Govardhan Dave is perhaps at his illogical best in the recent posting of 19 August 2014 on the Well-Wishers’ forum. Logical analysis was never his strong point, but what concerns me is that he is also an ignoramus on life in Sri Aurobindo Ashram and on the stormy events that have recently occurred there. What is more disconcerting is that he proceeds to write a factual analysis of the controversy with this half-knowledge and with his half-baked mind. This double deficiency makes him indeed a dangerous disseminator of wrong information which gullible strangers might readily believe. Hence I will take the trouble to rebut him instead of dismissing him as a harmless nincompoop who is being used by the Well-Wishers’ forum to shoot over their shoulders. I quote below his so-called analysis with my comments below.
Aug 29, 2014
Aug 22, 2014
The Well-Wishers of Sri Aurobindo Ashram Forum is active again. This Forum can be considered as the unofficial mouthpiece of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust with Matriprasad Satyamurthy (secretary of the Ashram Trust) and Richard Hartz (controversial editor of Sri Aurobindo’s publications) hiding behind pseudonyms and spewing hatred at what they call anti-Ashram elements. Let me remind you once more that we had made a clear distinction between the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust in our last response to this forum. Therefore the Ashramites who have filed this “new case” are not against the Ashram but the Ashram Trust, which runs the Ashram in the most irresponsible manner. Their demand is to revamp the present administration through a Government intervention without which no structural changes can be brought about in the governance of the Ashram. The changes will ensure transparency and accountability, the utter lack of which is the hallmark of the present setup. The introduction of some democracy into the highly autocratic functioning of the present Trustees would also be a welcome measure. All these demands are fundamental to any institution in modern times and, if the excuse for not conceding to them is that the Ashram is a spiritual institution and not a secular one, then show me these “highly spiritual disciples” among the present Trustees who can guide the Ashram to its spiritual destiny!
Aug 16, 2014
Interviewer(s): Pranab-da, you said that on the 24th April, 1945 you marched in front of Sri Aurobindo. Where and how was it?
Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya: It was in 1948. It was in the Darshan Room. He was sitting in the Darshan Room and we did the march past in the hall that is above Meditation Hall [downstairs]. We came in by the staircase door that is nearer to the staircase, and then took a round and came out by the other door. Two in a row and we told everybody not to do pranam and all that, as that will spoil the march past. Just turn your head and see. In bhakti, you know, if they did pranam, they would spoil everything (laughter). So the whole march past took some three or four minutes and we got the advantage of going again for the second time, so we had two Darshans.
Interviewer(s): She said anything after that?
PKB: She liked it very much. Sri Aurobindo was amused, that is what Mother said. There was a little smile on his face, we could see that. And when it was finished, I went and told him that it was over and he gave me a nod. Then Mother told me that the way I had come and said the thing was over was liked very much by Sri Aurobindo.
Aug 9, 2014
It has been a long time since the “No Religion” refrain in Ashram and especially in Auroville is becoming louder and louder to the extent of becoming “No Spirituality”. The cry against Religion has now become so belligerent that there seems to be no place left for spirituality, no place for devotion and reverence, no place for the aspiration of the soul, and finally no place for Sri Aurobindo and the Mother themselves. The reason that is promptly given is that Sri Aurobindo and the Mother were themselves against the founding of a new Religion, and especially the Mother’s sharp remarks on Religion in the Agenda seemed to have sealed its fate for good, that is, if you believe in the Mother as the final authority in these matters, which ironically becomes again a sort of Religion. So you really cannot disprove Religion by quoting Mother if you adopt a religious attitude towards Mother herself! Either you throw the baby with the bathwater, that is, throw religion out of the window along with its founders, or accept what they say and try to understand the difference between spirituality and religion, and where exactly religion becomes spirituality or how spirituality deteriorates into religion. The problem then becomes complex and you begin to grasp the various nuances, and of course you can give a rational explanation to this highly emotive issue to diehard anti-religionists.
Aug 3, 2014
Interviewer(s): How did your family come here?
Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya: My family? All that I have given in my paper. My grandfather died and my father and uncle wanted to have some spiritual guidance, they were looking for a Guru. All that I have said, I need not repeat.
Interviewer(s): When you first came here, did Mother say anything?
PKB: That also I have said, there was no talk, but I felt that she liked me from the beginning. I had a plan about which I have not spoken in that paper. I have told you that I opened a physical culture club there, and though it was a physical culture club, I was moulding the character of the boys. It was my idea that I would prepare good specimens of men who would make the country rich by their experience and their service. That was my idea, and it worked quite well. I was at that time 17 or 18 years old, and it worked very well.
Jul 28, 2014
The Well-wishers of Sri Aurobindo Ashram website which follows closely our site has recently done some “remarkable investigation” and announced how it has “connected the dots” between the so-called anti-Ashram nexus. Let me first remind these “highly intelligent sleuths” that Sri Aurobindo Ashram (Pondicherry) is different from the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust (Pondicherry). The Ashram Trust was created by the Mother in 1955 for protecting the assets and properties of the Ashram, whereas Sri Aurobindo Ashram spontaneously began in 1926 when Sri Aurobindo gave “the spiritual and material charge” of his disciples to the Mother after the Siddhi Day. The Ashram is the spiritual institution and the Ashram Trust is only a legal body, whose administration has at first gradually and then rapidly deteriorated in recent times after the passing away of its Gurus. A section of the Ashramites are extremely unhappy with the corrupt and dictatorial functioning of the Ashram Trust and have therefore gone against it in various legitimate ways. They have not gone against the Ashram itself nor do they want to destroy the Ashram from the face of this earth, as the supporters of the Ashram Trust would like the ignorant public to believe. The solution to this rudderless present situation of the Ashram without any spiritual heads, or rather with the present Trustees who always get into loggerheads with anybody who differs from them, is an alternate system of fair and democratic governance. If this is difficult to understand and highly objectionable, then I think we have to set the clock back and go back to pre Magna Carta days.
