A New Synthesis of Yoga as a necessity to overcome the impasse of modernity - Skype - Session 4 (29 September 2008)

Debasish: Kireet ji it is so nice to be with you again today and to resume our exploration of new synthesis of yoga for overcoming the impasse of modernity topic that we are considering and I wanted to touch on some of the things you introduced last time and also make a comment and then continue for today. I have circulated late I think last night a passage from The Life Divine that you spoke about last time. And just to touch on what you introduced, you started with three of the major difficulties that lie in our path today. The first is the hugeness of machinery and the complexity of machinery in which we seem to be enmeshed in a variety of ways today. We are conditioned by very large systems of machinery both visible and invisible. The second one was the two principle sort of facultative or properties, qualities of the human being that seem to be the principle ways by which we define ourselves and which we are utilising to deal with our world and these are egoism and rationality. And you touched on the fact that one of the great difficulties from the modern age at some level we feel distinctly the limits of both of these, but there is also a complete refusal to go beyond them. I heard you talk about a limitation or reduction of the human ideal to a kind of an economic ideal of life. On economicism or a kind of concentration these were really the forms of the different conditions that you touched on last time. And then you also pointed to the fact that right from the early beginnings of the modern age, from the time of the French Revolution, philosophers like Emmanuel Kant had a sense of these problems, particularly the problems of egoism and rationality and seeking for some other kind of principle by which we may live our lives and we may say this kind of a philosophical impasse is also sensed acutely by postmodern philosophers today. But it seems that both the problem of machinery being conditioned are being made into subjects by visible forms of machinery as well as the problem of the limits of reason are very acutely understood and seen by the postmodern philosophers who have so far as to claim there is an anti-humanist result. But apparently somehow they have not been able to find the solution. They recognise this impasse and they may point to a solution but the science of an alternate life or alternate way of overcoming this has not been evident to any one of them. This was one comment I wanted to make and the other thing that you introduced from The Life Divine were four kinds of ways, or the four solutions that the human mind, the modern mind has devised towards the overcoming of the problem of the harmony between the individual and the collective that man and society, their relationship is one of the major problems and particularly in today’s worlds which has become so very interdependent, this is a very, very major problem. And so what has humanity done to address this problem and you looked at the four solutions that Sri Aurobindo has introduced. Actually you just touched on them because we were at the end of our period by then. And four solutions are what I have circulated to the whole group, three of them. In a sense he starts with a search for a perfect economic society by the powers of reason and science and he moves on in the very same paragraph to talk about the reaction to this coming to a kind of subversion of the individual ego in what he considered as a nation-soul. But nation-soul is more like a blind life impulse and a kind of a submersion into some sort of a retrogression of consciousness. Then the other one that it introduces is a kind of internationalism and a sort of by which again the ego is coerced into some sort of what Sri Aurobindo calls a possibility of a termite civilisation. Then the next one he considers is not so much submergence of the individual by coercion but in a sense by consent. So by processes of the enlightenment of the will and the reason through education, through socialisation, we may arrive at some kind of a consent of the individual to agree to the process of social perfectibility and putting their shoulder to the wheel of human progress. So these are the four that Sri Aurobindo introduces and these are the three sort of facts that he introduces. And I wanted to make a brief comment about these that when Sri Aurobindo was writing this chapter and this paragraph it was just after the Second World War, it was revised apparently and so he can govern the spectre of rise of all subjectivism of a very dangerous kind of nationalism was too much in the air as aftermath of the Second World War. So when he is talking about the nation-soul over there and the danger of misunderstanding the nation-soul this is very much what he is thinking about.

Now in today’s world to some extent perhaps this danger does not exist in the same way because there is a suspicion regarding this idea of nationalism to this degree of the submersion of the individual. But at the same time it may have risen in another form in that we find a large number of irrational philosophies and religions are now making their aim as the reaction to this rational drive for progress. And whether fundamentalists Islam or a variety of cults, in America we find so many cults including cults based on Hindu gurus etc. that seem to offer some kind of non-rational solution but they are all limited and in some ways they all demand a kind of orthodoxy, unquestioning belief is a surrender to some sort of unquestioned non-rational form of living. So I wanted to just touch on that Kireet ji. One more I wanted to point on and that is the spectre of the submersion of the individual into the socialist state which is the second one that he is introducing there that is to some extent seems to be somewhat averted or at least displaced. So we have now that particular kind of machinery is the machine of socialism that has been replaced somehow by a different kind of which seems to give the individual greater freedom but actually conditions the individual and even gives the various kinds of life styles and desires by which the individual live through very subtle methods of propaganda and of market control. So I wanted to sort of touch on that as well and then you know we are left in a condition where today machinery seems to have become rather subtle but it is still very much controlling us and even the forms of education that we have today are really forms of control by which subjectivities are manufactured so that we become such kinds of people who push the wheel of progress in a rational and in a sort of a egoistic manner and do see that the refusal to move into higher domain of consciousness or recognise the impasse. I am sorry for taking this long time.

