The statement giving the reason for Sri Aurobindo’s marriage as the desire for sexual gratification and the mention of Sri Aurobindo’s ‘general knowledge’ about sexuality being more than academic is very interpretive. If JK does it, it is to fulfil his focus on homosexuality and homo-eroticism in spirituality. If PH did not have any such focus, then it is very strange that he should interpret it in the same manner, leading thus to the same conclusions as JK. Also, one wonders what could be the reason behind focusing so much on the Master‘s sexual life, on how much he knew about sex, that his marriage was for sex, and that he used to have spontaneous experiences relating to sexual pleasure in the body. When all this is seen side by side with the kind of remarks PH makes on Sri Aurobindo’s relationship with the Mother and his psychoanalytical interpretation of Vasavadutta and other plays, then the mischief becomes more than clear. If one still does not see it, it is either because one is simply too dumb and stupid to notice or else because one chooses to defend the author by turning a blind eye on his defects. But the nexus is there and shows his clear intent and line of thinking. [extract, read full article below]
Coal Mines of Research: Acknowledgements of Peter Heehs in the Lives of Sri Aurobindo
by Alok Pandey
Special thanks to the late Jayantilal Parekh of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Archives and to Michael Murphy of the Esalen Institute.
Thanks to Ashok Acharya, Rukun Advani, Duncan Bazemore, Francis Bertaud, Anuradha Bhattacharya, Liviu Bordas, Ratan Lai Chakraborty, AK. Dutta, PL. Dutta, Leela Gandhi, Aloka Ghosh, Ela Ghosh, Medha Gunay, Leslie Kriesel, Jeffrey Kripal, Marcel Kvassay, Julian Lines, Wendy Lines, Wendy Lochner, Raphael Malangin, Alka Mishra, Arup Mitra, the late Joya Mitter, Janine Morisset, Ajit Neogy, Neela Patel, Ramesh Patel, Madhumita Patnaik, Shanti Pillai, Olivier Pironneau, Stephen Phillips, Jacques Pouchepadass, Raman Reddy, Lalita Roy, Niharendu Roy, the late Ratnalekha Roy, Dhir Sarangi, the late Ambapremi Shah, Maurice Shukla, Brian Slattery, Chaitanya Swain, and Bob Zwicker.
Thanks also to the librarians, archivists, and staff of the Archives Nationales, Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Baroda Record Office, India Office Library and Records, Institut Français de Pondichéry, National Archives of India, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Archives, Sri Aurobindo Library, West Bengal State Archives, and the other institutions listed in the bibliography; and to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry; Sri Aurobindo Ashram Branch, New Delhi; Sri Aurobindo Bhavan, Kolkata; Sri Aurobindo Institute of Culture, Kolkata; and Sri Aurobindo Society, Vadodara.
Apologies to any individual or institution whose name I have inadvertently omitted from the above lists.
Lives of Sri Aurobindo by Peter Heehs, p xv
It is interesting to note that some of the institutions that have helped him in his work are Sri Aurobindo centers in Gujarat, Kolkata, New Delhi, and, above all, Pondicherry. One would like to know how happy are they with PH’s use of the material provided by them? Have these institutions, especially the very nerve center that we know as the Ashram Archives, played their role properly and safeguarded the purpose for which they came into existence? These are the questions that they will have to answer one day to the disciples of Sri Aurobindo. For Time spares none and each has his day of reckoning when one has to face and answer tough and embarrassing questions regardless of what others think or believe about the person.
