Saturday, August 29, 2015

Gandhi was trying to uphold Civil Society values

There is nothing more precious for us than Sri Aurobindo's works. However, I'm not very enthusiastic about compilations. Let's take the example of Letters on Yoga. Without historical context and the conversational setting, the reader misses much of the charm. Besides, Sri Aurobindo's own words may not be quite apposite for specific current issues.

The solution I have in mind is to secure articles on various problems from present disciples to create anthologies. Let people muster courage to speak out sans the compulsion of citing Sri Aurobindo and without resorting to verbosity. Let's say it clearly that the solutions The Mother & Sri Aurobindo have foreseen are far away, and so, we must come forward to think about the present issues, ourselves, like rest of the world is doing.

Thus, active participation of Sri Aurobindo's followers is necessary to supplement present discourse on sociopolitical issues. If you can get one article each from ten different writers, that would be a more interesting and relevant book. [TNM55]

A. Gandhi

Gandhi has come under attack recently through a series of articles in the Press for being unsympathetic towards the Revolutionaries resorting to violence during the freedom struggle. These well documented works seek to portray Gandhi as a tacit collaborator of the British and hence undeserving of reverence as Father of the Nation. The Revolutionaries, obviously, are treated with sympathy and awe. On the face of it, this reading seems genuine and close to patriotic sentiments, which is fair. But there are other aspects when examined in more detail.

The crux is the context. What the Revolutionaries were engaged in was perhaps justified because they were fighting against the Colonial rule, but Gandhi was trying to uphold Constitutionalism and Civil Society values that are valid even after independence. From this angle, Gandhi's statesmanship qualities seem to far surpass the patriotic heroism of the Revolutionaries. So any rigid stance on this matter violates basic ethical subtleties.

B. Rajiv Malhotra

Plagiarism charges against Rajiv Malhotra has attracted wide attention recently. Malhotra is known for his books on Indology where he disputes the Western viewpoints and supplies alternative readings sympathetic to native culture and history. In his latest book, he cited several passages from a Western author some of which are not properly attributed. Upon being charged with plagiarism, he, instead of apologising, preferred to justify it by saying that the Western authors too borrow ideas from Sanskrit texts without attributing. Thus, a person who is expounding on Dharma was found to be wanting in adhering to basic publishing ethics, egged on by supporters on religious lines.

C. Ramdev

Ramdev is a famous yoga-guru with followers all over the nation. Sometime in 2011, he started speaking political language and undertook fast against corruption along with his supporters in Delhi. Later on, he came out openly in favour of BJP and campaigned actively for its Prime Ministerial candidate. However, once the elections are over, he became silent about blackmoney and any wrongdoing by the Govt. Two objections here: 1) He used his influence upon people as a teacher for political purpose, and 2) He leveraged the whole episode for furthering his business interests. Thus, there was clear compromise on the ethical front. [TNM55]


  1. Sir,

    I think it is a great idea to try creating anthologies. But it would be great if you could help me understand this better. You say -'Sri Aurobindo's own words may not be quite apposite for specific current issues’, and that we could do this 'sans the compulsion of citing Sri Aurobindo' as 'the solutions The Mother & Sri Aurobindo have foreseen are far away’. In that case, why is the call then for Sri Aurobindo’s followers? For whether they quote Him or not, His views, primarily, ought to form their opinion.
    And Sri Aurobindo does need a context to be relevant, even if we are speaking of today’s sociopolitical issues. Of course, He does not have a specific answer for every headline in todays newspaper, but then the mystery of the cosmos or the destiny of earth is not defined by events of a season. And Sri Aurobindo and The Mother have proposed just one eternal solution for ALL the maladies of man - Transformation of consciousness. Historians, scholars, journalists, political analysts cannot be expected to understand or follow His words and so intellectual gymnastics is their means and end. But if one identifies themselves as His follower, by the virtue of being so, His Yoga is supposed to be the basic foundation of their belief system. How exactly do they help in supplementing the present discourse by not discussing things in the light of His teachings.

  2. It's not "by not discussing things in the light of His teachings" rather by discussing things in the light of His teachings is what I had in my mind. However, individual inspiration is paramount and must be followed as the occasion demands. [TNM55]

  3. Thank you for the reply.
    That means the individual inspiration can violate even explicit instructions of the very light it claims to represent. The point in question being-Savitri Era Religion. How does one justify its conception when He has categorically said- "I must say that it is far from my purpose to propagate any new religion, new or old, for humanity in the future. A way to be opened that is still blocked, not a religion to be founded, is my conception of the matter. It is not my object to develop any one religion or to amalgamate the older religions or to found any new religion – for any of these things would lead away from my central purpose."

