27 Oct 2009

The Book and its Background -- by Alok Pandey

Writing a Spiritual Biography: Some General Considerations

Biographies, especially of great men, are written so that men of later generation can derive inspiration from it. Though sometimes professional psychologists and sociologists discuss the various forces that may have gone in the moulding of a great man, the prime objective is not a voyeuristic curiosity into the petty personal details of his life. If this is true of a great figure of repute and honour, we need to be even more careful when we touch the life of a saint or sage, of a national hero in whom not only the present but future generations will take pride and draw inspiration from. In India, at least, we draw the necessary distinction between the sacred and the profane, the sublime and the commonplace. We do not, and for good reasons, mix up the two in an indiscriminate manner. We do not, for example, discuss the reason behind the marriage of a great spiritual Master and, after much tortuous deliberation, end up with the commonplace statement that “it must be due to the usual desire for physical gratification”. We do not, to give another example, discuss whether he was a madman or genius of the spirit, but leave that for the coming generations to decide. True disciples, those whom the biographer of The Lives of Sri Aurobindo calls hagiographers, may exaggerate sometimes the achievements and qualities of a great Master. But it is also true that critics do just the same, but with a bias and a swing on the opposite side. They minimise and belittle the actual importance, because it threatens their own smallness and invites them to undertake an adventure which attracts and frightens them at the same time. To reduce the Master to the same level as they are, to bring him down to the littleness of our mortal state gives to these critics a vicarious and perverse pleasure.

And when this perversity becomes public, then they do incalculable harm, not only to themselves but to those who may be ready for the climb and feel inspired to do so. That indeed is the true purpose of writing the life of a great saint. Apart from the factual details, we must be careful in our expression when we are describing the life of a great public figure, for we cannot write about anyone in any way. Truth must be attired in appropriate language; that is why when we address the jury in uncouth language, it becomes contempt of court. Even in ordinary life, we do not address our mother as our father’s wife or say that we were born because our parents had sex! These things are like unwritten laws that distinguish us from being mere animals and are a necessary part of our cultural and social behaviour.

We must also understand that books are not just creative ventures of an individual. They also mean big money that a writer and the publishing house earn by selling them to the consumer. The reader has a right to the product which should be what it declares to be. We cannot advertise for one thing and sell another to the unwitting customer. The reader who goes through a book absorbs its atmosphere, drinks through his mind the poison or the nectar contained in it and rejoices or suffers, feels strengthened and rejuvenated or weakened and sick in his inner being. It is one thing to sell poison as poison – that is dangerous enough. But it is far more dangerous to sell poison as a refreshing drink, as in the case of this book. If laws do not exist to prohibit and restrict such unbridled licentiousness masquerading under the garb of intellectual freedom, then perhaps it is time to make some landmark judgments in this regard. Freedom, whether vital or physical, emotional or social has its limits, and these limits are decided either by our ethical and moral or our aesthetic and spiritual sensitivities. Once that is settled, then laws and regulations are framed to enforce the same. This book, to say the least, is a poison deftly concealed with the colour and artificial flavour of words strung together by a cunning and diabolic expertise. It must be stopped, not only for people in the present times, but more for the future generations. We do not want our children to be told that our national heroes were second hand imitators of western thought and that they have left us a legacy of doubt, and that all their high dreams and aspirations had a touch of lunacy when they were not mere figments of imagination. Let the scientific circles debate and discuss this with the experts in their fields, but till such things as consciousness and the nature of spiritual experience are settled beyond doubt, it would be ill-advised for humanity to discard faith and take the blind road of so-called scientific objectivity – more so when the term is being simply used to give the lie and justify a bluff, when all the while there is nothing but personal opinion and subjective bias.

The question is whether anyone can write anything about anyone and simply let it pass in the name of freedom of expression, or should there be a preliminary requirement, a qualification needed to write in an authoritative manner and not in a fictional vein. The crux of the matter should be what is known as “adhikara bheda”, the deserving candidate, and this applies to every field. Not everyone can write about physics. Not everyone can write on the subtle field of human psychology, nor on art and music, or dance. A little knowledge and practice is not enough. One must “be” and “live” in some good measure what one is writing about. An ape does not become a pianist by imitating the movements of a human hand that moves through the piano keys and creates music! One must have first the appropriate capacity, the appropriate consciousness and, above all, have music within oneself to write about it. This “adhikara bheda” is lost in today’s times under the plea of intellectual freedom. This has led to an increase of confusion in every field. Yet, while it is easier to detect fraud in other fields, it is much more difficult to do so in the spiritual. For the human consciousness in the mass has little knowledge and experience in this sphere, and therefore the chances of confusion are much more if the unprepared consciousness reads or writes about things which cannot be truly understood or rightly perceived as long as it lives in the ego and is besieged by desires. Not only will such an attempt be a failure, but it will cause much misunderstanding. Its apparent success itself will end in failure, for we cannot go beyond the limits of our own consciousness. In trying to measure the Immeasurable by our own yardsticks, we will be causing great confusion, for then what would be left out of our ambit would often turn out to be far more important than what has been included. Only the like knows the like, only a yogi can recognise a yogi. To write about the life of an Avatar, one must either be a yogi who can “see” and “feel” or, at least, a devotee with a consciousness full of faith and inner purity. The inner meaning and significance of an Avatar’s life can only be revealed, to an extent, to the inner eye of a yogi or else to the devotee, who is so full of love and adoration that he identifies himself with the consciousness of the Master and knows it through His Grace. But when a small mind attempts to write about him, it ends up trivialising high truths and flattening the heights while glorifying and exaggerating the small and unnecessary potholes.

The Ashram Ethos: Context and Background

Peter Heehs lives in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram which is co-located within the Indian setup. Many of the activities of the Ashram carry the stamp of an Indian ethos, which is very natural, not only because of its geographical location but also because of its founder and Master, Sri Aurobindo, who was not only an Indian by birth, but also drew much from Indian roots, from the Vedas, the Upanishads and the Gita. Even though he went beyond the Indian ethos and never restricted his teachings to any specific culture or religion, he duly acknowledged the spiritual role of India in the past and future evolution of mankind. The Mother paid the highest tribute to the Indian temperament by stating in Her reminiscences that though She was “French by birth and early education”, She was an “Indian by choice and predilection”, and that India was her “true country”, the country of her “soul and spirit”. Like Sri Aurobindo, She showed us the way to surpass all divisions of colour, caste, creed, religion and nationality, and arrive at a truth that is founded upon certain core values and central principles, which are the very soul and sustenance of this evolutionary growth. “All are welcome here” does not mean that anybody and everybody are welcome here. It is after all a place for a spiritual evolution, a work founded upon spiritual truths, and even though the sadhaks carry their inherent deficiencies of human nature, they are constantly struggling to overcome and change them. While these human deficiencies are only natural because we are an imperfect species, there are certain deep shadows in human nature that are not merely deficiencies but serious obstacles to spiritual life. While these too have been accepted by the Master, these problems are best tackled individually if they have the faith and will to change. But the individuals harbouring these difficulties are generally not permitted to be part of the collective life since they vitiate the general atmosphere and create serious problems for the group.

