8 Nov 2008

Some Responses to Stock-Taking

An sciy url carries a posting by Rich, dated 20 October 2008, and is entitled Corrections to textual excerpts of The Lives of Sri Aurobindo by Peter Heehs. He introduces it as follows: “There is a movement of folks in Pondicherry who are so upset by the biography that Peter Heehs has written entitled The Lives of Sri Aurobindo that they have instigated a movement to discredit the author. Some people have even become so embolden as to try and have him ejected from the Ashram itself. The folks who have spurred this on have in the course of their attacks on Mr. Heehs openly distorted his text by decontextualizing portions of it or by a series of selective omissions to make it suit their own interpretation of events that facilitate their own story they wish to tell.” A long discussion follows and Debashish summarises it in the nature of “Stock Taking”, posted on 24 October 2008. We reproduce it here for quick and pertinent reference. Three comments in response to it are also given. ~ RYD

The following url carries a posting dated 20 October 2008 by Rich, entitled Corrections to textual excerpts of The Lives of Sri Aurobindo by Peter Heehs.
Rich introduces it thus: “There is a movement of folks in Pondicherry who are so upset by the biography that Peter Heehs has written entitled The Lives of Sri Aurobindo that they have instigated a movement to discredit the author. Some people have even become so embolden as to try and have him ejected from the Ashram itself. The folks who have spurred this on have in the course of their attacks on Mr. Heehs openly distorted his text by decontextualizing portions of it or by a series of selective omissions to make it suit their own interpretation of events that facilitate their own story they wish to tell.” A long discussion follows and Debashish summarises it in the nature of “Stock Taking”, posted on 24 October 2008. We reproduce it here for quick and pertinent reference. Three comments in response to it are also given. ~ RYD

Taking Stock
by Debashish on Fri 24 Oct 2008

It is now time to step back a little and see what is happening. Peter Heehs wrote a biography of Sri Aurobindo published by Columbia University Press. Undoubtedly, it will get wide publicity targeted at the western academic circle. The book deals with the different phases of Sri Aurobindo's life as "jumps", not entirely discrete, but showing distinct characteristics. This is why he calls it "The Lives of Sri Aurobindo." The book brings together a lot of research on the factual details of Sri Aurobindo's outer life and also the first hand personal accounts of Sri Aurobindo's inner life. The response to the book, in the west, has so far been very positive.

This book has not yet been published or distributed in India. But a few copies have gotten to some hands. In response, there has arisen a huge furor. This furor has been spearheaded by a few who are all so-called intellectuals and teachers of Sri Aurobindo's sadhana at the ashram. At the outset, one of them, a person who runs an accredited Indian University teaching Sri Aurobindo studies, has circulated a document containing distorted and out-of-context quotes from the book to prove that the book is derogatory towards Sri Aurobindo. Another well known "authority" and "descendant" of an "authoritative lineage" has been circulating a conspiracy theory whose substance is to prove that the author of the book has interests to show Sri Aurobindo to be a madman and a sexual deviant. Both these widely circulated pieces of propaganda are spurious and mischievous. The out-of-context quotes have been disclosed in this post on sciy. But what could not be corrected is the violence done to a 500 page positive biography in pulling out quotes which give an entirely wrong impression. The insinuations of madness and sexual deviance are absurd to the point of laughter. But the huge majoritarian population of Pondicherry which has not found these laughable and has responded with signatures calling for the author's eviction from the archives and the ashram has been overwhelming. Is this "tyranny of the masses" based on well-founded judgments? Unfortunately, not one in a hundred has read the book. Nor do they think it is necessary. With their "psychic faith"in their leaders, what need is there for reading books?

The arm of the managing trustee has been twisted to force the author out of the archives and worse has been done and threatened. What does this bode for the future of the ashram and its law and order?

Now let us consider the arguments used. The arguments have distilled themselves to two. (1) Both Sri Aurobindo and the Mother were against writing their biographies, specially by their disciples, so we are justified in destroying this biography and expelling its author from the ranks of "the disciples." (2) The Mother has a quote where she wants it understood that anything which brings Sri Aurobindo to a low level of "gossiping familiarity" should not be indulged in by disciples, so the author, who has disobeyed this, is fair game. These quotes are repeated in large letters in post after post. Unfortunately, the word of god in the sonorous mouth of a fool does not remain any more the word of god but becomes the word of a fool, however much the fool may think he has become god as a result of voicing it.

