Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sri Aurobindo’s theory of a spiritualised Ethics

Home > E-Library > Magazines >  Sraddha > November 2010 > Contents
What is the Significance of the name“Arya”? Sri Aurobindo 7
Sri Aurobindo and The Mystery of Death Srimat Anirvan 11
Sri Aurobindo’s Commentary on Kenopanishad Sarnath Basu 17
Veda Vyasa’s Mahabharata in Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri Prema Nandakumar 23
Sri Aurobindo on ‘The Two Negations’: Reconsideration of the Materialism Spiritualism Debate R C Pradhan 35
Charles Darwin and Sri Aurobindo: Evolutionists With a Difference Tapan Banerjee 46
Reviving the Vedic Aryan Anuradha Choudry 62
Sanskrit: A Language of Integral Perfection Sampadananda Mishra 81
Modes and Aspects of Self in Hindu Philosophy in the Light of Sri Aurobindo’s Explanation Arun Chatterjee 92
Epistemology of Perception Sandeep Joshi 111
Emotion and its Transformation Larry Seidlitz 120
Reflections on Jouissance as Ananda Prithwindra Mukherjee 134
Genius of Civilisations M S Srinivasan 152
Spiritualty and the Crisis in Contemporary Multiculturalism Sachidananda Mohanty 165
“Seer Deep-Hearted”: A Metrical Fragment by Sri Aurobindo : Sri Aurobindo’s
Contributions Toward a Global Spiritual Culture Shraddhavan 174
The Theme of Urvashi in the Indian Renaissance : Madhusudan Datta, Rabindranath Tagore, Sri Aurobindo Ranajit Sarkar 188
To a few are given the vision and dream to build a new world, a new earth. Fewer still are those who have the daring and the courage to tread the thorny path that leads to our summit selves ever resplendent with an unsetting sun, and bring down from those glorious ‘splendour-peaks’ into this vale of tears ‘the calm, the light, the power, the bliss, the freedom, the wideness, the heights of knowledge, the seas of Ananda’. It is left to the Avatar to accomplish that task and make it happen. Such was the mission of Sri Aurobindo, the Avatar of the Supermind. […]
December 5, 1950 being the day when Sri Aurobindo left his earthly body to help more fully his work of transformation, we have included in this issue an early writing of Srimat Anirvan, the great yogi, mystic, Vedic scholar and philosopher, which was published in Asia No.2 from Saigon, Vietnam in 1951.

Emotion and its transformation
Larry Seidlitz
As with many things in Sri Aurobindo’s writings, we find in his treatment of emotions a great paradox together with its synthesis and resolution. On one hand, emotions are presented in the most disparaging terms, as the centre stage for all suffering, perversion, and sordid obscurity. On the other hand, emotions are viewed as not only deriving from the ineffable Ananda or Bliss which is the very nature and substance of the Divine Existence, but they are also a powerful means into the very heart of that Ananda. So let us look at this mystery of emotions, examine their nature, and trace the lines of their transmutation and divinisation as explained by Sri Aurobindo. […]
We see this character most clearly in certain emotions such as anger, irritation, hatred, jealousy, envy, greed, and lust. But similarly, sadness, despair, and grief typically arise in reaction to the disappointment of an egoistic demand or claim, however justifiable it may seem. Fear and anxiety both have an instinctive quality, and may arise spontaneously due to conditioning with various harmless stimuli.
These negative emotions are the source of much human suffering, but what about our positive emotions, such as love and joy? Here, too, when we scratch the surface we often find them to be egoistic in nature and not very pure. […] The fullness of Ananda comes with Oneness of our consciousness and nature with the Divine; suffering comes from limitation and separation of our consciousness and nature from the Divine. A purified Love and a sincere surrender of our whole being to the Divine are at once a path towards, and the very nature of, that Oneness and Delight. [Consciousness and its transformation: Papers presented at the Second International Conference on Integral Psychology]

Reflections On Jouissance As Ananda
Prithwindra Mukherjee
Ego as conceived in the West seems to have attracted quite a number of contemporary investigations as well as - very often - misled them. Recently I have gone through an original, ambitious and complex essay to explore its limits and the way to determine how such an enterprise can be of any help to any ethical or spiritual quest. The author, an Indian “feminist” teaching abroad, offers a critique of European psychoanalysis with references to Indian philosophy, and a selective examination of colonial to post-colonial literature.