  4. A very valid question, and let me attempt to answer again by borrowing your own phrase, "the very light." How do we describe that? It's not about their writings alone. Their life history, and their dealings with the disciples and so on. On the part of the followers, what they imagine, what they see in their dreams etc. So defining that "light" is not easy; further, there is no modality to judge each other's action or experience. It's a free world. But when the followers come together and participate in some collective action, then it takes a specific form, which Justice O. Chinnappa Reddy has identified as legitimate religious practice in the famous Auroville Case.

    How to communicate about it to the younger generation? Some nomenclature is needed; Savitri Era or anything. Depends upon which phrase (including, "the very light") becomes popular and endures. Sri Aurobindo with Barin (and later, Motilal) had thought of a Deva Sangha. Thus, a name for describing "Ourselves" is necessary, if not mandatory. [TNM55]

  5. For some strange but hopefully good reason, I do not share your confusion with ‘in the light’. Nor do I see any difficulty in defining it. When the Beings in question have left behind volumes of written material, painstakingly documenting, clarifying, illuminating their vision, the path to be followed and the goal to be achieved, it leaves no scope for anyone to supplement it with any embellishments. Neither with opinions of the eminent judiciaries, nor with some (scholarly) biographies, least of all, with the ‘imagination' or ‘dreams' of the followers.

    Also, I am not able to comprehend the necessity of a ‘phrase' which becomes 'popular and endures’. It is true that Sri Aurobindo and the Mother are the radiating centres of Light which attracts souls who aspire to participate in their Work, and consequently, a spiritual community has come into existence. But Work which consists in Supramental advent or Transformation of consciousness is defined by how far this community progresses in their inner journey, their Sadhana. Not by what the community chooses to call themselves or how accessible they are for the ‘younger generation’.

    Truth which is at the mercy of nomenclature, is hardly any Truth.

    Nevertheless, if nomenclature becomes ‘mandatory', it is best to avoid the one term (‘religion’) which is not just misleading but in direct contradiction with His words.

  6. No doubt, you have stated your case (or, rather verdict) with clarity but it seems to me that it's out of sync with reality. I'd, however, prefer to wallow in my "confusion" and continue to propagate Savitri Era Religion with full conviction, since everyone is entitled to his or her inspiration (or, stupidity). [TNM55]

  7. Of course, Mr Mohapatra. It remains a free world and everyone’s entitlement to ignorance is a part of the Divine order. It was not my intention to question this.

    If His name or the name of His greatest epic was not a part of 'individual inspiration', be rest assured, I would have not assumed the responsibility of questioning anyone’s experiments with truth.

    Good luck with this propaganda, anyway. May His grace guide you. Thanks.

  8. Related posts:

  9. I thought the conversation had attained closure.

    Thanks for the links. I had a hard time reading it as the revulsion was overwhelming. Nevertheless I drew solace from the fact that the idea still remains in the ‘propaganda’ phase even after 7 years.

    I again take refuge in Their words.

    Posted below is Her reply to the following question-

    'Many people say that the teaching of Sri Aurobindo is a new religion. Would you say that it is a religion?'

    "People who say that are fools who don’t even know what they are talking about. You only have to read all that Sri Aurobindo has written to know that it is impossible to base a religion on his works, because he presents each problem, each question in all its aspects, showing the truth contained in each way of seeing things, and he explains that in order to attain the Truth you must realise a synthesis which goes beyond all mental notions and emerge into a transcendence beyond thought.

    So the second part of your question is meaningless. Besides, if you had read what was published in the last Bulletin, you could not have asked this question.

    I repeat that when we speak of Sri Aurobindo there can be no question of a teaching nor even of a revelation, but of an action from the Supreme; no religion can be founded on that.

    But men are so foolish that they can change anything into a religion, so great is their need of a fixed framework for their narrow thought and limited action. They do not feel secure unless they can assert this is true and that is not; but such an assertion becomes impossible for anyone who has read and understood what Sri Aurobindo has written. Religion and Yoga do not belong to the same plane of being and spiritual life can exist in all its purity only when it is free from all mental dogma."

    There is nothing more I have to say.

  10. Just back after watching a movie in a Mall titled, "Welcome Back." It's a foolish film, but there seems to be a market for it. Even The Mother recognised people's need for religion, and, in a way, foresaw that Sri Aurobindo's teaching will be turned into a religion. As long as minkind is in a foolish stage, the role of religion remains very crucial. Resisting the hegemony of muscular Hindutva, for instance, is a significant task for the Savitri Era Religion at present. Thus, there are both sides to it which should, ideally, be examined in an article format, an example being: