31 Mar 2009

A Review by Raman Reddy of The Lives of Sri Aurobindo by Peter Heehs

Peter Heehs has a crisp and racy style; he comes straight to the essential points and there is a skilful weaving of historical data which hitherto has never been done in a biography of Sri Aurobindo. But that is about all that can be appreciated in this book, for he sets the ball rolling in the wrong direction right from the Preface. The reader is soon stunned at the innate hostility behind his clever presentation, or rather, misrepresentation of facts.

He says in his Preface that he is against hagiography and expresses a strong dislike for the literature produced by his disciples in admiration for Sri Aurobindo; the result is that he swings to the other extreme and often indulges in open or covert hostility towards him. He takes the example of two photographs of Sri Aurobindo, one dated circa 1915-1916 (this is the beautiful photograph of Sri Aurobindo placed in the Meditation Hall downstairs in the Ashram main building) and the other dated 1915, and compares the retouching of the first with hagiography, which, he says, always distorts historical truth. He finds that “the dark, pockmarked skin, sharp features, and undreamy eyes” of the second one make it “more true to Sri Aurobindo” than the first one, which has been heavily retouched with “the result that the face has no character”.[1] Now these are tough statements to digest and one wonders why he is so delighted at the pockmarks! But then, you find out later that this is part of the methodology he follows, finding first the most damaging, negative evidence on Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and then weighing it half-heartedly against flimsy positive evidence in the name of objectivity. In doing so, he carefully avoids the highly positive evidence which has been used until now by the devotees of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. You might not even notice this clever balancing of evidence in favour of the so-called academic view of spirituality, which generally considers Sri Aurobindo’s experiences to be hallucinations or psychotic delusions. Or the so-called academic view of Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy which finds it not logical enough, so that “most members of the philosophical profession … would be loath to admit him to their club.”[2] And before you realise the insidious poison he is injecting through these harmless discussions, he has given a certificate of sanity to Sri Aurobindo! After discussing at length the possibility of Sri Aurobindo inheriting a tinge of lunacy from his mother, he says, that all said and done, Sri Aurobindo was “eminently sane”.[3] It is clear enough that plain devotion and sincere admiration for Sri Aurobindo and the Mother is anathema to Heehs, who is at heart a rebel. In order to steer clear of hagiography, he has replaced it with hostility. Objectivity is a mere pretence to discuss only the “pockmarks” visible in Sri Aurobindo’s outer life, and he uses even a magnifying glass to discover the hidden warts and moles.

Let us take the most shocking example of Heehs’ misrepresentation – his portrayal of the relationship of the Mother with Sri Aurobindo after her second and final arrival in Pondicherry in 1920:

Sometimes, when they were alone, Mirra took Aurobindo’s hand in hers. One evening, when Nolini found them thus together, Mirra quickly drew her hand away. On another occasion, Suresh entered Aurobindo’s room and found Mirra kneeling before him in an attitude of surrender. Sensing the visitor, she at once stood up. There was nothing furtive about these encounters, but they did strike observer as unusual. Neither Mirra nor Aurobindo were in the habit of expressing their emotions openly. The young men…were somewhat nonplussed by this turn of events. Paul Richard took it more personally…After a while he asked Aurobindo about the nature of relationship with Mirra. Aurobindo answered that he had accepted her as a disciple. Paul inquired as to what form the relationship would take. Aurobindo said that it would take any form that Mirra wanted. Paul persisted: “Suppose she claims the relationship of marriage?” Marriage did not enter Aurobindo’s calculations, what was important to him was Mirra’s autonomy, so he replied that if Mirra ever asked for marriage, that is what she would have.

Paul took the matter with his wife. According to Mirra, recalling the events forty years later, the confrontation was stormy…Paul became violent, came close to strangling her, and threw the furniture out of the window… A year later Paul confided to the novelist Romain Rolland that it had been a time of “violent crisis” in his life. He had been forced to fight “a dreadful inner battle, which threw me, alone, face to face with death… into the immense and glorious void of the Himalayan ‘Ocean’”. In his diary, Romain translated this into more mundane language: “In fact”, he wrote, “his wife…left him.”[4]

