Monday, December 31, 2007

Hindus must vault over internal divisions, in particular the curse of caste

The vital difference Arun Shourie indian Monday, December 31, 2007 Home > Op-Ed > In the Indic traditions — as opposed to the Middle Eastern traditions — reality is multilayered. Hence no description of it is final: tolerance follows as an article of faith.
So, the first lesson to bear in mind is that every tradition has in it the potential to become extremist. In this sense, our traditions are indeed similar to the Middle Eastern traditions. This similarity should be a warning to governments and parties that keep traducing Hindus, for instance, and pandering to Muslims and the rest just because the latter are aggressive. Everyone learns.
And yet there is a basic, foundational difference — one that points us to what is of inestimable value in Indic traditions; to the priceless pearl that we should preserve, the one that these heedless secularists and the rapacious aggressives do not realise they are pushing Hindus, Buddhists and others to discard. This basic difference is as follows.
When a tradition has the following elements, as each of the three Middle Eastern traditions has, as do the secular traditions of the West — Nazism, Marxism-Leninism — it will invariably be exclusivist, intolerant and aggressive, and it will invariably deploy all means — from propaganda to money to violence:
• Reality is simple;
• It has been revealed to one man;
• He has put it in one Book;
• That Book is inerrant as well as exhaustive: so that whatever is in it is true, that it is true for all time; and that whatever is not in it or is contrary to what is in it, is false or useless or worse;
• But the Book is difficult to understand; hence, you need a guide, an intermediary, a monitor: in a word, the Church, the ulema, or the Party;
• The Book covers, the intermediary must cover every aspect of life: there is no distinction between the private and the public sphere, between the Secular and the Religious, between the State and the Church. These doctrines are totalitarian — in both senses: they insist on governing the totality of life — the Roman Catholic Church’s minatory insistence against contraception, for instance, and the reams and reams of fatwas that deal with even more intimate matters; they are also totalitarian in the sense that what they prescribe on any aspect just must be obeyed;
• The test of piety is adherence to that Book and to the prescriptions of that intermediary — in every sphere of life;
• It is the duty of that intermediary, indeed of every believer to ensure that all come to accept and adhere to The Message — there is only one Message;
• As the Message is the ‘Truth, the whole Truth and nothing but the Truth,’ as there is no truth beside it, those who do not accept the Message are cussed; worse, they are thwarting the Will of Allah, or its equivalent — the march of History in Marxism-Leninism;
• Hence, it is the duty of every believer, and even more so of that intermediary to use all means to make them accept the Message, and if, even after being offered the opportunity to accept it, they refuse, to vanquish them all together.
When these elements are present, the tradition will have one singular objective: dominance. It will become an ideology of power, a dogma that rationalises everything in the pursuit of hegemony. The dogma will necessarily gravitate to, among other things, violence.
Contrast those elements with propositions that are central to the Indic traditions:
• Reality is multilayered complexity: both in the sense that there are layers within layers of it, and in the sense of each element mingling into others: the Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh refers to the latter as ‘inter-being’;
• It has not been revealed exclusively to one person: several have glimpsed it;
• They have put down approximate descriptions of that reality as well as hints of how to glimpse it in some books: these are travel guides;
• Perceiving that Truth is an overwhelming, incomparable experience; it is the one joy that lasts. This life gives each of us a unique opportunity to bathe in that effulgence. If we don’t, the loss will be ours — but that is about it: the Truth is not affected; the guides are not falsified;
• It is not just the Book or some singular great figure who can teach us; everything, every event, every relationship can be a teacher guiding us to glimpse the Truth — indeed, our object should be to make everything teach us. The essential points are three: different ways will suit different persons; second, the individual is the one who has to strive — as ‘an island unto himself’; third, the striving, the search is an inner-directed one. It has nothing to do with the state or power or dominance over nature or man;
• In pursuing this inner-directed search, indeed in leading one’s life, the test is not adherence to any of these travel guides, nor obedience to any intermediary, but darshan — the traveller’s own experience: do not mistake the finger pointing to the moon — that is, my teaching — for the moon, the reality, the Buddha counsels.
Every single element in these traditions guides and pulls the believer in the direction that is the exact opposite of the Middle Eastern traditions. Reality is multilayered, hence no description of it is final: tolerance follows as an article of faith. The search is to be an inner-directed one: where, then, is there a case for converting some dar ul harb into some dar ul Islam? The touchstone is not that I am adhering to what some book says or what some person, howsoever worthy, prescribed. The touchstone is my own experience. The consequence of even this single article is immense and radical. The Gita is set in a battlefield. At the end, Arjuna declares that all his doubts are settled. He goes into gory battle. Yet Gandhiji derived non-violence from it. The orthodox berated him. Where do you get the authority to advance such a notion, they demanded. Gandhiji’s answer? From here, his heart. What is written in this book, he says in Anashakti Yoga, is the result of thirty years’ unremitting effort to live the Gita in my life. When Mansur speaks to his experience, he is executed. Within Islam, the Sufis were a beleaguered sect . . .
Putting belief into practice
It is entirely possible, of course, to be earnest about one’s religious beliefs, practices, rituals and not turn to violence or to converting others through allurements or violence. Indeed, we can go further and say that in all traditions, the majority of people in their practice, in their day-to-day life are like each other: each of them has a hard enough time getting through her or his daily struggles to spare time and effort to forcing or even inducing others or even persuading others to his particular way. But when the religion insists that the object is to convert, to ‘harvest souls’ for Jesus, when it declares that all of dar ul harb must be converted into the dar ul Islam; when the religion is a doctrine of dominance, being earnest about one’s religion comes to include as an essential element that the believer assist in spreading that religion, and that he use all means to do so. If a believer does not do so, he is deficient in his belief.
That is why in the hadis, we find the Prophet repeatedly enumerating the boons that accrue to the martyr and his relatives from jihad, from killing and being killed in the cause of Islam. The pre-eminent rewards, of course, accrue to the one who joins in the fighting himself, the Prophet declares in scores of hadis. But even the one who does not do so directly, will be rewarded for every bit of assistance that he gives for the establishment, defence and spread of Islam, the Prophet declares. When a man keeps a horse for the purpose of jihad, ‘tying it with a long tether on a meadow or in a garden... whatever it eats from the area of the meadow or the garden where it is tied will be counted as good deeds for his benefit, and if it should break its rope and jump over one or two hillocks then all its dung and its footmarks will be written as good deeds for him; and if it passes by a river and drinks water from it even though he had no intention of watering it, even then he will get the rewards for its drinking.’ And again, even more generally, ‘If somebody keeps a horse in Allah’s Cause motivated by his belief in His Promise, then he will be rewarded on the Day of Resurrection for what the horse has eaten or drunk and for its dung and urine.’ [Sahih al-Bukhari, 52.44, 49, 105; similarly, Muwatta’ Imam Malik, 951, Mishkat al-Masabih, Book XVIII, Volume II, p. 822. The hadis compilations as well as books on shariah are filled with scores and scores of such exhortations and promises.]
By contrast ‘the one who died but did not fight in the way of Allah,’ the Prophet declares, ‘nor did he express any desire (or determination) for jihad, died the death of a hypocrite.’ [Sahih Muslim, 4696.] Again, the Prophet declares, ‘He who dies without having fought or having felt fighting (against the infidels) to be his duty will die guilty of a kind of hypocrisy.’ And yet again, ‘He who does not join the warlike expedition (jihad), or equip a warrior, or look well after a warrior’s family when he is away, will be smitten by Allah with a sudden calamity.’ Hence, commands the Prophet, ‘Use your property, your persons and your tongues in striving against the polytheists.’ [Sunan Abu Dawud, 2496-98.]
Such commands follow ineluctably from the propositions that I listed above. We shut this fact out by two blindfolds. We judge a faith by looking at ‘people like us’ — most of the ones we know are ‘persons like us’, they do not live by such commands, but it is precisely because they are ‘like us’ that they are in our social circle. Unfortunately, the outcome is determined, not by the millions who lead ordinary lives, lives like ours, but by microscopic minorities: to say, ‘But the majority of Muslims did not want Partition’ may be true but is little consolation — that did not save the country from being partitioned. Similarly, to say ‘But millions are living peacefully today, they have not the slightest intention of setting off for jihad’ is true but equally little consolation: the ones who take the propositions seriously and thereby heed the hadis, are the ones who are determining the direction that events are taking.
And the direction that Islam itself is taking. Once they enter the stage, the extremists come to set the standard of fidelity and piety within a community. The tradition metamorphoses in no time: look at the change that has swept Islam in Southeast Asia in just fifteen years.
Second, we often lull ourselves with the thought, ‘But so what if someone wears the scarf or burqa? If they want to send their children to madrasas, what business is it of ours?’ But there is a technology to all this. The ones steering a community make a point of starting with a completely innocuous demand, by inducing believers to adhere to a practice that does not inconvenience non-believers in any way. The headscarf, for instance, or the new piety-statement in lands as far apart as Egypt and Pakistan, the zebibah — the dark, calloused bump that registers on the forehead when it is repeatedly struck or rubbed on the ground during prayers. [For our own neighbourhood, observe the visitors from Pakistan; for Egypt, see, for instance, Michael Slackman, ‘Mark of piety as plain as a bump on the head,’ IHT, December 13, 2007.] Non-believers are not inconvenienced by such signs, and yet the practices go far. They become a device for making the adherent realise that she is not the same as the others, and to make her or him announce that she is not one of the others. Simultaneously, the marks drill into others that the adherents have come to look upon themselves as separate. When the non-believers in turn start treating them as separate, that they are doing so becomes a grievance. And thus another argument is acquired for transiting from separateness to separatism.
Hence, all who are apprehensive of a Hindu reaction should:
• Get to know the non-Indic traditions;
• Shed denial — from denial of what the basic texts of the non-Indic traditions say to denial of the demographic aggression in the Northeast;
• Most important of all, work to ensure a completely fair and an absolutely firm state; and an even-handed discourse.
For their part, the Hindus cannot recline back, confident that the reaction will take care of the current pressures. They too have much to do. In particular, they must
• Awaken to the fact that the danger does not come just from violence and money; it comes as much from the purposive use of the electoral system;
• And so, they must organise themselves for this challenge as much as for others;
• For this, they must vault over internal divisions, in particular the curse of caste;
• Be alert not just to assault by others, but also to perversions from within: the commercialisation of the tradition; its becoming a commerce with deities — ‘Please get me this contract, and I will . . .’; its becoming ostentatious religiosity; persons setting themselves up as the guardians of the tradition, and then using the perch for self-aggrandisement . . .
• Get to know the tradition; and live it.