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have indeed pointed out that no one could write their true lives. But neither does this mean that all representation of their lives is a crime nor has this prevented a number of biographies from being written. There are biographies by Srinivasa Iyengar, Purani, Satprem, Nirodbaran, Georges van Vrekhem. Where were our commentators with their lynching mobs then? Two of these biographers were personal attendants to Sri Aurobindo and one of them read out the whole of his biography to the Mother and had her strong approval. In fact, the Mother felt that biography would introduce many to Sri Aurobindo, which indeed it did. Why then could it not be allowed that this biography could also conceivably do the same? Oh no, such a thing is impossible and if someone claimed to have been moved by it or to have wanted to know more about Sri Aurobindo and his teaching, we must find out who this is and hold our quotes under their eyes and force them to understand "the truth" - that this biography is the voice of the asura, the awakening of adharma.

And what about the trump card, Mother's stern admonition for bringing Sri Aurobindo to a level of "gossiping familiarity"? Is this not enough to warrant expulsion and ex-communication and worse, elimination, whatever form that may take, for the faithful cannot tolerate disobedience to such an injunction, surely? No question need be asked about context, time, place, circumstance, person spoken to, intention of the work, narrative logic, interpretations, intended audience or the consciousness of the Mother. It feels divine to assume the authority of that quote, doesn't it? We are sure of what Mother would have done to the author, aren't we? It gives us the pleasure chills!

So, what is it all about? Why the need for misrepresentation or for incitement of the "blind" masses using propaganda? Or getting strategic signatures so as to twist the managing trustee's arm and force ashram policy? Is it not clear? Sri Aurobindo and the Mother are not dead. They are here - in their wise teachers and their use of quotes and the faithful multitudes. God lives, Dharma lives, Religion lives, so what if there's a suspicious smell of human manure about? That's just your imagination. This is certitude.

Pure Slander
Aolk Pandey

Does it really warrant a reply.

It is nothing but pure slander, a need to somehow defend one's opinion and point of view. We should refuse to get caught up in this meaningless discussion. Whether we have acted out of any sense of righteous superiority as some claim or out of religious fanaticism as others opine or were moved by the turbulent spirit of wrath and anger as some others believe makes no difference to the inner truth that impelled us to act. We are neither friendly towards PH as some of these persons supporting him are, nor do we have any personal grudges against him as they believe us to have. We know fully well that like all of us he too has his share of the divine essence within him, if only he felt and saw it, he would not write what he has written and the way it is written. Hopefully this event may open that deepest essence in him if we do not continue to fan an abberant part and its arrogance that goes to the extent of judging the Divine by earthly standards and be critical where one needs to be grateful. That too does not matter as long as it is one's personal attitude but when our attitudes become public then they go into the world forces and invite a return.

We reiterate that we have not acted against anyone but for Sri Aueobindo, for the Truth that he brings, for His Work, for the posterity that may not be misled reading this book, for the sake of our own psychic sensibilities, as part of our commitment towards the collective work with which we feel identified, not as any self-appointed teacher or guides or any such nonsense but simply as part of the work that our inner nature and God has given us. We don't care how others regard us or rebuke and ridicule us or whether we are removed from the panel of haloed teachers. Who cares for these petty things. We have acted out of love for Sri Aurobindo, out od the felt need to guard a sacred space from the tread of a defiling mind that has gone so far as to judge and offer criticism and opinions about the Master to whom we owe everything, our life, our soul and our very breath. If this is religiosity then so be it, if this is egoism then it is better than all the cowardly posturings and justifyings and defendings that one is resorting to simply to uphold a personal friend or conceal an error, or at best to uphold an ignorant ideal of a misguided sense of freedom that is being misused beyond its legitimate limits.

