August 14, 2008

Sri Aurobindo has analyzed and laid bare for us the essentials of ancient scriptures

Philosophy IndiaPost
Beware of overdependence on scriptures Sunday, 08.10.2008, 11:55pm (GMT-7)

Sri Aurobindo has analyzed and laid bare for us the essentials of ancient scriptures. His commentaries on the Gita and the major Upanishads are marvelous interpretations for the modern mind. He calls the Upanishads "a large flood of spiritual revelation of a direct and profound character" and the Gita as "the greatest gospel of spiritual works ever yet given to the race".
And yet he has cautioned against overdependence on the scriptures for a direct perception of the Truth. In the chapter 'The Four Aids' of his great work, The Synthesis of Yoga, he describes the scriptures as the First Aid of his Integral Yoga.
After asserting the importance of the scriptures, he cautions, "No written Shastra, however great its authority or however large its spirit, can be more than a partial expression of the eternal Knowledge." He says the Sadhak will use " but never bind himself even by the greatest scripture".
The Sadhak's yoga, Sri Aurobindo says, "may be governed for a long time by one Scripture or by several successively, - if it is in the line of the great Hindu tradition, by the Gita for example, the Upanishads, the Veda.
Or it may be a good part of his development to include in its material a richly varied experience of the truths of many scriptures and make the future opulent with all that is best in the past. But in the end he must take his station, or better still, if he can, always and from the beginning he must live in his own soul beyond the written Truth, -- sabdabrahmativartate - beyond all that he has heard and all that he has yet to hear, --srotavyasya srutasya ca.
For he is not the Sadhaka of a book or of many books; he is a Sadhaka of the Infinite." Recalling the often heard injunction in India against any new Yogic teaching or the adoption of a new formula -- "It is not according to the Shastra" -- he says, "The written or traditional teaching expresses the knowledge and experiences of many centuries systemized, organized, made attainable to the beginner. Its importance and utility are therefore immense.
But a great freedom of variation and development is always practicable… The general knowledge on which the Yoga depends is fixed, but the order, the succession, the devices, the forms must be allowed to vary; for the needs and particular impulsions of the individual nature have to be satisfied even while the general truths remain firm and constant."
"Any integral and synthetic Yoga needs especially not to be bound by any written or traditional Shastra; for while it embraces the knowledge received from the past, it seeks to organize it anew for the present and the future. An absolute liberty of experience and of the restatement of knowledge in new terms and new combinations is the condition of its self-formation."
Sri Aurobindo points out, "Yoga has long diverged from life and the ancient systems which sought to embrace it, such as those of our Vedic forefathers. These are far away from us, expressed in terms which are no longer accessible, thrown into forms which are no longer applicable. Since then mankind has moved forward on the current of eternal Time and the same problem has to be approached from a new starting point."
Sri Aurobindo then goes on to describe Swami Vivekananda's novel and most felicitous vision. He says, "Vivekananda, pointing out that the unity of all religions must necessarily express itself by an increasing richness of variety in its forms, said once that the perfect state of that essential unity would come when each man had his own religion, when not bound by sect or traditional form he followed the free self adaptation of his nature in its relations with the Supreme.
"So also one may say that the perfection of the integral yoga will come when each man is able to follow his own path of Yoga, pursuing the development of his own nature in its upsurging towards that which transcends the nature.
For freedom is the final law and the last consummation." Sri Aurobindo is not against help in the form of general guidelines. "But these must take, as much as possible, forms of general truths, general statements of principle, the most powerful broad directions of effort and development rather than a fixed system which has to be followed as a routine."
All Shastra is the result of past experience and a help to a future experience. It is an aid and a partial guide. It puts up signposts, gives the names of the main roads and the already explored directions, so that the travelers may know whither and by what paths he is proceeding.

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