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At the Feet of The Mother

On the Lack of Discipline in India

There is no doubt that lack of discipline is one of the causes of India’s downfall. It is equally true that one of the reasons for this indiscipline, though not the only one, is a divorce between individual spiritual pursuit and the collective life of a nation as also between reason and faith, between scientific temper and spiritual experience. But the solution does not lie in either-or. That is the mistake that western nations did. They have prospered due to this enforced collective discipline (and nothing wrong with that) running hand in hand with the idea of individual liberty. By separating or rather creating an almost unbridgeable chasm between Science and Spirituality they have opened the doors to another kind of downfall. A rational society without the needed spiritual basis is hollow at its roots and nothing enduring and beautiful can be built upon it. 

Still one can understand the context there since a false antagonism was created between science and spirituality. In fact, spirituality had very soon degenerated into religion which, motivated by various political forces started looking upon science as a threat to its own existence, leading to this downfall. In India until the influence of Buddhist and Illusionist Vedantic thought spirituality and science went together, complimenting each other beautifully. All the ancient Scriptures are a witness to this wonderful reconciliation between science and spirituality. It is unfortunately a misunderstanding of sorts that the two do not go together.

Some of the greatest logical minds were both mystics and rational human beings with leanings on one side or the other. Among those who leaned towards spirituality yet had powerfully logical minds are Shankaracharya, Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo and quite a few others whose achievements and capacity of logical reasoning can put any logician to shame. On the other hand, there have been scientists such as Sir Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, David Bohm to name just a few who had a strong mystic streak in their nature. In fact, more commonly one may find that a highly developed logical mind often realises its own limitation and hence it begins a new journey knowingly or unknowingly towards spiritual ascension. 

This brings us to the next issue about spirituality being an individual phenomenon. True there is a line of spiritual thought and experience that is rather individualistic but so is a line of logical thought as well. Equally, there is a number of examples of people from the spiritual field who have been great creators in different fields. There have been spiritual beings such as King Janaka (a whole lineage), Ajatsathru, Sri Krishna, Bhisma, Ashoka, Vikramaditya and others who were both spiritual people and great kings and administrators and warriors. There have been queens who have sacrificed everything for the country because of a deep spiritual awakening that the nation for which they were fighting was not a piece of land but a goddess, a mother.

Who else but a spiritual person can have this vision of the country? Sri Aurobindo himself is a great example of a spiritual person who fought the British Empire as a revolutionary even while ascending to spiritual heights. That he withdrew later was not because of any disdain for worldly life but because he had discovered by his spiritual insight and intuition that the way for the redemption of mankind is not possible either through a half-blind rational scientific temperament which shows but one side or rather the surface of things or by a world shunning spirituality. He saw or rather foresaw that the ultimate solution whether of the nation or humanity at large lies in a collective spiritual evolution, a leap from rational to supra-rational and intuitive humanity.

Seen thus one can understand why spiritual evolution has so far been rather individualistic. Just as the faculty of reason showed up in a limited way in some animals here and there before the advent of man so too the capacity for spiritual aspiration and spiritual experience has not been common yet because our body and brain are not yet ready and equipped to receive and assimilate the spiritual consciousness and energy. These spiritual people can be looked upon as experiments of nature, just as a genius is another kind of experiment of nature, to shoot beyond itself. I do not see how this spiritual evolution is an individual phenomenon, something that we indeed see happening today. I also do not see how this collective spiritual evolution which demands a tremendous degree of inner discipline will not help humanity better organise and channelise its energies.

After all the root problems that humanity faces are not just indiscipline but a lack of courage, of selfishness (in which present-day India may, unfortunately, well top the list), greed which is so rampant everywhere and which a rational society with all its stress on outer and technological development seems to unwittingly if not directly encourage.

Would reason be able to tame these forces of greed and inspire the hearts to courage and help man get rid of his selfishness? I have my doubts. It may at best temper it a little, make men a little more reasonable and compel them to follow the rule of law and the dictate of the state. But can it fill the hollow in man’s heart, create a truly just society and most importantly open the doors to inner peace and joy in the absence of which man runs after outer pleasures and reason watches blindly justifying it so long as it does not break the law or comes in the way of others pleasures? Besides reason in isolation can never give the meaning and purpose of life itself and thereby make a mockery of human existence. It robs man of the wonder that ever enchants us to new heights and impels us to new discoveries.

So while a rational scientific society is fine in the absence of spiritual evolution, it must sooner or later give way to something higher, nobler, greater and more luminous guidance springing up from within man even as reason and a rational man emerged out of the animal. It is this that must be seen as the real value of spirituality and not as the material scientist sees it with his limited lens that scans the surfaces but misses the soul. 

There is a lot more that can be said, but to go into further details may not be needed for the moment. Suffice it to say that we must not as a nation make this error of an either-or approach between reason/science and spirituality. This artificial divide is being bridged world-over by rational thinkers and scientists and India with its great spiritual and scientific heritage would do ill to lose one in favour of the other.   

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