Harris' bias favors the interior while Dennett's bias favors the exterior

The American Conservative: Daniel Dennett Does Transcendental Meditation
from ~C4Chaos Nice. Looks like Harris and Dennett have something in common when it comes to fondness of meditation. However, the similarity ends there.
Harris subscribes to the idea of consciousness expansion via meditation (e.g. his practice of Dzogchen) while Dennett uses meditation for his blood pressure and clarity of thought. Those two have different ideas when it comes to *consciousness*. Harris subscribes to a Buddhist philosophical view of nondual consciousness (although he wants to strip it off with its Buddhistness). Dennett subscribes to a Neural Darwinian view.
In his classic book, Consciousness Explained, he argued that consciousness arises from interaction and cognitive processes in the brain and that there is no such thing as a "hard problem of consciousness." Dennett strips consciousness of subjectivity and reduces everything to external biological process. Harris' bias favors the interior while Dennett's bias favors the exterior. Among the New Atheists, their views on religion and science are complementary. Taken together, their perspectives are more integral.
Going back to The American Conservative, I was surprised that I enjoyed reading it, even if I don't identify as a conservative. In the coming days, I'll blog some of the insightful articles I've read. In the meantime, check out the free articles from its archive... by ~C4Chaos

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Lilla plays Samuel to Rousseau and Kant’s Saul

We begin with a crisis, the so-called “wars of religion”: awash in the fervor and passion of religious faith, the early modern west finds itself spiraling into the chaotic violence of religious wars which are the result of a toxic mix of theology and politics that Lilla simply describes as “political theology.” Into this milieu of religio-political violence strides our hero, Thomas Hobbes, engineer of the “Great Separation” that sequestered theology (with its claims to divine revelation) from having any role or authority in matters of “politics” (which was to be conducted on the basis of public reason available to and agreed upon by all). Thus was “modern political philosophy” born as the antidote to “political theology.” Hobbes and political philosophy liberated “us” (sic) from the “Kingdom of Darkness” (a phrase that gets repeated just often enough that it takes on a kind of Michael-Moore-ish quality, I’m afraid).
To this point, up to Locke’s liberalization of Hobbes, Lilla’s story is not especially unique. It’s a classic example of what Charles Taylor would call a “subtraction” story of modernity. But things get interesting when Lilla continues to consider the fate of this Great Separation after Hobbes. From this point the story becomes a jeremiad, lamenting the ways that Hobbes’ heirs (Rousseau, Kant, Hegel) rolled back the accomplishments of the father of “modern political philosophy,” giving just enough ground to religion and theology that political theology would once again rear its ugly head right here in the “enlightened” West. Rousseau and Kant both re-admit (an albeit scaled-down, “rational”) religion back into public political discussion. Something about human nature and human morality pressed them to give a continuing though chastened role to religion for even “modern” man. But keeping the door open just a tiny bit was fateful: what began as a toe in the door ends up as the elephant in the room.
Thus Lilla plays Samuel to Rousseau and Kant’s Saul: “What’s this bleating of sheep I hear?” Why have you not vanquished every vestige of political theology? Making room for even a “modern” political theology as purveyed by the liberal theology of Schleiermacher or Cohen gives rise to a Frankenstein-ish monster that comes back to haunt “the West” in the form of “German Christianity” (indeed, the book might have been better subtitled Religion, Politics, and Modern Germany).
Admittedly, one of the places where Lilla’s story-telling goes off the rails is his account of twentieth-century German theology, and Barth in particular, upon whom he lays the blame for Nazism. Only someone as deft as Lilla could make such a claim seem even remotely plausible, but at the end of the day it remains a ludicrous charge. But I’ll leave it to the Princeton police to protect Barth.
The lesson Lilla draws from this morality tale is that the “God” that would have issued from the Great Liberal Separation was a “stillborn God”—a superfluous deity easily lopped off by Occam’s razor. After all, just what work does such a god do? What does such a non-interventionist, deistic, distant bestower of human autonomy add to the universe? Why bother? “To the decisive questions—‘Why be a Christian?’ ‘Why be a Jew?’—liberal theology offered no answer at all.” Most people need more than that.
It is perhaps the pronouns that are most telling in The Stillborn God. Throughout the book I found myself wondering: Just who is this for? What’s the point? Why is this story important? For whom? This is hinted at in the opening but clarified in a final coda: the story is intended as a cautionary tale for “us.” “The rebirth of political theology is a humbling story,” Lilla concludes, “or ought to be” for those of us with the intellectual will and fortitude to choose to be “heirs to the Great Separation.” At this point Lilla turns aside to the small cadre of the Enlightened who see the story for what it is:
“Those of us who have accepted the heritage of the Great Separation must do so soberly. Time and again we must remind ourselves that we are living an experiment, that we are the exceptions.”
Wavering between insider code and an invitation to join this inner circle of the exceptional, Lilla ends with a manifesto of inverse gnosticism: “We have chosen to keep our politics unilluminated by the light of revelation. If our experiment is to work, we must rely on our own lucidity.” “We” turns out to be the sect of modern-day Essenes living on the upper West Side, who have vowed to abstain from the illusions of the masses and consigned themselves to the cold, hard desert “reality” disclosed by reason. Lilla and his exceptionalist monastic brotherhood of enlightened “us” have girded their loins in order to make their way in the world without the comforts of faith and revelation (I’m guessing one would bump into Hitchens and Harris in the same rationalist desert after all).
Where does that leave the rest of us—the us not included in Lilla’s enlightened “us?” I, for one, am not persuaded to drop my nets and follow Hobbes.
A first core problem of the book is the very beginning of the story: it buys into the simplistic myth of religious violence and secular peace, resting on the unsubstantiated empirical claim that “religion” (whatever that is) breeds violence whereas institutions of liberal democracy foster peace (current world conflicts in the name of “democracy” not withstanding). Thus Lilla repeats the liberal alarm about religion’s “passion” and “fervor” as the incubator of violence—passions to be curbed by the machinations of Leviathan and, later, the liberal democratic state. But this is a distinction that is untenable for anyone who has ever attended a professional sports event in the United States. It sounds as if Lilla has never witnessed the fervor and passion incited at the opening of a NASCAR race when the dancing colors of the flag are mingled with the iconography of a military fly-over. The opening prayer certainly doesn’t excite the same passions!
In short, the myth of distinctly religious violence and liberal peace is untenable. As the work of William Cavanaugh has demonstrated, the so-called “wars of religion” were primarily about statecraft, and “religion” was an invention of the politiques behind the modern state. While we might not expect Lilla to be a theologian, he is culpably responsible for his ignorance of Cavanaugh’s trenchant challenge to the tired, liberal story about the “wars of religion.” If that story is placed in doubt, then the liberal state is not the savior it pretends to be. Leviathan is more perpetrator than liberator. And Lilla can’t simply plead that he’s “doing history;” what’s at stake is his historiography.
A second core problem is a related distinction between “political theology” and “modern political philosophy.” While he never quite clarifies the nature of the distinction, political theology is seen to be problematic because it appeals to revelation, whereas political philosophy subscribes to a kind of epistemological asceticism that resigns itself to the human all too human. Modern political philosophy is thus more “realistic,” according to Lilla, and in this sense has a leg up on the illusions or dishonesty of political theology.
But this, too, is an untenable distinction. This is not a tension between faith and reason, theology and the secular. It is always already a tension between two faiths, between competing theologies, between rival stories about the world—neither of which can be “proved” but both of which are affirmed by faith. While I think Lilla has conveniently (and irresponsibly) ignored scholarship along these lines (as articulated in the work of John Milbank, Nicholas Wolterstorff, and Jeffrey Stout), in fact his own account admits the point. As he observes, Hobbes is not without faith:
“On the very first page of his work Hobbes makes an implicit profession of faith: that to understand religion and politics, we need not understand anything about God; we need only understand man as we find him, a body alone in the world.”
Not all theologies require appeal to revelation; theologies bubble up from the fundamental, faith-based stories we tell about the world. In this respect, modern political philosophy is always already a political theology. Leviathan is not without its priests and prophets. Lilla’s story about liberation from theology is informed by an alternative theology. That fact calls into question his entire project. This entry was posted on Thursday, December 27th, 2007 at 2:00 pm and is filed under The Stillborn God. RSS 2.0 feed. SSRC Home SSRC Blogs Blog Home

