Saturday, August 16, 2008

Do not fool yourself that you are not undertaking a religious practice

Re: Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity
by Rich on Fri 15 Aug 2008 12:51 PM PDT Profile Permanent Link

Well are you saying that leadership is not responsible for the practices of the Organization? Especially the organization it founded? If so this goes against everything one learns in graduate level courses in Organizational Psychology. Generally any responsible leadership acknowledges that as president Harry Truman says "the buck stops here".

The problem of religion and sectarianism in the Ashram is famous. Let me quote an from a New York Times article of a book review of a book from Gregor von Rezzori

After Bucharest comes a visit to Pondicherry, India, where he is enraged by the mindless devotion he witnesses to the deceased guru Sri Aurobindo and the "cult of personality" surrounding "the Mother," Aurobindo's companion and the co-founder of the ashram there. Given that he spends only three days in Pondicherry, his 50-page rant against spiritual enslavement does go on a bit too long, for even the author recognizes that "in Pondicherry I lost my ability to laugh."

Rakesh you write: Sri Aurobindo mentions that the Integral yoga takes the essense of Vaishnavism<

Well Vaishnavism is a religion! You cant have it both ways, either you declare yourself not a religion and eschew religious practice or you do not make the claim that you renounce religion and you continue traditional religious practice. Either one is just fine, but you cant have it both ways!

So if you advocate devotional practices that involves worship of idols or gurus thats perfectly ok, but just do not fool yourself that your not undertaking a religious practice.

I have no problem myself with devotional practice, I actually am drawn to it. However, lets be clear about it that this is also religious practice. aka belief in a personal godhead, deity or guru, the forms all religions take. (btw one does not necessarily transfer ones devotion on to a guru or idol, one can be devoted to a child, a family, a community)

But lets just be honest about it, IY in the form given to it by Mother and Sri Aurobindo, with its sectarian and devotional religious practices is a religion! Moreover, the fact that folks in the yoga also believe in the infallibility of Sri Aurobindo and Mother, choose to elevate them as Avatars, who could never make a mistake -in this instance an error in leading their organization - just seals the case for religion. rc

Reply Re: Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity
by Rich on Fri 15 Aug 2008 09:07 PM PDT Profile Permanent Link

Regardless if I have traced an exact genealogy -because genealogies are complex- between religious practice instituted in the Ashram and the political ideology of some of IY's contemporary followers and institutions, the fact of Religion, in a form that Sri Aurobindo would perhaps call False Subjectivism, has infiltrated the collective consciousness of IY can not be refuted.

Additionally, the fact that political ideologies have appropriated Sri Aurobindo to support their agendas an both left and right can also be demonstrated,


If one does not find cause for pause and reflection on the status of Integral Yoga in 2008, a Yoga that while Sri Aurobindo's lived claimed not to be a religion, yet has become wholly infiltrated by religion; a Yoga which claimed not to be political, yet has been appropriated by politicians, then this whole conversation is unimportant

But if one wishes to go on after the initial deconstruction and attempt to recompose the relationship of IY to individual to collective to Spirit, and revision the relationship of IY to the Future, which does not become an eternal return of good ol' religion then one must decide how in depth one wishes to go.

To do it as we perceive our relationship to IY as individuals requires a different level of commitment than to also address it, where you say its problems lie , on an organizational level

But if one is to address this at an organizational level, one must first take care to locate the structural problems which reinforce the dogmatic practices of the past and those generative epistemological fields from which the gradients of muddled thinking originate

The reason religious practices began in the ashram are cross culturally and epochally and complex. These practices are certainly not congruent with the Enlightenment inspired values of renouncing religion that Sri Aurobindo and Mother also championed. So what are we to do?

Since this point is being misunderstood, I reiterate I am not questioning the validity and even necessity of devotion as a religious practice. The question is the culpablity of continuing religious practice yet making claims of no religion, and its affinities to fundamentalist thinking in certain populations.

Sri Aurobindo and Mother were dealing with complex realities not the least of which is that at a certain point organizations take on their own life. While they were able to work with the internal contradictions of the many people from different cultures and different levels of emotional and intellectual maturity who sought their guidance; people have their own motives for seeking guidance. If those motives were self-serving, the harmony that was bestowed on them, in the absence of their guidance could certainly untangle in the discord of contradictions.

But often it may not simply be out of selfish intent that contradiction emerges but rather out of ignorance, and here the law of unintended consequences comes into play.

The unintended consequences of working on different levels of consciousness, in doing excavations both on surface layers and the cavernous depths, in trying to harmonize individual needs and collective norms

Because if one believes that in a universe in which consciousness is delineated by various graduations, that on some planes of consciousness, expressions of devotion through the articulation of feelings (bhakti) are entirely proper, yet also believes in eschewing religious dogma one must take special care that some followers will not become attached to the forms of worship and inevitably confuse levels of consciousness, as well as secular and sacred, subcultural and cultural, theocratic and democratic values. While they could perhaps manage to convey this in individual communication, when these communications are broadcast to the group, to the world, then those forces unleashed and subject to the will of history can eventually morph into forms quite unlike those which were intended . The structural problems of the organization can I believe be traced here,

One does not deal with this however, by laying out blame but rather in trying to trace back sources and deconstruct deficient mental models.

Once this is done one can begin the work of reconstructing a shared vision which learns from the past and renews the teachings in the present in a form pliable enough to adapt to the complexities of the promised future rc

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