28 Feb 2011

On Sri Aurobindo’s Childhood, Anger and Riding Test—by Krish Patwardhan

Another unpardonable case of bad taste! I wonder whether those who support the book have at all understood this sentence: “Well, if you take the clothes away there remains little to distinguish one human radish from another.” It is a reference to the male sexual organ! And if this is passable, then I wonder what is not passable, and you might as well start writing for a porn magazine. [extract]

On Sri Aurobindo’s Childhood, Anger and Riding Test – by Krish Patwardhan

I quote below a few more “corrected extracts” of the Lives of Sri Aurobindo by Peter Heehs and point out how the author grossly misrepresents Sri Aurobindo to the gullible public mind.


Sri Aurobindo’s Childhood

As a rule, however, he kept to himself. Most of his classmates were too much older than he to be his friends. A few patronised him on account of his childishness; the rest paid him scant attention. He had few of the qualities that English schoolboys find interesting. Weak and inept on the playing field, he was also—by his own account—a coward and a liar.

(Lives, p. 17)

Note the phrase, “he was also—by his own account — a coward and a liar”. In order to show how Heehs uses Sri Aurobindo’s own account against him, I give below the full quotation from the Evening Talks:

I was feeling completely bored. Then a priest approached me and put me some questions. I did not give any reply. Then they all shouted out, “He is saved, he is saved,” and began to pray for me and offer thanks to God! I did not understand anything. Then the priest came to me and asked me to pray. I was never in the habit of praying but somehow I did it in the manner in which children recite their prayers before sleep—in order to keep up an appearance. That was the only thing. But I never used to attend Church. I was then about ten years old. The old lady’s son, Mr. Drewett, never used to meddle in these affairs because he was a man of common sense. But he went away to Australia.

When we were staying in London this old lady used to have daily family prayers and reading of some passage from the Bible. One day Manmohan said something about Moses which made her wild. She said she did not want to live under the same roof with unbelievers, and went to live somewhere else. I felt infinitely relieved and grateful to Manmohan. We were then entering upon the agnostic stage in our development.

I was a great coward virtually and I was weak physi¬cally and could not do anything. Only my will was strong. Nobody could have imagined that I could face the gallows or carry on a revolutionary movement. In my case it was all human imperfection with which I had to start and feel all the difficulties before embodying the Divine Consciousness.

A.B. Purani, Evening Talks [2007] p. 394

Sri Aurobindo referred to his “human imperfection” in the larger context of his yogic development and finally “embody¬ing the Divine Consciousness”. If no mention is made of this final success and only the ‘defect’ of character highlighted with the help of further negative evidence from the reports of hostile British officials, what impression would the reader get? That Sri Aurobindo remained a coward and liar all his life! Moreover, Sri Aurobindo was speaking of his school days when he was a boy of ten (at Manchester) or twelve (when he went to London with old Mrs Drewett), and was living in a foreign country far away from his parents. Even from an ordinary point of view, you could sympathise with his situation and understand the reason behind his timidity. Only a biographer bent on finding faults in his subject will unsparingly expose a young boy for his cowardice!


Sri Aurobindo’s Riding test

According to a classmate, Aurobindo failed to pass his medical examination the first time on account of “something found wrong with his urinary organs.”

(Lives, p. 28)

[N.B. “urinary organs” is a Victorian euphemism for “kidneys”. For the significance of this problem in Sri Aurobindo’s life, see Lives, pp. 220-21, 406, 408, 409]

Is this the kind of thing that a biographer of a spiritual personality has to focus on? This is plain indecency, from every point of view! The definition of the word “euphemism”, according to the Cambridge dictionary, is “a word or phrase used to avoid saying an unpleasant or offensive word”. So how could the term “urinary organs” be a euphemism for “kidneys”? Nobody, not even Peter Heehs, would appreciate someone writing about his “urinary organs” whereas he would not mind the word “kidneys” instead. Secondly, “urinary organs” and “kidneys” are not interchangeable terms; the former comprises not only the kidneys but other parts of the urinary system, including the urethra through which the urine is discharged from the body. There is every likelihood of the organs of the reproductive system (the genital organs) being confused with those of the urinary system, with which it works in close conjunction and proximity. Besides, how reliable can be the report of the classmate, who surely was not a medical professional, and how do we know that he meant “kidneys” when he said “urinary organs”? If there is any such Victorian euphemism, I would like to know the source of it. Heehs is merely covering up his gross indiscretion by connecting it with Sri Aurobindo’s kidney problems in his last days.

In October, the ICS commissioners wrote Aurobindo asking him to fix a date to take his riding examination. He agreed to go on October 26, but did not turn up. An official then asked him to meet the riding instructor to make another appointment. He did not bother to see the man. Called to the office to explain, Aurobindo told a series of lies.

(Lives, p. 30)

Where is the evidence of “the series of lies” Sri Aurobindo told when he was called to the office of the Civil Service Commission? Deliberately missing appointments or going late for them, not receiving letters and not promptly replying to them is more evasive tactics, which any lawyer would be familiar with. You may not receive letters by staying away from your house and not acknowledging their receipt to the postman. You may go to a house without calling on the door and ringing the door bell. You may fail to keep an appointment by going so late that the other person walks away in exasperation. These seem to be the kind of manoeuvres Sri Aurobindo adopted without having to resort to open lying. Not that Sri Aurobindo could not have fibbed a couple of times, but why make such a big deal about it? These are laughable matters now that we know his intent was to fail in the ICS examinations without going against his father’s wishes.

Read my full article on Sri Aurobindo’s Riding Test with the necessary documents in the appendix.


Sri Aurobindo’s Anger

His “voluntary self-effacement” was put to the test on December 12 when an officious secretary printed his name as editor-in-chief where Pal’s name used to be. Aurobindo was furious when he saw it. It gave him publicity he did not want, and also ran counter to an earlier decision that the editor of the paper would not be named. He spoke to the secretary “pretty harshly” about it. Hemendra Prasad, who witnessed the outburst, thought Aurobindo was more than just harsh. “Well, if you take the clothes away there remains little to distinguish one human radish from another,” he noted in a Shakespearean allusion. A day later, he was more explicit: “Babu Aurobindo Ghose is an extremely strange man. And I suspect a tinge of lunacy is not absent in him. His mother is a lunatic. And it is not at all strange”—not strange, that is, that the madness in Aurobindo’s family might express itself in him as an intensity that exceeded the norm.

(Lives, p. 112)

Another unpardonable case of bad taste! I wonder whether those who support the book have at all understood this sentence: “Well, if you take the clothes away there remains little to distinguish one human radish from another.” It is a reference to the male sexual organ! And if this is passable, then I wonder what is not passable, and you might as well start writing for a porn magazine. I don’t see at all the necessity of quoting this highly offensive sentence from Hemendra Prasad’s diary except to denigrate Sri Aurobindo. Heehs of course will say he has quoted it in order to show Sri Aurobindo’s temper before his yogic attainment, how the human became the Avatar, but that is simply an excuse. For where has he shown the positive side which is so well-known to everybody, his coolness and almost inability to scold anybody.

Courtesy: http://www.mirroroftomorrow.org/blog/_archives/2011/2/15/4748133.html

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