Saturday, January 09, 2016

Individual progress is linked with the collective destiny

Editorial The Metaphysical basis for Integral Health — liberation and freedom Traditionally, ‘liberation’ from a world of suffering, evil, darkness, ignorance, falsehood and death has been a cherished destiny of the individual in the Indian psyche. Psychologically, the concept of ‘liberation’ arises from a yearning for ‘freedom’. Freedom is the magic word that beckons man inspite of his bondage. We are bound to our ‘fate’ and even those who do not believe in the machinations of fate have to concede that we are nevertheless bound to circumstances, social obligations, hereditary influences, ‘biological’ as well as ‘cultural’ genes, ecological discrepancies, illnesses of all sorts,  family ties, dependency needs, our own desires, the upsurges from our subconscious, collective suggestions and what-not! It is a chimera to think we are free. Are we free from our genes, from our heredity, from our culture, from our personality traits, from our environment, from pollutants, from our political system? We clamour for freedom but truly speaking, we are in love with our chains. Yet, as Sri Aurobindo mentions in the very first paragraph of the first chapter in The Life Divine, ‘Freedom’ is one of those key guiding lights that return after all attempts at effacement, — it calls, motivates, inspires and rejuvenates us. Since freedom in a world of bondage is dependent on many variables and virtually impossible in outer life, seers and mystics yearned for an inner freedom independent of all variables.One cannot find a cue in social freedom for in the social matrix, we are bound with certain social variables at the cost of others. One cannot find a cue in psychological freedom too as the personality has the compulsion to revolve around the ego, traits and predispositions, unless one can simultaneously identify with the dimension of impersonality. This freedom in a true sense could only be found in the experience of the Spirit that is always free and one with the Divine.  In other words, an ‘Absolute’ freedom could only be found in the experience of Reality in the ‘Transcendental’ poise  — an experience of Reality as ‘Absolute’, ‘Infinite’, ’Unitary’, or ‘One’, in contrast to the experience of the multiplicity, the finite, the imperfect. The  experiential realisation of the ‘Transcendent’ is beyond the constructs of unity and multiplicity, beyond the infinite and the finite, beyond the ‘universal’ and the ‘individual’, beyond the ‘Absolute’ and the ‘Relative’, beyond the ego-centred personality and the ego-surpassing impersonality. It is a poise of perfect freedom, true liberty. That does not mean that the ‘liberated’ individual who has experienced the ‘Transcendental’ poise of Reality becomes insensitive to the plight of his fellow-brethren. In fact, liberty gives one the right to even transgress liberty with a poise of detachment. Thus was born the concept of the  Jivanmukta  — one who was liberated even while operating in the field of life. Sri Aurobindo speaks of this poise of liberty:
“It is so free that it is not even bound by its liberty. It can play at being bound without incurring a real bondage (1).” 
The question to reflect today is whether the spiritually liberated person is really free unless he or she renounces life. Sri Aurobindo also explains that the Inconscience is not an individual but a terrestrial phenomenon. Evolution starts from the Inconscience. Even then, the Inconscience has the power to negate and nullify all the gains of the evolutionary ascent. As such, a liberated individual, even a  Jivanmukta, can individually progress only up to an optimal point. One has to then wait till the terrestrial consciousness gets uplifted a bit before the individual can again resume to progress. Perhaps this is what is reflected when the Buddha, on the verge of absolute withdrawal in  Nirvana, resolved to turn back for the suffering humanity. The fact that the individual, however liberated, is yet not free till the terrestrial consciousness gets elevated demonstrates that free progress of the human race is linked with the collective destiny. The very fact that individual progress is not destined to be perfect unless it is linked with terrestrial progress proves that spiritual progress of an individual is dependent on the general well-being of the collectivity. It is not expected or logical to presume that the spiritual progress of the liberated individual would be automatically linked with the spiritual progress of the collectivity; it is ridiculous to believe that the terrestrial consciousness, stationed close to the Inconscience would be at par in spirituality with the illumined individual consciousness. Rather an elevation of the terrestrial consciousness is effectuated basically by the general well-being of the collectivity that requires the cultivation of health, education and positive values. Without the cultivation of health along an integral perspective, one cannot have a modicum of inner progress and one cannot free oneself from atavistic traits; without an education that helps to widen the consciousness, one cannot rise above exclusivism; without positive values and a constant recreation of new values, one cannot progress to manifest higher models of the human being along the evolutionary trajectory. In this world-view, freedom is a dynamic movement that continually surpasses our hitherto highest achievements, catapulting us to progressive perfection with liberation from the ego and liberation into the Infinite without losing contact with the reality of the finite. Reference 1.  Sri Aurobindo.  Birth Centenary Library, Volume 18. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust; 1970, p. 39.               — Dr. Soumitra Basu

When Sri Aurobindo describes the merging of the individual consciousness into the cosmic consciousness, he is referring to a shift from the human to the divine standpoint. The divine standpoint is Sachchidananda, Existence-Consciousness-Bliss having the following characteristics:
“It is one eternal Existence that we then are, one eternal Consciousness which sees its own works in us and others, one eternal Will or Force of that Consciousness which displays itself in infinite workings, one eternal Delight which has the joy of itself and all its workings,–itself stable, immutable, timeless, spaceless, supreme and itself still in the infinity of its workings, not changed by their variations, not broken up by their multiplicity, not increased or diminished by their ebbings and flowings in the seas of Time and Space, not confused by their apparent contrarieties or limited by their divinely-willed limitations. Sachchidananda is the unity of the many-sidedness of manifested things, the eternal harmony of all their variations and oppositions, the infinite perfection which justifies their limitations and is the goal of their imperfections.”
When we reflect on these characteristics of consciousness, we can easily distinguish the difference between the human and the divine standpoint. The divine standpoint is one that “sees everywhere Oneness” as the Upanishad states, and at the same time, it can view, accept and integrate the individuality of forms, forces and movements, so that the experience of harmony and oneness is not disturbed by the existence and action of these (apparently) limited forms.
The methods we use to measure and distinguish forms and actions in the human experience, such as the very concepts of Time and Space, are reduced in relevance to the extent that we experience the unification of all Time and Space in one unbroken Reality, where the sequential movement of Time is seen as a convenience for experiencing reality from the human standpoint. Similarly the extension of the manifestation in Space is seen as a means for the human standpoint to experience from the basis of its limited ability to grasp the entirety of existence. Absent the actual experience, it is virtually impossible for the human intellect to have any clear sense or grasp as to what the divine standpoint, Sachchidananda, is and the inherent Oneness of its view.
Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral ...

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