3 Feb 2012

Ranganath Raghavan's Response to "A Declaration of Solidarity"

To Jay Raichuria and Meera Gupta (Sabda)

To anyone reading your “Declaration” casually and superficially, it will appear to contain very sound reflections and plausible ideas. But a closer scrutiny will reveal  that the words are high sounding without  solid content. We are having a closer look at your declaration  in a more deliberate manner  and these are my reactions. 

“The nature of the attack against the Ashram…”  

 1.   It is NOT an attack against the Ashram, it is a peaceful protest by some of the Ashramites and devotees of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother against the non-action (or rather active support) of the management, against an offender who, even while being an Ashramite, thinks it is admissible, even justifiable to find fault with the Guru. This is absolutely inadmissible in any spiritual life, specially so in the Indian tradition.

“The Ashram Trust has done nothing to deny or hamper either of these interconnected aims. None can say that the environment in the Ashram is not conducive to or does not facilitate the practice of their own sadhana. That should be our primary concern.”

2.  Not true. Several members of the Ashram have been removed from their usual work, thus interfering with their normal functions. This has been done often for petty egoistic reasons, allowing the members to draw the conclusion that to insult Sri Aurobindo is admissible but to criticize other Ashramites is punishable. What could be more foolish than this!! Besides, we may say that individual sadhana is not the only purpose in the Ashram. The collective sadhana is equally important and this imposes many responsibilities on the management which they have to discharge with great care and equity. Removing members from their work spots on relatively flimsy grounds does not seem to meet the requirements expected of the trustees.

The need of the hour is calmness and a spirit of tolerance and mutual respect.”

3. Where is the MUTUAL respect? Respect seems to be demanded only as a one-way traffic towards the management.

“The larger threat looming before us must take precedence”

4.  The largest threat is the tolerance, nay the protection and support to those who find fault with the Guru, within the community. This is more than a threat—it has the potential to destroy the institution. This cannot be envisaged in the Ashram as tolerable.  There are any number of cases where both Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have acted against individuals who had these tendencies. There are even letters that testify to this fact, apart from information in many cases.

“Without access to all the inputs that go into a decision, whatever be the issue at stake, one’s view always risks being partial and one-sided”                    

5.  This is what many senior members like us are asking for, “all the data in any given case” Why is there no transparency, no openness? Is there a good reason for not communicating with the rest of the members?

“We must allow them the freedom to do so with the best interests of the Ashram in mind”

6.  Best interests? How to know what that is? Can there be no difference of opinion in this matter? Is it in the best interests of the Ashram to act in such a manner that it attracts innumerable court cases? Is it in the BEST interest of the Ashram to keep the Police happy and supportive of the management in every case, whatever the merit of the case? Is it in the interest of the Ashram to get a member of the Ashram arrested by the police in a surreptitious manner? Can the management claim that their actions have been always in the best interest of the Ashram? One may argue that another management may also err and take decisions that may go against the Ashram. That is why it has been suggested that openness and a larger body be involved in a consultative process.

“We have indeed the right to express our opinions, but no right to insist that only our views are correct and have to be implemented”

7. But this is precisely what the present management is doing by NOT discussing  issues with the others of the community, who may have better ideas and solutions to problems that have cropped up. The final decision can always be taken by the competent authority whoever that may be, but why not get the issues discussed in a larger forum? Why claim exclusive right over the final decisions without any wider consultations?

“All humans are imperfect, and the trustees claim no exception.”

8.  When the trustees state in writing that they have been placed by Providence in their
 present position and they need not consult anybody, are they not claiming precisely that?

“The Mother will guide them and lead them in the right direction...”

9.  The Mother is guiding only the trustees? She is not guiding the others? And guidance is one thing and understanding the guidance and acting according to it is another matter altogether. The guidance is received in proportion to the purity and receptivity of the individual. And when a trustee himself admits to being “confused”, can it be claimed that the guidance is received perfectly?

Those who are currently opposing the Ashram consist of a range of figures. Some genuinely believe they are fighting for a cause. Others may have been innocently carried away by rhetoric or unwittingly allowed themselves to become pawns in a game they do not fully comprehend. There might even be a few elements with axes to grind or repressed personal ambitions…”

10.  This entire passage may well apply to all human beings and both parties in this unfortunate confrontation, although clearly you mean by it only those who are protesting against the protection of Peter Heehs by the trustees.

