Jul 9, 2012

Misconceptions about the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust Deed – From the History Desk

The Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust Deed was signed on May 1, 1955. The circumstances which necessitated the formation of the Trust were very material, namely the transfer of French India (of which Pondicherry was the capital) to independent India on November 1, 1954. On this date, the transfer that took place was de facto, which means “existing in fact”. It took a few more years for the transfer to be de jure, that is, to be legalised and ratified by both the French and Indian parliaments. This second and final de jure transfer happened on August 16, 1962 – that is why Pondicherry celebrates August 15 & 16, one for the independence of India and the other for the merger of Pondicherry with India. The Ashram Trust was thus formed to safeguard the numerous Ashram properties which were in the name of the Mother, who remained a French citizen. The Mother had requested the Indian Govt to grant her dual citizenship, French and Indian, because she said she was French by birth and Indian by soul and spiritual choice. But the Indian Govt did not concede to her request.

Thus the Ashram Trust deed was not drafted keeping in mind the future of the Ashram. It was primarily meant to protect the properties of the Ashram in the changed political circumstances of Pondicherry, for the Ashram properties might have been even confiscated under the Indian law which had not yet come into force in 1955. The Trust Deed was thus hurriedly drafted and registered at Vanur, which comes under Tamilnadu (formerly Madras State which was part of independent India). The Ashram apparently had to show the ownership of some property in Indian territory in order to be able to register the Trust Deed, so it bought the Lake Estate for the said purpose. [extract]

 

 Misconceptions About

The Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust Deed


Of late there have been certain misconceptions floating about on the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust Deed. The prime misconception that is being earnestly disseminated by the Ashram Trustees is that it is a “sacred deed” with the Mother’s full sanction behind it forever and for all times. The Trustees are obviously spreading this idea in order to safeguard their positions of power by appealing to the religious sentiment of gullible Ashramites. What is funny is that at the same time they warn us against the evils of religion when it comes to protecting Peter Heehs and his defamatory book on Sri Aurobindo. When you point out this contradiction to their supporters, they angrily turn away their heads and say, “You don’t have faith in the Mother.” I have never been able to understand the full implications of this insinuating reply in the present context. Does it mean you should have faith in the Trustees (who are supposed to be representatives of the Mother) despite their human failings, and therefore should not be challenged come what may? Or does it mean that the invisible force of the Mother is working out the solution to the present crisis in her divine way, which could imply that both the parties (the Trustees as well as those who are against them) are playing useful roles in this conflict? I would rather subscribe to the second than to the first explanation, for who can claim to be infallibly guided by the Mother? Neither the Trustees nor the so-called “rebels”! So we are back to square one from where we can launch fresh attacks at the other man’s credibility. But let me continue with what I began with.

The Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust Deed was signed on May 1, 1955. The circumstances which necessitated the formation of the Trust were very material, namely the transfer of French India (of which Pondicherry was the capital) to independent India on November 1, 1954. On this date, the transfer that took place was de facto, which means “existing in fact”. It took a few more years for the transfer to be de jure, that is, to be legalised and ratified by both the French and Indian parliaments. This second and final de jure transfer happened on August 16, 1962 – that is why Pondicherry celebrates August 15 & 16, one for the independence of India and the other for the merger of Pondicherry with India. The Ashram Trust was thus formed to safeguard the numerous Ashram properties which were in the name of the Mother, who remained a French citizen. The Mother had requested the Indian Govt to grant her dual citizenship, French and Indian, because she said she was French by birth and Indian by soul and spiritual choice. But the Indian Govt did not concede to her request.

Thus the Ashram Trust deed was not drafted keeping in mind the future of the Ashram. It was primarily meant to protect the properties of the Ashram in the changed political circumstances of Pondicherry, for the Ashram properties might have been even confiscated under the Indian law which had not yet come into force in 1955. The Trust Deed was thus hurriedly drafted and registered at Vanur, which comes under Tamilnadu (formerly Madras State which was part of independent India). The Ashram apparently had to show the ownership of some property in Indian territory in order to be able to register the Trust Deed, so it bought the Lake Estate for the said purpose.

This is the reason why there are no bye-laws in it, no elaborate framework of rules except the most basic rules for sadhana, and no contingency plans for the future. There was no need for them at that point of time, because the Mother was very active and visited the Playground every day to oversee the physical education of the children. The Trust Deed was thus written keeping the Mother in the centre with absolute powers over the disciples and properties of the Ashram, and it does not anticipate the state of affairs in the Ashram in the case of the Mother’s withdrawal of her physical presence. I quote below Clause 9 of the Trust Deed:

The Mother shall appoint such number of Trustees as She may, in Her absolute discretion, think fit and proper and shall, if She thinks proper, vest the trust properties or any of them in the new Trustees or Trustee.  If and whenever the number of trustees shall be reduced below the number of Five, The Mother, in Her absolute discretion, shall appoint any other person or persons as Trustees with a view to make up the total number of Trustees to Five, and in case of Her retirement, for any reason whatsoever, the continuing Trustees shall appoint such number of new Trustees as shall be required to make up the total number of Trustees to Five.