It is in keeping with the unique nature of this collective life that certain general rules, though few, have become part of the conditions for living at the Ashram. Some of these rules relate to our outer conduct; for example, the sadhaks admitted to the Ashram are forbidden to drink alcohol, to smoke or take drugs, to keep away from politics and not to indulge in sex. While few individuals can be entirely free from these defects, especially from the last one, yet most sadhaks struggle to be free of them and succeed to the extent of their sincerity. There are equally certain inner and more important conditions for living at the Ashram, the foremost of which is faith in the Mother and Sri Aurobindo: to aspire, live and act for the Divine, to be open to the Grace, grow in sincerity and in one’s capacity to surrender, surmount one’s egoism, and most of all to dedicate one’s life unconditionally to the service of the Divine. In other words, there are four main foundations of the Ashram life and the Yoga of Sri Aurobindo as taught by him and practised by the disciples and devotees all over the world, for the Ashram now is no more a limited geographical unit but an ever growing movement. There are besides many branches and centres of the Integral Yoga all over India and the world, which, though far from Pondicherry, try to follow the same cardinal principles of yogic life. These can be summarised as follows:

1. Faith in the Mother and Sri Aurobindo and in their divinity as an example for all to follow. This is of course the central pivot around which all the rest moves.

2. Faith in Their words, in the truth of their teaching, which to a disciple are beyond reproach or subject of any mental analysis. This teaching that starts from the ancient Vedantic truth and the realisation of the One in all, goes farther towards a conscious participation in the progressive evolutionary manifestation of the Divine upon earth.

3. The emphasis on certain inner qualities of Equanimity, Sincerity, Aspiration and Surrender as the core values whose growth is the chief business of the disciple.

4. The rejection of certain strong and central defects and tendencies of our lower nature, such as doubt, arrogance, vanity, use of drugs, alcohol, smoking, sexual indulgence.

Peter Heehs and the Ashram Connection

It is important to consider the Ashram connection of this book to have a true and fair assessment of its potential for damage. Peter is an American who has neither any natural nor any temperamental sympathy with Indian thought and culture. In fact, he has contempt for it as is reflected in many of his remarks to his colleagues and his statements in this book. He resides in an Ashram, but has neither faith nor devotion. He writes about history and passes judgments on literature and psychology, but is not professionally trained and is therefore ill-equipped to speak about them. He had neither any direct contact with Sri Aurobindo, the subject of this book – he even admits that he does not understand much his writings. Yet he takes pride in giving his strong, judgmental opinions on his works in a condescending manner. In short, he is the least qualified to write a biography of the great Master of Yoga, who has a world-wide following. And yet the mere fact of his living in the Ashram and working at the Ashram Archives gives him great credentials in the eyes of the credulous public. To make it worse, he has declared himself to be the founder of the Archives, which he never was!

The mischief of Peter Heehs has to be seen in the context of the Ashram, as it is this single fact of his being an Ashram inmate and worker at the Archives that lends an undue credence to his book The Lives of Sri Aurobindo. It is in this context that one has to see and evaluate the damage done by him through this book and his other works. In other words, he has perpetrated not only academic fraud but intellectual theft, and misused his privileged access as an Archive worker to steal and vandalise Sri Aurobindo’s writings. Yet one must admit, somewhat ruefully, that a phenomenon such as Peter Heehs does not happen in a day. The author of this controversial and defamatory book has a track record of creating and courting controversies since his arrival at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in the year 1971. No one knows exactly how and why he landed here and continued to stay without having any faith or devotion for Sri Aurobindo. A self-proclaimed historian, whose academic and professional credentials are shrouded in mystery even as the purpose of his being here, who suddenly comes from a far off country without any specific interest and stays on because he is given the task of “arranging Sri Aurobindo’s manuscripts”!

I might not have stayed if I had not been asked to do two things I found very interesting: first, to collect material dealing with his life; second, to organize his manuscripts and prepare them for publication. (Preface, The Lives of Sri Aurobindo)

It is strange that someone who has neither any love for India nor any respect or faith in Sri Aurobindo and is rather critical of him in many ways, stays on simply because he was given the work of arranging Sri Aurobindo’s manuscripts. Strange, because it is not a practice at the Ashram to ask an unwilling person, that too someone who is neither a devotee nor a disciple, to stay on and take up work, leave alone such an important task. Or did he manipulate his way to the nerve center of the Ashram by pleasing and impressing gullible Ashramites? Or did he use some other means that we will never come to know, since the person responsible for encouraging and facilitating his stay, Shri Jayantilal Parekh, has passed away, albeit feeling bitter and unhappy about his decision to keep this young man, who was, before coming here, “a taxi driver, a stock boy and a yoga center assistant, in New York”? He also describes his “brief return to college”, but does not mention what were his qualifications and what was the course he was engaged in. It may be interesting for us to know about it since he poses as a professional and has the audacity to write the biography of a national hero and belittle and denigrate him – an act that requires prior clearance in India from the Information & Broadcasting and Home Ministries.

But leave aside all that. Let us simply take a look at the nature of the work he was engaged in, apart from what was really given to him, i.e., collecting material dealing with Sri Aurobindo’s life and organising his manuscripts for publication. How does this mean criticising and rectifying what Sri Aurobindo said and wrote and approved during his own lifetime? This was certainly not part of his assignment! This kind of activity may have been accepted at some department of history in a university but certainly not at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Archives, since the Ashram is meant to safeguard Sri Aurobindo’s works for posterity and not to interpret and re-interpret them. Sri Aurobindo, a perfectionist in the highest sense of the word, had already made the necessary corrections to the details of his life so that his biographers do not “murder him in cold print”. The Mother had further cautioned his prospective biographers; when someone wrote about Sri Aurobindo in terms that were not acceptable, She wrote:

It is not a question of disobedience. I know nothing about your additions to the Life Sketch of the sources from which they were taken. My point of view is this, that anything written by a sadhak about Sri Aurobindo which brings him down to an ordinary level and admits the reader to a sort of gossiping familiarity with him is an unfaithfulness to Him and His work. Good intentions are not sufficient, it is necessary that this should be understood by everybody. (3 June 1939, CWM, Volume 17, p 27)

These words of the Mother are like unwritten laws that have been incorporated in the ethos of Ashram life and every disciple is supposed to accept and adhere to them, not as a creed or a dogma but as a natural rule of spiritual living.

