February 27, 2016

From Postcolonialism to Transhumanism: No escape from Sri Aurobindo

With due respect to Charles Darwin, I use the word ‘evolution’ in its deeper and spiritual sense, not purely mechanical. For this, I lean on Indian spirituality, best articulated in the words of Sri Aurobindo, which effectively captures evolution into this statement: into matter burst life, into life entered mind, into mind will arrive the spirit.
But the process of evolution is incomplete. The barbarian lurking within us may not have the stamina or strength to kill or maim physically. But the driving vital force being of the same origin, surely it can express itself using the same tools of reason, rationality and logic to capture and control.
The barbarian in us has merely changed its weapons. Its spirit remains strong, it powers us, it pulls us back, it tells us that the temple of the body is where salvation lies not in the fuzzy ideas of the mind. #anti nationalism #FWeekend #InMyOpinion #JNU#Nationalism #Sedition #SeditionDebate by Gautam Chikermane  Feb 27, 2016 

Cultural Politics in Modern India: Postcolonial Prospects, ... - Page 80

It seems to me that this aspect of Aurobindo's thought has direct bearing on the crucial debate over the status and position of Enlightenment rationality within Western thought. The key text here is obviously Horkheimer and Adorno's Dialectic of ...

Makarand R. Paranjape is Professor of English at the Centre for English Studies, School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He was the inaugural Eric Auerbach Visiting Chair in Global Literary Studies at the University of Tubingen, Germany, and served as the first ICCR Chair in Indian Studies at the National University of Singapore. His latest works includes The Death and Afterlife of Mahatma Gandhi (2014) and Swami Vivekananda: A Contemporary Reader (2015).

India’s global proximities derive in good measure from its struggle against British imperialism. In its efforts to become a nation, India turned modern in its own unusual way. At the heart of this metamorphosis was a "colourful cosmopolitanism," the unique manner in which India made the world its neighbourhood. The most creative thinkers and leaders of that period reimagined diverse horizons. They collaborated not only in widespread anti-colonial struggles but also in articulating the vision of alter-globalization, universalism, and cosmopolitanism. This book, in revealing this dimension, offers new and original interpretations of figures such as Kant, Tagore, Heidegger, Gandhi, Aurobindo, Gebser, Kosambi, Narayan, Ezekiel, and Spivak. It also analyses cultural and aesthetic phenomena, from the rasa theory to Bollywood cinema, explaining how Indian ideas, texts, and cultural expressions interacted with a wider world and contributed to the making of modern India.

Freedom Without Violence - Page 242
Indian Idea of Freedom: Political Thought of Swami Vivekananda, AurobindoGhose, Mahatma Gandhi, and Rabindranath Tagore (Gurgaon, Haryana: Academic Press, 1982). On freedom as a particularly complex and multifaceted concept in ...
Bindu Puri - 2014 - ‎Preview - ‎More editions

... Nehru, Ambedkar and Abanindranath Tagore) were engaged in a search for “ the 'swa' in 'swaraj'” (Vajpeyi 2012: x). ... Aurobindo had also sought an answer to the question: “What was this ancient spirit and characteristic soul of India?

According to Wouter Hanegraaff in New Age Religion and Western Culture: Esotericism in the Mirror of Secular Thought, in addition to the hippies ... As Adam Curtis explains: [Esalen founder Michael Murphy] gathered together a group of radical psychoanalysts and psychotherapists and encouraged ... Before also settling in San Francisco, Murphy traveled to India to study with SriAurobindo ( 1872–1950.

In the same way that many Christians, Buddhists, Jungians, and followers of Aurobindo and the Mother tend to see the world and all of its particulars through the lens of their specific religious or spiritual commitment, devoted followers of Rudolf ... Beginning with the founding of the Anthroposophical Society in 1912, and then more systematically and decisively beginning in 1923 (for the last two and a half ...

