Friday, January 29, 2010

The reformist role of The Mother & Sri Aurobindo is subversive

The portrait Asish Nandy paints of Sri Aurobindo, the Mother, and the Ashram in Intimate Enemy is in many respects fascinatingly complex. The final conclusion that he draws on to evaluate the success of Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual politics is in fact stunningly original:
“It is Sankara’s Vedanta, carrying the clear impress of Buddhism, which finished Buddhism as a living faith in India, and not either Brahmanic orthodoxy or any state‑sponsored anti‑Buddhist ideology. Successfully or unsuccessfully, Aurobindo did try to evolve such a response to the West.” (Nandy)]

Many people think of Sri Aurobindo as a Hindu, but he looked upon himself as a member of the Hindu religion for only around twelve of his seventy-eight ...]

[The Indian Supreme Court and the quest for a 'rational' Hinduism
Ronojoy Sen (The Times of India, New Delhi)
South Asian History and Culture, Volume 1, Issue  January 2010, pages 86 – 104 - informaworld.com 
Quoting from texts such as the Vedas, Upanishads and the Gita and using modern thinkers and writers such as Aurobindo, Vivekananda, Radhakrishnan, Shankar Dayal Sharma and even Richard Dawkins, Ramaswamy attempted to construct a notion of religion significantly different from Shirur Mutt.
Taking the cue from Aurobindo's distinction between 'true religion', which is spiritual, and 'religionism', which is narrow and focused on ceremonies, Ramaswamy proposed:
The importance of rituals in religious life is relevant for evocation of mystic and symbolic beginnings of the journey but on them the truth of a religious experience cannot stand. The truth of a religious experience is far more direct, perceptible and important to human existence. It is the fullness of religious experience which must be assured by temples, where the images of the Lord in resplendent glory is housed ….
Gajendragadkar and Ramaswamy spoke a language very similar to Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and his idea of 'pure' Hinduism. According to Radhakrishnan, 'At the moment, however, temples present an air of dull acquiescence and tedious routine. To attempt to abolish temples, which are so passionately loved and affectionately revered, is vain. But we must improve the tone and the atmosphere …. Worship in temples must be of the purest form.'97 Many of the court judgements echoed Radhakrishnan…
If figures like Vivekananda and Radhakrishnan made frequent appearances in Court judgements, there were also some notable absences. This is perhaps best illustrated in the marginalization of Vivekananda's teacher and guru, Ramakrishna Paramahansa…
The Court has systematically appealed for legitimation to authoritative figures associated with Vedic rationalism as well as privileged canonical texts that are located within this tradition. By doing so the Court has not only narrowed the 'institutional space for personal faith'100 but also marginalized popular religion by, in Ashis Nandy's words, treating it as 'parts of an enormous structure of irrationality and self-deceit, and as sure markers of an atavistic, regressive way of life'.101 The essential practices doctrine, as developed by Gajendragadkar, sought to cleanse religion of superstition and irrationalities… 
The court rulings have, thus, furthered the reformist agenda of the Indian state at the expense of religious freedom and neutrality. The Court has also become an ally - often inadvertently - of the Hindu nationalists in their aggressive demands for homogenization and uniformity. 4:32 PM

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