Prof. Kireet Joshi: You have made three points. If you allow me I will first touch upon these three points, is that alright in order. Well, I would summarise your points by saying first that we are all trying to become very precise about what I call the nerve of the impasse today. You know there are so many ideas which have now come up before us and it is quite possible that we may lose the nerve of the impasse while speaking of many ideas. So let me first of all before returning to these three points that you have mentioned let me preface the reaction to your three comments by recapturing three important points, which need to be kept in view while examining the present impasse.

The first premise of the whole argument is that human nature is complex. We will not be able to get the nerve of the impasse unless we start with a statement that human nature is complex. And as Sri Aurobindo has explained and which I had quoted in full where Sri Aurobindo speaks of the mental, vital, physical, spiritual conglomeration in every individual and in the social fabric, these four points and the way in which they are all interwoven and that is what makes our nature and its movement very complex, that’s the first point. The second point is that there has been in the history of mankind a constant struggle to bring about some kind of a relation between the individual and the collectivity into some kind of a harmony or perfection. And the whole history of mankind as I had said can be read in the light of the constant conflict between the individual and the collectivity and the efforts made by the human race to bring these two terms into some kind of accommodation. The third point is, I have not referred to it up till now but I would like to present to you one paragraph once again from Sri Aurobindo and this is from The Human Cycle,which also I would like to read out because that also is a necessary part of the premise on which we are working, where Sri Aurobindo speaks of the three ages of The Human Cycle, this is on page no.173, of The Human Cycle, vol. no. XV of the centenary edition. And I will read that one paragraph in which once again Sri Aurobindo has summarised the whole history of humankind and emphasised three stages of this Human Cycle, corresponding to three basic elements in the human being,— the infrarational, the rational and the suprational, or physical-vital on the one hand and the mental in the middle and then the higher spiritual, which Sri Aurobindo has spoken in his description of the complexity of the human nature. Now in this paragraph Sri Aurobindo speaks of the social development going through these following three stages. And let me read out to you that particular paragraph where Sri Aurobindo says:

We have seen that there are necessarily three stages of the social evolution or, generally, of the human evolution in both individual and society. Our evolution starts with an infrarational stage in which men have not yet learned to refer their life and action in its principles and its forms to the judgment of the clarified intelligence; for they still act principally out of their instincts, impulses, spontaneous ideas, vital intuitions or obey a customary response to desire, need and circumstance,—it is these things that are canalised or crystallised in their social institutions. Man proceeds by various stages out of these beginnings towards a rational age in which his intelligent will more or less developed becomes the judge, arbiter and presiding motive of his thought, feeling and action, the moulder, destroyer and re-creator of his leading ideas, aims and intuitions. Finally, if our analysis and forecast are correct, the human evolution must move through a subjective towards a suprarational or spiritual age in which he will develop progressively a greater spiritual, supra-intellectual and intuitive, perhaps in the end a more than intuitive, a gnostic consciousness. He will be able to perceive a higher divine end, a divine sanction, a divine light of guidance for all he seeks to be, think, feel and do, and able, too, more and more to obey and live in this larger light and power. That will not be done by any rule of infrarational religious impulse and ecstasy, such as characterised or rather darkly illumined the obscure confusion and brute violence of the Middle Ages, but by a higher spiritual living for which the clarities of the reason are a necessary preparation and into which they too will be taken up, transformed, brought to their invisible source.

This is the paragraph in which Sri Aurobindo describes three stages through which the human cycle will proceed, the first of course has been completed, second is about to be ended, third is about to begin. This is Sri Aurobindo’s statement. Now if you read these three premises which are put before, we shall be able to get the real nerve of the impasse and the three points that you have raised in your comment can be better dealt with in the light of this precision that we may arrive at. The important point is, if human nature was not complex, if the human nature had not to pass through stages of development in a complex manner and if there was not a great difficulty in relating individual and the collectivity probably our historical development of the humankind or even of evolution would have been much smoother and much more rapid. But these three premises which have been laid down here indicate their process is rather difficult. Why it should be so difficult apart from the complexity of human nature and so on has another premise and that is Sri Aurobindo’s entire theory of evolution, to which we shall have time to refer later on but that also is a fact that there is today an evolutionary process and it is because of the evolutionary process that there is a groping movement and this groping movement is the characteristic of the entire history of mankind. In this groping movement it is not easy to forecast what exactly will happen. You might say certain stages can be more or less pre-staged. But the movement is a groping movement and there are a lot of possibilities. Now in that context because there is a groping movement there are many possibilities. What has actually happened is that the rationalistic age which began particularly with the renaissance through reformation and so on , that movement had a kind of a chequered movement. And it is that chequered movement of which postmodernism today is a culminating point, and we shall come to this chequered movement presently. In that chequered movement there has been enormous development of human consciousness on certain lines. And this enormous development has not been matched by development of other parts of our consciousness. and because of the mismatch the impasse has been created and this is one point that I would like to make precise that the root cause of the impasse is this that there has been particularly with the development of science which has produced huge structures of organisation, this has not been matched by the development of those elements of reason and inner consciousness of morality and aesthetics and other aspects of consciousness and spiritual element, these have not matched with the movement of science and huge structures it has constructed. This mismatch is the reason for the impasse.

