29 Dec 2011

Vijay Poddar’s Letter to the Trustees

But, dear Trustees, my appeal to you is that this is a responsibility which has been placed on each of you. It is for each one of you as your sacred duty to read the book and ask yourself the same question that I asked myself, “Would you be happy to offer this book to the Mother and would the Mother be happy to receive it?”

If, from deep within, your answer to this question is Yes, then you need not read this letter further. All that you have to do is to announce to all of us in the Ashram and outside, that you have read the book, that you feel it is fine (with perhaps a few minor lapses here and there, which are of no great consequence) and that this book can and should be sold through Sabda, like other books published by the Ashram and outside. And there should be no hesitation in this regard. Otherwise we will be false to ourselves and we will be applying double standards. (extract)


Vijay Poddar’s Letter to the Trustees


To
The Trustees
Sri Aurobindo Ashram
Pondicherry

Dear Trustees,

I am writing this letter with great hesitation. I know that you have already received hundreds and hundreds of letters and one letter more or less will make no difference. A large number of issues have been raised and presented so clearly to you, that there is nothing for me to add. I know you are facing a lot of problems and are under a lot of pressure. I do not want to add to the problems or the pressure. I also know very well that it is very easy to give advices when one is not sitting on the chair of responsibility, and how difficult it is to take the right decisions, when one has to be responsible for those decisions and face the consequences. Some of the letters have even been interpreted as an attack on the Trustees and this is the furthest from my intentions. Hence I have been waiting and praying.

But now, in spite of it all, I am writing to you, because there are issues about which I have been feeling very strongly and deeply for a long time. Many senior persons have been advising me that I should speak to you and also write to you, if for no other reason then purely as my duty towards Them and as a little bit of nishkama karma. Therefore, I have already spoken to one of you and now I am writing to all of you.

1. I know that for every perception there can be a different perception, for every argument a counter argument and for every justification a reason to justify the opposite. How does one judge what is in context and what is out of context? Who can really decide what is right and wrong? And, at the mental level, perhaps there is no way by which everyone can be convinced or all led to the same conclusion.

However, there are a few truths which no one can or will deny. We all know with what deep reverence and divine love the Mother spoke about Sri Aurobindo or acted in regard to anything which was related to Him. We know that the Mother has said that Sri Aurobindo is the Supramental Avatar, the Avatar of Tomorrow. And Sri Aurobindo has said that our Mother is the Divine Mother, the Supreme Aditi. Several powerful writings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have been widely circulated recently, which affirm unambiguously that no one can understand, far less judge, their actions and lives. No one can be aware of the full outer facts, and even the few outer facts which are known, derive their true meaning only from the inner forces, which again no one has the capacity to see. They have given clear indications on how Their biographies should be written or rather should not be written. It is with this background that we have to look at all that has been written in the book, every sentence of it.

In view of the above, I sought for some light and direction. I asked myself a very simple question: “Would I be happy to offer this book to the Mother, would the Mother be happy to receive it, with all that has been written in it about Sri Aurobindo and Her?” My personal answer was a very emphatic No. In fact, after reading some of the things which are written, being only human, my personal reaction was of sadness, of great pain and hurt, even disgust and anger, and also of amazement that how is it that some people aren’t responding to it or seeing it as I am. I attributed it to my own limited understanding.

But, dear Trustees, my appeal to you is that this is a responsibility which has been placed on each of you. It is for each one of you as your sacred duty to read the book and ask yourself the same question that I asked myself, “Would you be happy to offer this book to the Mother and would the Mother be happy to receive it?”

If, from deep within, your answer to this question is Yes, then you need not read this letter further. All that you have to do is to announce to all of us in the Ashram and outside, that you have read the book, that you feel it is fine (with perhaps a few minor lapses here and there, which are of no great consequence) and that this book can and should be sold through Sabda, like other books published by the Ashram and outside. And there should be no hesitation in this regard. Otherwise we will be false to ourselves and we will be applying double standards.