One such question is: What is Jeffrey Kripal doing in the list acknowledgements and what is he being thanked for? The author may deny his association and influence as he would deny everything now, but surely there is more to it than meets the eye. We shall see that now, especially when JK endorses this book in quite interesting terms:
A) JK endorses the biography on the back flap:
The Lives of Sri Aurobindo easily constitutes the most comprehensive, thorough, and balanced study of Sri Aurobindo Ghose's life and thought to date. Peter Heehs's remarkable access to archival sources both at the ashram and in numerous other archives around the world establishes this text as the definitive study of Aurobindo's immense output in all of its genres and modes. His text humanizes and problematizes a historical figure whose complexity has been more or less lost to us via hagiography, piety, and now Hindutva apologetics. In some very real sense, Heehs gives us back Aurobindo as a political figure, a prolific writer, and a religious teacher—all in all, a remarkable accomplishment. His writing is clear, uncluttered, precise, and in places quite beautiful. There are few scholarly texts I genuinely enjoyed reading, but this is one of them.
Jeffrey J. Kripal
Mark the choice of words that JK uses to praise the book: “most comprehensive and thorough due to the author’s remarkable access to the Ashram Archives”, “the book humanises and problematises”, “lost to hagiography” “gives us back the political figure”. Finally he mentions the “Hinduttva apologetics” -- one can see clearly the political agenda of the man. But the nexus goes deeper.
Who is Jeffrey Kripal?
Jeffery Kripal (JK) is the author of several books including the infamous Kali’s Child, which launched his dubious career by defaming Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. In Kali’s Child, he had deliberately mistranslated Bengali texts to “prove” to Western audiences that Ramakrishna Paramahamsa was a paedophile and homosexual. It is the book that launched JK to worldwide notoriety. In this book, JK applied a so-called Freudian analysis to Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and declared him a homosexual, with autoerotic practices as the basis of his spirituality, and having perverse, paedophilic relations with his disciples, including Swami Vivekananda.
Information from Wikipedia:
Jeffrey John Kripal (Ph. D., University of Chicago, 1993) is the J. Newton Rayzor Professor of Religious Studies and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Rice University, Houston, Texas. His areas of interest include the comparative erotics and ethics of mystical literature, American countercultural translations of Asian religions, and the history of Western esotericism from ancient gnosticism to the New Age.
Main works: Kali's Child
Kripal's 1995 book Kali's Child: The Mystical and the Erotic in the Life and Teachings of Ramakrishna was a study of the Bengali mystic Ramakrishna. The book won the American Academy of Religion's History of Religions Prize for the Best First Book of 1995. The book has been dogged by controversy ever since its initial publication in 1995. The thesis of Kali's Child has been questioned by several scholars including Swami Tyagananda and Vrajaprana in Interpreting Ramakrishna: Kali's Child Revisited.
So much for academic prizes by the American Academy of Religion! I suppose the author of TLOSA also aimed for this “coveted” prize. This kind of psychoanalytical academia is out to destroy spirituality as we practise it here. So for those who gush praises on J K and P H, it is a choice between two extreme positions. How can these two positions, one representing spiritual truth and the other of rank sexual desire, be ever reconciled? I don’t say that sex has to be therefore suppressed, but the aim of Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga is to transform it and certainly not to mix up spirituality with sex. We shall see a little later what the Master Himself says apropos this issue.
Excerpt from The Kripal Conundrum: A Critique of Ramakrishna’s Holy Homoeroticism by Narasingha P. Sil, Professor of History, Western Oregon University
Kripal’s Ramakrishna is a holy homosexual, actually a gay tantrika. He is obsessed with sex but despises normal healthy heterosexual practices. On the other hand, he is a practitioner of sacred sexuality, which is energized by homoerotic impulses (uddipan, in Kripal’s understanding or mis-understanding). He is also very secretive, his secret being both his vijnan (in Kripal’s understanding gnosis) and his secret chamber or guhya (anus in Kripal’s preferred translation); hence the equation of Ramakrishna’s guhya with his guhyakatha [secret talk or anal talk]. The gay Ramakrishna is also simultaneously vyakul (“eager with desire” in Kripal’s homoerotic transcreation) for sodomizing his pure pots (that is, his shuddha-sattwa devotees) as much as he is concerned about the pain and shame of being sodomized (as Kripal suggests by his hermeneutic of the “Kali’s sword” episode which Shri M considered a fabricated event)—something Kripal finds a funadamental stage in Ramakrishna’s sexual/spiritual turn.
