June 01, 2011

Sri Aurobindo was pragmatically plural; for him human harmony lay not in effacing differences

Back to caste count Sri Lanka Guardian by Sam Rajappa (June 01, New Delhi, Sri Lanka Guardian)
Sri Aurobindo, in his essay Un-Hindu Spirit of Caste Rigidity, wrote: "The baser ideas underlying the degenerate perversions of the caste system, the mental attitude which bases them on superiority, depending on the accident of birth of a fixed and intolerant inequality, are inconsistent with the supreme teaching, the basic spirit of Hinduism which sees the one invariable and indivisible divinity in every individual being." …
A comprehensive caste census is not only impractical but also against the spirit of the Constitution. It would reduce India from a democracy of citizens to an oligarchy of communities… The way to transcend caste is not by reinforcing its identity, but by stressing citizenship of the nation. The writer is a veteran journalist and former Director, Statesman Print Journalism School

Recent Additions 21 May 11: Review by Amiya P. Sen 
However, though what Heehs’s work seems to lack is a willingness to situate Sri Aurobindo within contemporary Indian thought. Ideally, a biography, especially that of a thinker and philosopher like Sri Aurobindo, also ought to be a history of ideas. I have the feeling that Aurobindo shares with Swami Vivekananda many more things than Heehs concedes, the most important of which are, first, the attempt to bring out the deepest subjectivities in man and second, the belief that social transformation began with the individual. The first Vivekananda called anubhav, human subjectivity that Aurobindo related to sadhana which was anchored in praxis, not textuality. […]
The other question is whether or not Aurobindo may be counted among the Hindus...  Perhaps those who strongly deny his ‘Hindu’ credentials are as much in error as those who insist on it. For one, I am not aware of Aurobindo’s categorically denying or disowning his identity as a Hindu. It would be reasonable to claim therefore, that at least culturally, he remained a Hindu. Though of a non-conformist Brahmo lineage he chose to marry a Hindu girl but more importantly, his entire cultural hermeneutics was deeply anchored in Hindu religion and mythology. This sets him apart from near contemporary figures like Krishna Mohan Bandopadhyay or Brahmabandhab Upadhyay who underwent a formal change of faith and though greatly interested in Hindu religion and philosophy, began to see these from a visibly altered perspective. I am also persuaded to say that neo-Hindu thinkers of the late nineteenth compounded the identity question somewhat by trying to adopt a universalistic posture which, practically, they found hard to sustain. To call Vedanta universalistic, culturally neutral and an effective surrogate to the word ‘Hinduism’, as indeed was done since the days of Rammohun Roy, is a good instance of this false consciousness. Rammohun’s The Universal Religion (1929) is almost entirely based on Hindu-brahminical sources.
On the other hand, it will have to be admitted that Sri Aurobindo was not a Hindu in the ordinary sense of the term; the reader has only to turn to his essay ‘Two Hinduisms’ (Epistles from Abroad: 1910) to learn what kind of Hinduism he would have personally preferred . This leads me to conclude that an active dissociation from the politics of the Hindu Right need not ipso facto undermine one’s self-understanding as a Hindu. I would fervently hope that one is not contingent upon the other. Sri Aurobindo rejected Hindu nationalism and looked to a Utopia where human consciousness could rise above social and cultural ascriptions. At the same time, he was pragmatically plural; for him, if I have been able to understand him at all, human harmony lay not in effacing differences but in trying to felicitously live with them. Amiya P. Sen, Jamia Millia Islamia 
Sri Aurobindo made a clear distinction between two types of ...

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