December 29, 2007
December 24, 2007
Most of the translations of the Vedas came from the Indologists, who tended to be too literal in their confusion. They were academics, or they were missionaries, who could not relate to the poetry at all. The Vedas were like nothing in their experience before. They dismissed the verses as babblings of a primitive mind, created by simple tribals who did little but pray to powers of nature for cows, wealth and children.
It took Sri Aurobindo, Dayanand Saraswati and others to bring back some dignity to the Vedas. Aurobindo was himself a sage and a poet, which gave him an edge in understanding such sublime poetry. He pointed out that the verses were not literal, the flexibility of Sanskrit admitted many meanings and poetic metaphors abounded.
The translators might translate a hymn as ‘may we have many cows,’ making it seems that the sole interest was to get rich. But the word for cow, ‘go’, also means light, so the real meaning might be ‘may we be filled with light,’ giving a whole different complexion to the hymn. The primitive babblings and ritualistic nonsense suddenly morph into sublime poetry. The Rig Veda is the oldest book and the most important. The date of its composition varies wildly, from ten thousand years ago to six thousand. The ancient sages prescribed such a strict metric system for the verses, that so many centuries later, we still have every syllable intact, unchanged just as they gave it. Brahmins over the ages have chanted it with mnemonic precision and perfection. Other, much younger texts have been garbled with time, but not one syllable of the Vedas.
Many of the meanings, however, are lost. The dictionaries, the lexicons, the compilations of words came centuries later, and some of the ancient shades of meaning have slipped like smoke into the centuries.
The Vedas are poetry and all poetry is abnormally condensed. Some Vedic verses were written as riddles, or enigmas, and forgotten over the passage of thousands of years. When the key word meanings were lost the Veda ended up as ritual. Many think it is meaningless, Indologists and others think it is rubbish, and a few, like Aurobindo, think it is poetry at a height never reached before or after. I do not think academics can ever understand the Vedas. Their approach is too erudite, too critical. You cannot approach the Vedas with a grammar book in hand, and all the tools of dissection handy. You need to go to them as a child, open eyed in delight watching a sunrise, or a poet awed, numbed, by beauty too great for words. You go into the verses to lose yourself and be carried to a world far beyond any you could reach on your own. Drop your preconceptions and bathe in the experience.
It has been at least six thousand years since the Rig Veda and we still have no other text that can light a candle to it. The sages of the Veda spoke from a depth no one else has plunged. They spoke from the heart in a way poets struggle to emulate all their lives. The Vedas were considered ‘shruti’ which means heard, revealed, inspired, like a lightning bolt from heaven. Poetry from realms almost beyond all understanding.
December 21, 2007
A 1950s education in Freud, Marx, and modernism is not a sufficient qualification for a thinking person in the 1990s. Indeed, the traditional American intellectuals are, in a sense, increasingly reactionary, and quite often proudly (and perversely) ignorant of many of the truly significant intellectual accomplishments of our time. Their culture, which dismisses science, is often nonempirical. It uses its own jargon and washes its own laundry. It is chiefly characterized by comment on comments, the swelling spiral of commentary eventually reaching the point where the real world gets lost.
December 20, 2007
January 28 -February 12
Write "Prince of Edur" (a play). Live at Calcutta with his wife. sister and two party men at 48 Gray Street /now Sri Aurobindo Sarani/.
Deportation of two main agitators of the party. Inhibition of the meetings for four days.
First issue of Bande Mataram.
Warning of editor Bande Mataram from the Government.
Trip to Khulna for a foundation of National School.
June 30 -October 13
Publications of Persens the Deliverer at Bande Mataram.
Perquisition at Bande Mataram office
Forsake his post of rector of the National College.
A warrant on Sri Aurobindo as a redactor of Bande Mataram.
A Speech for students of Bengal National College.
Sri Aurobindo was held not guilty on case against Bande Mataram. Sri Aurobindo acquired distinction.
Lived at house at Chukoo Khunsanse's Lane.
Trip to Deoghar.
Bengal Regional Conference at Midnapore. Sri Aurobindo addressed to a meeting as leader of Nationalists. It is a peak of discordance wit Moderates. Extremists left this conference and at 8 December hold the meeting chaired by Sri Aurobindo. It was the first time when they got together as a separate party.
The first public speech at Beadon Square, Calcutta.
The trip to Surat (most moderate city) for a session of Indian National Congress through Khipagpore (fires, crowds, speeches). Trip without pomp - there were few who knew him by sight.
Meeting at Nagpore.
