One must strive to understand the psychological purpose behind every action in the spiritual path, otherwise it degenerates into a mere mechanical act followed out of fear, habit or superstition. With that in mind, here we explore the role that can be played by places of worship, relics, shrines, and prayer rooms in the spiritual path.
In the world, we generally find two kinds of people: there are those whose minds are so entangled in a complex web of moral laws that they are afraid of sin and live in awe of God; and there are those who derisively mock any notion of morality and flamboyantly engage in unrestrained hedonism. In the spiritual path, one has to anchor oneself in the narrow pathway between these two extremes – between morality and immorality. One has to adopt an inner discipline which is conducive to growth of one’s consciousness but which may or may not adhere to any moral laws. To convey this difference, the Mother Mirra Alfassa made contradictory observations on this topic.
When Truths realized by enlightened sages and prophets are relayed down the ages without proper understanding, they tend to get frozen into customs observed by the masses out of habit or due to fear of God. Such archaic customs tend to accumulate until they are shattered by the next enlightened sage who appears on the scene. In this context, these are some striking observations of Mother Mirra Alfassa on some encrustations of Hinduism.
The interpretation of centuries-old holy scriptures is always a challenge. Rote learning of scriptures which was undertaken in past centuries due to lack of durable recording material is no longer required; it may improve memory but doesn’t lead us much further. On the other hand, the academic pursuit of hermeneutics through critical thinking produces dry interpretations (as well as misinterpretations) because it is undertaken by those who without spiritual background. What then is the method by which one unlocks the true meaning of a holy book? It is necessarily a maieutic process, to use a Socratic term, that grows through spiritual practice and experience. When we begin to awaken to the influence of the soul within, it gradually discloses to us the secret of the scripture. The blossoming intuition which brings us closer to the Divine can also unlock the original intent of the scripture. In this post, we collect some observations by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother Mirra Alfassa on how to read and interpret holy scriptures.
The contemporary religious tendency is to divide people into believers and non-believers instead of viewing them all as souls who are part of the One Divine, to regard sin as a deviance from morality subject to punishment rather than a transient condition which can be overcome with growth of consciousness, to assume that deliverance of the soul occurs due to strong belief in God rather than sublime contemplation. These are a couple of discourses by the Mother Mirra Alfassa on how religions are formed.
We live in times where spirituality is the new buzzword and religion is derided as outdated, but it is not clear what the differences between the two are. The religious approach can be summed up as a combination of nostalgia for the past, desire for structure in life, respect for authority and an inability to entertain ambiguity. The spiritual path is propelled by the desire to rediscover the Truth for oneself by using some psychological and occult practices. The rest of this article delineates these differences in detail.
After a natural disaster such as an earthquake or hurricane, religiously inclined personalities tend to attribute the disaster to Divine retribution. In 1934, when an earthquake hit the state of Bihar in India killing thousands of people, Mahatma Gandhi called it God’s punishment for the sin of untouchability in India . More recently, we have Pat Robertson claiming that the earthquake in Haiti was God’s punishment . This absurd pattern of thinking can be found across all religions. This post outlines Sri Aurobindo and the Mother Mirra Alfassa’s observations on the cause of natural disasters.
We are all idol-worshippers. We worship actors, sportsmen, thinkers and – when we are feeling proud – even ourselves! Our subconscious desire is to mold ourselves in the image of our idols. The Hindu practice of idolatry directs this urge to spiritual goals by clothing the Divine in various forms. The modern rational mind forgets the original psychological motive behind image worship and dismisses it all as an abomination. On the other hand, there are those who narrowly fix themselves in adoration of their chosen image forgetting that this is only a preparatory step in the spiritual path. This post explores the various pros and cons of idolatry(aka image worship).
Why do we live in fear or awe of God? Sri Aurobindo says it is our primitive mentality, which creates a deformed conception of God based on our egoistic human standards, that is to blame. We see God as a magnified Man and seek to influence him by bribing him with animal sacrifice, self-mortification and more generally, with a crafty trading mentality(e.g. “I will do this if you give me that”). Religion begins with an adoration of God but due to the crudity of human nature and lack of any practical method for abolishing the ego, ends up as the fear and awe of God. The path of Yoga by virtue of various spiritual practices aimed at abolishing the ego does not suffer from the same limitation and hence brings about Divine union. The following is an excerpt from the Synthesis of Yoga on the rationale behind man’s fear and awe of God.