The book rightly deplores the staunch resistance of Freud and Lacan to any theory of the ‘sublime’ (so to say spirituality), even before  situating - in contrast – a French “feminist” like Luce Irigaray’s welcoming approach to  jouissance as the closest to  ananda or ‘Joy’  (which, in Indian tradition, is the first of  the three attributes of the Divine, the other two being  chit or ‘Consciousness’ and  sat or ‘Existence’). The author strives to find in her extended idea of jouissance the simultaneous juxtaposition of the corporeal and the spiritual dimensions perceptible in  a human being. For her, ananda is not only the means of “ego-transcendence” — as suggested by as yet living and traditional scriptures like the Upanishads — but, once the “absolute” (Divine) is achieved, in a complementary process this transcendence can lead even to bring the same “absolute” down to the more or less material sheaths — body, life and mind — of our being, as has been viewed and most logically elaborated in the recent years in Sri Aurobindo’s vast synthesis, especially in his magnum opus,  The Life Divine.
Hailing from a land where — down three thousand years at least, extended over an area of a full-blooded continent — a score of languages share the daily experiences of the common citizen practising, apparently, several parallel religious creeds, food habits, clothing styles, our scholar is no exception to other birds of feather aiming at a cross-cultural approach to any given subject, in order to do justice to the full implications embedded in the themes chosen.

Spirituality And The Crisis In Contemporary Multiculturalism
Sachidananda Mohanty
My entry point into the subject will be through the following set of questions: What is the link between contemporary Multiculturalism and the search for a new ethics in late capitalism?  What role do we envision for languages of the world in the ongoing identity politics in civil society? How does this search translate itself in our communitarian lives? And finally, how does it go beyond the conventional understanding of education and culture to newer paradigms?
Conventional reading of Sri Aurobindo tends to make a rigid and somewhat trenchant distinction between Morality, Ethics and Spirituality. In some quarters, the polarisation has been accentuated in order to deny any creative interface among the three categories. Viewed from this rigid angle, Spirituality is supposed to supplant Morality or Ethics. Some argue that no judgment is ever possible regarding human actions. Can we have cultural relativism of the Post-Modern kind? How can communities govern themselves in the absence of a code of conduct howsoever flexible it may be?
The aim of this essay is to take a fresh look at a problem that has come to be at the forefront of spiritual communities, the State and the Civil Society today. Basing myself on some of the best thought in the field, I shall argue that Sri Aurobindo’s theory of a spiritualised Ethics offers an alternative set of life values that can serve the interests of a growing individual, as indeed an enlightened social order.
In the first part of this essay, I shall try and sum up the achievements and limitations of contemporary multiculturalism, especially the Anglo-American kind as theorised in the metropolitan academia. Although my thinking is grounded in a multidisciplinary terrain, I am primarily concerned with the debates in literary studies. The public face of this debate, in recent times, has been the question of the literary canon formations and sensibilities. I shall argue that the key aspects of these debates centre on the question of defining an alternative ethics.
In the second part, I shall suggest that we have regrettably limited our effort by considering primarily two dominant models: namely that of religious nationalism and secular modernity.  We need to go beyond these polarities and bring in hitherto marginalised paradigms that could mediate between competing identities rooted to rival claims of language and culture.
The question of the use of languages for inter-cultural dialogue acquires a new urgency in the context of India’s 9 X 11. In a tragi-comic sense, language has taken centre stage in the cross-border blame game. Always central to intelligence and espionage, language today seems to have gone beyond its traditional role in international relations. Asked to explain about the weapons of mass destruction, after the so called liberation of Iraq by the coalition forces, Donald Rumsfeld, the U.S Defence Secretary is reported to have said in a somewhat Derridean manner: “the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence!” […] How then can we restore to language the power of wonder in late capitalism?
Languages are more than a means of communication and civic convenience. They typify our life experience and shape our troubled past and fragile futures. It is time we made them part of the solution we desperately seek. It is only then that a new spiritualised ethics can truly promote a dialogue of civilisations.