Friday, December 28, 2007

Better English translations by Sri Aurobindo

Be wary of English translations of Hindu Sheena Patel Hindu Voice UK, December 2007
There is an old story about how a computer, programmed to translate from English to Russian and back, rendered the phrase "The spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak" into "The Vodka was strong, but the meat was bad.
A similar phenomenon occurred when European scholars made their first translations of Hindu shastras into English in the 19th century. Unfortunately, it is often the translations of such European scholars which form some of the most readily available collections on Hindu scriptures. Examples of such translators include Max Muller, Ralph Griffith, Monier William and H. H. Wilson.
Although they played a role in the pursuit of English translations of Sanksrit works, they were relatively new to Sanskrit and without a background in the ideas of the Vedic era, for them to set out to translate the large and complex works of the Vedic age is an exercise bound to fail. It is comparable to a person trying to interpret a physics paper without a grounding in the basic concepts, but just having learnt the language.
In addition to the difficulty inherent in trying to interpret early Sanskrit of thousands of years ago by people who had only just discovered the language, some of these scholars (with a handful of honorable exceptions) also projected their own worldview, biases and agenda into their translation. For example, in the 19th century a racialist view of history was in vogue, whereby history was a product of constant invasions and subjugation of one race by another. Therefore, it was automatically assumed that anything sounding vaguely like a conflict in the Vedas was a race war between an invading European-like horde (Aryans) versus darker Dravidians, even if there was no objective evidence that this was the case.
Unfortunately, because of the greater prestige attached to European scholarship in the humanities compared with Indian scholarship, these translations have achieved an aura of authority. Unfortunately large sections of English speaking Hindus ended up learning Hinduism through their translations.
Better English translations of Hindu scriptures have been written by Hindu yogis and scholars, such as Sri Aurobindo, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Swami Dayananda Saraswati and Swami Chinmayananda, amongst others. These translations are often difficult to get hold of, and are quite difficult to read due to the style of English used – but are very rewarding and enlightening for the more serious reader who has got what it takes to persevere through the early stages. Recently, the Bhagavad Gita has been extensively translated into English, and a number of excellent translations and commentaries exist – although there are also a few of dubious quality.
Other recommended ways of starting learning about Hinduism are the beginners books on Hinduism by David Frawley (“Hinduism: The Eternal Tradition,” available to read online) and Linda Johnson (“The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Hinduism”), both of which are written by non-Hindus who have embraced Hindu dharma, and have many references for further reading which you may wish to investigate. Hindu Wisdom (formerly known as ‘A Tribute to Hinduism’) is a great site on Hinduism and you may also want to browse through the Culture, Spirituality & Lifestyle archives of Hindu Voice UK, which are filled with articles on a huge range of subjects relating to Hindu spirituality.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Radical environmentalism has become the left's bad secular religion

Whatever you may think of religion, the Judeo-Christian tradition has, for millenia, provided and continues to provide to those who believe in God a moral compass--an ethical foundation that is now rooted in a committment to a rational metaphysics and epistemology that states that reality exists and human beings are able to percive it.
The philosophical premises that deconstruct that tradition are only a few centuries old, but already they have managed to generate more human misery, suffering, and death from the various utopian ideologies which they unleashed than in all the centuries that preceeded. It can be argued and has been, that this catastrophe is a direct result of the "death of God" in human affairs.
You see, "good" communists, as Freddoso argues, not only don't believe in a god, they have also abandoned the rational metaphysics and epistemology that is required for an ethics that prioritizes human life as basis for what is good. In an existence where objective reality doesn't exist; and where the human mind is disconnected from it, anything goes.
This is postmodernism at its finest and in its ultimate manifestation. And it is from the darkness of that manifestation that communism, socialism and fascism -- and their 21st century iterations: radical Islam and radical environmentalism (see here for a more complete discussion of this) -- have erupted into history, all of them variations on the same totalitarian theme in the the postmodern philosophical songbook.
"Good" communists, socialists, and fascists thrive in an environment of oppression, death, and human misery. Indeed, that is the medium in which they grow best and consciously or unconsciously, they facilitate and nurture such a medium.
The radical Islamists, far from being an example of a "good" religion are the living, breathing examples of everything that "bad" religion could possibly be--in essence, they are an "anti-religion" religion in the same way that radical environmentalism has become the left's bad secular religion. The epidemic of "religiously" motivated murder has been taken to new extremes by the fanatics of Islam, who regularly make us aware of their lack of a good ethical Ideal (see "Union With An Evil God")...
When religion is rooted in human freedom, as it is in the Judeo-Christian tradition, then it is able to enhance human life and give meaning and purpose to that life. When it is perverted and used for secular political ends--by either the political left or right who want to impose or mandate some social policy or another on others, then it inevitably leads to oppression and cheapens or devalues human life. Even on his best day, a "good" communist, socialist, fascist etc. will never be any better than a really "bad" Christian.

The true politics of human relationships is the one of servants everywhere - every one serving, and every one served

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Mother's Agenda is the most profound document on t...": Savitri Era Open Forum at 4:07 AM, December 26, 2007

With all due respect to the Mother and her profound insights and demonstration, her work pales in comparison to this work---which the author knows about.

