Thursday, January 31, 2013

Spinning mythology

Ashis Nandy had mauled the memory of Sri Aurobindo like a bull in a china shop which Savita Singh has now ably countered by juxtaposing the hermeneutical reading of J.L. Mehta. Parsa Venkateshwar Rao Jr  characterizes Savarkar a morally guilty man, third rate thinker, but he is misrepresented argues Uday Mahurkar. We must differ with Gandhi, asserts Parsa Venkateshwar Rao Jr but visiting Rajghat on January 30, 2013 tells a different tale. [TNM55]

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sri Aurobindo is India’s future

  • [Gandhi's Philosophy and the Quest for Harmony - Page 44 - Anthony J. Parel - 2006 - Preview - More editions It was no accident that Nathuram Godse, a follower of this ideology and a devout admirer of Savarkar, turned out to be Gandhi's assassin. ... We mention only in passing Sri Aurobindo's concept of nationalism and the Indian political community. The reason is that, though very different from Gandhi's, it did not directly confront his (at least in his lifetime). But it did claim that religion as spirituality, as the pursuit of sanatana dharma (eternal religion or eternal law) was of the essence of Indian nationalism. As he wrote in 1907 in his journal… 10:47 pm]
  • [Hindu terrorism, how to prevent it - from Centre Right India by Koenraad Elst - Gandhi was discredited by his non-resistance against the Partition and its attendant calamities. The Hindu movement had been proven right and had the wind in the sails. The assassination changed all that completely: the grip on society by Jawaharlal Nehru and his secularism was enormously strengthened while the Hindu movement was marginalized and thrown back for decades. 6:55 pm]
  • [Righteous Republic: The Political Foundations of Modern India - Page 74 - Ananya Vajpeyi - 2012 - Preview - More editions But this was not their only agenda, nor is the Gita itself so monochrome a text as to lend itself exclusively to the construction of an indic political theory. Gandhi's idiosyncratic appropriation of its complex and multilayered message is proof of the fact that the Gita could be made to do different work for different readers in modern India. Gandhi knew the Gita from an early age (under twenty years), ... 10:47 pm]
  • [Selections from regional press - Volume 23 - Page 47 - Institute of Regional Studies (Islāmābād, Pakistan) - 2004 - The ideas of the RSS would have been revolting to our great minds from Rammohun to Sri Aurobindo. What our true ... 10:47 pm]
  • [Situating Indian history: for Sarvepalli Gopal - Page 201 - Sabyasachi BhattacharyaSarvepalli GopalRomila Thapar - 1986 - ... of Indian nationalism English education and religious reform and revivalism "The heightened role assigned to Bankim, Vivekananda and Dayanand as initiators of nationalism by historians has been to some extent due to Aurobindo Ghose's glorification of their role after he had effectively abandoned nationalist politics and the critique of colonialism and adopted a vicarious nationalist position. Ghose's view was further reinforced by V. Chirol’s and the colonial ... 10:47 pm]
  • [Hindutva, Ideology, and Politics - Page 54 - A. A. Parvathy - 2003 - Preview - More editions 76 Unlike Savarkar and Golwalkar, Deen Dayal hardly used the word Hindu nation. However ... Yogi Aurobindo when he decided to retire from politics delivered his last lecture at Calcutta (known as Uttarpara lectures) wherein he has specially ... 10:47 pm]

The ideas of the RSS would have been revolting to our great minds from Rammohun to Sri Aurobindo.” Despite his “glorification” of the role of Bankim, Vivekananda, and Dayananda, “Sri Aurobindo's concept of nationalism…, though very different from Gandhi's, did not directly confront his (at least in his lifetime).” “The assassination changed all that completely: the grip on society by Jawaharlal Nehru and his secularism was enormously strengthened while the Hindu movement was marginalized and thrown back for decades.” The day is a silent but firm reminder that Sri Aurobindo is India’s future. [TNM55]

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Unshelling the Ashram

A basic element of any self-appraisal is to focus on weaknesses and threats. The present goings on in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Puducherry has facilitated informed delineation of limitations and inadequacies experienced by the inmates while pursuing a life of aspiration and Yoga. It means, mere provision of outward necessities of life is not enough, or in other words, it actually comes at a very high cost as one needs to mortgage not only his intelligence but also the conscience to please the Management.

