Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Dear Readers, Won't You Join Us on WordPress?

Yes, this blog has now moved to WordPress. This will be the last post on this blog.

The blog has taken a new birth in its new form with the same name, but with something new in its URL. 

"Beauty is his footprint showing us where he has passed." (Sri Aurobindo)

Inspired by this beautiful line from Sri Aurobindo's Savitri, we have chosen the new URL for our WP blog as:

The new WP blog preserves all the posts from this blog, minus the readers' comments. All the old posts (273, including this last one) will also be archived here in this space (along with the readers' comments and ensuing exchange). 

We hope our blog's new home will continue to inspire, remind and encourage us and our readers to seek for that deeper, inner beauty. We hope that our work there will continue to help us search for that All-Beautiful, All-Delighful Presence behind everything. 

It is our sincere hope that you will join us on our new blog, and continue to constructively engage with the thoughts expressed through the posts. We look forward to your presence at our new home. 

Many thanks for all the support and encouragement we have received from all our readers.
~ Beloo Mehra

Monday, 21 December 2015

A Blog Update and a Lesson in Detachment

The Divine Teacher

Today on the auspicious day of Gita Jayanti, I got an important lesson in detachment.

For more than two years now I have been writing this blog. After almost a year of writing, I discovered that I was beginning to get a small but almost-regular set of readers, many of whom would leave thought-provoking and encouraging comments on some of my posts. It was beginning to feel good, I admit, to see that at least some of what I was sharing was provocative enough (generally in a thoughtful way) for some of my readers.

Well, as things were supposed to happen, today I discovered that all the comments posted on my blog are gone! Disappeared completely. Gone. Who knows where? They are simply lost in the maze of the cyberspace. I discovered that after I published my recent post after a gap of more than two weeks.

The initial discovery was that all the social media shares had disappeared from the blog. No problem, I said, I really don't care about that. That's just a silly ego-boosting thing anyway to know how many people have 'liked' my post on FB, how many times it got shared on G+, how many times on LinkedIn, etc etc. So when I discovered that those social media share links had gone, I felt a sign of relief, almost. Who wants that ego-boosting thing anyway, I said to myself.

But a couple of hours later I was checking something on the blog, and discovered that all the comments from all 271 posts had gone. Just gone. Obviously, I was quite disappointed initially. Because several of those readers' comments were actually quite thought-provoking and added valuable perspective to the content of the original post. I felt sorry for that loss. Initially. I was also angry. Because I couldn't figure out how that could have happened. I have a tentative 'technical' theory, but now I have lost interest in figuring out whether that theory even makes sense.

And after a while it occurred to me that all this was meant to be a lesson in perspective, detachment and equanimity. With so much that is wrong in the world, so much that is unfortunate, unjust, untrue, unethical, unhappy, my silly little loss doesn't matter at all. Nothing in the world has changed because some blog comments are lost. Only my ego has gotten a little rub, much needed perhaps. For that I should actually be grateful. And I am, now.

The auspicious day of Gita Jayanti has indeed become a 'living' lesson for me. A beginning of learning that will hopefully continue. Thank you, Sri Krishna!

Forgetting and Remembering

A new post in the series - Reminders to self

Sometimes going through one's old writings, journals, diaries can be an incredibly learning experience. It makes one recall and perhaps even renew for oneself the insight, the wisdom of the moment that had expressed itself in those words from years ago.

Often there is a definite reason why one is led to a particular old scribbling. Perhaps it is time to remember something important, really remember. Perhaps it is time to re-dedicate oneself. Perhaps one needs a reminder. A reminder to remember.

Sometimes old scribblings take on new forms. Not necessarily because the writer has grown wiser, but more because the writer is seeking a greater clarity inside. This seeking is also a reminder. A reminder to not forget to seek.

A newer outer form also becomes a reminder. A reminder to remember and offer.

"Although his ego claims the world for its use,
Man is a dynamo for the cosmic work;
Nature does most in him, God the high rest:
Only his soul’s acceptance is his own."
In our egoistic journeys through life, as we go through various trials and tribulations, ups and downs, we generally forget that we are constantly being protected, pushed, guided and led by powers and forces beyond us, beyond our highest intellectual capabilities that we normally use to govern our lives, our choices and decisions. We may call these higher powers or forces by any name. We may call it the Divine.

