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Monday, October 15, 2007

There is absolutely nothing in Sri Aurobindo’s luminous writings that justifies an ideological hatred of Islam or Muslims

I’ve linked to the Science, Culture, and Integral Yoga blog on my own blog under the category of “Integral Philosophy”. This is a very high-quality blog, whose authors are very much on top of things intellectually, both scientific and spiritual. I highly recommend it for people who obsessively follow the global dialogue between science and spirituality.
In particular, what I’ve really enjoyed on the SCIY blog is how it endeavours to show that Sri Aurobindo is being misread and misinterpreted both by the far left and the far right in India. The far left sees Sri Aurobindo as some sort of a racialist or Hindu supremacist, whereas the Hindutva ideologues use Sri Aurobindo to argue for a military conquest of Pakistan or for some sort of ideological hatred of Islam and Muslims. It makes my heart weep, frankly, to see this happening. The reality of course is quite different, as the Master’s writings on human unity and the future evolution of mankind make very clear.
Sri Aurobindo was unequivocally against Hindu nationalism, seeing it as an obsolete notion that was not applicable in the modern world. To the extent that he took a harsh tone about Muslim fundamentalism in India, it was only to preserve secular democracy, and not to promote Hindu nationalism. Did you know that Sri Aurobindo spoke very highly of the Prophet Muhammad, calling him a great yogi (Yogishreshtha)?
Of course there are many things about traditional Islam that I think are obsolete and should be tossed out without a moment’s thought. But I can criticize or bash just about any religion as easily as I can Islam. I could dip into the shastras and smritis of Hinduism and find all sorts of ridiculous nonsense in there. We know that all the religions of the world have lost their spiritual roots and become reduced to mental formulas, social codes, and dogmas. The living God has long withdrawn from all the religions of the world.
I will be honest and say that Islam was not the path for me, for a number of reasons, which I won’t go into right now. But there is absolutely nothing in Sri Aurobindo’s luminous writings that justifies an ideological hatred of Islam or Muslims or the Prophet Muhammad, or that can justify some sort of ideological need to destroy Pakistan through military action. The more I research the situation in India, the more it seems to me that the Hindutva movement is ideological and emotional, and not actually grounded in spiritual consciousness. Any movement that seeks to restore some sort of glorious age in the past can only be described with one word: reactionary.
Sri Aurobindo never said Vedic India was some sort of absolute ideal; in fact he explicitly acknowledges that of the four cycles of human social evolution that he describes — symbolic/infrarational, ethical/feudal, individualistic/rational, and subjective/suprarational — Vedic India corresponds to the symbolic or infrarational stage. There was of course spiritual inspiration behind Vedic India, and there must have been some highly realized rishis at the time, but humanity as a whole was still at a very immature, infrarational stage of growth. It is only now that we have some hope of advancing psychologically from the infrarational to the rational to the transrational as a collective. When Sri Aurobindo tells us to restore the eternal Veda, he is talking about the inspiration behind the Veda, which is transhistorical. But every religious text or social code is deeply embedded in a specific sociohistorical context and is bound in time and space.
Make no mistake about it: Sri Aurobindo belongs to the whole of humanity, and to the future. There is no mythical atavism in either his or the Mother’s teachings.
As Bel Atreides writes in a brilliant paper entitled “Auroville and the New Creation” (Auroville being the universal township founded by the Mother in India):
. . . beyond churches and ethics and religious ministers and cults and superstition, beyond all this roof that prevents us from seeing the Sky and God in it among the high golden eagles, at the very core of each messiah’s word and act and symbol, there is a truth and a possibility and a weapon and a conquest which can be recovered to transform our nature and the world’s. For there is Christ with his word and gesture of love, with Love turned into weapon and principle of transformation and resurrection; there he is resuming in his person and feat Osiris and Adonis and Attis and Tammuz and Dionysus and Zagreus and Liber, his predecessors in Mediterranean lands, and symbolizing and conquering the immortal destiny of the Cosmic Man. There is Krishna with his word of devotion inaugurating the divine action, the labor entirely consecrated to God, establishing by the strength of his sword divine and his council a Dharmaraja, an empire of Dharma and truth upon Earth, and winning for man the planes and the consciousness of the gods. And there is Mahomet, with his message of Islam — surrender — and force; and Buddha, opening for the man tired of the phenomenic world, the Door of the Eternal Silence, Nirvana, the only possible extinction. There is Ramakrishna reviving and realizing in himself the truths of the Tantra, Vedanta, Christianity and Islam. There are, finally, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother conquering for the Earth and Man the Truth-Consciousness and opening the way to a body and a matter divinized and immortal. And all of them, all these Heralds of the Ages to come and Bearers of Glory, are not there as jealous and confronted eminences but as a single group of pioneers in a same terra incognita: the future evolution of man.
Why then do we continue this childish competition over who has a monopoly over Truth? Meanwhile the Supreme Wisdom laughs above our heads as we continue to indulge in folly after folly. I thought Richard Hartz, one of the SCIY contributors, put it really well in his article “Untold Potentialities — India and the World in the Third Millenium”: not Hindutva, but Ekatva — oneness — is the ideal.
My views on this subject are however very much evolving, and I realize this is a controversial area, so I would appreciate and take note of any criticism or feedback.

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