Another feature of the Ashram is it’s like living in a huge joint family. The personal history of too many people constitutes an unnecessary burden on the memory of any one individual. The security and vitality of collective living thus comes at a substantial price. Merger of the home and work environment is certainly not a happy situation as unsavory feelings seamlessly run. To be in relationship with such a large number of people also gives rise to excessive attachments or deceptive benevolence.

Since Integral Yoga defies standardization and any form of evaluation, the Pracharak system of the RSS seems to be a feasible option. Inmates can be sent outside for a certain period of the year so that they periodically brush up their knowledge while interacting with the people. Chasing targets also can expand their creative abilities as well as the protagonist spirit. On the whole, a more proactive role of the Ashram in engaging with the outside world is a must. [TNM55]      

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Algeria, Alipore, Dalijoda, Raebareli

In the post-anti-hagiography scenario, there is no one today with whom one can check satisfactorily whether an opinion on Sri Aurobindo is correct. Sri Aurobindo’s complex and extensive writings also turn it difficult for anyone to grasp what his exact views are. Besides, as his works are not available in chronological order, the range of his thought on a given day or over a week remain unfathomed. Buried in the Archives are precious details about his correspondents, their questions, their arguments, and their disagreements that spurred the Master’s replies. Shorn of the personal references, most letters present a drab picture that dehumanizes his long cloistered years. A treasury of sub-texts will surface once year-wise collections of Sri Aurobindo’s whole output appear. It would also unveil his motives and motivations in pursuing various streams of thought and zones of avoidance as well.

The Ashram, embroiled as it is in countless controversies at present, is incapable of taking any effective and swift step in this matter. There should be an independent national initiative to rescue the Archives from the clutches of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in order to reschedule its publishing programme and recast priorities. A transparent academic approach would be more suitable than the Kafkaesque vigil of some scheming pseudo-devotees. As a prominent historical figure of the last Century, Sri Aurobindo certainly deserves a better reception form the publishing industry.

The ontological perplexity that Raja Rammohan Roy was grappling with 200 years back cannot be said to have been resolved satisfactorily. Sri Aurobindo, 100 years later, attempted the same with aplomb in the pages of the Arya. But the dual Divine manifestation that he and The Mother constitute put all theory on shaky ground. Many feel content with the analogy and terminology derived from old religions, but what The Mother & Sri Aurobindo do is no repetition but breaking fresh ground. Thus, a neat cosmology or a metaphysical system is not what we expect from The Mother & Sri Aurobindo. Rather, a religious following with Nama-Japa as the anchor should be the springboard for a world-wide critical mass. What was hatched in Algeria or within Alipore Jail can well hail from the happy grafting at Dalijoda.    

Justice O. Chinnappa Reddy, refusing to toe the pro-establishment majority judgement, made some inspired observations in his dissenting verdict. His is a landmark utterance that forges Enlightenment values with the Religious urge within the confines of Indian Constitution. Like language, religion too evolves and there is no reason why one should remain tied to weird mythologies. The Mother & Sri Aurobindo, on the other hand, offer a futuristic alternative launched on a global platform. Moreover, religion is not about faith alone; politics, commerce, tourism, and education also impart considerable weight. But geographical contiguity is no longer a sure glue as technology-aided communication modes carry messages to any corner of the world.

So, there may not be many people who read Savitri or The Secret of the Veda; no point in pushing something down their throats. There may not be many takers for the elaborate explanations of various mind-levels that are considered integral to Yoga. But an affinity or a feeling of love for The Mother & Sri Aurobindo can well well up in most unexpected time or circumstance; no theory or prophecy can ascertain that. India must wake up to such a blessed moment; India must announce this happy discovery to the whole world. A bunch of youngsters can make it happen, no matter whether from Puducherry, Borivali, or Raebareli. [TNM55]

Friday, January 25, 2013

Bengal proposes, Odisha disposes

The vitriol of internal feud flooding the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Puducherry often spills over to the Internet after regular intervals, but they are not the whole truth. The row is not merely about two groups fighting over the spoils but involves a larger civilizational trigger. With a bit of a speculative flourish, no harm, however, in dwelling upon the theme on the eve of the Republic day.

