30 Apr 2012

CNN-IBN Sting Exposes the Trustees of the Ashram Trust

About the same time that the Heehs controversy was brewing in 2008, the CNN-IBN news channel had carried out a bold sting operation on the Trustees of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust and on Manoj Das Gupta (Managing Trustee) in particular.

Senior journalists of CNN-IBN posing as businessmen setting up a holiday resort in Pondicherry met with Manoj Das Gupta at his residence one evening and secretly videoed their interaction with him. They allegedly recorded Manoj Das Gupta receiving cash bribes for favours.

CNN-IBN then widely advertised and promoted their program titled "The Divine Trap" and announced its broadcast for prime time at 9pm on 15th March 2008. The program allegedly included the video of the Managing Trustee receiving the bribe, and in addition claimed to reveal the dirty underbelly of the Trustees' functioning and their alleged abetment of suicide, murder, rape and financial corruption.

The Trustees made desperate attempts to stop the broadcast by bringing pressure on the CNN-IBN management through several influential devotees. But CNN-IBN remained firm and refused to succumb to any inducements. Their promotional video was aired daily in the run-up to the broadcast and then was aired hourly on the day before the broadcast. On the 15th, the actual day of the broadcast, the promo was aired every half hour.

Three hours before the broadcast was due, the promos mysteriously stopped, and the program was cancelled without giving any reasons. No explanation has been forthcoming to this day.

Will CNN-IBN shed light on this? The public have a right to know as the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust is a public charitable institution and its trustees are accountable to the public.

The promo for the sting program is explosive and revealing in its own right. Click on the video to view the promo. For best results, view in full screen mode.

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29 Apr 2012

AEON Group of USA condemns Heehs’ Book and the Hypocrisy of Ashram Trustees

[References to names have been edited wherever they are not relevant to the main message. – General Editor]

Article by Robert E. Wilkinson
The Sri Aurobindo Ashram Reaps what it has Sown

From: "Robert E. Wilkinson" <robtw@sprynet.com>
Sent: Friday, April 27, 2012 10:57 PM
Subject: The Sri Aurobindo Ashram Reaps what it has Sown


This essay is being sent out to educators, writers, and students throughout the world who have distinguished themselves as supporters of the incomparable work of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. By this time many of you will know that Peter Heehs has been quoted by CNN/IBN as saying that Sri Aurobindo was NOT an Avatar, merely another spiritual teacher. This is an outrage coming from a researcher and long term resident of the Ashram who is expected to be privy to information about Sri Aurobindo that others do not have. What is worse, the Trustees of Sri Aurobindo's and the Mother's legacy who have a duty to protest against such a demonstrable lie sit by and do nothing. This clearly identifies the Board as being hostile to the very thing they pretend to uphold confirming Sri Aurobindo's own statement that some of his biggest disciples were Asuras. This cannot be allowed to go on. What is required for Sri Aurobindo's, the Mother's message to rise, take hold and endure is the final unmasking and expulsion of these retrograde forces from the occult seat of their work. This can only be done with irrefutable Knowledge. I hope you will join me in this battle for truth, for Sri Aurobindo's legacy, and for India and the World.
With Best Regards,

Robert E. Wilkinson

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28 Apr 2012

Sri Aurobindo Society Condemns "The Lives of Sri Aurobindo" by Peter Heehs

In a significant development the Sri Aurobindo Society as an institution has passed a resolution publicly condemning "The Lives of Sri Aurobindo" by Peter Heehs. This was in response to the overwhelming expression of outrage from hundreds of Branches and Centres all over India.

The Executive Committee of the Society has shown great wisdom by responding to the situation on the ground. We are certain that the Branches and Centres of the Society will surely takes steps to ensure that Sri Aurobindo's reputation and work is protected by all.

The Society, headquartered in Pondicherry, was founded by the Mother and She remains its permanent President. It has about 50 Branches and 300 Centres all over India and abroad.

The full text of the statement of the Sri Aurobindo Society goes thus:
Important note for all the Members, Branches & Centres of the Society on the book "The Lives of Sri Aurobindo" by Peter Heehs

Our Branches & Centres have made queries regarding the controversy that has been created by the book "The Lives of Sri Aurobindo" by Peter Heehs, an ashramite. Head Office has been repeatedly asked as to what is the stand of Sri Aurobindo Society in this connection.

