Friday, December 23, 2005

  • The swadeshi movement was, from a Moderate point of view, a negation of the entire Congress project. As a partisan of the Moderates it gives me great satisfaction that Bengal’s greatest poet, Tagore, got it exactly right and her worst, Aurobindo Ghose, got it perfectly wrong.

Mukul Kesavan The Telegraph Sunday, May 29, 2005

  • We move on to Aurobindo, who, again, at times propagated ideas uncannily similar to Islam, as in the wish to return to a Golden Age where all was truth and righteousness. Then we come to Vivekananda, to this writer the most ambivalent, and hence most appealing, of the four.

Ramachandra Guha The Telegraph Saturday, April 17, 2004

These are unreasonable remarks from fairly reasonable people. And, similar impressions have gained wide currency over the years through such supposed expert comments. By ticking off the versatile legacy of Sri Aurobindo in just one sentence is certainly cruel to his memory. It appears that he is still standing before the bar of the High Court of History.

Everybody is eminently entitled to her views but what is questionable is the methodology. It has become a fashion, or almost a compulsion of sorts, to mention the name of Sri Aurobindo as an appendage to others. But, why bring in his name at all, if only to show him in bad light?

For the fact is that, the very project of comparision in this manner, is arbitrary. Sri Aurobindo’s work in the political sphere begins when Swami Vivekananda is no longer there. Tagore is almost a spectator in the sidelines and Gandhi is yet to enter into the picture. And again, the tenor of their work, so dissimilar.

Each of the great men like these has contributed to areas of specific significance which come to form our national mosaic. But in manufacturing the synthetic metaphysics of The Life Divine and composing the epic, Savitri, Sri Aurobindo’s genius is unparalleled, not only in India but also in the whole world.

All writers may not be competent to perceive the nuances of poetry or philosophy. But then, they are expected to be honest enough not to beat someone with the wrong stick. It is only rarely that we read any independent assessment of Sri Aurobindo in the media. But his role is indispensable for the national regeneration everyone is hoping for.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Construed almost synonymous with democracy, the idea of plurality and choice is also lapped up by the market economy. The more the merrier, is the new refrain. But what about consensus, synchronicity and solidarity? Are they not equally significant? This war between the modern and the post-modern has forced upon us lopsided priorities and warped perspectives. The fact that the divergent concepts must be applied in their respective locus is easily forgotten, and the contra attempted to corner browny points.
Conversely, none would like to trade patriotism or nationalism for plurality. They are sacrosanct down to the level of winning a Cricket match or some Beauty contest. Then what about creating such a consensus on a particular knowledge system or a philosophy? Can’t it be attempted in an informed environment by employing dispassionate discourse? Or, at least, is it not worth striving for?
Fears are certainly there. For when simple stipulations like electoral reforms elude us ever, to tinker with societal norms is fraught with far greater hurdles. Nevertheless, a conflated manifesto for the human race as a whole, addressing its existential concerns should be a plausible pursuit. Just like, Einstein’s objection to uncertainty, God doesn’t play dice.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Human unity must base on the idea of culture and not simply commerce

Another year is drawing to a close and what we observe in what can be called the national discourse is sheer ennui. There are many voices, old and new, and proliferating, no doubt, but everybody is speaking in quite expected and predictable lines. The Hindutva and cultural nationalism orchestra is not as enthusiastic as earlier nor the Swadeshi caravan. The secularism debate is groping in the dark and seems to have lost its way in the myriad bylanes of myth and culture.

All polemics concerning haves and have-nots, North and South, State and individual, human rights and technology issues appear to perish under the Juggernaut of Globalisation. Perorations by cheerleaders of both sides abound but bereft of any new insight. Continental commercial conglomerates are being tom-tommed as the panacea for the future. Everything is being weighed in terms of trade or tourist-traffic.

But that is not the model of a greater World Union what Sri Aurobindo and other great thinkers dreamt of. The ideal of human unity must base itself on the idea of culture and not simply commerce. Books like Savitri and The Life Divine can very well form the basis of an enduring inter-cultural dialogue. The evolution-intelligent design dichotomy and racial unrests from Paris to Australia, are perhaps the pointers of such a hunger.