February 23, 2016

Sampdas, Baikunth, and an "Irrational" Ashramite

committed to objective, academic, respectful and honest discussions

OCT 25, 2015

The Ashram was not flush with funds as it is today, and the inmates (including the children) did not enjoy the comparative life of luxury they can afford to live now. But they all received something of that divine touch, which percolated deep into their being and is now paying rich spiritual dividends in their last years. All said and done, a respectable generation which has stood together in service of the Mother through the thick and thin of Ashram life, despite their human limitations! It is precisely because they enjoy such credibility and trust among the younger inmates of the Ashram that I find fault with them for not raising their voices, or rather, of not finding their voices at all in the present crisis!

What is ironical about this total lack of dissent is that literally all of them privately grumble about the administration of the Ashram Trust, discreetly voice their intense dissatisfaction and harshly criticise it among themselves, but when push comes to shove, there is no hesitation whatsoever, not even a squeak of protest, but only the bleating of obedient lambs. They all stand together in full support of the present Trustees, as if the Mother were still physically around, approving of every decision they take – their political maneuverings, their whims and fancies, their partiality and vindictiveness, and above all the senseless expenditure on court cases against those members of the Ashram and other disciples who have dared to voice their opinions publicly. Let me explain the genesis of this misplaced allegiance.

The main reason why the old guard stands together as one indivisible block is their unquestioning allegiance to the Ashram as an institution founded by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, and hence inseparably linked to them. Excellent attitude, no doubt, when the Gurus were physically present and directly dealt with the spiritual and material problems of Ashram life! But what happens when lesser mortals occupy their place in the outer management of the Ashram and pretend to fill the spiritual vacuum left after their passing away? For a few decades, the habit of unthinking obedience seems to have worked (with hiccups) as long as the administration was run by the first generation of disciples who came to the Ashram in the 1920s and 1930s or even earlier, as opposed to the current old guard which came later, in the 1940s and 1950s. The hallowed names of the first generation that come spontaneously to our minds are Nolini, Amrita, Pavitra, Dyuman, Satyakarma, and a number of other self-effacing disciples of that period who worked silently and efficaciously, setting a living example of Yoga in daily life. They helped to establish the inner Ashram and build its outer structure brick by brick, wall by wall, building by building for more than three quarters of a century. For them, the outer Ashram was the symbolic representation of their Gurus and was therefore too important to be sacrificed at the altar of their own egos! Very much unlike the present old guard! What a marked difference between the two generations, the first that built the Ashram and the second that now claims its ownership!

I hope the old guard wakes up to the current realities of Ashram life before it is too late. They should realise that the times have unalterably changed, and that things have deteriorated to such an extent that they can no longer be ignored with the pretext of being loyal to the Mother. The naive assumption that Mother works through whoever is in power and whatever be his limitations, will only further ensure a quick downfall; for it is not the Mother who has failed her disciples, but they who have failed her! In the present circumstances, the Ashram Trustees can never hope to fill the spiritual and administrative vacuum left by the passing away of the Gurus. Nor can they pretend that the outer administration of the Ashram has no connection with its spiritual aim, because the outer life of the Ashram is inextricably linked to its inner life. To say that each inmate is left free to do his own Yoga (so that he does not poke his nose into Ashram affairs) is simply a ruse of the Trustees to avoid embarrassing questions.

The truth of the matter is that the Ashram as a whole is undergoing a rapid process of normalisation, by which I mean a sinking back to the normal level of consciousness. The divine moment when Sri Aurobindo and the Mother lifted their disciples to unthinkable skies of spirituality has definitely passed. Even the memory of it is fading away and we are once again left free to fend for ourselves “with the strength or the weakness”[1] of our own egoism and face the harsh realities of life.