This matter was discussed in detail by the Executive Committee of Sri Aurobindo Society and the following decision was taken:

"After having read the book 'The Lives of Sri Aurobindo' by Peter Heehs, the Executive Committee of Sri Aurobindo Society has come to the conclusion that the book, at many places, presents facts and information based on unreliable sources and contains misrepresentations and distortions of the life, work and yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. The book also puts down other biographies written by scholars and devotees, which are certainly not hagiographies and have inspired a large number of devotees, seekers and scholars. All these biographies are available with SABDA, the official sellers of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother's books and other related books. "The Lives of Sri Aurobindo" has not been allowed by Sri Aurobindo Ashram to be sold at SABDA.

Sri Aurobindo Society strongly disapproves of the book."


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The Method of Change – by an Aspirant

[The following anonymous note is written by an inmate of the Ashram and represents the line of thought among the majority of Ashramites.] 

If it is true that the silent majority among the ashramites is in favour of a change, but is afraid to demand it openly because of fear of retribution, or because it is uncertain whether the majority of ashramites would want it, then the following may be a method to overcome their hesitation and fear.

A centralized group of forerunners start maintaining a list (a group of just 3 or 5 persons, X, Y. Z). To start with, those who have already openly supported the change will be in that list.

Then a tentative classification of the ashramites is made according to their presumed attitude towards a change: 1) Likely to want a change 2) Hesitant, unsure, doubtful 3) unknown 4) unlikely.

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27 Apr 2012

The Issue – by an Aspirant

[The following is anonymous note is written by an inmate of the Ashram and represents the views of the silent majority of Ashramites.]

The issue is not Peter and his book. The issue is the force of falsehood that underlies the book and which more importantly, also underlies the gradual and steady deterioration in the attitude of those who run the Ashram.

Resorting to falsehood and betrayal in order to achieve the immediate goal (the forgery case), lack of transparency, partiality, cultivating a power circle by doling out Ashram facilities, intimidation that stifles any dissenting voice, vengefulness, arrogance of power, the condescension leading to the delusion that they are providing the facilities to the Ashramites for which the Ashramites must feel grateful and obliged to them (as the Trustee’s letter to Kittu says, “unfortunate that…an inmate who has enjoyed the facilities and amenities provided by the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust should choose to make such allegations”) these are some of the external manifestations of the kind of influence that the Trustees seem to be under. In short, change is needed a new system or constitution of the Ashram Trust. 

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26 Apr 2012

The self-defeating Victory ─ by Dr. Alok Pandey

We must be a happy lot having won the victory of retaining Peter Heehs, the controversial author while ensuring that ambitious men like Sraddhalu, Deshpande, Sudha Sinha, Niranjan Naik have been rendered out of work, their services terminated from the Ashram precincts. After all freedom of Speech is only for the special few and in any case far more important than such outdated stuff like ‘work-offering’ which is mere eyewash for some stupid devotees whose mad brains have picked up words like sadhana, yoga etc. We have kept up the great Indian Tradition of fighting amongst each other while the outsider rejoices. We have also succeeded in distorting great Vedantic truths such as ‘All are one’ by eagerly rushing forward to defend what is false and perverse so that we can be seen as champions of liberal secular thought and be awarded a medal from the fairer race. Has not Peter finally conceded that India upholds freedom of speech? Oh how happy we must be to get this medal from him! We should be grateful that with this new weapon or dharma of freedom he will now write ‘two more encyclopedias on Sri Aurobindo’ as he has publicly declared. We poor Indians and an average illiterate ashram devotee will be enlightened once again with the light of darkness flowing from his powerful pen.  

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22 Apr 2012

Letter to the Trustees from Sri Aurobindo Study Circle, Bangalore

From: Sri Aurobindo Study Circle 17th April 2012
9th Cross, 30th  Main
Sri Aurobindo Marg
J P Nagar 1st Phase


Kind Attn.: Shri Manoj Das Gupta, Managing Trustee

Sub: Peter Heehs and his book “The Lives of Sri Aurobindo”

Dear Sir,

We, the Devotees in Bangalore, are deeply anguished and hurt by the odious contents of the book in question denigrating Sri Aurobindo and the sickening publicity this has received at the hands of the meddling Media in the country.