Surat. 2 meetings chaired by Sri Aurobindo.
Leaders of Natianalists
The first day of Session.
Incident (by instructions of Sri Aurobindo who tried not allow Moderates' success) and wrecking of the Session.
Moderates signed up Convention. Sri Aurobindo direct not join to it. Meeting of Nationalists. Beginning of tightened repressions against them.
From Surat to Baroda.
December 17, 2007
Information in the modern world is virtually free, and well-defined tasks can be outsourced very cheaply, if need be. Don't specialize in those.
Bias is everywhere, and overcoming bias yields great gains. Empirically, our biases stem strongly from our nationality, our language, and our cultural background. (It is, by the way, remarkable how much libertarianism is an Anglo-American phenomenon.)
To overcome those biases we should travel, spend some time living in other countries, and learn other languages. In other words, the more knowledge is held in the minds of other people, the more competent we wish to be in assessing who is right and who is wrong, and that requires exposure to lots of different points of view.
Judgment, judgment, judgment. That's the scarce asset which most people underinvest in, and which yields especially high returns. It can't be outsourced very well either.
Marketing is becoming all-important as well. That also requires judgment and the ability to see things from other people's points of view. Again, live abroad and learn other languages.
At the very least, date foreign women (or men).
It is in contrast a common presumption that learning other languages, for English speakers, is becoming obsolete, if only because so many other people speak English. I would think this raises rather than lowers the return to learning other languages. Last fall, while visiting at Middlebury economics, I voiced these opinions and encountered little agreement.
December 12, 2007
Surendranath, who led the moderates, was unable to persuade Sri Aurobindo to agree to a resiling towards the moderate position. In the open session, there was a “vehement clash” between the two parties, and the Moderate leaders called in the police to restore order. After the clash, the Nationalists held a separate conference with Sri Aurobindo as President, and thereby gave a lead to Bengal and a warning to the stage-managers of the Surat Congress. The Lokamanya was overjoyed and asked Sri Aurobindo to bring as many Nationalist delegates as possible to Surat so that their cause might not suffer by poor representation.
December 10, 2007
Sri Aurobindo's critique on Kapila and the Sankhya philosophy — the law of enumeration and generalisation — is thought provoking
This blog is about philosophy, psychology, arts, and literature
Sunday, December 9, 2007
Most of us remember Sri Aurobindo from his latter photographs that portray him as a fragile, harmless, saintly figure. Many will be surprised to learn that the man who devoted most of his life to Vedanta in his Pondicherry ashram, was once a firebrand revolutionary intent on winning freedom for his motherland. "The Penguin Aurobindo Reader", a collection of original essays, reflections and poems written over a period of five decades or so, offers the reader an opportunity to get an insight into the multifaceted personality of Sri Aurobindo.
Although the introduction by the editor, Makarand Paranjape, draws a vivid picture of the life and works of Sri Aurobindo quite well, it is the writings of the great man himself that bring out the real Aurobindo for us in flesh and blood. When the Congress Moderates were trying to negotiate some sort of autonomy from the British, Sri Aurobindo believed in purna swaraj — total freedom and nothing less than that — because
"to be content with the relations of master and dependant or superior and subordinate, would be a mean and pitiful aspiration unworthy of manhood; to strive for anything less than strong and glorious freedom would be to insult the greatness of our past and the magnificent possibilities of our future".And Sri Aurobindo did not disapprove of armed struggle if the situation demanded it. Aggression, in his view, is unjust only when unprovoked, and violence is unrighteous when used without thought or for unrighteous ends. It is foolish to apply the philosophy of ahimsa to all situations. Besides violence has its place in society, the
"sword of the warrior is as necessary to the fulfilment of justice and righteousness as the holiness of the saint. Ramdas is not complete without Shivaji."The British jailed Sri Aurobindo for revolutionary activities. They imprisoned his body, but unwittingly set his soul free, for it was during his year-long jail term that he had visvarupa darshan or the experience of the cosmic consciousness, and from then on he was a totally different man. He tells us how God protected him from the unscrupulous prison staff of the Alipore jail:
"He [God] made me realise the central truth of the Hindu religion. He turned the hearts of my jailers to me and they spoke to the Englishman in charge of the jail. . . . I looked at the jail that secluded me from men and it was no longer by its high walls that I was imprisoned; no, it was Vasudeva who surrounded me. I walked under the branches of the tree in front of my cell, but it was not the tree, I knew it was Vasudeva, it was Sri Krishna whom I saw standing there and holding over me His shade."No doubt, Aurobindo cannot be taken lightly, but at times he does sound like a man suffering from delusions or megalomania.
