16 Feb 2012

The Gagging of Vijaybhai -- Kartik Srinivasan

Dear Ajit Reddy et al (including Matriprasad and Debashish, for approving the letter),

Your note to Vijaybhai is strange to say the least. It exposes your frequent tendency to make specious arguments and apply double standards to suit your personal interests and objectives. Let me elucidate by quoting from portions of your note:

Even though we are aware of the fact that you have been a critic of Peter’s book - as you have made this public in the past - we do not wish to prejudge the content and purpose of your talk. But given the timing of your talk - the time when members of the Ashram are fighting a  litigation against the trustees in court for this very book - we are writing to you about this invitation and to share some of our views and concerns with the hope that you please re-think your proposition.

Because there is a litigation against the trustees' failure of trust, you want that Vijay-bhai should not speak on the book! What is the connection? The book has already been declared defamatory by the Government. All that Vijaybhai could do at this point is to share his personal research exposing the innumerable factually wrong and defamatory passages in the book. That would change nothing in the legal status of the book or of the trustees. Moreover, his talk would only summarise what he has already presented to the trustees recently in detail -- things which the trustees have not disputed or denied. In fact the trustees reportedly expressed great appreciation for Vijaybhai's research and presentation. So what do you or the trustees have to fear if Vijaybhai shares his work with others?

Moreover you have all been busy all these years freely expressing your views in support of the book (and consequently supporting its abuse of Sri Aurobindo), organising group meetings with Peter Heehs, filing petitions in the Courts in support of the book and against its critics, and promoting signature campaigns in support of the book and the trustees!  So why gag Vijaybhai's one presentation when you are doing so much more and on a much larger scale?  Why the double standards?

1)  A book is an inanimate object which contains information that is presented in it by it’s author. A book starts getting a life when people start using that book; until then it remains just an inanimate object without any life or influence. Similarly, the ideas that are contained in a book also have no power until they are used by the people who come into contact or use those ideas. It is therefore people who give a life to a book and it is also they who determine the life of that book.

This is weird. You claim a book is no different from an inanimate brick, and only the reader gives life and meaning to it according to his subjective interpretation.  So Mein Kampf and The Life Divine are the same to you and only the reader gives them different meanings?!  You ignore the role of the author, the one who organises the thoughts and concretises them to inspire (or confuse or pervert as in TLOSA) the minds of his readers! He does not merely give information, he gives his inspiration and his opinions and his conclusions infused with his personal energy which can and do shape the individual and collective future of his readers.

Looks like none of you have read the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, or have not understood them, or are deliberately choosing to pervert your loyalty to Them. If you have read and understood and been true to Them, then you would know that They considered books and words to carry a force of action. Even if the book is not read, it continues to exercise its influence. Even keeping a book on a shelf has its occult effect.

Moreover, the perverse book in question has already been read in the thousands and has hurt millions. So what is the point of calling it inanimate now? The animate force of its author's thoughts and perverse inspiration and false conclusions is already out there doing its harm from the last 4 years. What Vijaybhai's sharing would do is to defuse that force by deconstructing the false formations. That will surely have a positive effect.

2)  Peter’s book “The Lives…” that was released towards the end of 2008 has been used by different people, in many diverse ways. But what stands out most is that some people have used the book to come closer to Sri Aurobindo and understand him better and some others have used the book to prove that Sri Aurobindo was being denigrated. We believe that except for Sri Aurobindo, none of us will know who is right and who is wrong and that this matter should be left to him alone, especially in the absence of a clear-cut consensus.

Since when is consensus the determining criteria for factual distortion? Facts are objective. Just because a few interested individuals refuse to acknowledge them does not prevent the rest of us from recognising the numerous factual distortions in TLOSA.  Those who have truly appreciated the book are mostly people who are unaware of the facts and cannot recognise where Heehs has perverted them. When they have read the detailed critiques with an open mind, most have been convinced that the book has serious factual flaws.

Of course, Sri Aurobindo is the final authority of his own life's facts. Why then do you praise Heehs for questioning and doubting Sri Aurobindo's own assertions about His life events and seeking to falsify them? Why prevent Vijaybhai from setting the record straight to reaffirm Sri Aurobindo's own statements of His life? More double standards!

3)  We, as children and followers of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, as students of their unique institution, the Sri Aurobindo International Center of Education (SAICE) and as children who have grown up virtually as part of Their Ashram, have been taught that we should always seek positive outcomes from our thoughts, actions and lives. Negative influences should instead be ignored if not even converted into positive ones. This approach has helped us in our lives and we are ever grateful to both Sri Aurobindo, The Mother, the SAICE, Their Ashram and all those who have imparted to us these values which guide us in any part of world and during any time of our lives.

