Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Spirituality can be a resource in nation-building only if it is genuinely world-affirming

A Dialogue with Dr. Mangesh V. Nadkarni
P.N. Paranjape Inovcation 27. pdf

MVN: This turning was gradual and it began in my mid-twenties. i turned to Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy because i found it intellectually the most liberating and satisfying. Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy is neither for the world-weary nor for those whose minds are so befuddled that they can’t see the turban of doubt on the head of every purely rational, mental theory about man, nature and reality.

if by my ‘progress on the path’, you mean the progress I have made on the path of Yoga, let me say this. I find it interesting that this is a question that gets thrown at me quite a bit; it is a well-mannered way used by some of my cynical friends of being sarcastic about my interest in spiritual philosophy and in spiritual matters in general. The factual answer to this question is very difficult to give; at least I can’t give it about myself and then again, it cannot be of much use to other people, so it is not a very profitable question either to ask or to answer. But having said this, i should also point out that there is nothing exceptional or unique in that i am on the path of yoga.

According to Sri Aurobindo, there is nobody here who is not a yogi, who is not on the path of Yoga. After all what is Yoga if not Nature in the process of the evolution of consciousness? This progressive evolution of consciousness began with the state of seemingly inconscient Matter, and moved on to semi-conscient Life in trees and plants, and then to conscient life in animals and then to selfconscient mental consciousness in man. Which one of us has his existence outside of evolutionary Nature? Whether we know it or not, we are all participants in this process of the evolution of consciousness. And thus we are all yogis. This evolution in which all of us are participants is an adventure of consciousness. if the animal is the living laboratory in which Nature has worked out man, man himself may be a thinking and living laboratory in whom and with whose conscious cooperation Nature intends to work out the perfect manifestation of this evolving consciousness.

PNP: is spirituality an escape from day-to-day problems? Does it have anything to contribute to nation building?

MVN: Spirituality can be an escape from life, or from what you call ‘day-to-day’ problems. But in this it is no different from, say, a preoccupation with literature, social service, or with Linguistics or even women’s lib. it is the nature of your engagement that determines whether it is a creative engagement with life or a form of escape. in the case of spirituality, it all depends upon why one turns to spirituality, and what one understands by spirituality. if you turn to spirituality because this world has not been kind to you, or if you seek in spirituality a private world into which you can retreat when you find it hard to face the realities of life around you, then it is a form of escape. if, on the other hand, you turn to spirituality because you are not happy with the way of your being and want to discover your real self, the inner being, and live from that consciousness, then it is not an escape from what is called day-to-day problems. For this you need to explore all the dimensions of your consciousness and establish the real ‘you’ in the place of the present surface ‘you’ who is confined so much within the shell of the ego.

Most of us do not realise that in our present mode of being we cannot see the world or understand it except through this coloured glass of the ego; only some people feel suffocated in the prison-house of the ego. They wish to step out of the fantasy-land of the ego and step into the world of reality.

That is genuine spirituality. You can really understand the world and its problems only when you transcend your ego. Once you have really understood the problems of this world, then you can work on them with the resources of your new consciousness. For me the aim of spirituality is the terrestrial perfection of human life, but such perfection cannot be achieved through the resources of human reason or mental consciousness operating through the grid of the ego. it requires the resources of a spiritual consciousness. We have today too many people vending answers to problems which they have not really understood. That is why in human history most of the revolutions have failed to realise their promise. This was true of Karl Marx as much as it is of your local politician or moral reformer or religious zealot. Even to know what really afflicts man, one needs the light of the spirit.

As i see it, there are two kinds of spirituality, the worldnegating spirituality, and the world-affirming spirituality. Spirituality can be a resource in nation-building only if it is genuinely world-affirming, such as the spirituality of Vyasa in ancient india and of Sri Aurobindo in modern india. Well, for anything like an adequate answer, this question too, like some of your other questions, would need more space than we have here. But for our present purposes this should suffice.

1 comment:

  1. William James, in his classic The Varieties of Religious Experience (it really is a classic - that word gets misused a lot today, but though written in the early 20th c. is still required reading at top divinity schools in the US), regarded what he called "fruitfulness for life" as a hallmark of authentic religious experience.

    I'd agree. If it makes no difference in how the person behaves, I find it hard to see how the experience would be genuinely spiritual.