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20 Apr 2012

Interim Injunction Granted by Puducherry Court

Yesterday (19.04.2012), the IIIrd ADM Court of Puducherry granted an interim injunction restraining the Trustees of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram from taking disciplinary action against the inmates who had been issued show cause notices for participating in the silent protest of January 1-7 against the Trustees’ support of the denigration of Sri Aurobindo by Peter Heehs. The Trustees now won’t be able to expel these inmates, deprive them of food & shelter nor remove them from their work place. We remind again the readers how the Trustees have long since used this ultimate threat of expulsion and depriving food & shelter to keep the inmates in a state of constant fear and forced obedience. It is because of this fear of retribution that most inmates of the Ashram have not come out openly against the maladministration of the Trust.

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19 Apr 2012

A Bluffer in a Scholar’s Clothing? -- by Govind

A brief, non-hagiographic peek into the lives
of a "founder" of the Ashram Archives

In his book, The Lives of Sri Aurobindo (TLOSA), Peter Heehs declares himself to be a “founder” of the Ashram Archives. People are buying his book, not just purchasing it but also buying it in the sense of believing in it, solely on the basis of Heehs’ self-promoting claims of apparent expertise and authority on Sri Aurobindo. However, few of these are in a position to independently verify the credibility of the author's self-portrayal. In this article I attempt to take a critical look at the primary claim that the author makes about himself in his book, which is that he is a "founder" of the Archives department in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, and share my conclusion that he is, in all likelihood, bluffing the reader by pretending to be something he is not.

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17 Apr 2012

Deliberate Omissions

Another trick played by our now “world-famous historian” is the deliberate omission of positive historical evidence in favour of Sri Aurobindo. One such glaring omission is the practice of brahmacharya by Sri Aurobindo almost immediately or within a very short time of his marriage with Mrinalini Bose. A number of documents (mostly in Bengali) testify this in Sri Aurobindo’s own words as recorded by his contemporaries. His own letter to his wife on his three madnesses shows his firm resolve to tread the path of yoga in 1905 and the practice of brahmacharya is implied, as he exhorts his wife to follow him and increase his shakti than diminish it.

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16 Apr 2012

Letter to The Editors of Mother India


The Editors, Mother India

 Dear Sirs,

 I am an Aurobindonian knowing that “Great is Truth and it shall prevail” and the Mother’s command on us to “Cling to Truth”. You are in line with renowned Aurobindonian, K.D.Sethna, with whom I had the privilege of corresponding in moments of crises and who was prompt with an answer with clarity always. Please respond through the monthly you are editing or via an e-mail as you deem fit.

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15 Apr 2012

A hagiography from an anti-hagiographic perspective—by Narendra

Mr Pratap Bhanu Mehta’s work says much about our media culture of readership as regards to Sri Aurobindo. His article represents a new dimension, a new layer, a scholarly-professionally sordid element in the patronizing of Mr Heehs. As yet the controversy was of content. Mr Mehta goes a step further, dismissing the objections to content as “ridiculous”, that the content is not really the real source of protesters’ “ire”; it is the protesters own lack of appreciation for The Lives of Sri Aurobindo; it is its “sophistication” that is evoking protesters ire! Mr Heehs has unfortunately become the target because of the crudeness and lack of training in “liberal education” and “religious sensibility” of the protesters. It is as though all that liberal education and sensibility is the singular trait or property of the new class of social thinkers only. But one wonders if they have any real contact with values of the Indian traditions bequeathed to us, traditions which also create values in the dynamics of time and life.Here is a brief summary of the article posted by Mr Pratap Bhanu Mehta at Book Clubbed Indian Express: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/book-clubbed/935545/0
dated 12 April 2012. We shall try to look at some of the points raised by him in it, but before that let us briefly summarise it. However, in a careful and critical review it could be easily, albeit quickly, asserted that the author has not really studied or read Sri Aurobindo with much attention; instead he is simply going about on the basis of the bits and pieces he gets from his feeder lines. The touch with the original seems uncertain, frail and shaky in its understanding and formulation.