Echoing Tagore, Amiya P. Sen notes that “For the English-educated Bengali, Western thought or values acted more as a heady intoxicant rather than life-giving nourishment; it touched people's lives on the outside without also producing concomitant internal social changes. (Explorations in Modern Bengal, C. 1800-1900: Essays on Religion, ... - Page 2 - 2010 - Preview)” He also adds in the Preface that “I remain convinced as ever that the scope for writing intellectual history, even for academically so well-traversed a region as modern Bengal, is far from exhausted. ( ibid. - Page ix)

Since Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Puducherry can safely be seen as a stream or extension of the East-West encounter that germinated in Bengal, the silent coup enacted by Babaji Maharaj and Prapatti in irrigating Odisha - thus securing a rich harvest - cannot be overlooked. Agreed that the general social milieu is still not propitious but the geography has amply been taken care of with Schools and Relics Centres scattered across the length and breadth of the State. These institutions, over time, must be able to do enough navel-gazing and perform their evolutionary task in due course.

Let Bengal remain imprisoned by Vivekananda, Tagore, and Subhas; Odisha has stolen away the legacy of Sri Aurobindo. On a rough estimate, eighty percent of The Mother’s devotees reside in Odisha. So, contemplating on the future of the Ashram in Puducherry without reckoning the role of Odisha is myopic and anomalous. In this context, the ideological slant that the praxis in Odisha has effectuated over the years entails no mean role in shaping the political future of the world. [TNM55]             

Monday, January 21, 2013

Toxic role of a Quixotic Bengali-duo

Thanks to the Internet and numerous discussion groups, the world is fast coming to the realisation that there is no one who can surpass the vision of The Mother & Sri Aurobindo. That they are sure guides for the future of the humanity has even been acceded to by scholars of various religions in different contexts. But this recognition has not been replicated at the mass level despite unprecedented scale of Globalisation sweeping India during the last quarter-century. The reasons are many but the prime hurdle emanates from Puducherry itself.

Two power-hungry Bengalis are treating the Sri Aurobindo Ashram as their parental property and drawing it vigorously towards its ruin. Sticking to their chair has become their sole concern for many years as a result of which all promotional activities have come to a standstill. Sheer survival has become the whole outlook of the Ashram instead of world-wide outreach. Conspiracy is on as to how to secure the ownership of the Ashram's vast wealth in the name of a few nephews and nieces. The services of a handful of overseas sycophants are also being utilised to sew up some fig leaves of credibility.

It's highly deplorable that the mandarins of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Puducherry are resisting induction of young blood when the country needs most the philosophy of The Mother & Sri Aurobindo. This is the moment to show to the world that the influence of Sri Aurobindo has not passed. For that we need conviction as well as courage, but the Bengali-duo, unfortunately, are engaged in all kinds of cowardly shenanigans in spreading disinformation. [TNM55]

Monday, January 14, 2013

Peter Heehs, Debashish Banerji, and Jyotirmaya Sharma

Tusar N. Mohapatra said, January 14, 2013 at 6:12 am

The way Peter Heehs wove falsehood so magisterially while latching on to the objective label must make us realize how sacrosanct the bare facts are at this juncture. Even Vivekananda presented a doctored picture of Ramakrishna, says a fresh book by Jyotirmaya Sharma. [TNM55]

Tweets 20h - Savitri Era Party @SavitriEraParty Vivekananda’s doctored picture of Ramakrishna … Peter Heehs: Similarities & differences in SV's & Sri Aurobindo's approach  

[Re: A Question of Hagiography and Biography by RY Deshpande on Fri 20 Feb 2009 04:12 AM Permanent Link But the focus on facts could have its own relevance and value, I suppose. ~ RYD
Posted by Kepler on Tue 17 Feb 2009 02:58 AM Permanent Link Here’s a question: what if one did want to know, as objectively as possible, all that could be documented about Sri Aurobindo’s external life…
Posted by Kepler on Thu 19 Feb 2009 09:51 PM Permanent Link I personally do appreciate the results of the rationalistic approach to this “documentation of external facts” about the saint’s life, meaning just those facts that actually were “on the surface for others to see”. I think the raw tasks of collecting, evaluating and presenting the available physical data, do lend themselves to the empirical, rationalistic approach.]