On reading this, most people, who are not familiar with Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s yoga and philosophy, will conclude that Paul Richard left the Mother (then Mirra) because of her growing affection for Sri Aurobindo. For those who are familiar with their teachings, it will sow the seeds of doubt regarding the nature of their relationship. The facts are apparently clear and Heehs, who has long standing experience with original documents, will not risk misquoting; he can only do his mischief, as I will show, by misrepresenting. The method followed here is to totally neglect the spiritual dimension on the basis that it is not historical. I present the following document of the Mother which speaks volumes on her spiritual relationship with Sri Aurobindo:

When I first began to work… well, I had a series of visions (I knew nothing about India, mind you, nothing, just as most Europeans know nothing about it: ‘a country full of people with certain customs and religions, a confused and hazy history, where a lot of “extraordinary things” are said to have happened.’ I knew nothing.) Well, in several of these visions I saw Sri Aurobindo just as he looked physically, but glorified; that is, the same man I would see on my first visit, almost thin, with that golden-bronze hue and rather sharp profile, an unruly beard and long hair, dressed in a dhoti with one end of it thrown over his shoulder, arms and chest bare, and bare feet. At the time I thought it was ‘vision attire’! I mean I really knew nothing about India; I had never seen Indians dressed in the Indian way.

Well, I saw him. I experienced what were at once symbolic visions and spiritual FACTS: absolutely decisive spiritual experiences and facts of meeting and having a united perception of the Work to be accomplished. And in these visions I did something I had never done physically: I prostrated before him in the Hindu manner. All this without any comprehension in the little brain (I mean I really didn’t know what I was doing or how I was doing it – nothing at all). I did it, and at the same time the outer being was asking, ‘What is all this?!’

I wrote the vision down (or perhaps that was later on) but I never spoke of it to anyone (one doesn’t talk about such things, naturally). But my impression was that it was premonitory, that one day something like it would happen. And it remained in the background of the consciousness, not active, but constantly present….

I came here.... But something in me wanted to meet Sri Aurobindo all alone the first time. Richard went to him in the morning and I had an appointment for the afternoon. He was living in the house that’s now part of the second dormitory, the old Guest House. I climbed up the stairway and he was standing there, waiting for me at the top of the stairs.... EXACTLY my vision! Dressed the same way, in the same position, in profile, his head held high. He turned his head towards me ... and I saw in his eyes that it was He. The two things clicked (gesture of instantaneous shock), the inner experience immediately became one with the outer experience and there was a fusion – the decisive shock.

But this was merely the beginning of my vision. Only after a series of experiences – a ten months’ sojourn in Pondicherry, five years of separation, then the return to Pondicherry and the meeting in the same house and in the same way – did the END of the vision occur.... I was standing just beside him. My head wasn’t exactly on his shoulder, but where his shoulder was (I don’t know how to explain it – physically there was hardly any contact). We were standing side by side like that, gazing out through the open window, and then TOGETHER, at exactly the same moment, we felt, ‘Now the Realisation will be accomplished.’ That the seal was set and the Realisation would be accomplished. I felt the Thing descending massively within me, with the same certainty I had felt in my vision. From that moment on there was nothing to say – no words, nothing. We knew it was THAT.[5]

Heehs has left the reader blissfully ignorant of this spiritual dimension, which is not only obvious in the above document but in numerous others which are so often used by the “detested hagiographers” of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. The same action of the Mother holding the hand of Sri Aurobindo can now be understood as a fervent clasp of the Master’s hand by not merely a disciple, but one who became his equal in Yoga:

Mother was doing Yoga before she knew or met Sri Aurobindo; but their lines of Sadhana independently followed the same course. When they met, they helped each other in perfecting the Sadhana. What is known as Sri Aurobindo's Yoga is the joint creation of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother; they are now completely identified – the Sadhana in the Ashram and all arrangement is done directly by the Mother, Sri Aurobindo supports her from behind. All who come here for practising Yoga have to surrender themselves to the Mother who helps them always and builds up their spiritual life.[6]

Why did the Mother marry Paul Richard? I quote from the Mother’s Agenda:

I [Mother] have done my best, all these years, to try to keep him [Paul Richard] at a distance. He has a power – a terrible asuric power. Between you and me, I saw him like that from the start – that’s why I became involved with him. I never intended to marry him (his family affairs made it necessary), but when we met, I recognized him as an incarnation of the ‘Lord of Falsehood’ – that is his ‘origin’ (what he called the ‘Lord of Nations’); and in fact, this being has directed the whole course of world events during the last few centuries. As for Theon, he was....