At this point, let it be clearly and loudly stated that the SRI AUROBINDO ASHRAM is built by the Mother and Sri Aurobindo and its truth is eternal and deeply planted. But the present management is composed of ordinary human beings, whose sole responsibility is the external management of the organization and its smooth functioning. To equate the present set of five mortal transient, imperfect human beings with the true and deeper reality of the institution is a devious trick intended to mislead those of mediocre intelligence, who are more than willing to transfer their allegiance from Mother to the trustees. This is a truth that will stand against all false attempts to insist on the contrary which is that the trustees represent the Ashram spiritually! Nothing could be farther from the truth. This is a simple fact that was so well understood even by Monsieur André Morisset, the Mother’s son. He kept insisting on this truth. To call those who stand by this truth “deluded” is itself an act of supreme delusion.

“We disagree with the legal challenges to the Ashram”

11.  Certainly it is clear that all internal problems should be resolved by the members themselves within the organization itself. No one would like an outside intervention, except when there is no other choice left. The question is who is responsible for this unfortunate pass. When arrogance, inflexibility are the norm and not sympathetic dialogue and a spirit of accommodation, then there is no option left except unusual methods.

“We must allow them the freedom…”

12.   Up to what degree is this freedom to be allowed? Taking a hypothetical case, where  a serious illegal action has occurred, is the freedom still to be allowed? Should not the laws of the land take over? Now, who is to judge regarding the degree of illegality? Can anyone explain the innumerable court cases instituted against the ashram management? Why was even an arrest warrant issued against some of them? Freedom can never be infinite. There is always a limit to it. That is the reason  why nowhere in the world is an individual elected to a position of power for more than a fixed period of time. It is a well known truism that all power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. That is why these questions have arisen now in the context of the book maligning Sri Aurobindo. To maintain that the book is only “foolish” but harmless and the storm will blow over in time is to completely misunderstand the situation.  The book is a direct attack on the Divine by a hostile force and if we give it protection in the Ashram, nothing could be more dangerous for the institution, which will render it open to constant problems of a more serious nature.   There are those who think that the objectionable  passages in the book by Peter Heehs are not at all bad, that they are merely harmless objective remarks, or at worst they are foolish and immature and need not be taken seriously at all. And that those who are raising a hue and cry about the book are completely mistaken or at best are exaggerating  and are making a mountain out of a molehill. Those who hold that view may please explain how at first more than ninety passages were found to be “obnoxious” and the decision to expel Peter Heehs  from the Ashram was taken, and how at the insistence of one individual,  that decision was reversed  within minutes. And all the others meekly agreed to tow the line laid down by one person!!! It appears that the real significance and danger of sheltering Peter Heehs within the Ashram has not been grasped by the trustees and their entourage.  

the trust deed, the Mother’s document”

13.  The trust deed was made purely for legal reasons. It was drafted in a hurry and the result  was not really satisfactory. There is no spiritual sanctity to it and we know that legal matters did not interest the Mother. We have some statements from her clearly expressing this view. It is also known  that the Mother was not at all happy with the draft. This was known to several of the old sadhaks and specially Mr. Counouma, who had spoken about it to some people. So to claim that it is a sacred document and fully approved by the Mother is not the fact at all. Besides, nothing in this transient world is a rigid truth for ever. Changing times and circumstances always necessitate adjustments and alterations to suit the new conditions that crop up.                                                            

“We must not and will not see the fabric that holds our organization together ripped apart.”

14.  I do not think that anyone really wants to do that. But rigidity and inflexibility automatically invite forces that dictate change. The responsibility to avoid this is squarely on the shoulders of the management.

“There are vested interests attempting to create the impression that a majority of the ashramites are sympathetic to those filing lawsuits against the trust, but nothing could be farther from the truth.”

15. Even if there is no majority supporting the law suits, there is certainly a very large number of Ashramites who are highly dissatisfied with the management of the Trust. Besides, the numbers supporting either side can never be known unless a count is held. Therefore to say “nothing is farther than the truth” is a wild exaggeration and an assumption without basis.

“Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’ institution”

16.  That is exactly what everyone wants it to be. But right now, with all the policies and methods being adopted, we seem to be very far away from it. And we certainly want it to become THAT again.