The trouble with these neo social reformists and journalists, these professionals is, they must mention Sri Aurobindo to gain, if not purchase, a certain credibility and acceptability for their own projectionist views. They cannot ignore-bypass-dismiss him and yet they must refute or belittle him, careerists as they are. That seems to be the whole psychology behind the operation. Similar things happen in the field of literature also, where disparagingly they keep him away by calling him a Victorian, out-moded, ignorant of the modern idiom, or something similar to it. Such is the current projection of Sri Aurobindo. Such obviously is the technique which Mr Peter Heehs has honed to the sharpest and swiftest degree of perfection in his The Lives of Sri Aurobindo. Pratap Bhanu Mehtas and Gautam Chikermanes and Ramachandra Guhas in the newspaper media, and Sagarika Ghoses as TV anchors, have mastered the art very assiduously and systematically to an amazing grade of sophistication. So much the better for them. But let us get back to Mr Mehta’s post, only to quickly see the superficialities with which it abounds in several respects.

Mr Mehta opens the post with the following: “Crossfire over Heehs’s work says much about our public culture of readership India’s visa policy for scholars has long been a scandal unworthy of a liberal democracy. But the public culture of readership is even more disconcerting. Indian democracy now has to be defended book by book.”

The grudge of Mr Mehta against the public culture of readership is obscuration of a deeper point in the chaos and confusion arising out of the issues related with legalities and free speech. He states that our public culture seems to be satisfied to remain settled in its own comfort zones. When a challenge to it is posed by works such as Mr Heehs’s The Lives of Sri Aurobindo it reacts in an irrational if not a fundamentalist way. In the process the book gets maligned, and the author hounded if not dragged around as a criminal. These are nothing but symptoms of a wider cultural crisis.

However, it needs to be pointed out here that “the issue” as expressed by “protestors” of The Lives of Sri Aurobindo was of “denigration”, “belittling” and “spreading lies” as regards to our national sources of strength, in the present case Sri Aurobindo. Whereas media never took interest in reporting the said “the issue”, it picked up on the story after it found Mr Heehs to be on the brink of being shut out of India, though for entirely different reasons of legal violations. What was most disconcerting was the way media projected “the issue” to be that of Mr Heehs, the “world renowned” scholar, “guardian angel of India in the tradition of Humes”, being hounded out of India, for “the writing the best biography of Sri Aurobindo” by “religious fundamentalists” and “extremists”. Now Mr Mehta comes along and gives a new twist to “the projected issue”. According to him the issue is lack of training of Indians in “liberal education” and “religious sensibility” and consequent incapacity to appreciate sophisticated arguments. This is a mistaken analysis about the Indian mind and the Indian spirit.

Mr Mehta has had a “long professional interest in Aurobindo”, and for him Heehs’s book comes as “a revelation, one that elevates its subject rather than diminishes him.” He calls it a “first-rate piece of intellectual history”. It makes Sri Aurobindo’s “obscure thought” precise. He goes on to say that it is a “measure of its acuteness that it has grasped a deep philosophical fact: that most of Aurobindo’s oeuvre, including The Life Divine, is an extended reworking of the Isa Upanishad.” Therefore the question is: Why should such a book draw ire?

Mr Mehta then lists “three ridiculous charges against the book.” These are related to Sri Aurobindo’s self-confessed lack of physical courage, he a liar also; madness in the family not unconnected with his spiritual experiences; the relationship between the Mother and Sri Aurobindo being depicted in the biography as romantic. Such reactions to the historian’s scholarly work, argues Mr Mehta, “tell you a great deal about the fragility and close-mindedness of those who are shocked.”

This only means that the book is not at all offensive but there is a failure on part of them who feel offended. The causes are, first, the lack of liberal education in them. They do not recognize that Sri Aurobindo himself was conscious about his serious inability, for instance, to recover the meaning of the Vedas. Then, these people go by faith and not by experience or what may be called “enlarged empiricism”. “For followers, bereft of the experience, what remains is the assertion of faith. We put ourselves under the yoke of the Divine when we feel its presence the least.”

Mr Mehta concludes: “Aurobindo wanted to ‘prepare India for Truth’. But the relentless assault on scholarship, the cramped sensibility with which we approach tradition, and the reduction of intellectual life to questions of identity suggest one thing: we are not prepared for any truth, whether it comes with a small ‘t’ or a capital ‘T’.”

For details and nuances the link provides an access to Mr Mehta’s post. These are the points which need to be examined if at all we are going to attach any great importance to the professional rant and rave of a director of an institution. He forgets that one cannot talk of “any truth” in the absence of facts if empiricism has a place in his world. The simple fact is that, he is totally ignorant of any number of posts and comments critically examining the distortions and misrepresentations in his favourite Lives.