Now even this impasse, even this difficulty would not have mattered very much if certain things had not happened. But it has happened, certain things could have happened, it could have been avoided but it has happened. And that is humanity's preponderance for the organisation of economic life. Now I would say that this was not an inevitable development, it could have been avoided, if reason had to develop in a different way, not the way in which it has developed so far, as I said a chequered movement of the rational development. The vital man, the materialistic man was always a possibility. The emergence of barbarism has always been affected in the human civilisation. And at this stage of human development perhaps this could have been avoided but it had resurged and in a tremendously powerful manner. As Sri Aurobindo says in the civilised form of human society, in which rational development of man has led us to, has been crossed by very powerful assertion of the economic, vitalistic man and by the powers of science and the hugeness of structure which can be put at the service of the economic man and the economic perfection, social development. This barbarism which has arisen now, it is that which has caused the precise point of the impasse.

As Sri Aurobindo points out that if mankind succumbs to this enormity of the economic man there may be even a failure of the human race and the future possibility of the human society evolving even into a spiritual age may be thwarted. Fortunately as I said something has happened and this not any more likely to be that is to say that there may not be this failure, but even then perils exist and it is these perils that we are trying to examine, and it is in that context that Sri Aurobindo speaks of three solutions which have been put forward today and the fourth one is the one which is likely to be put forth and which also will be kind of a question mark.

Now it is against this background that I would like to come back to your first question and that is about the tremendous pressure of postmodernism. I think postmodernism is the end of the physical endeavour. This is rather a brusque statement that I am making, it may be challenged by many and it may itself be a kind of a separate subject for discussion but if you examine the history of rationality, right from the time that Descartes, the father of modern philosophy spoke of cogito ergo sum, I think therefore I am, and arrived at the certainty of rational conclusion and developed the idea of the criterion of the truth, the clarity and precision of the idea and this culminated in the Spinozistic formation of a vast system of the philosophical perception of the world in which he emphasised that pure reason is obliged to conceive the infinite in which the universe is contained. To my mind this conclusion is of enormous significance and importance. His whole ethics is based upon this basic premise. Pure reason according to him conceives infinite or the absolute in which the whole universe is systematically contained.

Now this proposition however got challenged in Leibniz and while he accepted fundamentally Spinozistic position, he introduced the logic of the contingency as against Spinozistic concept that pure reason is by necessity obliged to conceive the infinite and Leibniz also pointed out that all the events in the world are not necessary, that there are events which are contingent and as a result of which he added one new law of logic — the Law of Sufficient Reason. And while the rationalistic movement reached this kind of a climax in Leibniz and in a sense you might say that Leibniz perhaps represents the pinnacle of intellectual thought, of idealistic rationalism. It is against this that there arose in the rationalistic movement a reaction and it is that which brought about a kind of a reaction in Locke in terms of conceiving of the human mind as the tabula rasa, exactly the opposite of what Descartes had said, according to whom thought is innate in human mind. And according to Locke the human mind is basically a tabula rasa,it has nothing inherent in it, all is derived by the experience of the senses which are recorded and graft in the human mind and therefore all knowledge is to be derived from experience. It is this which became more powerful, more developed in Berkeley and then it arrived at a final refinement in Hume and therefore Hume’s philosophy is conceived as the pinnacle of empericistic thought. Now this is a development which is also extremely important and we have to note what is the truth behind it and why it should have developed at all.

However in due course of time and particularly through Kant, who tried to reconcile both movements of rationalism, starting from Descartes to Leibniz and empiricism which has started from Locke to Hume, he reconciled by his Critique of Pure Reason and added also the Critique of Practical Reason. And that according to me is a very important landmark of rational development. Unfortunately however according to me Kant was not followed up in fullness, instead several lines developed out of Kant and they have still not become fully coordinated. You might say that the post Kantian development of rationality has so many different fronts. Logical positivism is one development, existentialism is another, phenomenology is another, pragmatism is still another and there are many other minor movements of rational development, rational thought. And all these ultimately today we are facing, what you have called postmodernist view of reason.

Now you pointed out that post-modernist movement is the latest and we have got to look into the challenge that it poses to the present situation of humanity and while considering these different statements of Sri Aurobindo, we have to find a place for the post-modernism and whether this is a kind of a farther complication, or makes even our present impasse a more rigid impasse or whether it liberates human mind to a new solution. Now that is why I would like to appreciate very much the point of view that you have raised and I would very briefly say that post-modernism is a stage of human reason, which allows a powerful movement of reassertion of the dogmatism of religions. I shall explain what I mean. Postmodernism is a new model form of utter relativism, utter scepticism and utter uncertainty. Now the human mind however cannot rest, cannot build anything in the state of uncertainty and many people find it difficult to refute this post-modernist attitude of the reason. Of course there are many ways by which attempts are made to meet postmodernism into which I will not enter just now but there are many, many ways by which attempts are being made. These attempts are being made on the side of empiricism, pragmaticism, even existentialism and so on. But to my mind all of them are inadequate. As a result of that, since human mind always seeks some kind of certainty and having seen that the present impasse is impossible to be broken the assertion of religion which was opposed to reason in many ways is bound to come forward to humanity presenting itself as a solution to the problems of mankind.