In our ignorant intellectual debates on free will and destiny, we forget that in the ultimate analysis we are only instruments of a Cosmic Plan, and though blessed with a free will we have been put here on this earth to fulfil a tiny little part of His Grand Goal. We forget that we are here to manifest in our small ways His Divine Will, to play our little part in His Lila.
"Often our thoughts are finished cosmic wares
Admitted by a silent office gate
And passed through the subconscient’s galleries,
Then issued in Time’s mart as private make.
For now they bear the living person’s stamp;
A trick, a special hue claims them his own.
All else is Nature’s craft and this too hers.
Our tasks are given, we are but instruments;
Nothing is all our own that we create:
The Power that acts in us is not our force."
We forget, therefore we have to remember.

Because we are steeped in the Ignorance of our lower nature, enslaved by the prison of our physical-vital-mental selves, we forget that we are not really doing anything that we think we are doing. So we have to remember that even in our blind ignorance it is the Nature's Will manifesting itself through the outward actions being done through our hands and minds. We forget that we only have a responsibility for our actions and no claim on their outcome.

"Even Nature’s ignorance is Truth’s instrument;
Our struggling ego cannot change her course:
Yet is it a conscious power that moves in us,
A seed-idea is parent of our acts
And destiny the unrecognised child of Will.
Infallibly by Truth’s directing gaze
All creatures here their secret self disclose,
Forced to become what in themselves they hide.
For He who Is grows manifest in the years
And the slow Godhead shut within the cell
Climbs from the plasm to immortality.
But hidden, but denied to mortal grasp,
Mystic, ineffable is the spirit’s truth,
Unspoken, caught only by the spirit’s eye.
When naked of ego and mind it hears the Voice;
It looks through light to ever greater light
And sees Eternity ensphering Life."
We forget all this and that's why we are quick to take all the credit for the success of our actions and put all the blame on to the Divine or Nature if there is failure (or cry about our Bad Luck!). So we have to remember and offer all work to the Divine with no concern whatsoever for the outcome. We know we must do this, but still we don’t, we can’t.

We don’t do it because we forget.

We forget that all this is Hers, so we have to remember to offer it all to Her. We forget that we are only children of Hers struggling in Ignorance, so we have to remember that only Her Force and Her Grace can help us crawl out of this Ignorance and show us the Light.

"All stumbled on behind a stumbling Guide,
Yet every stumble is a needed pace
On unknown routes to an unknowable goal.
All blundered and straggled towards the One Divine."

Perhaps there is a deeper necessity for this forgetfulness because all is part of the Divine Plan.
"This world was not built with random bricks of Chance,
A blind god is not destiny’s architect;
A conscious power has drawn the plan of life,
There is meaning in each curve and line."
We are perhaps led to this forgetfulness so we may focus on the external world and all the actions that we must pursue. It is this action in the outer world that allows us to manifest and express outwardly what we may have experienced as part of an inward growth, whatever little that may be.
"This world is God fulfilled in outwardness."
Without the outward action we may not be able to translate any inner change into a concrete and sustained transformation. Without a reasonable dose of forgetfulness we may not be fully immersed in the outward action; without such an immersion an identification with the task may not be there and without which the task may not become a natural expression or outpouring of whatever part in us that has begun the journey of a deeper, wider and upward progress.

In the ultimate analysis, this simultaneous inner and outer journey is what helps us correct the multiple defects of the different parts of our physical-vital-mental nature. Only this can over time lead to a dynamic change of our outer nature which is essential for our evolutionary process. And for the purpose of our individual growth, this ‘back and forth’ between the outward external action and an inward redirecting of energies is what keeps us ‘testing’ for ourselves whether we are really changing. And for that we are given this experience of forgetfulness.

But we must remember that we are also given the ability to remember. We are given this because we must remember what we forget. It is this remembrance that takes us back inward. To the inner chambers where all journey is supposed to take us.

And yet we forget to remember, we forget to offer. We forget and we keep forgetting it more and more in our forgetfulness. It is as if we are lost in our own forgetfulness. The journey is long, but it begins as all journeys begin, with the first step. And that first step is remembrance.

Remember and Offer.

Verses from Savitri by Sri Aurobindo
Photos by Suhas Mehra

To see previous post in the series, Reminders to self, click here.
To see all posts in the series, click here.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Needed: Spiritual Practicality

A new post in Current Events

The world has been busy talking about Climate Change, Solar Energy, Global Terrorism and all these other things. Political leaders, subject experts, public intellectuals, journalists, pretty much everyone who reads the newspaper and watches news on TV or follows it on social media has an opinion on these important topics of the day.

