17 October 2008

Making religion with Sri Aurobindo?

By what I may consider myself a person –free from all religions? Broadly speaking, the atheists also follow some systems of thoughts and belief that help them exist comfortably. It’s like unconsciously holding to the root of a sense of certainty of their existence. There must be an axiom which helps to prove other truths. For man this axiom is hidden and unknown to him. But he feels the urge to cling to it for existential justification. When it is said that man can not live by bread alone –the need for bread is more emphasised than other psychological requirements. But a deep insight into the needs of man reveals that the most essential requirement in him is his sense of existence. The bread is essential for physical survival –but the basic root of this survival is a sense of assertion of survival. For man this sense of survival is not merely sensory. It’s a sense that gives him an identity as distinguished from amorphous mass of life. He wants to see or assert himself as an individual that is justifiably co-related to that which is greater than him-his personal self. To be specific we may say that man wants to belong to a system-that sustains his existence. If he fails to understand that ‘required system’-he would find out one according to his nature and understanding. The scientist does not believe that he is guided by someone we call God. So he tries to discover in his own way the truths and powers that govern his life and the world. It’s the essential satisfaction of existential nature. There can be no sense of uncertainty in our feeling of living in life. If we are unable to find any –we go on creating or imagining one to adhere to. So –the most interesting thing is that an atheist also believes that he is driven by a system –and in his case –it’s not God. This innate existential seeking has necessarily a tendency to form an external system in order to get it complied with the inner urge. Externally this is the cause of religions to meet this demand of existence of human life. Man gets relief in the fold of religion; his all is gathered into a certainty. He is given a world he is able to believe in and gets the ways and means to walk on it with his convincingly secure feeling. In religion he is justified of his physical, vital and mental instincts and perhaps is better satisfied. It’s because the sense of control over the baser impulses helps man to enjoy more under sanction of the authority of his religion. So in religion only man gets a justified ground of existence and the rightful approval of meeting his natural instincts with control. And it is this religion that sets before man a higher truth, a higher way of life. So in religion man also gets an opportunity to pursue his higher urge. So basically in this higher ideal held by all major religions as districts from the impulses of lower nature –man finds a higher and vaster sky for his possibilities. There is no doubt that in religion man finds himself more than what he is ordinarily. Here in this aspect, the gate of original inner urge of existential nature is more opened and man gets more space to satisfy the dignity of his existence. Those who criticise religions forget that religion is an essential natural phenomenon of man’s search and fulfilment –and the consequent exteriorisation of the hidden urge of life. There is no denying the fact that it is the same religion that shackles, fetters and tortures man and prevent him to go beyond the established and fixed periphery to be otherwise for the same reason that is behind the growth of religion. Religion helps man to gather around a set of principles for grasping the reason of his existence but it never allows him to go outside this frame. The principles of life on which a religion is based –gradually turn into the rules of a structure. The tree now wants to explain the seed. The root of this contradiction lies in the overriding prominence of collective system against the urge of individual for further progress. The truth always comes through individual and through the individual it holds the collective group. So it is individual who whenever rises against a past dogma in favour of a living truth –the collective opposition (in the form of religion) stands against it. So we have witnessed in the process of history the battles between newness and progressive thoughts- and between religions also. As I have told above that we can not afford to be outside religions-of any kind for fear of losing truths that sustain us-identify us.

This is the apparent and external truth for religions growing strength in collective human groups. But there is a force and power behind the foundation of religion which is not physical. In all the major religions and paths there are spiritual powers that form them as new ways and influences for the world in given times through Avatars, Bibhutis and other higher mental or vital incarnations for the general progressions of human consciousness. These incarnations from higher spiritual regions are essential in the progression of consciousness in evolutionary process behind manifestation of higher principles of existence. But in the process of time all the new principles go on creating norms, rules, creeds etc because of mind’s ways to grasp the newness. Ultimately –it is the principle of mind and also of vital consciousness that are responsible for the creeds of religions or the religiosity. The truth has been asked heaven’s sanction for earth’s service. This degeneration of spiritual truth in the life and mind of human beings is best described by Sri Aurobindo in the following lines of his Life Divine. .”...The religious idea has been turned into an excuse for the worship and service of the human ego. Religion, leaving constantly its little shining core of spiritual experience, has lost itself in the obscure mass of its ever extending ambiguous compromises with life: in attempting to satisfy the thinking mind, it more often succeeded in oppressing or fettering it with a mass of theological dogmas; while seeking to net the human heart, it fell itself into pits of pietistic emotionalism and sensationalism; in the act of annexing the vital nature of man to dominate it, it grew itself vitiated and fell a prey to all the fanaticism, homicidal fury, savage or harsh turn for oppression, pullulating falsehood, obstinate attachment to ignorance to which that vital nature is prone; its desire to draw the physical in man towards God betrayed it into chaining itself to ecclesiastic mechanism, hollow ceremony and lifeless ritual.”

