Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Chaotic and democratic, creative and therapeutic

from Tusar N. Mohapatra to Satheesh S date 31 March 2010 19:11 subject Re: Drawing one’s own conclusions and imposing them on others: the case of one Mr. RYD.
Dear Satheesh,

The 1993 edition of Savitri is now part of CWSA and thus bears the unmistakable stamp of authentication. Individual viewpoints, however, reflect diverse sentiments which require to be taken into consideration as and when the next edition is planned.

An advantage of Internet is that discussions on various emendations can be carried out online. This is serious work and such a constructive venture is yet to sprout. The earlier ivory tower approach should make way for this chaotic, but participative, method.

You may be right to take exception to certain pronouncements, but stifling our new found freedom of expression would be cruel and self-defeating. Let’s speak, think, make amends, and overturn our beliefs: that would be more democratic, more human, more creative and therapeutic as well (you don’t suffer from Freud-phobia, I hope). [TNM]

Heehs has enough ammunition to redeem himself.

A telescopic view of the Heehs imbroglio unravels its various segments. It snowballed over a fairly long period of time, and presumably, flexing of muscles by a few upcoming actors accelerated the cascading effect.

Parekh, as Paulette has hinted, had resisted blacking out of certain inconvenient documents and his legacy was carried on by Heehs. Obviously he drew the ire of MukherjeeBhattacharya and others from time to time.

The flashpoint was reached in 1993 with publication of the revised edition of Savitri. Protests and court cases followed suit. But Heehs managed to survive unscathed. His other books having contributed to his reputation as an austere scholar.

2008 brought the breaking point. It would be naïve of him to claim that he didn’t anticipate such widespread conflagration over the biography he wrote. The book, on the contrary, can be said to be meant to provoke, create a controversy, trigger a debate, and define the future. All these have taken place to an appreciable measure, but sales didn’t soar, alas!

Two words “retouched” and “hagiography” in the preface of The Lives of Sri Aurobindo speak volumes and constitute a defiant methodological manifesto. The following pages, however, fail to stand up to such exacting standards. He was done in by friends, but Heehs has enough ammunition in his hard disc to redeem himself.  [TNM] 

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Banerji's subversive zeal

Banerji tells The Times of India that “The work of scholars like Dipesh Chakrabarty has influenced me a lot.” If a Marxist like him takes pride in proclaiming, “My work is an extension of his ideas of the subaltern subject,” there seems to be nothing amiss. But when such extension reaches the work of The Mother & Sri Aurobindo with a subversive zeal, the devotees need to be extremely vigilant. [TNM]     

Friday, March 26, 2010

Bandwagon and weathercock

Defending the thesis is one questionable skill that the academicians are trained in early on. Philosophies grow out of such one-sided marshalling of arguments. A lawyer’s ability, on the other hand, to plead for either side of a case appears flexible, but paradoxical at the same time. Because spatio-temporal fixity fails to accommodate varying perspectives of the seven blind men admiring an elephant. Rationalizing such a scenario under an overarching postulate of sapta-bhangi-naya too is not free from ambiguity as invoking avyakta or unmanifest is something difficult to grasp.

Logical positivism, in its halcyon days, encountered deadlocks on many fronts and consequently the epistemological rigor had to be abandoned. The same happened with analysis of language in the recent years. The current obsession with SR/OOO is sure to meet a similar fate. But the puerile passion with which it is pursued at present is really astonishing. That a Bourdieuian field is the binding force is however understandable.

The need for perceiving that the opposite is also true is considered normal in the Sri Aurobindian landscape. As if this challenge is not high enough, empirical astuteness is further elevated to the genre of knowledge by identity. Academic verification, obviously, is out of question in such instances, but speculative reasoning firmly points in this direction. Thus the choice, clearly, is between a bandwagon and a weathercock.  [TNM]

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Rama's mother and lemonade

Watching participants from St. Stephen’s College unable to name Rama's mother in a Doordarshan quiz contest, Anant Pai went on to create Amar Chitra Katha. Deepa Sreenivas weaves a colorful tale and takes the story further in SCULPTING A MIDDLE CLASS: History, Masculinity and the Amar Chitra Katha in India (Routledge2010). 