Whether we have quoted anything out of context or in context, whether we are fools or wise is upto the Divine to judge. Whether this is wrong or right, good or bad in human opinions we have offered it to the Divine and let Him decide what He will do with us and with all others. If hell and the fury of men and the titans or even of the gods be my share for standing up to what I beleive in and live for, then I accept it gladly: swadharmo nidhanam sreya, paradharmo bhayavaha

This is not to say that one cannot reply to each and every point of the 'argument'. We could, if polemics interests us. May be some other day, not today as it is Mahakali's day and so let simply receive something of Her Prasada through Her Words, attached alongwith, unabridged and unedited, that answer all our queries, if we like to see.

Mahakali’s Love
When people speak against you, I feel as if a big flame with many tongues is arising in me and the person in front becomes docile.

It must be Kali’s force which you evoke.

I want to ask you a question concerned with my reaction to the inconsideration and vulgarity in X’s letter about Sri Aurobindo. I remember an occasion many years ago when a lady friend of mine spoke unbecomingly of both of you. I verbally choked her off at once, but the indignation within me went on burning. It was like a sword of fire leaping out of my chest, striking and striking through the hours. My mind could serve only to direct it accurately; it had itself little part in the actual violence….

A similar blaze began to go out of my chest yesterday on reading Y’s letter. I had no scruple in directing it at his journal as if to consume its future to ashes. But although I also struck out at Y himself as if to destroy him, I did not encourage the fiery onslaught. I started wondering if it was right o attack like that a person. At times I thought I was perfectly justified. At other times it seemed to me that I should offer my sword of fire to you and Sri Aurobindo and leave it to you both to use it instead of myself concentratedly directing it at Y. I shall be thankful if I can have some words of guidance from you. Please keep in mind that I am not talking of a mere outburst of anger: some force appears to be there which wants to destroy and which feels it has the power to destroy. Of course I would never think of using it for my own private ends.

It is evidently the working of the Kali force that has lit and is directing this fire in you. There is nothing wrong in its action; it is not an anger personal to you but the wrath of a divine power and it must be allowed to act; in fact, I think you could not stop it from burning in you even if you wanted to stop it. This man has drawn it on himself and there is nothing wrong in what is happening, he alone is responsible. Of course, it must not be used for any personal aim or in any self-regarding way.
8 October 1950

Of all the aspects of the Mother, Kali most powerfully expresses vibrant and active love, and despite her sometimes terrible aspect, she carries in herself the golden splendour of an all-powerful love.
24 February 1965

Kali rarely acts in the mind. In the higher domains she is a power of love which pushes towards progress and transformation; in the vital she is a power of destruction of falsehood, hypocrisy and ill-will.

All that is good, truthful and progressive is never destroyed by her. On the contrary, she protects and sustains it.
5June 1965

Behind all destructions, whether the immense destructions of Nature, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, cyclones floods, etc., or the violent human destructions, wars, revolutions, revolts, I find the power of Kali, who is working in the earth-atmosphere to hasten the progress of transformation.

All that is not only divine in essence but also divine in realization is by its very nature above these destructions and cannot be touched by them. Thus the extent of the disaster gives the measure of the imperfection.

The true way of preventing the repetition of these destructions is to learn their lesson and make the necessary progress.

-The Mother:
(Collected Works of The Mother – Vol. -15, pp:15-17)

An Interesting Episode

I enjoyed what you wrote, infused with your devotion to THEM and articulated beautifully in "We have acted out of love for Sri Aurobindo, out of the felt need to guard a sacred space .....about the Master to whom we owe everything, our life, our soul and our very breath". It cannot but resonate with every seeker who aspires to be moved by Her only. Yes we can offer all that we do to Her in a spirit of love and surrender. That is the saving grace. An interesting episode in the life of a disciple has some parallel to this. A disciple writes

"A man in Bombay who had been once a devotee had become sceptical and sarcastic. He was contributing a series of commentaries on an Upanishad to Mother India. The articles were appreciated very much. I had kept the man's personal attitude apart from my judgment of his writing. As long as the writing bore no trace of the attitude, I could afford to be impersonal. The Mother came to be told of his attitude and the several unpleasant things he had said. She knew also that his series was appearing in Mother India.

She raised the topic with me one afternoon. I told her how much the articles had been admired and that they had no tinge of his critical approach to the Mother's workings. She very calmly heard me out. Then she expressed her wish that we should not seem to support the man by publishing his work. I inquired whether I could be allowed to run the series to its end and then forswear publishing anything else by the same hand. She paused for a minute and said: "It is best if we stop just now."