[Kepler March 16, 2012 at 10:27 pm Permalink There are a number of places where Sri Aurobindo refers to earlier stages of his sadhana and the writings corresponding to those periods, as having been superseded in various ways by later developments in his sadhana. (Given that sadhana is all about ever-increasing consciousness and experience, this doesn’t really seem surprising.)
Kepler March 17, 2012 at 9:34 am Permalink I think his sadhana and its expression advanced (in some important sense of the word) over his yogic life; he seemed to say that himself and it only makes sense that it would. That’s why I don’t think you can take texts from very different periods and assume his is talking about exactly all the same things and only choosing a different word here and there. Thus there’s reason to give more importance to his later expressions over much earlier ones.]

Last year, Kepler locked horn with Banerji over a serious epistemological issue that is far from being resolved satisfactorily. Text-based misrepresentations pertaining to The Mother & Sri Aurobindo sans the context are likely to multiply in the years to come. [TNM55]

Tusar N. Mohapatra - 1:49 PM, January 03, 2013 Ned used to blog as spiritofnow initially. She was writing about her personal concerns occasionally referring to The Mother & Sri Aurobindo before she formally launched The Stumbling Mystic with more or less similar content and style. Ned (Nehdia Sameen) passed away on June 15, 2012.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Grappling with the Other and the West

Spiritual pursuit for half a century may or may not yield an inch of enlightenment, but our grappling with politics is a day-to-day affair. The present turmoil in Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Puducherry is a burning example of where negligence of basic political rights can lead to even within a supposedly liberal and informed environment. Absence of elections is an easy mode for creating despotic autocrats out of ordinary humans. We are also witness in this country how a coterie of sycophants was instrumental in dictatorial promulgation of the Emergency. Exemplary relief work in the wake of a tsunami, similarly, doesn't necessarily entitle someone to adjudicate on personal freedom and ambition of fellow citizens.

Our embodied existence  embedded as it is in culture – is prone to tolerating or even provoking caste atrocities, religious discrimination, and communal segregation at times. Insecurity, too, stimulates hatred and bigotry. Spirituality, surely, is the greatest antidote but politics is the primary school. Postmodernism is an endless engagement with the Other and inter-subjectivity. Those who discourage mental gymnastics in the arena of Cultural Studies and 20th Century theory choose to live in an awful state of puerility. We at SELF, however, have been uninhibited enthusiasts of what is best from the West. [TNM55]  

The Mother’s stance on gender

The writings of The Mother & Sri Aurobindo represent an unprecedented peak in the history of civilization. Not only in the arena of human aspiration, but also in the field of day-to-day action, they offer penetrating guidance and assurance. The Mother’s stance on gender, for instance, can be seen in stark contrast to the cacophony that we hear these days by the harebrained. Since a major political formation in India is under the clutch of obscurantist and anti-modern sentiments supposedly sanctified by religion and tradition, Savitri Erans have a bounden duty today to stand for equality and justice.

No doubt, The Mother has counseled silence for self-culture and self-finding, but at moments of social crisis one needs to be vocal and proactive. Let the message go that The Mother & Sri Aurobindo advocate the most enlightening path for social harmony that is in sync with the trajectory of evolution. Let the world know that their voice is not only politically correct in most part but also distilled from the pristine Judeo-Vedic wisdom. They have encouraged original thinking and excellence in all faculties of life and are staunchly against scriptural support for any kind of chauvinism or superstition.

