Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The end of religion shall be the real end of history

Spiritual Mission! From: Anirban Ganguly
A constant and major thread throughout Sri Aurobindo’s Vision is the necessity for India to be aware of her spiritual mission and then work for its spread in the world for the greater harmony, unity and well-being of humanity and of herself. It is the discovery of this mission and its working out which shall also be India’s greatest safeguard against external as well as internal attempts at her disintegration. Integral Yoga & Knowledge and movements such as Savitri Era must work towards fulfilling that spiritual mission for which as Sri Aurobindo averred India was created and which can be her sole support against various time and age generated onslaughts. The mainstay of this spiritual mission is unity – a unity within the country, a unity eventually of the globe and a unity of destiny ultimately of a higher step in evolution, in fact spirituality and spiritual movements always tend to attempt at unification because they start with the basic premise of an underlying unity amidst a pulsating and thriving diversity.

Every religion has had at its core or inception an ennobling and unifying spiritual vision and truth that has sought to show a way out to liberation from the prevailing misery, falsehood and discord of the age. The human mind –which largely remains an instrument of half knowledge and division especially in its infra-rational state – has always preserved the tendency of systematizing, codifying, standardizing and generalizing the application of that original truth. It thus did away with the necessity for experience and individual seeking and brought about a uniform mass mechanism which gradually developed exclusivity, intolerance and a propensity to dominate. This has been the saga of almost all prophet-generated religions and of those which have evolved through life and the growth of human consciousness with their original truth coming down the ages from the ‘Seers’ they too after a while got encumbered into the morass of blind faith, hollow ritualism and fanatic orthodoxy.
Thus one sees that here too the human mind – which is impatient at a too sustained effort and discipline- had gradually discarded the deeper truths that could be only savoured by an untiring and ceaseless inner effort and tapasya. Thus religion as we have seen and history amply illustrates has served more to divide and destroy and has given rise to hatred, all of them antithetical to the ways of spirituality and a spiritual mission. Any new movement which again begins from a spiritual inspirational fount, risks degeneration if it starts calling itself a religion or tries to follow that mode because our minds, associated with the old format of religion will automatically perverse the original vision to the old format and general consciousness has not, I believe, developed to the necessary extent to be able to stop it form veering towards that negative course. The danger of cultism and exclusivity and intolerance lurks even in some of the present day so-called spiritual movements.
Therefore, in my opinion, any movement which identifies itself with India’s spiritual mission and her spiritual culture must be on alert against the setting in of such viruses. The argument, that Integral Yoga and Sri Aurobindo’s Knowledge (I avoid using the word ‘teaching’ because it tends to straitjacket him with other founders and propounders of religion) has no set method, is unique to every individual, relies on an inner awakening and offers each his own route to self-discovery and has always and in all things an unifying message and therefore cannot be labeled a religion, to my perception, holds true at all times. Even the outer centres of inspiration in this path to which thousands flock for renewed vigour, strength and freshness follow no ritualism, compulsory congregation or demand, once there, each is free and is left to herself/himself to imbibe, absorb and assimilate the atmosphere. Notably absent is the usual physical jamboree that goes on in the name of religion. What then must be the mission of movements that have a vision of greater integration, harmony and inner quest, to my mind, Sri Aurobindo quite clearly indicates the action to be undertaken – ‘reintegration of Indian culture under modern conditions’ and the conscious spread of the ‘Spiritual Culture of India’ for the good of herself and the world – jagato hitaya. I shall quote below two letters written by him indicating the work at hand:

“…The antipathy or hostility or distrust of nations, races, cultures, religions towards each other is due to the past habit of egoistic self-assertion, desire for domination, for encroachment upon the lebensraum one of another and the consequent sense of unfriendly pressure, the fear of subjugation or domination and the oppression of the individuality of one by the other. A state of things must be brought about in which mutual toleration is the law, an order in which many elements, racial, national, culture, spiritual can exist side by side and form a multiple unity; in such an order all these antipathies, hostilities, distrusts would die from lack of nourishment. That would be a true state of perfectly developed human civilisation, a true basis for the higher progress of the race. In this new order India with her spiritual culture turned towards the highest aims of humanity would find her rightful place and would become one of the leaders of the human evolution by the greatness of her ideals and the capacity of her peoples for the spiritualisation of life.”

Religious movements have most certainly failed in the task of creating a ‘multiple unity’ which alone could usher in a more perfect state of being for India and the world, it is left to the spiritual movements of the new age to bring it about, therefore an identification with religion and religious ways would be detrimental to this mission. The next letter again clearly enumerates the task, which may be undertaken by movements which consider as their mission one humanity, one world and the resurgence and unity of India from deeper and more lasting foundations:

“…Your feeling that there should be reintegration of Indian Culture under modern conditions is quite right. It is the work that has to be done. And as far as Sri Aurobindo can see at present Indian Spiritual Culture has a great and bright future before it. It is the future power that might dominate the world.
So, your efforts in carrying out that work are quite in the right direction and in carrying out that work you would have his full support and blessings.” – 3 August 1950

Undoubtedly those who call themselves ‘Sri Aurobindoneans’, Savitri Erans etc must pour themselves wholly into the above mentioned task which alone can be the raison d’etre of a spiritual movement and also which is beyond the capacity of a religious movement to achieve. Religion and religious connotations have too much of the old-world whiff in them and any movement which aims at building a greater future must strive to be free of those tags, they may take inspiration, guidance and directions from past movements but must exercise extreme caution so as not to sink into the same groove and stagnate in externalities. Finally as Sri Aurobindo points out:

“…the individuals who will most help the future of humanity in the new age will be those who will recognise a spiritual evolution as the destiny and therefore the great need of the human being…They will especially not make the mistake of thinking that this [spiritual] change can be effected by machinery and outward institutions; they will know and never forget that it has to be lived out by each man inwardly or it can never be made a reality for the kind. They will adopt in its heart of meaning the inward view of the East which bids man seek the secret of his destiny and salvation within; but also they will accept, though with a different turn given to it, the importance which the West rightly attaches to life and to the making the best we know and can attain the general rule of all life…”

An agenda clearly to be fulfilled by spiritual movements and one may say one of the principle tasks for Integral Yoga, an agenda too complex, too subtle, too deep and too high for religion to fully grasp and work out.

And for those individuals and collectivities that have before them the elevating and ultimately perfecting vision of the Integral Yoga and Knowledge setting out to achieve the above goals by being part of a spiritual movement is the work to be done – kartavyam karma – for upon its growth and spread will depend the next future of humanity. The end of religion shall be the real end of history and the rise, growth and wider spread of spirituality shall be the beginning of another story, the quest for a new age, a golden dawn.

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