Sri Aurobindo holds a unique position among the modern day thinkers of the world. He has lived through the tradition of the east as well as the west for quite a long time and has not only delved deep into the soul of both the cultures, but also written about them extensively in English with a universal sweep. The futuristic vision that has come out of his forty years’ spiritual retreat needs to be kneaded into all our socio-economic endeavours.

At a time when all our heroes and idols are gradually fading into oblivion, Sri Aurobindo must be invited to occupy the dominant consciousness of the nation. The poet-philosopher must be allowed to teach us so as to exorcise our ephemeral notions about national regeneration and Global citizenship. The contemporary confusion concerning the search for the wisest man ends here.

Monday, December 05, 2005

The other worlds

Sri Aurobindo passed away 55 years back, on December 5, 1950. He is perceived as a great soul but his writings have yet to earn the reception they deserve. The vast body of his work and the difficult diction he employs, may be the reason to deter the common reader; but even the scholar is not enamoured enough of them. The most plausible factor that seems to be responsible is Sri Aurobindo’s insistence on spirituality while discussing secular themes such as politics, poetry, the arts, or education.

The convenient demarcation between secular and the sacred suits the academic approach. But for Sri Aurobindo this is a faulty notion because the causal aspect is eclipsed. The linkage between the two is less of the manner of an umbilical chord and more in the nature of interpenetrating imbrications. If our sensory and scientific construct of the world fails to accommodate such a picture, it must be understood as a lack.

Astronomy as an ancient passion has helped us to know about the outer universe. Astrology, too, by talking of stars and planets attunes us to their subtle influences. The different abodes of gods as described by various mythologies, also, permit us certain familiarity of the other worlds. But we rarely take their effect on our lives any seriously. And the task of Sri Aurobindo is to hammer the modern mind so as to rid it from secular superstitions.

The inner and the other worlds are a consistent theme in his poem, Savitri. Composed through the years from Quantum mechanics to nuclear holocaust, this modern epic puts a stamp of authority on the unseen fecund worlds and their inhabitants who are inextricably linked to our motions and emotions. To recognize this reality seriously, is what Savitri demands from its readers.

The different parts of our being and consciousness, as delineated by Sri Aurobindo in his Integral Yoga system, are nothing but the other worlds. We can well imagine our plights as puppets when disparate worlds are very much in the play to pull the strings. Somewhat similar to the insight offered by Baudrillard that it is the object which uses and employs us and not the other way round that we ordinarily perceive. But then, how do we benefit by this concept in our practical life?

That there runs a perpetual consonance between the seen and the unseen, might seem, at times, hard to digest, but a poetic impression can be allowed to swim aloft. The process should further deepen in the realm of creative imagination leading to a faint intellectual recognition. Since the notion runs counter to our egoistic autonomy, it is bound to take a long time to percolate down to the distant and defiant impulses. And regular recitation of Savitri helps here; its mantric effect casting its reach down to our body cells.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Savitri: A Legend & A Symbol

by Sri Aurobindo
Paperback: 816 pages, Publisher: Lotus Press
Editorial Reviews- Book Description:
In this epic spiritual poem, Sri Aurobindo reveals his vision of mankind's destiny within the universal evolution. He sets forth the optimistic view that life on earth has a purpose, and he places our travail within the context of this purpose: to participate in the evolution of consciousness that represents the secret thread behind life on Earth.
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Adventure of consciousness, October 15, 2005
Reviewer: savitriera - See all my reviews
Yes, it was originally written in English, it's not a translation from some Indian language. The whole book is one poem, a long poem, one of the longest, they call it an epic. A poem is not meant for the poets only, it can be read by anyone. But, it is so difficult to understand? OK, a poem or a song is primarily meant for the ears, so reading aloud is the key. Can it be one page a day? Yes, and then the power and music of the words play magic. The message seeps in by and by.
SAVITRI is the finest substitute for those who can't access the VEDA because of the difficult sanskrit language. As a modern scripture it synthesizes the wisdom of all cultures. So, go for the pure gold; what better way to read SAVITRI than to start reading, right away? Bon Voyage.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Mysticism and measuring rods

In Mind, Language and World ( Ed. Jonardan Ganeri, OUP:2002 ) Bimal Krishna Matilal claims, “ The ineffability of mystical experience or mysticism is a doctrine which seems to be unanimously accepted by most modern writers on mysticism.”( p. 3 )

There is nothing irrational about it, asserts Sri Aurobindo, speaking of the so called spiritual visions and experiences. The cosmic scheme of things has its own logic and necessity and hence the tenor and sequence of the whole dynamics appears to us as a jigsaw puzzle. But then a puzzle it is, which points to a solution, as yet unresolved and unrevealed.

