9 May 2012

The Trust's Declaration and its Falsehood ─ Ranganath Raghavan

The Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust has put out a declaration in public which includes this passage:

The considered view of Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust is that it does not project itself in the role of dictating to readers and followers of Sri Aurobindo, as to what they should read and what they should not read. Each person is at complete liberty to decide for himself whether he finds any book to be meaningful and useful, or whether he does not find it to be so, and Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust respects and has full faith in the intellectual and  spiritual discernment of the readers. No one should or needs to force his personal opinions on any other reader in general, and more particularly on the followers of Sri Aurobindo.

The intention is obviously to convey to the public at large how large-hearted and how catholic is their view, how open and wide-minded, how impartial, how devoid of parti-pris they are. They are literally advertising their “tolerance”. They want people to know how freely they let Ashramites exercise their freedom of speech, and how non-interfering their stand is.

Let us examine this statement in detail and see how it holds up to the intended and purported claim

The first point that should strike any casual reader is that this is NOT the issue at all. The declaration has been issued in the context of the controversial and deplorable book entitled “The Lives of Sri Aurobindo”. Those who oppose the book and its execrable contents are saying that no Ashramite should write a book that denigrates the Guru. That is all. They do not even say that no one else has the right to do so. Their objection is to a member of the Ashram  doing it. Their objection is even more relevant in the case of Peter Heehs because he himself admitted in the course of a talk in the US many years ago that no Ashramite can write “an objective” (read derogatory) biography of Sri Aurobindo, that it would not be consistent with his being an Ashramite! There exists an audio tape of this talk which proves this.

There is another individual, Richard Hartz, who thinks that the issue is whether someone can write a book  for a  western academic audience only. Again, there is a confusion here and an obfuscation of the only real issue in question. Of course, one can write anything for any specific audience. When I write a letter, it is to a specific person, and I send that letter only to that person and nobody else. I may write an explanatory note for a group of philosophy students and I distribute that article only to that group and not to a group of science students. I once printed a book for a customer from USA which she distributed to a specific group of 100 people and nobody else. Similarly another client from Switzerland printed a book for only her friends. So I can certainly print a book only for academics in a specific part of the world.  But in that case, the author distributes that book only to those for whom it is written.  One does not write a book for a western audience only and then release it all over the world.  The only issue, we repeat, is whether an Ashramite living and enjoying all the hospitality and conveniences of the Ashram can write derogatory things about the Guru.

Let us also make it very very clear that the charge that those who criticize the book have no reading skills and are misinterpreting the contents of a “wonderful” book, has no basis at all.  This is absolute nonsense. The main contenders in the opposition to the book have read the book and understood  the intention of the author, which is to show that Sri Aurobindo was an ordinary man, perhaps with some special capacities, and was maybe even a genius but certainly not an avatar, as some deluded fools make him out to be. So Peter Heehs, the great Historian and assessor of spiritual things and events in an objective and correct manner proceeds to put things in a balanced, sober and measured view!!!  Besides most of them know Peter personally over the years and they know his thoughts and his views.  In fact, his views and statements now claiming to be a “practitioner of the Integral Yoga” is a complete lie. He is now saying this only for the sake of convenience and expediency.

Secondly, let us see whether this claim in the declaration is correct or is only a convenient ploy which is hypocritical and not the truth at all. Let us mention several cases where the Ashram Trust management had done exactly the opposite of what they claim in this declaration.

1.  When the Agenda was published years ago in the 1970’s, the Ashram management clearly dissociated itself from it. The Agenda was full of marvelous revelations by the Mother but was completely distorted and spoiled by the editor with his irrelevant comments and condemnations. Ashramites were advised to abstain from reading it.

2.  When a book by Patricia Norelli Bachelet was being printed at the Ashram Press, it was discovered by the proof-readers that the book contained material not acceptable to the Ashram. The book was rejected half way through the printing stage.

It may be argued by the present management that those decisions were taken by the erstwhile trustees and that they had nothing to do with it.

3. But what about the last case in which the present trustees actually rejected an article entitled “Guru Droha” in an official Ashram Oriya magazine.

4. Or again what about the case in which Makarand Paranjpe, a compiler of Sri Aurobindo’s writings, was denied permission for a second edition because he had made derogatory remarks regarding Mother and Sri Aurobindo in his Preface? Why did not the Trust say at that time that they depend on the discrimination of the reading public?

Clearly this declaration is hypocritical in nature and does not even measure up to an honest statement. It is false in facts, it is false and perverse in its intention. In fact, it is not even true in the purported claim of neutrality, because they are supporting the author Peter Heehs in every way they can. They even intend to make him a member of the Physical Education Department from where he was expelled and they intend to bring him back into the Archives, so that he may continue his perverse and mischievous activities.

This attitude of the Trustees is simply not comprehensible to the Ashramites and the Devotees all over India and the world.

It is high time that all this falsehood and perversity and pretence came to an end, if necessary and at the worst, by the intervention of the government. Even now, it is not too late to start an internal dialogue to solve the problems within the community, without the intervention of outside elements. 

Ranganath  Raghavan

[Former Manager of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Press]

1 comment:

  1. The case of Abala Mohanty could be added to this list, as another example. This same Managing Trustee could not exhibit adequate measure of 'tolerance' and 'neutrality' when that old sadhika was trying to show reason to him, regarding the real intent of Peter Heehs. Out of his anger as befits a autocratic boss, he pushed her to some corner with some other assignment, to save his face. Does this not expose his weak character?