31 May 2010

Reply to Dr. Raghu -- by Dr. Alok Pandey

The conclusions drawn by Dr Raghu [1] are not only ill-informed but also illogical and unscientific. I am not sure whether he is a medical doctor or a research doctor, but this much I can say that he does not even know the definition of delusion. A Delusion is a false belief, held by deep conviction, despite evidence to the contrary. It is unshakable by reason and most importantly not shared by other members of the culture and social milieu. Leaving aside Sri Aurobindo for a moment, if one were to follow Dr Raghu's innovative self-styled criteria, then not only yogis and mystics all over the world but even the simple peasant having faith in God are all deluded people and need to see a psychiatrist. The only sane people left in the world would then be scientists like Mr Raghu and historians like Peter Heehs. One can imagine what a pitiable world would that be!

His conclusion itself is faulty and based on mixing up two different premises. Use of yogic force to cure illness is not the same as conquest of death. Death is not necessarily the result of an illness. It may be due to other factors such as ageing, genetic programming, accidents, poisoning, and so on. While the yogic force may succeed in curing illness, it yet may not be sufficient to conquer physical death and reverse the habit of millenniums (call it genetic programming if one likes). Dr Raghu needs to be first clear about his fundamentals, not only of science but also of logical reasoning.

Secondly, as Sri Aurobindo himself has pointed out, the use of yogic force does not guarantee cure. Can any allopath guarantee that in his system? Does it mean that there is no such thing as allopathy and all medical doctors are humbug and medical practitioners a self-deluded lot because they cannot cure even a common cold? May be they are, in all likelihood they are, for they are generally unwilling to look beyond the box. If only Dr Raghu looked beyond his early 20th century beliefs of the strict reductionist paradigm of the materialistic scientist, he would see that many scientists, researchers, leave aside yogis and mystics, are now coming to believe, accept, experiment, and use yogic force to cure illness. They may not always call it a yogic force, but that is another matter. Dr Raghu needs to update his knowledge.

Thirdly, belief in and the use of yogic force to cure illness is nothing new to Indian thought and also to western yoga. Many of us have witnessed and continue to witness instances of this kind. Thankfully the world is not limited to the beliefs and non-beliefs of Heehs and Co. There is much more on heaven and earth than some would like to believe. But that is another story, for people like to draw conclusions and believe what gives them solace and justifies their self-identity. Instead of expanding their limited tunnel vision, they try to restrict everything to that, and if something does not fit in there, they simply believe that it does not exist. But the limits of our sight are not the limits of Light.

He also ought to know that as Sri Aurobindo himself has pointed out at several places, Yogic force is one force in a vast and complex play of forces. It may not always succeed and is not unconditional. Fire burns but does not do so always. In certain conditions, it does not burn. Does it mean that there is no such thing as the burning property of fire? Sri Aurobindo has stated clearly that he seldom used the Supramental Force (which alone has an absolute action) because hardly anyone can hold it, and if one does, the results may be devastating. Not all can tolerate certain remedies. They are very effective but seldom used as the body may not be able to handle it. Is the doctor ignorant of these simple facts of everyday practice of medicine?

Through the use of Yogic Force, Sri Aurobindo was not just curing a few faithful disciples, but preparing humanity to receive and contain and later use the force as we today use electricity or nuclear energy. A deluded man thinks the force to be his personal private property. Sri Aurobindo, instead, related it to the planes of consciousness, to hidden possibilities of Nature (or Supernature), even the future potential to which all human beings can have access in due course of time if they can fulfil certain conditions. Is this the sign of someone deluded or that of a most meticulous scientific researcher? Surely the doctor needs to know that all research is done in this way. And we already see the result of this research done in the little laboratory of Pondicherry. Despite the sceptics and agnostics, the world is beginning to accept in all fields, including science, the paradigm shift initiated and completed by Sri Aurobindo. This is a subject too vast to explain now, but the dogmatic and arrogant scientist who holds fast to the crumbling mechanistic view of life, needs to update himself about all that Sri Aurobindo has written and all that is happening in the world of science rather than base his conclusions on the insufficient data derived from a clearly biased work as Mr Heehs’s book. Dr Raghu’s personal liking or disliking of a book is one thing, truth is another matter. The whole world may like a book and yet it is only worth the WPB. That is our stand.

We are not against the book simply because it challenges our beliefs, as if we need the testimony of a non-entity like Mr Heehs to have faith or understand things. Our main objection is that first of all it is Untruth (falsehood as it is called) and any sensible right thinking man must have enough courage to stand by Truth. What makes it worse is that not only it is falsehood but a conscious one, for it comes through the pen of someone who has spent decades at the Ashram and cannot claim ignorance of all that has been said by Sri Aurobindo. This book besides is a retrogressive step as it tries to re-establish the old materialistic paradigm that men all over the world are fast discarding. It is necessary to challenge it and set the record straight. Dr Raghu needs to know that not only old sadhakas but also new ones, including scientists and experts in their own field, trust Sri Aurobindo's vision and have ample evidence to testify it. It is not some cult or blind irrational belief, but the call of Truth that motivates us.

There is so much more to write on the subject with proper quotes etc. but I have no time. So let Mr Raghu rest in peace in the narrow corridors of his mind if he finds consolation in that hard material cocoon spun around our souls by the most ingenious artists of all – Nature -- and let Mr Heehs remain in his self-created dungeon. Meanwhile the world advances quickly towards the great vision and the glorious path opened for earth and man by the tapasya of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.