Now let us consider this aspect of religion for the devotees of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. But before giving any opinion we must compare some aspects of existing religious communities with that of the followers of Sri Aurobindo. Basically a person to follow and believe in the path of Sri Aurobindo for a meaning and justification of life –does not require coming into any fold of a collective group or community. Actually –there is no external path at all in Sri Aurobindo. There is no creed and we may better say that there can not be any creed and ritual for a person (or a sadhak) who are in the way towards Supramental consciousness. The follower of Sri Aurobindo –if he/she so chooses may live a life without attaching himself/herself to any group or attending any ceremony –even if these are in the name of Sri Aurobindo. A follower of Sri Aurobindo must shun all beliefs, notions, impressions and preferences that he/she has learnt from the society, religion, community, nationality. He or she must make efforts to be bare of all ideas –in order to help the Divine hands to mould him/her in Its own way-contrary to the ways as conceived by human mind. For the first and the last thing in Sri Aurobindo –is to exceed one’s own self –exceeding the very manhood for the attainment of Supermanhood. There is no specific ways to attain it. One must find one’s soul for a true direction and follow it in every movement of life-as ‘All life is yoga’. One need not de-convert one’s religious identity in order to follow Sri Aurobindo. One may argue that it’s true for all the true destination of all religions-i.e. to stand naked with God. But there is a difference here. One must accept everything that comes to him in the process of life externally and internally in order to transform them. It’s because this a follower Sri Aurobindo does not and can not have any defined form and status of his/her God. Because one must rise beyond the world of Gods and for that matter the world of mind. Sri Aurobindo –time and again warned and advised his disciples and followers –not to make any effort to understand the Supramental consciousness. One must surrender all of one’s life to the Divine. So does it not sound ridiculous that one’s surrendering everything to the Divine –is also a kind of a religion? Secondly –it may also be argued that a follower of Sri Aurobindo or a believer of his vision of future of humanity is not necessarily a sadhak of Supramental Yoga. There are innumerable persons who are believers of his philosophy but are not active sadhakas. These people are being grouped here and there in the various parts of the world. And as they stand distinctively separate from other religious identities –they are obviously be branded as belonging also to a faith –however great that may be. Whether we like it or not, they, by virtue of believing in a separate way-are helping to form another religion with Sri Aurobindo. But seeing it in that way is missing an important truth relating to psychology of religion. Actually the people belonging to this category are elites in psychology. The very elitism with the truth of Sri Aurobindo is a deterrent to religious movements. Unlike other religious groups they will help creating a psychology in favour of union of different faiths and ways while remaining unbiased above every divisive tendency. These groups of people having a mental inclination for Sri Aurobindo are essential for the hidden Supramental urge –for gradual building of a stimulating base for its actions on the sadhakas and also the humanity in general. But the people belonging to other religions may brand them as belonging to a religion other than the religions they belong to. But at the same time they will not consider them a community harmful to any religious beliefs.

These people will walk and move in the light of a higher consciousness and will never act with any religious impulse. Sri Aurobindo appeared to lift humanity into an integral truth consciousness from this divisive world of mind. If we believe that by accepting the teachings of Sri Aurobindo –we become a part of a separate religion then there lies a serious misunderstanding in our reading of Sri Aurobindo. If any religious-minded person does not feel comfortable amongst a group of followers of Sri Aurobindo then by the person’s religiosity can in no way establish a fact that by refusing to believe in the religious ways of the person the group has its own religion also other than the religion of the person. The Christianity was once enraged by the opinion of Galileo Galilee. This fact can not be explained by a kind of strife between two belief-systems. Galileo was not a follower of any faith in his discovery. He was mere aware of the truth.