NOV 6, 2015

As an interesting aside, it is worth noting that Sri M.P. Pandit, one of the senior disciples, who had written more than a hundred and fifty books on the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, does not even find mention as a disciple on any of the Ashram’s websites. For many of us Indians as well as seekers in the West, his writings brought the message of positive and affirmative spirituality of the Mother and the Master. While he has been blacked out by the Ashram Trust, the well orchestrated campaign in support of Peter Heehs’s negative and sub-standard biography of the Master at the instance of those who are currently in power in the Ashram, shows not only a mindset of utter insincerity, but also an attitude of putting one’s personal interest above the Ideal for which the Ashram was originally founded. Is it only monetary interest that has come in the way or are the Trustees hostage to some ulterior interest, one does not know yet. But surely, those who stand by the denigration of Sri Aurobindo seem to be the ones who have sold their soul for a mess of pottage. 
... how the current crop of time-servers has managed to build another samadhi for the writings of the Master in the form of the Ashram Cold Storage. The latter is not only actual but also symbolic. For by consigning the writings of the Master for preservation under controlled conditions (the actual), and by denying access to those who find fault with the likes of Peter Heehs, thereby aiding the disinformation about the life and works of the Master (the intellectual and symbolic side), they have buried the works of the Master five fathoms deep into an irretrievable cave of the Panis!

NOV 24, 2015

The Mahabharata in Sri Aurobindo Ashram – by Sampdas

This has reference to an interesting write-up titled The Bhishmacharya Complex 
The downslide in matters relating to the Ashram Trust is palpably clear. The proverbial Gresham’s law known in economics theory, whereby the bad coin drives out the good coin from circulation, seems to hold true here. With the demise of stalwarts and enlightened yogis like Nolini-da, Dyuman, and the walking out by the thoroughly disgusted Champaklalji due to the goings on in the Ashram, the stage was left open for the mean and lesser mortals to take over the Ashram. Within the Ashram, many sadhaks still doubt as to whether some of the incumbent Trustees have not ascended to their present positions through deceit and forgery. It is indeed the case that clearly shows that there is no smoke without a fire. The Ashram Trust today is suspected to have indulged in serious financial irregularities and has a track record of denying food, shelter and medical facilities to inmates who have dared to question them. To top it all, the Ashram Trust stands as one man in defending PH, who continues to write derogatorily about Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, the sadhaks of the Ashram, and even about the Trust members. Nothing can be worse than when an inmate of the Ashram devalues Sri Aurobindo and the Mother in public, and the Trustees come to defend him and not the Master, in whose name the Ashram stands.

DEC 15, 2015

The Trustees also have an obligation to the world-wide following of admirers, devotees and disciples of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. One has only to read the objectives of the Trust Deed to come to this conclusion, and it is sheer self-deceit on their part to say they are only concerned with the inmates of the Ashram. They have also been playing a double game in the public domain with regard to religion. On the one hand, they have openly stood against “religion” with false bravado in order to justify the vilification of Sri Aurobindo on the basis of free speech; on the other hand, they have resisted even the slightest change to what they call “the sacred Will of the Mother” by appealing to the religious sentiments of the followers of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. As mentioned earlier on this site by another writer, opportunism and not idealism dictates the policies of the current Trustees, the chief consideration being the continuation of their absolute authority over the beneficiaries of the Ashram.   

Finally, all procedures and systems are man-made, and there is no foolproof method by which to prevent their misuse. The most cumbersome procedures can be easily overcome for selfish benefit, whereas the simplest of procedure can prove to be a tough hurdle for the corrupt, when it is in the hands of an honest officer. Thus procedures depend upon their efficient implementation and on the honesty of those who are in charge of carrying them out.
This does not necessarily mean the recommendation of full scale democracy and electoral politics, but that a via media can always be found between the rule of the enlightened few and the voice of the majority. In any case, enough measures should be introduced and properly implemented to convince the inmates and other beneficiaries that their voices are not only heard but also count in determining the spiritual and material destiny of the Ashram. 