Whether God really took over his life or not, Aurobindo's commentaries on the Vedas, Upanishads, and the Gita make interesting reading. His interpretation is insightful and original. But though he was seriously into Indian philosophy and tradition, he believed that in order to catch up with the rest of the world, we must not shy away from western ideas because it is a
"psychological necessity of the situation. Not only when a lesser meets a greater culture, but when a culture which has fallen into a state of comparative inactivity, sleep, contraction, is faced with, still more when it receives the direct shock of, a waking .... it is impelled by the very instinct of life to take over these ideas and forms, to annex, to enrich itself, even to imitate and reproduce, and in one way or in another take large account and advantage of these new forces and opportunities."But if this imitation is slavish and mechanical, then it amounts to subordination and servitude.
It is interesting to compare Sri Aurobindo's commentaries with that of C. Rajagopalachari, Mahesh Yogi, Bhagwan Rajneesh, Chinmayananda et al. Aurobindo's critique on Kapila and the Sankhya philosophy — the law of enumeration and generalisation — is thought provoking.
In another chapter he talks about self-realisation through yoga. The first realisation through yoga is nitya nityanam — the One Eternal in many transient. The second realisation is the one consciousness in many consciousnesses, and the third, "the most important of all to our race — that the transcendent self in individual man is as complete because identically the same as the transcendent self in the universe; for the transcendent is indivisible and the sense of separate individuality is only one of the fundamental seemings on which the manifestation of phenomenal existence perpetually depends. In this way the Absolute which would otherwise be beyond knowledge, becomes knowable; and the man who knows his whole self knows the whole universe. This stupendous truth is enshrined to us in the two famous formulae of Vedanta, "so ham, He and I, and aham brahmosmi, I am Brahman, the Eternal."
How does yoga make you one with the creator? First of all, anyone practising yoga has to make the sankalpa of atmasamarpana. That is, surrender yourself with all your heart and all your strength into God's hands without making any conditions, without asking for anything, not even for siddhi in yoga. As a yogi you must ask for nothing at all except that in you and through you God's will may be directly performed. The next stage is to stand aside and watch the working of the divine power in you. The final stage of yoga is to perceive all things as God.
For the ultimate realisation, a yogi could choose one of the two paths available to him. He could either withdraw from the universe, or he could take part in the creation and perfect it. By following the first method, the objective is achieved by asceticism, and by following the second the objective is achieved by tapasya. Hence
"the first receives us when we lose God in existence, the second is attained when we fulfil existence in God. Let ours be the path of perfection, not of abandonment; let our aim be victory in the battle, not the escape from all conflict".Another interesting aspect of the Aurobindo thought is that man is not final but
"a transitional being. Beyond him awaits formation [of] the diviner race, the superman".As man progresses spiritually and becomes one with the creator, he becomes a superman. But unlike the familiar concept of superman in our minds, Aurobindo's superman is not someone who has extraordinary strength, knowledge, power, intelligence, saintliness. According to him superman
"is something beyond mental man and his limits, a greater consciousness than the highest consciousness proper to human nature...."The evolution of man is not yet complete because out of the seven-fold scale of consciousness he has realised only three powers, mind, life, and matter. Because man is endowed with a brain that is supposed to be superior to all other known creatures, he believes that mind is the creator of the universe. This is a great fallacy because
"even for knowledge mind is not the only or the greatest possible instrument, the one aspirant and discoverer. Mind is a clumsy interlude between nature's vast and precise subconscient action and the vaster infallible superconscient action of the Godhead. . . . There is nothing mind can do that cannot be better done in the mind's immobility and thought-free stillness".There might be a temptation to compare Aurobindo's superman with that of Friedrich Nietzsche, but this would be totally out of context and unfair to Nietzsche because, thanks to his overzealous sister Elisabeth Forster and misguided scholars, he is a much misunderstood man.
