22 Apr 2010

An Open Dialogue on The Lives of Sri Aurobindo -- by R.Y Despande

Apropos of The Lives of Sri Aurobindo which declares that Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri is a “fictional creation”, I’d received an invitation from Rich Carlson of the SCIY for a dialogue on the book; at the SCIY we were colleagues at one time. The intention of holding a dialogue was to see if it could address the valid issues that had caused a vertical split in the international IY Community. The idea was first to understand its nature and then possibly offer proposals to remove the regretful misunderstanding. Rich’s e-mail had come to me on 19 April 2009 (in India 20 April) and I waited purposely for two days to respond—first to gauge to what extent he was serious about the matter, and then to figure out the way in which the dialogue could be held, in case it was going to be held. In the meanwhile, Rich sent me another e-mail seeking my concurrence. Rich wanted to conduct the dialogue just between me and himself, “who are now on polarized sides of the ordeal.” The hope was “to see if this matter will end in resolution or rupture.”

On 22 April 2009 Rich sent me a sharp reminder. My reply was as follows: “I did get your earlier e-mail and was in the process of responding to it. Believe me, I thought it appropriate first to formulate the terms and conditions for the intended dialogue which are ready in a draft form; I would have sent these to you in a day or two. But this e-mail settles the issue.”

But Rich regretted his haste and wished again to start the process. He wrote back: “It is a good thing to formulate the terms and conditions for an intended dialogue. I had wished to do that myself.” He also felt that there is a lot at stake here and it would be in the spirit of the yoga to continue, no matter what the differences are.

My proposal to examine The Lives of Sri Aurobindo was to go through it paragraph by paragraph, and page by page, and discuss it exhaustively, in several aspects. I also mentioned that it would be preferable if the dialogue is carried out on the Mirror of Tomorrow where we can have inputs from alert and competent readers who are serious about the matter. I wrote to this effect: I think a chapter by chapter dialog on the book would be worthwhile, something certainly better than allowing courts to decide the issue.

Rich wrote back on 24 April 2009 saying that he meant it to be a private conversation on the issue in an attempt to arrive at a resolution. He was not in favour of an open dialogue which would rather cause further rupture in the world-wide IY Community. The matter was closed at that.

Today it is exactly one year when the idea of a possible dialogue was mooted. It is unfortunate that it didn’t materialise. The positions have now got so much hardened—witness for instance AV Today August 2009, some interviews on the subject—that perhaps only a miracle might work it out.

As there is really nothing confidential in these frank exchanges made in a liberal spirit, on this anniversary of the proposal I’m putting them on the Mirror of Tomorrow. If Rich wishes, he can put his version on the SCIY or related sites.


20 April 2010


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