Excerpt from Swami Tyagananda’s refutation of Kali’s Child:
Perhaps the centerpiece of Kali's Child is the assertion that “Ramakrishna was a conflicted, unwilling, homoerotic Tantrika” (KC 3). Further, Tantra's “heterosexual assumptions seriously violated the structure of his own homosexual desires. His female Tantric guru and temple boss may have forced themselves … on the saint … but Ramakrishna remained … a lover not of sexually aggressive women or even of older men but of young, beautiful boys” (KC 2-3, emphasis mine.)
Interesting thesis; how does he document his claims?
Ramakrishna, Kripal informs us, went into samadhi “while looking at the cocked hips of a beautiful English boy” (KC 19, emphasis mine). Interesting choice of adjectives. Kripal repeats this phrase later by declaring: “stunned by the cocked hips of the boy, Ramakrishna falls into samadhi” (KC 66). But what does the original Bengali say? Kripal gives two references (KA 2.49; KA 2.110) neither of which mentions the boy as being “beautiful” and, perhaps obviously, there is no mention of “cocked” hips either. The Kathamrita simply states that Ramakrishna went into samadhi upon seeing a boy who was-as Krishna is traditionally depicted in Hindu iconography-tribhanga-bent in three places (i.e., bent at the knee, waist and elbow, with flute in hand). It is this sort of documentation that Kripal uses to build the case for Ramakrishna's purported homoerotic impulses.
Swami Tyagananda (firstname.lastname@example.org)
So it is now clear what “enlightened” company Peter Heehs has kept! What is more interesting is that the author of TLOSA gives a certain tilt towards the above thesis of JK, though he does not say so explicitly. However, that the two are in league is further seen when JK uses the material of TLOSA to actually further his hypothesis on Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga. Note that the central thesis of this group is that mystics have two sets of practices -- one that is personal and private which they do not disclose and the other for public consumption. It is this that has impelled the Archives researchers to push for the publication of the Record of Yoga. Already a hypothesis based on the publication of the Record is doing the rounds in Sri Aurobindo circles that a scrutiny of the Record reveals that the Integral Yoga can be done without accepting Sri Aurobindo and the Mother as Gurus! What has been written in the Letters later on is only for the public. The private side of course is supposed to deal with tantric erotic practices based on blocked and sublimated sexual desire, without any high aspiration or profound tapasya. This is the perverted understanding of this group of ‘academics’ whom PH is trying to woo and win accolades from.
B) Peter Heehs is thanked in the acknowledgements by JK in his book on Esalen, published in 2007, one year before Peter published the Lives of Sri Aurobindo in 2008:
Numerous other individuals also played significant roles in my research and thinking. Some receive major treatment here. Others…Jane Hartford, Gil Hedley, Peter Heehs, James Hickman….
Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion,
Acknowledgements, p. xii
C) JK quotes from the then unpublished manuscript of The Lives of Sri Aurobindo by Peter Heehs:
1) There are good historical reasons why Aurobindo avoided any explicit alliance with the Tantras. We must never forget that he was writing in a political context and time period in which the terms “Tantra” and “Tantric” carried overwhelmingly pejorative meanings, partly because they had long been savaged my Christian missionaries who saw in the sexual rituals and animal sacrifices of the Tantric traditions the epitome of human depravity, violence and religious folly. Murphy (MM) himself is clear that such categories still evinced reactions of deep ambivalence and cultural embarrasment from Bengalis of the ashram in the 1950s 23 Simply because we lack the centrality of the term “Tantra” in his text, then, does not mean that we cannot or should not use the term in our own precise ways; it simply means that Aurobindo chose not to do the same for his perfectly own sensible and very defensible historical and cultural reasons. He had his own audience. So do we.
Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion, Ch.2, p.63
Endnote 23 -- reference in above passage:
One of the few places where Aurobindo explicitly employed Tantric language was in his private correspondence with his revolutionary brethren. In these documents, he uses Tantric expressions as a code language to refer, for example to revolvers they were attempting to transport through the French postal system or to specific revolutionary actions (see Peter Heehs, The Lives of Sri Aurobindo [New York: Columbia University Press, forthcoming], ch.26, MS pp. 17-18.
Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion, pp 477-78
Just to tie the links together -- it may be of interest to note that Michael Murphy visited the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Archives after nearly a forty years gap as if to push for the publication of the Record of Yoga. He was also made a member of the Auroville Board. He had stayed at the Ashram in the early fifties for nearly a year, but then left the Ashram because he could not accept the Mother. He later founded the Esalen Institute as a place offering the transformative practices of evolution and JK wrote a book on it – this is the book that is now being compared with PH’s TLOSA. There are quite a few of this group who do not believe in the Mother and think that She created a religion and a cult of the Supermind which never actually descended! No wonder PH leaves the question of the supramental descent hanging in his book!
2) Hence he did not hesitate to emphasize (at least in his private diaries) the physical, even sexual, dimensions of his own experience of this kamananda or “erotic bliss,” “equal to the first movements of the actual maithuna ananda,” literally, the bliss of sexual intercourse.26 This latter description is from Aurobindo’s Record of Yoga, a recently published two-volume tome whose highly experimental and nondogmatic qualities make it Michael Murphy’s “new favorite Aurobindo.” According to Aurobindo’s biographer Peter Heehs, one of the most common themes of the Record is that of Ananda.
Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion, Ch.2, p.64
3) “The secret,” Aurobindo once wrote of the Goddess Shakti, “is to enjoy her in the soul as one enjoys a woman with the body.”27 He (Sri Aurobindo) also clearly associated “the way of Ananda” with the “left-handed” path of Tantra.28
Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion, Ch.2, p.64
4) And here he (Sri Aurobindo) was being entirely faithful to the ancient Sanskrit texts, which in a much more explicit way link the bliss of ananda pleasures and ecstasies of the penis.29 Though Aurobindo is clear that such mature spiritual events carry very physical dimensions (his entire system insists on this), there is no evidence that after his wife dies he acted physically on what he called his kamananda or “bliss of sexual desire,” which, as Heehs points out, often came upon him spontaneously, for example when he was writing or walking. 30
Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion, Ch. 2, pp. 64-65.
Endnote 29: As Patrick Olivelle has demonstrated, there is an “explicit and unambiguous connection between ananda as orgasmic rapture and ananda as experience of brahma/atman.” Olivelle demonstrates, moreover, that this orgasmic bliss was understood to be the function of the penis: just as the ear is organ of hearing and the eye the organ of sight, the penis was said to be the organ of ananda. See Patrick Olivelle, “Orgasmic Rapture and Divine Ecstasy: The Semantic History of ananda, Journal of Indian Philosophy 25 (1997): 153-80. See also Life Divine, 950, where Aurobindo clearly relates Ananda and sexuality in a sophisticated dialectical fashion. He knew.
Endnote 30: Heehs, The Lives of Sri Aurobindo, ch. 27, MS p.11
This must be some novel interpretation of The Life Divine facilitated by PH’s book. Sri Aurobindo clearly cautions and warns us of the danger of this kind of spirituality that mixes sexual passions with the ardours of the Spirit. Cited below for clarity are His own words:
Instead of a Divine Love creator of a new heaven and a new earth of Truth and Light, they would hold it here prisoner as a tremendous sanction and glorifying force of sublimation to gild the mud of the old earth and colour with its rose and sapphire the old turbid unreal skies of sentimentalizing vital imagination and mental idealised chimera. If that falsification is permitted, the higher Light and Power and Bliss withdraw, there is a fall back to a lower status; or else the realisation remains tied to an insecure half-way and mixture or is covered and even submerged by an inferior exaltation that is not the true Ananda. It is for this reason that Divine Love which is at the heart of all creation and the most powerful of all redeeming and creative forces has yet been the least frontally present in earthly life, the least successfully redemptive, the least creative. Human nature has been unable to bear it in its purity for the very reason that it is the most powerful, pure, rare and intense of all the divine energies; what little could be seized has been corrupted at once into a vital pietistic ardour, a defenceless religious or ethical sentimentalism, a sensuous or even sensual erotic mysticism of the roseate coloured mind or passionately turbid life-impulse and with these simulations compensated its inability to house the Mystic Flame that could rebuild the world with its tongues of sacrifice.