It was not by choice that I met all the four Asuras – it was a decision of the Supreme. The first one, whom religions call Satan, the Asura of Consciousness, was converted and is still at work. The second [the Asura of Suffering] annulled himself in the Supreme. The third was the Lord of Death (that was Theon). And the fourth, the Master of the world, was the Lord of Falsehood; Richard was an emanation, a vibhuti, as they say in India, of this Asura.[7]

The Mother wanted to transform Paul Richard, who was an incarnation of the Lord of Falsehood. This was the essential reason why she married him, though outwardly there was a certain legal necessity, as she recounts later in the same conversation:

Then the divorce stories began: he [Paul Richard] divorced his wife; they had three children and he wanted to keep them, but to do so he had to be legally married, so he asked me [Mother] to marry him – and I said yes. I have always been totally indifferent to these things. Anyway, when I met him I knew who he was and I decided to convert him – the whole story revolves around that.[8]

Heehs will say that all this is inadmissible because it refers to things unverifiable and too occult to be discussed intellectually – Asuras and Lord of Nations and God knows what! But why does he then write about spirituality at all? Why quote the occult experiences of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, why not simply refute them straightaway as unbelievable nonsense? Had he been a straightforward materialist, I would have appreciated his stand. But no, he quotes these very spiritual disciplines and experiences when it is convenient to him – what is after all the Record of Yoga, most of which is simply beyond normal comprehension and practise? There he wants to catch the attention of the world as a researcher on spirituality. But when it comes to the Mother’s life, he deliberately neglects her spiritual dimension in order to prove that Sri Aurobindo gave no special place to her in his Yoga. He is so quick to say:

There is no special mention of Mirra Richard, nor evidence in earlier Record entries that he regarded her more than a “European yogi” of unusual attainments.[9]

Later on, he quotes with great reluctance (since it may damage his prestige as an objective historian) the following three well-known affirmations of Sri Aurobindo to a disciple with regard to the true identity of the Mother:

Do you not refer to the Mother (our Mother) in your book, “The Mother”?


Is she not the “Individual” Divine Mother who has embodied “the power of these two vaster ways of her existence” – Transcendent and Universal ?


Has she not descended here (amongst us) into the Darkness and Falsehood and Error and Death in her deep and great love for us?


The one thing that Sri Aurobindo stressed in his letters to disciples after 1926 is surrender to the Mother, opening the consciousness to her and receiving her Force. In fact, his whole yoga can be described as Mother-centric, and there was no doubt as to which Mother he was referring to. Neither was there any doubt in the letters and statements of the Mother as to who she considered Sri Aurobindo to be, though both were averse to public propaganda of their Avatarhood.

Why did Paul Richard go away? Heehs makes him a spiritual hero, who was forced to fight “a dreadful inner battle, which threw [him], alone, face to face with death into the immense and glorious void of the Himalayan Ocean” because his wife Mirra left him. She was indeed the culprit of this domestic quarrel because of which poor Richard had to face a spiritual crisis. The juxtaposition of the evidence, that is, the order of facts in Heehs’ narration is intended to suggest this, though he might vociferously deny it. One might remind this puffed-up historian that there is no such thing as “no position” in life, or in academic terms, “pure objectivity”. You always end up taking or even begin with a position or bias in life, whether you like it or not. In historical work, selection of material, the order in which you present it and even the words you use matter immensely to show your academic position or political slant. You cannot pretend to consider negative and positive evidence without defining your position; otherwise you run the risk of either contradicting yourself or not even knowing consciously what stand have you taken. In any case, the reader will place you immediately somewhere in the spectrum of various world-views ranging from spirituality to materialism, and these two views are so different from each other, that you will be classed either as supporting or defending one of them.

Heehs has so conveniently left out Paul Richard’s remarkable confession to Dilip Kumar Roy in 1927 on why he left Pondicherry in November 1920. It was not Mirra’s betrayal as Heehs will have us conclude, but Richard’s own ego which had stood in the way of accepting Sri Aurobindo’s “light”.