Makarand Paranjape, Associate Professor, Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi, and the publishers need to be lauded for their efforts. It is not easy to edit a book of this sort, but why have they forgotten to add an Index? The section "A New Global Agenda" should have been clustered with Aurobindo's political writings; it looks out of place among his philosophical work. Courtesy: The Tribune Posted by Kuldip Dhiman at 8:13 AM
December 09, 2007
As used by these authors, the term "Vedic Period" includes the long period of gradual pre-literary cultural developments which eventually gave rise to written texts. Gavin Flood refers to the "more sober chronology" of 1500 to 1200 BC proposed by Max Müller for the earliest portions of the texts.... In modern times, Vedic studies are crucial in the understanding of Indo-European linguistics, as well as ancient Indian history... Wikipedia article "Vedas". Read more
In the Vedic view, creation is ascribed to the self-consciousness of the primeval being (Purusha). This leads to the inquiry into the one being that underlies the diversity of empirical phenomena and the origin of all things. Cosmic order is termed rta and causal law by karma. Nature (prakriti) is taken to have three qualities (sattva, rajas, and tamas). Vedas Upanishads Hindu philosophy Main article: Indian philosophy ...
While there are ancient relations between the Indian Vedas and the Iranian Avesta, the two main families of the Indo-Iranian philosophical traditions were characterized by fundamental differences in their implications for the human being's position in society and their view on the role of man in the universe. The first charter of human rights by Cyrus the Great is widely seen as a reflection of the questions and thoughts expressed by Zarathustra and developed in Zoroastrian schools of thought. Main article: Iranian philosophy ...
I accept any truths discovered by science, including natural selection, but I place those facts in a much wider metaphysical context
"Where are the wise? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength."Prior to the modern fundamentalist deviation, this was never interpreted by Christian Orthodoxy to mean that we should reject worldly knowledge, only that worldly knowledge should not be conflated with ultimate knowledge or salvation. Just yesterday I was reading about this in the new biography of the great Catholic historian Christopher Dawson. I don't pretend to be an expert in these intra-familial Christian theological squabbles, but it was his position that this error crept into Christianity with Luther, which, ironically, paved the way for both an anti-intellectual Christianity and militant secularism -- two mirrors of the same phenomenon, which ultimately comes down to failure to sanctify or "Christianize" the world. For Luther
I certainly sympathize with Dawson's view. One reason why so many people get the "Jesus willies" and therefore reject their own precious spiritual and intellectual heritage is because their only exposure to Christianity is in its anti-intellectual fundamentalist version, which I myself find impossible to take seriously. As Dawson wrote, the intellectual synthesis of Christianity and classical thought "was not a contradiction but the crown and completion of continuous effort to achieve an integration of the religious doctrine of the Christian Church with the intellectual tradition of ancient culture." On this view, the "wisdom of the Greeks" is not opposed to Christianity. Rather, the Christian synthesis was the completion, perfection, or sanctification of these other vital intellectual streams -- which is an ongoing project, since history doesn't just arbitrarily stop historing. This is a much more expansive view of reality whereby, for example, the great wisdom of Plato and the neo-Platonists is not rejected but integrated, say, in the deeply mystical works of Denys the Areopagite (see here as well for a fine introduction to the synthesis of Christian and Greek thought). By the same token, with this time-honored intellectual approach, a Christian needn't necessarily reject the wisdom of, say, Vedanta or Taoism, for ultimately, the appearance of Jesus in the Hellenized Roman world is not essential but accidental. What if he had appeared in the Indian subcontinent? Then the task of early Christians would have been to place Christ within the context of Vedanta -- to demonstrate how he represented, say, the "perfection" or "completion" of the Upanishads, so to speak. Indeed, what if Jesus were here today -- an absurd hypothetical, since he is. Then the task would be to integrate Christianity with current knowledge. Which I, as a Coon, believe is the whole point: to integrate wisdom and knowledge and thereby sanctify the intellect. I don't know how I ended up down this byway. I had intended to discuss premodern childrearing practices, and how they resulted in such widespread historical craziness. Oh well.... next week. I'm sure this is enough to start a rumble in the Coonosphere. Go at it!
"rejected the complexity of Christendom... and attempted to de-intellectualize the Catholic continuity with the classical. 'He took St. Paul without his Hellenism, and St. Augustine without his Platonism,' Dawson wrote. By attacking the natural laws and creating the Manichean dualism of Law and Gospel, Luther attempted to destroy the human need for mystery and 'prepared the way for the secularization of the world...' "
This false dualism argued that "man is fallen to such an extent that he can know nothing outside the truth of scripture." But "if the world tells us nothing of value, the past, equally, sheds no new light on the situation of humanity and becomes worthless."
December 08, 2007
Man's immediate certainty that there are real objects, which produce passive sensations, rests on faith
Jacobi saw in Spinoza the elimination of real subjectivity and in the philosophy of Immanuel Kant an opposite "nihilism of objects." Kant was the first to raise the critical question of how subjective consciousness arrives at a knowledge of things, and he concluded that ultimately we can know of things "only what we have placed in them." Thus for Kant, human experience is simply the appearance of the way things seem and are thought about according to the subjective conditions of the mind. Objects as things-in-themselves are unknowable.
