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At the Feet of The Mother

Sri Aurobindo and the Sanatana Dharma 11: Sanatana Dharma and Hinduism

Apart from these fundamental core aspects we see a whole lot of structures and superstructures built around these ideas. Many of them were perhaps allowed as a concession to human need of taking help of external props to move inwards. Some of them like yagya also had occult value and were based on a deeper occult knowledge that was subsequently lost. It can still be found in fragments but their exact nature and the detailed workings of forces that were a different kind of science have been lost. No doubt these things will be recovered and in fact are being recovered now from another angle. Yet for most they remain a mass of rituals, ceremonies, even simply myths and superstitious legends. Taking them up is not necessary to the spiritual core of Sanatana Dharma which is mainly about the ascension of the human soul out of the state of ignorance towards the fullness of Self-knowledge. Tyaga or inner renunciation of ego and desires, Tapasya or the concentrated energy of spiritual endeavour, Yagya of a progressive purification of our consciousness from the mixtures of ego and desires, Gyana or the true knowledge based on Oneness, Bhakti or the turning of all in us towards the Divine in a gesture of self giving, Vairagya or disillusionment from the present state of the world and its transient nature. Dhyana and Dharana refer to meditation and concentration. Similarly Mantra, Japa and Pooja Upasana are various aids and disciplines for the heart and mind and the will in works to turn towards the Divine. The list is quite exhaustive and while nothing is binding on anyone a variety of ways and means are provided for the struggling soul to grow into the fullness of its divine powers and possibilities. The later Hinduism relegated these core practices to the background while incorporating in its way of life the easy to practice outer rituals and observances. Thus came the slow sliding down and eclipsing of the mighty civilization based on the solid bedrock of Sanatana Dharma. It is this dharmasya glani that we see Sri Aurobindo restore again lighting the fire of aspiration in the yagya vedi of India whose light has begun to radiate over the entire world.

‘There are two Hinduisms; one which takes its stand on the kitchen and seeks its Paradise by cleaning the body; another which seeks God, not through the cooking pot and the social convention, but in the soul. The latter is also Hinduism and it is a good deal older and more enduring than the other; it is the Hinduism of Bhishma and Srikrishna, of Shankara and Chaitanya, the Hinduism which exceeds Hindusthan, was from of old and will be for ever, because it grows eternally through the aeons. Its watchword is not kriya, but karma; not shastra, but jnanam; not achar, but bhakti. Yet it accepts kriya, shastra and achar, not as ends to be followed for their own sake, but as means to perfect karma, jnanam and bhakti. Kriya in the dictionary means every practice which helps the gaining of higher knowledge such as the mastering of the breath, the repetition of the mantra, the habitual use of the Name, the daily meditation on the idea. By shastra it means the knowledge which regulates karma, which fixes the kartavyam and the akartavyam, that which should be done and that which should not, and it recognises two sources of that knowledge,—the eternal wisdom, as distinct from the temporary injunctions, in our ancient books and the book that is written by God in the human heart, the eternal and apaurusheya Veda. By achar it understands all moral discipline by which the heart is purified and made a fit vessel for divine love. There are certain kriyas, certain rules of shastra, certain details of achar, which are for all time and of perpetual application; there are others which are temporary, changing with the variation of desh, kal and patra, time, place and the needs of humanity. Among the temporary laws the cooking-pot and the lustration had their place, but they are not for all, nor for ever. It was in a time of calamity, of contraction under external pressure that Hinduism fled from the inner temple and hid itself in the kitchen.

The higher and truer Hinduism is also of two kinds, sectarian and unsectarian, disruptive and synthetic, that which binds itself up in the aspect and that which seeks the All. The first is born of rajasic or tamasic attachment to an idea, an experience, an opinion or set of opinions, a temperament, an attitude, a particular guru, a chosen Avatar. This attachment is intolerant, arrogant, proud of a little knowledge, scornful of knowledge that is not its own. It is always talking of the kusanskars, superstitions, of others and is blind to its own; or it says, “My guru is the only guru and all others are either charlatans or inferior,” or, “My temperament is the right temperament and those who do not follow my path are fools or pedants or insincere”; or “My Avatar is the real God Himself and all the others are only lesser revelations”; or “My ishta devata is God, the others are only His partial manifestations.” When the soul rises higher, it follows by preference its own ideas, experiences, opinions, temperament, guru, ishta, but it does not turn an ignorant and exclusive eye upon others. “There are many paths,” it cries, “and all lead equally to God. All men, even the sinner and the atheist, are my brothers in sadhana and the Beloved is drawing them each in His own way to the One without a second.” But when the full knowledge dawns, I embrace all experiences in myself, I know all ideas to be true, all opinions useful, all experiences and attitudes means and stages in the acquisition of universal experience and completeness, all gurus imperfect channels or incarnations of the one and only Teacher, all ishtas and Avatars to be God Himself….

The destruction of bondage, the realisation of freedom, the trampling upon our fetters, that is the first need of the future. It was to give mukti that Ramakrishna came, not to impose a new bondage. Therefore was Vivekananda His Apostle to the Gentiles, a man who in all things asserted freedom. The soul of Hinduism languishes in an unfit body. Break the mould that the soul may live. Is it not the first teaching of Yoga to destroy the dehatmak buddhi, the blindness that identifies the soul with its temporary body? If the body were young, adaptable, fit, the liberated soul might use it, but it is decrepit, full of ill health and impurity. It must be changed, not by the spirit of Western iconoclasm which destroys the soul with the body, but by national Yoga.’

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