‘Yes, I [Paul Richard] should have had the humility to accept the light he [Sri Aurobindo] had won and could give others who really aspired to it. I should have enlisted under the banner of subservience. That is why I had to leave his mighty aura of the new creation where the rule of mind is going to be replaced by the Supermind, le nouveau Dieu. Oui, c’est un nouveau Dieu qu’il faut adorer – a new Divinity claims our allegiance, as I wrote once, since we have long outgrown the old. And Sri Aurobindo is the only man who has won through to this vision and, what is more, has got the power to translate it in life by ushering in a new era of the Supramental apocalypse … Yes,’ he added after a pause, ‘he and no one else has the key of the world to be, and my tragedy is that my love of self-will forced me leave his aegis and choose the alternative of living a pointless life away from the one man whose society I rate over that of all the others put together. Do you wonder now why I should be constantly harping on suicide?’[11]

There was also a very material reason for Richard’s departure. He was not given the “sole copyright of the [Arya] series to come” and asked to be a “mere contributor” to it:

‘And yet my [Paul Richard] faith has not stood me in good stead and I refused to collaborate with the Author of this Purpose because He didn’t acclaim me as his sole editor, because I was not entrusted by Him with the sole copyright of the series to come – in a word, because I was too self-willed to be a mere contributor of His Book of Life. I had no humility. That’s why I had to fare like a high peak, where no seed can bear, despising the fertile low lands which,’ he gave me [Dilip Kumar Roy] a quick look, ‘Sri Aurobindo had wanted me to be.’[12]

Now what sort of a man was Paul Richard? In the Mother’s own words:

He was a pastor at Lille, in France, for perhaps ten years; he was quite a practising Christian, but he dropped it all as soon as he began to study occultism. He had first specialised in theological philosophy in order to pass the pastoral examinations, studying all the modern philosophy of Europe (he had a rather remarkable metaphysical brain)…. Then he became a lawyer and entered politics (he was a first-class orator and fired his audiences with enthusiasm) and was sent to Pondicherry to help a certain candidate who couldn’t manage his election campaign single-handed.[13]

This man clearly led a rather loose life. Right after he left here [in 1920] he spent some time in the Himalayas and became a Sannyasi. Then he went to France and from France to England. In England he married again – bigamy! I didn’t care, of course (the less he showed up in my life, the better), but he was in a fix! One day I suddenly received some official letters from a lawyer telling me I had ‘initiated divorce proceedings against Richard.’ It seems I had a lawyer over there! A lawyer I had never asked for, whose name I didn’t know, a lawyer I didn’t even know existed – ‘my lawyer’! The trial was taking place at Nice, and ‘I’ was accusing Richard of abandoning me without any means of support! (That was nothing new – I had paid all the expenses from the first day we met![14]

He remarried two or three more times. By now (I believe) he is the father of quite a large family, with grandchildren and perhaps great-grandchildren. He lives in America.[15]

Paul Richard was certainly not the hero that Heehs has turned him into. Not only did he lead a “rather loose life” but he did not even pay his bills, apart from being an emanation of the Lord of Falsehood. Now this is characteristic of Heehs, he has the habit of praising or defending the wrong person. Let us now come to the last days of Richard in Pondicherry as described by the Mother:

Here ‘in Pondicherry, those last days might have become tragic (but of course it was impossible). There was the great argument (for he was perfectly aware of who I was): ‘But after all,’ he would tell me, ‘since you are the eternal Mother, why have you chosen Aurobindo as Avatar? Choose me! You must choose me – me!’ It was the Asura speaking through him. I would smile and not discuss it. ‘That’s not how it’s done!’ I would tell him (laughing). Then one day he said, ‘Ah, so you don’t want to.... (gesture to the throat) Well, if you don’t choose me, then....’ He was a strong fellow with powerful hands. I kept quite calm and said inwardly, My Lord, my Lord.... I called Sri Aurobindo and I saw him come, like that (gesture enveloping Mother and immobilizing everything). Then Richard’s hands loosened their grip.

There were marks on my neck.