15 October 2008

Anirvan on Sri Aurobindo

Sri Anirvan was a true and great yogi. Even in India –a yogi of his stature was rare. But few Indians knew him and in Bengal he is known mainly only amongst the circle of the devotees of Sri Aurobindo. It is mainly because of his Bengali translation of Sri Aurobindo’s Life Divine. Moreover –his command over a language that could do justice to the mantric language of Life Divine-turned his readers to discover him as an adorable greatness in that circle. Otherwise –in spite of his other great and serious writings including his Veda Mimamsa –he would have long lost in oblivion so far the Bengalis are concerned. He was an immortal yogi but Life Divine made him an immortal writer. Even I know many Bengalis –who knew him as an Ashramite of Sri Aurobindo Ashram as one amongst the disciples of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. I myself was a victim of this wrong notion before I met him in 1972 and I got a bit surprised of his not being so. I felt to visit him only as I was a devotee of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Otherwise-perhaps I would not have felt any urge to meet him –even if I had known him as an extraordinary yogi. I was then mad to know more about Sri Aurobindo after the Mother’s touch. I wanted to go to them who knew Sri Aurobindo and the Mother personally. For the same reason I met Promode Kumar Chatterjee-the renowned painter and writer –who later joined Sri Aurobindo Ashram. After my acquaintance with Sri Anirvan –I became overwhelmed with his love and I got related to him personally. I told him all about my experience and my opinion about Sri Aurobindo. I laid bare my mind and heart before him as to what I felt about Sri Aurobindo in those days. There were two persons who had been sources for my life’s inner sustenance. They were Sri Ramakrishna and Rabindranath Tagore. But as I had been growing up I started to feel their limitations –in helping me to find the right justification in living in this modern life. Sri Ramakrishna could not convince me as to why I should go after God and how could I live a worldly life without ‘kamini-kanchan’ (woman and money). He uttered that this world is nonexistent (jagat mithya) and only the Brahman is true. His disciples were sanyasins- a fact which divided the two ways of life-where the non-sanyasins were inferior to the sanyasins in their way of life. I never fell from my reverence for him –and always regarded him a great spiritual person. But I failed to reconcile my situation with his ideals and teachings. So was Rabindranath-a worshipper of beauty who held an idea of universal humanity free from all narrowness. But he could not show any way to achieve it. He was apparently aloof of human destiny and the justification of living in hope and meaning. I told all this of my thoughts to Sri Anirvan. I also told him that it was only after coming in touch with the Mother I find the meaning and justification of life in Sri Aurobindo. He responded with a great pat for every word of mine. I should not take this opportunity to get flattered by mentioning his opinion about me in respect of what I told him about Sri Aurobindo. I need only to mention here that he supported every feeling of mine and encouraged and praised me for my opinion on Sri Aurobindo. Sri Aurobindo was the cement between our loving relations. There may be other subtle and hidden reasons in my inner relation with him. But it is beyond my comprehension.

For my reverence and love for this yogi-I was sensitive also about his writing on Sri Aurobindo –the person. I read all the letters he wrote in different times to many bhktas. From all his correspondences I came to form my way of ideas about his not being so vociferous about the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. He was a great yogi and it’s beyond the idea of ordinary persons about the height of his consciousness. If one came under his yogic influence or was personally in loving relation with him –he revealed sometime like a childlike simplicity his scintillating greatness. So he did not like to involve himself in fanciful or for that matter futile intellectual exercises with those Aurobindonians who in their real life had no spiritual experience in such very serious and complicated matters. He loved sincere people with genuine seeking but he kept himself apart from public discussions on Sri Aurobindo. Moreover his was a unique life and a different destination as fixed by his creator. He loved the mind of a Baul in his seeking –his Himalayan erudition notwithstanding. But it’s my presumption that his realisation of the Avatarhood of Sri Aurobindo came in his later life. But he did not like to discuss this aspect with others.