The point of these criticisms was to show that if reason begins with objects it is unable to account for subjectivity and a subjective perspective annihilates objectivity. The conclusion which Jacobi drew was that the enterprise of human reason itself rests on faith. Man's immediate certainty that there are real objects, which produce passive sensations, rests on faith. And if the concept of objective nature depends on faith, then man's feelings and intuitions of freedom, moral principles, and religious certainties need not defer to rational skepticism. Teachings
Jacobi's philosophy is essentially unsystematic. A fundamental view which underlies all his thinking is brought to bear in succession upon those systematic doctrines which appear to stand most sharply in contradiction to it, and any positive philosophic results are given only occasionally. The leading idea of the whole is that of the complete separation between understanding and apprehension of real fact. For Jacobi understanding, or the logical faculty, is purely formal or elaborative, and its results never transcend the given material supplied to it. From the basis of immediate experience or perception thought proceeds by comparison and abstraction, establishing connections among facts, but remaining in its nature mediate and finite. Wikipedia article "Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi". Read more
Previous Contents Next CHAPTER TWO SAVITRI as an Epic www.searchforlight.org An epic, particularly the primitive or primary epic, deals with a story from the heroic age concerning some great war or exploits of the hero. An objective story is the dominant feature of this epic. Ancient epics belong to this category.
“Savitri is the record of a seeing, of an experience which is not of the common kind and is often far from what the general human mind sees and experiences. You must not expect appreciation or understanding from the general public or even from many at the first touch; as I have pointed out, there must be a new extension of consciousness and aesthesis to appreciate a new kind of mystic poetry”.2...
“a deeply delicate radiance moving the heart to some far sweetness or suffusing it with an exquisite ecstasy of God’s love”.10...
“spiritual facts seen in dimensions other than our universe take shape in poetry, and the poetry springs from those dimensions, throbbing with the strange tangibilities there...”15All the visions and vibrations of the consciousness pervading those worlds are transmitted by the poet with entire poetic faithfulness. That is why the shapes and scenes are so incalculable, so bewildering. Only ‘a receptive hush’ in our being and nature can make us understand ‘the strangely worded and strangely rhythmed lines’.
“The door that has been shut to all but a few may open; the kingdom of the Spirit may be established not only in man’s inner being but in his life and his works. Poetry also may have its share in that revolution and become part of the spiritual empire”.16Savitri
“seeks to enlarge the field of poetic creation and find for the inner spiritual life of man and his now occult or mystical knowledge and experience of the whole hidden range of his and the world’s being, not a corner and a limited expression... but a wide space and as manifold and integral an expression of the boundless and innumerable riches that lie hidden and unexplored as if kept apart under the direct gaze of the Infinite.”16...
“a mystic and symbolic poem although cast into a different form and raised to a different pitch”34Mystic poetry is like unmasking the Divine, unveiling the great Mystery or part of it. Not to unveil part of the Mystery, but integral and total unmasking of the Divine is his yogic aim and the epic gives expression to that. To achieve this Sri Aurobindo climbs realm after higher realm of consciousness into the highest Truth-Consciousness...
“There is the perfection of the language and there is the perfection of the word-music and the rhythm, beauty of speech and beauty of sound, but there is also the quality of the thing said which counts for something. If we consider only word and sound and what in themselves they evoke, we arrive at the application of the theory of art for art’s sake to poetry.”52Not only all these have to be perfect in themselves but they have to live together in perfect harmony in the poem. This naturally applies to the poetic medium too, in the case of Savitri to its blank verse. In this sense it may be said that blank verse has attained in the hand of Sri Aurobindo its fulness, harmony and perfection...TOP
December 02, 2007
How infinitesimals of a material character like the gene and the chromosome can carry in them psychological elements
- A play? But why this stamp of so many undivine elements and characters in the play of One whose nature must be supposed to be divine?
To the suggestion that what we see worked out in the world is the thoughts of God, the retort can be made that God could well have had better thoughts and the best thought of all would have been to refrain from the creation of an unhappy and unintelligible universe. All theistic explanations of existence starting from an extra-cosmic Deity stumble over this difficulty and can only evade it; it would disappear only if the Creator were, even though exceeding the creation, yet immanent in it, himself in some sort both the player and the play, an Infinite casting infinite possibilities into the set form of an evolutionary cosmic order.