10 May 2009

Raja Marathe’s Letter to Peter Heehs

["Raja" Shreehari Marathe is Peter's close and personal friend for the last 20 years.]

Dear Peter,

I have been reflecting on the recent events in your life and in the Ashram, and have come to certain entirely personal understandings. I am sharing them with you and several friends with whom I have discussed these matters in my recent stay in the Ashram. I was avoiding putting these thoughts on paper but considering that the controversy is still raging, I consider it my obligation to be a part of this debate.

About the preface to "Many lives of Sri Aurobindo"

  • Your attack in the preface on all earlier biographers was unwarranted; in the first place many of them are not living, and have no way of defending themselves. In addition some of them were early disciples of Sri Aurobindo, and had seen him alive and possibly had more insight into Sri Aurobindo than you.
  • As a historian your sources have been at best secondary and many of them tertiary and hearsay accounts. Instead of attacking the earlier biographers in this way, you could have easily acknowledged them with thanks and gratitude for showing you another side of Sri Aurobindo.
  • You could have said in the preface that your book gave a balanced understanding of Sri Aurobindo's life including his human side and his human weaknesses during the period of his sadhana; instead of this frontal attack on earlier biographers.
  • Your using the 'touch-up' analogy of Sri Aurobindo's picture in the preface is in absolute bad taste. Firstly as you very well know that the photograph was released in the early 20s when both Sri Aurobindo and the Mother were alive. And there is even a signed copy of it by Sri Aurobindo. You have unnecessarily cast aspersions on Sri Aurobindo and the Mothers motivation in releasing a as you say a 'touched-up' picture of Sri Aurobindo.
  • Thirdly for all it is worth your biography is also your own 'touched-up' edited view of Sri Aurobindo's life. For you also have selected and de-selected events in his life, given stress to some, juxtaposed some with another; what is this if not a 'touched-up' view of Sri Aurobindo's vast inner and outer life. To claim otherwise would be false and presumptuous.
  • I strongly feel that therefore you should repudiate your entire preface and stop all distribution of the books with this preface, even though it will cost you some money and loss of face; and publicly apologize for these remarks and assuage the hurt feelings of several earlier biographers and their admirers..

About the book:

  • I find the over-all tone of the book is quite laudatory to Sri Aurobindo, is balanced, does ample justice to his complex, multi-dimensional personality, is well-researched, referenced and documented.
  • Any dispassionate reader will come out with a very positive feeling for Sri Aurobindo and his work. It will arouse the reader's interest in knowing more about Sri Aurobindo and his books, and possibly inspire people all over the world to practice his yoga. This is the positive side of your book.
  • But on the other side to make your book appear more 'objective' you have taken many digs (and unpleasant remarks) at Sri Aurobindo. Others have already pointed out your digs but the worst example that comes to my mind is
    • A juxtaposing his reference to keeping his teeth clean by yoga from his diary and with his teeth being brushed by a disciple after his fall.
    • There is another where you say that Sri Aurobindo did not encourage his disciples for 'original' thinking. (I may comment that you may reflect as to what original thinking you yourself have done in your life)
  • To take on the embodiment of such a level of consciousness (I don't know the meaning of words like supra-mental or over-mental from personal experience but my readings of Life Divine, Savitri, Essays on Gita, Synthesis of Yoga indicate to me that Sri Aurobindo was certainly operating at another level of consciousness than mine) and take 'digs' at its persona is a fool-hardy thing to do rather than an act of courage. And we must remember that Sri Aurobindo is not 'dead' but is still a living presence.