In 1972 on the occasion of Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary he wrote briefly on Sri Aurobindo. I am unable for my inefficiency to translate into English from his own inimitable beautiful Bengali –what he wrote about Sri Aurobindo. Perhaps it was his last written statement on Sri Aurobindo. I only mention below a few lines leaving the whole for my inability to translate. This is also not literary translation. I only keep the idea behind the lines.

“Sri Aurobindo was an Avatar in his human body-manushim tanum aAshritah. He appeared as a Divine Intervention. It’s very significant that India became independent on a day which was the birthday of Sri Aurobindo. It’s also significant that though he had been grown up under Western culture and education –his inner self was completely inspired by the oriental ideas and thoughts. His Divine birth took place in a particular place and time-India and Twentieth Century. So his thoughts and ideas turned into universal dimension”

Though it has been written as quote-but actually I have culled them in my way and not from a single paragraph. Sri Anirvan wrote a bit more on the personality and the significance of Sri Aurobindo’s life there but as I have said above that I have had to leave them for my inability to translate them.

After the withdrawal of the Mother from her physical body in 1973, Sri Anirvan and Nalini Kanta Gupta –made two statements on the occasion-from two different places. The words of their statements were not the same in language but significantly they were same in spirit. They saw it (the physical death) as an explosion of the Mother’s consciousness which radiated everywhere in the world. Unfortunately –I had not with me the statements as I write this. So I’ll be glad if anyone helps me with their verbatim statements. Meanwhile I will continue to search them in my records.

10 October 2008

Birth of New Spiritualism After Three Thousand Years

Some personal stray thoughts:

From my very childhood I have been inclined to spiritual matters. This is not to say that I felt god- ward emotion as we find in sadhus and yogis. Neither was I a spiritual seeker in my life. What interested me was to know how God exits and in what way he is related to our lives. This is also not to say that I had philosophical bend in my mind. I was born in a very spiritual and religious family. But as the family was deeply rooted in Sri Ramakrishna –we were not conventionally religious. Sri Ramakrishna and Vivekananda rid many Hindus –especially Bengali Hindus, of the debris of conservative Hinduism. The disciples and the followers of Sri Ramakrishna and Vivekananda were enlightened neo-Hindus then. My grandfather and grandmother were initiated by Sri Sarada Devi-whom we knew as Ma in our family. All the sons and daughters of my grandfather were initiated by this and that of the twelve sanyasin disciples of Sri Ramakrishna. We lived in Ranchi then permanently. My grandfather was one of the founders of Sri Ramakrishna Mission at Ranchi. So our house was frequently visited by the different sadhus and sanyasins and they stayed in our house whenever they felt necessary. So it was natural for me to grow as a strong believer in God. There was a strong presence of Sri Ramakrishna in our home. Sri Ramakrishna was our God. He was with us in every moment –in all the events good and bad. I loved him-sincerely loved him. I still love him.

