INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON
RELEVANCE OF SRI AUROBINDO AND THE GRAND VISIONS OF THE ANCIENT INDIAN WISDOM
May 4 and 5, 2017
Mahatma Gandhi Center for Non-Violence, Human Rights and World Peace
Hindu University of America
The Mahatma Gandhi Center for Non-Violence, Human Rights and World Peace at the Hindu University of America, Orlando, USA, organized a two-day international conference on May 4 and 5, 2017, on the theme Relevance of Sri Aurobindo and the Grand Visions of the Ancient Indian Wisdom. Speakers from India and the US participated in the conference and focused on various aspects of Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy and its relevance for the contemporary world.
The two-day conference aimed at a discussion of Sri Aurobindo’s perspectives on the intersection of spirituality and practicality towards a better organization of human life and society. The deliberations positioned Sri Aurobindo’s ideas in theoretical and policy debates on individual, state, society and world. Sri Aurobindo’s seminal contribution cannot be confined to a particular discipline as his genius touched almost every branch of human knowledge. It is, hence, impossible to cover all of his ideas and philosophy in a single conference. The conference covered some aspects of Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy and its applicability to contemporary problems. Despite the profundity of his philosophy and its wider implications, Sri Aurobindo and his ideas are relatively less known in the West, and there have been few events to make an in-depth study of his philosophy. The conference was a step towards filling this gap.
Sri Aurobindo argued that human society has evolved throughout history and is destined to move towards better organization of life. His aphorism ‘All Life is Yoga’ is in consonance with his evolutionary philosophy and Integral Yoga that encompass every aspect of human life and society, the onward march of which does not stop at the present transitory formations. Sri Aurobindo did not deny relevance of the transitory formations, but emphasized that they have to be transcended as they are not the culmination in the evolution. Applying this evolutionary logic, neither the individual nor the groups and organizations created by individuals are the culmination of human evolution. Following Advaita Vedanta, Sri Aurobindo believed that there is a fundamental unity as the very basis of existence and at the foundation of all things, and it is the Nature that moves to realize this unity. He termed the Veda as a record of “inner experience and the suggestions of the intuitive mind,” which is beyond “mankind’s ordinary perceptions and daily activities.” Similarly, he described the Upanishads, the waning or lost knowledge recovered by Rishis through “meditation and spiritual experience” or recovery of the old truths in new forms by Rishis who used the Vedic Word as “a seed of thought and vision.” For him, the Veda symbolizes, “the struggle between spiritual powers of Light and Darkness, Truth and Falsehood, Knowledge and Ignorance, Death and Immortality.” He expressed dissatisfaction that the modern individual, busy with his mundane life and outward activities, has decreasing interest in this ancient wisdom.
The inter-disciplinary conference brought together scholars from diverse fields and featured academic presentations, chanting of hymns and smile meditation. Shri Braham Aggarwal, Chairman, Hindu University of America, inaugurated the conference and read the message of Dr. Karan Singh, the noted Sri Aurobindo Scholar and Indian Parliamentarian. The prominent guests in the conference included Shri Suresh Gupta, CEO, Park Square Homes, Shri M. P. Rama of JHM Hotels and Shri Manohar Shinde of Dharma Civilization Foundation. The inaugural address was delivered by Dr. Anand Reddy of Sri Aurobindo Center for Advanced Research, and the Keynote addresses were delivered by Richard Hartz, Rand Hicks, Debashish Banerjee and Michel Danino. In his message, Dr. Karan Singh wrote, “Sri Aurobindo felt that India had a spiritual message which was urgently needed in the world of the twentieth century, in fact that he was destined to lead mankind up the next step of spiritual evolution, and one of the reasons why he was so adamant that the political goal should be nothing less than complete independence. It was his conviction that then alone could India fulfil her true destiny in the broader international community.”
There were twenty-six speakers in the conference representing academic institutions, think tanks, non-governmental organizations and business houses. From India scholars from places like Chennai, Bangalore, Thiruvananthapuram, Shantiniketan, Goa, Ambala, Pondicherry had participated in the conference. Scholars from institutes like University of Western Florida, Southern New Hampshire University, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Pondicherry, Auroville, Integral Knowledge Study Center Pensacola, Madras Institute of Development Studies Chennai, Visva Bharati, National Institute of Technology Goa, Sohan Lal DAV College, Sri Aurobindo Institute of Education in Human Values Bangalore, Sardar Patel University, Valencia college, University of Central Florida and Hindu University of America participated in the conference. The speakers focused on a diverse range of topics including integral Yoga, poetry, education, ideal human unity, philosophy and global age, psychic being, Aryan invasion theory, Vedanta, Confucianism, pragmatism and spirituality, Sri Aurobindo’s metaphysics and Western philosophies of mind, Bhagwat Gita, Savitri, Sri Aurobindo’s Sapta Chatustaya, Sri Aurobindo’s vision of India’s resurgence, science and spirituality, inner healing and life divine, child education, rebirth, and Sanatana Dharma.
Participants unanimously agreed that relevance of Sri Aurobindo for the contemporary world is undisputable. There is a need for an in-depth study of philosophy of Sri Aurobindo and its potential to address problems at the levels of individual, society and the world. Though the conference explored theoretical aspects of Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy, it emphasized its practical application in day-to-day life. The two-day conference ended with the resolve to continue the learning experience.
Dr. D. Aurobinda Mahapatra
Director, Mahatma Gandhi Center for Non-Violence, Human Rights and World Peace
Hindu University of America
Orlando, FL 32811