My Method: Now and Then
In the past, my way of Working with those who came to me often involved my acceptance of the common functional conditions that distract and occupy ordinary people. I struggled to transcend those conditions with them, making lessons out of that process for their benefit. By such means, the Teaching has been creatively elaborated, and a Way has been shown to ordinary people, by which they may Realize the most extraordinary and perfect Transformation in God.
Now and in the future my Work is simply to be the Agent for this Divine Process of Transformation in the case of those who respond to this Teaching and practice this Way. Thus, I have again renounced the common functional conditions by which selfpossessed people design their experience and destiny. Now I live and appear only among devotees whose practice is true, and my own habit and Occupation are a demonstration of that which would pertain in the case of devotees in the Way of Radical Intuition, or the perfect stage of Life.
I have no worldly or conventional obligations that keep me active and alive. I choose relative seclusion and the human sanctuary provided by devotees. There is one fundamental, necessary, and absolute Way to Ecstasy, and it is a matter of absolute and total psycho-physical resort to the transcendental Divine in every moment. Therefore, we must ultimately grow beyond all of the ordinary or conventional means by which self-possessed people create the illusion of Ecstasy in their experience.
Relational, bodily, emotional, sexual, mental, and even higher psychic and supermental stimulations of experience are all forms of our self-conscious recoil from the Divine, in which we must be a Sacrifice. Therefore, at last, all such conditions of our living must relax into a natural, regenerative economy, without stress or necessity, and we must become Occupied with God, the true Self of the manifest soul.
My personal quality is one that tries to maintain a friendly and human aspect, at ease and naturally active in the things that properly fill the lives of all devotees. Therefore, my seclusion involves a daily circumstance and habit that keeps me accessible to those who practice the Way that I Teach. But I am at Rest in the Transcendental Radiance and Perfect Ignorance of the Real. Those who are Awakening from the dead ends of this world may find their Help by serving my Heart, and by renouncing all occupations that are not utterly turned into whole bodily Communion with God.
I Am John
I Am John have been naive and passionate in my Work with those who come to me. I have been obliged toward others through the medium of friendship, enthusiasm, and brotherly concern. Thus, I have been moved to demonstrate the appropriate mode of relationship between human beings. No individual should live as the superior, or the inferior, or even the equal of all others. Rather, each should live as the intimate servant of others through love. The politics of my relations with devotees is not like the politics of the common world. Whereas in the past the politics of men was commonly the one of superiors and inferiors, as with parents and children, now the common politics is the one of universal equality, as when children hide and play together, secreted from their parents. No, the true politics of human relationships is the one of servants everywhere-every one serving, and every one served.
Therefore, I have lived as a serving brother among my devotees. Since childhood I have been called Bubba, meaning brother. And by this role and all its friendly excesses I have made my friends to see themselves. Thus, when they had learned their lessons in my own form, they began to "hear" and "see" me through God-Feeling. And when I felt them grow transparent through that love, I sought a place of Solitude in which to wait in Brightness. I am John, through whom God is Gracious, and who is therefore Free among the living.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Mother's Agenda is the most profound document on transformation of the body and of the world ever written

Permalink Reply by M Alan Kazlev Dec 22 hi Metro!
True KW advocates a nondual position, but this is a New Paradigm/Rising Culture Westernised adaptation of original Advatin and Mahayana tradition. As Sri Aurobindo has shown, there are many stages beyond nondual, all the way to Supramentalisation. And the same with involution, the nondual is relatively low on the scale (but still transcendent of phenomena). I will be discussing all this in my book Integral Metaphysics and Transformation
Wilber gives only very cursory mention of Plotinus (although i'm happy he mentions and thus helps to popularise him!), and either little or nothing at all on Iamblichus, Proclus, ibn Arabi, Rumi, Isaac Luria, the Pratybhijna tradition, Western Hermeticism, Fourth Way, and other authentic esoteric teachings. Although he has the greatest respect for Sri Aurobindo, his interpretation of him is also extermely misleading and superficial, and he totally ignores The Mother (so does Michael Murphy), despite the fact that Mother's Agenda is the most profound document on transformation of the body and of the world ever written (i know the title is very off putting, i guess that's due to Satprem (her close disciple and the compiler of the material)
Permalink Reply by M Alan Kazlev Dec 13 hi Helen!
One reason I like Sri Aurobindo and the Mother is precisely because they represent both genders; it is a significant fact that the Integral Movement so far has snubbed or ignored the Mother, whose very down to Earth and heart-centered presence may be threatening to those masculinist intellects (I'm not trying to put them down or deny they do good work, but this is a shortcoming in the mainstream/traditional Integral Movement)...
The funny thing is, it's not like they are proposing different paths. With, for example, Ramana and Sri Aurobindo you have two great spiritual giants, geographically very close, contemporaries, yet one taught non-dual quietism, another a more dynamic action in the world. I honour both and see both as equal in their essence, even if I prefer SA's teaching on an intellectual and practical level for its greater inclusivity. But I can understand why, with such difeferent spiritual paths, they did not work together.But with integralists, new age, new paradigm, "evolutionary allies", etc it is deifferent; there is a lot of commonality, all represent an evolutionary social-spiritual approach, working to transcend old models and ways of doing things and bring about a new society. It is the same message, even if the surface details differ. So even if they cannot work together, I agree, so what, they should follow their bliss (I love Jospeh Campbell too :-)
And we can build on what they have achieved, but also surpass them if we don't allow ourselves to be limited in the same way.
"There are no maps for these territories".
Actually there are! Only it is upto us to create them. And each of us will create our own map, which represents our own respective sadhana. The childlike reliance on the teachings of monolithic authoriity figures belongs to the past. We can certainly use these earlier teachings as a baseline, as an orientating framework, or a guideline, but that does not mean they have to be followed in a cultic manner. And even the most profound and sublime teachings become limited when there is a lack of mental receptivity and openneness to other perspectives.For example my book in progress Integral Metaphysics and Transformation presents my own map of reality and evolution.
In it I honour Sri Aurobndo and the Mother as the most profound teachers i have ever found, and in my opinion the most profound teachers ever (because in 30 years i've never found anything or anyone more radical yet more clear and commons sesne) but i also bring (and equally honour) in many other teachings as well, such as Kasmir Shaivism, Plotinus, ibn Arabi, Isaac Luria, Darwin, Blavatsky, Theon, Steiner, Teilhard, Gurdjieff, Jung, Haskell, Jantsch, Adi Da, Wilber, Swimme... . But that's my map. You may have a have a different map. Someone else will have a different map again. And at the end of the day, these are just mental guidelines and conceptuial frameworks. it's how we put them in practice that matters.
And it is interesting to see what seems to be a collective proccess of emergence happening. So perhaps this is the next stage of what its all about.

There is not a single thing you can ever do, no matter how pure or how lowly, that will change who you are in even the slightest way

Integral Transformative Practice - An Introduction
Posted on Dec 24th, 2007 by WH
[NOTE: Long before Ken Wilber and the Integral Institute released their
Integral Life Practice starter kit, Michael Murphy and George Leonard published The Life We Are Given, an introduction to Integral Transformative Practice. The text of this post was originally written as an introduction to an ITP workshop that (my ex) Kira and I wanted to teach a few years ago. Obviously, that never happened (we broke up more than a year ago). But for those readers who are new to integral practice, this should serve as a good introduction.]
Setting Up Your practice
Murphy and Leonard recommend beginning with an intention. This can be anything from losing weight to improving relationships to finding a purpose form one's life. Once you have your intention, they then recommend using affirmations to keep us on track. Essentially, this serves to help us overcome the inertia of homeostasis.
Once this is accomplished, one should select the practices from the list (above) that are best suited to helping you achieve your intention. Any combination that can help you actualize your intention is appropriate. This will be different for each person, based on the intention, one's spiritual background, and/or one's predisposition.
Ideally, we should seek to work with each of the four realms (physical, emotions, mental, and spirit) each week. For the purposes of this project, it is often good to choose practices with which we are not familiar or comfortable. This will serve to help us progress faster -- if we choose practices we are already doing, the power of homeostasis might interfere.
Many of us are busy and this project might be challenging to fit into our schedules. This is OK. The goal is to do the best we can each week, and to not be hard on ourselves in those times when life interferes. If this happens, just pick up the practices again as soon as possible, without being overly critical of ourselves or feeling like we have failed.
While I am a big fan of the model Murphy and Leonard developed, others might prefer Wilber's ILP model, or Sri Aurobindo's Integral Yoga. It isn't so much important which model we use, even if we create our own. The idea is to work on multiple areas of our life simultaneously so that we can create the synergistic energy to propel our lives forward. Transformation isn't easy, but nothing in life worth having ever is.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Today, I am quite happy, India has awakened (economically at least)

