March 04, 2006

Sri Aurobindo's challenge to orthodox or organized religion

To say that Sri Aurobindo is not easy to comprehend would be a huge understatement, if nothing else. While that can dissuade a number of people from going any further, it can motivate a number of others to study that much the more closely. Let us hope some of us fall in the latter category.
Moreover, Sri Aurobindo has written voluminously, and he has expressed himself on a vast array of topics. That makes him that much more significant to study, as well as makes him liable to the barbs of critics itching to point out loopholes, of which too there are not a few around. I mean not loopholes, but the critics with that attitude. Let us also hope most of us do not belong to that category.
Humanity today is indeed passing through numerous crises and yet surviving. While we all no doubt wish to continue to evolve through all this survival (hopefully even reaching the supramental state promised by the great seer of Pondicherry), my concerns here are a little more pedestrian. I propose to look into some of the problems of contemporary man as an individual, a member of society, a citizen of his country, a component of this world, and of nature itself. Come to think of it, the concerns are not that pedestrian. So far, so good.
Some concepts like Science, Nature, Matter, Mental Being, Nation-ego and Nation-soul, True and False Subjectivism, World-state and World-union, and The Religion of Humanism will be the focus of this paper. Not that the others are not important. But I believe these deserve our focus here, and today, as humanity finds itself at the crossroads, and gropes around rather gingerly for some tentative answers, which may hopefully translate into permanent solutions.
The challenge that Sri Aurobindo throws to orthodox or organized religion is but appropriate. For, in sustaining and perpetuating the outer symbols and structures of religion, man may forget to resurrect the inner spiritual symbols and structures, which alone can sustain true religiosity. And any religion which neglects the advancement of man’s spiritual quest so as to sustain its dogmas, rituals and blind obedience, will, in the final analysis, turn out to be a false God. His accent on the religion of humanity is to make organized religion beware of the dangers of fossilization and make us aware once again of the fundamental tenet of humanism...
Paper read at National Seminar on Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity, 17-19 Jan. 2005, New Delhi, India.**Reader and Head, Dept. of Philosophy, Joshi-Bedekar College, Thane, India. Correspondence: 14, Shiva Kripa, Trimurty Road, Mulund, Mumbai, India. Tel: 022 25682740. Email:

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