An interesting addition to the genealogy of nationalist sentiment in India discourse. Needless to say that Sri Aurobindo finds no mention in the book. India's Middle Class: New Forms of Urban Leisure, Consumption and Prosperity (Cities and the Urban Imperative) and Ritual Matters: Dynamic Dimensions in Practice  are two related studies by Christiane Brosius. [TNM] 

LSD: Live-in, suicide, & derailment

Live-in, pre-marital sex no offence,” holds the apex court while “Mulayam links women's bill to eve teasing.” “Maoists blow up rail track,” derail Rajdhani Express,” and “kill three policemen in Orissa,” whereas “Naxalism founder Sanyal kills self.” One wonders in which century we live in India today. [TNM]

Alphabets do conspire a coup

Right here I summarize the basic argument behind Wilber's answer to the question of why and how things change over time: ultimately, it's because of Providence working through the minds of Great Men. I find this implausible, but it is a useful context for those who want to interpret Wilber's more monomaniacal claims about his own importance: there is an internal logic to such claims, I mean. To wit:
Great ideas make history, and if Wilber's ideas are to change history, then they must be recognized as great and taken seriously by enough people so that some change is actually effected.
Yes, the argument is circular and specious, but it is something more than just malignant narcissism. It fits in with the whole Weltanschauung, it ties the room together...]

Anderson’s continued interest in Wilber signifies that it is not easy to wish away the formidable formulations of the latter. Whether or not Wilber is an instantiation of “Providence working through the minds of Great Men” one thing is certain that new ideas coagulate while writing. Alphabets do conspire a coup and hijack old themes away.  [TNM]

Banerji bars images

Times of India - Pervez Iqbal Siddiqui - ‎LUCKNOW: Garlands and statues in Uttar Pradesh have an uncanny similarity: they are impressive symbols of political competitiveness.
Times of India - ‎NEW DELHI: Ambedkar united the dalits but his birth anniversary next month will trigger a clash for community votes in Uttar Pradesh, with BSP set to join Congress in playing to the dalit gallery. 'Maya spent Rs 4500 cr on memorials' Indian Express Mayawati spent over Rs.14000 cr on memorials: Congress Sify]

Banerji complains of increased number of photographs of The Mother & Sri Aurobindo. He might have graduated to an impersonal zone of sadhana, but he should be sympathetic to the younger devotees who need the images. After all, it is a personal choice, and why Banerji should be issuing permits for how many images to possess and where to keep them. [TNM]

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Kazlev votes for Heehs to seal the East-West chasm

Kazlev has cast his vote for Heehs so as to seal the East-West chasm, whereas the coming together of The Mother & Sri Aurobindo on March 29, 1914 stands for the fusion of the twain. Sri Aurobindo, in his series of essays in the Arya, responded to major thinkers like Marx, Darwin, Spencer, Nietzsche, Bergson, Freud, and James. The synthesis he attempted seems to have not made much headway a century later. 

India was under the British rule then, but today it is poised to be a dominant economy. Technology and prosperity have also generated a lot of hubris. Past equilibriums are collapsing causing immense heartburn to those used to privileged treatment. It would be unwise to assume that these have no resonances in an ashram environment. Or, incidents like attacks upon Indians in Australia have no bearing upon the emotions of those residing in an ashram.

The Flat World thesis was offered parading equality and as a consolation, but the meltdown showed its hollowness. Understanding the timing of Heehs’ outpouring, hence, is extremely significant. His targets are many and the repercussions, as per script. Obviously, a 21st century mini edition of colonialism won’t be tolerated within the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Puducherry. [TNM]   

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Power, Wealth, Sex - Liberty, Equality, Fraternity

Upon decoding the abstraction, it becomes apparent that “the three forces - power, wealth, sex - that have the strongest attraction for the human ego and the Asura” are basically inter-personal relationships integral to our embodied existence. Sublimation of these three into “The great mantra of the French revolution - Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” is perhaps one of the major objectives of collective yoga.

Spirituality as a Level-IV defence mechanism is definitely useful for the individual and therefore liberation (moksha) had the sanction of tradition. A broad division of labour based on age (four ashramas) and aptitude (four varnas) got stabilized for realization of the aim (four purusharthas). Religion also stepped in to translate these ideals by mass producing variations catering to popular culture.

When The Mother & Sri Aurobindo ambitiously embarked upon building a spiritual society, the past principles went haywire. The individual’s journey was within a manageable limit of a few decades, whereas the society’s progress covers a much longer span of history. Effectuation, evaluation, and interpretation of a progressively transforming reality are obviously fraught with problems. Besides, the inter-personal dynamics dictating politics, economics, and procreation (power, wealth, and sex) are too entrenched in primordial laws and instincts.