Mr Pratap Bhanu Mehta’s work says much about our media culture of readership as regards to Sri Aurobindo. His article represents a new dimension, a new layer, a scholarly-professionally sordid element in the patronizing of Mr Heehs. As yet the controversy was of content. Mr Mehta goes a step further, dismissing the objections to content as “ridiculous”, that the content is not really the real source of protesters’ “ire”; it is the protesters own lack of appreciation for The Lives of Sri Aurobindo; it is its “sophistication” that is evoking protesters ire! Mr Heehs has unfortunately become the target because of the crudeness and lack of training in “liberal education” and “religious sensibility” of the protesters. It is as though all that liberal education and sensibility is the singular trait or property of the new class of social thinkers only. But one wonders if they have any real contact with values of the Indian traditions bequeathed to us, traditions which also create values in the dynamics of time and life.

And what is this much-flaunted much-peddled sophistication of the Lives? According to Mr Mehta the sophistication is that Mr Heehs, the great devotee, has achieved a marvellous feat of “sraddha” from the standpoint of the non-believers’ Sri Aurobindo! In other words, The Lives of Sri Aurobindo is a hagiography from an anti-hagiographic perspective! The author and the commentator have created a trap for themselves.

Mr Mehta does not stop at that. Because apparently he has ire against Sri Aurobindo as his “professional interest” can't understand mental sophistication of Sri Aurobindo's writings, or rather its spiritual coherence and simplicity. So he feels relieved to hurriedly read Mr Heehs's speculations of Isha Upanishad being the source of The Life Divine and of Sri Aurobindo's failure in interpreting the Vedas. And going beyond his brief of patronizing Mr Heehs, Mr Mehta could not resist claiming that the Isha Upanishad as the entire source of Sri Aurobindo's writings. By so doing he perhaps rescues his own mental vanity. He probably attempted only to read The Life Divine and, after some failures, gave it up; but of course this would have seriously afflicted his own sense of scholarship. Maybe Mr Mehta himself lacks in 'yogic education' and 'spiritual sensibility'. But can his mind have the humility to admit that, or consider that before judging matters of very important spiritual matters on the national stage? To restate: there seem to be present in him multiple layers of vanity.

It may be true that general Indian readership is lacking in “liberal education” and “religious sensibilities”; it may also be true that it falls short in organised desired mental application, requisite initiative and “sophistication”. But there is something else in the readership of Sri Aurobindo which is distinguished by a certain “aspiration” and “spiritual sensibility”, and it can’t be said that this generalised assessment, this sweeping conclusion is true everywhere. So really the weak link in the Mr Mehta’s argument is primarily in the two premises: that there is some hard-to-discern “sophistication” in The Lives of Sri Aurobindo, and that readership of Sri Aurobindo does not possess a certain “liberal education” and “religious sensibilities” to discern. The fact is, the admirers of the Lives have never looked into those hundreds of posts and comments critiquing the so-called scholarly work of Mr Heehs. We are yet to see cogent well-argued responses from them. It would have been better had Mr Mehta just made a search and found for himself the faulty nature of Mr Heehs’s work. That is precisely the reason why such writings fail to make any appeal to the intelligent sense.

But Mr Mehta is to be primarily faulted not for his hasty, reverse-engineered premises of his main argument to patronize Mr Heehs. The shocking part is his direct presumptuous attempt to diminish Sri Aurobindo. Mr Mehta elevates Mr Heehs and diminishes Sri Aurobindo. He does it to the extent that he draws them level by suggesting that Mr Heehs too possess the same stock of experiences as Sri Aurobindo; he makes Sri Aurobindo’s “obscure thought” precise. If we assume, like devotees and scholars of Sri Aurobindo’s works do, that Sri Aurobindo’s work emanates entirely out of his experiences and realisations, then there will arise a piquant situation. It will entail Mr Heehs himself getting embarrassed at such ‘ridiculous’ patronization.

