Thursday, January 5, 2012

Pondicherry: Last Day

Spirituality was certainly the theme of the day as we trekked to Auroville, to a Tamil village mandir, and then to a Sai Baba temple.

Visiting Auroville I realized that the picturesque image I conjured up of Pondicherry was applicable to this place of 'progressive humanity'. Despite the destruction from Cyclone Thane, the massive expanse of forests within which grew the various meditation domains, especially the Matri Mandir, seemed perfect for bonobash or living in the forests. 

Matrimandir, Auroville Pondicherry.
Image via Wikipedia
The goal of those who choose to live in Auroville is to find consciousness through discovery and leading a divine life, denouncing all religions, castes, and disparities. Life here is free from moral and social conventions and at the same time they are not the 'slave of desire'.

How is it that people are able to lead lives that are not constructed socially? Is it really without religious dimensions? Is giving up material wants sufficient to lead a life of divine consciousness? On the flip side, do material wants inhibit the search for consciousness? What about the world's favorite socially-constructed ritual: marriage? Do they denounce marriage too? It would have been nice to have met people who actually practiced such philosophies and see whether there really is a pragmatic way to denounce social construction.

The other two mandirs were more ordinary in the sense they did not question societal norms in a way that Aurobindoism seems to be doing. The relation between God and mortal is very clearly based on (unconditional) devotion. Devotion will be rewarded in miraculous ways, is the common message. Sai Baba's temple, in addition, had a unifying element – you can be a Muslim or a Christian and still be a Sai Baba follower. In fact, displayed on the walls of the temple were picture of the Kaba Sharif (Mecca) and Jesus (Christ). One question that struck me was this: does participating in the rituals of other religions diminish our position in our own religion? 

Thoughts welcome.
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  1. well, for starters, one would wonder how a monotheist may participate in polytheism without compromising monotheism in some way, unless your brand of monotheism permits duplicity...

  2. Navine - whether monotheist, polytheist, or non-theist, my sense is (and my experiences have taught me) that participating in the rituals of another tradition can reveal aspects of one's own religion that one never fully appreciated. Participating in puja, with its beautiful intimacy and capacity for improvisation, has made me see the communion rituals of the church I grew up in altogether new ways.

  3. some how the meaning of "mono-theist" appears to be diminished somewhat. I daresay my appreciation of my husband may be enhanced by my experiencing intimacy with other men, but my relationship with my husband would never be the same again.