Savitri Era of those who adore, Om Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Liminal and dialogic identities congealed by Debashish Banerji

A plethora of publications have appeared in the last decade from the western academy, expressing alarm at the Hinduizing of Indian politics. A variety of foci have arisen from this attention, relating the congruence of a national identity with Hinduism as an Orientalist-Nationalist construction of the 19th century. A number of 19th c. ideological inventions are seen as the fruits of this labor, with its localized concentration among the bhadralokintelligentsia of Bengal. Among the more extreme of these views is the consideration of "Hinduism" as an unitary religious phenomenon itself as a 19th c. invention, specifically reified for nationalistic purposes. Undoubtedly, a number of revisionary crystallizations developed in late 19th/early 20th c. Bengal, spurred by the catalytic inserton of alien colonial cultural, economic and political factors, but not all of these were explicitly nationalistic in intent nor can they all (or even mostly) be unequivocally considered "inventions". 
Nevertheless, the complex east-west idea-forces availing in late 19th/early 20th c. India in their mutual trajectories and entanglements have been brought under scrutiny as never before and the implications of modern Hinduism in its political effects begun to be positioned in an expanding field. In this burgeoning discourse, one of the most influential books to appear in recent years is Wilhelm Halbfass' "India and Europe".

Sri Aurobindo became the first principal of National College, Calcutta, now known as the Jadavpur College, about a hundred years ago. In the century which has elapsed since then, humankind has experienced its most intense period of collective growth and crisis throughout the world. Human consciousness is poised on a brink where it is faced either with the specter of oblivion, the horror of the abyss or a leap into another modality of being, the integral consciousness of the overman. Mediating this critical choice is the life and work of Sri Aurobindo, throwing a powerful beacon ahead of us into the century to come. Aster Patel draws out some of the implications of this work ahead of us in following the light of Sri Aurobindo in the coming century. 
  • Can we equal in consciousness the integral vision of reality which contemporary Science is indicating to our minds and our technological practice? 
  • Are we even ready to engage with the fullness of the term “integral”? 
  • How can we draw together our past and our present, our fractured personalities, our fragmented disciplines, our physical matter and our mental, vital and spiritual substance into the Oneness of integral being which Sri Aurobindo lived and wrote about? 
His integral consciousness is still fully alive in his words and each word is an invitation and a fire to kindle in us his life and reality. This is the ever-living fire of Heraclitus, the living legacy of the “thoughts” of Sri Aurobindo.

Following the publication of “Understanding Thoughts of Sri Aurobindo,” Indrani Sanyal and Krishna Roy of the Centre for Sri Aurobindo Studies, Calcutta have complied a set of eighteen scholarly essays on Sri Aurobindo and his contemporaries in the ideational context of what has been called the Bengal Renaissance. Sri Aurobindo’s physical involvement in the politics and culture of early Bengal nationalism was of relatively short duration (1905-1910), albeit an intense and all-sided participation which internalized the entire regional history of the movement and left a powerful creative impress in the milieu of its time and space. 
Moreover, the discursive background of this involvement continued to develop organically and find voice throughout his life in his subjective articulation just as his own situated contribution continued to resonate in later Indian nationalism. Thus this collection of considered interpretive contemplation fills an important need in our historical understanding. But more importantly, it is the post-colonial legacy of these engagements which draws us today by their fertile and future-gazing content, inviting reflection not merely for India’s but the world’s re-generation at a time of global ferment.

In this slim paperback, Robert Minor sets out with a double intention: 
(a) to tell the legal story of the power struggle between the Sri Aurobindo Society and Auroville; and 
(b) an exploration of the legal and cultural epistemological ambiguities surrounding the terms "religion", "spirituality" and "secularism" and their shaping of the discourse of modern political contestation in India, as exemplified in the story of Auroville.

As in all his other works, Jugal Kishore marshalls a most impressive set of quotes from Sri Aurobindo and the Mother to make his points. He clarifies the closely knit ideas relating to death as part of the perpetual process of life and to the evolution of consciousness through the progressive growth of the psychic being in its mastery over mental, vital and physical nature and the further infinite expression of higher powers of consciousness that form the bases of Sri Aurobindo’s description of life, death and rebirth.

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