Thursday, March 17, 2016

We must re-imagine Sri Aurobindo

A common complain against Sri Aurobindo is that he hardly ever gives any chance to glance into his mind as an ordinary person, or his feelings as a human being. He concerned himself with the top level politics of the day when he started writing in the public domain and since then his writings and correspondences have always been to teach and reach some higher plane of truth. No doubt, the colonial status of India and other world crises formed the background in many cases but his explorations into yoga psychology running parallel to poetic adventures and analyses had pedagogic and motivational intention. Thus, instead of saying Sri Aurobindo was a product of his time, it would be more appropriate to say his writings were a product of the time.

The modern civilisation, however, has moved a long distance forward, despite customary criticisms. (In this context, a piece of woolly prose, which can beat Sokal, is up at Overdose!) But the human situation doesn't seem to have progressed much beyond what was characterised by Sri Aurobindo in The Bourgeois and the Samurai. Thankfully, the West has nothing new to offer as three formidable philosophical movements have bitten dust during the last decade. They are, Postmodernism, Ken Wilber, and OOO or Speculative Realism. So, the expectation from Sri Aurobindo, today, is much more than what he wrote or his role in the freedom struggle; transcending even his poetry and strains of prophecy.

This is a challenge which needs utmost sincerity, humility, and empathy. The future is going to throw unprecedented situations for which one may not find suitable quotations and there pure intuition would be the only companion which, obviously, will be challenged and derided. History and Mythology will be presented as authority whereas the task is to fly away from the past orbits and establish new ones with greater velocity. Such is the manner in which we must re-imagine Sri Aurobindo and the beauty, definitely, lies in endeavoring to fabricate the details. The Mother, let's remember, has already created such a template by interpreting the flowers invoking the Vedic virtues. [TNM55]