You referred just now to many movements which are going on, movements of fundamentalism, of various cults growing up and so on. It is to that movement that Sri Aurobindo had referred when he spoke of the fourth solution which was likely to be put forward, which he had already anticipated and today we are exactly at that point where religions are coming forward as a possible solution to the present impasse.

I have forgotten exactly your second point which you had mentioned, can you just repeat the second point you had mentioned.

Debashish: Kireet ji that was about, the first one as you said was about the spectre of the nation-soul and its replacement or displacement in terms of number of religious orthodoxies and cultic fundamentalisms and the second one was of socialism, of uniformity of a termite civilisation that Sri Aurobindo talks about and the possibility that that has also been replaced or displaced by subtler forms of machinery and control.

Prof. Kireet Joshi: Yes, this is true also because of the collapse of, particularly of Soviet Union, the communist structure. I would like to however say that in China however the communist thought has not disappeared and I do not think that it has completely disappeared. Communistic thought still continues to be a power and a force and we have to see how that force is going to shape the future or what contributions it is going to make to the future. In any case the thesis remains that even then human society will still be sought to be regularised by some kind of a not exactly under the communistic ideology but the idea that society can be regulating power over the individual. But there is today a kind of unprecedented resurgence of capitalism and this capitalistic philosophy is accentuated by the third solution that Sri Aurobindo had proposed. I must say that these are not his solutions, these are the solutions which he has only described as being put forth today by different thinkers as solutions for the present impasse. And that was to, you also had rightly pointed out the solution to be sought in enlightened reason and will of the normal man consenting to a new socialised life.

Now this statement may seem to be not exactly coincidental with the super capitalism of today because of the word — socialised life, because capitalism does not believe in socialised life. And yet if you examine the enormous structures which have come into existence, whatever may be the capitalistic philosophy, the very structures in which we exist today, even the highest form of capitalistic society will be obliged to present to mankind some kind of a rigid framework of social life and it is that which is the danger. Even though there may be the rule of some kind of a place of a consent, because capitalism is an advocate of the consent of man, the freedom of man. And even though there is a tremendous space which has been given to the present capitalism to the element of consent, even then the structure which is coming up in the world will oblige any social organisation to take this form of socialised life. So I think that although the situation has changed to some extent and the form has changed, the basic formula has not changed. It is the formula of the enlightened reason and will of the normal man consenting to a new socialised life. So this is my answer to your second point.

Prof. Kireet Joshi: Can you repeat your third point which you had mentioned.

Debashish: Yes, Kireet ji, basically with these points you have actually addressed the third point in addressing the second. The point I was making over there is that exactly as you said, it is a social organisation through machinery that capitalism also represents. But in a way it is more insidious, more invisible and it appears to release the individual to a certain kind of freedom, but it’s an illusionistic freedom because it really controls the individual through the conscience, through the creation of the subject. It makes us or manufactures us into certain kinds of desiring beings, who have a certain type of prospect in front of us of a life-style and also a kind of adherence to the progress of reason. But we do this in a sort of an invisible way that through education, through socialisation, we are made to feel as if we had chosen this path but it has actually been chosen for us. So it is the individual freedom of choice, which at a deeper level in some sense controlled rather than being coerced from outside by machinery, it is like a virus the machinery has gone inside us and has created us into a rational and egoistic desiring beings of the neo-liberalist global world order, that was what I was saying.

Prof. Kireet Joshi: I think you have covered the point quite well and I would like to sum up this our discussion by pointing out that the nerve of the impasse is the development of rationality, reaching up to a certain point and getting arrested as in post-modernism today and getting arrested on another line in the experiments which have been made on three ideals which reason has put forward namely, — Freedom and Equality and Fraternity. And the last several centuries have proved that these three ideals which reason demands should be perfectly synthesised and harmonised, cannot be harmonised. When liberty is allowed, equality is murdered, when equality is attempted, liberty is strangulated. And as far as brotherhood is concerned that is hardly at all in the picture except in ideas on a kind of lip service. This is another line on which our reason stands arrested and we do not really know how we can create a social structure, which can fulfil all the three ideals together and both these actually, the present postmodernism and secondly the arrestation of the experimentation in regard to liberty, equality and fraternity, the arrestation of these two movements, or the arrestation of the movement of reason on two lines combined together, is the nerve of the impasse. If you can move forward after this and today we are exactly at this point, we are now circling round and round and round, and it’s a perilous movement round and round because of the fact that the economic man, the barbarian has come forward as the most important element in the situation. So you might say that this is the impasse to which we have reached and I would like to now move forward to the fourth point that Sri Aurobindo had suggested would be likely namely solution of the religion, which is already now being advocated and which has already now come into the forefront and it is that point which I would like to consider before moving forward because even this solution which is being put forward by many, which would declare that reason has failed, let us leave aside reason and let us try to build a society on some other grounds, namely the grounds of religion.

Now this solution that is being put forward requires to be formulated more clearly and I would like to refer to a few lines in The Life Divine, on page no. 1058; where Sri Aurobindo has very precisely stated what exactly is the solution that is being put forward on the side of religion.

Sri Aurobindo says:

There is the possibility that in the swing back from a mechanistic idea of life and society the human mind may seek refuge in a return to the religious idea and a society governed or sanctioned by religion.