Such an approach attracts labels of deterministic fatalism, but it arises from a human-centric world-view. Social science has its peculiar compulsions and it can’t do without the data-based procedures. The fact that it is under-equipped to probe matters in the realm of human mind should have been a well-accepted proposition. On the contrary, it is considered a rightful activity and the result is, understandably, disastrous.

Obviously, the mismatch is methodological. Though nobody can dispute man’s urge for plumbing his own depths, surely there can be disagreements about the tools and territories. The measure of success in such ventures would depend upon the measuring rods one selects.
One important aspect, which is often overlooked, is the personal disposition of the individual undertaking the exploration. Sedimented mind-sets are a terrible barrier. The tyranny of the normal and contemporary is formidable. Attempting empathy by rising above a hedonistic indifference is intimidating. Above all, the person is a hostage of his own contradictions and therefore, any objective inference is hard to expect.

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Upanishads

by Sri Aurobindo
"THE Upanishads are the supreme work of the Indian mind, and that it should be so, that the highest selfexpression of its genius, its sublimest..." (more) main breath, years sempiternal, upper breath, eternal syllable, blind gloom (more) Kena Upanishad, Taittiriya Upanishad, Chhandogya Upanishad, Shwetashwatara Upanishad, Mundaka Upanishad (more)

Editorial Reviews: Book Description
The Upanishads is a collection of Sri Aurobindo's final translations of and commentaries on every Upanishad or other Vedantic text he worked on. Upanishads are the ancient treatises on spiritual truths as envisioned by the seers, sages and rishis of the civilization of India.
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Guide to The Life Divine, October 9, 2005
Reviewer: savitriera - See all my reviews
The 18 verses of Isha Upanishad, which also appear in the Veda, were most dear to Sri Aurobindo in the sense that he has attempted several commentaries upon them in order to break free from the anomalies occuring in the received interpretations. In the process, he has audaciously ventured to disagree with many venerated masters and philosophical doctrines. Now that all these commentaries are available in one single volume, one should relish the delightful arguments and illumining explanations.
It is important to know that, out of the repeated revision of these commentaries was born, 'The Life Divine', by far, the greatest philosophical work to date. His shorter commentary on the Kena Upanishad deals with epistemological issues while that on Isha takes up the ontological aspects. These works are much more accessible than the sophisticated idiom of 'The Life Divine', and, in fact, serve as guide-books.

The Secret of the Veda

"IS there at all or is there still a secret of the Veda?..." (more) three luminous worlds, luminous cows, shining herds, radiant herds, luminous herds (more) Vedic Rishis, Angirasa Rishis, The Guardians of the Light, Surya Savitri, Retrospect of Vedic Theory (more)

Editorial Reviews: Book Description
Sri Aurobindo breaks new ground in interpreting the ancient Vedas. His deeper insight into this came from his own spiritual practices for which he found vivid allegorical descriptions in the Vedas. The hidden meaning of the rig Veda is revealed with numerous translations and commentary. Many have been perplexed by the reverence accorded to the Vedas when they read past commentaries or translations. Sri Aurobindo was able to uncover the mystery of the double meanings, the inner psychological and yogic significance and practices and the consistent, clear sense brought by this psychological view of the Vedic hymns. Finally, the true inner meaning of the Veda and its relevance to the seeking after self-realization and enlightenment is revealed.

