Friday, January 8, 2010

Being and Becoming


Recently I came across a YouTube video of Andrew Cohen's 'Being and Becoming' workshop. He is standing in front of a colorful circular diagram teaching that spirituality based solely on the Being [the Immobile, Static Absolute] are outdated and that 'God is Being ... and God is Becoming.' The goal Cohen posits is to 'become God in his or her manifested form. That's what the authentic self is.... God is the creative impulse ... the energy and intelligence that initiated the creative process and also this Ground.' I was impressed by the way Cohen handled participants whose idea of spiritual enlightenment or progress was to disregard, escape or detach oneself from the 'Becoming', i.e. from the evolving, ever-changing material expression of the One Self in Many varied forms and expressions. He comments that the enlightenment teachings of Adyashanti and Eckhart Tolle are 'outmoded, a pre-modern interpretation of Enlightenment .... It will help individuals to feel better, it will help you to feel better, help me to feel better. But I don't really think the point right now is me feeling better or you feeling better.'

I agree with Cohen that Buddhist-flavored teachings which frame the material and temporal realities of our existence (the Becoming) as an illusion to be transcended so that one can rest or dissolve oneself and one’s material burdens or limitations in the Immobile Absolute (Being) are outdated … like a skin that needs to be shed so that human consciousness can progress to higher perspective and experience of material existence.

My first introduction to the Divine as simultaneously Being and Becoming (also 'One and the Many') came from the writings of Sri Aurobindo. He made it explicitly clear that a realization of the absolute Being, blissfully disconnected from the material, temporal field of Becoming was not the true goal of the spiritual quest. Further studies of the Supramental Descent, including the teachings of the Mother and Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet (Thea) thoroughly convinced me that Buddhism and Buddhist-flavored teachings of spiritual 'enlightenment' were just as outdated, OLD and mis-representative of the Divine Self and the potentialities of material existence and consciousness as all other religions that our modern civilization has inherited from the Age of Pisces (234 B.C.E - 1926 C.E.). In 2001 Thea discussed this issue, among other topics, with the editor-in-chief of Cohen’s What is Enlightenment? magazine at her cosmological center in India. That interview was never published or referred to by Cohen and was not given to Thea for her own use. It is still a mystery as to why he chose to bury that interview when the whole flavor of his teachings around that time began to head in the direction of subjects which she had already raised to a whole new level, including the evolution of consciousness, the divinization of the individual, cosmology, and the harmonies of a unified Being and Becoming. [For more information on this issue see "Andrew Cohen's 'Evolutionary Enlightenment' and a Buried Interview with Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet"]

The Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo, the Mother and Thea has been relentlessly aimed at dismantling the negative relationship with and view of our material existence – the negative view and experience of our Becoming within the confining framework or womb of time and space. Separately and as a triadic consciousness-force and action in the world these mahayogis have reminded humanity that the Vedic Journey or evolution towards a fully divine material existence is a reality, not a superstition or primitive myth conjured up by primitive people at all, but rather the natural and inevitable unfolding (Becoming) of the One Self of All Selves (the Being).
‘The pure existent is then a fact and no mere concept; it is the fundamental reality. But, let us hasten to add, the movement, the energy, the becoming are also a fact, also a reality. The supreme intuition and its corresponding experience may correct the other, may go beyond, may suspend, but do not abolish it. We have therefore two fundamental facts of pure existence and of world-existence, a fact of Being, a fact of Becoming. To deny one or the other is easy; to recognize the facts of consciousness and find out their relation is the true and fruitful wisdom.’ – Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, p. 86
So Cohen seems to be at least somewhat on the right track in his new teachings, trying to wean people out of a negative relationship with the Becoming; but regrettably nowhere in his talk did he refer to those who have preceded and at least somewhat informed his own conception on the matter. He has paid little true respect to those who through their difficult yoga have made epic, heroic and fruitful efforts towards restoring in our modern times the Vedic conception and consciousness of a divinely intertwined Being and Becoming. Rather when discussing the question of the relationship between Being and Becoming (the Absolute and the Relative), which many have come to think of as somehow separate, he says:
'This teaching I have is really the only, in terms of the enlightenment teachings, is the only clear, unambiguous answer to the question, because as I was saying before, God is Being ... and God is Becoming.'
Perhaps by saying, 'in terms of the enlightenment teachings', Cohen feels that he is not misleading his students. Regardless, he is well-aware that before he even said boo on the matter, the yoga of Sri Aurobindo, the Mother and Thea had already thoroughly addressed and shed much needed light on the unified nature of Being and Becoming and the Divine Harmonies that flow from this arrangement. But somehow he does not consider, at least in this particular video, that their ‘answers’ and extensive teachings on Being and Becoming to be worth mentioning to his students who it is his mission to guide and enlighten. It is curious to say the least and actually disturbing to people who know that the question of the true relationship between Being and Becoming has been exquisitely addressed by teachers whose consciousness and integrating force far exceeds that of Cohen. Perhaps elsewhere in his work Cohen gives credit where credit is due with regard to the Vedic foundations of the Being and Becoming teachings and the progress made by Sri Aurobindo, the Mother and Thea towards exposing the incompleteness of the multitude of spiritual paths inherited from an Age gone by which focus on attaining oneness with the Immobile, Absolute Being (a Divine Being or God removed from Earth's movements and evolution) and ignoring or negating the Divine nature of the spatial and temporal flow of the Earth and Cosmos. If this is the case, I'd love to know about it.

