Jaldhar on Aurobindo on Shankara :)

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Wed Apr 3 21:56:02 CST 2002

On Wed, 3 Apr 2002, Sankaran Kartik Jayanarayanan wrote:

> Because Aurobindo does not consider Shankara's interpretation as reliable.
> This is a mailing list where Shankara's views on the Veda supersede all
> other views on the subject.

It should be noted here that most of what I have said in my other post as
the Advaita view would also be accepted (with minor caveats) by the other
astika sampradayas too.  Strictly speaking these are Mimamsaka views not
even Vedantic ones.

> http://www.indiadivine.com/sri-aurobindo5-y.htm
> begin quote--------------
> Sri Aurobindo on Integral Yoga and Other Paths (Letter One)
> I do not agree with the view that the world is an illusion, mithya...
> The Shankara knowledge is, as your Guru pointed out, only one side of
> the Truth... This other side was developed by the Shakta Tantriks. The two
> together, the Vedantic and the Tantric truth unified, can arrive at the
> integral knowledge.
> But philosophically this is what your Guru's teaching comes to and it is
> obviously a completer truth and a wider knowledge than that given by the
> Shankara formula...
> end quote--------------
> So Shankara's philosophy was less than complete, and the tAntriks had
> "progressed ahead" of him?!? Aurobindo does not stop there, obviously he
> thought that Shankara's philosophy was also wrong on many points:

I think this is a very significant quote.  Tantric Shaktism (along with
Gaudiya Vaishnavism) is the national religion of Bengal.  The problem was
that in the 19th century Bengal was the epicenter of British rule and
Shaktism was under attack from the Christian missionaries as being
superstitious, backward, and immoral.  For the newly-formed and
schizophrenic Indian elite, this posed a problem.  They wanted to be proud
to be Indian but they wanted to feel "respectable" in the eyes of their
masters.  So Shaktism was out.  Vaishnavism was judged too medieval.
(Though ironically, the Gaudiya-based ISKCON would turn out to be
the most successful of the modern movements)  Luckily in Advaita Vedanta
they found something both respected by the orthodox and the best thinkers
of the West yet sufficently unknown that it could provide a convenient fig
leaf for their decidedly new ideas.  Thus the 19th century thinkers were
mainly preoccupied with reinterpreting everything in a Vedantic way.
Ramakrishna for instance is one who should be correctly understood as a
Tantric saint in the time-honored Bengali tradition not as the Advaitin
his followers made him into.  It seems that Aurobindo was more aware than
most of his contemporaries about where the roots of his religion really lay.

Tantra has a complex relationship with Veda.  On the one hand it does
consider itself as superior to the Veda.  In its more extreme forms it
deliberately aims to act against the Vedic norms.  But it is not really
revolutionary or anti-Vedic.  It's radicalism is at the personal level and
tantrics in Bengal were as content as anyone else to accept Shruti and
Smrti as the parameters for society.  In Aurobindo you see some strands of
tantric thinking, a focus on the spiritualization of this world, the
priority of the individual over society and the need to break free of
norms for liberation but he also parts company with it in major ways.
Tantra is intensely ritualistic.  It is Theistic with a very concrete idea
of the nature of Shiva-Shakti.  Aurobindos' God is much more abstract.
Tantra is elitist, a secret to be passed only amongst the initiated.
Aurobindos religion is universal and requires no special initiation or

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>
It's a girl! See the pictures - http://www.braincells.com/shailaja/

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