Dr. Alok Pandey

30 May 2010

Dear Mr. Heehs,

I am writing to express strong and staunch support for your right to engage in the kind of work you have done in your book The Lives of Sri Aurobindo. The book is interesting and I would heartily recommend it to anyone interested in Aurobindo. The attempts of the members of the "cult of Aurobindo and the Mother" to discredit your work on the basis of inane, superstitious, and discredited beliefs about the "divinity" or "avatarhood" of Aurobindo and childish "discipleship" sentiments is deplorable. In fact, I think that the limitation of your work is that it is not sufficiently critical of the legends and myths surrounding Aurobindo, "the Mother", and the communities they helped to spawn.

One central delusion shared equally by Aurobindo and his pitiable disciples (some of whom, e.g., Champaklal, used to reverentially collect specimens of his hair and nail fragments!) is the belief that diseases can be cured by "Yogic force". As the record left by Nirodbaran of Aurobindo's last days clearly shows, Aurobindo believed that he had cured his prostatic trouble by his "yogic force" and said so to Dr. Sanyal. Well, the weeks following this delusional claim provided hard reminders from Mother Nature on the realities of his condition. It should be noted that Aurobindo suffered from partial blindness for several years before his death. This partial blindness is, no doubt, further proof of the "descent of the supermind" into his body and its capacity for producing remarkable physical transformations!!!

"One day we came to notice that Sri Aurobindo’s urination had increased in frequency…The urine was examined and found to have an excessive amount of sugar with a trace of albumin. I reported the result to the Mother in Sri Aurobindo’s presence and said, “It looks like diabetes.” The Mother sharply reacted, “It is not diabetes.”…The Mother, however, reduced considerably the amount of starchy food, particularly rice and sweets for which Sri Aurobindo seemed to have a liking…I was asked to examine the urine every week and apprise him of the result. In a few weeks’ time it became sugar-free but the frequency did not altogether disappear. Sri Aurobindo too had noticed it. It made me suspect mild prostatic enlargement…I consulted [Dr. Prabhat Sanyal] and at my request Sri Aurobindo saw him. After an enquiry he confirmed my suspicion, but added that it was just at the initial stage. He told Sri Aurobindo of the nature, course and complications of the disease, ultimately operation being the only radical cure. After a few months, on Sanyal’s second visit, Sri Aurobindo told him emphatically, “It is no more troubling me. I have cured it.”…During his last months the symptoms of prostatic enlargement reappeared and began to increase slowly…urinary symptoms were worsening and now a trace of albumin was detected…Then acetone appeared, a grave signal…[in the week following the Darshan of November 1950] The symptoms grew more serious and a partial obstruction to the flow of the urine made us think of medical intervention. When it became complete and was causing distress, Dr. [Satyabrata] Sen and we had no other alternative but to pass a catheter, much against his will. It was followed by immediate relief…" (Nirodbaran)

None of this merits any unusual consideration or critical attention were it not for the claim made by the Aurobindo and his disciples that he had used "yogic force" to cure himself. Clearly, the deterioration of his condition after making that claim to Dr. Sanyal and the fact that a catheter, a real one and not a "yogic catheter", was needed to provide some temporary relief is sure proof that he had delusions about "yogic force" and its capacity to cure his own disease, not to mention bombastic claims about "supramentalization of the body", "physical immortality", and chimera of that ilk.

Does the fact that he had deluded himself on "yogic force" and its capacity to cure his disease show that all his contributions are without value? Not at all. Isaac Newton was giant of science, but he filled some of his notebooks with the most weird and unscientific claims, beliefs, and analysis pertaining to the Bible. The latter does not detract from his status as a genius of science. In the same way, I think, Aurobindo's contributions to Indian literature, his attempt to synthesize Upanishadic metaphysics and evolutionary science, his contributions to Indian political life and thought, and his pioneering efforts in systematizing the course of higher development of human consciousness remain valuable despite some of his striking delusions about using "yogic force" to cure diseases and to alter the course of world history.

Dr. Raghu
26 May 2010

1 comment:

  1. This "doctor", whatever his medical credentials, is at the very least an intellectual quack. Without the least bit of understanding or experience he takes on the whole subject of "Yogic" powers, dismisses them summarily as a delusion and then, like a petulant child, expects that those he denounces and vilifies will go out of their way to spoon-feed and carefully administer to him the knowledge that will deliver him from his own blind beliefs and prejudices. It is more than obvious that to try to educate this lazy and slothful kind of mentality would be a giant exercise in futility. If he is genuine in his quest for knowledge, as he so pompously claims to be, then he can very easily take up the Yoga or any other Yoga and verify for himself the results. If he were the least bit sincere and possessed of an iota of the truly "scientific" spirit, this would be the only course of action he need adopt to answer his doubts. Instead he chooses to waste his own and other people's time in useless sarcastic e-mails and needlessly abrasive verbal pugilism. Under normal circumstances we could happily ignore the jarring croaks of such self-important koopa-mandooks who choose to stay confined in the well of their own comfortable delusions and self-inflicted littleness, while broadcasting their contempt for those outside of it. However, incredible as it may seem, there is some value to Raghu's rant. It demonstrates starkly how this book serves as ammunition in the hands of the hostile and the close-minded. Indeed, this smug little brain has used only one small section of the book to attack Sri Aurobindo, the disciples and Yoga in general. There is infinitely greater room for more such mischief based on other parts and passages in the book. This is what critics of the book have been pointing out consistently since the very beginning, that the book lends itself naturally to such abuse and distortion of its great subject. If anything, Raghu proves the point that the book's critics have been making from day one. No doubt more such worthies will crawl out of the woodwork in support of the book. It is to be hoped that effusive praise from such nakedly hostile individuals will have the inadvertent effect of opening the eyes of those within the Aurobindonian community who have chosen to endorse this book themselves.