I think this is a very powerful statement and although this proposition has not absolutely been put forward in this precise form but there is a very big movement today in the world, where there is formula ‘return to the basic’, ‘return to the values’ and there is a tremendous urge among human beings today to find certainty and to escape this kind of uncertainty which has arisen all over, not only in the mental field but also uncertainty on account of factors like warming of the earth and so on.

Religion seems to be giving to mankind, a kind of a message. This message has three aspects, one that the reason is not the provider of knowledge that a human being requires for his journey. Secondly that there is another source of knowledge, namely revelation and this revelation cannot be questioned and if mankind wants to be guided it has to accept the truth revealed by revelation. And thirdly, there is a rule of conduct which is implied in the revelation, which if followed by human beings would give to the individuals a kind of a fulfilment and even a possibility of a perfected social living. These three propositions are involved in the call of religion.

Now on this subject Sri Aurobindo has written at length and in The Human Cycle particularly, Sri Aurobindo has spoken of reason and religion, one full chapter has been given by Sri Aurobindo entitled Reason and Religion, this is chapter no. XIII of The Human Cycle, it is part of the volume XV of the centenary edition and he has also given another chapter and that is the chapter entitled Religion as the Law of Life, and that is chapter number XVII, inThe Human Cycle. It is not my intention to go into these two chapters, I will simply state one sentence from The Life Divine, where Sri Aurobindo says that:

But organised religion, though it can provide a means of inner uplift for the individual and preserve in it or behind it a way for his opening to spiritual experience, has not changed human life and society; it could not do so because, in governing society, it had to compromise with the lower parts of life and could not insist on the inner change of the whole being; it could insist only on a credal adherence, a formal acceptance of its ethical standards and a conformity to institution, ceremony and ritual.

There is today however a more difficult situation that we are facing and that is the claim of certain religions to spread over the whole humanity and to convert the whole humanity into the fold of one religion or the other. That is to say to seek the unity of mankind by unifying all the people under the umbrella of one particular religion. And since several religions are doing the same thing or trying to do the same thing there is a tremendous rivalry among these religions and you might say that there is at present a possibility or partially even speaking actuality of the conflict of religions in full swing. And this is one stage through which I think humanity has to pass, unless something else happens and we can minimise the perils that this conflict of religions would pose to mankind. It is better therefore that humanity comes to study the problem of religion in its fullness, realise what religion can do, what religion cannot do and how one can transcend the necessity of returning to religions.

According to Sri Aurobindo this can be done first of all by pointing out that reliance upon dogma which is the kernel of many religions and which are sharply in conflict with each other, cannot give the solution that humanity is seeking. That is to say that first of all we have to understand the role of dogma in religion, secondly we have to realise that no religion can uplift a social life. A given religion can uplift a few individuals or even many individuals but human nature being very varied has tremendous variety of human consciousness, it is impossible that any one particular religion will be able to unify humanity and can uplift humanity.

The third point is that whatever religio-ethical practices that can be proposed cannot transform, cannot really uplift, it can purify to some extent, it can control to some extent and very often religions are obliged to turn into some kind of asceticism, a world negating affirmation in which the world is condemned to be meaningless ultimately, or a compromise in which a religious life and ordinary life both are allowed to some extent to live side by side. As a result there is no solution; that is why Sri Aurobindo says, this is on page 1059:

A total spiritual direction given to the whole life and the whole nature can alone lift humanity beyond itself. Another possible conception akin to the religious solution is the guidance of society by men of spiritual attainment, the brotherhood or unity of all in the faith or in the discipline, the spiritualisation of life and society by the taking up of the old machinery of life into such a unification or inventing a new machinery. This too has been attempted before without success; it was the original founding idea of more than one religion: but the human ego and vital nature were too strong for a religious idea working on the mind and by the mind to overcome its resistance. It is only the full emergence of the soul, the full descent of the native light and power of the Spirit and the consequent replacement or transformation and uplifting of our insufficient mental and vital nature by a spiritual and supramental supernature that can effect this evolutionary miracle.

Well this is the conclusion to which our study could lead to the exact point of impasse and the manner by which impasse can be crossed.

Now, Sri Aurobindo has said that this insistence upon the spiritual solution is not likely to be easily accepted.

Sri Aurobindo himself has pointed out that at first sight this insistence on a radical change of nature may seem to put off all the hope of humanity to a distant evolutionary future. Humanity is always demanding a solution and solution right now and anything that is put off for the future is considered to be a bright dream but of no practical utility. It is this important point that we need to dwell upon and I think it is already 8:15 now in my watch and maybe that I can stop here for the moment and ask if there are any comments or questions upto.. on whatever I have said so far.

Debashish, would you like to make any comment or some other friends who are listening to this would like to make a comment?

Debashish: Thank you so much Kireetji. I think I will defer and allow some.. somebody else since I've already spoken quite a big bit in the beginning. If anybody else.. I think what you have presented is a very very important and powerful consideration. Particularly, this entire very very important chapter on religion and the dangers that it presents to us today as a possible sort of half-baked solution out of our rational impasse. So I will in.. sort of, you know, pass on and allow anybody who wants to ask questions to go ahead and explore this further.