Sri Aurobindo himself discouraged his biographers, knowing the limitations of human ignorance in which we live and labour:

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 man to see.
(Autobiographical Notes, p 11)

In a more general sense Sri Aurobindo spoke of the life of an Avatar and the difficulty of writing about it:

The Avatar is always a dual phenomenon of divinity and humanity; the Divine takes upon himself the human nature with all its outward limitations and makes them the circumstances, means, instruments of the divine consciousness and the divine power, a vessel of the divine birth and the divine works. But so surely it must be, since otherwise the object of the Avatar’s descent is not fulfilled; for that object is precisely to show that the human birth with all its limitations can be made such a means and instrument of the divine birth and divine works, precisely to show that the human type of consciousness can be compatible with the divine essence of consciousness made manifest, can be converted into its vessel, drawn into nearer conformity with it by a change of its mould and a heightening of its powers of light and love and strength and purity; and to show also how it can be done. If the Avatar were to act in an entirely supernormal fashion, this object would not be fulfilled. A merely supernormal or miraculous Avatar would be a meaningless absurdity; not that there need be an entire absence of the use of supernormal powers such as Christ’s so-called miracles of healing, for the use of supernormal powers is quite a possibility of human nature; but there need not be that at all, nor in any case is it the root of the matter, nor would it at all do if the life were nothing else but a display of supernormal fireworks. The Avatar does not come as a thaumaturgic magician, but as the divine leader of humanity and the exemplar of a divine humanity. Even human sorrow and physical suffering he must assume and use so as to show, first, how that suffering may be a means of redemption, – as did Christ, – secondly, to show how, having been assumed by the divine soul in the human nature, it can also be overcome in the same nature, – as did Buddha. The rationalist who would have cried to Christ, “If thou art the Son of God, come down from the cross,” or points out sagely that the Avatar was not divine because he died and died too by disease, – as a dog dieth, – knows not what he is saying: for he has missed the root of the whole matter. Even, the Avatar of sorrow and suffering must come before there can be the Avatar of divine joy; the human limitation must be assumed in order to show how it can be overcome; and the way and the extent of the overcoming, whether internal only or external also, depends upon the stage of the human advance; it must not be done by a non-human miracle.
(CWSA, Essays on the Gita, pp 164- 65)

The Lives of Sri Aurobindo by Peter Heehs

But Peter would insist on going beyond the work assigned to him. One could understand this if it were over enthusiasm to serve the Master or the Ashram as an institution, which sustains him materially and gives him a financial guarantee for his visa. Under such circumstances, most persons would feel grateful to the institution that supports them financially and spiritually, grateful to the Master in whose Name the institution runs. If someone is not happy with either the institution or its way of life, the logical thing would be to go away. After all, it is not a government organisation with minimum years of compulsory service. But the last thing that one would do (unless one is an idiot or a madcap) is to denounce the founder of the institution that has given him refuge. Peter is certainly not an idiot, at least, not in the way clinical psychology recognises. He very well knows the consequences of his actions.

The genre of hagiography, in the original sense of the term, is very much alive in India. Any saint with a following is the subject of one or more books that tell the inspiring story of his or her birth, growth, mission, and passage to the eternal. Biographies of literary and political figures do not differ much from this model. People take the revised version of their heroes’ lives very seriously. A statement about a politician or poet that rubs people the wrong way will be turned into a political or legal issue, or possibly cause a riot. The problem is not whether the disputed statement is true, but whether anyone has the right to question an account that flatters a group identity.
(Preface, The Lives of Sri Aurobindo)

He continues in this vein, showing us his real intent through a cunning veil:

Aurobindo has been better served by his biographers than most of his contemporaries have. But when I began to write articles about his life, I found that there were limits to what his admirers wanted to hear. Anything that cast doubt on something that he said was taboo, even if his statement was based on incomplete knowledge of the facts. Almost as bad was anything that challenged an established interpretation, even one that clearly was inadequate.
(Preface, The Lives of Sri Aurobindo)

He starts his mischief by implanting the suggestion that Sri Aurobindo has been rather generously hyped up by his biographers. He also sets the tone of challenging “the established interpretations and cast doubts”. What are these established interpretations that he must doubt except for Sri Aurobindo’s greatness as a revolutionary leader, a poet and a philosopher, a yogi and a mystic who gave a new vision and way of life? Indeed, throughout the book, he continues to challenge them even though he has inadequate knowledge of the facts, or deliberately conceals them to prove his point. He goes on with this craft of playing a double game, saying one thing but meaning another, slipping in a suggestion through the backdoor while we are busy and engaged at the front door. He uses this trick all through the book. What follows next in the Preface can be taken as an example.

Figure 2 is a photograph of Aurobindo that was taken around the same time as figure 1. Note the dark, pockmarked skin, sharp features, and undreamy eyes. As far as I know, it did not appear in print before 1976, when I published it in an ashram journal. To me it is infinitely more appealing than figure 1, which has been reproduced millions of times in its heavily retouched form. I sometimes wonder why people like figure 1. There is hardly a trace of shadow between the ears, with the result that the face has no character. The sparkling eyes have been painted in; even the hair has been given a gloss. As a historical document it is false. As a photograph it is a botched piece of work. But for many, figure 1 is more true to Aurobindo than figure 2. In later life, his complexion became fair and smooth, his features full and round. Figure 2 thus falsifies the “real” Aurobindo. It is the task of the retoucher to make the photograph accord with the reality that people want to see. (Preface, The Lives of Sri Aurobindo)

Sounds very objective but the game of deception has already begun. For the two photographs that Peter compares are both different in terms of time scale. A right comparison would have been to compare the same photograph, untouched and retouched. But the author quickly passes on the lie to us with the sleight of words, so that while we are focusing on the verbal argument, we do not even realise that he has already offended our sensibilities with regard to a photograph people love and associate their very soul with. It is a double disfigurement that he engages himself in a most cunning way, professing one thing but meaning another. That he does it knowingly, acknowledging himself that there are limits to what people can hear about their heroes, makes his offence worse, a thing conscious and deliberate. He is going to give us a revised version of Sri Aurobindo’s life, something that his admirers will not like to hear. All other subsequent pleas of innocence fade before this first statement clearly giving away his real motives.

