Paranjape, Makarand ... it was never their intention to claim an incontrovertible and transhistorical infallibility or to encourage the formation of a cult or a sect. ... She warned her devotees several times, not to constitute a new theology out of Sri ...
Sri Aurobindo and his Followers Makarand Paranjape
In time, a whole set of beliefs and rituals began to be built up around Sri Aurobindo and more so, around The Mother. The death of each of them caused dismay and disappointment among large sections of the faithful. Many had grown to believe that some miraculous transformation of the physical bodies of their Gurus and through them of the disciples themselves was in the offing. Naturally these devotees were disheartened when this did not happen in the manner they had come to expect.
Besides, a whole theology began to be developed, especially because of the extensive records of what Sri Aurobindo and The Mother had said… This theology not only asserts the Avatarhood or Divine Incarnation of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, but builds around them a special cult of worship and devotion…
Like the early Christians whose lives were lived in hope and anticipation of the Second Coming and the Day of Judgement, the disciples of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother also believed that the promised fulfillment of all their hopes and aspirations was imminent. A series of pronouncements by both Sri Aurobindo and The Mother… certainly contributed to the sense of constant awe and expectation in the ashram community…
It needs to be acknowledged that though both Sri Aurobindo and The Mother repeatedly warned against the creation of a cult around them, they themselves encouraged it in several ways. Sri Aurobindo himself deified The Mother and vice versa. [From The Introduction, The Penguin Sri Aurobindo Reader, 1999 Edited by Makarand Paranjape, a critical insider.]
The transformation of many individuals would make it possible for society as a whole to be transformed. A first step in this direction would be the gathering of individuals striving for change in spiritually oriented communities.
A community of sorts had taken form around Sri Aurobindo during the early years of his stay in Pondicherry. This group assumed a more organized shape after the arrival of The Mother. In 1926, he handed control of the ashram to her…She directed the inner and outer lives of the members, while he oversaw things from behind.
Most members of the ashram came from Hindu backgrounds and felt comfortable approaching Sri Aurobindo and The Mother in ways associated with Hindu devotional practices: darshan, pranam, and so forth. Sri Aurobindo permitted and in some cases encouraged these expressions…[Edited] From the Introduction by Peter Heehs; Nationalism, Religion and Beyond: Writings on Politics, Society, and Culture by Sri Aurobindo, 2005 8:36 PM
Columbia University Press » Blog Archive » Getting beyond the ... Aug 4, 2008 - The following post is by Peter Heehs
The Aurobindo that interests me is the one who turned from a life of hectic action to a life of contemplation, but was able, during his forty-year retirement, to write a shelf full of books on philosophy, political theory, and textual criticism, along with thousands of letters and, yes, that epic in iambic pentameter. People will continue to differ about the significance of his work, but its very mass is there for all to see. His life as a yogi and spiritual leader is more difficult to quantify, but it certainly will not be forgotten soon. I tried to do justice to all sides of this versatile man, but to do so I had to be unconventional in more ways than one.
Re: Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity by Debashish on Sat 27 Sep 2008 Permanent Link
To come to the issue of faith and the "more visible expressions" - ie. the writings, it may appear that I underplay the faith, but this is because I consider this aspect a given. A future-facing definition of man bases itself, of necessity, in faith, as Sri Krishna points out, in his own way, in the Gita - yo yacchsraddha sa eva sah - "you are indeed what your faith is." But today's world is full of gurus who claim to be avatars and I cannot accept them on faith unfortunately, in spite of all their miracles. For me, at the least, it is the closely argued "suprarational" prose and the lumnously visionary poetry of Sri Aurobindo which illuminate my ignorance and release the certitude of my faith. This was the context of my drawng attention to these "more visible expressions."
Did Sri Aurobindo come to write those 30 volumes of the Birth centanary? Well, did he not? Then, why did he write them? To waste his time? I have nowhere claimed this is all he came to do. For me, these 30 volumes are no less part of his continuing occult action. What else he did in "his occult action" any of us may or may not be privy to. Our life is a growth of consciousness in which faith, intuition and experience play their part to expand its horizons. But those "more visible expressions" are the "more visible doors" leading to such growth of consciousness and for me they certainly represent part of the "direct action" which the Mother is talking about.
To return to the question of "justifying" Sri Aurobindo by aligning him with one or another school of philosophy or darshan, my aim was rather the reverse - the history of thought, whether western of eastern, has represented man's approaches to the question of meaning. These approaches also translate themselves into "faiths" - often unacknowledged consciously, but nevertheless subtly orienting our lifeworlds and establishing our horizons. For example, the reason most modern human beings find it difficult to believe in the reality of anything immaterial or animistic is due to the ubiquitous faith of Materialism, whose power pervades the modern lifeworld.
What Sri Aurobindo brings here is the vision and the power of a new faith based on a new experience - more powerfully integral than anything that has gone before, and able to order these earlier orientations, put them in place. What he also brings is a new method replacing the purely "rational." This is his disciplinary revision of human systems of knowledge-seeking.
Was he trying consciously to revise these disciplines or is our attempt to make this connection "just our happy pastime"? This of course is a question, which I don't believe can be settled so easily by assertion to the contrary. My reading of Sri Aurobindo convinces me that he was consciously relating to these systems and engaging them through revisionary hermeneutics and that he was doing this not just to fuel "the happy pastimes" of future readers.
... the arrival of Sri Aurobindo was the inevitable response of the principle of consciousness beyond mind descending to unlock its own power of manifestation on earth. The Mother put it thus: “What Sri Aurobindo represents in the earth’s history is not a teaching, not even a revelation, it is a decisive action direct from the Supreme.” What was this decisive action and what does it mean for humanity’s future? This is the question left for us to fathom in our grappling with the future of humanity.
Of course, the scope of such a statement as the Mother’s opens the doors on the invisible occult action of Sri Aurobindo. To acknowledge such an action is a matter of faith, and perhaps faith is a critical component in orienting ourselves towards the future, but a more active aspect of such orientation needs to be an informed understanding of Sri Aurobindo’s contribution towards the future through his more visible expressions, particularly his writings. So what does Sri Aurobindo give us in his writings, that helps in orienting us towards the future? Sri Aurobindo provides us with a comprehensive map towards the future – diverse yet integral – every part of which is pregnant with the fullness of the whole, in keeping with the perfection of a self-existent and accomplished consciousness presaging the vision of human fulfillment.