Applied Spirituality and Our Work

A note by Beloo Mehra, Director, BhāratShakti

Sri Aurobindo Society seeks to bring a dynamic spirituality into material life and all its activities, so that the global problems can find a true solution, and the dreams of humanity, through the ages, can be realized.

~ From Sri Aurobindo Society’s website

Sri Aurobindo Society’s mission and vision is to disseminate the light and force of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother in all domains of human activity. Accordingly, all our works including our research projects have always been on topics and issues that impact diverse aspects of our collective lives.

But collective life is not entirely separate from how each one of us understands and lives our own individual life. Sri Aurobindo once said that what is true of the individual is also true of the nation. In a way, this implies that the Light which helps us work out a sustainable resolution to a challenge or problem in individual life will also guide us to right solutions and approaches when dealing with collective problems.

Today humanity faces serious challenges such as global poverty, mindless consumerism, ecological destruction versus the need for economic development, global terrorism, inter-religious conflicts, widespread corruption, and many more. Political leaders, subject experts, intellectuals, journalists, activists, pretty much everyone has an opinion on these matters. In their own ways, peoples, societies and nations have been trying to address these conflicts and challenges using different approaches – by enacting reasonable laws, formulating appropriate policies, strengthening relevant institutions, and promoting all the ‘right’ secular values such as equality, liberty, human rights, universal education. At the same time, there is a greater sensitivity now to promoting nobler ideals such as compassion for all life and nature, peace, non-violence, etc.

But still the challenges continue and even get worse over time. Maybe some key aspect is still missing.

This is where we must bring in the idea of applied spirituality. It has been said by many spiritual masters including Sri Aurobindo that the consciousness which created a problem cannot help us solve it. Only when we rise in consciousness, we can truly understand the problem and address it.

This means that if the challenges we face today – whether in individual life or collective life – are the outcome of mind-based modernisation, which is the result of a rational, materialistic scientific model of progress, we need to go beyond the rational-scientific-materialistic paradigm to something that is suprarational and spiritual. It does not mean giving up science or giving up our concerns with material progress. It means seeing that in the larger and wider picture of subjective and spiritual progress of individuals and societies.

In one of his writings, Sri Aurobindo uses a phrase “spiritual practicality.” Now this term can be confusing to those who are used to thinking that spirituality and practicality cannot go hand in hand. Many of us have been conditioned to a faulty notion which sees “spiritual” people as “impractical, other-worldly” or those who are “out-of-touch-with-the-real-big-bad-world.”

But the truth is something else. True Indian spirituality is not a world-denying spirituality – this is another important truth Sri Aurobindo reminds us through his vast writings on India and Indian culture. His famous line – All Life is Yoga – summarises this life-affirming nature of spirituality.

An unbiased and honest look at the thousands of years of India’s history will tell us about the immense contributions of rishis, munis, yogis, sadhaks, gurus in practically all aspects of human life and activity. Philosophy, psychology, ethics, sociology, mathematics, astronomy, science, medicine, literature, arts, politics, warfare — every field of what we consider as “practical” human activity has been the field of work of our rishis and yogis.

Once again, we need to bring the wisdom of “spiritual practicality” or applied spirituality to find deeper ways to address some of the most serious issues of our times.


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