Despite spread of education and latest modes of communication, it is true that the urge for freedom and self-assertion has not reached the vast and varied population of our country. Democratic ethos has not taken root due to dynastic trends and feudal thinking prevailing on a wide scale. Local languages have become barriers for rural population as far as exposure to healthy discourse at the national level is concerned. However, no other proof needed for being forewarned as to how dangerous the cocktail of old religions and politics can be and hence the imperative for being forearmed with an astute alternative like Savitri Era. [TNM55]   

Monday, January 07, 2013

Office bearers of Sri Aurobindo Society should quit Ashram

Machiavelli decoupled power from faith and Montesquieu pleaded for separation of powers. Adam Smith sought to keep commerce free from all encumbrances. But mankind is yet to arrive at an admirable combination of these prescriptions. No perfect recipe can be said to have been hatched even after multiple revolutions. The Mother & Sri Aurobindo, on the other hand, have worked for a paradigm shift. The Five Dreams Manifesto broadcast on the eve of India’s independence outlines a definite blueprint for the future of humanity.  

Apart from the Ashram, The Mother has set up several other organizations and blessed many educational as well as commercial ventures. The purpose of all these was to popularize an alternative source of inspiration for meaningful social intercourse. The modality chosen was to stretch the ambit of High Culture to their Spiritual peaks. The uplifting message touched many and a movement arose but the needed purity is not to be had within a year or two. And hence the necessity of diligent spadework involving the global network of devotees and admirers.

Though created as an offshoot, the Sri Aurobindo Society has long functioned as an adjunct of the Ashram. By being inmates, the office bearers of the Society play a double role that, like bigamy, tends to be inimical to the interests of the Ashram. The society, with its clout and outreach, cultivates patronage leading to psychological scission and segregation among the Ashramites. Role hybridity generates irreverence and critical attitude that proves to be subversive to the homogeneity and cohesiveness of the Ashram. On the other side, being tied to Ashram's apron strings, the Society is deprived of the independence and the required initiative for achieving the full potentials of its mandate.

Without any first hand experience of the inside functioning of both the organizations, it can safely be said out of just common sense that the office bearers of the Sri Aurobindo Society should quit the Ashram. Alternatively, they should resign from being office bearers and allow others to steer the organization founded by The Mother to the fruition of its clear goals. The principle of transparency and accountability is a must and should not be applicable selectively. Once it finds a foothold in Puducherry and Auroville, we can surely turn our gaze to the formidable regional satraps.

The Mother, for practical reasons, stipulated that the inmates of Sri Aurobindo Ashram shouldn't participate in active politics. The Ashram, thus, is exclusively meant for practice of Integral Yoga. But, since publishing is a major activity of the Ashram and some of its members are into writing, it involves politics to a certain extent. The place of Sri Aurobindo in the evolution of politics in modern India is significant and he has left behind considerable amount of writing on political theory as well as prophecy.

The establishment of Auroville, itself, is a testimony to the attempt to create innovative models of collective living and giving shape to age old political ideals dreamt by savants across cultures. In his broadcast of August 14, 1947, Sri Aurobindo even goes further to propose a World Union. Thus, both – the political or the collective as well as the individual sadhana – aspects must proceed side by side so that an integral portrayal of the legacy of The Mother & Sri Aurobindo is presented. This dual concern is perhaps best conveyed by Savitri Era which has been independently stimulating the public sphere since Y2K. [TNM55]

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Ambivalence mires Sri Aurobindo

Ambivalence pertaining to Sri Aurobindo in the public mind persists for a plethora of reasons. Bengal renaissance is a lengthy and complex subject and the definitive role that Sri Aurobindo performed within it has not been fully examined. As a result, his place vis-à-vis other eminent actors is yet to stabilize even after a century. The second reason relates to the Congress politics and its distorted portrayal by the historians. Value of Sri Aurobindo’s contribution is judged depending upon one’s sympathy for either faction of the then Congress Party. The third cause ensues form his reformulation of a metaphysics that is at variance with the received interpretations of Indian Philosophy. Closely allied to it, his tweaking of the established Vedic ritualism by a symbolic hermeneutic, too, continues to confuse scholars and believers alike.