Dear Father Christmas
Claude Arpi
As you know Father Christmas, when I settled in India, (it was also December-end some 33 years ago), I came with a Dream. I wanted to see a resurgent India. I believed in Sri Aurobindo's prophetic words. He had spoken of 'the resurgence and liberation of the peoples of Asia and India's) return to her great role in the progress of human civilisation.'
Today, I am quite happy, India has awakened, (economically at least); and so has China. You remember Napoleon's prophecy? 'When China awakes, the whole world will be shaken.' It has become true. Wherever you go, you must have noticed that India is today recognised as a power to reckon with, she is wooed by the Great Powers.
However in the Rishi's scheme of things, India was to take the leading moral and spiritual role! I am sure that you understand why I find it extremely distressing when fingers are today pointed at India. It is especially painful to me (and probably to you) because it concerns the most immediate threat to mankind, Global Warming...
At the beginning of the 20th century, a sage had dreamt of 'a step in evolution which would raise man to a higher and larger consciousness and begin the solution of the problems which have perplexed and vexed him since he first began to think and to dream of individual perfection and a perfect society.'
India was to lead in the world in this direction. Today, when the planet is in danger, why should her leaders use petty arguments instead of showing the way? Further, don't you agree that millions of jobs can be created in the new fields of environment? In any case, will not the planet get ultimately richer if the environment is taken care of? I don't have to tell you, but you will be one of the first to suffer if there is no more snow on earth.
Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, has recently decided to make his minister for environment the No 2 in his Cabinet. Is it not a good idea for India too? Forgive me if I have not written all these years, my other wishes were not so pressing.
With Love,

Central theme of the management studies are in this 4th chapter

My Dear brothers and sisters, My mentors, guides
In the 4th Chapter of The Mother Sri Aurobindo has given excellent guidance on management of resources and strengthening economy of the individual and this beautiful globe. Whole politics what we see today on various resources and their management. In the process of evolution money, sex and power has made tremendous impact on human life and its internal and external progress. In the physical world all these elements are very important and powerful. These have very important meaning in our life. But we do not discuss much on those.
Let's look at economy of this country. We have so many bankers, mines owners, industrialists, professionals, learned persons and a huge human resource. Why poverty is still rampant in this country? No body try to win the power, sex and wealth for Mother India or Mother Earth or Mother Divine. Recently Reserve Bank of India made clear to all the banks to make financial inclusion compulsory in their allocated area. Biometric systems and other hi tech approaches are now promoted in various parts of this country. But who is gaining out of it? Mother India? certainly not. Let's take self help group concept which is now much talked in India and developing countries. It was realised by the thinkers and researchers that much benefit has gone into the profit and growth of commercial banks not much for poor people those who are active stakeholders and partners with banks. Therefore some of the commercial banks were heavily fined by Reserve Bank of India for not spending adequately in agriculture and allied sector. The worst is that these SHGs are now pawns in the hands of political people. Here power is again got corrupted. Power is misused. In Nigeria it was found that there is interest free banking to develop their nation. But in many countries the interest rate is so high and painful that people feel the same pinch and pain what the sahukars and money lenders made to this country. It is painful to poor whose number is more in this country and the earth as well. It means we are not sincere in winning money power and sex for Divine Mother. There are many more practical examples in our country we face every day in our life.
Again, we did not manage sex on this earth in proper way, so HIV/AIDS, population explosion and accelerated consumption of resources is making this earth to suffer with poverty, war and so many competitions.
Each line of Sri Aurobindo in The Mother make us cautious of all these things. But in practical life this 4th chapter is not given due importance by all of us. Central theme of the management studies are in it and it has addressed and given solutions to all the worldly problems too. He loved this country and mankind so dearly that he has made great contribution through this chapter and provoked all of us to deeply think about appropriate management of money, sex and power.
Therefore I request all of you to start a discussion on 4th Chapter of The Mother with global and national relevance. With love and regards to all of you

The literal level of the Comedy is the least important — i.e. the fictional journey through the putative realms of the afterlife

What’s really important here is that getting back to the Garden of Eden isn’t the goal of the Christian life. If we all achieved the perfect moral virtue that Adam and Eve lost, it wouldn’t mean a thing unless we had Love. The Mystery of the Church, the mystical Body of Christ, the “being blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Him” is represented only in the third section of the poem. And all of that is entirely out of Virgil’s purview, because it is the realm of joy that is rooted in the divine suffering and passion; it is the ecstatic Romance of Christianity; it is everything that even Adam and Eve in the Garden did not know and did not possess — intimate union with God through Christ.
So it makes sense to me that the Inferno and the Purgatorio ultimately are concerned with human nature as instituted and maintained by common grace within the Order of Nature. The virtuous pagans put Christians to shame with their rational insight into the nature of the good life and the perversions of the good, the crimes against the state and the family and so on. And with the commitment of the best of them to the rational vision of moral virtue, as seen in the best of Stoicism or in Aristotelian ethics. Natural Reason and the Good as Reason knows it are naturally the guides to the descent of the human person into sin and the strivings of the human conscience toward natural virtue. Why should these be denied to the non-Christian?
Aquinas’s definition of God’s love is that He desires to fill each of His creatures with what is good, to the limit of its own capacity, and by this definition Virgil isgreatly loved by God. Virgil appropriately — from a Thomistic framework — presides over the journey of the human mind into deeper knowledge and understanding of the nature of sin and the corresponding nature of the virtues. He represents the goodness of the natural world in its own right as created and maintained by God despite the fall, and the goodness of human nature, too. He represents and speaks for “the good of reason” — and he does not desire a good beyond the very high good of reason. It is sufficient for him.
So I think Dante finesses the problem of how a human being could achieve genuine moral virtue without the supernatural aids of the Church, because it is not depicted that anyone has ever returned to the garden except by entering through the Church for that ascent. But the virtuous pagans had certainly longed for the return of the Golden Age and had clearly understood the nature of moral perfection. Cato and Virgil in the Purgatorio remind us of the virtuous pagans and shame us with their commitment and with their genuine moral achievements, but they have not ascended the mountain and returned to the Garden, but only lit the way. That journey in actuality is left to the Christian. But finally, the pursuit of moral virtue is not the essentially spiritual and Christian life. Morality belongs to the natural world and human nature as it was fashioned in the beginning. Morality therefore must be negotiated by the Christian, but it’s not an end in itself. Virgil and Cato belong to that mountain for more than the pilgrims toiling up its slopes, because for Virgil and Cato it is the ultimate end, the extent and limit of their vision.
The literal level of the Comedy is the least important — i.e. the fictional journey through the putative realms of the afterlife. But as a depiction of the human journey in this life, it is staggeringly impressive, I think. In one sense, as a journey of the understanding, the first two sections deal with the Order of Nature and the third alone with the Order of Grace (Revealed truth). In another sense, as a journey of the Will, the Inferno deals with the Order of Nature and the Purgatorio and Paradiso deal with the believer’s supernaturally empowered journey toward God. I think Dante meant that we are all enacting the actions of all three Canticles at once, in our daily lives — always again descending into hell, new convictions of sin, the struggles of sanctification, the joys of communion and union with Christ.

