Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Spiritual Evolution, East and West

...(continued)...Aurobindo’s ability to include such ‘Western’ values into his philosophy is true to the Indian tradition which throughout history has made possible the inclusion of widely varying ideas. Few places in the world have fostered such diversity of thought over time. Hinduism adopted many concepts from Buddhism even though the Buddha’s teaching were partly formulated in critical response to some of the Orthodox Hindu concepts of the era. Hinduism included much of Jain thought which may have helped to encourage the devoted vegetarianism even though vegetarianism is contradicted in many ceremonial passages from the Vedas. Christian missionaries found great tolerance and respect for their work in India. Indians thought that the concept of Christ as the one God was perfectly in harmony with their many other traditional ‘one Gods’. Historically even the tensions with Islam were often harmonized and Muslims were befriended into Hindu culture. Aurobindo’s work is (in harmony with his own evolutionary conceptions) a natural extension, evolution, innovation of Hindu thought to include Modernity into its varied systems. Even as Aurobindo is expounding a doctrine of evolution he himself is embodying the ultimate spirit of Hindu tradition by harmonizing Modernity in the West with the strength of the Hindu spiritual tradition. His work seems to graciously invite the strange outward seeking tradition of the West to make itself at home in the vast house of spiritual inward seeking that is Hinduism.

Ironically as Aurobindo acts as the gracious host inviting a stranger into his vast traditional home, he acts as pioneer and explorer for the West trying to make sense of the perplexing mystical traditions in India. He embodies the pioneer spirit of the West which seems to be forever seeking new places to conquer, and, in turn, new harvests to reap. In this case the frontier is India’s mystical tradition, and the harvest is the Spirit that, for Aurobindo, permeates all existence. The West has continuously approached the lands of the world and its peoples as places to explore, conquer, and ‘tame’. This led Western culture to explore even beyond the limitations of our own atmosphere with vast space exploration. The work of Aurobindo encourages the Western mind to continue it exploration, to conquer the realms of Spirit, the realms of inward seeking. To explore the inner, to understand and tame the forces that are the inner frontiers, the world represented by the tradition of Hinduism, is issuing a challenge that should be enticing to the expanding West.
In this great meeting of East and West, Aurobindo at once praises Hinduism’s greatest strength, the exploration of all things spiritual, while at the same time exposing its greatest weakness, the tendency to become stagnantly preoccupied with bodiless mysticism. The answer to this problem is the tradition of outer development in the material realm as embodied in the Western model which Aurobindo at once praises for its material development while exposing its great weakness in the realm of Spiritual Devotion. Most problems in the Western model expand out a lack of insight into the Spirit beyond the form, the lack of attention to the motives behind outward material exploration have brought us such physical monstrosities as the atomic bomb. The ability of Aurobindo to synthesize the two world views is an impressive feat. In hindsight this synthesis as a solution to the difficulties of the two cultures seems like an obvious one. Perhaps, according to Aurobindo, this is precisely why the two worlds are meeting in such a way: natural evolution has brought them to the point where they must synthesize through spiritual evolution, this evolution bringing about the manifestation of Divine consciousness...(to be continued)...

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