12 Jul 2013

Sridharan Replies to Aurofilio of SAICE forum

Filio: I am pleased to see that at least there is some convergence between us and you and that you are also thinking of adopting my suggestion no. 1 of my email dated 9th July 2013, i.e. to make a separate post for our exchanges. However, this seems dependent on what you consider to be “worthwhile.” According to me the other points I had raised in my email were worthwhile – in fact much more worthwhile than all of the posts that appear on your website - and didn’t deserve to be censured, although I admit that these points would have cast a poor image of yourselves.

Sridharan: Great self-defence for showering all those filthy insults at us! Don’t you think on the contrary they cast a poor image of you to the general public?

Filio: But let me focus on areas where we converge and therefore discuss the issue of Sri Aurobindo vis-à-vis the Ashram Trust which I, like you, also consider to be worthwhile.

Sridharan: Then why don’t you discuss it?

Filio: Let me also ignore the fact that your question about Sri Aurobindo vis-à-vis the Ashram Trust didn’t answer my original question which was addressed to you to start with; i.e. if someone attacks Sraddhalu’s house for example by throwing stones on it, is that person not also attacking Sraddhalu in addition to attacking the house? I had asked you the question first, in order to draw a parallel between your attacks on the Ashram and the hypothetical attack on Sraddhalu’s house, and it was your turn to provide an answer, not ask another question in return!!! But by now I know quite well that you rarely answer questions, preferring to avoid them. Instead of providing a reply, you try to find escape routes by bouncing back other questions in return, a ploy we are all too familiar with, alas. Does your inability to answer questions reveal more than a hint of insecurity and inability to provide valid arguments? Let the readers decide.

Sridharan: Remember the original issue that you raised in the SAICE forum was the issue of Sri Aurobindo being separated from his Ashram, which I thought was a good point of debate.  I will still go back to it if you permit me, but as you insist upon the “original question” (as if the future of the Ashram entirely depended on it), I won’t evade the question. At least, this time, your email is thankfully free from vicious insults, which I reproduced last time in order to show the general reader the level of the discussion in the SAICE forum. Now you are perhaps for the first time aware that there are others reading your post in this wide world and not only your fan club composed of the SAICE alumni.

 Filio: My answer to Sridharan, Sraddhalu & Co’s specific question:

I, on the other hand, will not shy away and will be more than happy to provide an answer to what you say is your “first” question which is:

“If somebody were to attack Sri Aurobindo in his own Ashram, would it not amount to attacking the disciples of Sri Aurobindo? Why do you think the disciples are so aggrieved?”

 I don’t know if you can notice it, but these are two distinct questions in your “question.” I suggest that we deal with one question at a time in order to stay focused. I therefore understand that the “first” question is:

“If somebody were to attack Sri Aurobindo in his own Ashram, would it not amount to attacking the disciples of Sri Aurobindo?”

 My answer:

To begin with, your simplistic question has a few major, basic flaws.

Firstly it presupposes that you, me or any other disciple or devotee is in a position to determine, define and judge what consists of an attack on something as vast, complex, “superhuman” or beyond Man, as Sri Aurobindo and all that he represents. I do not think that if someone were throwing mud on the Himalayas, this would qualify as an “attack” on the Himalayas. Moreover, your perception of what Sri Aurobindo is and represents is likely to vary from another person’s perception of what Sri Aurobindo is and represents. For instance, someone who looks at the Himalayas merely as a picture-perfect postcard, a handful of mud could sully that image. For someone else who sees in the Himalayas the infinite, the great, the highest, the purest, etc., a handful of mud cast upon the Himalayas is only a substance that is recycled into the soil and that gets absorbed in the Himalaya's greatness.

Sridharan: We surely have the liberty to judge as to whether Peter Heehs’s book is an attack on Sri Aurobindo’s reputation. So also you have the liberty to criticise us if you think the book is exceedingly well-written. Each of us takes up a position and acts accordingly, and if we cannot agree with each other, we agree to differ. If our action clashes with yours, then we go to a higher authority such as the Govt of Puducherry, which is what we did with the Collector.

Secondly, this oft- repeated Himalaya argument (in which Sri Aurobindo is equated to the Himalaya which cannot be tarnished with a little mud thrown at it) has a basic contradiction, as you have stated it. For it implies that mud has indeed  been thrown at Sri Aurobindo, in which case you are accepting that Peter’s book can be likened to psychological mud!

Thirdly, do you think Sri Aurobindo’s image as a spiritual leader is not tarnished in the public when someone throws mud at him? When Jeffrey Kripal (Peter Heehs’s mentor who wrote the blurb for the Lives of Sri Aurobindo) wrote that Ramakrishna Paramhansa was a paedophile, school librarians in America threw away Ramakrishna and Vivekananda’s complete works because they did not want the students to read about them. Would you like this to happen in the case of Sri Aurobindo? As it is, in the West, spirituality has just made a beginning. If such wrong propaganda is done about our spiritual masters, this movement will be nipped in the bud. I can understand that we have no business to try to change the world, but when the matter is within our purview (as in this particular case it is within the purview of the Ashram Trust), we certainly can do something to avert large scale misunderstanding of our spiritual values and spiritual masters.