Sri Aurobindo: Synthesis of Yoga: p 167
D) Some striking similarities in the picking of particular quotes and interpretive language of the two authors:
1) Hence he did not hesitate to emphasize (at least in his private diaries) the physical, even sexual, dimensions of his own experience of this kamananda or “erotic bliss,” “equal to the first movements of the actual maithuna ananda,” literally, the bliss of sexual intercourse.26
Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion, Ch. 2, p. 64.
The usual desire for gratification, as Aurobindo has the guru call it, was presumably a factor in his decision to get married, but it does not seem to have been an important one. His later writings show that his knowledge of human sexuality was more than academic, but the act seems to have held few charms for him.76 Consummation may have been delayed because of Mrinalini's youth, and his own stoicism, partly innate and partly learned from philosophers such as Epictetus, would have helped him to keep his sexual tendencies in check.
The Lives of Sri Aurobindo, p 56
For Sri Aurobindo's general knowledge of human sexuality, see his letters to disciples on sex, which occupy more than forty pages, 1507-1549, of Letters on Yoga. For his experience of maithunananda, see Record of Yoga, 204, 300, 302, 329, 431, 464, 774, and 1456. Maithunananda means literally the bliss, ananda, of coitus, maithuna. In the Record it refers to a particular intensity of spontaneous erotic delight, but some references, notably on page 204 (“equal to the first movements of the actual maithuna ananda”) seem to imply a knowledge of ordinary maithuna.
The Lives of Sri Aurobindo, p 425, endnote 76
The statement giving the reason for Sri Aurobindo’s marriage as the desire for sexual gratification and the mention of Sri Aurobindo’s ‘general knowledge’ about sexuality being more than academic is very interpretive. If JK does it, it is to fulfil his focus on homosexuality and homo-eroticism in spirituality. If PH did not have any such focus, then it is very strange that he should interpret it in the same manner, leading thus to the same conclusions as JK. Also, one wonders what could be the reason behind focusing so much on the Master‘s sexual life, on how much he knew about sex, that his marriage was for sex, and that he used to have spontaneous experiences relating to sexual pleasure in the body. When all this is seen side by side with the kind of remarks PH makes on Sri Aurobindo’s relationship with the Mother and his psychoanalytical interpretation of Vasavadutta and other plays, then the mischief becomes more than clear. If one still does not see it, it is either because one is simply too dumb and stupid to notice or else because one chooses to defend the author by turning a blind eye on his defects. But the nexus is there and shows his clear intent and line of thinking.
Of course PH may say that sex is part of life and why should you not discuss it? He may also say that he is trying to show that Sri Aurobindo had every kind of human experience. Well, is that the only aspect that proves us to be authentically human? Besides, it is one thing to discuss sexuality in an impersonal way and quite another to discuss it using the life of the Master with a tilt towards Tantric interpretation. I give below more examples from TLOSA of PH and Esalen of JK.
2) “The secret,” Aurobindo once wrote of the Goddess Shakti, “is to enjoy her in the soul as one enjoys a woman with the body.”2
Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion, Ch. 2, p. 64.
The suggestive language of aphorism may have been more apt to express the intensity of the path of love, as in this example from his posthumously published collection Thoughts and Aphorisms:
What is the use of admiring Nature or worshipping her as a Power, a Presence and a goddess? What is the use, either, of appreciating her aesthetically or artistically? The secret is to enjoy her with the soul as one enjoys a woman with the body.
