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 After all freedom of Speech is only for the special few and in any case far more important than such outdated stuff like ‘work-offering’ which is mere eyewash for some stupid devotees whose mad brains have picked up words like sadhana, yoga etc.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.  

[click on title for full text

It is the objective historian who will define the yoga for us. Nay he will redefine it, even improving upon what Sri Aurobindo and the Mother revealed. We are fools who have been poring our hearts and soul over Their writings, reading them without context with our poor knowledge of English and our emotional brains. That is not how we need to read and understand. It is Peter who will provide the context. See how well he puts in context Sri Aurobindo’s writings on the Isha Upanishad and thereby discovers that the Master married ‘obviously for sensual gratification as the Guru in His commentary on the Isha puts it’! Could any one of us have ever imagined such a thing and drawn such an impossible, intelligent and fully logical conclusion from this passage? We need the intelligence of the author after all to thus put things in context. See also how he quotes the first draft of Savitri and somehow concludes that the ‘quintessence of Savitri is revealed in those lines where Death blesses Savitri to be his instrument’! We need not be surprised anymore. There are many such statements that the author puts in context and corrects our ignorant understanding of Sri Aurobindo and His words.  See how badly we have also understood the famous phrase ‘All Life is Yoga’. We thought it means that everything is consciously or unconsciously seeking, longing for, moving towards the Divine. But wait we were mistaken. Now we have learnt, thanks to the remarkable gospel of PH, that it means everything you do, with whatever state or attitude, including drinking, smoking, because all is part of yoga. That is how Sri Aurobindo Himself practised it since He was so inspired by the Latin maxim that means very much the same thing. And we have so far been mistakenly thinking that this phrase was Sri Aurobindo’s unique contribution to the Yogic thought. We stupid self-defeating, emotional unintelligent Indians!

Oh come on, what do you mean by Sri Aurobindo’s original thought, you Indians who have read nothing and who know nothing about history? All your writings on heroes and saints from the Bhagavata and Mahabharata to the modern biographies are nothing but hagiography. You worship your heroes, take great pride in them, even feel inspired by their lives to role model yourself. But that is not the way to understand the lives of these human beings. You think ignorantly that they were some great beings, vibhutis and Avataras as they say. In reality ‘if you look below the skin there is not much difference between one human radish and another’ even if it be the life of an Avatar. In fact some of them were simply madmen whose ‘hallucinations have no relevance to anyone except themselves’. Others such as those who felt that they were playing a role in world events such as the World War and changing its course by their silent will may well be ‘megalomaniac’.  And you foolish Indians ignorant about modern Science regard such impossible things to be true believing in occult elements when the only reality is matter and genes and molecules. Our new priest PH will tell us that all these stories about Sri Aurobindo’s role in Second World War are merely disciple’s fancy, that there is nothing occult about His accident and, His foresight about Cripps mission and India’s Independence are claims to be taken with a lump full of salt. Even the story of adesha, the voice of Swami Vivekananda and the Vision of Sri Krishna in the jail have to put in context of outer events and certain psychological processes rather than blindly believed as high spiritual experiences and realisations. There is much fashionable talk about Avatarahood among the faithful devotees and as Peter tells us ‘matters of faith easily become dogmas’. In any case he cautions us not to make much of the avatar issue of Sri Aurobindo since He ‘himself never said anything about it and none alive is in a position to confirm the same.’ What if there are statements from the Mother that are direct and clear! Can we trust Her Words? We have to ask Peter about it?  