“May Her Will prevail”

17. Of course, by all means. But when you assert “we will not  see” and “we will not allow”, you are imposing your own will and not necessarily the Mother’s will. The contradiction is obvious for even children to see.
     
18. Suggestions for discussions and creation of a broader base for important decisions had been made but were turned down with contempt. But if problems are to be solved internally, without external intervention, a sincere dialogue seems to be the only way.


January 24, 2012

Ranganath Raghavan



[The following declaration of solidarity with the Trustees of Sri Aurobindo Ashram was circulated among the members of the Ashram for signatures soon after the Silent Protest of January 1-6, 2012.]

A DECLARATION OF SOLIDARITY

The last few weeks have seen some disturbing events. These recent developments are unique in the history of Sri Aurobindo Ashram. The nature of the attack against the Ashram is unprecedented. For each and every one of us, a decision has now to be made. We may choose to turn a blind eye, or hold ourselves back in a concerned silence like so many of us have done for long. Or we may decide that now is the time to make our voices heard.

We are all aware that the twin objective of every Ashramite is to practise his or her individual sadhana and to work in one of the departments as per the Mother's guidelines. The Ashram Trust has done nothing to deny or hamper either of these interconnected aims. None can say that the environment in the Ashram is not conducive to or does not facilitate the practice of their own sadhana. That should be our primary concern.

The need of the hour is calmness and a spirit of tolerance and mutual respect. This is not the time to bicker over the details of policy, or to let personal grudges and differences of opinion dictate our course of action. The larger threat looming before us must take precedence. We may or may not agree with every decision that the trustees take. Had we been in their position, we may well have done things differently. At the same time we recognize the complexity involved in any decision-making process, and that it is easy to sit in judgement on others. In every institution it is those who have all the pertinent facts readily at hand who are best positioned to determine the eventual course of action that could be followed. Without access to all the inputs that go into a decision, whatever be the issue at stake, one's view always risks being partial and one-sided. The Mother has structured Her institution in such a way that it is the trustees' job to take decisions, and we must allow them the freedom to do so with the best interests of the Ashram in mind. We have indeed the right to express our opinions, but no right to insist that only our views are correct and have to be implemented, else how are we any better than those we stridently criticize? All humans are imperfect, and the trustees claim no exception. But we must trust that they are working sincerely to the best of their abilities, and that through all the struggles and successes, stumblings and advances, the Mother will guide them and lead them in the right direction so that ultimately Her work is carried out and Her goals achieved.

Those who are currently opposing the Ashram consist of a range of figures. Some genuinely believe they are fighting for a cause. Others may have innocently got carried away by rhetoric or unwittingly allowed themselves to become pawns in a game they do not fully comprehend. There might even be a few elements with axes to grind or repressed personal ambitions. Some of us may see merit in some of the specific points these people raise. But all these distinctions and arguments are irrelevant here. What matters is that we place on record that we disagree with the legal challenges to the Ashram, with attempts at mass protests and dharnas, with threats and ultimatums and forced interventions. These were never the Mother's methods. In other words, whatever one's views on individual issues, litigation and seeking removal of the trustees is not the way to go.

The point of this declaration is not to issue a personal endorsement of the trustees as individuals. It does not even matter who the five trustees happen to be. Rather this is an initiative that expresses faith in the constitutional structure and processes enshrined in the Trust Deed, the Mother's document. It is therefore an initiative in support of the high ideals, the very idea, the sheer reality, of Sri Aurobindo Ashram itself. We must not and will not see the fabric that holds our organization together ripped apart. And by the same token, those making the point that they are only attacking the trustees and not the Ashram itself and that their actions are for the good of the institution are deluding themselves and playing a dangerous game. There are vested interests attempting to create the impression that a majority of Ashramites are sympathetic to those filing lawsuits against the Trust, but nothing could be further from the truth. We will not allow this false and dangerous notion to gain further ground. This is  the time to stand firm, stand together in the face of this assault on the core values of our Ashram, to lend our voices in support of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother's institution and its appointed representatives against the forces that are out to destabilize our community.

Under these trying circumstances we extend our support to the board of trustees of Sri Aurobindo Ashram. We trust that the Mother will use them, despite any shortcomings, despite the possibility of errors of judgement, as Her instruments, and that She will ensure that the institution is adminstered effectively and in accordance with the principles laid down by Herself and Sri Aurobindo.

May Her will prevail.


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