February 15, 2013

Not a lonely self-glorification, the East-West dichotomy has to be transcended

Religion and Beyond By: Ramesh Bijlani on Feb 14, 2013 7 Responses Every religion has four basic components…  
Religion is good as a gateway to spirituality, but no religion is good enough as the ultimate anchor.  That is why, religion has been called the kindergarten of spirituality.  Or, as Swami Vivekananda said, any religion is good enough to be born in; no religion is good enough to die in.  Having said that, the overall effect of religions on mankind, however, has been positive, in spite of the divisions and even violence that they have occasionally triggered. Acknowledgement: I am happy to acknowledge the insight into the four aspects of religions that I gained from Prof. V.G. Bhide.

Sri Aurobindo: A Forward-Looking Traditionalist by Peter Heehs - Talk delivered by Peter Heehs at a National Conference sponsored by the Rashtriya Sanskrit Samsthan, New Delhi, and the Sri Aurobindo Institute of Indian Culture, Shillong, February 2012  - Free download Choose a format to download
It was not until a decade after his return from England that the focus of Sri Aurobindo’s attention shifted from literary to spiritual works. Around 1902 he began his long engagement with the Upanishads, striving to bring out the majesty of Upanishadic language in English translations, … Sri Aurobindo never gave a final form to his philological investigations, because his research into the origins of language led him to the Rig Veda, and he soon became deeply absorbed in the study of this most ancient of Indian texts…
Sri Aurobindo was convinced of the greatness of the Indian tradition, but his appreciation of the Indian past looked forward to an even greater future… The old as well as the new had to be creatively appropriated, becoming transformed into something that was stronger and richer than the constituent materials. It is in the light of this assimilative appropriation that we have to view Sri Aurobindo’s approach to efforts of “the Indian spiritual mind” to recover its past and move towards its future. On the one hand he encouraged the study of India’s past achievements in religion, literature, art, polity, and so forth. On the other hand he discouraged the “revival of orthodox conservatism” as being superficial, sentimental and out of “touch with the great facts and forces of life.” Modern Indians, he wrote, had to “look upon all that our past contains with new eyes” in order “to recover something of their ancient sense” but at the same time “bring out of them a new light which gives to the old truths fresh aspects and therefore novel potentialities of creation and evolution.”
Pride in the accomplishments of the Indian soul should not take the form of what he called an “unthinking cultural Chauvinism which holds that whatever we have is good for us because it is Indian or even that whatever is in India is best, because it is the creation of the Rishis.” What India needed was not a lonely self-glorification, but “a unity with the rest of mankind, in which we shall maintain our spiritual and our outer independence.” The East-West dichotomy had to be transcended, he said, for “from the view of the evolutionary future, European and Indian civilisation at their best have only been half achievements, infant dawns pointing to the mature sunlight that is to come.”