Spirituality, as held by The Mother & Sri Aurobindo, is to leapfrog from the echelon of individual realization (psychicization) to being immersed in the ocean (varuna, vastness, wideness) of universality (spiritualization) which, in turn, dovetails into the causal cauldron level (supramentalization). What fundamental modification would these higher realms of consciousness entail is within the womb of the future and difficult to speculate. But, the good news is that human imagination and action are the only portals through which they will manifest. The abhorrence of the mental, therefore, needs to be moderated. [TNM]  

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A new revolution in the Earth’s evolution was triggered on March 29, 1914

Anderson has drawn attention to a couple of books and assorted religious streams. There, indeed, is merit in the point he is making. But certain facts are worth mentioning for removing the cobwebs of confusion. 

The Mother & Sri Aurobindo, when they met in Puducherry on March 29, 1914, a new revolution in the Earth’s evolution was triggered. Cultural chasms dotting countless contours of human habitation caught a promise of being bridged. The Masters have taken care to leave enough evidences for their credentials to be empirically interrogated. Their contribution, conjointly, has no parallel in the human history.

The word ‘Integral’ approximates to what The Mother & Sri Aurobindo referred to as ‘World Union,’ the ‘Third dream.’ A synthesis, a coalition, a free association of disparate thoughts and movements is crucial here. Encompassing the plenary human enterprise across the planet by transcending the Kantian political perimeter is the idea. Staying attuned to the unseen evolutionary energies unleashed by The Mother & Sri Aurobindo is the magic clue.  

This to Anderson and his friends is belief and hence unacceptable. Well, it’s free choice, and right now there is no other alternative in sight. [TNM]   

Friday, March 12, 2010

Anderson takes his past baggage for granted

Anderson, a Buddhist, believes in “an integral theory that is not predicated at all on structures of belief,” but he is perplexed as to how this can come about. The problem lies in the fact that he takes his past baggage for granted, sees nothing problematic about it. A new theory – and an ambitious one at that – must start anew with fresh ideas. Sri Aurobindo, in his The Life Divine, has supplied some very useful clues. And it is not difficult to erect an integral theory, at least one for oneself, in order to be at peace with oneself. [TNM]

Speak out and let the sunshine in

The tone of Pandey and Deshpande seems to be sullen and mood one of helplessness. This is not a desirable situation. Things have come to such a pass just because proper remedies have not been applied at the right time. Our scholars have continued to write about rarefied spiritual heights whereas the ground realities happen to be abysmally abominating.

Under the cover of this conspiracy of silence sin and deception has proliferated. Suffering injustice silently has been considered as the cornerstone of practice of yoga. Criticizing malpractices have been construed as being critical of the Ashram.

No more. You have the weapon of the words. Speak out and let the sunshine in. List out the demands. Set the rules and procedures right. We all are stakeholders here. The time is now. [TNM]

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Power and patronage as family legacy

The “Sri Aurobindo community” that Banerji refers to is not easy to define and this amorphous construct gives rise to many theoretical incongruities. For instance, dynasty is one factor that people shy away from discussing. Wealth and knowledge, power and patronage, as family legacy is spawning many unhealthy situations.  It’s true that not all benefit from the family connection, but to some it offers an aura and they tend to function as though shouldering a variation of ‘white man’s burden.’ Banerji himself is a descendant of a famous family, and so are some others who have been vocal in the Heehs imbroglio.

Institutions and official positions too bolster the otherwise frail voice of an individual. Even Heehs had to steal the ‘Founder’ title (and I grabbed the President’s post before someone else lays claim to it; first mover’s advantage, that is). Opinions, if emerge through democratic negotiations within an organization, carry greater credibility and legitimacy than when foisted by the high command. Inculcating such collective consultations through mandatory institutional mechanisms is a task that needs to be urgently addressed. Converting the Trusts to more participative and democratic legal bodies in order to infuse talent periodically is also a challenge. Any first mover here? [TNM] 

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Banerji goes a step further than Heehs

Divinity of The Mother & Sri Aurobindo, maintains Debashish Banerji, “is certainly not a tenet of faith that you have to sign up for.” This line of thinking is a fundamental departure from what has concretized over the past one hundred years. By proposing an ideological alternative, Banerji goes a step further than Heehs, whose book never professes to preach.  