A religion that continues to promote mythic ideas to its adherents

I'm still technically a Roman Catholic (of the non-practicing variety). But for some reason, I feel repulsed by Tony Blair's conversion to Catholicism. I'm not sure what his political (or personal) motives are for his conversion, but I think this is a step backward on the image of Blair as a world centric progressive leader. I'm not saying that a Catholic has no potential for being a great leader (JFK comes to mind). But I question someone of Blair's caliber converting from one religion to another instead of moving towards a more world centric expression of his religion, or even being secular altogether.
Does Blair really believe in the Creed? The Sacrament of the Eucharist? The infallibility of the Pope? And all that jazz? Or is this just for convenience both politically and personally?
Maybe it's just me and my bias against organized religions, especially to a religion that continues to promote mythic ideas to its adherents. But what about you? How do you feel emotionally and intellectually about Blair's conversion to Roman Catholicism? 8:42 AM

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The rhetoric of Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, and Hitchens will undermine liberalism, not bolster it

Atheism's Wrong Turn by Damon Linker
Mindless argument found in godless books. The New Republic Post Date Monday, December 10, 2007
It is with this enmity, this furious certainty, that our ideological atheists lapse most fully into illiberalism. Politically speaking, liberalism takes no position on theological questions. One can be a liberal and a believer (as were Martin Luther King Jr., Reinhold Niebuhr, and countless others in the American past and present) or a liberal and an unbeliever (as were Hook, Richard Rorty, and a significantly smaller number of Americans over the years). This is in part because liberalism is a philosophy of government, not a philosophy of man--or God. But it is also because modern liberalism derives, at its deepest level, from ancient liberalism--from the classical virtue of liberality, which meant generosity and openness. To be liberal in the classical sense is to accept intellectual variety--and the social complexity that goes with it--as the ineradicable condition of a free society.
It is to accept, in other words, that, although I may settle the question of God to my personal satisfaction, it is highly unlikely that all of my fellow citizens will settle it in the same way--that differences in life experience, social class, intelligence, and the capacity for introspection will invariably prevent a free community from reaching unanimity about the fundamental mysteries of human existence, including God. Liberal atheists accept this situation; ideological atheists do not. That, in the end, is what separates the atheism of Socrates from the atheism of the French Revolution.
Why does it matter that a handful of writers who refuse to accept this basic human reality have recently sold a lot of books? On one level, it obviously doesn't matter very much. The United States remains a very religious nation. While there are small communities of atheists, agnostics, and skeptics in every state, and substantial ones in a few--Washington state leads the country with 25 percent of its residents claiming to worship no God; North Dakota comes in last with 3 percent--there aren't nearly enough unbelievers to leave a significant mark on the nation's culture or politics as a whole.
Still, the rise of the new atheists is cause for concern--not among the targets of their anger, who can rest secure in the knowledge that the ranks of the religious will, here in America, dwarf the ranks of atheists for the foreseeable future; but rather among those for whom the defense of secular liberalism is a high political priority. Of course, many of these secular liberals are probably the same people who propelled Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, and Hitchens onto the best-seller lists by purchasing their books en masse--people who are worried about the dual threats to secular politics posed by militant Islam and the American religious right. These people are correct to be nervous about the future of secular liberalism, to perceive that it needs passionate, eloquent defenders. The problem is that the rhetoric of Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, and Hitchens will undermine liberalism, not bolster it: Far from shoring up the secular political tradition, their arguments are likely to produce a country poised precariously between opposite forms of illiberalism. DISCUSS ARTICLE [144]

Saturday, December 22, 2007

To me, a constrained debate is no debate

Dissent and Apostasy from Desicritics by Jawahara Saidullah
My theory is this. Other religions for all their faults (and I follow none of them btw) have had, or now have a tradition of criticism from within their own ranks. Whether the dissent is pop-cultural (The Da Vinci Code, for Christianity for instance) or scholarly, it exists. Religious debate in Islam, however, is only valid when using the Quran, Hadith, or Shariah. So essentially the debates are centered around different interpretations of the same text. Part of the debate needs to include voices that consider the whole thing crap.
Questioning God, the revelation of the Quran itself, and questioning the legitimacy of the prophets is needed for this debate. Which is why there is constant debate about whether there is compulsion in religion because there are a dozen contradictory verses, as there are about the dress code for women, and other hot-button current issues, which do not go near any of the real issues at stake. When the same source material is used for a debate, coming to any common conclusion is impossible because each individual adheres to the reason(s) that make sense to that person.
For true religious reform to happen, the debate needs to take into account other things. The outside world, cultures, philosophies, religions, etc. all need to be party to this debate. Otherwise, it's like trying to air out a room with all its windows and shades closed, and the door slammed shut. At the very least it becomes a false debate with no room for dissent, because you start with the premise that there are certain immutable and unquestionable facts. To me, a constrained debate is no debate. It's just a group of people tap dancing around a group of elephants that none of them want to acknowledge.
This is the reason I believe, that most non-Muslims feel frustrated and most Muslims cannot understand that frustration. Their paradigms are different. What does debate really mean to all of us? And what is dissension? Is it merely disagreeing about the interpretation of something or is it actually just a starting point?
I am a purist. Religion to me is not a smorgasbord, where you pick and choose. If religion is divine, something that is supposed to lead to your salvation it either is something or it is not. I, personally, cannot cherrypick some version of Islam or any religion and then claim that *that* is the true way to practice it. Fundamentalists of all religions do that, but so do moderates and liberals. The only difference is what verses and parts are picked to justify the points of view.

Ovason reads too much into some symbols, especially when locating ties to Virgo

Ovason, an astrology teacher, analyzes the symbols in the architecture of Washington, DC, and connects them to the influences of the arcane traditions of Masonry. This ambitious work looks at the Capitol, the Washington Monument, city planning, and the numerous zodiacs located throughout the city. A major theme is the importance of the Virgo sign of the zodiac and how it is reflected in the sculpture, design, and ceremony involved in the construction of the capital. In general, the work contains thorough research and brilliant analysis, but the reader may find that Ovason reads too much into some symbols, especially when locating ties to Virgo. A minor problem is the overuse of substantive endnotes, which displaces some important information that could have been incorporated into the text. Recommended for academic libraries with collections of architectural history, Masonic, or esoteric literature. By contrast, The United States Capitol is a collection of specialists' papers offering numerous points of view on a single building in the nation's capital.
  • The first section, on architecture, traces the design and construction of the building from its beginnings in 1790 through the present Office of the Architect. Much emphasis is placed on the conflicts of personality and philosophy that have burdened the building's development.
  • The second section, on painting and sculpture, focuses more on the objects than the artists, giving considerable attention to techniques and hidden meanings within the works.

Altogether, the book is well researched and appropriately illustrated with photographs and architectural drawings. Recommended for both academic and larger public libraries. DEric Linderman, Ida Rupp P.L., Port Clinton, OH Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. See all Editorial Reviews

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Religion and the public sphere

from Jonathan VanAntwerpen to Religion & the Public Sphere at SSRC date 19 Dec 2007 09:41 subject The Godless Delusion & The Immanent Frame
Dear colleagues:
I'm writing with an update on The Immanent Frame, the Social Science Research Council’s new blog on secularism, religion, and the public sphere:
We've recently initiated a series of comments on "The Godless Delusion," a piece in The New York Times Book Review by John Patrick Diggins (, as well as launching a series of posts on Mark Lilla's new book, The Stillborn God (
In the weeks ahead, we’ll be continuing our focus on Charles Taylor's A Secular Age (, debating Jürgen Habermas’s recent work on religion in the public sphere, expanding our discussion of Lilla’s The Stillborn God, and pursuing the question of secular criticism—with forthcoming posts from: Gil Anidjar, Talal Asad, Robert Bellah, Rajeev Bhargava, Craig Calhoun, Hent de Vries, Amy Hollywood, Janet Jakobsen, Hans Joas, Tomoko Masuzawa, Ann Pellegrini, Charles Taylor, and others.
The Immanent Frame draws on, and is closely linked to, the SSRC’s work on religion and the public sphere:
All the best,
Jonathan VanAntwerpen
Program Officer and Research Fellow
Social Science Research Council
810 Seventh Avenue, 31st floor
New York, NY 10019

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Even Wilber is, unknowingly, furthering the Divine Work established by Sri Aurobindo and The Mother

Monday, December 17, 2007 Two very different "Integral" projects:The Gnostic Centre - a research centre for the growth of consciousness, based on Aurobindonian Integral philosophy. "Gnostic" here would seem to be a reference to Sri Aurobindo'sd term for higher consciousness and supramentalised being (see The Life Divine Book II ch.27) To quote from the site:

based in new delhi, set up as a non-profit public charitable trust, in 1996, engaged in research, training and education...