Let us take an example. Mr Mehta declares that “despite working laboriously, Aurobindo more or less admitted that he had not been able to recover the meaning of the Vedas”; but his claim remains totally unsupported. First we need to understand that the Vedas are written more in the manner of “experience” to “experience” in a symbolic way for direct yogic growth of consciousness unhindered by mind as that was the way of ancients of that time. As regards Upanishads, which is unique to Indian tradition for transition of civilization from Symbolic Age to Age of Mentality, the method was of “light” to “light” for direct realizations unhindered by scepticism or doubt. So in recovering the meaning of the Vedas and Upanishads Sri Aurobindo had undertaken the difficult task of presenting the same in the manner of “logic” to “logic” with full scope given to speculative mind and doubt. So the difficulty for Sri Aurobindo was in the immense bulk of recovery if he considered presenting all the different shades of meaning, nuances etc. And it is to that extent that Sri Aurobindo has admitted to the “difficulty”. Yet it is neither an admission of shortcoming nor a difficulty. In the logical framework he had chosen to present the theme, he could establish a few things in a definite manner and the rest he left unsaid. That can never imply admission or difficulty of any sort. Let us see what he says in the context. Talking about unravelling of the Vedic symbolism in The Secret of the Veda we read:

More we cannot at present attempt; for the Vedic symbolism as worked out in the hymns is too complex in its details, too numerous in its standpoints, presents too many obscurities and difficulties to the interpreter in its shades and side allusions and above all has been too much obscured by ages of oblivion and misunderstanding to be adequately dealt with in a single work. We can only at present seek out the leading clues and lay as securely as may be the right foundations. …

Is there at all or is there still a secret of the Veda? …

Our object is only to see whether there is a prima facie case for the idea with which we started that the Vedic hymns are the symbolic gospel of the ancient Indian mystics and their sense spiritual and psychological. Such a prima facie case we have established; for there is already sufficient ground for seriously approaching the Veda from this standpoint and interpreting it in detail as such a lyric symbolism. …

Finally, the incoherencies of the Vedic texts will at once be explained and disappear. They exist in appearance only, because the real thread of the sense is to be found in an inner meaning. That thread found, the hymns appear as logical and organic wholes and the expression, though alien in type to our modern ways of thinking and speaking, becomes, in its own style, just and precise and sins rather by economy of phrase than by excess, by over-pregnancy rather than by poverty of sense. The Veda ceases to be merely an interesting remnant of barbarism and takes rank among the most important of the world's early Scriptures.

Similar avowals we have, for example, in The Essays on the Gita and The Life Divine. In terms of the so-called ‘scholarly or academic’ presentations Sri Aurobindo was always to the point and, he was always rigorous. What fell out of its methodology, with that he did not occupy himself, and that only shows the respect for the framework he was placing himself in. In that respect the real freedom he had was only in his wonderful Savitri.

But let us examine here the following comment of Mr. Mehta:

... a deep philosophical fact: that most of Aurobindo’s oeuvre, including The Life Divine, is an extended reworking of the Isa Upanishad.

There cannot be anything more ridiculous than this—The Life Divine an extended reworking of the Isha Upanishad. I’d recommend the author to read the last few chapters of the magnum opus more carefully, if not perceptively, and compare with the several commentaries Sri Aurobindo had written on the Isha. Where do we find in the Upanishad “the next higher state of consciousness of which Mind is only a form and veil as the path of our progressive self-enlargement”? It is only in The Life Divine we have it. Nowhere in the ancient scriptures are we told about the possibility, if not the inevitability, of the higher state of consciousness becoming a part of this world of ours. And then, the total non-mention of his grandest oeuvre, Savitri, only shows the superficiality of the hastily drafted article which lacks the needed depth to grasp the power, and the dimensions, of Sri Aurobindo’s writings.

That is Mr Mehta à la Mr Heehs. But, if Mr Mehta claims to hold grand judgements and proclamations regarding the works of Sri Aurobindo then we surely would request him to illuminate us more about them!
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14 Apr 2012

Chidambaram intervenes, US historian gets 1-yr visa extension

Aloke Tikku, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, April 13, 2012

Controversial US historian Peter Heehs on Friday got a year’s visa extension, two days before the April 15 deadline set by immigration authorities for him to leave the country. Home minister P Chidambaram granted the extension to the author of The Lives of Sri Aurobindo, overruling the recommendation of ministry and immigration officials.

“The decision has been conveyed to officials in Puducherry,” a government source said. Heehs got a one-year multiple entry visa on the recommendation of Sri Aurobindo Ashram.  

