Saturday, December 11, 2010

Spiritual Evolution Continued: Inward and Outward

...(continued)...If, in his synthesis of the modern West with ancient Hinduism, Aurobindo succeeds in embodying the spirit of Hindu inclusion, he does so in contrast to one of its central concepts. This concept, the idea of the outer world as illusory, hindering our spiritual recognition, is common in many forms, in many Hindu traditions. It was a powerful tool to show the seeker that the finite world of sense pleasures and material acquisitions is a perilous place to expend one’s life force. In other words, concepts like 'Maya' helped the seeker to understand that the material world should not be the sole and primary arena for one’s action. For one, we will inevitably be torn from this material world by death. This tool helped prevent many thinkers from falling ill to the Western disease of spiritual, inner atrophy. Because so many people are easily entangled in the illusion of the permanence of material success, concepts liked Samsara act as warning signs against such entanglement. These concepts inspired great spiritual accomplishment, great mystical achievements. However, Aurobindo challenged them.

Aurobindo challenged the notions that the physical world was somehow faulty by opening up a discussion on the nature of the physical Universe as a sort of Divine play. Aurobindo argued that the world should not be looked at as a distrustful illusion because that would render the ultimate God, within us and everywhere around us, as in the Upanishads, as a deluded hallucinator. Concepts such as Maya do help to discourage entanglement within the material world at the expense of the spiritual. However, as one begins to witness the growth of spirit within so should one begin to see that same spirit within the myriad material manifestations. If one can play in the world of materials, while simultaneously understanding the world’s inherent Spirit, then the inner and the outer merge as one, as manifest Spirit. More than this, the natural world, the world of external appearances, was forever evolving for Aurobindo. He succeeds in merging one of the basic tenets of Western scientific observation, with the life and spirit of Eastern mystical observation. Man’s place in this divine play is as the closest creature to realizing the inherent Self Divinity. Humanity is the current height of a sort of spiritual evolution and humanity must realize the full potential of spiritual Self realization for this evolution to continue.
Although Aurobindo seems on the surface to break from Eastern tradition by asserting claims that were rooted in concepts as such as evolution, linear time and the material world, he remains consistent with a central theme of the mystical tradition of India, that the inner Atman, God at the center of the Self, God as the truest sense of the Self, is united with the true physical world. In other words this world is permeated by Spirit. This universe, this Creation, has divinity within everything. Aurobindo asserts that we are indeed part of the one ultimate reality as in the ancient example of the salt in salt water, and that we just need to transcend the limits of our invented personalities in order to live in unity with divinity. Aurobindo believed that humanity as a whole moves ceaselessly toward greater and greater spiritual understanding, that involvement in the physical world can help facilitate that advance and that the natural world stimulates us to further growth. This idea is more than a superficial break from tradition. This idea is truly a synthesis of Eastern with Western, unique in the major traditions of Indian thought. This spiritual evolution, and its manifestation, working itself out in the physical universe, is where Aurobindo distinguishes himself from most of standard Hindu tradition. Imbuing spirit into the physical evolution is also where Aurobindo distinguishes himself from most of accepted modern Western scientific thought...(more to come)

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