28 Mar 2009

Alok Pandey's comment on Heehs (27.03.2009)

Heehs may be good at collecting data but is not a good writer

But it is not from European scholars that we must expect a solution of the Mahabharata problem. They have no qualifications for the task except a power of indefatigable research and collocation; and in dealing with the Mahabharata even this power seems to have deserted them. It is from Hindu scholarship renovated and instructed by contact with European that the attempt must come. Indian scholars have shown a power of detachment and disinterestedness and a willingness to give up cherished notions under pressure of evidence which are not common in Europe. They are not, as a rule, prone to the Teutonic sin of forming a theory in accordance with their prejudices and then finding facts or manufacturing inferences to support it.

When, therefore, they form a theory on their own account, it has usually some clear justification and sometimes an overwhelming array of facts and solid arguments behind it. The German scholarship possesses infinite capacity of acuteness, labour, marred by an impossible and fantastic imagination, the French of inference marred by insufficient command of facts, while in soundness of judgment Indian sane scholarship has both.[1]

Yes, so very true, though one may substitute the word European for a mind bound to material forms and heavily dependent upon sense data for its conclusions – the physical mind perhaps, a part of which is there in all of us but becomes a real trouble when we deal with spiritual things. Certain persons – Indians, Europeans, Americans, Asians – have it prominent in them. And while it is good within its limits and for the purpose of organising outer things, it can become a serious difficulty when we turn to spiritual things. That is why one needs both types of human beings in any group activity, not just organisers but also thinkers, not only those who can think dispassionately but also those who can feel deeply. It is a lack of this balance that is reflected in the collectivity mentioned.

Also the problem is that people confuse one kind of brilliance for another and think that, if an individual is good at one activity, he must necessarily be good at another. Or else, they simply don't bother and let things run their course taking shelter under the Mother's Name as if it were a shield for complacency. Thus, for example PH [Peter Heehs] may be good at collecting data and filing it, but to believe that he can be, by that virtue, a good or even an honest writer is so absurd. Unfortunately this is exactly what got into his head as one can see so very clearly from the book [The Lives of Sri Aurobindo]. He seems to be judging everything, from English prose to English poetry, to Psychology and Philosophy, on to Yoga and Spirituality and God knows what!!!! It is one thing to collect data from dusty files and quite another to make sense out of them and give each a just place. A mind too much dependent upon the externalities of life is too crude and gross to understand, let alone comment and opine about subtler things:

A pigmy Thought needing to live in bounds
For ever stooped to hammer fact and form.
Absorbed and cabined in external sight,
It takes its stand on Nature's solid base.
A technician admirable, a thinker crude [2]

Yes, Sri Aurobindo's works seems to be handled by technicians and academicians rather than by responsible men who can think and feel deeply and have care and concern for spiritual life. But this is what happens when truth is seen only as an outer fact and not an all-encompassing Reality.

Alok Pandey
27 March 2009


[1] Sri Aurobindo, The Harmony of Virtue, SABCL, Volume 3, Pages 180-181

[2] Sri Aurobindo, Savitri, CWSA, Volume 33, p 245

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