Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sri Aurobindo spent quite a bit of time expressing himself in published writings

Foremost among these were the Indian philosopher-sage Sri Aurobindo, the French philosopher Henri Bergson, and the French paleontologist and Catholic priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Other key figures included the American essayist ...

Yet it was the work of the great Sri Aurobindo that, while following a similar thread to Bergson and Teilhard, brought an entirely new dimension to this burgeoning field— namely, translating the concept of spiritual evolution into a spiritual practice. After completing his studies in literature and philosophy at Cambridge in 1892, he became a leading figure in the Indian independence movement and was declared “the most dangerous man alive” by the British Empire, but eventually left the freedom fight to devote his life to exploring liberation of an altogether different kind.
After experiencing a deep spiritual awakening, Aurobindo’s consciousness opened onto a vision of human possibilities that saw the attainment of nirvana—typically held to be the goal of all mystical pursuits—as merely the beginning of a personal engagement with the evolutionary force that has been driving the cosmos forward since the dawn of creation. Leading his spiritual community in the practice of “integral yoga,” Aurobindo was the first to synthesize the modern understanding of evolution with the timeless revelation of enlightenment, and pioneered the idea that human beings are capable of aligning their lives with the trajectory and purpose of the universe itself.

Sri Aurobindo’s Marriage—a discussion by Raman Reddy pertaining to a few aspects in context of the latest biography published by the Columbia University Press. Comment posted by: Kepler

Defining “succeed” as inner spiritual realization, that's no doubt true. Defining it as transformation of nature and life on earth, then other things can also assume a place. E.g. Sri Aurobindo spent quite a bit of time expressing himself in published writings.

Ennapadam Panchajanya By Durgadevi 
In my view the most important and seminal book on India’s Freedom Movement that has been published after our independence is the recent book of Smt Radha Rajan titled ‘Eclipse of the Hindu Nation, Gandhi and his Freedom Struggle.” V. Sundaram

Smt Radha Rajan considers 1893 as an important year in the evolution of our struggle for national freedom. She does so not because Mahatma Gandhi went to South Africa for the first time in his life in the year 1893 but because it was in 1893 that Sri Aurobindo started writing his series of 9 biting articles about the Indian National Congress (INC), titled ‘New Lamps for Old’, in Indu Prakash, a Marathi-English Daily published from Bombay. Sri Aurobindo was a young lad of 21 years at that time and the INC was barely 8 years old! …
Sri Aurobindo came to the right conclusion: 
“Our actual enemy is not any force exterior to ourselves, but our own crying weaknesses, our cowardice, our selfishness, our hypocrisy, our purblind sentimentalism.”

The Congress of that time, was quite intolerant of criticism by Sri Aurobindo and reacted in such a peculiar manner that it pressurized the editors of Indu Prakash to discontinue the series of fiery articles by Sri Aurobindo.

Following the lead given by Sri Aurobindo, the economic rape and plunder of India by the British Government came to be documented by many public men of the time. Dadabhai Naoroji (1825-1917) wrote his famous book titled ‘Poverty and Un-British Rule in India’ in 1901. The public anger against the Colonial Government soon became a war cry. To quote the words of Smt Radha Rajan in this context: “Yet Dadabhai Naoroji, like Gandhi later in Hind Swaraj, blamed the British only partially, indeed, half-heartedly. Naoroji understood that the predatory Raj was responsible for India’s gross impoverishment and economic deprivation, yet he defined this rapaciousness as ‘Un-British’!” Excepting leaders like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal, Lala Lajpat Rai, Sri Aurobindo and Veer Savarkar, all the rest of the National leaders from 1885 till 1905 seem to have been great admirers and supporters of the Colonial British (different from ‘Un-British’) Raj in India
Sri Aurobindo was not taken in by the patently pro-British views of Gandhi in his Hind Swaraj and other writings. Sri Aurobindo did not share the view of Gandhi that the devilish evils of colonial administration could be attributed to modern Western civilization which ignored the Christian roots and went on the path of loot and plunder, exploiting most of Asia, Africa and America. In an explosive article titled ‘Lessons at Jamalpur, published in Bande Mataram (Sri Aurobindo was its editor) on September 01, 1906, Sri Aurobindo saw clearly the roots of Christianity and exposed them: …
When Sri Aurobindo was at the height of his powers as a fiery, patriotic political journalist, he wrote a series of outstanding articles on “Passive Resistance” under the general title ‘New Thought’ in his own Journal, ‘Bande Mataram’ from April 11, 1907 to April 23, 1907. Smt Radha Rajan says that Gandhi’s exposition on “Satyagraha” or “Passive Resistance” seems vacuous by comparison with Sri Aurobindo’s writings on “Passive Resistance”. I fully endorse her view that Gandhi could add very little to Sri Aurobindo’s discourse on “Passive Resistance”. Smt Radha Rajan has written, “In typical Gandhi vein he does not give credit where it is due in his HIND SWARAJ, considered by Gandhians to be his seminal work. “