Oh yes and coming to originality of ideas, Sri Aurobindo borrowed the ideas of Western thinkers and expanded them into the Life Divine and the Human Cycle. In poetry He ‘could do nothing better than imitate’ some already outdated Western models though ironically and mistakenly He called it Future poetry. But that is excusable since He did not know what is coming in the Future just as He ‘did not anticipate the advances in molecular biology and used metaphors such as the Idea of the tree is in the seed’ that we foolish Indians interpret as some great fundamental truth. There is no idea out there, only genes. Even His mysticism stemmed from an aberrant gene that instead of expressing itself as madness took another course of turning Him into a genius who wrote a shelf full of books, through simple genetic arithmetic. We should be grateful to PH that he acknowledges Sri Aurobindo as a genius even if none of His books are worth reading, since ‘Synthesis does not deliver what it promised’, ‘Vedas are an uncertain’ guess according to the author Himself and ‘Savitri is anyway a fictional creation’ with no relevance to His present life. All these writings are but creation of a genetic switch and not any intuitive vision of truth that is mostly a hallucination or the creative onrush of imagination in a person with a streak of bipolar disorder. Yes, Mr PH we are listening and we better listen since you are the new authority on Sri Aurobindo with forty years of work at the nerve center of the Ashram Archives. And all those disciples who went around laboring and sweating under the heat and cold taking the light of understanding on Sri Aurobindo to far off remote places in India were simply driven by ambition and jealousy. But our archivist, the author of books with an international market is neither driven by ambition nor by any other inferior motive. His sole purpose is to bring Sri Aurobindo to the academia and to awaken the western audience from their ignorance about Sri Aurobindo. They have the right to know how the Indian mind converts a human being into a Godman just by power of ignorant faith. This will be a case study for the academia supplied with all the spicy details for the Freudian palate, served piping hot right from the oven of the Ashram Archives! Who can doubt its authenticity or question its heavenly taste? If some people do not like it, they must be faulted for lack of knowledge in English and Psychology and Science and Philosophy and Poetry and, what is more, of Spirituality, in all of which the author is the new authority. After all he has worked in the archives for forty years, pored through files and obscure newspaper reports to look for any evidence, however slightest that may reveal the Master’s sex-life. Quite a courageous work we must admit and one that an Indian will never undertake for his life perhaps. W are indeed rewarded and indebted for his hard work at discovering and unearthing these things and laying them raw and bare before the world-audience so that the academia can study and analyse the data and derive conclusions such as how spirituality is the distorted expression / subtle expression of ‘blocked sexuality’ and the search for a New world an escape from a traumatic childhood that one experiences under a cruel mother and an indifferent father.    

Oh, I beg your pardon, he is the founder and director; not just any worker. So what if we do not have any such designation within the Ashram for anyone else. It is mere weak-kneed superstition to say that the Mother founded all the departments. The hard objective truth is something else; nay it is something that sells. But objective, - wait a minute. I do not see any mention of Peter Heehs or Heehs, Peter in the article on Archives history that came out in the Ashram’s authentic official newsletter from Sabda in May 2009. The 7 page article by another Ashram Archivist of old traces the history of Archives right from the early seventies. There is not even a remote mention of any Peter in this article. Whatever his other works may be but certainly he had no role in the main work of the archives which is preserving Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s writings. The other roles that the Archives assumed over the years such as publishing books, editing Their writings, doing research on Sri Aurobindo’s writings and even on His life were perhaps never in the original plan or reason for the existence of the closely guarded place. But instead of focusing on this main work reams of paper were wasted by Peter and Co. to analyse Sri Aurobindo’s adesh, His personal records (now published as Record of Yoga) whose publication was again motivated by vested interests of a certain section of overseas partners of Peter and Co. (read Michel Murphy’s own statements regarding his visit to the Ashram after a long gap of forty years). Eventually the journal had to be stopped when certain senior and learned members of the Ashram protested against this kind of activity which can never be consistent with one’s position as an inmate. 

But all this has no relevance since the whole world can be wrong but not our most learned, most educated, multi expert Peter. What does it matter whether he drove taxis in New York or was a school drop-out? All that does not matter since seeing his opinions flying around through the pages of the biography one wonders if he is not an omnibus expert on fields as diverse as Indian Culture, politics, history, science, poetry, philosophy, linguistics and of course psychology. And not just any ordinary expert but one who can correct Sri Aurobindo’s (a Cambridge graduate by the way) English. And yes Peter is himself a poet and we all know what a wonderful poem he wrote on devotion where he is realistic in admitting that his devotion is a mask for seeking after sex and sensation and his stay at Pondicherry a means for rest and relaxation. Naturally those who are after him to drive him out of the sacred land of India are doing a crime since it is India’s great culture to extend hospitability and provide space for rest and relaxation to all and sundry, even if the person comes to loot and plunder and spit at us. If he can correct Sri Aurobindo’s English, pass adverse comments on His poetry, judge His prose, make changes in Savitri, analyse the Record, decide whether Sri Aurobindo was a madman or just another genius (hard to say which one is more flattering) then who can raise a finger at his authenticity and truthfulness? After all it needs courage to point a finger at your own Master and crucify Him in His own house. 

