A New Synthesis of Yoga as a necessity to overcome the impasse of modernity - Skype - Track 301 (12 September 2008)

Prof. Kireet Joshi: As I have been saying, I would like to reiterate an important point as you might remember we had spoken earlier of what Sri Aurobindo had said about the resurgence of the barbarian in ourselves and it is this resurgence which causes the impasse. Now in that context Sri Aurobindo has made a further statement, a qualifying statement, and if that qualifying statement remains unchallenged or unchanged then the peril is very great and there might be even a failure of the human species as the human species. And I would like to draw attention to that qualification that Sri Aurobindo has made and I would like to elaborate upon it. This is on page no. 1052 and I shall repeat actual sentences which I have already read out to you earlier and Sri Aurobindo says: “The first danger is a resurgence of the old vital and material primitive barbarian in a civilised form; the means Science has put at our disposal eliminates the peril of the subversion and destruction of an effete civilisation by stronger primitive peoples, but it is the resurgence of the barbarian in ourselves, in civilised man, that is the peril, and this we see all around us.”

Now it is at this point Sri Aurobindo makes a very important statement, “For that is bound to come if there is no high and strenuous mental and moral ideal controlling and uplifting the vital and physical man in us and no spiritual ideal liberating him from himself into his inner being.”

Now this is the important qualification. In the first place it is a fact that today there is no high and serious mental or moral ideal controlling and uplifting the vital and physical man in us. Secondly there is no spiritual ideal liberating him from himself into his inner being. If you look at humanity at large these two things are not at all to be seen prominently or to the degree which there ought to be. And if this situation continues then the peril is very great and all the consequences of the failure of the new species would follow. I would like to dwell upon this particular point and I would like to say ‒ this is the impasse. The impasse arises from the fact that there is no high failure to mental and moral ideal controlling and uplifting the vital and physical man in us and no spiritual ideal liberating him from himself into his inner being.

Fortunately, I am anticipating the argument particularly because we were told about Auroville, the development of Auroville and the ideal which lies behind Auroville besides which I attach this particular point of impasse. Auroville proposes to put before us a spiritual ideal, liberating man from himself into his inner being. If you read the charter of Auroville, if you read some of the statements regarding what Mother has said: what an Aurovillian ought to be, where Mother has laid down fundamentally that the Aurovillians live an inner life, its fundamental proposition of a person who lives in Auroville is that he lives an inner life and one can only live an inner life only if there is a spiritual ideal, which liberates the man from his outer being and leads him to lead an inner life. This has happened and that is why we can say that Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have worked out, so as to propose to the mankind so powerfully that a township is being proposed where people who can be inspired by the spiritual ideal and who can come together, live together and lead first of all inner life. And secondly this Auroville also implies a liberation of the mind in such a way that a mental and moral ideal begins to spread throughout the humanity and this is an aspect not sufficiently understood by people in Auroville themselves but it is implied that the very existence of Auroville implies a kind of a attraction given to the mental and moral capacities of the human being, a capacity which you can control and the vital and the physical man in us. So since you had asked this question about Auroville, I would say this that the relevance of Auroville is central to the whole planning of the work that is envisaged before us. But I will still like to dwell upon the question of the impasse which has been created by the action of the mental and the moral ideal and we have to realise this fact that at large in humanity there is at present a kind of a weakening or even conspicuous absence of the mental and the moral ideal, which can control and uplift the life of the vital and physical man. This is the thesis that I would like to develop if possible today and may continue later on if there is no time today but I would like to dwell upon this and we must understand this quite well. And in this context therefore I will like first of all to speak of what is rationality because what is mental ideal?

