“A nexus between the physical and supraphysical”

All quotes are from Sri Aurobindo’s essay – A Rationalistic Critic on Indian Culture. All photographs by Suhas Mehra. Introductory text and selection of passages by Beloo Mehra

A casual look at most of the commentary that appears in the Indian popular social-cultural discourse (print and broadcast media, films etc.) on any matter related to Hindu traditions or rituals is enough proof of the widespread ignorance that prevails regarding some of the basic truths and fundamentals of Hinduism.

If we are asked, “But after all what is Hinduism, what does it teach, what are its fundamentals and what does it practise?” we can answer that it is founded upon a few basic ideas or rather fundamentals of a highest and widest spiritual experience. (Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 20, p. 193)

For more on these fundamentals, see this post.

Here we are concerned primarily with the ignorance regarding what may be called as some of the external layers of Hinduism, the outer forms, particularly the need for outward practices, rituals, customs, traditions, etc. 

It could be a result of deep indifference, deep-seated inferiority complex, or sheer prejudice against Hinduism that many educated Indians, and especially Hindus don’t even bother to question the ignorance peddled by these so-called modern-secular-rational-educated ‘opinion-makers.’ Worse, many of them end up buying into this pseudo-rationalistic-secularist and ignorant criticism of all things Hindu, and end up believing the whole ‘religion is opium of masses’ kind of dogma without ever questioning even the role of religion itself.  

They end up buying into the false idea that just because Abrahamic religions elsewhere have led to much hatred, violence and division, same must be the case with Hinduism and/or other dharmic traditions. Worse, they end up believing that just because religion elsewhere has been opposed to reason, science and inquiry, same must be the case with Hinduism. Such false equivalences are borne out of deep ignorance of the nature of Hinduism and Dharmic traditions in general. 

The passages selected for this photo-feature provide a response to such ignorance. This response was written more than 100 years ago to another prejudiced rationalistic critic of earlier times. The nature of this critic’s attack on Hinduism in particular and Indian culture in general, was in Sri Aurobindo’s words “journalistic pugilism…of a peculiar kind…a furious sparring at a lay figure of India which is knocked down at pleasure through a long and exuberant dance of misstatement and exaggeration in the hope of convincing an ignorant audience that the performer has prostrated a living adversary.” (CWSA, Vol. 20, p. 99)

Sadly, the times have changed but the same  prejudiced criticism of all things Hindu still remains. This time similar “journalistic pugilism” is peddled mostly by mentally colonized Indians themselves, which is even sadder. 

Such ignorant and prejudiced criticism must be challenged. 

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Waiting for the gods to wake up

“Indian religious forms are rhythms of the spirit; but one who misses the spirit must necessarily miss too the connection of the spirit and the rhythm. The gods of this worship are, as every Indian knows, potent names, divine forms, dynamic personalities, living aspects of the one Infinite.”

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Assembly of gods

“Each Godhead is a form or derivation or dependent power of the supreme Trinity, each Goddess a form of the universal Energy, Conscious-Force or Shakti.”

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Feeling the Presence

“But to the logical European* mind monotheism, polytheism, pantheism are irreconcilable warring dogmas; oneness, many-ness, all-ness are not and cannot be different but concordant aspects of the eternal Infinite. A belief in one Divine Being superior to cosmos who is all cosmos and who lives in many forms of godhead, is a hotch-potch, mush, confusion of ideas; for synthesis, intuitive vision, inner experience are not the forte of this strongly external, analytic and logical mind.”

(* Replace ‘European’ with ‘Western/Modern-Rationalistic’)


“The image to the Hindu is a physical symbol and support of the supraphysical; it is a basis for the meeting between the embodied mind and sense of man and the supraphysical power, force or presence which he worships and with which he wishes to communicate.” 

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From Darkness to Light

“But the average European* has small faith in disembodied entities and, if they are at all, he would put them away into a category apart, another unconnected world, a separate existence. A nexus between the physical and supraphysical is to his view a meaningless subtlety admissible only in imaginative poetry and romance.” 

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“[Hinduism] has always known in its heart that religion, if it is to be a reality for the mass of men and not only for a few saints and thinkers, must address its appeal to the whole of our being, not only to the suprarational and the rational parts, but to all the others. The imagination, the emotions, the aesthetic sense, even the very instincts of the half subconscient parts must be taken into the influence.”

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When gods go around the town

“Religion must lead man towards the suprarational, the spiritual truth and it must take the aid of the illumined reason on the way, but it cannot afford to neglect to call Godwards the rest of our complex nature.”

Abhishekam 2

“And it must take too each man where he stands and spiritualise him through what he can feel and not at once force on him something which he cannot yet grasp as a true and living power. That is the sense and aim of all those parts of Hinduism which are specially stigmatised as irrational or antirational by the positivist intelligence.”

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“But the European* mind has failed to understand this plain necessity or has despised it. It insists on “purifying” religion, by the reason and not by the spirit, on “reforming” it, by the reason and not by the spirit. And we have seen what were the results of this kind of purification and reformation in Europe. The infallible outcome of that ignorant doctoring has been first to impoverish and then slowly to kill religion; the patient has fallen a victim to the treatment, while he might well have survived the disease!”

