28 Aug 2011

RICHARD HARTZ joins PETER HEEHS in blaming Ashram Trustees for TLOSA Disaster and Abuse of Archives Dept

Now Richard Hartz, a long-time associate of Peter Heehs at the Archives of the Ashram, and the principal co-conspirator in the crime that is TLOSA, has jumped in and joined the chorus in blaming the Trustees.(extract)

RICHARD HARTZ joins PETER HEEHS in blaming Ashram Trustees for TLOSA Disaster and Abuse of Archives Dept

Justice is blind and cannot see body language. Thus, unlike the Trustees of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust who relied on this perceived blindness to escape the Law and were erroneously using sign language and were calling it “dignified silence”, Peter Heehs has been speaking up aggressively and cutting his losses. He has, as already known to all, filed memos in the Orissa Court holding the Trustees responsible for his perverse “research” and the debacle and fallout of his offensive and illegal book The Lives of Sri Aurobindo (TLOSA).

Now Richard Hartz, a long-time associate of Peter Heehs at the Archives of the Ashram, and the principal co-conspirator in the crime that is TLOSA, has jumped in and joined the chorus in blaming the Trustees.

In an open letter dated 25th August 2011 to his dwindling, shaky and jittery supporters who are increasingly questioning the wisdom of TLOSA and discussing its withdrawal, Hartz writes:

“I have been in Pondicherry the whole time and my perception is based on what I have experienced here, not on the discussion on internet forums where the situation has been different. In early October 2008 the Managing Trustee described the Ashram as a "seething cauldron." This was no exaggeration. At that point I was almost the only person in the Ashram who had tried to defend Peter, apart from Manoj Das Gupta himself who heroically stood his ground in refusing to expel him. (He did, however, ask him to withdraw from the Archives until things return to normal, which so far shows no sign of being likely to happen.) It is hard for me to relate my memory of this phenomenon to the "healthy doubt against an excessive intellectuality" you speak of. If there was a comparable outburst of collective hysteria in support of PH, I never heard about it. At least it didn't happen here.

… The basic question raised by the Lives controversy is whether a member of the Ashram can be allowed to write for an academic audience in terms acceptable to that audience. (As you suggest, I could have written a book that might have offended no one, but CUP would never have published it.)

… In agreement with Sri Aurobindo's own description of the Ashram as a laboratory, it is officially recognized by the Government of India as a research institute for purposes of tax exemptions on donations from devotees. This fact is important for understanding how the Lives came to be written in the way it was, because it is part of the reason why Peter Heehs was encouraged to write and publish academic articles which could be listed in the Ashram's reports on its research activities, submitted annually to the government. Despite his lack of formal credentials, he succeeded in getting these papers published in a wide range of academic journals. That meant, of course, adapting his style of writing to academic expectations…. Since his publications were being regularly cited in the Ashram's official reports, he was led to believe that this activity, even if it drew criticism from some quarters, was consistent with the aims of the Ashram. To a certain extent, his downfall resulted from his doing too well the work he had been assigned and encouraged to do.

I hope this will shed light on the question of whether or not it was appropriate or acceptable for a person in Peter's position to write the book he did.” [highlights added]
In other words Hartz is revealing that Columbia University Press (CUP) “would never have published” a book which “offended no one” given Heehs’ “lack of formal credentials” and the resulting limited saleability. Therefore Heehs had to write an “offensive book” in order to make it saleable to CUP and the public, and the Ashram Trustees “assigned” this work to him and “encouraged” him.

This stunning volte-face by Richard Hartz, the first public admission holding the Trustees of the Ashram responsible for encouraging and misguiding Heehs in the disaster that is TLOSA, is a watershed moment. The reference by Hartz to Heehs’ downfall is also telling.

This turn of events is being brought about by the now-public information that CUP will shortly file papers in the Orissa court against orders detailing the role of the Ashram Trustees in supporting, aiding and endorsing all that is wrong with TLOSA. This much CUP will certainly do to absolve itself of the serious charges it is now faced with, not least among them, Heehs’ allegation that he was erroneously labelled “Founder” by CUP and is not personally liable for this serious legal, moral and criminal lapse.