A few days later, it was the same scene again. It was always the same scene.... Then he would take the furniture (it wasn’t ours, we had rented a furnished apartment) and start throwing it out the window into the courtyard![16]

The circumstances turn out to be very different from what Heehs has presented us. He has mentioned in his story that Paul Richard threw the furniture from the window and attempted to strangle the Mother who called on the Divine for help – she actually called on Sri Aurobindo for help according to the above passage. But why has he kept silent about the spiritual tussle between the Asura (speaking through Richard) and the eternal Mother, and Richard’s insistence on her accepting him as the Avatar instead of Sri Aurobindo? Heehs would repeat that it does not behove of an academic to speak of such things. We come back to the same old face-off between spirituality and materialism and the simple-minded disciple with plenty of common sense will shout back: “Do you believe in spirituality or not? If you do not, get lost! Don’t talk nonsense on subjects where you have no authority at all!” That is why it is better to declare one’s position first, and then get down to the job of collecting data and interpreting it.

Now that we know the full spiritual context of Richard’s departure, we are in a better position to judge the following passage of Heehs which has shocked so many devotees of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. I quote it a second time for the sake of clarity:

After a while he [Paul Richard] asked Aurobindo about the nature of relationship with Mirra. Aurobindo answered that he had accepted her as a disciple. Paul inquired as to what form the relationship would take. Aurobindo said that it would take any form that Mirra wanted. Paul persisted: “Suppose she claims the relationship of marriage?” Marriage did not enter Aurobindo’s calculations, what was important to him was Mirra’s autonomy, so he replied that if Mirra ever asked for marriage, that is what she would have.[17]

When Sri Aurobindo replied to Paul Richard that he would marry Mirra if she ever asked for it, he was defending her from an emanation of the Lord of Falsehood, who would soon attempt, or perhaps had already attempted to kill her – we don’t know the exact chronological sequence of the events. He was also speaking the language of the Bhagvad Gita which Heehs so graciously refers to in the endnote of the above passage. The translation of the verse from the Gita reads:

As men approach Me, so I accept them to my love; men follow in every way my path, O Partha.

I quote from Sri Aurobindo’s explanation of the verse:

Nor does it matter essentially in what form and name or putting forward what aspect of the Divine he comes; for in all ways, varying with their nature, men are following the path set to them by the Divine which will in the end lead them to him and the aspect of him which suits their nature is that which they can best follow when he comes to lead them; in whatever way men accept, love and take joy in God, in that way God accepts, loves and takes joy in man. [18]

The context of the Gita would have made an enormous difference in the presentation of events had Heehs included it in the main text instead of relegating it to an obscure place in the endnotes. Lastly, Sri Aurobindo answered Paul Richard’s hypothetical question under the pressure of stormy circumstances and qualified it with a big “if” – “if Mirra ever asked for marriage, that is what she would have”. The question of marriage in the ordinary sense would never have actually arisen given the nature of relationship of Mirra with Sri Aurobindo. Fortunately, our learned scholar does conclude that Sri Aurobindo’s answer was to ensure Mirra’s autonomy than his wish to marry her. But he explains it after giving a sufficiently wrong picture in the beginning so that he can do a classic damage control exercise at the end. He is like the politician who first sets fire to the huts of the poor without their knowledge and then repairs them for the sake of gaining political mileage. Without breaking the huts, the politician would never have had the opportunity to announce relief measures, which will generate good will and eventually catch votes in the coming election. The same kind of politics applies to Heehs, he is catching the so-called academic votes in India and abroad, of intellectuals who have no heart, no spirituality, nor fine sentiments.

It can be contested that I am merely imagining these flaws in Heehs’ presentation. My criticism could be dismissed on the basis of being more biased against Heehs than he is with regard to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. But lo, new evidence pops up again at the end of the book to show his real intentions. When Sri Aurobindo stumbled over the tiger skin and broke his leg in the early hours of 24 November 1938, Heehs writes about the Mother’s waking up in the following passage:

Around two o’clock that morning, while crossing to the bathroom, Sri Aurobindo stumbled over the tiger skin and fell…Attuned inwardly to her partner, she had felt in her sleep that something was wrong.[19]

The word “partner” seems innocently woven into the text, but you suddenly realise the mischief on closer inspection. According to the Oxford dictionary, a partner is a “spouse” or “a member of a couple who live together or are habitual companions”, or “lover”. The word has other connotations, but you mostly associate it nowadays with an ordinary human relationship. It is hardly appropriate to describe the relationship between Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. It is not at all difficult to find passages showing the spiritual nature of their relationship:

Sri Aurobindo: In my own case it [a Shakti – a feminine counterpart in Sadhana] was a necessary condition for the work that I had to do. If I had to do my own transformation or give a new yoga, or a new ideal to a select few people who came in my personal contact, I could have done that without having any Shakti. But for the work that I had to do it was necessary that the two sides must come together. By the coming together of the Mother and myself certain conditions are created which make it easy for you to achieve the transformation. You can take advantage of those conditions. But it is not necessary that everybody should have a Shakti. People have a passion for generalisation.