Includes an "International Centre for Integral Studies" (ICIS) which is quite different to both the Californian Institute of Integral Studies and the Wilberian Integral Institute, although the similarity of topic titles to Wilberian I-I i\s intriguing. Obviously, the content will be very different (and no doubt much more practical and grounded in authentic spirituality). But I am extremely pleased to see this development, which shows that the Wilberians do not have a monopologly on "integralism". Indeed, my main criticism of Wilber is not his philosophy (as I consider his attempt at a grand synthesis very inspiring) but his hegemonistic claim to ownership of "Integral" (see the AQAL glossary) and to represent and build upon Sri Aurobindo, who he seriously misinterpretates. If he even half-correctly interpreted Sri Aurobindo I would be all for him! Yet, ironically, even he is still furthering the Divine Work established by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother
The Gnostic Centre / International Centre for Integral Studies seems to have been around for over a decade (founded in 1996, the journal goes back to 1997), which intriguingly is also about the time the Wilber Integral Institute was established (1997-98)...
An interesting development, were it to happen, would be a New Paradigm convergence of Integral Movement (secular, exoteric) and Integral Yoga (esoteric). If Wilber keeps publicising Sri Aurobindo, maybe something like this might actually happen, despite Wilber (and most of the mainstream Integral movement)'s complete misunderstanding of what Sri Aurobindo and the Mother actually taught. That is why I say that even Wilber is, unknowingly, furthering the Divine Work established by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Labels: , , , , , , , , posted by m alan kazlev at 5:59 PM Integral Transformation

Nature's well being has direct bearing on human wellbeing

25 Oct 2007 @ 11:51 by shreepal : Progress: Affluence versus well being
a-d thanks for the great query. Let me put the whole thing in my own way. Each passing day is nearing us a new civilization; constant change in Nature is the law of universal application, much like we hear of scientific laws, say the law of conservation of energy. Pointing out this natural principle is not a great discovery but it is really a discovery of significance to point out that the humans have a decisive capability and role to determine the direction of this change. But this discovery is also an old one. What is new one in this respect is this: today given the totally new realities of critical importance (like earth environment, nature of wars etc.) it is the humans who are decesively in control today of this universal change, in so far as it relates to our earth. Therefore, we owe a duty, individually at personal level and collectively at the social level, to move to ensure that these rapid changes are not allowed to happen in a drifting manner, which is the case today. In am talking in the global context. Then, what exactly is to be done? We have to realize and fight for certain things of critical importance.
The first thing to realize in the context of development, which I referred in my comment, is that the direction of this change - of this progress - is not to create a society of affluence but of well being. It makes a lot of difference to gear the society towards generating wealth or gearing it to secure human well being. I have seen the links you provided and i found a lot of people are doing wonderful things in the right direction. We need to support them and give them a helping hand. Such people are sowing the seeds of a new civilization that will bear sweet fruits one day. In fact, we are nearing a step towards the new civilization with each passing day by the work of such people. There will not be a single day when we open our eyes suddwnly in a new - better - civilization. It is happening just now in the midst of current things, amid the stumbling sour odds and freshingly sweet things spurring the awaiting moment.
7 Nov 2007 @ 16:38 by shreepal : Meaning of progress in New Civ.:
Integrated human wellbeing of citizens and not their material affluence alone is the standard of progress and development, which only may be acceptable to New Civilization we are talking of all along in these pages. Material affluence of individuals or their nation is a crude and primitive standard of progress. All economics geared to accomplish this feat in individuals' or nations' life is hollow in its ideal and superficial in its achievement. The prime fruit of new civilization shall be the integrated well being of its citizens. This wellbeing is a concrete and objective thing, which can be measured. Affluence of a nation or of an individual is well studied subject of our old civilization and it is measured by its economics. What is an integrated human wellbeing? Can it be measured? Yes, it can also be measured by an objective test. INDEX OF INTEGRATED HUMAN WELLBEING: This index is a measure of human beings' individual and collective well being in relation to his self and to his surroundings. This index is the measure of health of 1) human 2) his own created circumstances in which he places himself; and 3) Nature. These three may be termed as 1) human self wellbeing 2) his material wellbeing; and 3) Earth's wellbeing.
Human wellbeing has three elements: 1) his physical well being 2) his emotional wellbeing; and 3) his mental wellbeing. All these three elements of human wellbeing are the subject matter of medical science and are well defined today by it. It is not the physical wellbeing alone, which is the disease-free state of human body, that consumes the entire spectrum of human wellbeing. One has to be emotionally healthy also, which is distinct from though connected to the physical wellbeing of humans, to be really adjudged as having made progress or development. And then, it is not these two elements alone that are necessary for an integrated wellbeing. We have to secure to our citizens the mental wellbeing also before we can claim our society has made a progress.
Material wellbeing has three elements, viz. 1) Production - gross national wealth indicator of the given society 2) Distribution - indicator of this wealth's distribution among its citizens; and 3) citizens' wealth consumption indicator. Nature's wellbeing also has three elements; 1) Negative impact of human beings' activities on Nature 2) Sustainable or neutral impact of these activities on Nature' and 3) Positive impact of them on Nature, that is, these activities not only conserve Nature's health and state but they further suppliment or augument them. Nature's well being has direct bearing on human wellbeing and is a very important element of integrated human wellbeing or his true progress, which our egoistic society is vainly claimimg to have made. New civilization Zones, as and when established even in an scattered fashion here and there on Earth, would be the only place to secure this true progress to their citizens. Our present civilization, which is given to produce imbalanced material affluence and accompanying social conflicts in the society, give birth to disturbed emotional and mental state of its citizens as the concomitant byproduct of this material affluence and injure the health of Nature (Earth's environment) can never provide this true progress to its citizens.
15 Nov 2007 @ 12:57 by shreepal : Let Integral Wellbeing Index be adopted
It is the duty of international community of enlightened citizens to insist upon their respective national governments and the relevant international organizations to discard the old index of partial development, like Gross National Product, Per Capita Income, Rate of Growth of National Economy etc. etc., and to refine, define and adopt the Integral Index of Human Wellbeing. Judged by this new index many political communities that are regarded as highly developed ones would go down on the scale as merely developing ones because of the ill health of their citizens' emotional and mental beings and assault by their activities on Nature and conversely, and surprizingly, many others now regarded as under-developed or undeveloped would go up the scale. We would find their citizens are more happy and satisfied in their human existence and that they do not injure Nature (that includes Earth and its environment) in the least, unlike the today's developed ones.

