Saturday, December 31, 2011

Eschew muscular nationalism

[That Germany is an issue to German philosophers, I think this is due to the late emergence of Germany as nation in terms of European history. Similarly, Italy is a big issue for Machiavelli. For students of philosophy disinterested in Germany, Heidegger's insights into Aristotle stand on their own, irrespective of his moral failures. (title unknown) - by enowning on Dec 31, 2011 6:24 AM]

The mythology, nevertheless, persists, be it Heidegger, Paul de Man, or Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, nearer home. The war against Hitler continues in various forms and this is a civilisational challenge for each one to espouse evolutionary causes and eschew muscular nationalism. [TNM55]

Friday, December 30, 2011

Thou shalt not shrink

Division of labour constitutes the warp and woof of creation and the gender difference on this score is no surprise. The Mother, however, was opposed to this distinction and used to encourage behavioural parity and occupational levelling. Even then, stereotypes continue to this day and segregation occurs in response to aptitude, merit, safety etc. This phenomenon in the world outside, expectedly, is much more prominent, and hence, software development employs a disproportionate number of women these days than the shop-floor. Even, The Mother's erstwhile impression about football is a reflection of the dichotomy between hard and soft options obtaining in almost all fields.

The way we have often argued that The Mother & Sri Aurobindo can't be restricted to their writings alone, their yoga too is not all about what transpires in the Ashram. Thus, a universal conception of yoga encompassing all of life, however, can't be said to be free from the virus of gender duality. Shrinking from jobs that are dirty or difficult is a commonly observed reflex in this context and dwelling upon beauty, for instance, might explain as a mere defence mechanism. Age and gender are crucial factors, therefore, in choosing to grapple with more adventurous and less advantageous aspects of life. Integral Yoga, if infected by involuntary amnesia or wonted omission, can hardly justify its own label. Confronting the cyclone Thane should be as important as making an ikebana vase, in this sense. [TNM55]

All life is divine

[The Life Divine projects this life as a game of gamble, where the immutable Spirit has thrown itself in to the mutable Matter, this bodily mansion, as great adventurer with destiny’s dice.
Sub: January 2012 issue of The Descent/Second revised Hand Book of The Life Divine. ]

It's surely a labour of love on the part of the compiler, but from the reader's point of view, this abridgement doesn't make The Life Divine any more accessible. Same is the case with the blog postings by sriaurobindostudies. Further, such compilations take away the charm of Sri Aurobindo's prose. Theme based commentaries and comparative metaphysics in concise form, rather, can engage new readers and stimulate thinking.

Thanks, however, for turning the focus on this incomparable book and its compelling content which each and every student should return to. [TNM55]

Manifestation matters

Combing the Net and watching its growing reach since 2005 has, understandably, been educative in a number of ways. But, absence of people advocating the worldview of The Mother & Sri Aurobindo has come as a great disappointment. Not a single journalist or columnist, not a single scholar or public figure in the whole country today speaks for Sri Aurobindo. What an opportunistic disdain for authenticity and quality! What a gigantic tragedy!

Centres across the country are busy with building construction, tax exemption, or such other mundane activities. Wellness retreats on contributory basis is a hot option for many institutions now. Education and culture remain the priority areas while much timidity prevails to take up social causes or rake up political issues.

The salience of The Mother & Sri Aurobindo lies in the fact that they are more interested in the manifestation and not in the occult alone. This almost matches with the definition that Politics is the art of the possible. Thus, if our objective is facilitating a harmonious collective life upon the planet, then politics as its dominant means can't be eschewed or overlooked. Besides, mistaking meditation as the sole tool of perfection also needs to be brought home. [TNM55]

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Those who disclose their experiences

Spirituality for a seventeen year old, more concerned with peers and careers, tends to be a subordinate proposition. The refined and somewhat fancy modes of religion has an attraction but what comes with the bargain is an overdose of ontological formulations, which, obviously, seem burdensome. The information, per se, may not be that irrelevant, and, in fact, teenagers process an avalanche of data as part of their studies and general awareness, but the vocabulary and the abstract notions turn it repellent.