But I had questions –which grew in numbers and in strength as I kept growing in age. One day when I was ten years-I suddenly got out of my otherwise normal calm mind and asked my aunt-a very devoted woman “If India is so rich and great with her Vedas, Upanishads, Gita-and with the numerous sadhus , monks, yogis and devotees sacrificing so much for the sake of God-why is this country suffering from poverty, diseases and illiteracy? Why are we lagging behind the West? Why Mr Morgan who has not even heard the name of Sri Ramakrishna –and without even caring God, can live so lavishly and why we can not, with Sri Ramakrishna behind us? How could it be possible for the British to be so mighty and wealthy, enough to be the king of almost half of this world while we Indians have appeared to be degenerated –so badly –that we are hardly recognisable as human beings as compared to them? I have serious doubt whether the Rishis and Yogis of your Vedas and Upanishads were wise enough in their vision of future. If they really had had the proper wisdom they would not have recommended spirituality-the most right path for us. Actually you have been worshipping false wisdom. Had they not the vision that their children would suffer like animals if they would sacrifice everything in the name of god?” By the way-Mr Morgan, an Englishman and his family were our tenants. We have two houses and my grandfather gave in rent one to Mr Morgan. So the difference of life styles and the standard of life of the Morgan and us was very much striking to me from my childhood. I felt confused. I could not ignore Indian spiritual seeking but at the same time I could not ignore her material suffering. There was another thing that I could not understand at all. Very frequently I heard elderly people seeking and praying for ‘mukti’. ‘Mukti’ (riddance from worldly life) was a very difficult word for me. I would think where one goes after mukti! But none cared to answer my ignorance. This is what I felt in my childhood. Much later I was put into many more riddles –the answers or solutions of them were not available from any quarter –materialists or spiritualists. I got so disgusted about all the unsolved riddles that it pushed me to think that it was better to be an agnostic or a Buddhist. I read many books on spiritual matters including that of Vivekananda. But the riddle of the meaning of existence could not be found. I’m sad to say that Vivekananda was a great man-and he appeared on this land as an epoch-making man. He was even an indispensible person for creating a spiritual atmosphere in India which ultimately helped preparing a ground for a sense of Indian nationalism-essential for seeking political independence. To read Vivekananda is to get awakened into a spirit to get convinced in one’s inner strength. But there is nothing in him that can satisfy that elementary question seeking the meaning and justification of existence-both individual and collective. Vivekananda was a force and an outstanding organiser but not an uncompromising seeker. He himself was in confusion which he was unaware of. He believed in the Mayavada of Shankaracharya but at the same time he passionately thought of the welfare of his country. He never was able to rid himself from these dual contradictions. Shankaracharya did not stand for Life but his follower Vivekananda loved Life-in all its aspects passionately. He could not withstand tears of suffering persons. He had a tremendous vital power but not a matching mind. Philosophy of life or truth never tormented him but what moved his life was the quality of life-especially the life of his countrymen. After Raja Rammohun -he was the second Indian to show India a modern path. This modernity was then a phenomenon in support of worldly life, an awakening to the values of material world. Vivekananda himself was the representative modern material man. But in his seeking for a truth there was no entry of the confused modern man. So I could not get shelter in Vivekananda. Apart from Vivekananda there was not a single person who wrote on the riddle of life and the future of man and spirituality-at least not significantly. So I remained a shelter less man even in my late twenties.

I wrote the above situation only to tell a little reality that concerns the conventional spiritualist and the scientist both. I have had to write so much only to say that if it were not for the Mother I would have been a sad atheist.

We all use to think of our habitat –the Earth being only a planet. There exists the whole universe compared to which the Earth is almost non-existent insignificance. The scientists have been trying to reach other planets for enquiry as if these celestial bodies and the rest of the universe lie separately from our own. Let the scientists go on seeking in their own way –as it (the Science) has its own values that affect our physical life. It stands in the conglomerate whole as a functional truth also just as we need to cultivate to feed us.

But –unfortunately after thousands of years from the rich past of the discovered truth –we, the seekers in the spiritual path still remain ignorant about the exact truth of this universe and the mind. It’s not a place to discuss metaphysical matters here but we may ponder over this matter as a truth of our life. If it’s necessary to know the role of psychic being in individual life for a devotee –then in the parallel significance it must be accepted that the universe exists but not outside our own life separately. It is created from within us or simultaneously in a single act - but we conceive it keeping outside of our understanding. There is no place to reach –as no place exists elsewhere. Actually –there is no place outside me. It’s only a question of stretching me if I want to have more or ‘different’. This is an old truth of Indian spiritualism.

According to the Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram –the Earth is the centre of this universe and the very crucible of the centre of evolutionary process. I find that apart from their own sadhana and proclamation on the future of Man –the Mother and Sri Aurobindo explained everything of Indian spiritual wealth which none before them tried to lay bare under scanning wisdom and transparent intelligence. They have answered all the questions that may arise within a modern seeker for truth. And I am convinced that all will be able to rid themselves from the confusions I suffered from in my childhood. Had there been no Sri Aurobindo-the spiritual wealth of India would not have been re-discovered. He freed Indian spiritual wisdom from the degenerated garb of Hindu religion. He even paved the way for greater spiritual possibility for the whole world free from religious narrowness.

It took nearly three thousand years for Sri Aurobindo to be born for the establishment of true spiritualism which man needs most to find his existential meaning.