12 Nov 2008

Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity—a Comment

It is possible to look at Sri Aurobindo in context of the future of humanity but that should be primarily done recognizing him as the Master-Yogi and perhaps not so much as a traditional or professional Master-Philosopher appealing to the rationalist of the western kind. It is justifiably said that Sri Aurobindo gives us a framework of thought, as well as pragmatics of psychology, that carries us forward in becoming a better acceptable individual and a better organised collectivity. Due credit is also given to him as a Master-Critic for giving us a creative expression which is futuristic uttering the Word of the Spirit. His writings do mark “a blueprint for a destiny which he announces as a life divine”.

But in order to get to this life divine, the life divine something else, something radically different from all these things has to happen. Sri Aurobindo not only does posit “Supermind as the ontological foundation of superman”; he “travels furthest from the western tradition of philosophy as speculative metaphysics and brings to its disciplinary formulations” the power of the spirit itself. That’s perfectly true. Yet there is also a tendency to contextualize his ‘philosophy’ within the history of western formulations. By doing so is seen his contribution towards the future of humanity unfolding its secret potential. But perhaps that sounds more a hard-core rationalist’s imposition on what lies beyond the restricted boundaries of the rationalist. That is not to say that rationalism has to be discarded; that is only to assert that, possibly, rationalism has a positive ability to outgrow itself. It is this aspect we generally tend to forget. There is a superior mode of logic, a superior mode of rationalism that makes existence meaningful. Indeed, there’s the Logic of the Infinite and it’s that which should be incorporated in our curriculae. If this is accepted then there is really no need to justify, à la Milton, the ways of Sri Aurobindo to the rational man, man the reasoning creature who doesn’t seem to be a reasonable creature. Any Miltonic attempt in this regard is going to prove Miltonically inadequate; not only that, but also frustrating.

Was Sri Aurobindo sent to align himself with the modes of Thought, Occidental or Oriental, Modern or Ancient, Transient or Perennial? Revelatory or Ratiocinative? We seem to be quite busy ‘reconciling’ Sri Aurobindo with the stiff traditionalist notions of ours, traditions belonging to the various schools, metaphysical or darshanic. It therefore comes as a great surprise to read something of a different kind in the context of what the Mother proclaimed categorically in her message dated 14 February 1961: “What Sri Aurobindo represents in the world’s history is not a teaching, not even a revelation; it is a decisive action direct from the Supreme.” What is meant by a direct action 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.” But how do we answer it?

“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 help 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.”

To see the direct action of the Supreme, we are told here to go by Sri Aurobindo’s “more visible expressions, particularly his writings.” Does it mean that he came to write those thirty volumes of the Birth Centenary? That will be an extraordinary way of reading the Mother’s revelation about the birth of Sri Aurobindo the Yogi par excellence. If we are not going to go by the “more visible expressions”, then we will be dubbed as credulous people who, at the best, go by faith—and there cannot be reconciliation between faith and reason. If we push this line of argument further, then we will be told that all those ‘followers’ who adhere to the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo are ‘patronized’ by the founders of this Yoga, that it has become a despicable religion. But we must recognize that Sri Aurobindo’s writings are a byproduct of Sri Aurobindo’s birth, something that has happened functionally in the sequel of the direct action from the Supreme. It was certainly not to justify the ways of God to Man—which might come about incidentally.

But what is the direct action? in what context? It is of course to open “the doors on the invisible occult”. If we miss this cardinal fact then we altogether miss the meaning of Sri Aurobindo’s birth, the process and purpose of Avatarhood itself. Sri Aurobindo came, and bore wounds difficult to heal, “attempted all and achieved all”, not perhaps so much for man but more, and in every respect, for the Divine. Didn’t he say, “My Yoga is for the Divine”? He came here to do the Yoga of the Supreme himself. If we ignore this central truth of his birth then we fail to see his writings also, and then any attempt to juxtapose him with this or that thinker, or with this or that social philosophy, or with this or that formulation of ours becomes our happy pastime. And there are more serious things to do and our task lies in preparing ourselves to do them. We need not so much of Expositional Sri Aurobindo but more of Applied Sri Aurobindo.

It’s a pity that The Lives of Sri Aurobindo is deliberately silent about these matters. There are superficialities aplenty in it but not to touch the core issues amounts to sheer distortion. It is that which hurts most the perceptive student of the Vision and Work of Sri Aurobindo. In fact it causes a deeper harm in putting him off from possible spiritual help and guidance from him. But if there’s the sincere call for such a life, it is always there to take him on the upward path.

RY Deshpande

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