Note the phrase “in case of Her retirement”, which does not mean “in case of Her demise” or death or passing away. This contingency clause therefore refers only to the possibility of Her retirement and not demise! But one would wonder why? Because most of the disciples believed (and rightly so) that she would transform herself and live forever in her supramentalised body. The thirteen volumes of the Mother’s Agenda stand testimony to this stupendous effort of the Mother to supramentalise her body, an attempt in which she seems to have almost succeeded. So when she passed away without appointing any spritual successor, the Trustees carried on their mundane duties with regard to the administration of the Ashram properties to which they were legitimately entitled. The administration of the sadhaks befell on them indirectly because of the sudden void created by the Mother’s absence and not because they were given their charge. I quote below Clause 7 of the Trust Deed:

The Mother shall also, in Her absolute discretion, be entitled to allow any person or persons to stay in the Ashram as a permanent inmate thereof or otherwise, and/or withdraw Her permission from any person or persons, already resident in the Ashram, to continue their further stay therein, in any capacity whatsoever, and Her decision in this respect shall be final.

Why did the Mother reserve for herself the power to induct and expel inmates of Sri Aurobindo Ashram? If she had faith in the Trustees, why did she not grant them also the same power? Why did she give them only powers to preside over the properties of the Ashram but not its inmates? The answer is very simple: Because she did not think anybody spiritually fit to replace her in this matter!

Do you need to have spiritual knowledge to administer the Ashram? Of course! In the integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother which believes in translating spirituality into material terms and living a divine life on earth, spiritual administration necessarily entails material dispensation and control. It is from the spiritual point of view that one has to consider material things, and not the reverse. For example, the Mother kept in her mind the spiritual progress of the inmates when she took her practical decisions with regard to money and other assets of the Ashram, and very often her decisions seemed unfair from an ordinary point of view. Not that all practical matters need great spiritual maturity, but the spiritual consideration of material things is inevitable in an Ashram of this kind.

So the Trust Deed had outlived its purpose the moment the Mother withdrew her physical presence in November 1973. The first Trustees chosen by the Mother filled this gap for some time by their spiritual maturity. But as time passed by and, especially now, this vacuum is acutely felt by all the Ashramites, including the Trustees themselves. Ask any disciple of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother as to whether the Trustees can replace the Mother, and it will be a resounding “No”. (The Trustees themselves will fight shy of claiming themselves to be the spiritual successors to the Mother.) What can however come to their rescue and has recently been tom-tommed to the point of frenzy is the false assumption that they are the best representatives of the Mother in the given circumstances. But this a lame justification to support the heads of a crumbling institution than a real solution to the problem, an artifical  life-supporting device meant to sustain for a short while a dying patient. The moral and physical collapse of the Ashram is imminent unless there is a collective reawakening and rejuvenation, and this is possible only if we act together with sufficient goodwill and bonhomie, without being hampered by our grating egos. It is never too late for the authorities to reach out for a collective consensus instead of carrying on a thankless battle with those who legitimately desire for a change in the existing setup.

I conclude with a quotation from the Mother’s Collected Works to show how her general attitude towards official documents the Trust Deed will certainly fall in this category:

Here, at the Ashram, our aim is to express a higher Truth, not to follow the ordinary human conventionalities. I do not give to these official documents any undue importance. They are mere necessities in the present condition of the world, but do not correspond to any deep reality. In the actualities of life, the power of a man does not depend on an official title, but on the force and the light of his inner consciousness. [emphasis added]

(Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 13:161)


From the History Desk




3 comments:

  1. Thanks for this lucid and plainspoken post. Such a note of clarification was overdue but now things can be seen with a better perspective. The post says:

    >>It is never too late for the authorities to reach out for a collective consensus instead of carrying on a thankless battle with those who legitimately desire for a change in the existing setup>>

    I think the post has been too polite to call the whole business “a thankless battle”; it is worse than that. It was, has been, and perhaps for quite some time will be so unless good sense prevails in the powers that be. There has been too much of waste of time and consciousness, and the reckless squandering of the Mother’s precious money. This must be stopped.

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  2. This article made ​​me realize what the situation is with the ashram

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  3. It seems that some people that do not have a high level of consciousness try to teach integral yoga because they have title of Trustee of the ashram, We are lucky to have left Sri Aurobindo's books for understanding what yoga means

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