The Man and his Motives

These motives were never really hidden from Ashram inmates. Right from the beginning, this man has courted controversies, the aim of which has been to raise doubts about Sri Aurobindo’s statements on his own life, his English, his works, his yoga, on the Mother and so on and so forth. All these controversies have landed the Ashram into bitter debates and even legal disputes; they have always been a force of division that have led to a polarisation of opinion along racial and other lines. This of course is due to his ingrained strong bias against India, Indian tradition and culture, and his favouring the Western views of life as superior to any other. This colonial bias is reflected everywhere in his book and raises once again the unanswered but pertinent question, – why is he here in India that he is so critical of? Is it some kind of compulsion? As was rumoured earlier, was he a drug addict? Or was he part of a more sinister design of certain groups whose sole purpose is to denounce and debunk, denigrate and belittle Indian culture and its heroes under the guise of admiration for it? These adverse theories of Indian culture have been advanced with very strong arguments from Macaulay and Max Muller to even some present day scholars who have come to India and gone back to start their own independent schools without acknowledging the source of their inspiration. We need not go into the details of this U–turn theory. For our present purpose, it is enough to turn our attention on this single person and question his real motives.

He does not mention why at all he landed here, since he “could not understand” Sri Aurobindo’s writings though “the shorter ones made a lot of sense” to him. He does not mention whether, after coming here in 1971, he met the Mother and had an audience with Her, as the Mother was then physically present. If anyone had any true and genuine interest in Yoga or had some aspiration for inner life, one would have most certainly wanted to have a glimpse of the Mother, who was the spiritual head of the Ashram. It is a mystery as to why he really came, whom he met and what really made him stay at a place which neither seems to have attracted nor inspired him. No wonder, time and again, people have raised questions about the real motives of his coming here. Was his so-called interest in arranging archival material simply a guise to gain admittance into the Ashram whose Light and Power was radiating out to the world and which had been the centre of unparalleled spiritual effort? And what could be the reason for this admittance if it were not to bathe himself and be illumined by that Light? Was it, as some suspect, to subvert the work from within? We may never know, though such a thing is not unknown in the outer as well as in the inner life. Sri Aurobindo often mentions that wherever there is a collective spiritual effort of such a magnitude, there is a risk of intrusion of the forces and powers of Darkness masquerading as one coming to help the work, but always holding within their heart the intention of distorting and falsifying the Truth that is manifesting itself upon earth.

We cannot say for sure whether Peter and his work fall into this category, but his approach and his attitude do raise strong doubts about the real intent of this biography. The declared purpose of his biography is to make Sri Aurobindo available to the academia in the West, but many things seem to contradict this avowed purpose. In fact, the very issue of writing a biography for the academia is a strange one. For the academia is primarily interested in the written works rather than the person. It is only the historian and the psychologist who are interested in the biography of a well-known person. But the interest of a historian hardly goes beyond the superficial details of a person’s life and the psychologists have their fixed lens with which they see and judge human nature. As to the significant outer events of Sri Aurobindo’s life, there is already enough historical data available. As for the psychologists, any attempt to look at human nature through a third party account available through so-called “documentary evidence” has no meaning at all. One cannot rely upon the accounts of others, whether of detractors or sympathisers. For who can really know about another human being, leave alone someone as deep and intense, vast and many-sided and sublime as Sri Aurobindo. Even those who lived and moved with him closely hardly knew him! To take the cue from Indian thought, when Arjuna is suddenly confronted with the vision of the cosmic being of Krishna (Vishwa Rupa), granted to him by a special Grace, he rues how he had not known the Lord at all despite being his closest companion, friend and playmate, he who was now sitting by his side in the humble role of a charioteer. He then laments his ignorance, seeks forgiveness from Krishna and is filled with gratitude and adoration. But Peter has neither seen Sri Aurobindo nor has any special interest in him. As for the divinity of Sri Aurobindo, he has not the least interest in it by his own admission. His interest, if any at all, is in the man who wrote so profusely and on so many subjects, which again, as per his admission, he finds difficult to understand.

Then he is associated with writers such as Jeffrey Kripal, notorious for his damaging book on the life of Sri Ramakrishna, in which the author tries to perversely analyse the gigantic spiritual genius of India. Is it a mere co-incidence that the very same Jeffrey Kripal praises this biography in words no less diabolic – he says that the author of the Lives “humanises and problematises” the life of Sri Aurobindo. And Peter includes him in the list of his acknowledgements, though there is none whatsoever to the One whose disciple he claims to be and whose life he has ventured to write in such a casual and insensitive manner, without any care or respect – which you would not do to even an ordinary human being to whom you owe your material sustenance. So what really was his intent in writing this biography and what are his credentials? Could this man be the type who comes near the Light only to cast a shadow and spoil the work from inside, to subvert a truth by joining it rather than by openly opposing it? Whatever he may be, here are some of the controversies surrounding him:

(1) The controversy about Sri Aurobindo’s birth place in Kolkata, contradicting Sri Aurobindo’s own statements! It has hence become a very touchy issue among the Kolkata devotees.

(2) Editing and renaming Sri Aurobindo’s works. Notable among them is the change of title of the book Foundations of Indian Culture, a title given by Sri Aurobindo himself, to Renaissance in India. Many devotees and disciples complained about it to the Trustees.

(3) Textual corrections to Sri Aurobindo’s epic Savitri, despite the Mother’s clear instructions that not a comma should be changed. It led to a long drawn-out court case.

(4) Challenging certain established facts of Sri Aurobindo’s life that were confirmed by Sri Aurobindo himself during his lifetime.

(5) Doubting the inner Adesh Sri Aurobindo received for coming to Pondicherry and the use of his spiritual force in the Second World War.

(6) A book on the freedom struggle of India wherein he tried to give a very clear political slant favouring a certain party in utter disregard of the truth, so that he could get the prize.

(7) An earlier biography of Sri Aurobindo that raised controversies because he questioned through a long and tortuous process certain established facts of Sri Aurobindo’s life.

(8) Publication of an Archives journal with controversial notes.

In all these controversies his main role has been to challenge and somehow prove by clever arguments that Sri Aurobindo and the Mother were wrong.

All this is directly connected with his intent and cunning nature, the degree of his insensitivity to everything that is around him – the ethos in which he lives and breathes, the country whose culture has accepted him as one of its own, the very soul and spirit of the Ashram that feeds him, whose services he enjoys and whose atmosphere nourishes and nurtures him. This insensitivity is not due to any ignorance, but due to his arrogance and utter disregard and disrespect for everyone else, whom he treats as his inferiors, like some outdated colonialist. His colleagues describe him as vain and arrogant, someone who takes great glee in looking down upon India and its glorious traditions, not by the way of any higher enlightenment but out of superior pride that exults in its self-adulatory and inflated self-esteem. On more than one occasion, several of his colleagues have approached the Trustees after finding his activities suspicious and feeling that such a person would be unfit to work at the Archives. Not only the average devotee but a disciple of unquestionable integrity (Jugal-da) and the closest aide of the Mother (Pranab-da) voiced their concern to the Trustees about the nature of this man. Several others raised the alarm in a similar vein, among them the well-known exponents of Sri Aurobindo’s teachings and yoga such as Amal Kiran, Nirodbaran, Chotte Narayan Sharma and R Y Deshpande (a few of these articles and letters have been published on this site). Of course, it is strange that the normally alert Trustees somehow chose to ignore this issue and did not pay much attention to it. The reason for this silence is beyond our comprehension, but it only shows the extent of the menace that Peter Heehs is and the degree of control he exercises over the will of others.