JAN 4, 2016

There is certainly a need for mental clarity, especially when the sheer comprehensiveness of Sri Aurobindo’s and the Mother’s spirituality permits so many errors and distortions. These errors, mind you, have been first pointed out by them, for I take my stand on what they have said and written, and not on any fresh discoveries I claim to have made. But I say this with diffidence (and accept my own share of possible error) because the trend now is to put everything in their names in order to justify the most indefensible actions. The meaning of spirituality also has been tweaked and stretched beyond recognition, and made to include almost everything under the sun from environmental concerns to baby production, flood relief work to water sports, and animal welfare to transgender issues. Not that these matters should be excluded from the larger spiritual world-view, but this very all-inclusiveness has resulted in a kind of freewheeling and even fraudulent spirituality, which is certainly suspect by all  standards of common sense, especially when there is a considerable involvement of sex and money. It is here that I would like to state a few examples of spiritual distortion to illustrate my point.

All Life is Yoga is one of those oft quoted sayings of Sri Aurobindo, which has perhaps become the grossest misrepresentation in practice of what it actually is in theory. All Life is Yoga obviously does not mean that the ordinary life, lived in the ordinary way, with the ordinary motivations of life, is Yoga. It means that All Life, that is, all the activities of Life, including the most mundane ones, such as going to the market and even brushing one’s teeth, can be taken as part of Yoga. 

Three, when he looks round at the others and realises humbly that he cannot do without compromises in the spiritual life. Four: there is an abrupt normalisation, a relaxation, and the frustration of not being able to do what one ought to do disappears, and there is a comfortable settling down to the new found balance of one’s life, which is often temporary. Five: Life hits back at him and takes its sweet revenge for having been suppressed all these years and deprived of its normal course of physical satisfaction. The balance then tilts to the other side once the inhibitions are broken, and there is a demand for the full satisfaction of its basic instincts, without any reservations whatsoever. Six: The Yogic aim is then indefinitely postponed, or fitted neatly into a small corner of the larger framework of the ordinary life that one is now forced to abide by.

SEP 4, 2014

The Rationalised Ashramite – by An "Irrational" Ashramite

Roused by the escalating anti-theist refrain of ‘No Religion’ in Auroville (see “The ‘No Religion’ Refrain”posted on this site on 9th August) rationalised Ashramites belittle our offering of incense and prayer at the Samadhi and the photographs of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, our meditations in the Ashram, Playground, etc, as rituals and conventions devoid of spirituality. But meditations at the Matrimandir can also become ritualistic conventions, for while there are no external ceremonies, the symbols of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother are built into the very design of Matrimandir and with time meditations there too can become mechanical rituals. The fact is that the unspiritualised mind can never know when any form of external worship is without a living truth behind it, and is not a living spiritual expression of worshipper’s soul. “If worship is done,” says Sri Aurobindo, “as a part of meditation or with a true aspiration to the spiritual reality and the spiritual consciousness and with the yearning for contact and union with the Divine, then it can be spiritually effective.”[1] In reality, therefore, the rationalist’s “No Religion” refrain masks the lower nature’s dread of serious spiritual practice and its clamour for an unrestrained life of animal instincts, nurturing it will ultimately leave no place for devotion and reverence, no place for spirituality, no place for the aspiration of the soul, and finally no place for Sri Aurobindo and the Mother themselves.

February 21, 2016

Augustine and Sri Aurobindo in America

Story image for Sri Aurobindo from
NEW YORK: The New York Hindu University of America has announced a course on Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy for its semester starting April 4 2016 academic year.
Sri Aurobindo, the great Indian sage, philosopher, poet and revolutionary, virtually defies description in light of the immense range of his achievements and impact. This course presents an introduction to Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy as the foundation of his Integral Yoga. Sri Aurobindo described his philosophical perspective in his masterwork, The Life Divine. Portions of this profound work will be studied as the basis of the course, addressing primarily Sri Aurobindo’s conceptualization of the nature of reality and the implications that extend from this, including his world view of integral Advaitism. Sri Aurobindo ‘s writing includes an evolutionary perspective, addressing evolution at both the individual and cosmic levels.
Within this is his vision of a higher destiny for humanity, as the evolutionary trajectory extends into the future. Related texts providing commentary and interpretation will be used as supplements. Participants will engage in online discussion and complete two tests and an essay as part of the course.

Savitri Era of those who adore, Om Sri Aurobindo & The Mother.