Those who disclose and publish their experiences in public should understand that that helps no one. Firstly, one's own classifications and labelling may not be correct, and hence, misleading; and secondly, it prejudices others and intimidates the freshers. Further, there is no dearth of fictional literature of similar nature, and so, the veracity of such accounts bears a question mark, especially when the person's identity and address is unknown. Lastly, the propensity of such persons to broach subversive subjects on a routine basis raises doubts about their intentions. [TNM55]

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The rest are anathema

The word evolution reminds us of Darwin and transports us back to dinosaurs and Neanderthals. But, instead of pondering over the state of affairs two hundred million years ago or even two centuries back, we can as well concentrate upon the next two years and how we are going to shape our lives in consonance with the evolution that is at work concurrently and incessantly. Let the wise men debate over the intelligent design vs. evolution endlessly, let the New Atheists rant against the creator to their fill, and let the realists speculate against correlationism by churning out n number of books; inviting evolution to our day to day lives, instead, is a much more meaningful task. Theory, of course, is important to discriminate the helpful from the undesirable, but falling prey to hype and rhetoric is also a danger. Eventising and Kolaverising that can pulverise the collective intelligence too need to be guarded against.

The Mother & Sri Aurobindo, in such a confusing scenario, are a pillar of strength and a fount of hope. What they gifted us in black and white are a source of endless light and unfathomable delight. They, alone, in the whole history of mankind, have uttered what is true and what is right. To be with their words is to side with the evolution. The choice, thus, is absolutely simple and the message, crystal clear. [TNM55]

Monday, December 26, 2011

Salvation vs. Evolution

A myth propagated by the traditional yoga systems is that the seeker will hit the jackpot some day and have Self-realization. In Integral Yoga, on the contrary, progress is continuous and cumulative with no particular date as destination. Thus, while traditional yoga employs the bait of personal accomplishment, in Integral Yoga the motivation is collective and curative. This ontological dichotomy ensues from the premise of Moksha or individual salvation vs. universal evolution.

Further, meditation and other techniques of yoga are indispensable for old systems while Integral Yoga primarily relies on surrender. The bottom-up Kundalini of the old is perceived in Integral Yoga as the Grace acting from above in top-down fashion. Overall, instead of personal askesis, Integral Yoga is anchored to the Divine will and in being a willing participant in its progressive manifestation. [TNM55]

Impatience with the past

For the very same reason that Sri Aurobindo's highest realisation coincides with his death, all his writings have to be seen in an analytical, and not literal, manner. The way he has revised some of his writings beyond recognition is a firm pointer to his impatience with the past and insistence on testing assertions upon the touchstone of what is evolutionarily viable or desirable. Stressing that sadhana is "precisely a struggle between the powers of Light and Darkness" (35.635), he hastens to embed it in a historical context: "At each step something has to be conquered" (ibid). So, the question is, how much we have won collectively as this year draws to a close.

Digging into museums or palm leaves archives might be academic activities, but when aligned with aspiration become a drag. Celebrating sundry festivals, likewise, can have toxic effect on our collaboration and retard evolution. The rejection aspect, therefore, assumes importance, for, through a rigid regimen only leash can be put on to certain playful habits and innocuous occupations. Many a normal function of ours will fail to pass once this test is applied and such small victories will surely add up to larger conquests in the long run. [TNM55]

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Aspiration is propelled by the emission of the past

It is said that there is no better way of learning a new language than start speaking it. The same holds true for aspiration, the cornerstone of Integral Yoga. Life is full of hopes and ambitions, no doubt, but aspiration for something unimagined and impossible is surely a heroic task. Further, to sustain it over the years and valorise it against all odds is no mean job.

The Mother & Sri Aurobindo have been categorical about this first and foremost necessity. Perfection is our birthright; we must achieve it. Harmony is our destination; we must arrive there. Such intense aspiration, however, is best propelled by the emission of the past. By cutting asunder all ancient shackles that we may hope to move towards a splendid destiny for the mankind. [TNM55]

Friday, December 23, 2011

Sri Aurobindo is more than a footnote

It is not an isolated instance that Sri Aurobindo is not taken seriously as a philosopher. His poetry, despite colossal output, is dismissed as mere versification. His pioneering role in the freedom struggle is but a footnote in the history books and he merely receives a passing mention as a political thinker. Even as a religious figure also he seems to be suspect and the Ashram and Auroville bear a pseudo tag.