Each failure raises the threshold of the next potential success and there comes an inflection-point where the pain of loss is too great to pursue any further potential gain.

Does Manoj Das Gupta understand this?

We do.


Prof Kamal Das

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14 Aug 2011

Prof Kamal Das on Peter Heehs's Research at the Ashram

Ashram Trustees to Govt of India:
“Sri Aurobindo was ‘Psychotic and Mentally Unstable’”


In a shocking revelation, it has now come to light that the Trustees of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram led by Manoj Das Gupta have submitted to the Government of India, that original research carried out at the Ashram’s Archives proves that Sri Aurobindo was “psychotic and mentally unstable with a pronounced affliction of lunacy”.

In the Ashram’s Annual Report of Research Activities submitted to the Government and dated 1997-1998, on p.26 the Trustees have cited as “original historical research” an article of some 30 pages by Peter Heehs titled “Genius, Mysticism, and Madness”. This article, written by Peer Heehs as part of his work at the Ashram Archives, was also published in the Psychohistory Review in 1997. Evidently, it matters little to the Trustees that the Ashram Archives was not created for the purpose of denigrating Sri Aurobindo but for preservation of his manuscripts. Nor does it matter to the Trustees that Peter Heehs, being a school dropout, has absolutely no formal training, degree or experience in any field whatsoever, leave alone complex subjects such as psychology and psychohistory.

In this article Heehs attempts to “prove beyond reasonable doubt” that Sri Aurobindo’s genius and spiritual achievements and realisations were the unreliable consequence of mental instability coupled with psychotic and lunatic affliction.

Extracts and Excerpts from “Genius, Mysticism, and Madness” by Peter Heehs
• “Aurobindo’s biographers describe Swarnalotta’s condition as “hysteria,” formerly a catch-all classification for different sorts of mental disorder in females. A modern diagnosis, based especially on the alternating storms account, would probably be manic-depressive illness. But some of the evidence-the psychotic isolation as well as the scar anecdote-suggest schizophrenia. One practicing psychiatrist proposes therefore that Swarnalotta suffered from schizo-affective disorder of the hebephrenic type, alterning laughter and rage being characteristic of hebephrenia.” P.53 (Psychohistory Review)

• “One of Swamalotta’s brothers was more seriously disturbed than she. A police report of 1910 (compiled because of the government’s interest in Aurobindo) described him as “a dangerous lunatic, kept in chains.” Swarnalotta’s sister, Lilavati, was eccentric in her behavior. Aurobindo’s brother, Manmohan, suffered for a time from what we now would call paranoia; later in life, after the death of his wife, he became seriously depressed. Manmohan was a poet, whose juvenile verse was praised by Oscar Wilde and John Aldington Symonds. He died, however, before he could finish his major project. Aurobindo’s youngest brother, Barin, had some measure of the family’s literary talent, but he was so erratic in his direction of a revolutionary group that he narrowly avoided being executed for treason.” p.54

• “There are, however, a few pieces of evidence that suggest that Swarnalotta’s madness might have had a more direct effect on her son [Aurobindo].” P.54

• “Constitution and health. Ellis and Ludwig have noted that many geniuses had weak constitutions. Aurobindo was healthy but weak and uninterested in games. He never learned to ride and, as a result, was rejected by the Indian Civil Service. Ludwig found that many in his upper quartile had chronic illnesses. One of Aurobindo’s classmates noted that Aurobindo had some problem with his “urinary organs” (a Victorian euphemism for kidneys). Aurobindo would die from kidney failure.” p.57

• “Family life. Aurobindo married Mrinalini Bose, a 14-year-old girl, in 1901. They spent only parts of seven years together. Mrinalini never played an important role in her husband’s life. Ellis noted that “a passionate devotion to intellectual pursuits seems often to be associated with a lack of passion in the ordinary relationships of life.”” P.57-58