Audacious and Deceptive

The book is already being promoted as the first of its kind and the best. The rest are works of piety and hagiography. What is this but a breach of professional ethics whereby all other biographers are dumped as hagiographers, some of them remarkable personalities such as K R Srinivas Iyengar, former VC and acclaimed the world over as a man of letters, Satprem, the French sadhak whose unique biography of Sri Aurobindo titled The Adventure of Consciousness deeply influenced the West, and many other big names such as Dilip Kumar Roy, A B Purani, Navajata, Kireet Joshi and George Van Vrekheim. All these are now hagiographers who have been rather generous towards Sri Aurobindo. This is the audacity of his claim.

It is necessary to know all this background in order to understand why the Ashramites and devotees all over the world have been extremely hurt and anguished by this book. If his previous acts of transgression were like abrasions or bruises on the word-body and life of Sri Aurobindo, this book is nothing short of deep stabbings, and these wounds are unlikely to heal in a short time. Worse so because, like Judas, he came posing as a disciple lending false credence to a work that is at best an academic fraud, and at worst something dangerously diabolic. The very first few pages give you the wrong impression of unusual credibility, which is exactly what this man wants us to believe and be thus misled, and so would someone who is not conversant with Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s writings. The fraud starts from the very first page where he describes himself as the founder of the Archives. In some of his other writings, he describes himself as Director of the Archives and Historical research, a mythical non-existent department!

The intent of all these statements is obvious enough. It is to lend credence and authority to his work, over and above all other biographies. His purpose through this jugglery of words is to attack the very foundations of yogic life by instilling doubt and confusion in the minds of devotees, by belittling the Master and trivialising His work, by demeaning the disciples and, most dangerous of all, reinterpreting the yoga in his own way. In reality the whole book is like a deceptive river full of weeds and a black, poisonous undercurrent that keeps surfacing all through, on every page, in one way or the other. At the end of the reading, the reader is left confused about the exact nature of Sri Aurobindo’s life, his work and his yoga; he is left with nothing but doubts. While the more mature devotee will be able to see the lie and brush aside the weeds that arise from its occult bed, the neophyte will most certainly get confused and even likely to turn away from spiritual life. This seems to be the underlying purpose of the book

A Series of Lies

Having given the lie to previous biographers, he starts on his diabolic mission to give the lie to Sri Aurobindo himself, indeed to spiritual seeking, to all mystic effort, to all that is beautiful and sacred and true in India. But the method adopted is the most cunning and evil one. Shakespeare spoke of the devil quoting the scriptures; the truth of these words begins to appear as one browses through the pages of The Lives. On the face of it, it is about Sri Aurobindo’s many-sided life and the narration seems to run from his life as a son to a scholar and a revolutionary, then onto a yogi and a philosopher, and finally to that of a spiritual Guide. But all through, there is an undercurrent that follows the narrative like a dark shadow which analyses and criticises him. Indeed, there are not one but many shadows that are let loose under the seemingly innocuous cover of writing about Sri Aurobindo’s life with the ostensible purpose of making him available to the western audience. Had the author been more honest of his intention and method, one could at least say that he was not pretending. But under the deceptive cover of historical narration run several dark themes, which can be categorised as:

Sri Aurobindo was a liar.

Sri Aurobindo was a coward.

Sri Aurobindo was an imbalanced person, if not outright mad.

Sri Aurobindo was an unhappy child.

Sri Aurobindo was a failure in his early life, and even right up to the middle of his life.

Sri Aurobindo was an immature writer, both in prose and poetry.

Sri Aurobindo was a poor philosopher, one who borrowed his ideas from the West.

Sri Aurobindo was a person who encouraged an unrestrained and licentious life.

Sri Aurobindo was a failed mystic with doubtful achievements.

Sri Aurobindo’s mysticism was an effort to reintegrate the conflicting elements of his personality.

Not satisfied with his onslaught on Sri Aurobindo, the writer goes on to attack Indian thought and civilisation as something outdated and lacking in originality, the Ashram community as a bunch of poor imitators who are hardly engaged in sadhana, the failed Indian revolutionary movement and so on. At many places, he attempts to clearly rewrite history by supporting the British as in the case of the partition of Bengal, or taking the side of William Archer – the most biased anti-Indian colonial writer in whose refutation Sri Aurobindo wrote a whole book. It is interesting to note that posing as an authentic biographer of Sri Aurobindo and as one who has lived in the Ashram for nearly forty years, where no distinction is made of any caste or creed or race, this man suddenly takes strongly the side of William Archer, and tries to prove that Sri Aurobindo’s criticism was not only unjustified and unfair but biased and inappropriate. One really wonders whose biography he is writing and what his real intent is!

A Dangerous Twist and a Deliberate Bluff

Finally and most dangerously, by selective quoting, he gives a very different tilt to Sri Aurobindo’s yoga. He does this by a very crafty, very subtle and ingenious way of falsifying documents. To take one example, he writes,

Tantrism, in fact, provides the general foundation of the yoga of self-perfection. (The Lives of Sri Aurobindo, p 285)

What Sri Aurobindo said is however very different, almost the reverse:

In the method of synthesis which we have been following, another clue of principle has been pursued which is derived from another view of the possibilities of Yoga. This starts from the method of Vedanta to arrive at the aim of the Tantra. In the Tantric method Shakti is all-important, becomes the key to the finding of spirit; in this synthesis spirit, soul is all-important, becomes the secret of the Shakti. The Tantric method starts from the bottom and grades the ladder of ascent upwards to the summit; therefore its initial stress is upon the action of the awakened Shakti in the nervous system of the body and its centres; the opening of the six lotuses is the opening up of the ranges of the power of Spirit. Our synthesis takes man as a spirit in mind much more than a spirit in body and assumes in him the capacity to begin on that level, to spiritualise his being by the power of the soul in mind opening itself directly to a higher spiritual force and being and to perfect by that higher force so possessed and brought into action the whole of his nature. For that reason our initial stress has fallen upon the utilisation of the powers of soul in mind and the turning of the triple key of knowledge, works and love in the locks of the spirit....(CWSA, The Synthesis of Yoga, p 612)

