3 May 2009

Selected Letters -- Jasmin's experience

[Extract from a letter of Jasmin on AV Compats]

"My experience of reading this book was an extremely difficult one. Page after page, I was reading the story of Sri Aurobindo, well-known in many details and less familiar in others, and yet it was as if a 'twist' had been given to everything described. Even without being able to verify every single detail, I found that in countless instances, materials had been presented selectively, and that details and quotes were skillfully arranged to paint a picture which in its overall effect differed greatly from the reality we know. ... The most painful aspect of all was for me the author’s style, his choice of one word over another, the colouring and nuances used in describing Sri Aurobindo. I felt in it a consistent undertone of biting sarcasm, sometimes subtle and sometimes blunt, which made me feel as if the author was using every opportunity to land a punch or a kick on his 'subject'. ... I felt almost physically sick while reading the book."


Dear Savitra,

Having read your postings on the compat forum, I have been wishing for some time to have a dialogue with you on some of the points you make. As you know, Aravinda and I greatly appreciate you as a friend with whom we have had many good and profound discussions. …

Like you, the first thing I came to read of the new publication were the few pages of extracts which have been widely read and referred to countless times since then. And like you, on reading the quotes, I felt utterly shocked, appalled, and refused to believe that what I had just read could have been the author's intention. I know from your own account, dear Savitra, that up to this point our stories are alike. From here onwards they differ, and have lead us to seemingly opposing stances. And on the basis of the precious friendship that has been ours, I humbly ask you to hear my own experience and view of the issue, allowing for the possibility that it may be as genuine and as authentic as yours is. I am not asking you to change your views, but in the spirit of true dialogue, to simply consider mine with an open mind and heart. …

Being a slow reader, and perhaps due to having done editing work, I am quite sensitive to nuances and shades of language - probably more so than those who know how to read rapidly while focusing mainly on the gist of a text. My experience of reading this book was an extremely difficult one. Page after page, I was reading the story of Sri Aurobindo, well-known in many details and less familiar in others, and yet it was as if a 'twist' had been given to everything described. Even without being able to verify every single detail, I found that in countless instances, materials had been presented selectively, and that details and quotes were skillfully arranged to paint a picture which in its overall effect differed greatly from the reality we know. We all have had the experience of seeing ourselves reflected in a curved deforming mirror - we recognise familiar features, yet so distorted that the result is a grotesque caricature of ourselves. This metaphor comes closest to my experience of the biography. The most painful aspect of all was for me the author’s style, his choice of one word over another, the colouring and nuances used in describing Sri Aurobindo. I felt in it a consistent undertone of biting sarcasm, sometimes subtle and sometimes blunt, which made me feel as if the author was using every opportunity to land a punch or a kick on his 'subject'. It translated itself into an inner 'picture' in which I saw the author engaged in a constant wresting match with his Master... as if to see who will be stronger... a fight fought with all the weaponry of the intellect, enlisting among other things a narrow 'academic' attitude which sits in judgement of that which exceeds it. I felt almost physically sick while reading the book. …

I would suggest that as children of the Mother who reminds us to 'cling to Truth', each of us tune in to our deepest and highest consciousness, and then whatever action we may be guided to take, to do so as an offering to the Divine, in the attitude taught to Arjuna by Sri Krishna...

I agree with you, Savitra, that in this important issue none of us who care for Sri Aurobindo and His work can escape the responsibility of informing ourselves, searching for truth, and taking whatever action we see as most appropriate. As I have said before, I believe that one way is to refine our mental faculties, discernment, reasoning, along with a widening, detachment, and introspection... More direct is another way, through the psychic perception, as you and others have been reminding us in this context. Whichever route we choose, we will be advancing on the path of yoga... And for those of us who consider ourselves children of the Mother, we may find the clearest guidance by asking ourselves a simple question: Can we imagine ourselves reading the ‘Lives of Sri Aurobindo’ to Her? What will She say about it? And similarly, in whatever we say or do to each other: Can we say or do the same things in the presence of Her who holds us all lovingly in Her arms?

With respect and friendship,

Jasmin
Aravinda & Jasmin Maheshwari)

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