Vincent Masa: Can I make a comment?

Yes, yes, what is your name?

Vincent Masa: Vincent Masa.

Yes. Yes. Yes.

Vincent Masa: I just wanted to say that I found your talk, for me, extremely Illuminating. It's.. it's just put into form a lot of what I've been., it's made it easier for me to understand and put into the context of Sri Aurobindo, what is happening in the world. And that's a.. that's a wonderful thing. Anyways, thank you very much.

Thank you. Thank you so much.

Vincent Masa: I just wish I could put.. I just wish that.. wish that more knowledge to put that into, to draw on as you do it and it seems so familiar in.. in Sri Aurobindo's writings. It seems so real to you.. If you have that ability, as Debashish used, to recall all that. I just would.. I just wished I could do that or at some point be able to do that myself. Thank you.

Thank you. You know, I would like to make a short comment on what you said just now. In fact, you know, there was a very interesting question which was asked to the Mother when the works of Sri Aurobindo were being proposed to be taught in our center of education at Pondicherry. Between 1959 to 1973 we put many questions to the Mother on how to teach our students and almost every day there was some illumination coming from the Mother and one of the questions was put to her was:

How shall we teach the works of Sri Aurobindo to the students?

There were many debates among teachers.

You see, this was a very interesting question. Some people were saying we should not teach Sri Aurobindo at all because who can teach Sri Aurobindo? Some others said no, no, we should at least do something about them because such a big treasure available to all of us and our center of education is dedicated to Sri Aurobindo and if Sri Aurobindo is not taught at this center, where can it be taught? In any case many people felt that our students at least should know about Sri Aurobindo and should know about Sri Aurobindo quite well and if so, how can it be done? Some people thought that only Mother should be.. should be requested to teach Sri Aurobindo's works and nobody else.

A question was put to the Mother by a teacher saying Mother as far as spiritual teaching is concerned only Mother should teach our children and other teachers in the school should teach only physics, chemistry, biology; all that is concerning the world.

And Mother answered: that you are still making a big division between spirituality and earthly life. She said: what is not spiritual?

She went to.. she went to say that everything that is to be taught, whether it's mathematics or physics or chemistry or biology or geography or history, all that is a vibration of the Spirit. And then she dwelt on this at length and it made a tremendous impact upon the teachers of ours center of education.

Another question was just put was: Mother, how shall we teach a given book of Sri Aurobindo? One teacher said shall I read one passage from Sri Aurobindo and then all sit (in) meditation on that paragraph? Or shall we not even read? but only go to the class, open the book and tell students: you read this paragraph silently and we all meditate on it? Or shall we explain what Sri Aurobindo has said?

These were alternatives put to the Mother.

And mother said that the teacher should not be a screen between Sri Aurobindo and the student. That is to say, the teacher should not act as a kind of a glass, as a screen which can stop, some kind of passage that comes out of the light that comes from Sri Aurobindo, which is passing towards students. The role of the teacher, Mother said, is that the teacher gives a full background of the problem that Sri Aurobindo is dealing with in a given book, or a given passage, to which you want to refer. And that background should lead the students to the presence of a problem in all its acuteness. So the students are led to seek the solution for it. And then you should present the solution as Sri Aurobindo has given. But in presenting the solution of Sri Aurobindo care must be taken to see that the teacher does not become a screen. You may read one of the.. you may read a passage of Sri Aurobindo, you can point out whatever you want to point out. but the passage of Sri Aurobindo should come as an illumination to the students in which the solution is found by them.

In another context when this question was put to the Mother, she said, Sri Aurobindo should not be read book by book. But you should be able to take a problem and bring whatever Sri Aurobindo has written in different books on the same subject and present to the students a coordinated picture of what Sri Aurobindo has said on that subject.

Well, these are the things that Mother spoke of and in my own life I have tried to.. to follow this to the extent to which my effort could provide and that is the reason why I began to read Sri Aurobindo in a different manner and that is why some.. somewhat you might find in my exposition some reflection of what effort I have made but I must tell you that I am extremely aware of my inadequacy and I very much hesitate whenever I speak of Sri Aurobindo and I always pray to the Mother that I do not become a screen in any way and those who read.. those who are with me and reading with me Sri Aurobindo should really get directly what Sri Aurobindo has said. So you will pardon me if I am.. actually I always after doing my work on any book on Sri Aurobindo if I speak about it, I always go to Sri Aurobindo and say please pardon me. I have distorted what you wanted to say, but let it be now covered by you and you kindly clear the path and that all those who heard me today, read you directly and receive from you directly what you have to say to them.

So when you made this comment, I felt inspired to tell you my inner story to this extent.

Vincent Masa: Thank you. I think yeah, your teaching is wonderful. I personally think of myself as a student. I don't ever think of being a teacher. I just think of being a student forever. There's so much to learn from Sri Aurobindo. For so many years I just sat there at the Samadhi in the.. I mean I just didn't do anything, just sat and felt it all and it may be now, years and years later, it's starting to come out as a need to put into intellectual form what I learned.. might get some inner place in me learned, but thank you. That was just truly wonderful to me, yeah.

Thank you. Thank you.