But in times as these it is hard to say what is authentic and what is not. Though briefly, we can state without any exaggeration that whatever comes out of Peter’s pen has the stamp of authenticity over it, and even the Ashram Trust will dare not say that it is not authentic, so what to speak of lesser mortals like us. It is Mr Guha and Romila Thapar who will decide what is authentic and what is not, so what if they have not read a word on Sri Aurobindo, perhaps not even PH’s book. For example how mistaken we were in thinking that sadhama meant opening and surrender, aspiration and rejection, love and devotion all directed towards the Mother. The real sadhana is given in the cryptic pages of ‘Record of Yoga’ and we must thank Peter and his colleagues to decipher these cryptic pages for us. Could we have otherwise even imagined that in an inverted meaning of the Tantras, sadhana includes experiencing ‘spontaneous coital bliss’! We do not understand it because we Indians have hardly read Freud who alone can explain these sublime things to us, that spiritual experience is simply a sublimated form of sexual union taking place in those who have ‘blocked their sexual urge’. It is this that expresses through poetry, romanticism, and at its highest spirituality. But at its roots it is ‘sexuality’. Did the Indian know this? No, so we have the master writer telling us and we better listen. In fact we should teach all this to SAICE students some of whom are already so enamoured of his genius that they would prefer medals of being ‘secular and liberal’ from our western friends than being labeled as a conservative emotional Indian. The Record nowhere says that we should open to the Mother or remember Her at all times. All that is mere emotionalism. 

Yes, we sentimental Indians are simply fools who need to be educated by the likes of Peter who must flourish in this land of Bharatvarsha, otherwise it cannot be redeemed. We are stupid fundamentalists who confuse yoga to be equivalent to rubbing our foreheads on a slab of marble stone and eating some tulsi leaves kept in a dish. All that is mere religion and must go. Peter will tell us that Darshan is mere theatricality encouraged wrongly by the Mother so that he could thrive on the devotion of poor devotees. Sri Aurobindo was mistaken in criticisng William Archer. He was simply venting His frustration and speaking from His biased standpoint. One must not teach the Foundations of Indian Culture any more in our Ashram School since Peter thinks it is a biased work, partisan in view. We must not be surprised since after all it is this partisan approach of Sri Aurobindo that was one of the reasons for the partition of India and the bloodbath that followed. Sri Aurobindo simply did not give enough attention to the Muslims and their problems. 

Well, surprise after surprise is there for us as we turn the pages of the marvelous book which I am sure would soon be prescribed in JNU as an authentic piece of History and soon thereafter in the Ashram School. Thus will the authentic yoga will be given to man and we will come out of our devotional ignorance that stupidly believes a slab of stone with a human body beneath it to be the samadhi of Incarnate God and sees in the Service tree a symbol of Sesh Saiyya (The divine abode of Lord Vishnu sleeping on the great Serpent Vasuki who represents the unfolding World-energy). All this is mere imagination not objective facts; not authenticated scientific history but hagiography. And yes among the many paths to God we have added now a new one, the path of intellectual analysis of outer ‘facts’ (as reported by the senses and splashed in some obscure newspapers). Very soon we will redefine the Ashram as an institute of Scientific Research. Has not Sri Aurobindo Himself said that the place called the Ashram is a laboratory? Yoga is no more a search of man’s soul for the Divine hidden beyond the grasp of our senses and the mind but a research through the dusty files and pages of history using the Freudian model for analysis of man’s nature. Freedom of Speech is the new dharma now, more sacred than obedience to the Divine. Subservience to a few providentially privileged men placed in powerful positions is more important than subservience to God. And yes, Love and Truth are of no value before freedom of expression, even if what you express is a bundle of lies neatly packaged in sophisticated words that capture your mind to conjure reality. 