• “The question of Madness. A subeditor on the newspaper Aurobindo edited once noted in his diary: “Babu Aurobindo Ghose is an extremely strange man. And I suspect a tinge of lunacy is not absent from him. His mother is a lunatic. And it is not at all strange.”“ P.59

• “This does not pretend to be a full catalogue either of the psychotic personality or of the mystical mind. It simply displays certain experiences of mentally disturbed persons (taken from the Schreber case and others studied by Sass, Boisen, et al.) alongside mystical experiences that have at least verbal resemblance to them (as recorded by Aurobindo in his poetry [CP], letters [LY, OH], and spiritual diary [RY]). (It should be noted that Aurobindo considered his poems to be transcriptions of actual experiences and not symbolic expressions or imaginations.) I have grouped the experiences in rough categories.” [In the following Tables] P.64


Psychotic Experience Mystical Experience
Auditory hallucinations are common in “psychotic patients on the schizophrenic spectrum” [Sass, 62] Aurobindo often heard voices, some of which he considered commands (adesh) of God [LY,40]
A patient described voices “becoming visible, as if written in various letters or signs” [Sass, 92] A patient described voices “becoming visible, as if written in various letters or signs” [Sass, 92]
The “tendency of the psychotic to read hidden meanings in what he sees about him” [Boisen, 74] Aurobindo found special meaning in texts happened upon or consulted (“sortilege”) [RY, passim]
A patient “contained within his body all the heavenly bodies” [Sass, 22] “In me Arcturus and Belphegor burn” [CP, 131]


Psychotic Experience Mystical Experience
“The basic split in the schizoid personality was a cleft that severed the self from the body” [Laing 1968, 174] Aurobindo was “unconscious of the body for many years” [OH, 89]; “My body [is] a dot in the soul’s wide expanse” [CP, 142]
Catatonic withdrawal, observed in Schreber and Madeleine, is “common in schizophrenia” [Sass, 38] Aurobindo has periods of “inert mood” (jadavat bhava) [unpublished letter]
Schreber, like many schizophrenics, believed his body was undergoing radical transformations [Sass, 45] In his diary Aurobindo recorded various subtle bodily transformations (kaya-siddhi) [RY, passim]
Schreber had various sexual experiences including sexual union with the Divine; in this relationship he is transformed into a woman [Sass; Wiethaus] Kaya-siddhi included causeless sexual delight (maithuna-ananda) [RY, passim]; “Nature” in Aurobindo is “Hoping her lord to touch, to clasp, to be.” [CP, 139]


Psychotic Experience Mystical Experience
Schreber lived in a private cosmos of “nerves,” “rays,” “souls,” “gods” [Sass, 7] Aurobindo described in his diary (and presents in his philosophy) an inner cosmos of worlds, beings, etc.
Many schizophrenics feel they have special powers or are controlled by external forces [Ludwig 1994, 1656] “My acts are Thine, I do Thy works and pass ... Thy force in me labours at its grandiose plan” [CP, 143]
Schreber and other schizophrenics believe they are able to affect external events, such as the weather [Sass, 63; see also Laing 1967, 125-26] Aurobindo’s diary contains many references to his directing of his yogic power (aishwarya) in order to influence external events [RY, passim]
“The most profound of schizophrenic fears” are “delusions of world catastrophe’’ [Sass, 50; cf. Boisen, 3] In 1907 Aurobindo predicted the coming of a period of “sudden upheavals and revolutionary changes” [OH, 390]
“The whole world turned in my head” [a schizophrenic, in Sass, 50] “I contain the whole world in my Soul’s embrace” [CP, 131]
The schizophrenic “may perceive both the external world and the existence of his own ego, but he no longer feels their reality; ... ‘le sentiment du rĂ©el’ is lacking” [Sass, 24] “All is abolished but the mute Alone ... There is no I, no Nature, known-unknown./ The city, a shadow picture without tone/ Floats, quivers unreal ...” [CP, 161]


