November 26, 2006

The Life Divine does not mention avatar or the sacrifice of the Purusha

Re: The Post-human, Evolution and the Avatar by Debashish on Sat 25 Nov 2006 12:56 PM PST Profile Permanent Link
I appreciate your stand in this problem. For myself, too, critical distancing of doxa is an ongoing process and there is much hidden danger there. But one way to do it is through cross-cultural hermeneutics - something Sri Aurobindo was no stranger to. Sri Aurobindo was in a state to see the value of Pre-Socratic Greek philosophy and put it into a comparative frame with Vedantic thinking. Does Heidegger even attempt the reverse? But that does not prevent him from mking pronouncements about where the transformative overcoming will originate. Moreover, I see no harm in clothing one's poeting in one's tradition, so long as it is not an indictment through ignorance of other traditions.
  • And where has Sri Aurobindo (or the Mother) said that his work is dependent on the Vedanta?

His interpreting the Veda, the Vedanta and the Gita does not make his work dependent on these. Where possible, he has also coined a new language. The Life Divine does not mention avatar or the sacrifice of the Purusha (as far as I know).

If other works do, we must take it that these concepts are handy to express what is important to his experience and woul have taken many more volumes of words otherwise. Again, the essence of "incarnation" as understood in Christianity does not find any representation in the Indic idea of avatarhood. But Sri Aurobindo sees some truth in the idea and brings it out in Savitri. It is debatable whether his work can be called Vedantic at all (particularly if one was to take the Mother's formulation of it). If however, one sees it (as I do) as extending the discourse of Vedanta, then too it is hardly a parochial Vedanta without awareness of the history of spirituality in other cultures.
An Indian thinker does not have the privilege of ignoring western thought if s/he wishes to be heard internationally while the western thinker can remain happily esconsed in his/her doxic tradition. And as regards the supramental manifestation in Auroville, obviously Sri Aurobindo could not say this, the Mother did not say it either. In one of the conversations with Nirodbaran, where he asks Sri Aurobindo whether he expects the supramental manifestation to occur in the ashram, Sri Aurobindo says a few hundred people at the ashram are not going to bring about the supramental manifestation. Thousands testing the yoga out in different world circumstances would be required for that.
Regarding the use of Sri Aurobindo by fundamentalisms of various kinds, this of course is a concern, but partly why it can happen is because "the followers" have not taken enough trouble to create a field of accurate and critical understanding where the lines of his teaching are brought into engagement with social and psychological experience and made living in the sangha through this. DB
The word ‘Avatar’ appears only twice in The Life Divine. In either case the context is different—it is not vis-à-vis Avatar as an Incarnation of the Divine. This absence of the concept of Divine Incarnation in Sri Aurobindo's very major work cannot be taken as he not recognising the necessity of Avatarhood in the evolutionary process. We have also another interesting situation: the word ‘Grace’ does not appear even once in The Life Divine. But in Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga the fruit of realization without the Divine Grace is inconceivable. In this connection, let us first read a couple of passages from his little masterpiece, The Mother:
There are two powers that alone can effect in their conjunction the great and difficult thing which is the aim of our endeavor,—a fixed and unfailing aspiration that calls from below and—a supreme Grace from above that answers.
For the grace of the Divine Mother is the sanction of the Supreme and now or tomorrow its effect is sure, a thing decreed, inevitable and irresistible.
The supramental change is the thing decreed and inevitable in the evolution of the earth-consciousness; for its upward ascent is not ended and mind is not its last summit. But the change may arrive, take form and endure, there is needed the call from below with a will to recognise and not deny the Light when it comes, and there is needed the sanction of the Supreme from above. The power that mediates between the sanction and the call is the presence and power of the Divine Mother. The Mother's power and not any human endeavour and tapasya can alone rend the lid and tear the covering and shape the vessel and bring down into this world of obscurity and falsehood and death and suffering Truth and Light and Life divine and the immortal's Ananda.
What this situation, of the absence of 'Grace' and 'Avatar' in its deeper occult connotation, means is that, Sri Aurobindo is more than his works, prose or poetry, including perhaps his Savitri. And didn’t he say, apropos of his Arya-writing, that had he continued it, not for seven but seventy years, still his knowledge would not have been exhausted?
In The Life Divine he has taken a certain stand to present a certain point of view for a certain type of the soul-need, which does not make it sole or absolute or exclusive in every sense. This is true in other works also. The question is, of one’s perceptions, perceptions which can be different for different individuals and in different contexts. When this is recognised, there should not be any necessity of thrusting one viewpoint on the other, which will be fallacious, fundamentalist, un-Aurobindonian. Eschewing it is broadening, even globalising, one’s consciousness for a greater spiritual progress. 8:45 AM

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