Monday, December 17, 2007

There is much in common between Sri Aurobindo’s vision and Christ’s Kingdom of God

This entry was posted on December 15, 2007 at 8:05 am and is filed under Christianity, interfaith dialogue. Tagged: , . trackback 6 Responses to “Orthodox/Interfaith”
ned Says: December 15, 2007 at 10:34 pm
Carl, I anxiously await your book. I think you have much in common with another friend of mine, Pastor Bob Buehler, from the blog, The Search for Integrity — He also adheres to the Christian orthodoxy but articulates a nondual, evolutionary message.
I’d like to mention here that there is much in common between Sri Aurobindo’s vision and Christ’s Kingdom of God. In fact Sri Aurobindo himself explicitly states that they are one and the same, e.g.:
“The yoga we practice is not for ourselves alone, but for the Divine; its aim is to work out the will of the Divine in the world, to effect a spiritual transformation and to bring down a divine nature and a divine life into the mental, vital and physical nature and life of humanity. Its object is not personal Mukti, although Mukti is a necessary condition of the yoga, but the liberation and transformation of the human being. It is not personal Ananda, but the bringing down of the divine Ananda — Christ’s kingdom of heaven, our Satyayuga — upon the earth.”
It’s interesting for me that Sri Aurobindo’s vision of the redemption of matter incorporates numerous elements of Christianity that are not emphasized in traditional Hinduism, e.g. an emphasis on the personal evolving soul and the Divine Personality, not just the Impersonal Brahman. In fact Sri Aurobindo actually did not grow up a Hindu at all. He was raised an atheist by his Anglophiliac father, but sent to school in England where he was taught by nuns. Thus his earliest religious exposure was to the Bible and to Christianity, though he remained an agnostic until his return to India much later on in life where he started practicing yoga.
You mention Father Bede Griffiths. Father Griffiths was of course inspired by Sri Aurobindo, and in fact there is a book out called “A Follower of Christ and a Disciple of Sri Aurobindo” by Amal Kiran and Bede Griffiths:
Although I most closely resonate with Sri Aurobindo’s vision, personally I have no problems expression my devotion to Christ as an Incarnation of the Divine. On a few occasions it has just happened spontaneously, often during conversations with Bob, leading him to suggest that I’m already Christian in an inner sense ;-). Outwardly however I have zero Christian credentials — I have never read the Bible fully, nor do I know much about the theological debates going on.
Most Hindu teachers actually have no problems affirming Christ’s divinity, but would assert that Christ was not the only incarnation of the Divine — that there have been others as well and may well be more in the future. I guess my question is: Is there any flexibility here for Christian contemplatives? Can a Christian contemplative also affirm the divinity (Christ-likeness?) of other spiritual guides, such as Krishna, Buddha, and indeed more recent figures like Sri Ramakrishna or the Mother or Sri Aurobindo?
Carl McColman Says: December 16, 2007 at 6:54 am
Thanks for your comment, Ned. While I haven’t yet read Sri Aurobindo (I’m only just now reading Ramana Maharshi), Ken Wilber speaks as higly of Aurobindo as he does of Maharshi, so I think I’d love to check him out. He’s written so voluminously, though — where do you suggest I start?
As for your question… certainly Christian dogma argues for what has been called “the scandal of particularity,” meaning the idea that Christ represents a unique incarnation of the second person of the Holy Trinity. Many observers of Christianity — including Wilber — see the great of tragedy of the church as precisely this: that Christ was fully realized, fully enlightened, and yet his followers quickly became mired in the radical monotheism and dualistic philosophy that was in the air in the world of Hellenism and the Roman Empire, and so could only make sense of Christ’s life and teaching by claiming he was one with God (doctrine of the Incarnation), that God, through three persons, remains one (doctrine of the Holy Trinity) and that all other human beings are mere creatures and thus existentially different from Christ, and furthermore, because of original sin (a nasty little doctrine that crept in around the time of St. Augustine) we mortals are incapable of full union with God, at least not on this side of death. In other words, Christianity as an institution effectively shut the door on the idea that anyone else (inside or outside the church) could be equal with Christ. Thus, the most common interpretation of Christian orthodoxy would hold that Buddha, Krishna, Aurobindo, Maharshi, etc. are no greater than the great Christian mystics like Teresa of Avila or Meister Eckhart: mere mortals who have experienced a profound sense of God’s presence.
So… while this may be the orthodox position, it is hardly the only way of understanding orthodoxy! In fact, it represents what I would call Christian orthodoxy as interpreted by non-mystics.
Many mystics have paid the price for daring to interpret Christian orthodoxy within an understanding engendered by their experience of Divine Union; I personally believe that such mystics were both fully orthodox and unfairly maligned by frightened religious bureaucrats who too often have wielded power within Christendom. What Christian mystics have almost universally witnessed to could be expressed as a simple syllogism:
1. Christ is one with God (John 10:30)
2. We are one with Christ (John 15:4; I Corinthians 12:27)
3. We are one in Christ (Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11)
4. Therefore, we are one with, and in, God.
It is a union that is both vertical (the human is one with God) and horizontal (we humans are one with and in each other). Thus, the “Body of Christ” (aka the Mystical Body) is the union of humanity as one person in relation to/union with the Father.
Now, your question speaks directly to the Orthodox/Interfaith issue I was chipping away at in this post: can Christian mystics acknowledge this nonduality even in non-Christians. For me, the answer is yes. I understand the scandal of particularity in mythological rather than ontological terms: the Christian path is a wisdom tradition that celebrates the uniqueness of Christ’s relation to God, and our relation to Christ, and Christ’s relation to the world. Whenever I love somebody, I am Christ to them. When someone manifests love, a Christian will recognize Christ in that person. This is why Christianity teaches that Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life: because Christ is Love. Love is the Way, the Truth and the Life: no one can “come to the Father” (be enlightened, reach the highest levels of consciousness) except through Love.
So, from where I sit, I have no problem recognizing God in anyone who manifests Love. And to those who manifest Love nondually, God is nondually present. Frankly, I think it is all of our birthright — most of us just haven’t noticed it yet.
By now, conservative Christians will be whining that I have effectively gutted the heart of orthodoxy by privileging Love in this manner. But I don’t see my perspective as a repudiation of Christian orthodoxy at all. Christian orthodoxy really and truly is a different path than others; and its description of the goal — the end of human life — is particularly unique. Christianity sees union with God as communion; being with God as interbeing. Even within the Oneness of God is community. Is our final destiny to be God, or to be One with/in God in Love? At this point perhaps we’re just splitting hairs, but that’s the distinction that keeps me grooving on the uniquely Christian path of wisdom. Not that I’m saying I’m right and everyone else is wrong, mind you! After all, at that level of ecstasy, I suppose all of us will be struck dumb in a state of Holy Agnosis. And once that happens, all of our different mythologies won’t really matter anyway.
ned Says: December 16, 2007 at 7:49 pm
** After all, at that level of ecstasy, I suppose all of us will be struck dumb in a state of Holy Agnosis. And once that happens, all of our different mythologies won’t really matter anyway. **
Totally … I mean at that level it becomes irrelevant. These are all just limitations of the dualistic human mind. To tell you the truth the whole particularity/universality debate is also one that is full of paradox … because even a particular Incarnation opens us up to the Universal in the end … so whether you start off with Christ only or someone else … ultimately if you follow whichever path you are taking to its logical destination you simply can’t help going beyond the particularity of your path. But again, the dualistic mind can’t grasp this.
As for Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, I think you’d like them because their whole concept of “physical salvation” reminds me so much of the Christian idea of resurrection and “the victory of Life over death”. I put a summary of their ideas on my blog:
But if you have to read just one book on their vision, it should be Satprem’s “Sri Aurobindo, or the Adventure of Consciousness”, a book that has a good balance of head and heart, and is short enough but includes all the essentials of the Aurobindoan vision. I have to say that KW does not fully understand Sri Aurobindo — Sri Aurobindo was far more radical than KW is, he said that evolution is literally reversing physical entropy! I.e. he was predicting what Bede Griffiths later came to call the “new creation in Christ” — a redeemed creation in which there would be total unity and harmony in utter diversity.
Peter Says: December 16, 2007 at 8:21 pm
‘Evolution literally reversing physical entropy’–that sounds miraculously wonderful, a very powerful idea. If you pause to think if it scientifically for a moment, it will quickly be apparent that this HAS TO happen at some point if life (in any form) is going to continue.And if you pause to think of it Scripturally for a moment, it will be evident that this is the actual promise of the Gospel, when stripped of the shallowness of the egoic “go-to-heaven-gospel” that so many of my dear friends around here seem to be so unswervingly convinced of!I am totally for a new creation in Christ, lion lying down with the Lamb, etc. Let’s start now! Love, Peter
Carl McColman Says: December 16, 2007 at 9:29 pm
Ned, your comment about Wilber not fully understanding Aurobindo made me chuckle, as last February I had a conversation with Cynthia Bourgeault in which we both agreed that Wilber, for all his gifts, has a pretty poor understanding of Christianity!

I think his gift lies in synthesizing and drawing connections across cultural and disciplinary boundaries - but often he doesn’t seem to have an in-depth appreciation of all the topics he is integrating into his grand vision.