Mental ideal is the ideal of the rational consciousness. And what is moral ideal? What is the ethical sense in man and how these two important powers of humanity today, at the end of a cycle of the development of the reason, where they stand? And for that purpose I would like to reflect on this question and share with you my reflection. As far as the mental ideal is concerned as everyone knows, it is the Greek civilisation which has given to the modern world at least a tremendous push towards the mental ideal. The Greek civilisation it fell, maybe regarded as civilisation of the human mind as distinguished from the Indian civilisation which may be called the civilisation of the spirit. Not that in the West there was no spirituality and there was no spiritual guiding light but the fact is that that spiritual light has remained dimmed under the overpowering influence of the Greek civilisation which became highly mental in due course of time. At the same time it is not true that Indian civilisation was not mental, had no intellectuality, on the contrary. But the fact remains that the Vedic civilisation developed the intuitive powers of consciousness, spiritual powers of consciousness to a very high degree. And when there was a danger of that high achievement being lost, a very remarkable phenomenon arose in the Indian history and that was the development of the Upanishadic Age. As Sri Aurobindo says that if you compare the history of India and the history of Greece, whereas in the beginning of the Greek civilisation there was a powerful spiritual movement greatly illustrated by the Orphic tradition, Elysian Tradition and India there was the Vedic development the two were parallel but whereas in the West, in the Greek civilisation following the Orphic element when that began to become dimmed there arose a kind of an evening of spiritual night and to my mind Socrates and Plato were represent the splendid colours of the evening light. Where the Reason began to preponderate and the spiritual light was thrown into the background.

In India however when the Vedic light began to be dimmed and it did become very dim in the period of Brahmanas but in the period of Aranyakas once again there was a new stir and in the Upanishadic gap a ripeness and a reassertion of the light that was available to India in the Vedic age and therefore in a more clear language the Vedic civilisation stood was reasserted and therefore the Upanishads became the foundation of the next cycle of development. Therefore intellectuality did come as in the West here also intellectuality age did come but not immediately after the Vedic age. The Vedic age was followed by ritualistic age and it was followed once again by the spiritual age and there came the development of intellectual. This is what makes a tremendous difference between the cycle of the West and the cycles of the East. This will also show us when Sri Aurobindo says basically there is no opposition between East and West, if you read the message of Sri Aurobindo given to America in 1949, Sri Aurobindo speaks, he says while I give this message to America my message will be equally applied to India and to the East as well and he also points out there is no such great division between East and the West. But the difference has arisen only because of this emphasis which came to be laid upon the rational element in the Western civilisation and the emphasis that was on the spirit made in the Indian civilisation.

Now I am referring to this because I would like to mark out much more clearly how rationality developed in the West and in the East and that will give us, if you trace out very quickly the whole history we shall see where we stand and what exactly the nerve we are now arrested, both in the West and also in India both and the world at large. Let me therefore begin with a very remarkable philosopher in the early Greek period namely Parmenides. Not many people are aware of Parmenides but I would like that something of Parmenides is underlined by those of us who would like to study the history of rationality in the West. I have before me a book in which a very short sentence is given from Parmenides, which gives a precise formulation of the illustration of how rationality came to be articulated so sharply and so clearly in the following sentence of Parmenides. I am only taking this statement and I will not dwell upon it, although one can give two-three lectures on this sentence to analyse it but I will not do it because I want to move rapidly through the history of rationality in the West and the East, just to show the impasse in which we are and how to break it. Parmenides says: “Thou canst not know what is not – that is impossible – nor utter it; for it is the same thing that can be thought and that can be” Now this is a very difficult sentence, it is very well articulated and from my point of view this statement has never been refuted in the whole history of thought, either in the East or in the West. Although many people believe that this proposition has been refuted and can be refuted but this is my personal reading and I would like to underline this one sentence and I shall pass on further, in future if you would like to be precise about this statement, I have read this particular statement from Bertrand Russell, History of Western Philosophy from page number 56. For those who want to see and read those two sentences because that is the most important statement of rationality as it developed, the source of rationality as developed. I will read once again: “Thou canst not know what is not – that is impossible – nor utter it; for it is the same thing that can be thought and that can be”.

Now on account of this particular statement Parmenides is able to assert that Reality has got to be permanent and static and that motion is impossible. This is starting point of the Greek rationality, which therefore is throughout in the Western thought to grasp rationally is to grasp that which is permanent, that which cannot be changed, therefore rationality became to mean at least in the beginning that which is rational which cannot be altered, which is permanent and the assertion of the permanent became the hallmark of philosophical thought.