13 May 2009

Two Sides of Two Different Coins

About three weeks ago my friend and ex-colleague at the sciy, Rich, approached me,—of his own, and that could surely have been a gainful step had it progressed,—for a ‘dialog’ on the issue that has been harassing everyone for months now. I took it as a definite positive move, assuming that it was not a tactical move, and made a proposal for an open discussion on the Lives of Sri Aurobindo, going through the weighty book paragraph by paragraph and page by page. But Rich stepped back—which means that the open ‘dialog’ will continue to languish and the parties will continue to operate in their own way, moral, ethical, civic, political, literary, academic, legal, spiritual, and what not. Perhaps this has got to get exhausted before something in the nobility of the IY Community appears on the horizon. It is sincerely hoped that it will be sooner than later. But beyond this terrible ‘human potential’ there is another Hand and, true to the IY Ideal, the best, and reassuring, for us to firmly hold it, rather to let it do unhindered its work in us.



1: Alok Pandey and Sraddhalu Ranade Write

10 May 2009
Dear friends,

1. It has been a week since Alok Pandey’s and Sraddhalu Ranade’s detailed letters were issued in response to the personal attacks by IYF activists. The reaction from the spokesmen of Peter Heehs has again ignored critical issues which were outlined, and instead, further abuses have been heaped on us. While this does not help the general atmosphere already thick with hurt emotions, confusion and divisive tensions, such reactions in no way help Peter Heehs’ cause either. Therefore, it was felt that a note of clarification is in order.

2. Let it be placed on record that Alok Pandey and Sraddhalu Ranade have never been the authorised spokesmen of the vast majority of silent and deeply anguished devotees of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother at the Ashram, Auroville, in India and the world at large. They have been merely representative and possibly more visible individuals on the Internet. Consequently, Alok Pandey and Sraddhalu Ranade, while always remaining open to dialogue and constructive debate, cannot and must not take it upon themselves to even attempt to resolve what is clearly a very complex and apparently impossible imbroglio.

3. It is the belief of Alok Pandey and Sraddhalu Ranade that solutions to problems faced by a community, however complex their nature, are to be found within and by the affected community, and to that end the role and involvement of the elders and leaders of the community in question are sine qua non.

4. If Peter Heehs wishes to reintegrate himself into the community, the following practical steps are proposed in all humility:

a) Peter Heehs must speak for himself and avoid proxies who have at best a dubious stake in the matter. He owes answers to the community that he has so long been a part of.

b) He must enter into serious, direct and transparent discussion with the Ashram Trust and make a sincere attempt to understand and address the concerns of Shri Manoj Das Gupta, Dr Dilip Datta, and Shri Dilip Mehtani. If these senior sadhaks and Trustees thought it fit to express their anguish and disappointment in writing and initiate disciplinary action against Heehs, surely they must have had good reason to have done so.

c) Peter Heehs must have an open and constructive interaction with Pranab-da in order to understand what led to his being disbarred from the Physical Education Department. Should not an attempt be made to find out what, if anything at all, may be done to remedy the situation?

d) The simplest way to deal with allegations of copyright violation would be to obtain a written clarification regarding the matter from the Ashram Trust, and make the document public.

e) Allegations of Intellectual Property theft can be countered by obtaining a written and signed clarification regarding the matter from Peter Heehs’ erstwhile colleagues at the Archives, and making the document public.

f) If Peter Heehs is of the view that Columbia University Press (CUP) has erred in labelling him “founder” of the Ashram Archives and that he is not himself in any way responsible for it, a letter to this effect may be obtained from CUP and made public.

g) Sri Manoj Das may be consulted on factual distortions and offensive or objectionable passages, and signed summaries of these consultations be made public.

h) Devotees cannot be faulted for filing criminal cases as an expression of extreme anguish when all other options have failed—this is an accepted, normal and civil way of dispute resolution. Peter Heehs owes it to himself, more than anybody else, to respond to Court Summons, defend himself, and come clean of the charges levelled against him.

i) Lastly, the book in question was proscribed in India not by the issuance of a “Fatwa” by Alok Pandey or Sraddhalu Ranade, but by the Government of the day after due process of law had taken its course.


It is incumbent on Peter Heehs to make an attempt to understand the causes of this serious Government action, and all ridiculing of courts and Government agencies involved must be avoided.

5. The above steps are all independent of Alok Pandey and Sraddhalu Ranade, and in no way require their involvement. The solutions to Heehs’ predicament are entirely in his hands without reliance on anybody else.

6. We remain available in all humility and sincerity to render any support or assistance as may be required at any point if called upon to do so.