Psychotic Experience Mystical Experience
“I am not alive ... I have never really existed” [patient quoted by Sass, 52] “I have escaped and the small self is dead ... No one I am, I who am all that is” [CP, 153]
“I became in a way for God the only human being ...” [Schreber quoted in Sass, 60] “I am the one Being’s sole immobile Bliss” [Ibid.]; “I am a single Self all Nature fills” [CP, 151]
Many psychotics identify themselves with Christ or God [Boisen, 761; “Schreber and God are, in some sense, one” yet Schreber “also experiences God as alien” or “distant” [Sass, 64] “I am a centre of Thy golden light/ And I its vast and vague circumference,/ Thou art my soul great, luminous and white/ And Thine my mind and will and glowing sense.” [CP, 135]
Schreber’s relationship with God was “perhaps the central preoccupation of the Memoirs” [Sass, 63] Aurobindo’s relationship with God was certainly the central preoccupation of Record of Yoga
“Schreber was convinced of both the profundity and ineffability of his own special vision of reality” [Sass, 93] Like many mystics Aurobindo felt that his experiences were ineffable, but, convinced of their truth, attempted to give expression to them.
• “These similarities [as tabled above] would undoubtedly be enough to cause some clinicians to interpret Aurobindo’s experiences in psychopathological terms.” P.65

• “Conclusions: Mental disturbance runs in families and here the mediation is at least partly genetic. It is possible, therefore, that there is a linked transmission of some traits of genius and of a tendency to psychopathology.” P.69
Thus by deliberate decontextualisation and distortion, Sri Aurobindo’s sublime spiritual experiences have been equated to the ravings of a madman, and presented to the Government of India as original research of the Ashram!

The Canary Sings

The blame-game and the end-game always go hand in hand and play out in tandem. Peter Heehs, right from his early days of unemployment and taxi driving in New York up to his criminal collaboration and nexus with Manoj Das Gupta, has always been a survivor.

With the end-game very much underway and criminal charges and imprisonment and deportation staring him in the face, Peter Heehs has begun singing to the authorities in the hope of absolving himself by blaming his powerful benefactors.

On page 7 point 5 of his affidavit filed in self-defence in the Court of Orissa, Peter Heehs has clarified that he is not the Founder of the Ashram Archives, and has blamed the publisher of the book stating that the false claim was made by Columbia University Press “who made here an inaccurate statement”, and therefore it is they who must pay for the crime instead of him.

Continuing in the same vein, and in the same affidavit filed in Court, on page 67, he cites this very article titled “Genius, Mysticism, and Madness” as evidence that the Ashram Trustees have supported him, guided him and even endorsed his findings relating to Sri Aurobindo’s insanity by having this article submitted to the Government of India as original research carried out by him at the Ashram as part of his official work at the Archives. The idea is not to sink alone. The idea is to blame Manoj Das Gupta and Columbia University Press for all his crimes and try to get away in the process. However, that will not happen as neither MDG nor CUP will sacrifice themselves to save Heehs.

Questions to Manoj Das Gupta

• Do the donations to the Ashram made by thousands of sincere devotees have to be spent on this type of work aimed at defaming and maligning Sri Aurobindo?

• Why does the Ashram Archives have to constantly explore the subject of lunacy and mental instability with regard to Sri Aurobindo? Are there no other worthwhile subjects available for research? And why spend so much time and energy in perverse research when many of the major writings of Sri Aurobindo are still lying unpublished and the new Collected Works is a full twelve years behind its schedule of publication?

• How can tax concessions and benefits granted by the Government of India to an institution in Sri Aurobindo’s name be abused in this blatant and shameless manner to denigrate Sri Aurobindo and belittle the intellectual and spiritual achievements of the Mahayogi?

• How much longer will you continue to defy the inmates of the Ashram and continue to promote and support the insult and denigration of Sri Aurobindo in complete defiance of law and the minimum required loyalty to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother?