The Bengalis disown him as he has not written much in their tongue. Besides, he is widely perceived as an escapist. Various neo-Hindu organisations in the country treat him as a competitor and ignore him. For the Hindu majoritarian movements, he is not considered as much helpful, and hence is marginalised. Thus, it is a travesty of our times how a great son stands devalued in his own land. [TNM55]

The Mother and Sri Aurobindo have unveiled the Savitri Era

Ken Wilber, with exemplary calibre, has put the contribution of Sri Aurobindo at par with other thinkers like Schelling, Hegel, Nietzsche, Bergson, Whitehead, & Teilhard de Chardin. Thus, it was expected that the academic world will engage with his major works and substantial discourse would follow. But, nothing of the sort happened. It's now clear that there is much resistance to come out of the safe Western/Christian zone. Intellectual lethargy coupled with cultural antipathy plays a big role in keeping Sri Aurobindo exiled from the University precincts. So much for academic freedom and spirit of exploration.

The ontology that The Mother & Sri Aurobindo have unveiled has its root in diverse sources. They have emphasised the fact that instead of repeating the past, they forged a new synthesis that was needed. Their teaching, therefore, has to be accepted in toto, and not through its ingredients, individually. This break with the past is painful for many but a necessity. The culture industry is eager to appropriate and encash them but is finding it difficult to lay a foothold.

Be that as it may, one thing is incontrovertibly sure. Sri Aurobindo has given us the most comprehensive explanation of the universe in a most sophisticated language. It's only by studying his writings that we contribute to the evolutionary force that is at work. If the learned Westerners don't need him, so be it. But, a day will come when Knowledge will rule and the present fog of obfuscation will vanish. [TNM55]

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sri Aurobindo is not an easy subject

Quoting two sentences from a book by Sri Aurobindo can be utterly misleading. Many employ this practice to buttress their own point of view and add weight to the write-up. But, it is crucial to remember that Sri Aurobindo is not an easy subject. By citing him in a faulty context, one is at the risk of exposing his own ignorance. Most people, perhaps, understand this, and hence, avoid discussing his views in public forums. But, the compulsion of scholars is also understandable, for, how else can they spruce up their papers and articles?

Debate is on on the authenticity of Savitri and other unrevised writings, but deriving a settled view over the contents of well established publications also is not so sound. The reason is, each paragraph needs to be understood as refracted through his utterances in subsequent letters, conversations, The Mother's explanations, and in some cases, the exposions of direct disciples. Not only, this requires long years of devoted perusal of such varied literature, but also, is subject to subjective twists and turns over space and time.

A broad consensus, nevertheless, is possible once the question of a separate religion is tentatively agreed upon. Another difficulty is we have nothing to fall "back" upon, as our whole endeavour is an enterprise into the future. No past writing or rules of tradition is of any help to us; they are rather barriers. Thus, it is a huge responsibility today to carry the flag of our Masters. Voluntary clinging to superiority from the mere cognitive to the normative modes is not given to all, and hence, the moment is meant for immersing in humility and gratitude while simultaneously celebrating the Grace. [TNM55]

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Lokpal is injurious to the health of the nation

Lokpal is injurious to the health of the nation. Devising a system that overcomes human failure is, of course, a tempting argument. But the system has its limits, and ultimately, it is man who makes or breaks it. Our existing governance framework is fair enough but needs good men. Elections are the best way to ensure this and it is futile to expect perfection in collective life, overnight.

The Gita is in news now, but as a character building treatise, it has not been effective till date. In fact, its content is borrowed from various sources, and as such, it lacks a central message. It is popular because of its ambivalence and impracticality. Besides, it needs to be dumped as it perpetuates a worn out mythology even in secular environs.

The Mother & Sri Aurobindo have crafted the most modern religious and ethical scaffolding which alone guarantees a safe road ahead for the humanity. By aligning our politics as well as education to it that India can show the way to the world. [TNM55]

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Onus on the Ontology front

[The .pdf version of The Democracy of Objects can be found here.]

I don't understand it fully either, but it's a groundbreaking book at the moment. Nothing wrong in returning to it from time to time as part of our mental gymnastics. At least, the book refers to Samuel Alexander, Bergson, and Whitehead et al with whom we are a bit familiar on the score of Evolution. We have a considerable stake on the Ontology front, and keeping track of the moves of adversaries is a necessary evil and an unenviable task. [TNM55]

Gender and juvenility


A critique of the book "The Lives of Sri Aurobindo" by Peter Heehs ...