The fourth reason is a sensitive one as Sri Aurobindo, along with The Mother, has categorically denied of subscribing to any specific Religion. Related to this is his status of a competitor with a large number of other Spiritual Gurus. The fifth one stems from his deep engagement with the West. Besides his education, his writings are so steeped in inputs from the Western tradition that Indian readers feel frustrated. Even his poems and plays are overlooked for the same reason. Sixthly, although Sri Aurobindo is described as a nationalist and freedom fighter, his subsequent socio-political writings lean more towards Internationalism and Human Unity. This prevents many to accept him as a true patriot.

Last but not the least, conflicting claims as to his being an ideological progenitor of the Hindutva doctrine has cost Sri Aurobindo dearly in the short run. Sentences culled from his writings without context on controversial topics like Hindu-Muslim antipathy or Congress politics and Gandhi etc. circulate so widely that they prejudice people on a large scale. Since it’s not easy for many to refer to original writings, the misrepresentations and the resulting misunderstandings tend to crystallize. Moreover, a hostile biography by an American inmate of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Puducherry has put the proverbial nail in the coffin. [TNM55]     

The Mother & Sri Aurobindo: 1893 – 1973

Sri Aurobindo returned to India in 1893 and this is the 120th year. The Mother passed away in 1973 and that is 40 years back. Despite their immense contribution, The Mother & Sri Aurobindo are hardly remembered in the national discourse. The concept of the Ashram restricts their appeal and dissemination of their teachings lacks zeal. Sri Aurobindo is almost unknown as a playwright and how many have read his short-stories? The vast corpus of his poems also is a distant land for even the students of literature. Not to speak of his diverse essays, translations, and conversations now freely available online.

The culture of mass protest during the last two years has brought many socio-political problems to the forefront. Core issues of Humanities and their long term repercussions along with legal ramifications are being widely debated providing public education. The insights of The Mother & Sri Aurobindo have much to offer in this context but our public intellectuals and social media champions are pathetically under-informed. No one is prepared to advocate the ideas of Sri Aurobindo when he appears to be most relevant. Real estate, regrettably, has become more worthy of defending than theory or philosophy. [TNM55]  

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Ashram doesn't own the teachings of Sri Aurobindo

Numerically, the members of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Puducherry are a miniscule among the devotees of The Mother & Sri Aurobindo, but a handful of them at the helm have an inflated status owing to legal safeguard. Any challenge to their supremacy, understandably, is resented. Fortunately, the Ashram doesn't own the teachings of Sri Aurobindo but now an effort is on to establish a kind of outsourced certifying authority to denounce alternative interpretations and critical impressions. While we welcome their expose on indiscretions committed by inmates, any attempt to homogenize the legacy of The Mother & Sri Aurobindo will be resisted. [TNM55]

Friday, January 04, 2013

The sovereignty of The Mother & Sri Aurobindo

The Mother & Sri Aurobindo are Supreme Divine. Savitri Era of those who adore, Om Sri Aurobindo & The Mother. There is no further scope to argue about this or analyze various evidences in conjunction with adequate justifications. It’s pointless, but problem arises when yardsticks of being Divine relating to past religions is applied upon them. Measuring The Mother & Sri Aurobindo even on the basis of their own writings becomes anomalous. The popular notion of the Divine being endowed with highest degree of chivalry and virtue, too, perpetuates misunderstanding.

However, the fact that they have been part of the recent history makes it inevitable that episodes of their life history would be discussed in various contexts. From a critical angle, it is desirable too. But to expect excellence in every sphere or scrutinize their words and action for correctness across cultures is too demanding. Even to pinpoint that they represent this or that or encourage such and such things is a problematic affair. At the other extreme, treating mere miracles as the proof of their Divinity is a sign of narrow-mindedness.

There is no dearth of unusual turn of events in Sri Aurobindo’s life but one phenomenon is too conspicuous to be ignored. He has surely written eulogistic accounts pertaining to many persons and happenings. But, it can’t be said that he really has been a follower of anyone; not even any religious deity. Not only this sovereignty in Sri Aurobindo’s life stands out, but also makes him much greater than the sum of the disparate incidents dotting his life. Ditto The Mother and hence the expectant and prayerful refrain that they belong to the future. [TNM55]