Disciple: I wanted to say that we are not as great as you.

Sri Aurobindo: It is not a question of great or small. It is a question of your being less complex than I am.
And before you can have a Shakti, you must first of all deserve a Shakti. The first condition is that you must be master of Kama, lust.[20]

The Mother's consciousness and mine are the same, the one Divine Consciousness in two, because that is necessary for the play. Nothing can be done without her knowledge and force, without her consciousness – if anybody really feels her consciousness, he should know that I am there behind it and if he feels me it is the same with hers.[21]

The Mother and myself stand for the same Power in two forms – so the perception in the dream was perfectly logical. Ishwara-Shakti, Purusha-Prakriti are only the two sides of the one Divine (Brahman).[22]

Can it happen that one who is open to Sri Aurobindo is not open to the Mother? Is it that whoever is open to the Mother is open to Sri Aurobindo?

The Mother-proposition is true. If one is open to Sri Aurobindo and not to the Mother it means that one is not really open to Sri Aurobindo.[23]

I have quoted extensively on the spiritual relationship of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother in order to dispel once for all the doubts that Heehs wishes to sow in the minds of their devotees. He would of course pretend innocence and laugh it off as the reactions of the oversensitive Indian psyche. But it only shows his lack of sincerity and sensitivity to the feelings of others. It is as if a part of the inner being is missing in him despite his practising the Integral Yoga for so many years, as he claimed in a recent interview. Incidentally, he has been the author of numerous compilations of Sri Aurobindo’s works, which only goes to show that no amount of intellectual knowledge finally helps without the inner turn to Yoga and the necessary humility and faith in the Divine.

I end with a summary of Heehs’ so-called objective method of analysis of historical facts, which is only a clever garb for denigrating the personalities of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. He generally sticks to the narration of what he would call the hard facts of their lives, and leaves out the spiritual dimension whenever it suits his purpose of misrepresentation. He comes out sometimes with stinging and highly opinionated statements on Sri Aurobindo’s works, his political actions, his spiritual experiences and the Mother’s life and her work in the Ashram, especially with regard to their Darshans. The one thing that comes out as clear as daylight is his morbid distaste for “devotion” and “faith”, which are the master keys of this Yoga; hence the insistence on not being hagiographic at all cost, with the result that he has replaced it with sheer hostility. I finish with a well-known quote from Sri Aurobindo’s letter to Dilip Kumar Roy in 1930, which so befits the occasion:

What matters in a spiritual man's life is not what he did or what he was outside to the view of the men of his time (that is what historicity or biography comes to, does it not?) but what he was and did within; it is only that that gives any value to his outer life at all. It is the inner life that gives to the outer any power it may have and the inner life of a spiritual man is something vast and full and, at least in the great figures, so crowded and teeming with significant things that no biographer or historian could ever hope to seize it all or tell it. 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 has not been on the surface for men to see.[24]

Raman Reddy


[1] Peter Heehs, Lives of Sri Aurobindo, Preface. Incidentally, a photographer colleague tells me that Heehs’ comparison of the two different photographs of Sri Aurobindo, though belonging approximately to the same period, is not justified. A person may appear very different even within the scope of a single day. For example, he will definitely appear more presentable in a photo studio with his hair properly combed than after a tiring political tour with his hair dishevelled. Heehs should have actually compared the first photograph dated circa 1915-1916 with the original of that very photograph instead of comparing it with the other photograph dated 1915, in which Sri Aurobindo’s hair is not so well combed and he appears to be tired. The untouched original of the first photograph is actually not so different from the one that is touched up. Hence his “brilliant” comparison of hagiography with the touching up of photographs is not only unfounded but also shows poor artistic sense.