But I did not tell you that he is also characterless; I had it in my mind even at that moment, but felt it would be irrelevant. Today I am telling you that his character’s logical disease is so acute that even while writing about the Supreme Master he is possessed by his lust. Sudha Sinha 28.06.2010]

Gender relations is a tricky affair and more so within an ashram environment. How a community deals with expression of human emotions can never be a settled fact as Khaps and traps occur even today. But, in this case the perception of the accused smacks of juvenility conforming to the ordinary female worldview without a sympathetic appreciation of the male psychology and its implications with regard to human rights.

Aspiring for a higher consciousness is surely our duty, but to measure the present human behaviour with the supposed standards of the future would be anomalous. And, therefore, it is important to engage with the multiple dimensions of social sciences. [TNM55]

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Hypocrisy and ignorance

[Quotation of the Day… - Cafe Hayek by Don Boudreaux on Dec 17, 2011 5:26 PM
… is from page 209 of David Friedman’s excellent 1996 book Hidden Order; here, Friedman uses the term “economic imperialism” in its older form, namely, as a term to condemn private investment in ‘developing’ countries by firms and investors from ‘developed’ countries:

People who attack economic imperialism regard themselves as champions of the poor and oppressed. To the extent that they succeed in preventing foreign investment in poor countries, they are benefitting the capitalists of those countries by holding up their profits and injuring the workers by holding down their wages.

(BTW, if you’re in search of a really good book to introduce someone college-age or higher to the economic way of thinking – an introduction simultaneously packed with insights yet accessible and entertaining – you can’t do better than to give him or her a copy of Hidden Order.)]

This piece of advice is no longer hidden but an open secret, but in India, hypocrisy rules and ignorance reigns. [TNM55]

Sri Aurobindo instead of Spinoza or Aristotle

[Sri Aurobindo has defined the 4 main lines of development as occultism, religion, philosophy and spiritual realisation. Each one of these has its rationale in the spiritual evolution as it speaks to a need of our nature and the development it is undergoing. Correlation of Four Main Lines of Development to Our Spiritual Needs - Sri Aurobindo Studies on Dec 17, 2011 1:13 AM]

[Again the chapter on ancient China is a great example here. It is clear that one of Bellah’s goals is to use the case of ancient China to test his general theory of religion and cultural evolution. However, the China chapter is much more than that. Any reader will be impressed by Bellah’s genuine curiosity and fascination about the historical, social, and cultural details of ancient China, many of which are not necessarily relevant for the purpose of confirming Bellah’s general theories and theses. It seems that Bellah wants to tell the story of early China and its religions for its own sake, trying to do justice to its particularities and diversities. The same can be said about the chapters on the other axial civilizations. The generosity and breadth of Bellah’s empathy and curiosity in humanity is on full display on every page. One will never see human history and our contemporary world the same after reading Bellah’s magnificent book. The return of the grand narrative - The Immanent Frame by Yang Xiao on Dec 15, 2011 9:34 PM]

[Larval Subjects links to Levi R. Bryant's recent book The Democracy of Objects. I applaud Levi for providing us with the full text of his book. I've been reading Reiner Schürmann's lectures onBeing and Time, and quite like his approach of interpreting B&T in light of the later works. Unfortunately, the book's content is not available on Amazon or Google Books, and I haven't had the time to OCR the bits I want to share. I can't imagine anyone benefits from keeping the book closed off. (title unknown) - enowning on Dec 16, 2011 10:24 PM]
Westerners are a bit confused now as to how to deal with the extensive intellectual resources scattered over rest of the world. Clinging to Aristotle or Spinoza has been an one-eyed adventure, and now that economic compulsions force them to venture out, Asian knowledge systems pose a huge challenge. Sri Aurobindo's writings, in this context, constitute a great help.
Sri Aurobindo offers a safe filter for the massive extant literature in ancient languages. He also brings out their neglected inner meanings thus making them relevant to the needs of modern times. Finally, the integrality of his vision is so empowering that one is never intimidated by the unending western discourse. [TNM55]