Notes on Authors
Anirvan, Srimat, a Bengali/Hindu monk, writer, Vedic scholar and philosopher, was born on July 8, 1896 in the town of Mymensingh, then a part of British India and now in Bangladesh. His birth name was Narendrachandra Dhar. He was the son of Rajchandra Dhar, a doctor, and Sushila Devi. He was a spiritually and intellectually-inclined child, who by age 11 had memorised the Astadhyayi of Panini and the Bhagavad Gita. He was named  Baroda Brahmachari after going through the sacred thread ceremony. He also won a state scholarship as a teen and completed university IA and BA degrees at the University of Dhaka and an MA from the Sanskrit College of the University of Calcutta. At 16, he joined the Assam Bangiya Saraswata Math ashram, located in the village of Kokilamukh near Jorhat in Assam. He was a disciple of the ashram’s founder, Paramahansa Srimat Swami Nigamananda Saraswati Dev, who initiated him into sannyas. Anirvan’s new monastic name was Nirvanananda Saraswati. He taught at the ashram school and edited its monthly magazine Aryadarpan. Some time after 1930, Nirvanananda changed his name to Anirvan. He travelled widely in North India, eventually returning to Assam and establishing an ashram in Kamakhya near Guwahati. However, he continued to travel. In the 1940s, when he was living in Almora, Madame Lizelle Reymond documented some of this period in My Life with a Brahmin Family (1958) and To Live Within (1971). During this time, Sri Anirvan translated Sri Aurobindo’s The Life Divine into Bengali (as Divya Jeevan Prasanga); which was hailed by Sri Aurobindo himself as ‘a living translation’. In 1953, Sri Anirvan moved to Shillong in Assam. His reputation as a Vedic scholar grew; and he wrote chiefly in Bengali on various aspects of Hindu philosophy, particularly Samkhya, the Upanishads, the Gita and Vedanta and the parallels between Rigvedic, Puranic, Tantric and Buddhist thought. His magnum opus, Veda Mimamsa, was published in three volumes in 1961, 1965 and 1970. This work won him the Rabindra award. Sri Anirvan made his final move, to Kolkata, in 1965, where he died on May 31, 1978, after a six-year illness.
Anuradha Choudry, a graduate from the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, Puducherry, completed her Ph.D in Sanskrit on Vedic Psychology from Pondicherry University and became an Erasmus Mundus Scholar for an MLitt in European Humanities at the Universities of St. Andrews, Scotland and Bergamo, Italy. Presently, she is a free lance instructor for Sanskrit as Yoga for organisations like Auroville International, the Netherlands, the School of Philosophy and others. As a volunteer with Samskrita Bharati, Anuradha is an active advocate of Spoken Sanskrit and regularly conducts workshops on experiencing the transformative power of Sanskrit sounds. Apart from her passion for Sanskrit she is deeply committed to the cause of human harmony and has recently started a project called Ekataa which invites all human beings to celebrate our common humanness for 11 minutes at midnight on 1.1.11 (One.One.Eleven).
Arun Chatterjee is a Professor Emeritus at the University of Tennessee in USA, where he taught for 34 years.  He currently lives in Knoxville, Tennessee, with his wife Kalpana.  He grew up in Kolkata, and he did postgraduate study (Master’s and Ph.D.) in USA.  Although his formal education is in Engineering, he has been studying philosophy and religion informally at the university for many years. He came to Pondicherry with his parents in 1949 when he was a child and had the Darshan of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. His father late Shyama Charan Chatterji translated three books of Sri Aurobindo in Bengali for the Ashram.
Larry Seidlitz  ( is a faculty member of Sri Aurobindo Centre for Advanced Research (SACAR) in Pondicherry, where he facilitates online university courses on Sri Aurobindo’s teachings. Originally from the USA, he has worked at SACAR for the past six years. He also is editor of Collaboration, a USA based journal on the Integral Yoga (also available in India), and co-editor of New Race: A Journal of Integral Studies published by the Institute of Human Study, Hyderabad. Before coming to India, Larry was involved with several Sri Aurobindo Centres in the USA, and worked as a psychologist at the University of Rochester Medical Centre.
Prema Nandakumar obtained her Ph.D  in 1961 for her study of Sri Aurobindo’s epic poem Savitri.  Since then, she has been an independent researcher, publishing critical and biographical works. As a translator, her career spans half a
century, with the UNESCO publishing her book on Subramania Bharati.  Dr. Nandakumar’s translation into English of Manimekalai, the ancient Buddhist epic in Tamil has been received with enthusiasm. She is also a creative writer in English and Tamil.  One of her recent  publications is K.R. Srinivasa Iyengar, a monograph on her father for Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi (2008).  Dr. Nandakumar is a frequent keynote speaker and draws her inspiration from sources as varied as the Vedas, ancient Hindu and Buddhist epics, ancient and modern Indian literature.  She is a recipient of several awards, including the Sri Aurobindo Puraskar and Panditha Ratna.
Prithwindra Mukherjee (Kolkata, 1936) joined the Ashram in 1948; after his studies - languages, literature, philosophy, history, music (North and South Indian, Western) - he taught at the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education (1955-66). The Mother opened his eyes to the art and the science of translation. With a French Government Scholarship (1966-70), he defended his University Doctorate, and the State Doctorate (1986) on pre-Gandhian freedom movement in India. Taught in two Paris faculties and produced features for Radio France (1972-81). Visited the U.S. archives with a Fulbright Scholarship, before joining the department of ethnomusicology, CNRS  (1981-2003). Author of more than 60 books, 400 articles. Henri Dutilleux has set to music one of PM’s French poems for an opus for voice and orchestra.   Recipient of the Sri Aurobindo Award. The French Government appointed him Knight in the Order of Arts & Letters (2009).