No wonder God runs away every time He comes upon earth for a while; He comes to divinize man, but man is too busy to humanize Him. We have done it successfully this time as well. We have won the victory against God by proving Him to be yet another mortal human being. Sri Aurobindo the Avatar, the embodied Divine is now, in His own Ashram, a piece of objective history, a complex human phenomenon that we must study as we study a curious object under a microscope. The Supramental an unbelievable myth that none, including the Master who wrote about it and based everything on That, ever achieved. The sad part is that this time it is His own disciples who have done it, ‘problematized and humanized’ Him rather than using His human body as a door and a pedestal to divinize our humanity! He had no doubt foreseen His murder in cold print by His own disciples (as He said once), recaptured with marvelous irony in one of His somber moods!

The Death of a God

Arise, tread out the fire,
Scatter the ashes of a god through the stars!
Forget to hope and aspire.
He is dead and his greatness that cumbered the world has
                   vanished like a golden shadow from the ages.
The whip of glory, the splendid burden behind us are cast,
Earth is free from fire and stress, left to the joy of her
                    smallness, rid of his mighty spirit at last.
All that is false and wry and little are freed to follow their
                                                        nature once more.
Close time’s brilliant pages!
Give back to man’s life the old tables, its dull ease, its bowed
                                                                greyness restore.

(CWSA, Collected Poems, Vol. 2, p 666)


  1. ah Alok join the club. Western men have been denying women's reality and sense of humanity for thousands of years, and when we rebel they isolate us in their asylums for the mad, of course nowadays these are mainly chemical prisons I don't agree with PH and his western cohorts, because I believe in my own spiritual experience, (which I find is condescendingly disparaged as New Age, by many of the men in the western IY community) and Peter Heehs can say it is mad, or not valid, as much as he likes, I no longer believe him, I am no longer intimidated by him and his ilk, there is an old saying from the feminist movement, I would rather die fighting than spend the rest of my life on my knees.
    I have been guided, since I began my spiritual journey over 20 years ago, to only rely on the works of Sri Aurobindo and Mother, and this has protected me, from the alien voices, that try to tell me their way is better. In the short term of course Heehs and co will triumph, but to what end, one wonders to what end?

  2. Well written sir..

    But I am not sure if all that PH said,wrote,implied or misrepresented is worth honoring even with one comment. I am sure Sri Aurobindo wouldn't have ! Or may be he would have given a one liner of the likes of "Thoughts & Aphorisms".

    How about letting PH and those who misconstrue dwell in their "bottomless aggressive ignorance" ? :)


    1. Sir,

      I understand your sense of detachment vis a vis the misrepresentations of PH and "those who dwell in their bottomless aggressive ignorance", but one certainly needs to express in the present state of the world, otherwise one's silence is taken as agreement with the falsehood that has spread so widely in the public domain.

    2. You are right sir.. I fully agree with you.

      Best Wishes,

  3. Comment by Lorin Fine and Christine Fell (cfell@exeter.edu):

    KRISHNA IN GOLD (A vision of Sujata’s on the afternoon of May 15) (original English)

    A place similar to the Playground. A few people, here and there, are talking or going about. I am standing somewhere in the middle of the ground, in front of Mother’s door. From the main gate enters a vehicle – half-cart half-cab – drawn by two bullocks. It comes to a stop a few feet away from me. The driver makes the bullocks kneel down. Out steps a gentleman. The cart is driven away. The gentleman is dressed in white, Indian-fashion (dhoti, punjabi). He is round-faced and fair-skinned. Reminds me of a Zamindar [landlord] from the North. In fact he is the new Proprietor coming to take possession. The doors behind me are locked. He has the keys. But he is not supposed to open one particular room: the one I thought was Mother’s. But he goes straight there and unlocks that door. He enters. I too, as if I had the right to do so. We weave our way to the bottom of this room. I have a vague impression of a small window on the end wall. And in the left corner, is a richly decorated high throne. Seated in it is a Divinity. He is quite small in that huge throne (about two feet or so). He is made of solid gold. At his feet are signs and objects of worship. As we approach him, a sort of intense prayer or aspiration takes hold of me. We stand in front looking at him – my whole being is one intense prayer or invocation. The Divinity comes alive. He smiles slightly, then steps down.