Friday, December 16, 2011

Sri Aurobindo is no revivalist

[On the high-role of the epics in forming and sustaining the collective life, Sri Aurobindo too, in line with his above cited contemporaries, saw them as vehicles of popular culture and as instruments that made available to the masses in a simple language and colourful manner the deep and arcane knowledge contained in the Vedas, Upanishads and other such texts: ... The Epics and our National Life: ignored perspectives, six examples and some views - Anirban Ganguly, Research Associate, VIF]

It is interesting to read this paper, especially against the backdrop of the Ramanujam controversy, but the author, though well versed in Sri Aurobindo's writings, fails to portray accurately the later's viewpoint with regard to the Indian epics. Classifying Sri Aurobindo as a revivalist or a perennialist is a mistake and his overall vision for the country and its place in the world needs to be taken into consideration whilst aligning him with other thinkers and ideological streams. [TNM55]

Bellah and Bryant

[Bellah’s book seems to be a sign that postmodernism is on its way out, and grand narrative has returned. Postmodernism can mean too many things these days, but its initial and defining meaning, as Jean-François Lyotard has claimed, is really its complete rejection and distrust of any grand narrative or universal history. However, as Bellah would certainly remind us, since nothing is ever lost, postmodernism cannot be completely forgotten. What we find in Bellah’s book is critical universal history because it has absorbed the postmodernist critique of the traditional, dogmatic, and provincial “universal history.” ...
Bellah believes that there are necessary links “between past and present,” and that “nothing is ever lost.” The return of the grand narrative - The Immanent Frame by Yang Xiao on Dec 15, 2011 9:34 PM]

[The Democracy of Objects for Kindle - Larval Subjects on Dec 15, 2011 8:09 PM
The .pdf version of The Democracy of Objects can be found here.]

Revolt of OOO against correlationism looks like postmodernism's criticism of grand narrative. Revolts and returns, thankfully, stay in the libraries and rarely touch the common human life. [TNM55]

Thursday, December 15, 2011

In praise of incentives

"Slaps, not more than that," was JP's advice to the agitating students for dealing with the MLAs in Bihar in September 1974. Hence, Hazare's "Just one slap?" remark is a stark reminder of history repeating as both tragedy and farce. That Anna is forcing the country towards anarchy is becoming too evident now.

The very concept of a Lokpal is disruptive of the present constitutional balance of power and its votaries have no idea as to how supremely corrupt and authoritarian it can become. Purging politics of incentive is a utopian notion and it is only by legalising certain payouts and additional entitlements that quantum of corruption can be curtailed. [TNM55]

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

India must follow Sri Aurobindo and not Anna Hazare

The mock Parliament held at Jantar Mantar the other day by the Hazare brigade is a sad event. The fate of 121 crore of people can't be left to the whims a handful of half-literate activists. Sri Aurobindo has told us of his vision and dreams for this country as well as the world. India must follow him and not Anna Hazare. Knowledge must rule and not ignorance. The youth of this country must be persuaded not to go for easy solutions and seek enduring results, instead. Populist and publicist methods might be successful for some time, but there is no substitute for sound theories. Savitri Era Party is assured of the fact that in the hands of The Mother & Sri Aurobindo only lies a safe future of the Indian people. [TNM55]

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Be wary of quotation-wallahs

The childlike hyper-inquisitiveness of Amal to ascertain the source and level of inspiration for particular poetical passages in order to label and grade them accordingly, despite The Mother's admonitions, constitutes a much valued documentation of calibration within the confines of Integral Yoga. For, while elaborate delineation of successive occult realms is available in theory, there is, practically, no means to evaluate practitioners as to their quantum of accomplishment or lack thereof.

In the absence of any such yardstick, obviously, charlatanism flourishes and people occupying positions of power acquire the halo of supposed spiritual realisations. Writers and orators easily appropriate such roles without clarifying on their own rung in the ladder of consciousness. Instead of believing in deliberately floated rumours, therefore, the key question is how to judge a person who is so adept at dishing out lessons on spiritual living.

There is no satisfying answer to this, apparently, and hence better to be wary of people who thrive on quotations but question others on the ground of being merely mental or intellectual. [TNM55]

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Harvard and Heehs

[Harvard University has decided to remove the summer courses on economics taught by Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy after a furious debate over a controversial editorial written by him that was offensive to Muslims.]

But Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Puducherry lacks spine to discipline Peter Heehs who continues to justify his hostile writings through proxy voices. [TNM55]