Over the past few years, quite a few blog readers have written to me appreciating the manner in which I have presented the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. I would attribute much of it to my Guru whom I met early in my teenage years. My experiences with him seemed to correspond closely with the manner in which the Sri Aurobindo and the Mother interacted with their disciples. It is this correlation which has enabled me to provide an alternative perspective on their life and teachings.
Xu Fancheng (Chinese: 徐梵澄) was born in Changsha, Hunan province, on 26th October 1909. As a child he studied classical Chinese. In 1929 he went to Germany to study the History of Art at Heidelberg University. He also practiced wood engraving there and became the first Chinese artist of the new style wood engraving. He came back to China in 1932, and encouraged by Luxun (one of the most famous writers of modern China), he started to translate the works of Nietzsche from German into Chinese, and became the first expert of Nietzsche’s philosophy in China.
There are many secondary works which profess to explain Sri Aurobindo’s views on nationalism, but it is better to read what he himself said on the matter. These are a few selections from the works of Sri Aurobindo on Nationalism. These pieces first appeared in the Karmayogin journal in 1909. Later in life, Sri Aurobindo saw these writings as outdated remnants of his extinct political persona but to us they remain luminous milestones indicative of his political sagacity and broad vision.
In the context of the recent Delhi gang rape case, a woman from India wrote to me asking “what take spirituality has on crimes such as these. Does the victim suffer because of sanchit (past accumulated) karma? Should one regard whatever happens as good?” A few weeks before this horrific Delhi incident, another woman had asked on a mailing list: “There are lots of places where Sri Aurobindo says that God is in evil too. I cannot see this when I think of someone being raped or tortured or molested. Can someone explain how this can be?”. Today, Huffington Post published a short piece by Dr. Deepak Sarma, professor of South Asian religions and philosophy at Case Western Reserve University, questioning what answer Karma can offer in response to such tragedies. In light of all this discussion, these are some answers based on the model of Karma proposed by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. I am not sure if I have satisfactory answers to these profound questions but I am going to try!
A reader from India asked a question which deserves to be highlighted as a separate blog post. The question was: “Many times people on their way to temples meet with accidents and die. What is the point of praying to Deities if they cannot protect their own devotees ? We also hear of stories where people claim that their beloved Deity saved them. How do we know if it was the Deity who intervened. Why does the Diety intervene in one case and not in another?”
Youth is a fragile period when boundaries are fluid and ethical values are not yet established, when there is a surfeit of energy but no balance of mind or depth of perception. During this phase, insecure and ignorant men and women lost in the merry company of debauched friends often succumb to peer pressure and undertake foolhardy actions which can trap them in lifelong vices. Gaining experience in alcohol, sex and drugs is mistakenly regarded as a sign of maturity. On three occasions in his youth, Mahatma Gandhi was inadvertently drawn by friends into a tryst with prostitutes but escaped narrowly due to his childlike timidity or his nascent ethical personality. He related these episodes in response to a question on the power of Ramanama (i.e. the chanting of the name “Rama”). This article first appeared in the Navjivan (“new life”) newspaper that Gandhi used to publish from Ahmedabad.
In 1934, Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of the Indian freedom struggle, sought to meet Sri Aurobindo because they had never met in person before. The latter declined the request because he didn’t want to break the seclusion that he had been observing since 1926. Strangely, the Mother who had no such restriction also declined to meet him. By combining the correspondence available in the Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi with the records in the Collected Works of Sri Aurobindo, it is possible to build a complete picture of why this important meeting never transpired. One of Mahatma Gandhi’s letters seen below also furnishes us with a second-hand account of daily life in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram.