Thursday, April 19, 2007

The danger of avatarhood as a concept breeding religious fanaticism

Re: Re: 09: Her Mortal Birth by Rich
on Wed 18 Apr 2007 02:32 PM PDT Profile Permanent Link
RYD: It seems that there was an intense aspiration invoking the divine birth; possibly, the three wise men must have invoked it. It was so in the case of Rama, and so too must have been in the case of Jesus. Ramakrishna, it is said, saw the coming of Vivekananda. Great supernatural events occurred prior to the arrival. Was there something of the kind in the case of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother? Who knows? But there must have been, and there is no doubt about it. Great forces gather up when the Divine is poised to take such a birth.
RC: As I have expressed here before I personally have reservations about declaring anyone including Sri Aurobindo an Avatar. Although this maybe quite proper to argue this within the Indic or Vedantic tradition, it presents numerous obstacles for comprehension in a forum which does not automatically accept these particular metaphysical validity claims, and so limits the dialog to the circle of believers.
In addition I find it rather contradictory when speaking of the possibilities of human evolution to assert that further human evolution is only possible due to direct Divine intervention! This line of thinking would need to posit not only Avatars that take the form of Homo Sapiens, but also prior forms of Cro Magnon, Homo Erectus, Homo Habilis, or for that matter to avataric RNA, enzymes and proteins and while this maybe an attractive venture for some, I simply dont see the need to posit metaphysical claims to explain human evolution (at least up to this point).
The fact that Sri Aurobindo does not mention the term Avatar in the Life Divine which is arguably his most complete treatise of his ideas on matter, spirit and evolution is quite telling. In fact, in the following passage from On Himself makes it quite clear that he regarded the question of Avatarhood as meaningless. (although it seems his followers were more concerned with this then was he) In response to a letter from a follower he writes:
"Let me make it clear that in all I wrote I was not writing to prove I am an Avatar! You are busy in your reasonings with the personal question, I am busy more with the general one. I am seeking to manifest the Divine that I am conscious of and feel - I care a damn whether that constitutes me an Avatar or something else. That is not the question which concerns me. By manifestation of course I mean bringing out and spreading of that consciousness so that others may feel and enter into it and live in it." (p150)
by Debashish on Wed 18 Apr 2007 03:21 PM PDT Profile Permanent Link Rich, I'm not sure your quote proves that Sri Aurobindo regarded the question of avatarhood as meaningless in general or even meaningless to human or any evolution. What it does prove is that he considered the question of whether he himself was an avatar as meaningless to himself. On the general meaning if any of avatarhood both he and the Mother have written much elsewhere. And on its relation to evolution, avatarhood in the Aurobindonian view represents a symbolic break in the structures of avidya and the open-endedness of the infinite and conscious universe.
Of course, it may not be "necessary" to introduce avatarhood to explain biological evolution (natural selection and survival are enough) just as it is not "necessary" to introduce spirit to explain consciousness or reincarnation to explain the afterlife but then it is not even "necessary" to posit the reality of matter to explain consciousness. All these belong to the domain of possibilities within the mind so long as one has not awoken to the reality of other faculties of knowledge based in spiritual experience and the self-knowing of consciousness.
One of the premises of the Life Divine is that Truth does not follow any necessity in its manifestations but gives birth to temporal forms of necessity (structure) as expressions of its self-delight through what one might call real-symbols. Regarding the danger of avatarhood as a concept breeding religious fanaticism, I agree but that needs not dismissal but hermeneutics, other ways of dealing with the interpretation of truth to the ignorance. DB
by Rich on Wed 18 Apr 2007 05:02 PM PDT Profile Permanent Link Unfortunately the religious fanatic does not normally avail themselves of any hermeneutic method, but stone cold literalism. The second part of the matter is that once you start positing a founder of a movement as an Avatar any claims you make that your teaching or yoga is not a "Religion" become mute. Sri Aurobindo actually considered the role of Avatar quite significant and this certainly comes through in his commentaries on text within the tradition of Hinduism such as the Essays on the Gita (one of my all time favorites). However, that he did not see it fit to introduce the notion of avatarhood into The Life Divine is significant in itself especially regards the hermeneutic method one would apply to it rc

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