25 Dec 2008

Frequently Asked Questions

Quick answers to some frequently asked questions:

1. Peter Heehs has written a “scholarly biography” of Sri Aurobindo intended “for the Western mind”. What is wrong with that?

2. PH has written for the Western mind and Western scholars. Sometimes it may be necessary to present things differently to make Sri Aurobindo more acceptable and accessible to the West!

3. But isn’t there a clear vertical split between the views of Eastern and Western disciples of Sri Aurobindo? Isn’t the response to the book in India more sentimental and emotional?

4. Why was there a campaign to malign PH? Should there not be a respectful intellectual debate on differences in viewpoints?

5. Why is it so important to provide academic refutations to PH’s book? Why has not such a detailed response been offered so far to other writers who also have misrepresented Sri Aurobindo?

6. What can be so harmful in the long run, after all this is merely a book. How can a book ever harm Sri Aurobindo or his work? Should we not simply ignore its distortions and let them fade away in time?

7. Isn’t the very effort to refute the book giving it more publicity? Would it not have been better to ignore it and allow it to fade away?

8. But PH’s book on Sri Aurobindo is nowhere nearly as damaging as Jeffrey Kripal’s book on Ramakrishna Paramahansa. Is the comparison justified?

9. PH has claimed that the controversy has been created by a selection of quotations taken out of context from his book. Further he says that one must read the entire book to be able to properly understand and judge these quotations.

10. When placed in the proper context, are not the critical sentences balanced out equally by praise? PH claims that he uses a style of argument “similar to the purvapaksha-uttarapaksha form of argument of Sanskrit rhetoric” which he says is “a form of argument used [by] Sri Aurobindo in The Life Divine.”

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12 Dec 2008

List of Categories for Labelling Posts

This lists various categories under which a post can be tagged. The objective is to place on one location all the categories with distinguishing features to use tags in a consistent manner across all posts. This will help reduce synonymous tags which make searching more difficult for users.

The following are some categories which users can begin with. They can always create new ones if these do not serve the purpose. Keep in mind that a post can be marked with as many tags as you like -- they are not mutually exclusive. The list of tags is organised in three categories.

Tags which define the broad type of post

  • Letter: This is used to tag long letters which have been part of some correspondence originally.
  • Article: Tags long articles/discussion which cover a broad range of issues and which may or may not be tied to any particular passage of its text.
  • Refutation: This tag marks any text that refutes specific passages in the book.
  • Background: Discussion on any background material on the book, author, publishers, promoters or related issues.
  • In the News: News reports on the book and its controversy.
  • Opinions: Letters expressing opinions, feelings, reactions or feedback on the book.
  • Administrative: Tags posts which relate to this website content.

Tags which define the nature of the distortion exposed

  • Defective Scholarship: This tags examples of flawed or non-existent scholarship.
  • Speculation: This marks passages which try to pass off speculation in the guise of an informed opinion or a scholarly view.
  • Inconsistency: Tags the text exposing the numerous statements that are inconsistent or self-contradictory across the book.
  • Distortion of Context: Tags use of quotations or references out of context.
  • Distortion of Quotation: Tags distortion of quotation or quote marks used when there is no actual quotation that is referred to.
  • Suppression of Facts: Tags deliberate suppression of facts which would disprove the thesis.
  • Perverse Intent: Discussion exposing perverse intent of the author of the book.

Tags which describe the theme of the text under discussion

  • Madness: Covers all discussions on madness, insanity, mental instability of any figure. This is given a separate tag because of the numerous passages in the book that try to suggest mental imbalance.
  • Romance: This can be used to cover all associated themes including sex and romance.
  • Politics: Includes political phase, activities and ideas.
  • Record of Yoga: Any passage relating to the Record of Yoga directly or indirectly.
  • Miscellaneous: Meant for minor and rare topics that do not deserve a tag name by themselves.
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