Sincerely,

Alok Pandey

Sraddhalu Ranade


2: Response from Richard Carlson, David Hutchinson, Debashish Banerji

12 May 2009
Dear Sraddhalu and Alok,

In your letter of May 10th 2009 you say that you speak only for yourselves, but then propose what Peter and the Trustees should do, as if you speak for the entire Integral Yoga community. Since you both made the allegations against Peter in the first place, you cannot disassociate yourself from the discussion or process.

You have concocted a story that the book defames Sri Aurobindo when many more who have read it do not even remotely sense this to be true. Your voices were among the first to condemn Peter while ignoring his claim that you misread the text. Instead of attempting to engage him in a dialog on the book you have, as detailed in your writing, favored the incitement of collective actions against him that has included a petition to have him removed from his work at the archives and to have his ties with the Ashram severed.

These sensational collective actions were then followed by court cases against Peter for which you both have voiced clear support. Your support for the lawsuit in banning The Lives of Sri Aurobindo, and your public calls against the book are contrary to the spirit of harmony dvocated by Sri Aurobindo and have sown widespread anger among the community that has caused divisiveness and confusion.

Peter has voluntarily suspended his work because of the pressure brought by your campaign against the book and himself. You now allege copyright infringement and intellectual property theft. To begin with, it is the Ashram Trust and not you who are the copyright holders of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother's writings. How can you usurp the role of the Ashram in this matter? Secondly, you present your allegations as facts. In other words, you declare that Peter and his book have infringed on copyright laws as if this has already been proven when in fact these are simply allegations of yours. In all these cases, the onus is on you to prove these allegations, otherwise they are merely unsubstantiated allegations that libel and defame Peter.

When we wrote our first letter it was to inform centers in the United States about the actions taken by you and your collaborators against a fellow sadhak whose only transgression was your own misreading of the book that he wrote. The actions you support against Peter for persecution and censorship of his right of free speech in Indian courts of law are contrary to the laws of the United States. We therefore reiterate our message to the Centers in America, all those who value freedom of opinion, interpretation and speech as well as those who oppose collective persecutions of individuals, to perform due diligence before extending invitations to you both or in supporting your visit to the United States in any way.

Sincerely,

Richard Carlson
David Hutchinson
Debashish Banerji


This seems to be an interminable battle, of words, going on for the last six months and one doesn’t know how long it will go on. But if RC-DH-DB’s is in response to AP-SR’s, the question is: does it answer it in any way? I don’t see any connection between the two, certainly no meaningful connection, and absolutely without any possibility of a harmonious rapport if that is the cherished hope of the great IY Community.

About three weeks ago my friend and ex-colleague at the sciy, Rich, approached me,—of his own, and that could surely have been a gainful step had it progressed,—for a ‘dialog’ on the issue that has been harassing everyone for months now. I took it as a definite positive move, assuming that it was not a tactical move, and made a proposal for an open discussion on the Lives of Sri Aurobindo, going through the weighty book paragraph by paragraph and page by page. But Rich stepped back—which means that the open ‘dialog’ will continue to languish and the parties will continue to operate in their own way, moral, ethical, civic, political, literary, academic, legal, spiritual, and what not. Perhaps this has got to get exhausted before something in the nobility of the IY Community appears on the horizon. It is sincerely hoped that it will be sooner than later. But beyond this terrible ‘human potential’ there is another Hand and, true to the IY Ideal, the best, and reassuring, for us to firmly hold it, rather to let it do unhindered its work in us:

If you desire this transformation, put yourself in the hands of the Mother and her Powers without cavil or resistance and let her do unhindered her work within you. Three things you must have,—consciousness,—plasticity and unreserved surrender. For you must be conscious in your mind and soul and heart and life and the very cells of your body, aware of the Mother and her Powers and their working; for although she can and does work in you even in your obscurity and your unconscious parts and moments, it is not the same thing as when you are in an awakened and living communion with her. All your nature must be plastic to her touch,—not questioning as the self-sufficient ignorant mind questions and doubts and disputes and is the enemy of its enlightenment and change; not insisting on its own movements as the vital in the man insists and persistently opposes its refractory desires and ill-will to every divine influence; not obstructing and entrenched in incapacity, inertia and tamas as man's physical consciousness obstructs and clinging to the pleasure in smallness and darkness cries out against each touch that disturbs it soulless routine or it dull sloth or its torpid slumber. The unreserved surrender of your inner and outer being will bring this plasticity into all the parts of your nature; consciousness will awaken everywhere in you by constant openness to the Wisdom and Light, the Force, the Harmony and Beauty, the Perfection that come flowing down from above. Even the body will awake and unite at last its consciousness subliminal no longer to the supramental superconscious Force, feel all her powers permeating from above and below and around it and thrill to a supreme Love and Ananda.



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