The law of Karma:

  • My perception is that as a result of these actions and your earlier dismissive attitude towards the inmates for the last 30 years in the Ashram, you have a lot of accumulated karma; and are paying the price for it by getting in turn dismissed, insulted and put down by other Ashramites.
  • These days you are objecting to you and your book being 'dismissed' on the basis of a few 'excerpts'.. But don't we human beings do it all the time. Over the past 30 years in the Ashram how many times have you yourself (or for that matter me also I my life) dismissed people because of a few words of theirs, gestures, loose remarks, or minor mistakes in their work, or lack of efficiency or timeliness. We know nothing about the complex character of human beings before us (let alone their history and past lives) and yet we judge them on these small interactions. This is no different from judging the book on the basis of a few excerpts.
  • We all have an accumulated karma of such actions; but because you are staying in a far more conscious environment like Sri Aurobindo Ashram, and have taken the fool-hardy step of attacking innocent earlier biographers by calling them names like 'hagiographers' and even Sri Aurobindo and the Mother in the preface to your book, my understanding is you are paying the price for it right away in this life itself. This in itself may be good for your sadhana and the growth of your psychic being.

Your critics and detractors in this issue:

  • Using the theory of Jnyata, Jneya and Jnyana (triputi), in this context Peter Heehs is the Jnyata, Sri Aurobindo is the Jneya, and your book is the Jnyana. Thus the book represents your relationship with Sri Aurobindo which you have chosen to make public.
  • The book is as much Peter Heehs' biography as Sri Aurobindo's, in fact more so. It is really the biography of your relationship with Sri Aurobindo. It is obvious to anyone that reads this book that this "guru-shishya" relationship is troubled and far from perfect.
  • There are possibly many Ashramites who are not comfortable with this troubled nature of your relationship with Sri Aurobindo and they are upset about it. And they are objecting to it in the form of their opposition to you and your book.
  • But I wonder how many of them realize that their own relationship with Sri Aurobindo is far from perfect. How many of them have not wondered whether they did the wise thing in coming to this ashram, whether Sri Aurobindo's yoga was for them, whether they have discovered their psychic being or not, whether they understand anything by the phrase "supra-mental descent", whether they have had desires for physical relationships while staying in the Ashram, and whether they have fulfilled these desires on subtle planes by imaginations etc. How many have not felt frustrated, have not felt angry at themselves and the Master. I for one have gone through all these although I do not stay in the Ashram.
  • Thus they should realize that when they are pointing one finger of theirs to your troubled relationship with Sri Aurobindo, there are three fingers being pointed at them. At least I am well aware of this when I am writing these lines.
  • Some of them should also recognize their true motivations in attacking you and the book. They need to examine whether or not they are motivated by their own personal ambitions, or jealousies like not having been able to publish a book, or as a cover-up for their perceived lack of progress in sadhana. For if their attack is based on such motivations, they themselves in turn would accumulate 'karma' of using the stature of Sri Aurobindo for their own ends.

About the archives:

  • You had access to all the material in the archives as a Sri Aurobindo archivist and NOT as an author of Sri Aurobindo's biography.
  • I do not know whether you had taken written or oral permission of the Ashram archives or given your intent to publish Sri Aurobindo's biography and what point in time you had done so. But that is merely a technical issue.
  • I feel that you have betrayed the trust and confidence placed by the Archives in you in giving you access to all the material on Sri Aurobindo as an archivist and using this access to use material that you have referred to extensively in the book.
  • As a result of which you have yourself closed effectively the gates of the archives to future researchers of Sri Aurobindo. I was told that a new rule has been made that the trustees permission would be required for this in future.
  • In the current situation that you have created it is very unlikely that anyone (outside the archives staff) will be granted permission to access any material from the archives in near future.
  • You may be very knowledgeable about the Archives but certainly are not indispensible (for example we are all mortal!; touchwood you may have a long life) and none of us are indispensible.
  • Therefore it makes no sense to me for you to want to continue to work in the archives.
    Hence it may be in your interest and the archives if you were to voluntarily and permanently withdraw for the archives.

A suggestion

  • My suggestion to you is that you should offer to work (and work) in the dining hall washing dishes, or do some what some may others consider as lowly menial work like washing lavatories. I have done personally done this kind of work in Amma's ashram in kerala and it has done wonders for me and my ego.

I have been your friend for many years and still consider you my friend. It is likely that you may say after reading this email "Eh tu, Brutus". But I have written this email in good faith, and what I consider to be your interest. So please take it in that spirit,

With regards and love,



  1. A very good perspective, and full of insights. Especially, calling it a biography of the author's relationship with Sri Aurobindo.