Prof Kamal Das

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7 Aug 2011

Dr Alok Pandey's Letter to Ramchandra Guha

I am sure you appreciate that any freedom comes with a certain sense of responsibility and it is precisely because some do not understand this simple equation that there arises need of law to regulate and prevent the misuse of such a freedom. A writer is no exception. (extract)

Dear Mr Ramachandra Guha

This is with reference to your article on Book Bans and writer's freedom etc.

I am sure you appreciate that any freedom comes with a certain sense of responsibility and it is precisely because some do not understand this simple equation that there arises need of law to regulate and prevent the misuse of such a freedom. A writer is no exception. To write irresponsibly, without the least regard for truth and the least sensitivity to the feelings of others naturally invites a reaction and a retaliation. Whether this reaction is in the form of an intellectual rebuttal or legal seeking for justice or even a silent prayer for a Divine intervention will depend upon the temperament of persons. Quite naturally no one can decide what is the right way to seek such a redressal of a real or even a perceived wrong. You may think that an intellectual rebuttal is best, others may think a legal intervention is better. To each his own freedom and his way of life!

You miss another point. The author of TLOSA, like all persons and things, does not hang in isolation to the rest of the world in some abstract space of intellectual speculation. Its influence far exceeds the place of its birth and continues to exercise its effect upon men and events much after the author is dead and gone. Has the effect of Hitler's speeches vanished after his departure even though much has been written and spoken against his diabolic doctrines? Does the effect of pornography become less just because there are books on healthy living and the practice of brahmacharya? People continue to drink and die of alcohol abuse even though enough antidotes are available in the market. I am not suggesting drastic draconian laws to regulate what is harmful but am simply pointing out the plain fact that writing an intellectual rebuttal does not necessarily negate the possibility of acting through other means including legal processes. A book ban is simply one way of communicating to people or at least sensitising them to the fact that the product that they are going to purchase is false and pretentitious, harmful and damaging to the psyche. Whether people still read it or not is upto them. People indulge in crude literature even though it is banned, or find ways and means to drown themselves in crude country liquor and die on the roadside drunk and devastated though it is not available in the open market. Well they have made their choice, but at least the state and responsible sections of the society have done their bit.

Let me also remind you that the author of TLOSA is neither a historian nor a psychologist or a poet and literary critic even though he has written a number of books. There are any number of popular paperbacks on health in the market that dish out all kinds of true and false information. That does not make these authors professional physicians. And if a book claims that it can replace professional views on the subject, then it will invite a stricture from the medical fraternity. The life of Sri Aurobindo is a subject far more complex since it transcends the human formula of life. It needs a rare sensitivity, a deep understanding, a sympathy and sincere engagement with the way of yoga to even attempt something of this sort. To treat it as an object of intellectual scrutiny for whetting the appetites of the psychoanalysts and the cruder kind of humanity is to do a great injustice not only to the subject but to the coming generations. After all there are few ideals in life worth following, few icons that are worth emulating. If these too are disfigured and defiled by thought's profane touch, then little will be left for man worth living and striving for, little that will inspire and invite him to exceed himself. The Ashram that stands in the name of its sole founder Sri Aurobindo stands precisely for such an ideal and it has grown organically, spontaneously, naturally around the divine personae of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Of course there is no compulsion for anyone to accept the ideal and the Master and the author of TLOSA is absolutely free to carry on his research in the department of history and psychoanalysis anywhere in the world or, better still, be a free-lance writer. But is it not more than a bit inconsistent or rather outright hypocritical that he continues to indulge in this Master-bashing over the decades while continuing to be part of the community and feeding upon its rations? The Ashram like many charitable institutions of the kind sustains itself largely through donations received from devotees and disciples who feel happy parting something of what they earn as their offering to the community that has evolved around the faith and practice of Yoga to which they subscribe. To strike at the very center and core of this faith and practice is to cut off not only the branch on which one is seated but the very roots of the tree that feeds and nourishes. If the author was alone it would not matter but his life and fate is interlinked with many others and if he is so keen to be part of this community should he not be sensitive to the feelings of the community and respect their faith and allegiance, his personal beliefs and ideologies (two sides of the same coin) notwithstanding. It is not a question of fragility of an icon or of faith. It is a question of simple common sense and decency when you are part of a living commune anywhere in the world. And if you keep on transgressing this unseen line of decency, then why complain of the backlash and cry foul over it?