I could see that there was no personal feeling involved on her part. Actually, I had noticed in the past that com- plaints had been made to her about somebody or other's hostile remarks against her and the proposal had been made that she should take steps against that person. She had said:

"As the remarks are about me, I can't take any stand. If they were about Sri Aurobindo, I would certainly act."

On the present occasion her decision must have had behind it some insight into occult forces which might harm either me or the readers or else the Ashram's general work. Obviously, through my backing of the article the hostile elements were drawing sustenance. Purely literary principles have little validity where the battle between the illumined future and the obstructive past is concerned. I put aside the impersonal editor in me and acted as the obedient disciple.

[This disciple is none other than KD Sethna (Amal Kiran). We wish he was in a position to demolish this famous biography from Peter Heehs, an Ashramite. ~ RYD]

I am Awe-struck
Dave D
[This comment by Dave D had appeared on 27 October at
but was removed within three hours of its posting. Dave begins answering a comment by kuantum.~ RYD]

"Even before you wrote this, I anticipated a future book with a title like "The Crucification of Sri Aurobindo by His Devotees." (To avoid a misunderstanding: Peter in my opinion is not a devotee. And to avoid another misunderstanding: in my opinion a devotee is the last thing Sri Aurobindo ever wanted for his work.)"

I have to admit that I am awe-struck by the erudition and lofty spirituality expressed in the posts here!. I am shocked beyond belief. What happened to faith, surrender, aspiration and the gratitude and "all that we owe to thee"?

These are the sine qua non according to SA. One has to infer then that those who aspire to such qualities are clearly not "devotees" because "a devotee is the last thing Sri Aurobindo ever wanted for his work.". This novel redefinition of a "devotee" and therefore logically of "devotion" as something that is devoid of faith, surrender, aspiration etc is surely mind boggling. I wonder what might you all say about the "devotion" and determination of the Baktas like Meera and in our times the intense "devotion" of many disciples to SA. Also, logically then all of SA's letters on Sadhana through Love and "Devotion" were just perpetuating a lie and making a fool of all the disciples. What sort of insane idea of spirituality is this? And all the rest of the other (im)posters on this site? You (app)laud on the sidelines?! Have you actually read SA ? Hopefully you have not, because then this can be ignored and dismissed as the prating and lauding of ignoramuses. However if you have read SA, then it is more serious because it suggests the possiblity of something diabolical and sinister at work that is expressing itself through an intellectual arrogance and abysmal ignorance in these posts. Such a twisted idea of spirituality is hard to even imagine. It is bizzare. Moreover one has to read no more than a few posts here to see an overbearing pride and arrogance at work. A few years ago upon my visit to Puducherry, I realized the truth that the simple peasant there is closer to God than you and I. It was truly a humbling experience. No care for personal comfort and leading simple lives. Here you are sitting and typing away in a nice cosy comfortable room casting aspersions on the "devoted". It is truly shameful and a disgrace. The continual slander of the ashram too is surprising. The ashram is in one way a cauldron of the forces that besiege humanity and there is a consciousness there working out the problems, and while it is in such process, for people to rail at its collective consciousness is to oppose the work of SA. Is the thread that connects you all to SA so tenuous that it is so easily cut asunder to mouth inneundo against his ashram?. The controversy surrounding the book is an occasion for the ashram and the ashram trust to rise and live up to its responsibilities of protecting all that relates to SA. Surely violence is to be eschewed nor is it justifiable. But let us wait for the active consciousness to work it out.

The hostile beings of yore operated in a human form but in this day and age they seem to work through imbecilities and arrogance as is seen in such posts. Make no mistake that you are embarking on a perilous journey promoting such pernicious ideas of spirituality and thereby invoking divine retribution, although the retribution might not be required for most often such hostility to the divine and his "devotees" self-destructs by dissolution in its own acerbity. It would be well for the detractors in these posts to realize that although the "devoted" may seem ignorant to you but the consciousness that responds and works through their simple "devotion" is not ignorant and will not be deceived by your intellectual inanity. You might do well to stop making grandiloquent fools of yourselves and poisoning the minds of others.

No comments:

Post a Comment