September 08, 2010

Sri Aurobindo opposed the hegemony of any one single ideology

Today we are celebrating the 63rd anniversary of India's Independence, but also Sri Aurobindo's birthday.
It was perhaps a coincidence or my good ‘karma’, but when I came as a backpacker traveling from France to India in 1972, I carried a book for the travel. This French translation of The Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo’s magnum opus was to greatly influence my life and answer a vital question for me: should the ‘outside world’ be transformed in something beautiful ‘which works’ or should the material world be abandoned and all life devoted to reaching ‘higher’ realms?
Frankly, I had some reservations. Traveling for a couple of months in India in the early seventies was a shock for a foreigner. The dirt, the chaos in the big cities, the lack of ‘modern’ facilities, the blaring of loud speakers, the crowds, all these were a constant reminder that things were not so bad in Europe where trains ran on time, towns were clean, information was easily available to the public, hygiene a way of life. […]
Today, we hear that India is shining as never before. But on the streets of any metropolis or in the villages of rural India, one still sees the same ‘misery’ which I saw more 30 years ago (with louder noise, more chaos, pollution and garbage). It is true that in the past two or three decades the Spirit of India appears to have woven new garbs. However is it not symptomatic that a great deal of the ‘shine’ has come from the Indian Diaspora in the West which did not reject the world ‘outside’ while retaining some inner Indian values? Sri Aurobindo, in a chapter of his Foundations of Indian Culture envisioned a three-point program for the ‘renaissance in India’: 
  • The recovery of the old spiritual knowledge and experience in all its splendour, depth and fullness is its first, most essential work.
  • The flowing of this spirituality into new forms of philosophy, literature, art, science and critical knowledge is the second.
  • An original dealing with modern problems in the light of Indian spirit and the endeavour to formulate a greater synthesis of a spiritualised society is the third and most difficult.
This message is more than relevant today as these tasks written nearly a century ago remain unfulfilled. ‘Synthesis’ is a key word in Sri Aurobindo’s vision. Recently, this ‘Indian renaissance’ has been equated to economic growth, a Chinese-model development with an 8 or 9% growth of the GNP (to ‘become rich is glorious’ à la Deng Xiaoping), but it is certainly not the sort of renaissance Sri Aurobindo envisaged (though he excluded nothing).
But ‘synthesis’ does not mean aping the West! India has to rediscover her past, not for the sake of the past, but because “Spirituality is the master-key of the Indian mind.” The ancient seekers had found that “the physical does not get its full sense until it stands in right relation to the supra-physical; [Ancient India] saw that the complexity of the universe could not be explained in the present terms of man or seen by his superficial sight, that there were other powers behind, other powers within man himself of which he is normally unaware.”
This knowledge is the key to the true transformation the bodily mansion of Mother India. Only then will India be able to play her rightful role in the world and truly shine. […]
How can we deal with this crisis? Sri Aurobindo’s answer is by a change in consciousness; not only an individual one, but a revolutionary transformation of the entire race. […] Sixty years after Sri Aurobindo’s departure, can his message help us to deal better with this troubled world?
Though for the sake of his sadhana, he lived a secluded life, Sri Aurobindo never retired into some sort of Nirvana or beatific splendour. He remained well acquainted with the politics of the sub-continent and the world situation. […] Sri Aurobindo opposed the hegemony of any one single ideology. For the planet to survive, every nation, every culture or individual has to find its rightful place according to its own genius. […]
Sri Aurobindo has described this quest as ‘the Adventure of Consciousness and Joy’. It seems to be the most urgent task at hand for humanity. If enough individuals would aspire for this higher consciousness, undoubtedly the process could be hastened and the world around us would begin to change. The Mother once told the Ashram children: “I invite you to a Great Adventure”. It is perhaps the only relevant adventure in the world today. Posted by Claude Arpi at 6:48 AM

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