With a view to exploring Sri Aurobindo's political creed as well as revolutionary ... an Introduction. Each chapter maps out the contours of Sri Aurobindo's anti-.
Sri Aurobindo at the age of 23 launched vitriolic attack on our national body, Indian National Congress, through a series of pungent articles written under the title of “New Lamps for the Old” which were published in the Indu Prakash from 1893 to 1894 in Bombay at the behest of his Cambridge friend, K.G. Despande. These articles catapulted the image of Sri Aurobindo in the then political firmament as an astute political thinker, a conscientious analyst, and a fearless critic.
by VK Dwivedi - ‎Related articlesIRWLE VOL. 6 No. II. July 2010. 1. Sri Aurobindo and the Indian Critical Tradition. - Vivek Kumar Dwivedi. Sri Aurobindo did not address himself to a number of ...
The first question that comes to mind is why did Sri Aurobindo write the kind of literary theory that he did? Difficult though it is to arrive at an answer, I will make an attempt to do that because in the answer lies the key to some vital aspects of Indian literary theory. Sri Aurobindo happens to be the Indian in whom there was the desire, and its accompanying anxiety, to express what to him seems to have been the Indian point of view on matters of culture and life. This point of view was not the narrow vision of a sectarian poet, or the stunted worldview of a polemical strategist. Nor, on the other hand, was it merely the creed of one who was merely a patriotic nationalist battling against the injustice of a vast colonial empire; there were other Indians, sometimes much greater in stature than Sri Aurobindo, sacrificing their lives in the process of achieving that end. 
Then, what was it that drove Sri Aurobindo to write The Future Poetry, a work that first appeared in parts, published in Arya between 1917 and 1920? The answer to this question seems to lie in a medley of speculations. The first of these was that Sri Aurobindo, who had a pride in his sense of belonging to India and its culture, was conscious of the lack of a living Indian critical tradition. He did see, no doubt, that India had a glorious ancient past in literary aesthetics, a past that matched up to if it did not excel the ancient past of Greece. But that tradition had come to a point of saturation and Sri Aurobindo’s critical mind informed him that the classical fixity of this tradition was limiting it from accommodating contemporary human experience 1. 
The human mind has always come up with newer ways of expressing itself and, what is more, it has found newer ways of judging the words, images and metaphors of others. That there had been a rather long lull in the Indian’s discovery of these newer ways of judging and creating seems to have troubled Sri Aurobindo. This second anxiety that Sri Aurobindo probably experienced seems to have been largely a result of the British rule in India. The British Empire brought along with it the rich English language, which made certain sensitive Indians realise that the critical tradition in the West was neither dead nor confined by classical fixity. They seem to have become conscious of a difference between their Indian “Self” and the Western “Other” in regard to the critical dimension. Sri Aurobindo was conscious of the fact that Indians were deficient in criticism. His very first sentence of The Future Poetry describes this feeling: 
It is not often that we see published in India literary criticism which is of the first order, at once discerning and suggestive, criticism that forces us both to see and think (Aurobindo 3). 
This anxiety, in my assessment was one of the key factors for the creation of Sri Aurobindo’s literary and critical theory. However, it wasn’t just this anxiety that gave birth to Sri Aurobindo’s theories of literature. There was a feeling of anti-imperialism that gave impetus to his critical expression. He had read and delighted in his study of British and other literatures. His soul had revelled in the Humanism of Western literature, philosophies and critical systems. He found that his own country’s critical and literary situation was different to the West’s. Being the patriotic Indian that Sri Aurobindo was, he wanted to write something that could fill the gap that was emerging between the East and the West. He did not want the West to believe that the ancient glorious past of his country had given place to a kind of critical and literary vacuum. He seems to have written in a spirit of defiance, as it were; a spirit that said, “You are not that great, even though you are our masters, and we are not that low even if we are just men!” 
He spoke to his countrymen in one breadth, trying to show their lack in the critical dimension, and very soon he spoke to the British showing them that they were not perfect. The lure of British and other literatures made him conscious that in these literatures lay something valuable for his countrymen to read and experience. However, from his essays on British Poetry one can see that he does not, on the face of it, show an admiration for it. On the contrary, he tries to reveal wherein its shortcomings lie. This is the spirit in which he wrote his literary theories. He wrote about where the weakness in the British poet resided. 
[1 The feeling that Sanskrit Poetics cannot accommodate contemporary experience has been shared by several recent authors. An interesting article on this aspect of Sanskrit Poetics can be seen in Basavraj Naikar, “Need for Adaptation of Sanskrit Poetics”, Dialogue: A Journal Devoted to Literary Appreciation (Vol. III, Number ii, December 2007), pp. 24-38.] ...
The influence of Matthew Arnold on Sri Aurobindo is obvious. But this influence can be traced back to writings of earlier romantic poet-critics like Keats and Coleridge. For Sri Aurobindo “beauty” and “truth” are criteria with great relevance. To scholars of our times, such criteria are somewhat vague. But for Sri Aurobindo these are valid criteria deserving our serious attention. Coleridge-like, Sri Aurobindo also speaks about the relevance of the imagination in the creative process. He speaks with a sense of authority as though what he says is the final truth. This could be a result of his study of Sanskrit poetics and otherwise spiritual concerns which often grapple with a sense of right and wrong and sometimes deal in absolutes. Sri Aurobindo seems to have taken certain literary concepts from Coleridge. ...
It cannot be denied that Sri Aurobindo’s contribution to literary criticism was phenomenal and needs greater attention. One of the few Indians who worked hard in this direction is C. D. Narasimhaiah. ...
C. D. Narasimhaiah’s belief that Aurobindo, like William Wordsworth and T. S. Eliot, wrote criticism in order to justify or commend his kind of poetry (Narasimhaiah 88) could also be true. But it seems more likely that, as Narasimhaiah himself has said, may be unconsciously, that Aurobindo began a critical tradition, and I believe that he did this in a spirit of defiance to the British. In conclusion it can be said that Sri Aurobindo’s literary theory was unique because it was a result of his anti-imperialist stance. This anti-imperialism made him acquire a critical attitude that would shun anything merely British. Thus whereas he imbibed some part of his understanding of poetry from British poets and critics, he made a conscious effort to oppose and sometimes even belittle them. In the process he found his anchor in ancient Indian critical theory on which he superimposed his own understanding of the nature and function of literature. He thus began a tradition of Indian literary theorists in English – a tradition that looked at the West both in approbation and in disagreement.
Sep 17, 2015 - Sri Aurobindo needs to be read and those possibilities of reading never ... MURALI SIVARAMAKRISHNAN .... In the early eighties when I was taking up my studies on Sri Aurobindo, CD Narasimhaiah, the doyen of Indian ...

> To take with a reverent hand the old myths and cleanse them of soiling accretions, till they shine with some of the antique strength, simplicity and solemn depth of beautiful meaning, is an ambition which Hindu poets of today may and do worthily cherish. To accomplish a similar duty in a foreign tongue is a more perilous endeavour.
> Sri Aurobindo, [*Autobiographical Notes and Other Writings of Historical Interest: Extract from a Letter to His Brother*](

Surendra Singh Chouhan’s Review of J. B. P. More’s A Critique of Modern Civilisation and Thought: Facts, Non-facts and Ideas - Title: A Critique of Modern Civilisation and Thought: Facts, Non-facts and Ideas. Author: J. B. P. More. Publisher: TLPMS & Illakiya, Pondicherry. Number o...
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S Ward - Past & Present, 2016
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There are many complains against Integral Yoga and there is no gainsaying that it’s complex and unwieldy lacking in easy formulation. The vast and wide-ranging resource material spanning over several generations also pose a quandary. There used to be murmurs always as regards the results but the present shape of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Puducherry has made it amply clear with nothing left to imagination or mystification. Further, it has become fashionable to say that the utterances of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo are synthetic and universal whereas the truth is that the bulk of their teachings arose out of personalized guidance to specific disciples in the restricted Ashram situation. Posted by Tusar Nath Mohapatra at 8:20 PM Thursday, February 14, 2013 ... there is no gainsaying of some level of over-promise involved. 10:54 PM

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