Monday, March 1, 2010

Religion less as creedal assertion and more as embedded, embodied practice

Visioning a civilised democracy ET, 4 Feb 2010, Kiran Karnik

Sigmund Freud believed that the first human who hurled an insult instead of a stone was the founder of civilization. Sixty years of the Republic is as good a time as any to keep this in mind as we reflect on and, if necessary, refine or redefine the vision for the country. Of late, the 'super-power' tag, as a goal, has gained ascendancy amongst many people; others prefer descriptions like "economic power-house" or "a seat at the high table". The objective branding of 'biggest democracy' has been supplemented by the corporate favourite: "fastest growing free-market democracy". Many also focus on India’s cultural richness and talk of India’s 'soft power'. […] 

Sadly, democracy occasionally degenerates into majoritarianism. A majority riding roughshod over the rights or views of a minority certainly cannot be the vision for India; nor an aggressive, organised minority coercing others through threats… These regressive and fascist tendencies often ride on linguistic or regional chauvinism, caste or religious identity, or xenophobic pseudo-patriotism.   

The Spirit and Form of an Ethical Polity: a Meditation on Aurobindo’s Thought by Sugata Bose, Modern Intellectual History, 4, 1 (2007), Posthuman Destinies
The Indian intellectual deserves to be put on a par with the European thinker and, as Kris Manjapra argues, ought to be viewed “as engaging and revising through phronesis” the full range of Indian, European and in-between ideational traditions which he or she encountered.9 … In 1905 Bepin Pal wrote of the new patriotism in India, different from the period when Pym, Hampden, Mazzini, Garibaldi, Kossuth and Washington were “the models of young India”. The old patriotism “panted for the realities of Europe and America only under an Indian name”. “We loved the abstraction we called India”, Pal wrote, “but, yes, we hated the thing that it actually was.”

Taking exception to American exceptionalism by George Shulman, The Immanent Frame, Feb 26, 2010

The United States is an empire in decline, as well as a nation under enormous economic duress, and civil religion remains the language by which people here struggle to engage and make sense of those circumstances. The very decline of American power will intensify attachment to the language and symbols typically associated with civil religion, and politicians will feel incredible pressure to invoke it, because they strategically seek electoral legitimacy, and because they themselves are deeply invested in, gripped by, an “American” political identification. The only alternative is that Americans mourn their investment in empire—i.e., in being god’s chosen nation and the “world’s greatest superpower”—to confront and accept the loss of a beloved identity and worldly power. […]

But as Asad also argues, we need to see religion less as creedal assertion and more as embedded, embodied practice. In just these terms, in turn, David Morgan’s post redefines “civil religion,” not as a set of beliefs, but as a body of practices that convene people and conjure their aspirations toward a future. While Morgan holds onto the national frame, and repeats the futile effort to distinguish a “civic patriotism” from its dark double, his turn toward practices is incredibly important as a way to think what “religion” means if we put the focus on democracy, rather than nationality. […]

If we imagine democracy, not as creedal doctrine, but as liturgical practices embedded in ordinary life, then perhaps we can salvage something of value from the nationalist (and religious) traditions braided by the discourse of civil religion. To truly listen to those the enfranchised have cast out as others, to hear their experience of the conduct of the enfranchised and their sense of their own needs, and to debate what that testimony means about how security and identity are conceived, is to begin to rebuild a democratic life in which “the people,” or political community, is reconstituted. That life has creedal elements, to be sure, but politics is a relation to people, not principles, and is thus a relation that requires listening as well as claim-making and conflict. My thought, then, is to shift from seeking to define a benign civil religion focused on state sovereignty in national form, as if democracy is thereby housed or engendered, to exploring “democracy” directly in popular and local, but also electoral practices. We should ask what practices constitute this form of life, and should identify the dispositions, capacities, and commitments we must try to engender if we are to sustain it. Such questions by no means require a localist answer, and indeed will generate arguments in favor of state power, as well as deep conflict over competing claims to represent both “the people” and a democratic faith.