Banerji delinks yoga from devotion and seeks to secularize it in a curious fashion. Admittedly, bowing before any divinity is shameful for the academicians as it jeopardizes career prospects and curtails conference opportunities. So, self-interest is at stake here and not academic freedom and one has to prioritize what one wants. Yoga devoid of devotion, however, is absurd.

Banerji, of course, is more agitated because of the public display of devotion which he fears have reified as rituals leading to dogma. Such fundamentalist aversion for collective devotional voluntarism is obviously a subjective malaise lacking in the integral tag. As a student of forms and colors, it is surprising why Banerji finds the lived human performance so repulsive.

Another conspicuous concern of Banerji is control and, understandably, he is impervious of authority. So far so good. The utopian anarchy that he has in mind, unfortunately, is slightly away in time and in the meanwhile he has to make do with who are mere pigmies in his eyes. For his succor from Das Gupta’s splendid isolation may snap any day. [TNM] 

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Power is exercised only over free subjects

[Foucault on Relations of Power and Relations of Constraint: Is Chattel Slavery the Former, the Latter or Both? from Per Caritatem by Cynthia R. Nielsen. Power relations presuppose relations among free subjects…  
Thus, it seems that American slaves were involved at least intermittently in something like a power relation with their masters.  This is not to deny that they were at times bound physically (e.g. for beatings); however, the majority of their service for the master necessitated an unbound (physical) existence.  In addition, as many slave narratives attest, various forms of resistance were possible within these the constraints of the slave system.  For example, slaves often interrupted work routines, stole from their masters, had love affairs with the mistress, attempted to escape, and even physically confronted their masters…  
Thus, freedom is the condition for the possibility of power relations to obtain, freedom makes possible the maintenance of power relations.  Perhaps what he means is that in power relationships, e.g., a pedagogical relationship, one side has to willingly take the subordinate role (the student).  The student is not forced to learn from the professor, but places himself willing under the professor’s direction.  Thus, from the student’s side, when the professor has the “lead” role, the student’s freedom is necessarily limited—but limited by choice.  Such a relationship, if it remains positive and productive, does not translate into a dominating relationship, as the student could at any time decide not to listen to the professor’s advice, or s/he could choose to stop attending the professor’s lectures.  Also, it seems that the professor must be open to correction by the student.  When the professor accepts the correction or challenge to his/her argument, thesis, etc., the student then exerts power (in the Foucauldian sense), which results in a reduction of the professor’s freedom.]

[(title unknown) from For The Turnstiles by DGA. Considering this manifesto at Posthuman Destinies…
To the Foucault thing: I am increasingly convinced that Foucault was not particularly consistent methodologically or philosophically. He was a brilliant historian, no question, but his positions are very hard to trace over the course of his career. Peter Dews' book Logics of Disintegration is a brilliant treatment of this. It is much weaker on Deleuze, however. Finally, it is not clear to me how this very Foucaultian manifesto locates its use of self and the care of the self in the Foucaultian patois of governmentality and biopower, contemporary terms to the tentative care-of-self explorations Foucault put forward at the end of his career. This might be a way back to addressing the question Carlson and Banerji pose above vis a vis Aurobindian spiritual practice.] 

The status of the residents of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Puducherry is complex to characterize. We get to hear the voice of only a handful of authors or orators. The large majority may not be amply intellectually equipped, and hence silent. Generically they are called ashramites, and even sadhaks or disciples that adds a chunk of aura to their identities, but the more coveted part of their existence is the life long economic security that they are entitled to. Although their stay is supposed to be voluntary, social and economic compulsions turn it otherwise.

Behind the façade of snatches of modernity, however, one can sense in them deep scars of deprivation and victimhood, power play and hierarchy. Absence of TV, Internet, and mobile phones during the Masters' presence facilitated a semblance of aloofness. Time and technology are thus adding to the sadhaks' woes as no preceding guidance is available to fall back upon.  Harmoniously negotiating one’s multiple identities within a cosmopolitan community and simultaneously endeavoring to demystify the power relations that is woven all the while is no mean facet of the sadhana that (s)he is officially engaged in full time. 