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Stop chanting, start decoding, October 9, 2005
Reviewer: savitriera - See all my reviews

This epoch-making work of Sri Aurobindo on Vedic mysticism is of immense import as far as hermeneutics and psychology are considerd. It is the most original contribution of Sri Aurobindo to the modern knowledge systems. To the reader of this work, Indra is no longer a mere mythological deity, but the master of his own 'indriyas', senses, with whose active help, it would be easy to win new frontiers of awareness. Varuna is not simply the lord of the sea but the highest psychological state of oceanic vastness, light and purity into which we all must aspire to surge forth. By this simple exercise of replacing the connotations, one turns with profit the Vedic text of great antiquity into an excellenct self-management treatise. The Veda is no more prisoned in rituals and conventions but becomes a handbook of self-culture.
As a result, thematic unity between the Veda and the Upanishads has been restored. By addressing the most primordial existential issues besetting human life, the Veda is a univesal testament, and Sri Aurobindo has delivered it from the confines of a particular religion.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Life Divine

By Sri Aurobindo
Amazon.com
Editorial Reviews
Book Description: The Life Divine explores for the Modern mind the great streams of Indian metaphysical thought, reconciling the truths behind each and from this synthesis extends in terms of consciousness the concept of evolution. The unfolding of Earth's and man's spiritual destiny is illuminated, pointing the way to a Divine Life on Earth.

About the Author: Educated from the childhood in England Ari Aurobindo was fluent in several languages and avoided appearing for his Indian Civil Service Test and joined the mainstream Independence Movement. In the year 1910 he decided to retire from active politics and withdrew to Pondichery for exclusive concentration his spiritual practice.In 1914, after four years of intense Yoga he launched a monthly philosophic review, Arya, in which most of his major works were serialised. These works embodied much of the inner knowledge that had come to him in his practice of Yoga. Having gathered all the essential truths of past spiritual experiences, he worked for a more complete method of Yoga that would transform human nature and divinise life. To this purpose he devoted the rest of his life.Sri Aurobindo left his body on 5 December 1950.

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Customer Reviews
A masterpiece meant for everyone
October 6, 2005, Reviewer: savitriera - See all my reviews

It is a difficult read, no doubt, but this is one book which each and every educated person must read; doesn't matter if it takes a lifetime. If one reads three pages a day, it'll take one year to finish the book; that is the kind of patience the book demands, but it's worth it and extremely rewarding. Logistics overcome, comes the barrier of prejudice; several of them: India, Hindu, Ashram, Philosophy, Spirituality, New-Age etc. But what is needed is an absolutely open mind and the book becomes a pure Life's User Manual.
The book itself is a Univeresity that breathes universality. During the course of reading, one gets attuned to many related areas and ideas by way of allusions and comparisions. It also solves progressively one's long-held doubts and discords. Besides, in whichever profession one is, it helps to improve on the practical aspects. Further, the poetic beauty of the text enhances the sheer pleasure of reading even while the insights gained expands one's sense of mundane existence. Two other booklets, "The Mother" and "The Mind of Light" or "The Supramental Manifestation upon Earth" are essential supplements, lest one's understanding of the author is prone to be lopsided.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The most original contribution of Sri Aurobindo

The Indian Express Your comment[s] on this article
In praise of Thomas Macaulay
He was not perfect, but don’t forget that he’s central to modern India
Click here to read the article Total comment[s]: 45 Post your comment

Sri Aurobindo

The fact that you have mentioned the epoch-making work of Sri Aurobindo on Vedic mysticism is of immense import, while debates on Macaulay or Jinnah are simply time-pass. It is the most original contribution of Sri Aurobindo to the modern knowledge systems and hence the primacy of Vedic discourse should incur our curiosity.
Posted by: Tusar N. Mohapatra, India, 12-06-2005 at 1733 hours IST