No, this post isn't about one more opinion on these important topics. It is actually about something quite contrary. It is about the inadequacy and the insufficiency of the mental ideas and opinions.

Remember my post from last month about Who is a True Thinker? Of course, you do. Especially if you are a thinker!

In that post I had spoken of two essays of Sri Aurobindo: one titled, Conservation and Progress that inspired the True Thinker post; and the other titled, The Conservative Mind and Eastern Progress that is the inspiration for this one.

In some sense, this post may be considered a natural sequel to the previous post. Because only a True Thinker will be open-minded enough to engage with the ideas presented below. Are you one of those? Why not reflect on this question for a while?

In the essay, The Conservative Mind and Eastern Progress, a phrase that intrigued me was "spiritual practicality." This phrase could present a challenge to the general notion or understanding many people have of the term "spirituality." Most people are somehow used to thinking that spirituality and practicality can't go hand in hand. This perhaps comes from the faulty notion of seeing "spiritual-type" people as "impractical, other-worldly or out-of-touch-with-the-real-big-bad-world-out-there types."

But the truth is quite something else. One just has to give a quick look (without any preconceived notions) at the thousands of years of history of India and one will learn about the immense contributions of rishis, munis, yogis, sadhaks, gurus in practically all aspects of human life and activity. Philosophy, psychology, ethics, sociology, mathematics, astronomy, science, medicine, literature, arts, politics, warfare -- every field of what we consider as "practical" human activity has been the field of work of our rishis and yogis.

[Of course, one wouldn't find this in the Marxist school of Indian history which is generally being taught in our Indian educational programmes. One will need to do one's own un-learning of the old ideological view of history and then begin a process of re-learning of this deeper and inner history of India.]

But the other day as I reflected more on the term "spiritual practicality" as used by Sri Aurobindo in his essay, I wasn't thinking of history. I was thinking of the present.

Photo by Suhas Mehra

Global Poverty vs. Mindless Consumerism, Ecological Destruction vs. Economic Development, Terrorist Violence vs. World Peace, Religious Wars vs. Respectful Pluralism. Not a single day passes when we don't hear or read something or the other about one or more of these harsh conflicts facing the humanity and the world. It seems that such conflicts represent the state of things right now in the world.

In their own ways peoples, societies, and nations have been trying to address these conflicts in different ways. By enacting reasonable laws, by forumating thoughtful policies, by creating organised institutions, and by promoting all the 'right' secular values such as equality, liberty, human rights, universal education and at the same time lending their weight to the nobler ideals such as compassion for all life and nature, peace, non-violence etc.

And yet nothing seems to be working.

What is missing?
"The present era of the world is a stage of immense transformations. Not one but many radical ideas are at work in the mind of humanity and agitate its life with a vehement seeking and effort at change..... No nation or community can any longer remain psychologically cloistered and apart in the unity of the modern world. It may even be said that the future of humanity depends most upon the answer that will be given to the modern riddle of the Sphinx by the East and especially by India, the hoary guardian of the Asiatic idea and its profound spiritual secrets. For the most vital issue of the age is whether the future progress of humanity is to be governed by the modern economic and materialistic mind of the West or by a nobler pragmatism guided, uplifted and enlightened by spiritual culture and knowledgeThe West never really succeeded in spiritualising itself and latterly it has been habituated almost exclusively to an action in the external governed by political and economic ideals and necessities; in spite of the reawakening of the religious mind and the growth of a widespread but not yet profound or luminous spiritual and psychical curiosity and seeking, it has to act solely in the things of this world and to solve its problems by mechanical methods and as the thinking political and economic animal, simply because it knows no other standpoint and is accustomed to no other method. On the other hand the East, though it has allowed its spirituality to slumber too much in dead forms, has always been open to profound awakenings and preserves its spiritual capacity intact, even when it is actually inert and uncreative. Therefore the hope of the world lies in the re-arousing in the East of the old spiritual practicality and large and profound vision and power of organisation under the insistent contact of the West and in the flooding out of the light of Asia on the Occident, no longer in forms that are now static, effete, unadaptive, but in new forms stirred, dynamic and effective."
(Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 13, pp. 137-138, emphasis added)

What is missing is "spiritual practicality," which when combined with a "large and profound vision" and a "power of organisation" can help humanity come out of the conflicts it has created in its path to progress.

What kind of "large and profound vision" do we need as an ideal? Perhaps the ideal of a true human unity?