The Heehs imbroglio brought into focus many contradictions obtaining within the Ashram in contradistinction to its avowed goals. Granted that all these cannot be resolved overnight or in a time bound mode. But understanding their many ramifications and being willing to apply all our intelligence to alleviate their foul effects proliferating is a sacred responsibility which need not scare us. Confabulations on Ashram climate change can occur without peregrination of Copenhagen. [TNM]

Friday, March 05, 2010

The ennui that is Ken

It is a welcome sign that the world is steadily waking up to the diversity of the vision of The Mother & Sri Aurobindo. And there are many reasons for that. Mainstream philosophy, through a bunch of ultra-materialists, is groping in the dark in the Sahara of speculation. Ken Wilber’s too certain mapping of the cosmos, on the other hand, has fallen out of favor because of the ennui it ensues. Dawkins led new atheists movement ran out of steam. Obama fiasco demonstrated the futility of juvenile hope barring of course a consolation Nobel.

The vision of The Mother & Sri Aurobindo is not merely academic. It is in action and its sure strides can be easily perceived when one looks at the global situation. India poised for a giant role in the near future is too apparent and definitely not the only outcome. Besides, the sense that gets across is too narrowly nationalistic. The integrality that The Mother & Sri Aurobindo embody is too vast to be embossed by any such chauvinism. 

Negotiating with the global diversity, therefore, is the most challenging task of navigating the future. The more difficult facet, however, is translating this rhetorical sweep to spell out the specifics. [TNM]      

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Bachchan's vachan

Hindustan Times - ‎Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan, whose mother was a Sikh, says he feels drawn towards the religion and wants to visit the Golden Temple in Amritsar with his ... Amitabh Bachchan wants to pay homage at Golden Temple, Sikh blood in me beckongs - Gurpreet SIngh - ‎FATEHGARH SAHIB: Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan wants to pay homage at Golden Temple, Amritsar. Bachchan expressed this desire on ...]

So now it is clear that he has no inclination towards The Mother & Sri Aurobindo. [TNM]

Mercifully Sri Aurobindo stops there

The last two chapters of The Life Divine are defining moments in the whole project of The Mother & Sri Aurobindo; but the overall emphasis of one chapter is quite dissimilar to the other. One relies on the individual while the other is oriented towards the collective. One seems to stress the course of tapasya; the other, practice in joyful participation. With one, one faces a wall as it were; an insurmountable abstraction, whereas a happy humanization is encountered in the other. Mercifully Sri Aurobindo stops there. [TNM]

Monday, March 01, 2010

Yes Nanaji

The demise of Nanaji Deshmukh should once again stimulate us to work for a non-Congress Govt. at the Centre. This can be facilitated if various parties tweak their antenna to the inspiration of The Mother & Sri Aurobindo. [TNM]  

As long as our actions haven’t become mere rituals

[Taking exception to American exceptionalism by George Shulman, The Immanent Frame, Feb 26, 2010 No doubt, “democracy” is a discourse authorizing American nationalism and state power, so creedal assertion does not assure any particular (e.g., egalitarian or non-violent) political outcome; and indeed, as Talal Asad argues, “democracy” as a discourse has historically justified state violence. 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. 1:58 PM

When you have no objection to putting up their photographs in a private room, why raise such a hue and cry over the placing of their photographs in meditation halls or conference chambers? As long as our actions haven’t become mere rituals, there is always scope for the right expression of our feelings, especially in the midst of other like-minded people. Let us not forget that Sri Aurobindo and the Mother gave their photographs to disciples for their spiritual help. Posted by Raman Reddy at 2/22/2010 12:03:00 PM]

[Embedded religion in Asia The Immanent Frame, posted on Monday, February 9th, 2009 by Richard Madsen
Asian religious practices are less individualistic and more communal, socially embedded, and locally particularistic.  This makes it more difficult to imagine how Asian religions could be accommodated into the standard liberal model for political incorporation (often based on the American experience), which officially considers religious belief a personal preference of individual citizens, who will then form all sorts of different but overlapping private religious associations in an open religious marketplace and expect that these private associations will share enough in common that they will tolerate one another but have enough differences that they will not coalesce into any unified opposition to the state.  We are becoming more aware of the limitations of this liberal model, even in established Western liberal societies like the United States.  How much more difficult might it be for this liberal model to accommodate the local, particularistic, communal religions that are becoming newly visible in Asia?]

Religion and rituals as part of fleeting faith dynamics require a more considerate and sympathetic theoretical accommodation than what is held rigidly at present. [TNM]