    He barely reaches my breast and seems to me like a little boy of eight or ten. The three of us come out of the room. The scene has changed. Now it is a countryside. A vast, unlimited expanse stretches in front. A few plots are cultivated, but most of the land is untended. We walk. We walk on a narrow ridge by the side of a cultivated rice-field, which is to the right of us. It is green. I am nearest to it. The gentleman is the farthest. The Divinity is between us. He has a funny walk. He is so heavy (being made of solid gold) that he seems to lurch from side to side. I feel concerned and hold his arm to help him. I feel a tenderness also as for a child. Then I turn my face towards him to reassure him. But instead of me looking down it is he who looks down on me! I am really astonished to see how tall he has grown during this short walk of but a few steps! Now it is I who reach hardly his shoulder. He seems to have grown to a lad of 13 or 14. As I look up, he looks down at me and smiles. Ohh, what a smile! Utterly sweet and full of mischief. It contained a world: “You see, I am quite all right. Now you will see what fun we have!” We walk on. To our left, sitting cross-legged, head bent, is M. [a disciple very learned in Sanskrit texts]. As we advance, I think, “What a pity, we shall pass right in front of him, but he would not even know WHO passed by!” But as we near, he raises his head and sees. I feel glad for M. We walk on. Now the scenes change fast. We meet more and more people. Trees. Roads. Still more people. Wherever we go there is trouble, disturbance, confusion. As if the Godhead were sowing disruption everywhere. The Zamindar gets annoyed. He had brought out the Divinity to show people what a fine fellow he was! Everybody should have great respect for him, obey him, for is he not the Proprietor? But the God had just the opposite effect! He should no longer be abroad. He must be put back where he belonged, and relocked. So we return to the sanctuary. This time I remain outside. The Zamindar takes the God inside. And tries to shut the door. But the Godhead will not be shut in. I can see the gold God growing, growing. The ceiling falls in. The god’s head and chest go through the ceiling. He rips off the walls and throws bricks everywhere. The Zamindar has disappeared under the debris. The gold God grows. Taller and mightier. And will brook no resistance. With His mighty hands, He pulls down the walls of His old sanctuary.

    When I woke up, I called Him “Krishna in gold.”

  4. Dear Sir,
    I agree with your sentiments about PH. Based on the excerpts that I have read I consider this book to be unbalanced and distorted which reduces Divinity to a low human level without exploring more balanced and sincere approaches. Definitely one would not expect such a book from a person who lived at the Ashram for such a long time.

    However, I do not believe that his book will have a material impact on anyone who has a genuine Spiritual spark or is destined to follow Integral Yoga through the writings of Sri Aurobindo or the Mother. My heart strongly feels that no sincere Sadhak or Seeker would be diverted or confused by the likes of PH if they have read Sri Aurobindo's and / or the Mother's works, which carry such an occult power.

    I am person without any close association with the Ashram members or management. I cannot understand why the Ashram would not publicly disown this book or question the dubious claims of PH about his role at the Archives department or his use of copyrighted material without prior permission.

    Some of you really stood up to the book, called out its distortions and made public the mischief and falsehood in PH's book. Great Seva!

    At the same time, I do not understand if you and others should have continued with this fight to the extent of causing serious damage to the Ashram - to the extent of possibly letting the Government (known for its scams and corruption) take control of the Ashram or dividing the Ashram members to an extent that the Service tree would be hurt.

    Devotees and disciples of Sri Aurobindo will hold both parties accountable for the current state of disharmony and in-fighting that has tarnished the image of the Ashram and led to the damage to the Service tree (a very symbolic event). My wife and I recently visited the Ashram and felt the strong Grace as always at the Samadhi and the meditation room and learnt of much of this issue only afterwards. If the Government interferes and puts its vibrations of corruption and falsehood into the Ashram it will be worse than what damage Ashram inmates could cause by their misguided logic.

    If there is anything a simple person like myself could do to help make this dark cloud over the Ashram go away I will be happy to do it. I pray to Mother that good sense prevails, the right thing is done by both parties and Truth prevails.

    Thank you for considering my views.