26 Jul 2013

Bireshwar Choudhury Replies to "World Union"

[Bireshwar Choudhury has replied to the comments of a netizen who calls himself “World Union” – may God bless the latter in this great endeavour! His comments were made in reference to the previous post on this site, “An Analysis of the Preface of Peter Heehs’s “The Lives of Sri Aurobindo, CUP, 2008 ― A Zombified Disciple”.]

Bireshwar Choudhury: I am facilitating the World Union by pointing out the differences of opinion between self-respecting Indians and spiritually insensitive Westerners like Peter Heehs. These Westerners assume that everybody thinks the way they do, and when Indians disagree with them, they immediately dismiss them as fundamentalists because they generally have no other answer.

World Union: Since this controversial book has come out and your site created, you've written long, extremely long posts trying to counter Peter's book. You are free to have your viewpoint just as anybody else. I'm sure you're free to write a book just like Peter did.

Bireshwar: I am also free not to write a book and continue this fight on the Internet if it pays more dividends. The Internet is much more accessible to us and others.

World Union: Instead of pouring out all your anger on your site, I suggest you write a whole book countering Peter's book and proving through it how great Sri Aurobindo actually is, for it seems you believe that the world needs to be proved how great Sri Aurobindo is.

Bireshwar: If you call what we write merely the expression of anger, then why don’t you stop reading it and complaining about it?

World Union: And it looks like the fervent disciples who follow this site are deeply affected by the book and their faith shaken. I don't want to judge anyone's faith but I’m not convinced that such ardent disciples’ faith can actually be affected by a book that they consider humbug. Is it really possible for one man, one book to shake their faith? If their faith is complete, I don't think it can be broken by something as trivial as a book they disapprove.

Bireshwar: Who said our faith is shaken? It is all the more reinforced by this controversy. But it is not because of shaken faith (even if it be admitted) that we write and argue in defence of Sri Aurobindo. It is for the sake of counteracting the distortions that Peter Heehs has spread on Sri Aurobindo’s life. If you keep quiet, these distortions will be deemed true by thousands of unwary readers. It is high time that intelligent Indians start talking back – by the way, this is very much in vogue now in the academic world, they call it the natives talk back. We are doing nothing new except giving a hell of a time to somebody who thought he will get away with all the nonsense he has written on the Master.

World Union: However, if a book can be so destructive, can be so life-changing, can rebuild their faith, then why don't you, along with your fellow friends write another book. Apparently, you have the material you’ll need, the fluency of good English, an understanding of Sri Aurobindo, and a publisher is definitely not too hard to find. I suggest again, write a book countering Peter's instead of limiting yourself only to this ironic site. Look at Sri Aurobindo, when W. Archer came out with his book, Sri Aurobindo wrote the whole Foundations of Indian Culture countering his book and bringing out the real value of our Indian culture. 

Bireshwar: Why are the posts critical of Peter Heehs bugging you so much? Is it because they are effective in creating public awareness regarding the book? Or is it causing damage to Peter Heehs’s reputation which you obviously seem to mind? The suggestion of writing a book seems to be a ploy to distract us into a time-taking exercise which will stop for the time being the negative publicity of Peter Heehs on the Net. But surely, one day or the other, we will certainly write a book. As a matter of fact, this site has already enough material for several books.

World Union: Do write a book, you well read disciples of Sri Aurobindo, and write it so well bringing out the real Sri Aurobindo [according to you] that it becomes much more popular than The Lives... and yours will steal the limelight and shun Peter's book. 

Bireshwar: In order to write positively on Sri Aurobindo, you need to first clear out all the misunderstandings and deliberate distortions that Peter Heehs has spread on Sri Aurobindo. Under the present circumstances, this exercise has to precede the positive portrayal of Sri Aurobindo. As it is, there are already half a dozen well-written biographies of Sri Aurobindo, so we need not repeat the same content. I recommend you to read George van Vrekhem’s biography of Sri Aurobindo called “Beyond Man”. His biography of the Mother is also excellent. Both the books have the right balance of intellect and devotion, and he does not make a big fuss about “We Westerners think in a different way than you Indians” like Peter Heehs and his Western supporters. The present problem has arisen not because of the differences between the East and the West but due to the clash of materialism with spirituality. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother came on the earth to bridge this gap, but the old world resists through perverse exponents of spirituality such as Jeffrey Kripal, Wendy Doniger, Paul Courtright, to name only a few. Peter Heehs is only a recent addition to this illustrious line of crackpots.


  1. World Union talks about Sri Aurobindo's response to Archer. Does he realize that Peter Heehs has tried to undercut Sri Aurobindo even over that response?!

  2. Apropos Bireshwar Choudhury's views on "World Union"- a netzien's comments, (not to be confused with the forum with that name which started functioning even when The Mother was in Her physical frame),the following need to be mentioned:

    The central theme is that Peter Heehs has attempted to project a distorted picture of Sri Aurobindo, his life and work- which needs to be condemned, which this site is doing.There is no need to write another book on Sri Aurobindo, just to join issue with Peter.
    World Union the present netzien and his ilk including Peter could perhaps read the other biographies, written by people who have had personal contact with Sri Aurobindo and The Mother to get the objective picture. Any biography needs to be objective and based on first hand knowledge, instead of being prejudiced and subjective,based merely on conjectures and surmises and imaginations, as attempted by the self styled historian from Newyork.

    The disciples and devotees of Sri Aurobindo have enough faith and committment to the Ideals and Yoga of Sri Aurobindo, which is why the shoddy work of PH is questioned.

    PH's diatribe does not appear to merit a book in reply, since people have already raised serious questions about his background , not being a historian, of not being the founder of the Ashram archives as he claimed, not being a sadhak, not having any hesitation in correcting the writings of Sri Aurobindo,( as i suspect- including the titles of his works)and of course painting a poor picture of the Master. Just a sordid sample is the version about the urinary organ and the ICS test.

    " World Union" could better read even some excerpts of the monumental folly christened as a book by PH and his publishers. As they say Doodh ka dhoodh aur pani ka pani patha chalega.