26 Jun 2009

Is this Imbroglio or Falsification?

So the peaceful expanse of the brow, the trouble-free face, and the fathomless eyes were after all the artifacts, the work of art...

Is this Imbroglio or Falsification?

Let me read along with you the preface for The Lives of Sri Aurobindo and you will see that the tone is fixed right at the start. Our young author, who also did at that time taxi-driving in the US, once chanced to visit a Yoga centre where on the wall were three pictures. He narrates that one of them was the standard portrait of Aurobindo. “I was struck by the peaceful expanse of his brow, his trouble-free face, and fathomless eyes. It would be years before I learned that all of these features owed their distinctiveness to the retoucher’s art.”

Later on, in the same preface, there is a long discussion about this “heavily retouched” photo which has been published millions of times, a photo which is a “botched piece of work”. The author concludes: “It is the task of the retoucher to make the photograph accord with the reality that people want to see.” This also means that, it is the task of a meticulous historian and researcher to expose all that is made up, and debunk what is easily accepted by the gullible. That looks pretty noble, and righteous indeed. And, obviously, the Mother should be faulted for allowing these millions of botched up photos to be distributed, photos with sparkling eyes painted.

So the peaceful expanse of the brow, the trouble-free face, and the fathomless eyes were after all the artifacts, the work of art, and not the realities of the subject portrayed, not the authentic things, the details which are not there intrinsically but which emanated from the retoucher's imagination and skill. It’s a pity our author was fooled by it and, not long before, arrived at the Ashram. But let it be as it is. One thing however is patent enough: in one single stroke of aggressive falsehood he dismisses all that is spiritual and yogic in Sri Aurobindo.

Is that imbroglio or distortion and falsification?



  1. A relevant comment posted on the Mirror of Tomorrow:


    Whatever happens, the Aurobindonian ideals and perceptions are governed in the least by things such as the Lives, and in it is their authentic strength. As regards neo-colonisation of minds, we need not really harbour any fear, though there is so much of aggressive and oppressive darkness in the book that one shudders to think of it colonizing us. In any case, I’ll go back to Blake who, against the dark Satanic mills, revoltingly asserted that he would not cease from mental fight until these are destroyed. He was riding a chariot of fire and asking for bow and arrow of burning gold. We too have to lift up our defeatless Gandivas and shirk not from the battle that has come as a ‘holiday’ for the warrior spirit. It is a long battle and has got to be fought.

    ~ RYD

  2. On the subject of the "lives" Vikas writes: “…the opinions are so deeply divided that the discussion has degenerated into a useless exchange of hardened positions; therefore engaging in it unprovoked neither inspires the thought nor moves the heart.”

    “…engaging in it unprovoked neither inspires the thought nor moves the heart.” It is a kind of a stalemate. And yet stay we cannot where we are. Instead of a deadlock, I’d prefer a livelock—if you wish, “Lives”-lock—as in the case of two racing cars.

    In the larger personal-individual context perhaps none would care about the Lives. I believe the Aurobindonian convictions of ours spring up from a deeper or higher source which also means that we need not harbour the fear of neo-colonisation which cannot touch even the surface of what we deeply within are. If so, it is perhaps not necessary to fight against such attacks so superficial as they are, and their value lies only in strengthening our own inner resolves.

    Perhaps the problem rises in the context of a larger collective. Let us make a scenario, of The Lives of Sri Aurobindo getting published in India. How many copies of it will get sold in India in the next half a dozen years? I wonder if the number would exceed, say, 2000 or around that. And of the readers, how many Indians are going to buy what is presented in it? They are not such a gullible lot, I suppose. If you extend this scenario to translations of the book in a dozen Indian vernacular languages, the chances are it will be torn to pieces in no time.

    This only means that, despite this kind of rejection of the Lives by the Indian psyche, we cannot accept the stalemate and keep quiet. It has any number of incendiary statements and these cannot remain unchallenged; in fact their potential is highly flammable. The wedge it tries to drive between the Hindu and Muslim communities can be pretty disastrous. So it is not a question of dialogue, inspiring or otherwise, but a question of Aurobindonian values. The implications have to be reckoned with and the weapons sharpened. “Bring me my bow of burning gold”—that is the mantric call. By the way, Nolini considers this stanza of Blake as a fine example of Mantra in poetry.

    ~ RYD

    Check the context at:


  3. Dear Sir,
    If I may add a few points. Even the standard portraits by Henri Cartier Bresson were deemed to inadequate by Sadhaks like Champaklal. (He said these were a "joke")(Mother commented something to the effect that the photographs had a hint of disappointment in Sri Aurobindo's face. Disappointment because humanity didn't live up to his expectations.)

    I mention this because clearly the Mother was quite careful and conscious about photographs in circulation.

    Clearly, if the "retouched" photographs were approved by the Mother, it represents something of Sri Aurobindo.