Note the clever inversion. A reader who is unfamiliar with Sri Aurobindo’s yoga may simply accept it at face value. Though Sri Aurobindo has given us a very different understanding of Tantra and Vedantic yoga, a casual reader may well take this as a hankering for spiritual powers, or as the psychoanalysts look at it, as a sublimated hedonism justified under the spiritual garb. In fact, a careful reading of the book shows this clear psychoanalytic tilt throughout, as if the writer was providing fodder to the psychoanalysts. In the chapter on Sri Aurobindo’s childhood, he exaggerates the issue of Swarnalata’s (Sri Aurobindo’s mother) madness, her fits of unprovoked anger when she beat one of her sons with a candle stick, seeing which Sri Aurobindo left the room, his father’s supposed infidelity and Sri Aurobindo’s scant memory of his childhood days except the sudden darkness rushing into him. This is again repeated when he analyses Sri Aurobindo’s plays and other writings:

From a literary point of view, Aurobindo’s plays are the least interesting of his works. Biographically speaking, they may offer insights into movements in his imaginative life. If his earlier plays suggest that he was searching for his ideal life partner, Vasavadutta seems to hint that he had found the woman he was seeking and was waiting for the moment when she would join him.’
(The Lives of Sri Aurobindo, p 299)

We see the double mischief again at play. In one sweeping statement he has made three suggestions, none of which is substantiated by any argument. They are indeed his personal opinions which he is not qualified to give as a non-professional. The first sweeping suggestion is that Sri Aurobindo’s plays are hardly interesting. The second is that they could be used to analyse his inner life and private world. So far, we can agree or disagree, but then he strikes a sharp blow – “he [Sri Aurobindo] had found the woman he was seeking and waiting for the moment when she would join him.” This is in 1915, soon after the Mother’s first arrival and subsequent departure for the next four years. One is immediately led to think that Sri Aurobindo was waiting for her like a romantic lover for a woman of his dreams even while he was deeply engaged in yoga and had withdrawn from politics for this purpose. Peter keeps colouring our mind and imagination with his own imaginative romantic colouring, disregarding the fact that Sri Aurobindo himself called Her the Mother.

There are innumerable instances of such deliberate misquoting that would mislead a casual or even not so casual reader, and give an entirely wrong meaning to the yoga itself. Take another example, where he writes under the seemingly mantric title of “All Life if Yoga”, a phrase Sri Aurobindo used to describe the uniqueness of his yoga that reintegrates God and World, Soul and Nature. But Sri Aurobindo clearly and throughout cautioned that this integration is possible only after one has gone through an inner and outer purification and transformation of nature. It is certainly impossible to have this as long as we are still struggling with the lower nature and its ego and desire. Here are the two quotes juxtaposed to show the deviant turn given to this phrase:

Sri Aurobindo writes:

No synthesis of Yoga can be satisfying which does not, in its aim, reunite God and Nature in a liberated and perfected human life or, in its method, not only permit but favour the harmony of our inner and outer activities and experiences in the divine consummation of both. For man is precisely that term and symbol of a higher Existence descended into the material world in which it is possible for the lower to transfigure itself and put on the nature of the higher and the higher to reveal itself in the forms of the To avoid the life which is given him for the realisation of that possibility, can never be either the indispensable condition or the whole and ultimate object of his supreme endeavour or of his most powerful means of self-fulfilment. It can only be a temporary necessity under certain conditions or a specialised extreme effort imposed on the individual so as to prepare a greater general possibility for the race. The true and full object and utility of Yoga can only be accomplished when the conscious Yoga in man becomes, like the subconscious Yoga in Nature, outwardly conterminous with life itself and we can once more, looking out both on the path and the achievement, say in a more perfect and luminous sense: “All life is Yoga.” (CWSA, The Synthesis of Yoga, p 8)

Peter presents:

Life and Yoga

In the early years of Aurobindo’s residence in Pondicherry, while he was writing, doing research, corresponding, receiving visitors, balancing the budget, exercising, and feeding the dog, he was also deeply involved in yoga. That “also” may give the wrong idea. The motto of Aurobindo’s spiritual practice was “All life is Yoga.” Expanding on this in 1914, he wrote that people who followed the traditional paths of yoga, which aim at absorption in the Absolute, tended “to draw away from the common existence and lose [their] hold upon it.” His own path aimed instead at reuniting “God and Nature in a liberated and perfected human life.” It relied on methods that “not only permit but favour the harmony of our inner and outer activities and experiences in the divine consummation of both.”

Aurobindo expressed this aim and method in his daily practice. Rejecting the ascetic life, he did yoga as a “householder.” He avoided fixed techniques, spent much of his time reading and writing (and not only about “spiritual” subjects), and passed an hour or two in the evening talking and joking with friends. He lived in a rented house, wore ordinary clothes, observed no dietary restrictions, smoked, and occasionally drank. It became a matter of principle not to reject any human activity, but to incorporate all of life into his yoga. He liked to quote the Latin maxim nihilhumani alienum, “nothing human is alien to me.”

Before he came to Pondicherry, his yoga had proceeded along fairly traditional lines. But by 1912 he could write to a friend of “a new system of Yoga” that had been “revealed” to him. He stressed the unorthodoxy and unexpectedness of his yoga when he told D.L. Purohit that his was “not the conventional method of Patanjali [the author of the Yoga Sutras],” but “the natural method” he had “stumbled upon in his meditations.” This makes the discovery seem almost accidental. In a letter to Richard, Aurobindo gave himself more credit by speaking of “the theory and system of yoga which I have formed.” (The Lives of Sri Aurobindo, pp 238-239)

In three small paragraphs and within half a page, he has implanted and advanced several suggestions:

1. Sri Aurobindo was a smoker and a drinker.

2. One can practice the yoga while continuing to drink and smoke, nay it is almost desirable to so, for there is no ascetic rejection of any activity of life.

3. That the phrase “All Life is Yoga” is basically inspired from a Latin maxim and is not a unique discovery of Sri Aurobindo. Suggestion number three is further confirmed in what follows, in that Sri Aurobindo gave himself more credit than it deserved.

There are other suggestions as well that we may disregard for the moment. But what the writer however does not say is that Sri Aurobindo during this phase of his sadhana was “working” upon all the difficulties of human nature as much as a scientist would, taking the burden of humanity on himself to study the disease and find the remedy. What is also not mentioned is the remedy he finds and the method of surrender and self-giving to the Divine and the transformation of the lower nature by which all life can be turned into yoga.