In the 'Being and Becoming' workshop, Cohen mentions the need to 'pull ourselves out of this narcissistic nightmare' which is our normal state of consciousness. To me his teaching, which discounts and disconnects from the deeper thread of the Being and Becoming as presented in the Vedic texts and in the Supramental Yoga and Cosmology, is in itself a 'narcissistic nightmare'. The Supramental dynamics, harmonies, geometries, consciousness-force and sanatana dharma of the unified field of Being and Becoming have been explored and taught with astounding depth, accuracy and precision over the past hundred years or so by Sri Aurobindo, the Mother and Thea. I have yet to see any work of Cohen's that is anything but a distant and distorted echo of the tone set by these three Supramental yogis; and if our civilization succeeds in waking up from its narcissistic nightmare I am fairly certain it will not be by listening to and literally buying such underwhelming and superficial approximations of the true logic, consciousness-force and harmonized Being/Becoming of our Transcendent, Cosmic and Individual Divine Self.

One of my friends has had Buddhist leanings for decades. Our discussions would always get a bit heated when talking about Sri Aurobindo's teachings on the limitations and errors of Buddhism. He had never read anything of Sri Aurobindo's and would defend his experience that Buddhist teachings and philosophies were helpful to him in terms of dealing with the stresses and struggles of life. I would try to explain Sri Aurobindo's higher and wider view of things and usually the conversation went nowhere because my explanations of Sri Aurobindo's higher and wider view did not transmit the actual experience of Sri Aurobindo's higher and wider view. Seeing this, all I could do was say that until I began to read Sri Aurobindo's writings in my mid-twenties, I too thought Buddhist teachings were 'good food' for the spiritual quest. After reading Sri Aurobindo's writings, Buddhist thought seemed no longer appealing. Just as if I had been use to eating canned or fast food and one day discovered fresh and high quality food and from then on out had no more interest in the canned or fast food. It was like that.

Many years later my friend is now spontaneously and diligently reading his way through his first Sri Aurobindo book, The Synthesis of Yoga. After his readings he is always aglow with inspiration and love of knowledge. 'It is such good food for the soul', he has commented. He did not remember my food analogies from years gone by. He simply saw for himself that Sri Aurobindo's view of the Whole and All-Encompassing Triadic Self (Transcendent, Cosmic and Individual) was better spiritual sustenance for him, for his soul, than the Buddhist teachings with which he was so familiar. The transmissions he receives from the truth-consciousness and real force present in Sri Aurobindo's writings occur to him as inherently more true, more positive, more uplifting, more luminous than the Buddhist teachings to which he had previously been so accustomed and attached. It is always a rare treat for me to witness someone in my circle of friends and acquaintances (outside my ‘inner’ circle of well-initiated yogic compadres that is) who, after all that I have written and communicated about the matter, finally takes the time to explore the Supramental and Integral Yoga and Cosmology. The results are always a widening of perspective beyond pre-existing beliefs and ideas of the Self and a deepening appreciation for the evolutionary journey by which the Divine expresses its full Self in the field of time and space.

I relate this experience because I am convinced that even though the 'food' or teachings offered by Andrew Cohen maybe slightly 'better' (i.e. closer to the Truth of Self ) than those who continue to disregard the importance of the Becoming (the real evolution and real purpose of the dynamic Cosmos and the Individual), it is still remarkably substandard or 'canned' in comparison to what has been presented by Sri Aurobindo, the Mother and Thea on matters of evolutionary spirituality, Being and Becoming, cosmology and the divinization of the Individual. Perhaps some readers will be offended by my assessment of the quality of their spiritual food. But there is really no use in getting upset. If one likes one's spiritual food and has no interest in exploring a ‘tip’ or ‘lead’ that there is better food for the soul offered outside their religion, current field or arena of interests, then that is that. But, if one is, on the other hand, curious as to whether or not Sri Aurobindo's Supramental Descent and Integral Yoga actually represents a wider, truer, more unifying, more integral, more conscious, more all-embracing, more sustainable and more luminous view of existence than previously and currently offered by the world's major religions or popular spiritual trends, then one should start reading and see for oneself whether or not one feels illuminated or well-fed.

Spirituality is in its essence an awakening to the inner reality of our being, to a spirit, self, soul which is other than our mind, life and body, an inner aspiration to know, to feel, to be that, to enter into contact with the greater Reality beyond and pervading the universe which inhabits also our own being, to be in communion with It and union with It, and a turning, a conversion, a transformation of our whole being as a result of the aspiration, the contact, the union, a growth or waking into a new becoming or new being, a new self, a new nature.

– Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine



See Addendum: Sri Aurobindo, the Mother and Thea on the subject of Being and Becoming

Related Articles:
* 'The Revolt of Spirit Against Matter: a Two-Thousand-Year-Old Negation Rooted in Buddhism - A selection of Sri Aurobindo and Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet's writings on the Buddha and Buddhism' (from www.quantumyoga.org)
* 'The Object of Our Yoga' by Sri Aurobindo (posted 8 January 2010)
* 'A Higher Vision of Time is Needed to Appreciate, Experience and Enjoy the Relationship Between Being and Becoming' (posted 14 January 2010)
* 'In Harmony's Way' (posted 24 January 2010)

Explanations of Cohen's teaching and influences:
*Evolution and Andrew Cohen by Jeff Carreira (a longtime student of Cohen's and founder of Evolution, Enlightenment and American Philosophy blog)
*Being & Becoming:
The Philosophy & Vision of Evolutionary Enlightenment by Andrew Cohen

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2 comments:

  1. Lori, I found the following quote in The New Way. It reminded me of your Being and Becoming article.

    'Grace is a moment of Divine Love experienced through the realisation of the harmony of Time. Love and Time are the being and becoming of Creation.' (TNW p.150)

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  2. Lori,
    What a nice article. I watched the Cohen video and although I agree with most of it, there is no denying that there is an "I" (ahankar) factor in his lectures. Like you rightly quoted, the teacher needs to conquer ahankar in order for his disciples to do the same !

    Partha, Bangalore, India

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