August 19, 2008

Sri Aurobindo did not become enlightened overnight

ned said...Nagarjuna, I can't reply to everything, as I'm working on another paper again (I'm still waiting for your reply via e-mail). By "naturalistic spirituality" I meant pantheism, or some sort of spirituality that denies the existence of higher planes of reality or states of consciousness, etc., and holds that this egoic human state is as good as it gets (lord help us, in that case! ;-) ). "The Really Hard Problem: Meaning in a Material World" by Owen Flanagan, is a good example of what I would be wanting to critique. 9:28 AM

About why Aurobindo, Christ, etc. seem to be vastly superior to us spiritually (if at all), well, in Aurobindo's case, by his own admission, he started off being as normal and human and ignorant as anyone else (you really should look at Peter Heehs' new biography "The Lives of Sri Aurobindo"). Sri Aurobindo did not become enlightened overnight, it was through a harsh struggle with life's troubles that he managed. He says this himself many times, that there is nothing special about what he did, that he undertook a rigorous discipline and that it wasn't an overnight miracle. He insists that anyone else can do it as well, but it requires a lot of practice, sincerity and intensity of seeking, and I think the latter two things is where most people fall apart. Most of us do not realize that our human attachments are weighing us down spiritually and it usually takes a lot of suffering before one starts to become conscious of this and starts aspiring for something more.

Nevertheless, to be honest, personally I am quite inclined to believe in reincarnation as an ontological necessity. Simply because, each person comes into this world with a certain amount of karmic attachments to the past, and different people seem to have different types of karma. We do not all start off on an equal footing -- this is a fact that cannot be denied. So if this one life is all we have, then most of us are quite screwed. ;-)

For Sri Aurobindo, reincarnation itself is an evolutionary process. He critiques popular accounts of reincarnation as being kind of nonsensical; he says the only purpose of the soul reincarnating is for its evolutionary development. When it reaches a certain level of development it merges into the Supreme and is no longer subject to the laws of karma, liberated from the contingencies of time and space.

You could see reincarnation as the intervention of the "vertical" in the realm of the "horizontal". To be honest, my major spiritual awakening on February 12, 2005, which I talk about on my blog, was pretty much a death-rebirth experience for me. It was like I was given a second life that night, and my life's trajectory has completely changed since then. Things that looked impossible before that "death" seem very possible now. So I think these deaths and rebirths are happening all the time, whether within the same body, or between one mind-body-soul complex and another one.

Sean Kelly, a professor at CIIS and a scholar at Esalen, has actually been working on a theory of "integral time", which tries to incorporate reincarnation and is actually quite fascinating, to my mind:,%20Integral%20Time,%20Vol.4%20No.1.pdf

The person who accumulates personal power becomes his own first victim, spiritually, and is prone to all sorts of psychological disorders, possibly even psychosis, which is what happened to Sartre and Nietzsche. The former went into depression and the latter into psychosis -- again, vital strength, but little soul-level guidance, somehow they missed out on the Grace.

Ditto with Foucault: in his works he describes power relations and abuses of power exquisitely on the mental plane, but had no idea about how to put theory into practice -- how *do* we put a stop to these abuses of the vital once and for all? Foucault spent the last few years of his life obsessed with sadomasochism and a search for "limit" experiences -- and a fascination with death.

To me it is obvious what this is: it is the vital seeking the Divine Ananda, but without an awareness of the soul, one has to resort to external means, crude means, trying to inflict oneself with severe sensations of pain and pleasure to sort of artificially create the experience of Ananda.

Seriously, working with the vital is a dangerous game, it's like playing with fire. All these spiritual gurus who wind up being abusive, it is the same story -- they have not conquered and transmuted the vital, and so they can't resist being abusive from time to time.

I guess I should thank Gagdad Bob, because the insights I've been getting about the vital lately have been directly inspired by the experience of revisiting his blog. ;-) And I've also realized there's tremendous vital arrogance and moral grandiosity in myself as well and it's high time I gave it proper attention from the level of the inner being.Okay I better stop now, I think I am crossing the line over into self-indulgence. (In fact I think I've left the line long behind now. ;-) ) 12:15 PM

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