Let us take another example:

Taking an almost Nietzschean view of conventional morality, he wrote that from an evolutionary viewpoint “good and evil are…shifting quantities and change from time to time their meaning and value.” To those incapable of venturing beyond established standards, “this truth may seem to be a dangerous concession which is likely to destroy the very foundation of morality, confuse all conduct and establish only chaos.” But “if we have light enough and flexibility enough to recognise that a standard of conduct may be temporary and yet necessary for its time and to observe it faithfully until it can be replaced by a better,” we lose not our moral bearings, but “only the fanaticism of an imperfect and intolerant virtue”.
(The Lives of Sri Aurobindo, p 281)

There are three suggestions implied here apart from the illegitimate mixing up of quotes which the author frequently does as if it were the accepted norm. The first is that one has to transcend both good and evil. This is correct, but when placed out of context, it can be a dangerous concession. Secondly, virtue is an intolerant thing. This too is correct, but again misrepresented, as we shall see when we read the full quote below. By stringing together the two statements, Peter suggests that Sri Aurobindo had echoed and borrowed his ideas from Nietzsche. This is a clear lie. Both Sri Aurobindo and the Mother refuted this suggestion a number of times, stating how their thought differed from the German philosopher’s, though there was an apparently similar usage of certain words and concepts, such as the “superman”. The Nietzschean superman, in Sri Aurobindo’s view, was a cold and heartless Asura given to will for power alone. He transcended the conventional standards of good and evil and followed the one and only law, the law of power and might. Sri Aurobindo’s superman, in contrast, follows the one and only true freedom, the freedom of the Divine Being. He acts in union with this divine source of Knowledge and Wisdom out of compassion and love, even while he is powerful and strong. In other words, he transcends the duality of good and evil, but does not fall below it. Here is the full quote from Sri Aurobindo:

If we are to be free in the spirit, if we are to be subject only to the supreme Truth, we must discard the idea that our mental or moral laws are binding on the Infinite or that there can be anything sacrosanct, absolute or eternal even in the highest of our existing standards of conduct. To form higher and higher temporary standards as long as they are needed is to serve the Divine in his world march; to erect rigidly an absolute standard is to attempt the erection of a barrier against the eternal waters in their onflow. Once the nature-bound soul realises this truth, it is delivered from the duality of good and evil. For good is all that helps the individual and the world towards their divine fullness, and evil is all that retards or breaks up that increasing perfection. But since the perfection is progressive, evolutive in Time, good and evil are also shifting quantities and change from time to time their meaning and value. This thing which is evil now and in its present shape must be abandoned was once helpful and necessary to the general and individual progress. That other thing which we now regard as evil may well become in another form and arrangement an element in some future perfection. And on the spiritual level we transcend even this distinction; for we discover the purpose and divine utility of all these things that we call good and evil. Then have we to reject the falsehood in them and all that is distorted, ignorant and obscure in that which is called good no less than in that which is called evil. For we have then to accept only the true and the divine, but to make no other distinction in the eternal processes.

To those who can act only on a rigid standard, to those who can feel only the human and not the divine values, this truth may seem to be a dangerous concession which is likely to destroy the very foundation of morality, confuse all conduct and establish only chaos. Certainly, if the choice must be between an eternal and unchanging ethics and no ethics at all, it would have that result for man in his ignorance. But even on the human level, if we have light enough and flexibility enough to recognise that a standard of conduct may be temporary and yet necessary for its time and to observe it faithfully until it can be replaced by a better, then we suffer no such loss, but lose only the fanaticism of an imperfect and intolerant virtue. In its place we gain openness and a power of continual moral progression, charity, the capacity to enter into an understanding sympathy with all this world of struggling and stumbling creatures and by that charity a better right and a greater strength to help it upon its way. In the end where the human closes and the divine commences, where the mental disappears into the supramental consciousness and the finite precipitates itself into the infinite, all evil disappears into a transcendent divine Good which becomes universal on every plane of consciousness that it touches.
(CWSA, The Synthesis of Yoga, pp 191-92)

But for our author, this is mere repetition, in which “clause follows clause” until “the point of the statement is lost in a maze of qualifications”!
(Lives, p 328)

Another example of this mischief is the misuse of the diary of Sri Aurobindo known as the Record of Yoga. These records have been later published as part of the Collected Works of Sri Aurobindo despite the Mother’s instructions to the contrary. The very fact that they were not published as part of the Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Volumes speaks of Her Will. She did not want them to be made public, for first they were his personal diary notes, and second they are not likely to be understood by the average immature reader. Peter quotes from this work often and uses it to show that Sri Aurobindo had to struggle a lot for his yoga:

The most remarkable discovery was a diary he had kept for more than nine years, in which he noted the day-to-day events of his inner and outer life. Most biographies of Aurobindo have made his sadhana, or practice of yoga, seem like a series of miracles. His diary made it clear that he had to work hard to achieve the states of consciousness that are the basis of his yoga and philosophy. (Preface, The Lives of Sri Aurobindo)

What about the assertion that Aurobindo was an avatar? I can’t say that the question interests me very much. Aurobindo never claimed the distinction for himself, and I don’t think anyone alive is in a position to say one way or the other. (Peter Heehs, posted on the Columbia blog)

Both these statements are misrepresentations of truth. Sri Aurobindo did admit in the following two letters that he was a pathfinder, the Avatar who came to open the way for humanity:

We have had sufferings and struggles to which yours is a mere child’s play; I have not made our cases equal to yours. I have said that the Avatar is one who comes to open the Way for humanity to a higher consciousness – if nobody can follow the Way, then either our conception of the thing, which is also that of Christ and Krishna and Buddha also, is all wrong or the whole life and action of the Avatar is quite futile. X seems to say that there is no way and no possibility of following, that the struggles and sufferings of the Avatar are unreal and all humbug, there is no possibility of struggle for one who represents the Divine....It is only if it is a part of the world-arrangement that he should take upon himself the burden of humanity and open the Way that Avatarhood has any meaning.
(SABCL, Volume 26, On Himself, p. 463)

For the Leader of the Way in a work like ours has not only to bring down and represent and embody the Divine, but to represent to the ascending element in humanity and to bear the burden of humanity to the full and experience, not in a mere play or Lila but in grim earnest, all the obstruction, difficulty, opposition, baffled and hampered and only slowly victorious labour which are possible on the Path. But it is not necessary nor tolerable that all that should be repeated over again to the full in the experience of others. It is because we have the complete experience that we can show the straighter and easier road to others....
(SABCL, Volume 26, On Himself, p. 464)

The fact is that Sri Aurobindo’s major experiences of traditional yogas such as Nirvana and seeing the One Divine everywhere did come spontaneously and naturally; it was only the further opening of the path for earth and humanity that took a long time, mainly because the earth nature was not ready and had to be worked upon. The Record of Yoga is primarily related to this aspect of his sadhana, his working on human nature and not the Vedantic side which he had realised much earlier. The Record is for the path-finder who has to walk through the forest and the swamp full of snakes and pits, it is precisely the path that Sri Aurobindo did not want us to take.

A Great Work in the Art of Deception!

