diehard worldly conviction. On the contrary, it tends to become an instrument of traditionalist conformist development in the hands of violent and reactionary individuals or groups. It is a fact of history that there were far too many religious wars in the past, far too many. In practice and strangely so religion always posed more serious problems of societal management than did it help man in the growth of a more harmonious collective life.
State versus Religion, Reason in conflict with Religion, the Secular in opposition to the Esoteric, Science dismissing Faith,—these are well known issues. To these and to several other issues of a deeper import, Albuquerque finds answers in Sri Aurobindo. He quite emphatically drives home the point that, in a wider context, in the context of the greater destiny awaiting humanity, what Sri Aurobindo is recommending is the vision of a forward-looking and progressive spiritual society in all its gleaming dimensions…
The mountain-streams of true religion had their beginnings in spirituality; but soon in these worldly lands they got dried up, if not cut off from the ever-so-desirable and crystalline purity of the source. Now what remains behind are wildernesses of the suffocating spirit. Thus neither religion nor any abstruse metaphysical theorisation can satisfactorily explain, for instance, the appearance of evil and suffering in the beneficent and beautiful God’s original creation. Ethico-religious mind shudders to think of a frightening Godhead poised for universal destruction. But the Indian concept and intuition, the ancient Indian experience has the boldness to accept even such an aspect of God the Terrible,—as Arnold Toynbee very perceptively recognises, a fact he arrives at by studying his own discipline. Not only that; we should also remember that the office of the Spirit is a very complex and strange office and that it does allow terrible agencies to reign. Such are the possibilities and these have to be taken care of.

It is to these terrible agencies of the Spirit can readily fall prey the gullible and superficial approach of the ethico-religious mind. In it is the danger of Hitlerism, or in the modern parlance of Neo-Nazism, prospering to destroy the entire civilisation, of promoting the establishment of the anarchical Rule of the Asura himself. There is in the working of the universal process always such a mischief-laden possibility. Can we then say that Mahatma Gandhi’s “spiritual democracy” involving compassion, sacrifice and identification with the lowly and the lost would really save the world?
His was a lofty ideal no doubt but it was of a Western variety, based on Tolstoyan-Christian ethics. And the difficult thing which he was trying to do was to bring such pious and holy ennobling doctrines, full of mass-appeal, to the world of abominable politics where prevail unbridled ambitions of the worst kind. We may even go farther and admire the ingenuous Mahatma, that he was not particularly interested in any conventional form of government, that he was right in saying that “that Government is the best which governs the least.” This is a great statement indeed and it does make a vast improvement over the Western concept itself, the traditional idealistic theory of a decent and élitist political democracy which more often than not functionally tends to become exclusive with the concentration of power in fewer hands.
But, then, to tell a ravaged war-torn nation to stand up ethically above the ghastliest form of crime and horror, above fascism, advise it to fight against the advancing menace of the maniacal Führer with the weapon of non-violence, is to take a very simplistic view of life and of life’s million forces working in different occult ways. It is also not to recognise that our active co-operation with Good and Right does not become complete without the active and forceful opposition and rejection of Evil and Wrong. It looks as though God is too good to be a gentleman,—because freedom is his mantra. With it we have to discover the true governing law of life, the deep harmonising law:
In spirituality... we must seek for the directing light and the harmonising law, and in religion only in proportion as it identifies itself with this spirituality... It will give... freedom to philosophy and science... freedom even to deny the spirit... It will give the same freedom to man’s seeking for political and social perfection and to all his other powers and aspirations.
Sri Aurobindo’s ideal is vivid and daring, clear and far-reaching in seeing, that the possibilities of the mental being are not limited and that the truncated and analytical Cartesian I think, therefore I am is not applicable in the domain of the spirit when the spiritual experience tells us that thoughts themselves come from outside. Even in his early writings Sri Aurobindo held for us the emerging spiritualised society as an unenviable goal. In the very second volume of his philosophical monthly Arya, dated 15 August 1915, he wrote the following:
Unity for the human race by an inner oneness and not only by an external association of interests; the resurgence of man out of the merely animal and economic life or the merely intellectual and aesthetic into the glories of the spiritual existence; the pouring of the power of the spirit into the physical mould and mental instrument so that man may develop his manhood into that true super-manhood which shall exceed our present state as much as this exceeds the animal state from which science tells us that we have issued. These three are one; for man’s unity and man’s self-transcendence can come only by living in the Spirit.
What he had put forward as an ideal at that early date, it is that which he set for himself to accomplish in his thirty-five years of long and untiring spiritual sadhana, his yogic labour, a God’s labour indeed, a labour undertaken for the sake of the Divine in Man.

N.B.: Author's (RYD's) Foreword to Freedom and Future—an Imaginary Dialogue with Sri Aurobindo by Daniel Albuquerque, published in 1998 by Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry. Keywords: IntegralYoga, India, History, Culture

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