Jul 25, 2014
[Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya (1922-2010) was one of the closest attendants of the Mother and the Director of the Physical Education Department of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry. Physical Education is taken very seriously in the Ashram, far more than what most people would expect in an institution dedicated to spiritual growth. Literally all the members of the Ashram have a daily routine of physical exercise interspersed with work and meditation. All the students of the Ashram School have compulsory physical education every day for an hour and a half. The Dept. of Physical Education is thus very well-organised and pools the talent of more than a hundred voluntary captains, coaches and helping instructors, without mentioning those who maintain its numerous grounds for playing football, basketball, hockey, volleyball and other games. There is also enough infrastructure for the regular practice of Athletics, Swimming, Gymnastics and even Combatives. Competitions are held every year in which older Ashramites vie with the young students of the Ashram School. Ashram records are timed with stop watches, carefully measured with tapes, and systematically noted down. These are then databased and preserved for posterity so that you can get an analysis of your athletic performance twenty years back at the touch of a button. One would actually wonder as to whether the Ashram is a Yogic or a sports institution! But no, in the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, sports can be turned towards Yoga, and the perfection of the body can become a Yogic ideal. At the same time, physical health undoubtedly imparts a great stability to life, whether you choose to do Yoga or not.
Jul 18, 2014
Manoj Das suffers from an uncontrollable itch to put down his critics. It would have been so much better had the writer’s itch channelised itself in a more fruitful manner in his own realm of creative writing. But I have been told that from the last decade or two his literary creativity is ebbing in inverse proportion to his mounting desire to be honoured by all sorts of awards. The last big award he successfully managed to canvas for was the Padma Sri award, accorded by the Govt. of India in 2001. Now I suppose he is eying for the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Vibhushan. But what is he doing at Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Puducherry, and how does the Ashram help him in his enterprise?
No, he has certainly not thrown fame to the winds to attain the Supramental Transformation or even to achieve a Yogic poise! If he had really done so, why would he rush out for a fresh round of self-promotion each time he receives an invitation from literary circles? Why would he criticise other awardees who have outshone him in literary output and perhaps deprived him of the award that he might have won instead? And why is he so keen on saving his reputation which has recently plummeted in his home state of Orissa after this site published the less known details of his activities in Pondicherry?
Jul 11, 2014
Dear Mr. Das,
I have read your letter of 15.06.2014 to Niranjan-bhai (Niranjan Naik). As you have requested him not to say anything about you, I am interested to reply to your letter because I am thoroughly conversant with the facts of the controversy. Also the nature of your letter demands an answer.
On 10.05.2013 in your article “Last Appeal”, you had said that you will not to write anything more on the present controversy in the Ashram. As you frequently break your own promise and baffle the common devotees and disciples of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, an answer to your letter is therefore badly needed. All your letters like the present one are factually wrong, unsubstantial, discordant, irrelevant and full of unnecessary emotion.
Jul 5, 2014
Sri Aurobindo’s intellect was influenced by Greek philosophy.
[SRI AUROBINDO's Correction:] Very little. I read more than once Plato’s Republic and Symposium, but only extracts from his other writings. It is true that under his impress I rashly started writing at the age of 18 an explanation of the cosmos on the foundation of the principle of Beauty and Harmony, but I never got beyond the first three or four chapters. I read Epictetus and was interested in the ideas of the Stoics and the Epicureans; but I made no study of Greek philosophy or of any of the [? ]. I made in fact no study of metaphysics in my school and College days. What little I knew about philosophy I picked up desultorily in my general reading. I once read, not Hegel, but a small book on Hegel, but it left no impression on me. Later, in India, I read a book on Bergson, but that too ran off “like water from a duck’s back”.
Jun 28, 2014
But it was Hegel, among all German thinkers, who had the deepest and most enduring impact on Western thought and identity. It is often forgotten that his work was a reaction against the Romantics’ passion for India’s past. He borrowed Indian ideas (such as monism) while debating Indologists to argue against the value of Indian civilization. He posited that the West, and only the West, was the agent of history and teleology. India was the ‘frozen other’, which he used as a foil to define the West.
Jun 19, 2014
[Being Different by Rajiv Malhotra (published by Harper Collins, 2011) is a must read not only for young Indians of modern India, especially those who are ashamed of being Hindus, but also for the followers and disciples of Sri Aurobindo, who have sometimes the misguided notion that Sri Aurobindo rejected Hinduism. The first effect the book has on you is that it makes you proud of being a Hindu, of Being Different from what the West wants you to be. One of the frequent accusations of Westerners on India is that it is a Chaos not only materially but also spiritually, and that there is no Order, which is so prominent in the West. Rajiv Malhotra brilliantly explains this point and analyses the nature and reason for this difference between Westerners and Indians. The Chaos, he says, is only apparent for people who look only for one Order whereas Indians have learnt to live with multiple orders from times immemorial, and have therefore acquired a far greater complexity of mind and attitude than Westerners. I reproduce below an excerpt from Being Different by Rajiv Malhotra. -- by Krish Patwardhan]