4 Sep 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.
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A disciple in 1930s: “Those who have visited other Ashrams, say there is no Ashram like this one, no Guru like the Mother or Sri Aurobindo — it is beyond imagination. The freedom given here to every sadhak is really too much. And yet many here do not seem to know even what is meant by a spiritual Guru and how to respect him properly!”

Sri Aurobindo: “Certainly, very few seem to realise what a possibility has been given them here, all has been turned into an opportunity for the bubbling of the vital or the tamas of the physical rather than used for the intended psychic and spiritual purpose.”[2]

Sri Aurobindo’s translation of a poem by Bhartrihari perfectly illustrates this headlong fall from the initial attempts at serious spiritual practice into this bubbling of the vital and the tamas of the physical:

                                  Facilis Descensus

In highest heavens the Ganges’ course began;
From Shiva’s loftiest brow to the white snows
She stumbles, nor on the cold summits can,
But headlong seeks the valley and the rose.
Thence downward still the heaven-born waters ran.

Say not “Is this that Ganges? Can her place
Be now so low? Rather when man at all
From heavenly reason swerves, he sinks from grace
Swiftly. A thousand voices downward call,
A thousand doors are opened to his fall.[3]

Significantly, the Mother considers Shiva the Lord of Transformation, and Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga is nothing if not a Yoga of Integral Transformation – the most difficult of all Yogas ever propounded. This is why in July 1926 (before our Ashram was founded) Sri Aurobindo warned: “All ashramas have a tendency to degeneration. It is due to the incapacity of human nature. Whatever it receives from Above, it spoils very soon. As long as the influence of the founder lasts, his teaching remains pure, but then his disciples, who cannot fully grasp it or can only grasp it intellectually, deform the whole thing.”[4] He had foreseen how the clamour of our thousand-voiced lower nature for an unrestrained life of animal instincts and the thousand-faceted reluctance of our mental nature to serious spiritual practice would sink us swiftly from His Grace.

An apt depiction of this intellect that is inept in grasping but adept in deforming this Yoga is found in a letter of Sri Aurobindo written in 1946: The forces hostile to any success in this Yoga, usually “find their point d’appui in the sadhak himself, in the ignorant parts of his consciousness and its assent to their suggestions and influences; otherwise they could not act or at least could not act with any success.” The sadhaks whose minds are “rationalised by a modern European education are not inclined to believe in or at least to attach any importance to this knowledge,” they “seek the explanation for everything in their ignorant reason, their surface experience and in outside happenings”. In their case the chief points d’appui of the hostile forces “are the extreme sensitiveness of the lower vital ego and the physical consciousness with all its fixed or standing opinions, prejudices, prejudgments, habitual reactions, personal preferences, clinging to old ideas and associations, its obstinate doubts and its maintaining these things as a wall of obstruction and opposition to the larger light. This activity of the physical mind is what people call intellect and reason, although it is only the turning of a machine in a circle of mental habits and is very different from the true and free reason, the higher Buddhi, which is capable of enlightenment and still more from the higher spiritual light or that insight and tact of the psychic consciousness which sees at once what is true and right and distinguishes it from what is wrong and false.”[5]
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A disciple in 1930s: “In some Ashrams, the disciples make too much of their Gurus. Even if the Gurus are just ordinary siddhas they insist on calling them Bhagavans, while here you and the Mother are brought down to such an ordinary level. How unintelligent must be our bright intellect!”

Sri Aurobindo: “Perhaps it is too brilliant to see the Truth.[6]

Consider these achievements of our rationalised Ashramites with their Truth-killing brilliance:

1. Officially approved scholarly (=anti-spiritual) biographies of Sri Aurobindo presenting a well researched, documented and objective treatment of his life purged of  the unwarranted assumptions and unverifiable claims made by hagiographist disciples; providing verifiable facts of his human characteristics and personal drama, viz. cowardice, lying, cheating, sexuality, etc; and scholarly interpretations based on these facts; psycho-analysing his spiritual system for the non-/anti-devotional world by a scholarly study of its sources, arguments, conclusions, and their rhetoric and style. [The phrases in Italics are from Peter Heehs’ biographies of Sri Aurobindo.]

2. New editions of published and unpublished writings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother by the editors of the Archives Department by scrupulously applying the laws of scholarly editing which are, primarily, to present the text exactly as the author would have wanted it presented; and to emend previous manuscript readings that to them were clearly not what the author had intended. [The phrases in Italics are Peter Heehs’ in his Archives and Research.]

            3. Censuring study of Sanskrit and its literature as religious fanaticism, in spite of knowing that Sri Aurobindo learned Sanskrit “to apprehend the true inwardness and glory of the Indian religious and spiritual tradition, the Sanatana Dharma”, and “to make use of Sanskrit and the indigenous languages so as to get to the heart and intimate sense of our own culture and establish a vivid continuity between the still living power of our past and the yet uncreated power of our future”.[7]  No matter that in 1970, the Mother told the Registrar of SAICE that “When India goes back to her soul, Sanskrit will naturally become India’s national language.”[8]

4. Avoiding the slightest public homage to Sri Ramakrishna and Vivekananda in spite of knowing their crucial roles in Sri Aurobindo’s and Mother’s sadhana for fear of being branded a religious institution. But regularly commemorating the life and works of  Tagore in poignant speeches and emotive presentations, knowing that he had not the slightest role in Sri Aurobindo’s or Mother’s sadhana; knowing that, in the Mother’s opinion, his spiritual attainments were not exceptional and the fame he has gained in the West is only “because his stature does not go beyond the understanding of the Western mind”, whereas “India has far greater geniuses than him in the most varied fields, scientific, literary, philosophic, spiritual”.[9]

These are even not the achievements of their “true and free reason, the higher Buddhi, which is capable of enlightenment” (forget those of the higher spiritual light or the psychic consciousness), but rather those of “the extreme sensitiveness of their lower vital ego and their physical consciousness with all its fixed or standing opinions, prejudices, prejudgments, habitual reactions, personal preferences, clinging to old ideas and associations, its obstinate doubts and its maintaining these things as a wall of obstruction and opposition to the larger light”.

Fortunately, there are many disciples in whom, to quote the Mother, “the psychic movement, the emotional impulse is stronger than intellectual understanding. They feel an irresistible attraction for the Divine without knowing, without having the slightest idea of what it is, of what it can be, what it represents – nothing, no intellectual notion – but a kind of impulse, attraction, a need, an inevitable need.”[10]

It is these disciples who may open to “the higher spiritual light or that insight and tact of the psychic consciousness which sees at once what is true and right and distinguishes it from what is wrong and false” in external worship; it is they who are qualified to gauge whether an external action is mere ritual or a sincere spiritual expression.”

Dhyāna-moolam Guro-murtīh – Puja-moolam Guroh-padam;
Mantra-moolam Guror-vākyam – Moksha-moolam Guror-kripā.



[1] SABCL 22:138
[2] Nagin Doshi, Guidance from Sri Aurobindo, Vol. 3, p.251
[3] SABCL, Volume 8, 165
[4] “Conversations”, Sri Aurobindo Circle, 1978
[5] SABCL 24:1742-43
[6] Nagin, Ibid.
[7] CWSA 36:5-6,111; CWSA 1:421
[8] India the Mother, 2002, p. 207
[9] CWM 16:6
[10] Talk of 7 Dec. 1955

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