And there the matter should rest. But at least all the devotees are entitled to know that this is your assessment and conclusion and not remain in the present state where no one knows what is the considered opinion of the Ashram Trustees about the book.

2. On the other hand, if your answer to the question is the same as mine and it is an emphatic No, that the Mother would not be happy with this book, then the issue becomes very much more serious, and our responses up to now are not at all appropriate. This is not the first time that wrong and calumnious things have been written about Sri Aurobindo and the Mother; but if someone unconnected with the Ashram had written this book, we could have just ignored it, or issued a denial about its factuality and truth or even issued a rebuttal. There are maligned attacks on all institutions and very few would have given credence to it.

But here the situation is entirely different. We cannot delude ourselves any longer with whatever rational or legal arguments we can find. We have to realize once and for all, and very clearly, that the Columbia Edition affirms very pointedly that the book is written by a person who is a founder and a director of the Ashram Archives and Research Section, that by implication he enjoys the full trust and sanction of the Ashram, that he has been given access to the most privileged documents, many of which are yet unpublished, and that he has been given the permission to use the documents by the Trustees of the Ashram. There is also the fact that the entire work was prepared in the Ashram under its auspices, and I am told that the MOU with Columbia says that the royalty too will come to the Ashram. The only conclusion possible is that according to the Ashram itself, this is one of the most authentic, authoritative and objective presentations of the lives, work, sadhana, yoga and relationship of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. The reader will also find that the book has been very highly praised and even financed by some supposedly well known scholars in the West, like Jeffrey Kripal and Michael Murphy, as the book has done such a wonderful work of “humanizing, problematising and interpreting” persons, who are for some devotees Supramental Avatars and Divine Incarnations. But the praise from such scholars, with their known background, should create greater doubts about the motives of all concerned. This book will be read and quoted by all and sundry for decades, as the Ashram’s own version, which cannot be dismissed as one more of those trash books which keep appearing.

In view of this, I feel that it serves no purpose and there is no meaning in coming out with a modified and revised version for the India edition. Rather, it will confirm even more strongly, the earlier premise that the Columbia edition has not been disowned by the Ashram, it is the authentic biography. The Ashram has merely taken out another version more suited to the Indian taste and psyche because, after all, there is a big difference between the Indian and Western psyche, that the Indians by nature and culture are unlikely to see and accept certain truths and therefore they have to be provided with amore watered down and diluted version. It will not help in any manner and may make the things worse.

The only solution, I believe, is for the Ashram to openly and publicly dissociate itself from the book, to declare that it does not convey the right picture, that no permission had been sought for and given for printing many of the privileged documents, including the personal diaries of the sadhaks, that there are several errors of facts, presentations and interpretations. Once such a bold decision is taken, with full conviction, then with a combined effort we have to block completely the printing of the Indian edition and explore what can be done to stop the distribution of the American edition. I feel strongly that by the Mother’s Grace we can do it, and we are all willing to work together for it. Through this decision if the Ashram has to face some difficulties, we will all surely standby you. And with the courage of conviction we will have Their support and protection. But it is for you, dear Trustees, to take the decision and take the lead.

I am told it is nearly 2 months since the book was published. We have already wasted too much time. Every day, devotees in the Ashram and outside hope that today definitely decision will be taken. And, with each passing day, it will become more and more difficult to take a proper action. Soon it may even be too late to control the events. If anything has to be done, it has to be done immediately, without the delay of a single day.

3. I have spoken up to now on two issues about which I feel, very strongly, that I am not wrong or mistaken. But now I come to a point on which I cannot speak as emphatically, and perhaps only share my feelings. It is really for the Trustees to decide the right course of action.