(*Replace ‘European’ with ‘Western/Modern-Rationalistic’)

Linking with ABC Wednesday, N, N is for Nexus

To see more photo-features on the blog, click HERE.

19 thoughts on ““A nexus between the physical and supraphysical”

Add yours

  1. There is a storm of thoughts your post has stirred up Beloo. But it is not a storm I will give words to, at least not here. Here I will only say, THANK YOU. For bringing me this luminous sting of thoughts. God bless you. Hugs.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. This post and the pictures are so evocative Beloo! Sri Aurobindo’s reference to ‘journalistic pugilism’ brought a big smile to my lips.

    Wanted to share some thoughts. In the temples of the south, they usually do not allow photographs of the garbhagriha and so the abhishekams are usually done to the utsav murtis, which are the ones taken around town, shown beautifully in one of the pictures here. The murti that is inside the garbhagriha is usually made of compacted herbs that are as hard as stone. Abhishekam done to these murtis therefore have all the extracts of the herbs, which is why often even the water was healing. However today very few if any, have the original murtis and the ones are made of black stone.

    When I saw the picture where the devotees are waiting ‘for the gods to wake up,’ I was reminded of a remark made by a rationalist friend. ‘In the temple near my house, they wrap a shawl around the idol of Krishna. Isn’t it weird?’ ‘No’, I said, ‘it isn’t. Because for the devotee the murti is a living Krishna who would feel as cold as he would in the winter.’

    This is love at its best. And we hear of interpretations of how Hindus ‘fear’ God! A post to dispel a lot of misconceptions about Hinduism through the words of the great Sri Aurobindo.

    I felt validated many times over. Thank you for this wonderful post.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you Zephyr for sharing these thoughts. I loved the bit about wrapping a shawl around Krishna. Of course, Krishna like everyone would feel cold in cold weather, what’s so weird about it? 🙂 This is the uniqueness of the Indian mind, the Indian way of being in the world which is slowly being erased because of the so-called rationality that reduces every other way of knowing to be superstition, weird, infra-rational etc. Gods are real, and so are their murtis! It is that simple, for an Indian mind and heart. My naniji used to tell me about some of her friends who used to adore Krishna as their son and they would do everything for the Laddu Gopal, the baby Krishna like a mother does for her infant baby. Bathe the Lord, dress him up, feed him, sing lullaby, make him sleep, wake him up, etc etc… I find that so endearing and I think such a love for the Lord is so difficult to find and grow within.

      About the Abhishekam photos featured here, you see this was a very special day when we were visiting the Chinna Venkateswara temple at Belur, Karnataka. It was the World Tourism Day and they were doing a special Abhishekam for which they allowed photographs. Normally, they don’t allow any photography of the garbhgriha. So Suhas got lucky that day! But of course the whole experience was so beautiful and mesmerising, he only remembered to capture a few moments of the whole thing.

      Suhas and I loved putting this post together. Thank you for your kind appreciation. Love and hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Again a profound post to read and to explore more. Always your posts leave me in thinking throughout that day. But I love that. Finding no words to express my thoughts and feelings at this moment. Hope you understand my silence too….. Grateful to you, Beloo !!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much, Vasantha for these super-kind words of appreciation. I definitely can sense what you are trying to convey through your silence. Feeling grateful and humbled. Love and best wishes.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. There is an iota of scepticism on the infallibility of our conclusion/prognosis applying our reason. Many a time our ego does not permit us to recognise the limitiation of our power of reasoning. It is almost impossible for intellect to bring in its sweep every aspect of a subject…

    Liked by 2 people

  5. What a wonderful word to choose for this weeks letter…. Everything is connected, i think, no matter how different thoughts and emotions, originated by place of birth, religion or what ever else… are.
    On a personal leavel, i think its impossible to disconnect physical and supraphysical. Every person is unique and only complete in its total.

    Have a nice abc-wednesday-day / – week
    ♫ M e l ☺ d y ♫ (abc-w-team)

    Liked by 2 people

  6. As a Christian who has dealing with the same sort of issues, I found your issue fascinating. I think we ASSUME Hinduism, Buddhism, et al are more civilized…



    1. Hi Roger, thanks for your comment. Actually the issue I am trying to highlight is that so many Indians, including Hindus (modern, rational, educated) don’t really fully understand the intricacies of Hindu thought and philosophy – which are essentially pluralistic, integrative and highly sublime – because of their own blindness caused by the exclusive rationalistic education of the mind. And this problem is aggravated because of the colonial mindset that is a big problem in countries like India where so many of our state laws and systems, including our education for the most part still carries a huge colonial baggage. Thus same categories of thought which marginalised Hinduism and also mocked/ridiculed/criticised it sharply because it didn’t fit in with the mainstream Christian-Islamic monotheistic/exclusive view of religion still gets inculcated through our sociological-cultural-political-educational discourse. Such ignorant criticism was challenged by several thinkers and philosophers during the Indian freedom movement. But the problem continues and thus the need for renewed challenge to such ignorant criticism is required.

      Liked by 3 people

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