Ramesh Chandra Pradhan is at present Professor of Philosophy at the University of Hyderabad. He has specialised in the area of Western Philosophy, especially in Analytic Philosophy, Philosophy of Language and the Philosophy of Wittgenstein. He has authored several books in these areas. He has also interest in Metaphysics, both Indian and Western. He has keen interest in the philosophy of Sri  Aurobindo.
Ranajit Sarkar (b.1932) At the age of 12, he joined Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry; studied and later taught there at the International Centre of Education. In 1965 went to France, studied at the Sorbonne; he got his doctorate at the University of Aix-Marseille. From 1970 until his retirement he taught Sanskrit literature and Indian culture at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands. He has published poems, literary studies and Sri Aurobindo’s thoughts. He lives in the Netherlands.
Sachidananda Mohanty is Professor, Department of English, University of Hyderabad. He is the recipient of several national and international awards including those from the British Council, the Salzburg, the Katha and the Fulbright and the U.G.C. He has to his credit  21 books in English and in Oriya including D.H.Lawrence Studies in India, 1990,  Lawrence’s Leadership Politics and the Defeat of Fascism, 1992,  Understanding Cultural Exchange, Vision Books 1997,  Literature and Culture, Prestige, 2000 Travel Writing and the Empire, Katha, 2002; 2003, Early Women’s writing in Orissa, 1898-1950: A Lost Tradition, Sage Publications,2005, Gender and Cultural Identity in Colonial Orissa, Orient Longman 2008, and  Sri Aurobindo: A Contemporary Reader, Routledge India,2008. His essays and articles have appeared in some of the leading journals and forums in the country including India Today, The Hindu, The Indian Express, The New Quest, The Book Review and Economic and Political Weekly.
Sampadananda Mishra is working as Chief Coordinator, Sanskrit and Indian culture, in Sri Aurobindo Society, Puducherry. He is the author of several books including ”Sanskrit and the Evolution of Human Speech”, “Sri Aurobindo and Sanskrit”, “Chandovallri: A Handbook of Sanskrit Prosody,”The Wonder that is Sanskrit”. Dr. Mishra also conducts workshops, teacher’s training programmes, orientation courses, gives talks, presents papers in National and International seminars and conferences. He also writes popular articles related to India and Sanskrit in English, Oriya and Sanskrit, and composes verses and songs. He conducts special workshops on Sanskrit Alphabet and effective chanting of mantras in Sanskrit.
Sandeep Joshi is a computer engineer by profession currently living in the USA. He received initiation into Raja Yoga at the age of fifteen through a teacher in Bombay (Mumbai), who was also instrumental in introducing him to the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. He writes an Integral Yoga blog at
Sarnath Basu is a retired Professor of Philosophy from Burdwan University. He had been teaching at Jogmaya Devi College and also at the University of North Bengal. His special areas of study are the Nyaya Vaisesika, Advaita Vedanta and the philosophy of Sri Aurobindo. He was a Sectional President of the 62nd  session of the Indian Philosophical Congress held at the University of Kashmir in 1987. He had delivered the Maharshi Devendranath Thakur Memorial lecture at Visva Bharati, Santiniketan in 2004.
Shraddhavan “Shraddhavan” is the Sanskrit name given by the Mother in June 1972 to a young Englishwoman who had left her country, after completing studies in English Language and Literature as well as Librarianship, to join the up-coming project of Auroville. The Mother asked her to work in the Aspiration School, which was just being started at the time of her arrival in Auroville in November 1970. She has continued to be associated with a wide range of educational projects in Auroville. Since August 1999 she has been the Coordinator of the “Savitri Bhavan” unit of SAIIER  (Sri Aurobindo International Institute of Educational Research) which is a centre of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother Studies in Auroville.
Srinivasan, M.S.  is a Research Associate at Sri Aurobindo Institute for Research in Social Sciences, a unit of Sri Aurobindo Society, Puducherry. His main areas of interest are Management, Indian Culture, Yogic Psychology and History.
Tapan Banerjee Following his post-graduation and research works in Botany from Calcutta University, Tapan Banerjee (53 yrs.) served, for the most part of his profession in the Ministry Of Agriculture, Govt. of India, wherefrom he voluntarily retired to passionately consecrate himself to his long-cherished search
for the marvels and mysteries of the Indian cultural heritage. So far Sri Banerjee has, to his credit, more than a dozen valued papers in both English and Bengali journals of countrywide esteem.