Going back to his association with the likes of Jeffrey Kripal, one wonders about his real intentions as opposed to the declared ones. It would have been honest if he had named the book “A critique of Sri Aurobindo’s life and work” or else “Sri Aurobindo’s life, – a psychoanalytic perspective”. But he knows that he cannot do this, for then he will be immediately challenged and taken to task as he is neither a literary critic nor a psychologist. He admits this openly in a private letter to a Ph.D. Psychology student, who questioned the veracity of his sweeping statements on certain psychological issues that fly in the face of professional knowledge.

It is this constant deception that underlies his work. He is trying to be someone which he is not, masquerading now as an expert in literary criticism, now as an exponent of yoga, now as an authority in psychology, but all the time his eye is on the one single goal, –to distort and misrepresent, belittle and denigrate Sri Aurobindo, his life and his yoga, Indian culture in general and re-establish once again another form of imperialism – the intellectual supremacy of the West, and prove it not on its own merits but by a selective misuse of documents. It is the relic of a colonial mind at its mischievous best, – to sow seeds of doubt within the Indian mind about its innate abilities and strength, to vulgarise and trivialise the sacred and the great, and to create confusion and division between the Hindu and the Muslim, the East and the West, the devotee and the philosopher.

In fact Peter has hijacked the Sri Aurobindonian platform to project himself as some sort of an authority, a myth that got perpetuated due to his total and unrestricted access to archival sources, thanks to the complacency of the Ashram authorities. He, on his side, not only misused his office to the fullest by theft of intellectual property and academic fraud, but also changed Sri Aurobindo’s own words under the pretext of rectifying certain errors. It is strange that this man, who so vociferously promoted the changes in Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri and even engaged the Ashram in a bitter legal battle dividing the devotees over the issue, has this to say about the epic poem, which, in many ways, represents the greatest gift of Sri Aurobindo to the world:

The Savitri legend, Aurobindo later explained, “is recited in the Mahabharata as a story of conjugal love conquering death.” But it seemed to him that it originally belonged to “one of the many symbolic myths of the Vedic cycle.” His reading of the Rig Veda had shown him that legends like the killing of Vritra had an outer ritualistic and inner spiritual meaning. In a similar way, the legend of Savitri could be read as a celebration of wifely duty and as a key to the world of yoga. Toward the end of Aurobindo’s poem, Death gives Savitri the chance to enjoy “deathless bliss” in a world of celestial beauty. She refuses. Death answers in lines that give expression to a defining characteristic of Aurobindo’s yoga:

Because thou hast rejected my fair calm
I hold thee without refuge from my will;
And lay upon thy neck my mighty yoke.
Now will I do by thee my glorious works....
For ever love, O beautiful slave of God.
(Lives of Sri Aurobindo, 299-300)

Because his talks entirely ceased and his correspondence virtually so, there are no first-hand accounts of Sri Aurobindo’s sadhana after 1941. One is tempted to mine Savitri to make up for the lack. Sri Aurobindo’s accounts of Aswapathy’s voyage through the worlds of matter, life, and mind before reaching “the kingdoms of the greater knowledge,” and Savitri’s transit through the “inner countries” until she reaches the inmost soul certainly are based on his and the Mother’s experiences; but the poem is a fictional creation, and Sri Aurobindo said explicitly that “the circumstances of this life have nothing to do with” its plot. (Lives of Sri Aurobindo, p 398)

Compare this to the Mother’s statements to see how very subtly Peter falsifies and distorts things:

the supreme revelation
of Sri Aurobindo’s vision

(About Savitri)

1) The daily record of the spiritual experiences of the individual who has written.
2) A complete system of yoga which can serve as a guide for those who want to follow the integral sadhana.
3) The yoga of the Earth in its ascension towards the Divine.
4) The experiences of the Divine Mother in her effort to adapt herself to the body she has taken and the ignorance and the falsity of the earth upon which she has incarnated.

The importance of Savitri is immense.
Its subject is universal.
Its revelation is prophetic.
The time spent in its atmosphere is not wasted.
Take all the time necessary to see this exhibition. It will be a happy compensation for the feverish haste men put now in all they do.
(10 February 1967, CWM, Volume 13, pp 24-25)

What is even more surprising is that he chooses to quote a few lines from the first draft while all the while he has harped upon textual accuracy. It is as if he is deliberately choosing only those passages that would suit his hypothesis, those that may be the weakest links, those that are most liable to be misunderstood and can create confusion.

It is out of this deep concern for a misrepresentation of yoga in the future, of a misrepresentation of Indian thought and culture taking its cue from this book, which will be quoted as an authority, that the devotees have gone to the court of law to seek justice. They have not gone there for themselves alone, nor for mere emotional redressal but for the good of posterity, so that the coming generations are not fed with this poisonous milk that is being branded and sold under the first and best feeding formula. Whether the coming generations would listen or not is not for us to decide, but we must do our little bit and act on our part, so that it is clear that we tried to stop the falsehood and screened attack. We have now done our bit and will continue to pursue it in the best way possible. But now the issue is in the courtroom of Law and Justice, and if justice is about the upholding of truth over everything else, if its concern is to see that the average citizen is not fooled or deceived by the misuse of knowledge and power, if through law we can facilitate the good of all beings and not just of one or two persons, then surely the honourable and responsible authorities will see the point of our petition and help us, not only for our sake but for the sake of the generations to come. I wish to close with these lines from Sri Aurobindo which indicate the subtle nature of the attack and the dark cunning that works through this man’s body and brain:

But he alone discerned that screened attack.
A veil upon the inner vision lay,
A force was there that hid its dreadful steps;
All was belied, yet thought itself the truth...

It was a space where nothing could be true,
For nothing was what it had claimed to be:
A high appearance wrapped a specious void.
Yet nothing would confess its own pretence
Even to itself in the ambiguous heart:
A vast deception was the law of things;
Only by that deception they could live....

The Fiend was visible but cloaked in light;
He seemed a helping angel from the skies:
He armed untruth with Scripture and the Law;
He deceived with wisdom, with virtue slew the soul
And led to perdition by the heavenward path.
A lavish sense he gave of power and joy,
And, when arose the warning from within,
He reassured the ear with dulcet tones
Or took the mind captive in its own net;
His rigorous logic made the false seem true.
Amazing the elect with holy lore
He spoke as with the very voice of God.
The air was full of treachery and ruse;
Truth-speaking was a stratagem in that place...

Falsehood came laughing with the eyes of truth...
Attack sprang suddenly vehement and unseen...
Yet caution seemed a vain expense of care,
For all that guarded proved a deadly net...

Truth was exiled lest she should dare to speak
And hurt the heart of darkness with her light
Or bring her pride of knowledge to blaspheme
The settled anarchy of established things.
(CWSA, Savitri: Descent into Night, pp 207–208)

Alok Pandey

November 2008

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