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13 Apr 2012

Historical Documentation

When you quote a person who was not there at the time of the event and who scribbles something on the basis of what he has heard from others (whose identity he himself does not know or does not reveal), then you are going against the very fundamentals of historical documentation.  
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11 Apr 2012

Objectionable Extracts from the Lives of Sri Aurobindo by Peter Heehs

The following are the objectionable extracts which got circulated widely in 2008, after which the book got banned. Each extract is followed by a link to a major article refuting it. There are of course many more objectionable passages than those which have been included here; in fact the more closely you read the book, the more you come across the constant hostility (subtle and blatant) towards Sri Aurobindo. There has been a lot of hype about the scholarship that is behind the book. If there is, it is more of the negative kind, that of a scholar who has dedicated his life to denigrate Sri Aurobindo just because his fellow Ashramites adore their Master. And this is done on the basis of flimsy evidence, snipped documents, negative testimony provided by British Govt officials, and sometimes even speculation.  A standard knee-jerk reaction to this rather unflattering assessment is – “How can you dismiss a historian like that?” You certainly can if you have sufficiently studied the documentation of all the negative statements in this book! But how many have the patience and time to do that!
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10 Apr 2012


The main defence of Peter Heehs has been the decontextualisation argument. Time and again he has accused his critics of quoting extracts from his book without the surrounding context. But did the adding of the context by him in his revised version of the Extracts change anything? No! Readers remained unaltered in their negative assessment of his book. Why? If the extracts were really decontextualised, then they would have changed their opinion. But let me get into the nitty gritty of this oft-repeat argument of decontextualisation.

[click on title to read the full text]
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9 Apr 2012

Historian dubbed heretic for his Aurobindo 'barbs' -- By M. C. Rajan

 Mail Online India


Demystifying one of the country's most revered mystics, Sri Aurobindo, has landed American historian Peter Heehs in hot water. 

Heehs, who has been in Pondicherry for the past four decades, stirred a hornet's nest with his biography on the spiritualist, published abroad in 2008. Sri Aurobindo's followers have called him a heretic and, subsequently, the regional registration office (RRO) for foreigners in the former French enclave has asked him to leave the country within April 15. 
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6 Apr 2012

Peter Heehs in Live Debate with General Bakshi on Times Now on April 5, 2012

After four years of falsely claiming that he could not speak publicly because of legal cases, Peter Heehs is now freely giving interviews to any and every newspaper or TV channel that approaches him in a desperate attempt to tilt public opinion in the hope that his deportation order can be overturned. Heehs pleads to be given the same treatment that he has received for the last 40 years, yet claims that he does not ask for any special privileges. Having abused the many privileges that he received for so long, the appeal comes a tad too late. Moreover, one has to ask, what has he done to deserve pardon. Even now, as always in the last four decades, he disdainfully rejects all discussion and refuses to apologise for abusing his provileges, for insulting Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and for causing so much pain to millions of devotees.

For the last four years Heehs avoided public debates and spoke through his many proxies to avoid direct discussion on the many factual distortions and the academic fraudulences on which his book is based.

His latest live discussion on Times Now on April 5, 2012 is revealing. Among other things, it shows how hard Heehs finds it to defend the many perverse passages in his book. When challenged with the false charges of Sri Aurobindo's "madness", Heehs claims that he was merely "studying" the "suggestion" of "correlation between mental instability and genius"!

Press [Play] to watch the entire interview. For best results click the bottom-right corner of the video to view in full-screen.

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4 Apr 2012

Violation of Visa Norms by PETER HEEHS

Violation of Visa Norms by PETER HEEHS

1.    Peter Heehs, a US national who is a self-styled "scholar" and writer, published a book called The Lives of Sri Aurobindo, purporting to be a biography of Sri Aurobindo. By his own admission, Peter Heehs has no formal educational qualifications in any discipline, is a school dropout and was formerly a taxi driver in the USA. Heehs is no historian of any kind and came to India as an uneducated and unemployed youth seeking rehabilitation.

2.      In his offensive book titled The Lives of Sri Aurobindo Heehs has made elaborate and devious attempts to malign and defame the mahayogi, spiritual giant and freedom fighter Sri Aurobindo whose life-size statue stands in the parliament and who is a hero of India's freedom struggle at par with giants such as Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel.

