Saturday, September 27, 2008

Sri Aurobindo has almost vanished from any credible academic discourse. I think he did a fine job

Science, Culture and Integral Yoga Re: Sri Aurobindo and Hinduism (a speech by Peter Heehs: Hyderabad 2006)
by Rich on Fri 26 Sep 2008 09:11 PM PDT Profile Permanent Link

Vikas, Of course even discussing controversial issues that concerns someone so dear as ones spiritual master are bound to cause strong reactions in us all. But if we take the opportunity as a test of our equanimity the outcome could even be positive even if we dont necessarily agree it. I dont think it serves any constructive purpose to try and and gather a posse together to cause harm to the author of a work they do not agree with.

But I do think it is important for us to understand the context or the perspectives we are coming to it from which may vary by ones life experience, cultural orientation, temperament, social position, or intention of the work we wish to accomplish. This is really the integral challenge and of course its not a challenge I can have claimed to have mastered in anyway.

But let me address briefly how I understand the problems that arise with matters such as the grain of salt comment (which by the way I think could have been phrased in a better way)

To one who feels Sri Aurobindo had a certain omnipotent perspective well yes it would seem disrespectful.

But the context of the biography is that it was written for a very well respected Academic Press. These publishers will only allow a certain style of discourse that meets a test for an appropriate communicative platform in that arena.

Given the megaproblems with religion (or spirituality) namely that its central claims can not be empirically demonstrated nor can one assume non-believers will buy into pre-assumptions they do not share (aka articles of faith you bring to the table) one must find other ways to address issues.

In fact religious people can be shown to demonstrate a certain intolerance against those who dont buy into their articles of faith. This is why we have secular societies separate religion from state

Sri Aurobindo at this stage in human evolution actual favored the secular state, so it is not a stretch to believe that he would actually favor secular discourse in many contexts. Academic Presses in keeping with this style of secular thought therefore are forced to require that text meet a certain critical standard.

PH's text is meant to address and academic standard and it does so well. Perhaps too well for some folks in Pondi. However, he is not writing for the faithful he is writing for an academic audience.

Now there maybe disagreement if this is needed. But from my perspective it is absolutely necessary. Sri Aurobindo has almost vanished from any credible academic discourse which means many students will never encounter him and his perspectives will not be considered by many people in positions of power (at least outside India)

In fact many folks who may become really interested in IY, I have found to be turned off at first glance because they assume its just another religion.

In fact for many reasons I have addressed on SCIY I feel it is extremely necessary to disseminate Sri Aurobindo's teaching in the wider culture as it provides an alternative vision for our future than our mere disappearance into technology or the machinery of Prakriti

This was actually a central premise for beginning the SCIY project.

Now how is IY to reach the people who maybe able to work for positive change in the world? Well if you think its important to reach them one has to address them in a style that fits with the conventions that have already been established in that arena.

Because the book addresses a secular audience many might take it as disrespectful to Sri Aurobindo that in the book he is not simply credited with having an omniscient position.

But I do not feel anyone reading it from a secular perspective will find it disparges Sri Aurobindo at all. As I said since I knew he was writing in this style it actually enhanced my respect for him.

So IMO as with the grain of salt comment PH is writing from the perspective of the secular historian he must maintain if he is to keep credibility with his audience. Since no one can assume to know the future he has to state -in keeping with the academic style- whether the prophecy made by Sri Aurobindo would come true or not can not be definitely confirmed. If he just claimed Sri Aurobindo could predict the future he would loose credibility with his audience and the project would fail.

Now could he have used a better phrase then taken with a grain of salt, since this phrase could be understood as an invective by some, well maybe so.

But I dont not see that he has had any bad intention. If I speak with children I dont quote from Wittgenstein or Derrida, rather if I want to reach them I choose an appropriate vocabulary. It is my understanding that PH is trying to do that here.

Now some of the more faithful may disagree that this project was even necessary and we can agree to disagree but for reasons I have stated -namely to reach an audience who are crucial for facilitating necessary cultural change who would not otherwise come upon Sri Aurobindo- I think he did a fine job. rich

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