The Lives of Sri Aurobindo, p 284
That JK quotes the above aphorism from Sri Aurobindo is not surprising, because he will always find and use whatever suits his ideas on sexuality and spirituality. But PH, being a member of the Ashram Archives, finds exactly the same quote out of a list of 547 aphorisms in which there are about 133 on devotion (bhakti yoga), apart from a number of exquisite passages on Bhakti in the Letters on Yoga and the Synthesis, is what is astounding!
3) Aurobindo’s writings certainly know nothing of actual sexual fluids, although he does appear to have been perfectly aware that this attempted spiritual transmutations of the physical body relied on the suppression and sublimation of actual sexual energies: “I for one have put the sexual side completely aside,” he said on December 13, 1923, “it is lying blocked so that I can make this daring attempt at physical transformation.” 33
Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion, Ch. 2, p.65.
On another occasion he said more directly: “I for one have put the sexual side completely aside, it is lying blocked so that I can make this daring attempt” at spiritual transformation.26
The Lives of Sri Aurobindo, p 319
Another instance of exactly the same quote being picked up by both JK and PH, which shows a close collaboration between them! Both have interpreted in the same psychoanalytic way – relating Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual experiences to suppressed sexuality. It is interesting to note that this quote is not in any of the readily available works of Sri Aurobindo but from a talk published in Sri Aurobindo Circle (1953): p 207. This is the kind of research that the Archives ‘scholar’ has been engaged in that is being cited as yeoman service. Besides, is this the way we treat, respect and show our love towards the One who has given us everything -- by discussing His sexual life in public, by distorting His words and give a totally left-handed twist to His Yoga? One can understand that JK is doing it in America since he does not claim to be a disciple of Sri Aurobindo. But is this kind of thing consistent with being a disciple? Does freedom mean the freedom to criticise the Master, to ridicule Him in public, to lay bare His life for psychoanalytic scrutiny by dark and hostile minds? Can this ever be an approach to Yoga and, if so, then tell me what is not admissible? And who is above criticism and what discussion in any public forum can be considered as not consistent with being an inmate and a disciple? What else is the most dangerous gossip than to talk frivolously about the Guru’s sexual life?
Both PH in his endnote and JK in his book have defined maithuna as coitus (see endnote 76 on p 425 of the Lives and p 64 of Esalen – both have been quoted above). But this is the narrow and perverted meaning of maithuna, which has been essentialized as sexual intercourse by American scholars of religion with little or no knowledge of Sanskrit. The correct understanding and the English equivalent of maithuna as derived from its Sanskrit meaning is ‘intercourse’, which has social as well as sexual connotations. In the Tantric sense, it has spiritual meanings.
Thus, maithuna can mean intercourse with the world with all our senses -- to engage intensely with the world in order to transcend the duality of separation. It is used as a metaphor for a positive engagement with the world. In its highest sense, it can mean the enjoyment acquired by the soul through the senses.
PH and JK have focused exclusively on the sexual meaning. What is worse is that the CWSA includes a glossary of terms from the Record of Yoga where one of the meanings given to maithunananda by the person preparing the glossary is ‘spontaneous erotic bliss’! Very soon we will be selling it in the Master’s Name, leaving the average reader confused and providing fodder and cannon to psychoanalytic perverts.
Two things are clear from the above mentioned passages. One, the unpublished manuscript of TLOSA was sent to Jeffrey Kripal, who is known for giving a sexual twist to spiritual thought. Second, that JK actually used portions of PH’s manuscript to support his gross misunderstanding of spirituality in general and Sri Aurobindo's Yoga in particular.
What is not clear is the exact reason for PH sending his manuscript to JK. Was it for his approval or appreciation? If it was sent only for reviewing (the choice of the reviewer speaks for itself), then how was JK allowed to use certain quotes for his book even before the TLOSA was published? This is surely not the norm of any standard publishing house. Finally, the careful selection of passages, especially with regard to the aphorism on Love, makes it more than evident that there is a nexus between the trio: Michael Murphy, Jeffrey Kripal and Peter Heehs. They all have met in USA and have mutual links.