Of course this is more of a general response to some of the issues that you have raised such as the justification of book banning or taking to the courts etc. This is more to show you the other side of the coin in case you have missed it. My personal reactions are another matter. Also, much can be and has been written about the fraudulent scholarship and the utter lack of objectivity, the abuse of his own office and position and the misuse of others’ trust in him. All that is however already available on the Net and the various websites dedicated to this purpose and you are invited to check it out on your own. You are also entitled to your opinion about the book and your reactions to it. But you cannot force the same on others and the community at large. Others too have an equal right to their reaction and to judge their reactions as fragility of faith, etc, is to pass unwarranted comments on what may not be going on in people's minds. That would be an illegitimate transgression of our boundaries. Being a good historian and writer (I assume you are one though I have not read anything of your writing) does not automatically entitle you to pass unsolicited comments on any and every subject. The motives that make men act belongs to the discipline of psychology just as a fuller understanding of the human condition and the life of a great yogi belongs to the domain of yogic psychology, and that is best left to more qualified persons in the field.

I hope that answers some of your arguments against the reactions to the book.

Wishing you well in your pursuit of truth,

Dr Alok Pandey

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Prof. Kamal Das's Response to Ramchandra Guha

While anybody is welcome to their definition and understanding of scholarship, the reality is that Peter Heehs is a school drop-out, with no formal training or qualification in any discipline whatsoever. While this should not disqualify or deter anyone from attempting to comment authoritatively on a spectrum of subjects ranging from literature to freudian analysis of the works and lives of extraordinary figures of our times, it is incumbent on the recipients of this unsolicited package of pseudo-history and speculation, to be circumspect and not fall prey to what is essentially a con-trick from a small-time crook. (extract)

Dear Mr Ramachandra Guha,

1. This has reference to your piece 'Ban the Ban' in The Telegraph on the 30th of July, 2011 and specifically to your comments/ views on the proscription of the book, The Lives of Sri Aurobindo by Peter Heehs.

2. It is surprising and unfortunate that a person of your standing and repute has made such facile, irresponsible and flippant remarks about 'hyperactive courts' and 'dogmatic devotees' without proper research and understanding of the matter.

3. We would like to believe that you have been misinformed, and in a genuine attempt at setting this wrong right, submit the following facts:

• The proscription of The Lives of Sri Aurobindo by Peter Heehs has little to do with freedom of expression and is all about academic fraudulence, intellectual property theft, copyright violation, impersonation and criminal factual distortion with malicious intent.

• The scope of the fraudulence in the book involves, inter alia, factual distortion, entirely concocted quotations, out-of-context quotes, presentation of perverse speculation as actual facts, deliberate suppression of evidence contrary to the author's thesis, etc. all of which is structured to harm Sri Aurobindo's image. Kindly visit www.TheLivesOfSriAurobindo.com for a detailed expose of factual distortions in the book compiled by senior scholars, historians and professors.

• Peter Heehs has never been in charge of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Archives as you wrongly claim, and has multiple cases pending against him in various courts for impersonating as the "founder of the Ashram Archives" when in fact he was only one of 40 proof-readers/ researchers there. Heehs has now conveniently accused Columbia University Press for wrongly having labelled him as the 'founder of the Archives' for the promotion of the book and the matter is sub-judice.

• Peter Heehs has stolen the research of his colleagues at the Archives for the publication of this book and the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust has initiated disciplinary action against him in this regard. Additionally, Heehs has used substantial content in the book without proper permission in gross violation of the Ashram's copyright. Heehs has apologized in writing for this but the matter remains sub-judice.

• With regard to the case filed in Chennai against extension of his visa, kindly be advised that the grounds for that case were the gross violation of the visa terms namely, non-reporting and non-payment of taxes due against income earned in India and gross mis-conduct as evidenced by criminal cases and arrest warrants pending against him. For the record, Mr. Peter Heehs is currently in India without appropriate legal permits.