Meghalaya Guardian ePaper Inspired by Sri Aurobindo's philosophy, he made India his home. GUARDIAN NEWS BUREAU SHILLONG, Feb 14:
Peter Heehs, an American historian living in Puducherry who writes on modern Indian history, Indian spirituality and religion was in town recently to attend the national seminar on “interrelation between Sanskrit and Indian culture with special reference to Sri Aurobindo” organized by Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, New Delhi and city based Sri Aurobindo Institute of Indian Culture at its campus. On Wednesday, he addressed a select audience at the city- based Asian Confluence – an initiative to promote an open space for creating a better understanding of the North Eastern region of India. It is a space for cultural and intellectual exchange that can act as a hub for civil society initiatives and the brainchild of former Shillong parliamentarian Dr BB Dutta’s son, Sabyasachi Dutta.
In his interaction with the specially invited guests, Heehs said that he came to India at the age of 22 and made Pondicherry his home for over 40 years now. He has authored several books and is being acclaimed as an outstanding authority of Sri Aurobindo and Divine Mother’s vision, thought etc. “Having coming here 40 years ago, India has become a place where I live and work whereas my family ( his brothers) is cantered in USA,” he said. He was born in Illinois, Chicago and grew up in Philadelphia and also spent most of his boyhood in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey before coming here. His father was from St Louis and mother from California.
When his father was transferred to Philadelphia region that was when he developed first sort of interests about India and came across Indian spiritual gurus besides Ravi Shankar and his music. He was in college then when a thought about what is the purpose of this life, the ideal of Vedanta and general spiritual thinking caught his thinking. He came to know about the Indian Cultural Centre in New York and got associated with it where the in- charge, a French lady came to India and met Morarji Desai and dedicated herself as India’s ambassador as she was more influenced by Sri Aurobindo and Raman Maharshi. “I ended up with this organization and got interested in reading about Sri Aurobindo and thought why not go that place and went straight to Pondicherry and then got kind of fit in and was given a work in a literary activity to set up the archive of Sri Aurobindo’s works,” he said.
Working at this archive was a learning process for him as he was involved in identifying and sequencing the personal manuscripts of Sri Aurobindo from which he had got the opportunity to have a close look into the life of this great Yogi. “We made sequence of the books and his personal manuscripts and discovered that like Bhabani Bharati, which was talked upon largely in the seminar, there were many other works that were lying unpublished,” he said. The quality of Sri Aurobindo that took this historian by surprise was that he (Aurobindo) started a monthly journal Arya of which all the 64 pages he used to write in immaculate texts as he had greater fluency in writing English besides he was simultaneously working on various other disciplines, such as, The Life Divine, The Future Poetry, Translation of Vedas, The Ideal of Human Unity and more as all these are different subject works in addition to the 64 page monthly journal. “He was incredible,” said Heehs.
Heehs also replied questions put up by the visiting guests, such as, why institutions tend to drift away after the departure of the founding fathers besides whether Sri Aurobindo and Swami Vivekananda had any inspirational relationship between them. There was also questions regarding his book “The Lives of Sri Aurobindo” which created a controversy and furore in the country as there was a demand that the historian should leave the country with protests in Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, too.
Heehs also shared his experience meeting with the Divine Mother for a couple of times as meeting with the mother was very restricted. “I would exaggerate if I say that there was a huge feeling or change in me thereafter but certainly there was something as I dedicated my life to that of Sri Aurobindo and Mother,” he said.

To call the killings of Muslims in 2002 a spontaneous reaction reminds one of Kristallnacht in Germany in November 1938, when the entire Jewish community in Germany was attacked, many killed, their synagogues burnt, shops vandalised after a German diplomat in Paris was shot dead by a Jewish youth whose family had been persecuted by the Nazis. It was claimed by the Nazi government that this was only a ‘spontaneous’ reaction, but in fact it was planned and executed by the Nazi authorities using fanatic mobs.
In terms of historical evolution, India is broadly a country of immigrants and consequently, it is a land of tremendous diversity. Hence, the only policy which can hold it together and put it on the path of progress is secularism — equal respect and treatment to all communities and sects. This was the policy of the great Emperor Akbar, which was followed by our founding fathers (Pandit Nehru and his colleagues) who gave us a secular Constitution. Unless we follow this policy, our country cannot survive for one day, because it has so much diversity, so many religions, castes, languages, ethnic groups.
India, therefore, does not belong to Hindus alone; it belongs equally to Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Parsees, Jains etc. Also, it is not only Hindus who can live in India as first-rate citizens while others have to live as second or third rate citizens. All are first-rate citizens here. The killing of thousands of Muslims and other atrocities on them in Gujarat in 2002 can never be forgotten or forgiven. All the perfumes in Arabia cannot wash away the stain on Mr. Modi in this connection.
It is said by his supporters that Mr. Modi had no hand in the killings, and it is also said that he had not been found guilty by any court of law. I do not want to comment on our judiciary, but I certainly do not buy the story that Mr. Modi had no hand in the events of 2002. He was the Chief Minister of Gujarat at the time when horrible events happened on such a large scale. Can it be believed that he had no hand in them? At least I find this impossible to believe… I appeal to the people of India to consider all this if they are really concerned about the nation’s future. Otherwise they may make the same mistake which the Germans made in 1933. (Markandey Katju, a former judge of the Supreme Court, is Chairman of the Press Council of India)

By Ronald Dworkin (pdf).  Every economist (and many others) should read this article. And his classic two-part article on “What is Equality?” is here and here.

Auronet Sunil composed music for Mother at Sri Aurobindo Ashram for several decades. Let's enjoy the beautiful open space, an immense sunset and heavenly music in ...

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