[2] Ibid, p 277

[3] Ibid, p 247

[4] Ibid, pp 326-27

[5] The Mother’s Agenda, Vol. 2, pp 404-06

[6] Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library (SABCL), Vol. 26, p 459

[7] The Mother’s Agenda, Vol. 2, p 367

[8] Ibid, p 368

[9] Heehs, p 261

[10] SABCL, Vol. 26, p 47

[11] Dilip Kumar Roy, Among the Great (1984), p 327

[12] Ibid, pp 326-27

[13] The Mother’s Agenda, Vol. 2, p 368

[14] Ibid, p 371

[15] Ibid, p 372

[16] Ibid, p 372

[17] Heehs, pp 326-27

[18] Dr. Maheshwar, Bhagvad Gita, In the Light of Sri Aurobindo, p 66

[19] Heehs, pp 381-82

[20] A.B. Purani, Evening Talks with Sri Aurobindo (1982), pp 323-324

[21] SABCL, Vol. 26, p 455

[22] Ibid, p 457

[23] Ibid, p 458

[24] SABCL, Vol. 22, p 428


  1. Could you post the contents of the original manuscript which Peter has used on p326 to depict Sri Aurobindo & the Mother holding hands? Can we see how Peter has reworded the incident ? Where did Nolini and Suresh talk about it?

  2. Dear Vishwanath,

    I cannot post the original contents of the manuscript because it is not under my control. But we checked it and found Heehs' wording pretty faithful to the contents of the original. But I would discredit the original itself, because it is a tertiary source, not even a secondary one. It is, as I have recently written in "Are We Religious Fundamentalists?" posted on 31.5.2009, something that Purani noted down of what Nolini told him. Purani himself was not there in Sri Aurobindo's house during this period. He came a little later. Even Mother has some adverse remarks in the Agenda on Purani's notations of Sri Aurobindo's talks. It shows the unreliability of the whole evidence, on which such an edifice of falsehood has been built.

  3. Ok Raman cool, btw can you increase the number of comments being displayed . I may have found the Mother's adverse remakrs are they from Feb 18th 1961 ? She might react tha same way to this Heehs book! I am pasting Her comments ==

    And part of the 'Secret of the Veda' as well as two other things because they contain many of Sri Aurobindo's letters: I re-read Z's book on Sri Aurobindo, since there are many letters in it, and...

    Yes, only unfortunately he has tampered with it.

    With the letters?!

    Sri Aurobindo had made certain statements about me in those letters and Z deleted them. (Anyway, it makes no difference for your book, because I'm not at all keen on having any statements about me published.)

    But Z is not honest. He hasn't been honest at all.... We were forced to intervene once or twice because his deletions distorted the meaning. We finally told him (for the book published here), 'We won't publish it unless you restore these things.'


    I have also reread A.P's 'Evening Talks.'

    Oh, in that, too, there are lot of.... I myself wasn't present, so I don't know what Sri Aurobindo said, but I have a kind of feeling....Just recently they wanted to publish something similar in Mother India [[ A monthly review published by the Ashram. ]] - 'Conversations' with me noted by A. Luckily it was sent to me first: I Cut EVERYTHING! Such platitudes, my child! Oh, it was disgusting. I said, 'This is impossible. I have NEVER spoken like that, never!' It was flat, flat, flat with a superficial, word-for-word understanding! Oh, horrible, horrible.... Whatever passes through people is terribly, terribly lowered - popularized, made commonplace.

  4. Dear Vishwanath,

    I will not go overboard and reject Purani in toto on the basis of the Mother’s comments on the Evening Talks; he was too great a man for us to do that and Heehs is nowhere near him. By the way, he himself did not make use of this particular note, neither did Nolini nor Moni. I would also like draw your attention to the fact that it is technically difficult to remember and later reproduce faithfully an hour long talk or conversation, which is what Purani did when he recorded the Evening Talks. There were no tape recorders then. There is an inherent unreliability of oral notation, even though something will filter through the recorder’s mind. In the case of Purani’s record of the Evening Talks, there is definitely something of the real Sri Aurobindo that comes across, which is acceptable to us but not to the Mother, for she judges from a far higher level than us. I suppose each document has to be given its due place in the gradation of authenticity, and the highest credibility given to what Sri Aurobindo and the Mother themselves said or wrote on their life and Yoga.