8 Mar 2013

Customer Review of the "Lives of Sri Aurobindo" by Peter Heehs in Amazon.com – by Mark R.

Kinda boring and tedious - more anthropological than biographical, June 14, 2011
This was a difficult book to get through, by any means, even though I am generally intrigued with the topic itself. Readers should know going into this book isn't much uplifting at all, it is more about the minutiae of Sri Aurobindo's life (and the accuracy of that minutiae seems to be in question by many, including the Sri Aurobindo Ashram itself).

What struck me was that the writings of Sri Aurobindo are fascinating and quite inspiring; however this book is so heavy on details and lacking in spirit that it seemed as if I was reading about another person, almost a facsimile. I shrugged it off, since the book seemed like more of an anthropological study of a man, digging up all kinds of trivial details about his life. However once I finished the book, I felt like I had 'read about his clothes, but not the man himself.' 

While I am not in a position to research the details of the original source documents to ascertain if the author's account is accurate, there is an over-arching tone in his writing that reveals that the author seems to be more concerned about revealing as many "facts" as possible, without really appreciating them.  It is a very dry study, almost stripped of all life and inspiration.

Perhaps it is part of the common trend nowadays, to "humanize" people of inspiration and accomplishment, by focusing more on the trivial than the meaningful -- and what is meaningful is reduced to bland analysis. It is almost as if there is an effort to take Sri Aurobindo down a notch, or knock him off his pedestal. I wish I had known that before struggling though so many tedious pages.

If you are looking for a book that highlights and appreciates Sri Aurobindo's various achievements, this is not the book for you. If you want more of a dry, anthropological study, you're in luck -- there are endless pages to read.


  1. It would be worth the while to see also other reviews( at Amazon's) which calls the true colours of the non authentic commercial book :

    13 of 28 people found the following review helpful
    1.0 out of 5 stars Book with a bias, December 18, 2008
    A Reader (Boston, MA USA) - See all my reviews
    This review is from: The Lives of Sri Aurobindo (Hardcover)
    To cut a long story short, imho, to truly get a glimpse of Sri Aurobindo and his life and philosophy, one would be wise to spend his/her money on Satprem's classic - Sri Aurobindo Or Adventure in Consciousness. This book seems to be biased, despite its claims to objectivity.

    A book about a personality as great as Sri Aurobindo cannot claim objectivity if it gives as much importance to questionable remarks by some peripheral personalities as that of considered, sincere comments by long time associates and eminent persons that really had a chance to know about Sri Aurobindo.

    This book can be anything, but definitely it is not objective. Misleading might be a more appropriate word to describe this book.

    There are numerous other quality books on Sri Aurobindo for people to spend their hard earned money.

    Yet another comment:

    15 of 35 people found the following review helpful
    1.0 out of 5 stars This book is equivalent of "Mother India" by Katherine Mayo, November 6, 2008
    A reader from PA "Book Worm" (Calcutta) - See all my reviews
    This review is from: The Lives of Sri Aurobindo (Hardcover)
    This book is equivalent of "Mother India" by Katherine Mayo- a deliberate attempt thro' highly questionable intellect of a mortal to denigrate one of the tallest Indian Nationalist and exponent of Hinduism of modern times. No wonder, this book is about to be banned in India. In the name of free speech sacred is being invaded by vested interest- extremely shameful.

    1. As i was perusing the views of different people, someone has painstakingly listed out the inaccuracies in mr.Peter's writeup. these are at the site:

      My Question is:
      While the inmates of the Ashram are silent on disparaging comments on Sri Aurobindo and The Mother,possibly owing to Dining room compulsions, should they not wake up and protest about the disparaging 'conduct and character certificate' given to Ashram inmates, which would include all, including the Trustees, ()as mentioned in the blog, excerpted from the book: which is given below:

      Lives of Sri Aurobindo – Errors
      Just another WordPress.com site

      Disciples used to plagiarize – page 394 →

      Defaming the Ashram community – page 373

      Posted on April 3, 2012by anahata

      On page 373, he defames the members of the Ashram where he has lived for the past 40 years.

      'Such experiences were comparatively infrequent even for those who were advanced enough to have them. As a rule, people spent most of their time in what Sri Aurobindo called the lower consciousness, caught up in the play of ordinary thought and emotion. They did their work, but sometimes argued with their colleagues. They met their neighbors, and sometimes slandered them behind their backs. At home they read Sri Aurobindo’s works, or indulged in sexual daydreams. They attended pranam, and sometimes were consumed by jealousy because the Mother smiled more warmly at another. Then, while walking on the pier or sitting at home or dusting books in the library, they might again be lifted above the mind and perceive the one soul in all, or plunge into their heart and feel the fire of the psychic being.

      (lives, page 373)

      First, no references are provided in this passage. Where in the primary sources is it said that they slandered each other behind their backs ?

      The remark, “At home they read Sri Aurobindo’s works, or indulged in sexual daydreams” makes it seem as if engaging in sexual daydreams was part of their daily routine.

      The author displays total lack of understanding of the manner in which the psyche develops through Yoga. The outer nature is initially untamed but gradually comes under control of the inner soul. That is what the passage should have disclosed."

      After reading the above passage, seen by me in the blog site,it was sickening to me- an outsider to the Ashram. But then ,What about the inmates?