Debashish: Kireetbhai..


Debashish: If I may, you know sort of ask a question or raise a certain sort of area of.. for illumination because this is a very vast area and I hope that even in our next meeting we can continue to deal with it to some extent but in one of my conversations with you when I was at Delhi, I recollect something you said which may have some bearing on this issue of religion and even on the issue of.. of the movement of the teaching of Sri Aurobindo and the people who follow Sri Aurobindo today. I remember you talking about a variety.. as you said man is a complex being.. and a variety of inner faculties which are necessary even for emerging into a spiritual life and you mentioned that often this religious part begins with a psychic enthusiasm and often it stays stuck at the level of a psychic enthusiasm without a sufficient amount of rational decision coming into play of becoming part of the journey. Would you like to comment on this as maybe one of the promising beginnings but something which may actually become arrested and fall into the trap of Religion?

WelI, I think I'm very happy to receive this question from you. It is true that when we discussed this question in our Delhi meeting I have always felt that there is a tendency among many of us to belittle the role of the Reason. In fact belittling the role of Reason has been a special characteristic of Religion.

Now it is true that in the writings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother there is a very great emphasis in a statement:

"Don't be too mental."

And this statement is often greatly satisfying to many people who do not want to make a mental effort. But as Mother and Sri Aurobindo have said, do not make their statements as a dogma. They have said exactly the opposite also when they have said "don't be too mental" they also underlined the necessity of mental development and a very vast development of the mind.

That statement "don't be too mental" is for people who have really developed a vast intellectuality and who becomes stuck in intellectuality and it has become a kind of an obstacle to their opening to higher faculties of consciousness. But for the people who have not yet developed the muscles of the intellect, I think Mother's message for intellectual development is very clear.

If you read Mother's book called "On Education", there is one full chapter on the mental education. And I think in a short chapter, she has underlined the tremendous importance of mental development and she has said that mind should develop clarity, complexity, power of analysis, power of synthesis, power of concentration, and power to be silent whenever you want to be silent, and open up the mind to intuitive knowledge.

I think this is the most powerful and most concise statement on what is expected of all of us to develop.

Mental education is very important. And as against Religion, you said that sometimes there is a danger of falling into the trap of the narrowness of Religion and that danger should be always kept in view so that we may not fall into that danger. And that is why, in fact, we should read Sri Aurobindo. And to most of us she said we should read "The Life Divine" and "The Synthesis of Yoga". And you can realise what a tremendous mental development is needed when Mother said: to be able to read "The Life Divine" you have to prepare for 10 years, as a preparation. Then you can read "The Life Divine".

So I think if you keep in mind this aspect we shall be protected from falling into this trap. And I think we all need to understand this.

There is also another point I would like to refer to and that is there is a very important chapter in "The Synthesis of Yoga" where Sri Aurobindo speaks of intuitive mind in which he describes four methods by which one can grow into the intuitive mind. And he says that all the four are to be combined. It is not as if four are optional methods. Although in your development you may use one or the other to begin with but gradually all the four methods have to be developed.

And one of the four methods is perfection of the intellectual faculty, is itself a method of entering into intuitive mind.

The other method of course is of silencing the mind; which is also necessary.

The third method is the development of offering one's consciousness to the Divine.

And the fourth method is to lift our entire consciousness and to make it fixed into Sahasrara, into the highest chakra, which is on the head of the crown of the brain. And to open it up from there.

And all the four methods are important and in our yoga I think we need to develop all the four methods. And from that point of view, even the kind of reading a study we are doing is part of that yoga and we are trying to.. to open up through the development of intellectual faculty and also many other things which are going on at the same time, to open up to intuitive consciousness.

Is that alright? as my answer to your question?

Debashish: Yes, yes Kireetji. Thank you so much.

Kireet Ji: If you don’t have a question, I can put a question, is it allowed?

Debashish: Certainly.

You know this problem that I am exploring with all of us here is a problem which requires a study of theHuman Cycle, The Life Divine, Synthesis of Yoga and also that great book called The Supramental Manifestation on the Earth and I do not know if our friends who are here, I can get a background as to how much of these four books they are acquainted, so that you know whenever I come here on Friday evening on this table, I ask myself whether I am not taking too much of your time in expounding certain things but if I knew that you already have background of this or that or that it will help me to modulate myself and to not to bother you too much with something you do not wish to enter into. Now is it possible for me to have from each one of you some kind of an idea as to how much the thing I am dealing in regard to these books and what kind of treatment would you like me to follow so that you know I am always aware that everybody has pressure of time and I should not encroach upon anyone and one should not feel that somebody’s time is wasted. I would like to therefore to understand how much I should talk and on what to talk and to what extent you would like this to go on because this topic is of such a large measure that one can go on for one full year or one can finish in three lectures or four lectures because I want to receive from you as to what extent whether you would finish the exposition in the next two lectures or three-four lectures or what is your measure, I would be happy to learn about it, so that I can summarise or I can expand according to what you would like to have, anybody to answer this question?