But it can not be a mentalised ideal of unity which is unable to handle diversity without imposing a certain mental idea of uniformity. What is needed is a truer, an inner unity that doesn't impose uniformity but also doesn't tolerate abuse and disrespect of all that is different and unknown. What is needed is a deeper unity that doesn't eradicate diversity but also doesn't allow inhumanity and mindless violence (not only physical) to trample over all that is good, beautiful, true and humane.

Such unity doesn't come easily. Such unity doesn't come simply by wishing. Or simply by being politically correct. It requires sincere honesty. Of intention, of action, of rising above the pettiness and the lowest tendencies of greed, power struggle and domination. Serious work, stragetic work is required. On all fronts -- national, international, political, economic, social, cultural, educational.

And most importantly, on spiritual.

What is needed is a sincere effort to recover that "spiritual practicality" of the olden times and make it relevant for today and tomorrow. A spiritual practicality that helps us -- individuals and societies -- become more conscious of all our movements, all our actions, decisions and choices.

On an individual level, it could be something as basic as making food choices that are least harmful for the environment or becoming conscious consumers in order to keep reducing our carbon foot-print. Or it could be at the level of socially-politically active individuals organising together to work toward a greater civilisational and cultural renaissance.

At all levels what is required is an inner approach to outward action. Only a deeper, inward turning to the higher truth (of the self, not of the ego) and a disinterested action (in the sense of unegoistic, unselfish, having no regard for the result, with no preference for any particular outcome) can become the basis of a true spiritual practicality. Mentalised ideals can only take us so far, because mental ideals are easily broken at the first attack from life's complexities and circumstances.

What is really required is to rise in consciousness so that as individuals, societies and nations all our actions and decisions are more and more guided by unitarian, integrative and harmonizing tendencies instead of separative, divisive, egoistic tendencies.

Unfortunately, for many people being 'open-minded' and 'modern' has come to mean accepting pretty much every lifestyle choice as an equally valid choice, in the name of 'freedom.' Being 'liberal' has come to mean defending or being apologetic of the worst kind of violence and terror against humanity. All in the name of becoming the voice for the “all beliefs are equal” type of post-modernistic relativism.

This supposed ‘value-neutrality’ is against the most essential tenet of any spiritual path which emphasises the development of a clear sense of discernment, vivek -- defined by Sri Aurobindo as "intuitive and inspired judgment gained by a previous purification of the organs of thought and knowledge" (CWSA, Vol. 1, p. 501). It is an ability to sincerely and honestly distinguish between right and wrong, between good and not-good, between dharma and adharma. This applies equally to individuals in their individual sphere of life as well as to the societies and nations in collective life.

It is also equally important to recognise that spirituality doesn’t have to be religion-based, it can just as easily be areligious quest. The most sincere seekers on any spiritual path are in fact most open-minded and accepting of the diversity of wisdom traditions emerging from within various civilizations and cultures. They recognize that while each religion has a spiritual component but practical spirituality or spiritual practicality doesn’t require or necessitate any fixed adherence to any outer forms of any religion. They recognize and respect the truth that for some seekers a religion's outer forms such as rituals, ceremonies, etc. are important aids on the path. But equally so, this may not be the case for many others.

Such equal acceptance of difference is part of the inner make-up of sincere seekers on the path of truth. They recognize that what binds all these diverse seekers is a common search for the higher truth, an inner seeking whose practice is generally as individualised as something can be. Only such an experience has the potential to help one inwardly realize the deeper truth of values such as freedom, equality, and unity, beyond all intellectualising and rationalising of such ideals.

What is needed is a waking up to the life-affirming nature of Indian spirituality. Not religiosity, mind you. But a deep, personal seeking, an intense inner and outer search for the truth, the right, the good and the beautiful.
"It is more important that the thought of India should come out of the philosophical school and renew its contact with life, and the spiritual life of India issue out of the cave and the temple and, adapting itself to new forms, lay its hand upon the world. I believe also that humanity is about to enlarge its scope by new knowledge, new powers and capacities, which will create as great a revolution in human life as the physical science of the nineteenth century. Here, too, India holds in her past, a little rusted and put out of use, the key of humanity's future."
~ Extract from an interview given to a correspondent of The Hindu, quoted in Sri Aurobindo--His Life Unique, Rishabhchand, p. 410

Are we ready for the challenge to re-discover that key to the future? Ours and our world's?

To read other posts in the Current Events series, click here.