December 31, 2008

Sri Aurobindo attempted to "Christianize" Vedanta

Give Me Immortality or Give Me Death!
from One Cosmos by Gagdad Bob Bolton makes a lot of fine points in Self and Spirit... Bolton falls within the traditionalist camp, but he is clearly deviating from Schuon and most of his clones in hewing to a dualistic metaphysic.

Bolton feels that Schuon, in order to harmonize all of the diverse revelations -- and one of our commenters has made this point in the past -- basically assumed the truth of the pure nondualist metaphysics of Advaita Vedanta, and then crammed the rest of the religions into that framework, even if it occasionally involved some tendentious reasoning, and gave short shrift to the actual beliefs of this or that religion.

In short, both Guenon and Schuon "assume that the Hindu wisdom as interpreted by Shankara is the medium in which the different traditions are [to be] reconciled."

This obviously has a certain superficial appeal, for there is no question that on some level "all is one." But the question is, what kind of One? For when you say "all is one," you might just as well say "all is none." Not only is it a meaningless statement, it is unmeaningable -- no different than saying "all is all" or "one is one."

Furthermore, what is the ontological status of the entity that knows "all is one?" As Bolton says, "Any such answer must include some proof that the self is a reality in its own right, and not just a collective name for a succession of more or less related phenomena with no integrating principle." For if the self is not in some sense real, then there is nothing it can objectively say about anything, let alone, God.

This is a critical question, because on it hinges not just the reality and the dignity of the personal self, but the entire possibility of any intrinsic meaning at all, since meaning can only exist in reference to something else. If all is simply one, it is another way of saying that life is completely meaningless -- which some Vedantins and Buddhists come close to saying, i.e., that the world is maya (illusion) and nothing else.

Not to get too far ahead of ourselves, but Sri Aurobindo was completely opposed to this idea. You could even say that he was the polar opposite of Schuon, in the sense that he attempted to "Christianize" Vedanta, as opposed to Vedanta-izing Christianity. He regarded the realm of maya as a conscious power that can be easily reconciled with a Christian logo-centric conception of reality. He felt that the world was worthy of our being in it, and vice versa. The cosmos is not just one big freaking mistake. [...]

Now, interestingly, both Buddhism and Vedanta speak of "liberation," whereas Christianity speaks of salvation, something very different. I think this goes to the heart of the matter, not just for the individual, but for all of creation, for Christianity also speaks of somehow salvaging the whole existentialada.

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