Participant: No one else, I still don’t have any answer. I like the format very much, I am speaking for myself, I feel like the time we have is short. I have lots of free time so it may not be very representative but I really like the format that we have and I hate to put it into any limited type of framework. The place at which Debasish features for instance or reads to his book-group The Life Divine is I think very fine, I kind of like to see our workshop with you to just continue as long as it can.

Prof. Kireet Ji: Thank you I must assure you that I will not like to go beyond at most ten such sessions with you.

Participant: Ok.

Prof. Kireet Ji: Ok, is it a good measure for all the members here?

Debashish: Kireet Bhai actually if somebody wants to say something about it they are welcome, but I think you don’t need to feel constrained with any limited number of sittings on this Kireet Bhai because I also feel that we have embarked on this journey with completely open sort of ocean in front of us, so you know it is such an important topic and it really depends on the state of consciousness of those who are listening to you and to your own inspiration and what and how they would like to or we would like to collectively like to develop this, so I encourage you to just keep yourself open to the possibility of its developing as it you know enfolds itself.

Prof. Kireet Ji: All right. ………

Debashish: Also Kireet Bhai from my knowledge people are not speaking up, I just wanted to mention that from my personal interaction with all these participants that are gathered around you, they all have a fair amount of reading into all the texts that you have mentioned that we have actually most of these people have been, you know we sort of we have been studying Life Divine together for quite some time and also we have had occasion to study together various parts of Synthesis of Yoga as well as most of them have personally studied through Synthesis and you know The Human Cycle also, many of us have studied together; when I was leading study-groups in the Sri Aurobindo Centre in Los Angeles. So most of them have also read it themselves and so what they have around you are fairly well informed students of Sri Aurobindo, all who have read all the texts to some good degree and so their familiarity is fairly good. I think the level at which you are pitching your discussions is Kireet Bhai very, very nice and I think everybody appreciates them very much because it is extremely cogent and it brings us into an engagement with the real issues of what our problems today are and as you said provide the background for the full reception of Sri Aurobindo’s guidance. 8.35

Prof. Kireet Joshi: Good, well I’ll try to do my best and I’ll continue because I feel very happy to be talking about this. It gives me a great opportunity to learn once again to go through these works.

Debashish: I wanted to since you know we have little time left, I wanted to make one more comment, you know regarding your today’s sort of lecture…….. I was mentioning that one aspect of what you addressed us with today was this beautiful sweep of Western philosophy in a nutshell pointing out how the problem of rationality and its various dimensions have been covered through the history of modern Western philosophy, I also wanted to touch briefly on this issue of post-modernism and is regarding sort of ultra-relativism of post-modernism……….I was saying that the problem of ultra-relativism which is ………I was speaking of the ultra-relativism as a possibility and also as you said draw into some kind of irrationality like this we can see that may be even in its beginning sort of the founder is Martin Heidegger and you know though he is a very brilliant philosopher for he can open us to spiritual directions as well. There is a faded law in his life, people talk about a lot which is that he became a member of Nazi Party, so you know all his philosophy could not prevent him from going in that false direction but also I think as a result of that the post-modern philosophers that have followed Heidegger have been very conscious and very critical of this particular aspect so that there is place within post-modernism itself, particularly against any form of dogma or any form of social control by rational or…. I was saying maybe within the movement of postmodernism there is a purification impulse and I was saying that maybe there is a internal movement within the form of philosophy itself and the purification could be seen how far it will lead out of you know what we might call a ultra-relativism and the possibility of, yes that is all Kireet Bhai…..

Prof. Kireet Joshi: I lost you but I would like to comment on what you said, can I?

Debashish: Yes, please.

Prof. Kireet Joshi: You know I think that if you all agree, we could spend some time next time on a brief survey, a brief survey that you can make on the history of Reason from modern times to post-modernism and in the light of the claims of religion and the claims of spirituality because it is a subject on which we all need to go into some depth to be able to understand how to come out of the impasse. Even if you have understood where the impasse is, you see the impasse is that Reason has led to the present condition and Reason is now not able to move forward as it ought to or it can and even if it can and ought to it still needs a supra-rational light. Now this is the basic point that we need to be precise about and that can be done if for example, you have made a very good study of post-modernism which I have not but I would like to learn from you something more about it and maybe that we can have a short discussion on what is Reason exactly. What is rationality and what is spirituality, it will be a good subject. It will be a good subject for example we have one session only on this subject, what is rationality and how we can, where it is arrested and how it is arrested and how it can move forward.

Debashish: I think that would be wonderful. I will not presume to give a whole background, I can say a few words next time what is the movement of postmodernism and how it addresses the issue of rationality and as well as of irrationality both these and then we can proceed from there.

Riche: Because you know we are talking of postmodernism and relativism of knowledge, I would like to point out that just one part of the postmodernist programme, the other part is critique of power and power structures and the chief among them is the critique of the whole power structure and what we are calling machinery here. Then for the next time Debashish we can also consider not just the limitation of rationality but Sri Aurobindo talks about a progressive evolution and one can look back and see during the time he was writing that notions of progress, word meant the idea of evolution and of course since the two wars and progress sort of has led us on to the abyss of total destruction there is a huge critique in post-modernism regards this notion of progress, verses progressive evolution and perhaps there could be something else that we can touch on next time how one sort of works with this idea of progressive evolution.