Sri Aurobindo and Karl Marx

Sri Aurobindo and Karl Marx: Integral Sociology and Dialectical Sociology
by D. P. Chattopadhyaya (1 customer review)
Editorial Reviews:Book Description
Karl Marx and Sri Aurobindo with whose ideas this book is mainly concerned, through belong to two different cultures and ages, the affinity of their chosen themes is very instructive. Admittedly their methods are opposite. One is a dialectician and the other an integralist. Interestingly enough, some of their basic conclusions are similar. It is evident from their common commitment to holism, historicism and anarchism. And this originally induced the author of this work to make comparative study of these two very unlike thinkers. This book will be of interest to social scientists, philosophers and the reading public.
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Motilal Banarsidass Pub; 2nd Ed edition (December 1, 1991)
ISBN: 8120803884
Average Customer Review: based on 1 review
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A great mind of our times , October 5, 2005
Reviewer:savitriera - See all my reviews
An exhaustive survey of the human condition and destiny, this superb volome has not lost an iota of its significance even after a quarter-century and many vicissitudes of history. That both Marx and Sri Aurobindo were lovers of Man and foresaw emancipation, might be the point of departure for this comparative enterprise but scope of the analysis occupies a much larger space to encompass the visions of almost all thinkers pertaining to evolutionary possibilities of the humanity as well as their unfoldment in history.
In the wake of 'clash of civilisations' it may look illusory to talk of 'Human Unity' today, but the book is in one voice with Sri Aurobindo to announce a sublime future for Man and its inevitability. Elsewhere, Dr Chattopadhyaya has expressed reservations about certin aspects in this early work, and hence an updated companion volume from a great mind of our times would be of immense interest.

The Meeting of the East and the West

The Meeting of the East and the West in Sri Aurobindo's Philosophy
by S.K. Maitra (1 customer review)
Publisher: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Publications Department (1988)
ISBN: 8170580781
Average Customer Review: based on 1 review.
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My respectful gratitude to Dr Maitra, October 4, 2005
Reviewer:savitriera - See all my reviews
This is, by far, the most outstanding primer to introduce the intricacies of Sri Aurobindo's insights to mainstream academicians in their language. Lucidity and brevity are the hallmarks of this philosophical commentary. Many find it easy to nurse the notion that western philosophy doesn't hold much value before the Integral Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo. On the contrary, Dr Maitra delineates the elements of the western thought precisely to emphasize how essential it is, in order to decipher the voluminous writings of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.

Sri Aurobindo's influence

Sri Aurobindo's extensive mapping of consciousness and his life-long endeavour to fathom the overhead regions through poetry and yoga are seminal contributions. His emphasis on attainability of highest possible perfection through sheer human efforts and by mere aspiration is a great message of hope. Further, the adventure of consciousness is not aimed at isolated spiritual salvation. Rather, a harmonious collective living is the ultimate destination. By translating this ideal to practical terms, Sri Aurobindo draws an elaborate blueprint concerning the ideal of human unity leading to the establishment of a World-Union.
Sri Aurobindo comes at a very crucial moment in the history of thought when Marxist materialism, Nietzschean nihilism and Freudian vitalism were popular and fashionable. Besides, phenomenology and existentialism had their run along-side him. On the whole, along with the new-fangled science and Theosophy, these new philosophical formulations fermented enough confusion among the elite. In a way, the disparate positions arrived at in Western thought find their synthesis in Sri Aurobindo's philosophy. By aligning them with the ancient Indian wisdom, he comes up with an integral vision that breathes universality as well as contemporarity.
Thus, Kant's sublime, Hegel's absolute, Schopenhauer's will, Kierkegaard's passion, Marx's matter, Darwin's evolution, Nietzsche's overman, Bergson's élan vital, all find their due representation in Sri Aurobindo's grand exposition. His thought successfully overarchs cultural as well as religious chasms. S. K. Maitra and Haridas Chaudhuri are first among the academicians to discern the import of Sri Aurobindo's integral philosophy. D. P. Chattopadhyay wrote a seminal treatise juxtaposing Sri Aurobindo and Marx to examine their utopian prophecies. Wikipedia

Monday, July 04, 2005

15.8.1947
O our Mother, O Soul of India, Mother who has never forsaken thy children even in the days of darkest depression, even when they turned away from thy voice, served other masters and denied thee, now when they have arisen and the light is on thy face in this dawn of thy liberaton, in this great hour we salute thee.
Guide us so that the horizon of freedom opening before us may be also a horizon of true life in the community of the nations.
Guide us so that we may be always on the side of great ideals and show to men thy true visage, as a leader in the ways of the spirit and a friend and helper of all the peoples.
The Mother
Pondicherry