December 25, 2012

Sri Aurobindo's allegiance to Western ideal

The question remains whether religion is really capable of identifying itself with spirituality. In 1918, when he wrote the passages I have quoted, Sri Aurobindo seemed to think that it was possible; but later in his life he became less confident that traditional religion had a significant role to play in the development of integral spirituality. This conclusion came at the end of a long engagement with religion that began in England, took a new turn in Baroda and again in Calcutta, and reached an ambiguous conclusion in Pondicherry. I intend to trace the course of this engagement, but, before I begin, I would like to spell out for you the point of view from which I speak.
I am not, and never have been a religious person. My parents were Protestant Christians, though neither was religious. I was sent to Sunday school in order to satisfy my grandmother, but took no interest at all in what was taught there, and never entered a church or any other place of worship as a worshipper. If I ever stepped into a church (or synagogue or mosque or temple) it was to admire the architecture and artworks, and perhaps also to enjoy the atmosphere of peace that sometimes fills such places. But I found the beliefs and practices of every religion I encountered to be pointless and uninteresting.
The search for truth was important to me; but it never crossed my mind that religion could be any help in this. Rather I turned to poetry, philosophy and psychological experimentation in my search for enlightenment. These interests led me to yoga and, because yoga usually is taught by people who come from the Hindu tradition, I was exposed to the literature and some of the practices of the Hindu religion. I found, and still find, the literature profound and significant. As for the practices, I found them colourful and charming, though certainly not the sort of thing I could incorporate into my life.  Now you may well ask, why should I, a non-Hindu, choose to speak about Sri Aurobindo and Hinduism? …
In brief, what I have found is that Sri Aurobindo’s nationalism was not based on religious conviction, but (as he himself put it) on “the inalienable right of the nation to independence.” His references to the Gita, to Hindu mythology, to Vedantic and Tantric philosophy were natural in one who drew inspiration from these sources, and who knew that they were meaningful to his audience… Nevertheless, it is certain that Sri Aurobindo considered Hinduism and other religions to belong to the world’s past, and he had no desire to perpetuate them.

Aurobindo's Philosophy of Brahman - Page 132 - Stephen H. Phillips - 1986 - Preview - Aurobindo's world-affirmativism may be seen as his giving an evolutionary and millennial turn to the conception of Brahman's relation to the world, which suggests the Romantic notion of a resolution of evil ...
... and speaks of their successes and failures like one of the family. Fervent individualism and nationalism are key elements in his character as they are typically with Romantics. For these many reasons, his world-affirmativism should be considered to be born out of an allegiance to a Western ideal more than to any that is Indian, although it is predominantly expressed through the Indian concepts of Vedanta and Tantra.

Indian literature - Volume 15 - Page 104 Prema Nandakumar Sahitya Akademi - 1972 - Himself a scholar, he enthuses us to take to a life of scholarship. Having renounced his princely position in the Baroda College for the sake of Mother India, he makes our hearts glow with love for the Motherland. Regeneration is literally rebirth, ...

Sri Aurobindo was never a recluse. You know, I have always defended this view-point. Many people have said: “Oh, here is a man who has chickened out in the phase of action, who has already moved away and who stayed at Pondicherry in the French resort.” They said that he did not want to step out in the British eye because he was afraid of action. But I also wrote a little bit in Sri Aurobindo’s Action and there I have tried to bring together this attitude of action and inaction and the kind of withdrawal that Sri Aurobindo did. So Sri Aurobindo was somebody who was all the time exposed to the multiple elements around him at many places. He was open to that. He always liked to look at what was happening outside. And Shraddhavan has been able to pick up the element of the quality of language, the tonal variation and the subtle nuances of the English language which Sri Aurobindo carried with him as a remnant of his European learning. And that is something which she has been able to link with the spiritual quality of the language. I have read many other scholars trying to expound the quality of spiritual resonance in Sri Aurobindo’s poetry but Shraddhavan’s shraddha has been unwavering and steady. And I don’t think there is any other person who deserves this award in the present other than these two people.

After the messages were read out, Mr. Anurag Banerjee invited Dr. Ananda Reddy and Mr. Narad to felicitate Dr. Prema Nandakumar and Ms. Shraddhavan. Dr. Ananda Reddy and Mr. Narad presented Ms. Shraddhavan and Dr. Prema Nandakumar respectively with the angavasram, trophy and certificate.

Sri Aurobindo's birthday on the 15th of August provides an occasion to... Few letters between her and Sri Aurobindo survive as, according to her cousin, she...

These contrasting passages address two different aspects of human life: (a) Individuals who wish to evolve spiritually must undoubtedly forsake the anarchic popular music as the Mother points out in the first passage.
(b) Then there is the civilization at large which gets stuck in orthodox ways from time to time. Music needs to be rewritten from time to time to inspire people and subvert convention, as the Mother appreciates in the second passage. Civilization continuously oscillates between mental rigidity and free-flowing vitality, as Sri Aurobindo points out in the chapter on “Aesthetic and Ethical Culture” in the The Human Cycle (CWSA vol 25, pp 92-101)

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