3. Heehs is a habitual and serial impersonator regularly indulging in academic fraudulence in order to hide his lack of credentials, and has declared to various publishers including Columbia Press in the USA that he is "one of the founders of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Archives". This is patently false. With other publishers, he has on other occasions declared himself as "curator", "director" and "director of historical research" of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Archives. All of these are false representations and amount to impersonation and academic fraudulence.
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Chidambaram won’t allow US "historian" to stay in India (Hindustan Times ─ 4 April, 2012)

Chidambaram won’t allow US historian to stay in India

Aloke Tikku, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, April 04, 2012

Home minister P Chidambaram is unlikely to reverse the order rejecting US historian and author of The Lives of Sri Aurobindo, Peter Heehs’ visa. Government sources said the Puducherry Foreigner Regional Registration Officer’s decision on the historian’s visa had more to do with violations of norms than his intellectual work.

“Heehs’ visa had expired last year, but was allowed to continue staying in India pending disposal of his representation,” a government source said. “It is not as simple a case as it has been made out to be.”

Heehs was told to leave India before April 15 after considering the views of the state governments and security agencies.
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3 Apr 2012

An Example of Mischief

Mr Peter Heehs has absolutely no qualms in stating on a public television: “Its also a fact that Sri Aurobindo’s mother was mad; there is no question about that; and it’s also a fact that Sri Aurobindo was a genius”.

How does such a statement become interesting to make his biography acceptable to a certain class of high or erudite readership? I wonder, when it lacks even the cultural sense. The connection between the madness of the mother of Sri Aurobindo and he being a genius has been left hanging by a professional who claims himself to be an authority on such a subject. This statement might appear jarring to some ears, and one needn’t care about those ears, but the deliberate gaps left between the two are, on part of the author, an act of deliberate mischief.

Is this scholarship? Is this history? Is this an unbiased detached presentation of facts? And does the learned class find in it an excellent piece of research work, an “original” piece of work which makes the author’s biography impartial and neutral and objective, even non-judgmental?

Besides this, one has to also debate whether it is all right for anyone to state on public television that, one of the parents of the founder of the Ashram was mad? and for what purpose? If that anyone belongs to the Ashram, then the question arises: What is the spiritual merit, what is the spiritual content, what is the spiritual gain in publicly speaking something which is totally non-spiritual, in fact is unspiritual, even anti-spiritual?

And what’s next? Do we seriously argue and try to prove that it’s not proper for someone to publicly abuse Sri Aurobindo, and the Mother, while yet remaining in the Ashram, of which one is a part? This might be an institutional question but is not irrelevant.

A friend says: “I have to be dreaming here. This cannot be reality.”   ...full text...

2 Apr 2012

This is most insulting—New Lives for the Indians

Under the caption “Historian tries to buy peace, offers trade-off” the reporter Debjani Dutta of Express News Service, writes in Express Buzz, dated 2 Apr 2012, something very strange, if not shocking, belittling.

She reports, after facing possible expulsion from the country Mr Peter Heehs, the author of the controversial biography, The Lives of Sri Aurobindo published by the Columbia University in 2008, is “prepared for a revised Indian version of his book to be published by Penguin India.”

It is further clarified that, Mr Heehs and the publishers are prepared to strike out any “questionable” passages present in it.

The author admits that there are passages in the biography which have given rise to controversy and he regrets that having happened.

The suggestion is, he would recompose those passages in yet another publication “for use of devotees”. Although this might mean financial loss, it is considered as the best trade-off. The formality of getting necessary clearance will obviously be his concern.

On the very face of such a proposal it looks ridiculous that there should be a specially designed biography for the Indian devotees, for the Indian audience, in contrast to the western readership. It looks ridiculous on many counts, for instance, in deepening the East-West rift. It also looks ridiculous that the Express reporter should have accepted such a line of argument and kind of enthusiastically reported this without any reservation or comment in the newspaper.

It is necessary to examine the implications of such a proposal in a more detailed manner than is possible immediately, but happen it should in the course of time.

Nonetheless what is immediately objectionable is, belittling the Indian thinking and feeling and the will to stand for broader and universal values in various aspects of life. In this belittling the share of the reporter is not small.

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The Hindu, Sunday, April 1, 2012

“Will review historian’s visa cancellation issue”

Special Correspondent

New Delhi: Replying to questions about American historian Peter Heehs, Mr Chidambaram said that he would review the decision on cancellation of the visa to the historian who was living in Puducherry by Monday.

Mr Heehs was asked to leave the country after he had spent nearly four decades working on a project of digitisation and archival of works of freedom figter and spiritual leader, Sri Aurobindo.

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