1 Oct 2008

Narad's Letter to the Ashram Trust

[Editorial note: This is the letter written by Narad, an American disciple who had close contact with the Mother and has been closely associated with the foundaction of Auroville.]

TO THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE SRI AUROBINDO ASHRAM

Oct. 1, 2008
Respected trustees,

I have known some of you for nearly 50 years and I am saddened that I must write this letter. You are well aware that I have never spoken out concerning anything but the adeshes given to me by Mother, namely, to bring down a New Music, to care for the Service Tree for the duration of my life and to build the Gardens of the Matrimandir.

I am saddened, therefore, to write to you today concerning the book The Lives of Sri Aurobindo by Peter Heehs.

Let me begin with these words from Mother as they form the basis of my letter to you.

“I was painfully shocked when I heard the translation of the leaflet you are distributing here in the Ashram. I never imagined you could have such a complete lack of understanding, respect and devotion for our Lord who has sacrificed himself totally for us. Sri Aurobindo was {not} crippled; a few hours before he left his body he rose from his bed and sat for a long time in his armchair, speaking freely to all those around him. Sri Aurobindo was not compelled to leave his body, he chose to do so for reasons so sublime that they are beyond the reach of human mentality. And when one cannot understand, the only thing to do is to keep a respectful silence.” 26 December 1950

"It is not a question of disobedience. I know nothing about your additions to the Life Sketch of the sources from which they were taken. My point of view is this, that anything written by a sadhak about Sri Aurobindo which brings him down to an ordinary level and admits the reader to a sort of gossiping familiarity with him is an unfaithfulness to Him and His work. Good intentions are not sufficient, it is necessary that this should be understood by everybody." 3 June 1939

Sri Aurobindo had written:

" I see that you have persisted in giving a biography--is it really necessary or useful? The attempt is bound to be a failure, because neither you nor anyone else knows anything at all of my life; it ha snot been on the surface for men to see."

"It would be only myself who could speak of things in my past giving them their true from and significance."

I was visiting one of the Sri Aurobindo Centers in the U.S. for a week of Karma Yoga, offering my help as I do at all His Centers in America. I saw the book by Peter Heehs on the table and asked the person in charge for his thoughts about the book. He praised it highly citing the meticulous scholarship, the years of detailed and dedicated research and its unbiased reporting. He mentioned further that Peter had no formal education and had always desired acceptance by the academic community and had now achieved it through the publication of his book and the efforts of Michael Murphy and the Esalen Institute and others in America to endorse and publicize it.

I picked up the book and immediately my strong inner feeling was, “This is something dark.” I began to scan through some sections and the feeling was more than borne out. What I clearly felt was an attack on Sri Aurobindo couched in pseudo-intellectual terms positing seemingly innocuous and carefully scripted comments that are in essence derogatory, disrespectful and undermining. I scanned through some pages, going first to the section on poetry, then to a few other areas. The feeling that came over me was that this was a book done for one's ego, a work lacking sensibility, bordering on blasphemy and interspersed with sensationalized comments to bring the author fame. Though I have read many pages I find that I cannot and will not read any more for its darkness is pervasive. Since then I have read the letters of Ananda Reddy, Alok Pandey and Sraddhalu Ranade and agree with all they have written.

I know that there are a number of people in the U.S. who champion the book as an honest portrayal of a great sage who was also human and had numerous failings, but for me, a disciple initiated by Mother, it is an abomination, castigating Sri Aurobindo, the Lord who descended into human form to bring down the Supramental. Essentially it is an effort to bring Sri Aurobindo down to a low human level. How can we begin to offer a critique of Sri Aurobindo’s life? Do we need to read more than that which Mother has said of Him?

“Sri Aurobindo came upon earth to teach this truth to men. He told them that man is only a transitional being living in a mental consciousness, but with the possibility of acquiring a new consciousness, the Truth-consciousness, and capable of living a life perfectly harmonious, good and beautiful, happy and fully conscious. During the whole of his life upon earth, Sri Aurobindo gave all his time to establish in himself this consciousness he called supramental, and to help those gathered around him to realise it.”

“What Sri Aurobindo represents in the world's history is not a teaching, not even a revelation; it is a decisive action direct from the Supreme.”

“Sri Aurobindo has come on earth not to bring a teaching or a creed in competition with previous creeds or teachings, but to show the way to overpass the past and to open concretely the route towards an imminent and inevitable future.”

“Sri Aurobindo belongs to the future; he is the messenger of the future. He still shows us the way to follow in order to hasten the realisation of a glorious future fashioned by the Divine Will.”

“All those who want to collaborate for the progress of humanity and for India's luminous destiny must unite in a clairvoyant aspiration and in an illumined work.”

“Sri Aurobindo came upon earth to announce the manifestation of the supramental world and not merely did he announce this manifestation but embodied also in part the supramental force and showed by example what one must do to prepare oneself for manifesting it. The best thing we can do is to study all that he has told us and endeavour to follow his example and prepare ourselves for the new manifestation.”

I feel certain that you are all aware of the above and mine is only the small voice of one whose surrender to Mother and Sri Aurobindo has been woefully inadequate. I have no personal grudge or animosity towards Peter and hardly know him, having spoken to him on only a few occasions, but I believe this book can do great damage to the spiritual aspirations of Westerners by instilling in them the doubts and criticisms of Sri Aurobindo that PH so subtly interposes in his biography.

I would ask that the following be done for the Lord’s work upon earth.

  1. The Ashram disavow the work, in writing, as misleading and erroneous and defamatory towards Sri Aurobindo and forbid its distribution in the Ashram.
  2. Deny Peter Heehs all future access to the Archives and demand the return of any materials belonging to the Ashram that he may presently have in his possession.
  3. Request Penguin Books not to publish the book in India due to the above. I am certain that many scholars have already exposed the falsehoods throughout the work.
  4. Forbid Peter Heehs to use any copyrighted Ashram material in the publication of any future book on The Mother or Sri Aurobindo.

In these turbulent days when the forces of negation are acting to delay or disrupt the work of Mother and Sri Aurobindo, we must stand for the Truth of all They have sacrificed for us.

Sri Aurobindo, the Avatar of the Supramental, cannot be judged or written about from our low human perspectives. We have so far to go on the path He has blazed, making it not only easier but possible for those who are called to tread the way of Light.

The least we can do is kneel ever humbly at His feet.

In Their Love,
Narad (Richard Eggenberger)

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