We are therefore appealing to you, a follower of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, a member of the Ashram and a teacher at the SAICE, to ensure that you desist from encouraging further negativity in yourself, in those who wish to hear your talk, in the Ashram as well as the larger collective in the sole interest of creating the proper environment so that positivity not only emerges but firmly takes root among us.

You ask that all negative influences should be ignored. Yet you have yourselves been busy making ad hominem attacks in this forum and in the wider Web against the critics of Heehs' book. Three of you have even sought to implead yourselves repeatedly in Court cases knowing that such attempts will delay the cases and complicate them. Your recent emails to Alok and Govind in this forum are full of near-abusive language, name calling, ridicule and derision, provoking the Moderator to intervene several times.

Vijaybhai has never done such things. All he was going to do now was to present -- and only to those interested -- what he has already presented before the Trustees and for which he received their appreciation. You chose to violently and forcefully spread negativity, and then wished to prevent anyone else from correcting the record. Still more double standards!

And you make the specious claim that Vijaybhai placing his research before a few people who are interested would lead to more negativity!  On the contrary, the negativity at present is growing from the trustees' enigmatic public silence while they privately promote and support Heehs. It is this which has led to the crisis today.  Vijaybhai's presentation will have the effect of helping people decide one way or another whether the book is acceptable or not for the Ashram to promote and support. This will surely lead to a rapid resolution of the present impasse. Silence and inaction at this time will only worsen the impasse as the wounds will continue festering, while clarity and transparency will give a chance for people to understand each other and move to positive reconciliation. In fact, it is your and the trustees' attempts to gag Vijaybhai which are leading to more negativity and confusion in people's minds.

Practically speaking, we believe that a positive outcome would be one that would help the reconciliation of all involved, bringing all together in unity and harmony.

True enough. But are your actions helping reconciliation, unity and harmony? You have only to review your emails to Alok and Govind these last two weeks. They were trying hard to promote dialogue and reconciliation, while you were busy ridiculing them and subverting their efforts. Even more double standards!

In fact the reconciliation can only take place when we bring transparency and clarity into the trustees' mysterious and contradictory stance. And if they are truly confused, as they sometimes claim, then presentations such as Vijaybhai's would go a long way to help them gain clarity.

A lasting unity and harmony cannot be built on foundations of falsehood and deception. It is only in an air of complete transparency that we can build the lasting and meaningful unity and harmony that we all seek.

But if instead your talk is meant to carry a message of negativity, towards anyone or anything, we are of the opinion that you would be going contrary to the very values that Sri Aurobindo, The Mother, Their Ashram and the SAICE have imparted to us and we would therefore kindly request you to consider this before doing so. Moreover, the timing of the delivery of such a negative message – during a related on-going  litigation in court – would even appear to have a malicious intent and design.

Vijaybhai's talk would have only helped people to understand the factual distortions in the book which have led to the present controversy and divisions. Since when has truth become negative? Do you really believe that promoting falsehood and deception can lead to greater positivity? Is that why you put so much energy into obfuscating the inconvenient facts about TLOSA and ridiculing people who expose them?

Vijaybhai's efforts in these last few weeks have been to meet all the parties including the Trustees and to build consensus so that there can be resolution of the problem in-house and avoid the litigation. He began this effort with the full support of Manoj Das Gupta who appointed Batti-da to interface with him and help his efforts. To this end Vijaybhai, Kirandi and others spent hours every day for several weeks in close interaction with all those involved trying to build common ground. This work culminated with his presentation to the Trustees which was highly appreciated by them.  When people around him asked to share the outcome of his efforts with them, he agreed to do so in a group rather than speaking to each one separately. Yet, you find "malicious intent and design" in these efforts!

In the light of the above, to any third party, it might appear as if you have some ulterior motive to try to sabotage all efforts at internal reconciliation. One hopes that such is not the case.

Dear Vijay-bhai, we therefore kindly request you to consider our message.

If you and the trustees can take so much trouble to gag Vijay-bhai's well meaning efforts to educate friends about the real facts of Sri Aurobindo's life, why cannot you and the trustees take just half the trouble to stop Heehs from promoting his falsehood and factual distortions of Sri Aurobindo's life? If it is not a case of perverse intent, then it is definitely a case of double standards!

Karthik Srinivasan

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