July 09, 2009

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have opened the way for a postmodern participative spirituality for the future

Re: Towards a Postcolonial Modernity: AsiaSource Interview with Partha Chatterjee
Debashish on Sat 04 Jul 2009 09:45 PM PDT Profile Permanent Link

Chatterjee's thinking is extermely nuanced as this interview shows. What he calls for is a high standard of creative engagement in living cultures, which may represent themselves in terms of strategic essentialisms to be given an identity within the state, but need to deconstruct these esentialisms continuously in engagement with an expanding pluralism both within and outside their boundaries.

In this sense, Chatterjee himself represents the expanding discourse of the Bengal Renaissance, which he rethinks in terms of postcolonialism and postmodernity.

One may posit something similar for Sri Aurobindo (and the Mother) vis-a-vis the ashram and Auroville. The cultural nationalism in which the local self-governance of the ashram is founded needs to be seen as intentionally progressive in its engagement with a spiritual internationalism, as discursively elaborated in the text of The Human Cycle and The Ideal of Human Unity. The pratical basis for such a dialectic was set up by the Mother through the founding of the neighboring city-community of Auroville, based in its areligious trans-national ideals and political charter. [...]

Here, though Chatterjee is thinking more in terms of grassroots cultural movements, including local mystic sects and reformist leaders, he is also indefatigably in praise for the ways in which cultural movements such as the Bengal Renaissance or Gandhian nationalism adapted non-western cultural histories creatively in engagement with colonialisam. The postcolonial legacies of such movements, sometimes institutionalized in local habituses such as Tagore's Vishwabharati or Sri Aurobindo's ashram could also be seen as offering fertile grounds for such creative extensions - if they could develop the spiritual resources for pluralism in their languaging and social expressions. DB by Debashish on Sat 04 Jul 2009 10:36 PM PDT Profile Permanent Link [...]

The question of education and welfare at the local levels is an important one, as you point out. But here one must be careful that a western liberal education forming post-Enlightenment subjects disciplined to produce and consume the ideological and material products of global capitalism would defeat the possibility of any alternate postmodernity. To develop mediational pedagogies which enable local populations to engage creatively in the realm of ideas with the mainstream and become the producers of alternate definitions of human becoming and ideological and material products which can intentionally modify or transform global modernity is the possibility towards which Chatterjee is pointing. (I believe this is also the social aspect of Sri Aurobindo's ideal for his ashram or the Mother's for Auroville). But in the final analysis, it is not so much education from above but local creativity which Chatterjee points to as the necessary component. DB [...]

by Debashish on Sun 05 Jul 2009 08:32 AM PDT Profile Permanent Link
In fact this is what Chatterjee is addressing in that it is important for grassroots emergence of these constituents and their accomodation at the local level itself rather than abstractly at the state level. For their emergence education is necessary, but such an education should come from the development of creative expressions from below rather than the state based engineering as you point out. The subaltern studies movement began with a study (by Ranajit Guha) of adivasi involvement in nationalist politics through the Birsa Munda led revolt. This revolt had its own ideas and strategies developed from within and not imposed by the mainstream middle-class nationalism. Chatterjee is pointing out that this had been possible during the anti-colonial period, it should be possible again today in the post-colonial period. Some catalysts and some education is needed, but the creativity has to come from below and first seek its own identity at the local level where it can be accomodated within the lived culture of its habitus. It is when local identities are abstracted and made into state level categories that monolithic and exclusionary divisions occur, such as with the national politicization of religion and caste. DB [...]

Both Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, in their words and deeds, whether in writings such as The Ideal of Human Unity or the Charter of Auroville, give evidence of a most sophisticated espousal of the ideals of modernity moving towards a posthumanist and postsecular fulfillment. Moreover, in the absence of teachers with the same level of consciousness possessed by them, they have discouraged the perpetuation of the guru-shishya system in terms of succession and have opened the way for a postmodern participative spirituality for the future.

The cultic abuse of such a system within the Sri Aurobindo community however is not difficult to observe today, though in some senses, more subtle. The sloganeering of Aurobindian buzzwords, the cultic proliferation of the guru trinket industry, the emergence of teachers in the power vacuum left by the departure of the leaders, the creation of a simplified and fundamentalistic version of the Integral Yoga by such teachers, the social ostracism and persecution of those deviating from such mainstream formulae of the IY, the exercising of subtle (and not so subtle) forms of occult fear psychoses, the control of information by overt and psychological means - are all being practiced without much objection from the community. The recent case of Peter Heehs' biography of Sri Aurobindo has brought this out into the limelight, but to many within the community, such limelight is unfortunately taken to be the ordinary light of day. DB Re: Fascism and False Guru Sects ( Debashish Wed 08 Jul 2009 03:21 PM PDT [...]

Re: The Resonant Soul: Gaston Bachelard and the Magical Surface of Air by Robert Sardello Debashish Tue 07 Jul 2009 02:08 PM PDT Here's where the Integral Yoga demands a framework of comparative hermeneutics to extend its perception if it is to arrive at a universal epistemology. A universal epistemology cannot be a monolithic metaphysics but a burgeoning cross-cultural dialog. Bachelard's "reverie" can map interestingly into Sri Arobindo's phenomenology of knowledge. "Aurobindonians" who remain stuck in the vocabulary of Sri Aurobindo too readily dismiss any such alternate formulations as irrelevant, but in the process deny themselves the benefit of a practical approach to certain possibilities of consciousness as well of course of the sheer poetic delight of a mystic enjoyment.

REVIEW Understanding Thoughts of Sri Aurobindo — Articles by various authors Sartre, an existentialist, also follows in the shadow of Nietzsche... but in any case, with Bhattacharya's characterization, we find the hazy boundaries of the post-human beginning to loom from the writings of Sartre... I may mention though, in passing, that Bhattacharya may have found more fruitful ground for comparison and a more richly developed theory of intersubjectivity in Sartre's contemporary, Maurice Merleau-Ponty. — Debashish Banerji

Debashish Banerji has a doctorate in Art History, and teaches courses in South Asian, East Asian, and Islamic Art History in Los Angeles, USA. He also teaches online courses in Indian Philosophy and is Director of the International Centre for Integral Studies at New Delhi. December 2007 8:14 AM

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