I feel that in this instance it is not a question of a few errors, a few lapses which can be corrected and modified. I feel, they are the expressions of an entire consciousness, of attitudes, values and perceptions which are not the right ones, when one is looking at Sri Aurobindo and the Mother or writing about them. For a disciple, for an Ashramite, the words of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have to be treated as final and there is no question of judging them and comparing them with the views of others or assessing their validity and truth with our limited minds and consciousness. I believe that we have to begin with the faith and conviction that what They say is the final Truth, and if we do not see it in this manner, there is something wrong with our perception, that anything which degrades them or brings them down, or casts doubts about their divine avatarhood, is a reflection of our own incapacity and cannot be written by a disciple or an Ashramite. I may be mistaken in this view, but this is my firm belief.

Therefore for me it is not at all a question of a few words or passages which are not appropriate. It is a much more fundamental question of the person and the consciousness which expressed itself in this manner. Is not this same consciousness which pervades the whole book and underlies it? Then how does it help to revise the book? Should not the entire thing be discarded for the moment? Later one can see what is to be done with it.

Another point to be noted is that this is not something which has happened all of a sudden and for the first time. If we look at the history of the last twenty years, there have been enough indications and warnings which were given. But as no actions were taken, each time the things got worse leading to the most unhappy situation in which we find ourselves now.

The question which the Trustees have to ask themselves is whether, at present, this is the right and fit person to write a biography of Sri Aurobindo, as well as to be entrusted with the great responsibility of handling such sensitive, important, precious and personal documents. Or, whether the person would be better suited for some other work in the Ashram. This is a question to which I do not have a definite answer but to which the Trustees will have to find their own answer.

4. There is one more thing I would like to share with you. I do not feel that here is a question of a particular person or persons, of merely a book, an author, a publisher and some very unhappy writings. For me this is a direct attack of a very hostile and evil force, which has been able to enter because of our lack of purity and sincerity, and which is using us as its instruments to directly malign Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and to delay their great work of transformation of humanity.

It is of very little consequence that there are many nice and beautiful things in the book. The tiny hidden, and not so hidden, things are not mere dirt or a fly which can be removed from the milk, but poison. And one drop of poison makes the entire glass of milk undrinkable. We have only to look at a few of the passages which have been pointed out and what they tell or imply about Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. This too is part of the strategy of hostile forces to present the dangerous poison as something else and to hide it in the midst of a host of other things which are apparently very beautiful.

We have seen this happening with the Mother’s Agenda and the Ashram has very rightly taken a clear stand against its publication, served legal notices, and dissociated itself entirely from it.

5. The large number of persons who have written to you, do not want to add to your existing problems. This is an outpouring of the anguish we have felt, the unacceptability of something of this nature being written about our deeply loved Gurus and Masters, to whom we owe our everything including our very existence, and to whom we can never be sufficiently grateful. We cannot accept an attack which brings Them down to our level, an attack which is wrong and false and which will harm Their work and the Ashram. Most of us would very much like to help the Trustees to face this attack if it is explained to us properly and if we are told how we can do it.

It is absolutely true that no one can really and ultimately harm or stop the work of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. It will be done in spite of us. We can only participate in it either by hastening it or delaying it. It is for us to decide what is to be our role.

It is a test for all of us, devotees and disciples all over the world, for members of the Ashram and the Trustees. Can we be a little bit worthy of our Masters and Gurus and the great institution they have built up, can we face the challenge in a united manner, can we rise to the occasion? I am sure, by the Mother’s Grace, we can and we will, and thus overcome the attack of the hostile forces.

6. Dear Trustees, I am sorry this letter has become much longer than what I had intended it to be. At places I may have used a strong language or spoken a bit harshly. I hope you will understand the depth of the feelings. I can assure you that my purpose is not to criticize the Trustees or to speak ill of any Ashramite, but simply to do what I think is expected of us as members of the Ashram and children of the Mother. I have written to you after waiting for as long as I could. I hope you will be able to take out a little time to read my letter and to call me and tell me where you agree with me, and to explain to me where I am wrong in my thinking and perceptions. I will be grateful for this. And if there is anything you would like me to do in this situation, I will be glad to do it and take it as a happy privilege.

With warm regards,

Vijay

30 Sept. 2008

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