  2. From: Shreehari Marathe
    Date: Sun, May 10, 2009 at 3:52 PM

    To the General Editor,

    Thank you for publishing my letter to Peter in its entirity, in spite of the fact that some of my opiniuns differ with your stated position on Peter's book.

    This is in sharp contrast with the editors of SCIY who have declined to publish my letter.

    With regards,

    Shreehari "Raja" Marathe
    Pune, India

    PS: You may make a small correction in your introduction to me. I am a personal and close friend of Peter for the last 20 years and not 30 years.

    ----- Forwarded Message ----
    From: Ulrich Mohrhoff
    To: Shreehari Marathe
    Sent: Thursday, May 7, 2009 1:03:01 PM
    Subject: Re: Fw: Many Lives Controversy


    Being a registered user doesn't make you an editor. After consulting with the other editors, we feel that SCIY is not the appropriate place for your letter.


    Shreehari Marathe wrote:
    Hi Ulrich:

    I have not figured out as to how to post entries http://www.sciy.org in the correct place (although I am a registered user!), hence I request you to publish this letter in its entirity at the site. Alternatively please send me links telling me how to do it.

    Thanks and regards,


  3. Mohrhoff's response shows the true character of the SCIY editors. They are clearly Heehs supporters and not the unbiased judges they claim to be. Censorship, bias, and violent verbal reactions have been their MO all along.

    It is laughable but SCIY's Bannerjee has claimed in the past that the people who are unhappy with and taking a stand against Heehs are Ashram "outsiders". What about him and his partners at SCIY??? They appear to be rank outsiders but, more importantly, troublemakers with little stake in the welfare of the Ashram.

    Mohrhoff has especially flown under the radar. Considering that he is some sort of a teacher at the Ashram (or so I have heard), his silence and disinclination to support the Ashram or its school when they were being criticized by his brother-in-arms Rich Carlson is appaling. It is also he who called the work of people like Srinivasa Iyengar's biography "childish" on SCIY and then hastily tried to recant.

    Can we expect better from these guys? I have my doubts - they seem incapable of true intellectual discourse which demands that you also admit points unfavorable to your own conclusions and points of view and examine them truthfully!

  4. From: Ulrich Mohrhoff
    To: rtlosa@gmail.com
    Sent: Monday, May 11, 2009 5:59 PM

    Permit me to remind you that your website contains the following:

    "All posts are copyright (c) their respective authors and may not be used outside this website without prior permission."

    So who gave you the permission to reproduce my private email to Mr. Marathe?

    Ulrich Mohrhoff
    Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education
    Pondicherry, India

  5. I am not the editor but shouldnt Mohrhoff find that his 'personal' response to the author of the letter was part of the author's forwarded email to this site?! As such it was part of the larger email and not marked or intended as private. So he is being "childish" and argumentative by objecting to it.

    Second, shouldnt Mohrhoff be using Editor, SCIY instead of Sri Aurobindo International center of education to sign off considering it is his role as SCIY editor that is involved in this matter? Isnt this misleading to us and detrimental to the SAICE (if that is the acronym)?

  6. Raja !!!
    You have some little insights into things..........have'nt read the full posting as i am not comfortable reading it in the computer but YOU HAVE SAID IT ALL.

    You are the COMPASSIONATE ONE.

    In Her LOVE

  7. I find it disturbing that people such as Aurofilio and Ulrich Mohrhoff who are closely associated with the Ashram are working with non-Ashramites essentially against people who they might work with or associate with now or in the future; some of whom might not even have let their views be known. If these two have disagreements with people opposed to the book they are within their rights to write letters, emails etc to the trustees and others associated with the ashram. But to cast their lot with people such as those on SCIY who mock and disparage various co-ashramites and sadhaks, no matter how much they disagree with Heehs detractors, is to work against the Ashram, their students and others. If these activities continue, I think that these gentlemen should be questioned and counselled by the Ashram authorities and their own close associates and asked to behave themselves and to use their common sense in this matter and not inflame passions any further.

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