Thursday, August 14, 2008

Sri Aurobindo and the use of religious symbols in the Indian Freedom Movement

The Political Goddess: Aurobindo's Use of Bengali kta Tantrism to Justify Political Violence in the Indian Anti-Colonial Movement
269 – 292 Author: Rachael Fabish

The notion of a goddess being used to inspire young men to throw bombs may at first seem far-fetched. But what if that goddess is Kalī? Fierce Kalī—who stalks proudly through the Bengali imagination, dripping blood, scantily clad in tiger-skin and severed human body parts, slaying and devouring countless demons? Early in the twentieth century, Bengali philosopher and activist Aurobindo Ghosh (1872-1950), a key figure in the development of Indian nationalism, glimpsed the potential of Kalī-worship as a potential tool of political mobilisation to promote revolutionary terrorism, and forged a movement around the fearsome Tantric goddess that culminated in a rash of revolutionary terrorist acts against the ruling British colonial regime.

* This essay is a modified version of a paper submitted to the 15th NZASIA International Conference, Auckland University, November 2003: 'Asia: Images, Ideas, Identities'. It is drawn from my unpublished Master's Thesis entitled 'The Political Goddess: Aurobindo and the Use of Religious Symbols in the Indian Freedom Movement'. Please see this thesis for further evidence from Aurobindo's writings and development of the argument I present in this essay.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Let's not lose sight of the larger goal of self-transformation

My two cents as an Aurobindoan: I've written about this topic on my blog, but, I fear, in a way that generally tends to offend all sides involved in this debate.
I understand that as queer people we are very wounded and there is a need for "queer-centric" spirituality sometimes just to bring attention to the sort of collective wounds we have endured (and growing up in an Islamic country, I've suffered many traumas, so I know firsthand how these wounds feel).
However, I take the Foucauldian position that the very creation of sexual and gender categories is used as a tool of oppression. And this is very consistent with the Vedantic philosophy which sees the life-force (of which sexuality is a mundane aspect) as essentially one -- the life-force merely crystallizes into various forms at the divided physical level. In truth, eros is universal, equal to all, and has no preferences.
It is easy to turn our LGBT identities into another ego-mask and sink into a sense of victimhood -- whereby we refuse to recognize our participation in the queerphobia, homophobia and transphobia in society. Yes -- unconsciously we *do* participate in these things and we ourselves internalize these phobias. I often feel that we use the masks of these identities to avoid facing our own shadows. And then there is always the danger of a kind of collective ego developing, which takes you further away from your true soul, your true identity.
However, of course every single group has its relative gifts to offer in this evolutionary journey. Within the integral yoga community, I've been told that the greater visibility being given to LGBT people shows that humanity is growing out of its immature attachment to a binary gender system, and is starting to see love as not being wedded to physical nature or procreation. So LGBT identities *are* playing their role in propelling humanity to a higher evolutionary state.

But in the end, I just feel that these relative identities are very limited. I am not denying that there *are* relative spiritual gifts that are offered by LGBT people, but what I'm saying is that in truth, each person is a *unique* soul -- and the soul transcends and is above all our external identities. The soul is the *highest* individuality. Each soul is potentially a *creator* -- the creator of something completely new and original, something never seen before. As long as we cling to external identities and external group identities -- which I don't deny is often necessary given the extent of the emotional wounds we sometimes sustain -- our soul and its *unique gifts* will remain forever hidden from us.
Even as we stand up for our right to express our LGBT identities, let's not lose sight of the larger goal of self-transformation. Posted by: ned August 04, 2008 at 11:41 AM

PJ, I guess I should qualify everything I write as saying that it's where *I* am personally and it's what I am trying to live right now -- but it may not be right for others.
In the spiritual/yogic view, your true individuality *is* realized in the One. What we typically refer to as our individual ego, from the yogic viewpoint, is hardly "individual" or "unique" at all -- it's weighed down by attachments to the past, neuroses and atavisms inherited from our parents and cultures, and so on.
What I aspire for yogically is to be free of all these attachments to the past and be liberated to create the future -- and to create something truly new and unique. The point I was making was that ego-based identities are always sort of coping mechanisms that we use to avoid letting this true self or soul emerge. That doesn't mean they aren't necessary or helpful -- we certainly do have to put up a facade for the world in order to not disturb it too much. But the real "me" lies somewhere much deeper than my superficial outer ego-personality. And the real "me" is always going to be something of a Mystery, something I can't quite label or put my finger on. Posted by: ned August 05, 2008 at 11:21 AM