• While anybody is welcome to their definition and understanding of scholarship, the reality is that Peter Heehs is a school drop-out, with no formal training or qualification in any discipline whatsoever. While this should not disqualify or deter anyone from attempting to comment authoritatively on a spectrum of subjects ranging from literature to freudian analysis of the works and lives of extraordinary figures of our times, it is incumbent on the recipients of this unsolicited package of pseudo-history and speculation, to be circumspect and not fall prey to what is essentially a con-trick from a small-time crook.

• Kindly note that in addition to the order of the Honourable High Court of Orissa, the Government of Orissa, acting on the request of the Home Ministry and in tandem with it, after due process of law, promulgated the Gazette Notification dated 09-04-2009, thereby making the proscription of the said book in the territory of India, de jure, effective from the date of notification. The gazette notification is attached herewith for your convenient perusal.

• The Gazette notification states, inter alia that the said book:

§ “Promotes communal disaffection affecting public peace and tranquillity”

§ “The book depicts wrong and distorted facts on the life and character of Sri Aurobindo, which is clearly blasphemous”

§ “The book contains absurd, irrelevant and self-made stories, which do not have any scriptural support and has caused widespread indignation among the devotees”

§ “The writings portrayed in the book have seriously hurt the sentiments of the apostles of Sri Aurobindo and the said book, with deliberate and malicious intention has insulted the religious beliefs of millions”

4. The devotees of Sri Aurobindo have no objection to Peter Heehs and his ilk plying their trade in any part of the world including India as long as they do so without fraudulent credentials, misleading associations, malicious speculation and voyeurism and calling it research, history and authoritative biography.

5. While, no icon, least of all an intellectual and spiritual giant like Sri Aurobindo, is likely to be affected by the shenanigans of petty roadside criminals, it must be understood and appreciated that reputation is a construct of the human mind and is consequently vulnerable to deliberate and unchallenged misinformation. Therefore the need to stand up and fight.

6. In view of the above, it would not be unreasonable to expect that you will take action to set the record straight with The Telegraph, and failure to do so would constrain us to reluctantly agree with Arundhati Roy's assessment of you, as a 'cricket historian who has missed the boat.'


Prof Kamal Das
1 August 2011

Ramchandra Guha on Peter Heehs:


In 2008, Columbia University Press in New York published Peter Heehs’s The Lives of Sri Aurobindo. The product of a lifetime of scholarship, its empirical depth and analytical sharpness is unlikely to be surpassed. For Heehs knows the documentary evidence on and around Aurobindo’s life better than anyone else. He has a deep knowledge of the political and spiritual worlds in which his subject moved and by which he was shaped.

Alas, this remarkable life of a remarkable Indian cannot be read in India. This is because of an injunction on its sale asked for by self-professed devotees of Aurobindo, and granted by a hyper-active high court in Orissa. Heehs’s book is respectful but not reverential. He salutes Aurobindo for his contributions to the freedom struggle. Before Aurobindo, writes Heehs, “no one dared to speak openly of independence; twenty years later, it became the movement’s accepted goal”. He praises Aurobindo’s contributions to literature and philosophy. However, Heehs is gently sceptical of the claim that Aurobindo possessed supernatural powers. “To accept Sri Aurobindo as an avatar is necessarily a matter of faith,” he writes, adding that “matters of faith quickly become matters of dogma”.

This understated, unexceptionable statement drove the dogmatic followers of Aurobindo bananas. Some devotees filed a case in the Orissa High Court, restraining the Indian publisher from circulating the book in India. Other devotees filed a case in a Tamil Nadu court, seeking the revocation of Peter Heehs’s visa and his extradition from this country. By these (and other) acts, the contemporary keepers of Aurobindo’s flame showed themselves to be far less courageous than the grandsons of Gandhi. Is their icon so fragile that he can be destroyed or even damaged by a single, scholarly, book?

(Extract from Ramchandra Guha's article on book banning)

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