Finally, this argument of Himalayas has an undercurrent of perversity. It implies that you would like Sri Aurobindo to be tarnished and will not do anything to stop it. This reminds me of a story about Manoj Das Gupta as recounted by Prof Kamal Das. It seems a crow was shitting on the Mother’s symbol in the Playground. The caretaker wanted to clean it up, but MDG (when he was a young man) prevented him from doing it with the same kind of argument: “If Mother wants to keep the symbol clean, she will see to it that the symbol remains clean. But we should not clean it.” This means that he wanted to leave it dirty with the excuse of a divine intervention! For me, it is common sense to clean the dirt, even if it be a speck.

I can understand your environmental inclinations about recycling the mud, but that simile somehow does not fit in this context, because this mud gets circulated in the minds of people and not merely goes back to earth.

Filio: Secondly it also presupposes that Sri Aurobindo is vulnerable to attacks. This supposition means that Sri Aurobindo’s disciples cannot have faith in Sri Aurobindo to save them from attacks from inside or even outside his Ashram. If Sri Aurobindo’s disciples cannot have faith in his protection, I don’t think that they can call themselves his real disciples; but I would say that they may if they so wish, consider themselves to be apprentice, faithless disciples. I am convinced that Sri Aurobindo’s true disciples are those who have complete faith in Sri Aurobindo protection and will therefore never get attacked as they have the Divine’s protection with them, come what may. By the way, this is also what Sri Aurobindo has taught his disciples, repeatedly. So if you think that you are disciple of a Sri Aurobindo who is vulnerable to attacks, please reconsider your position as his faithless disciple.

To answer your simplistic question then, I don’t believe that Sri Aurobindo can be attacked. Attempts to attack Sri Aurobindo may be made, but they will always fail. All disciples that have full faith in Sri Aurobindo will always be safe.

 But if you think that Sri Aurobindo is fallible and vulnerable to attacks, please say so now.

Sridharan: Your theory about “faithless disciples” is highly amusing! It means that only those who do not act have faith, and those who do are faithless, because they depend on themselves. So why do you act at all, why write at all? Why this discussion? You should have kept quiet at our verbal attacks, why did you fulminate, insult, and then pretentiously veer round to some form of debate? Moreover, I do not want to remind you that action is part of Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga, though I do not claim to be inspired by the Supermind. In fact, one of the problems of Ashram life is that the Ashramites (especially its present administrators) have always spoken highfalutin philosophy while remaining untransformed in their outer life. They have used Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s words to merely hide their weaknesses. This is the true reason for the present collapse!

Filio: However much I may enjoy answering your simplistic question, I need to add that embarking upon a discussion that is based on perceptions and opinions that are entirely subjective will lead no one anywhere. The only purpose such discussions serve is to try to score brownie points, which doesn’t interest me for sure. If brownie points are what you are looking to earn, please help yourself, they are all yours.

Sridharan: What supreme conceit! All that you say applies to you also. Perceptions and opinions are always subjective, but it depends on how many people agree with you and how many don’t. Here the readers of our site (200-300 a day) will make up their minds according to what we say, and not merely a dozen vociferous members of the SAICE forum.

Filio: But as I am fully aware of the fact that you have the simplistic belief that Peter attacked Sri Aurobindo in his book “The Lives…” and therefore you also have the simplistic belief that his faithless disciples have been attacked by consequence, let us examine the validity of your entirely subjective beliefs and opinions.

Sridharan: The Gazette notification of the Orissa Govt proscribing Peter Heehs’s book in April 2009 was not simplistic at all! Even Peter Heehs will wince at your words, because he got the bad side of it apart from getting the lesson of his life! It is faithful disciples who feel attacked when their Master is attacked; faithless disciples are furious when their boss (MDG) is attacked!

Filio: For this purpose, let us focus on the facts, because facts help bring about clarity, which I also believe is the need of the hour (instead of perpetually airing heated opinions and misinformation, something that you are quite adept at). Anyone with some familiarity with the issues at hand will agree that your question is a purely hypothetical exercise, which has little relevance with the ground reality and which I doubt is worth pursuing.

To support my position and views, I am providing some unquestionable facts, that are there for all to see, and that establish that there is no basis for anyone to be jumping to conclusions that Peter attacked or denigrated Sri Aurobindo in his book “The Lives of Sri Aurobindo”:

Fact no. 1: In the Ashram or among the devotees and “beneficiaries”, there is not an unanimous, educated, informed, objective view, consensus, opinion or belief that Peter’s book denigrates or attacks Sri Aurobindo. What we have are a diverse range of views on Peter’s book.

Fact no. 2: There are several testimonials, made by real people (not by Peter faking to be someone else, while praising his book - a tactic that you guys have used abundantly to promote your opinions), who have read Peter’s book and who have found that it has revealed to them a much greater Sri Aurobindo than was earlier known to them. Others have found that Peter’s book has given them a better, more complete and higher understanding of Sri Aurobindo, his life and work. There is no disputing the fact that Peter’s book has generated a greater interest and understanding in Sri Aurobindo in some people.

 On the basis of both these two facts, nobody, including you, is in a position to draw the conclusion that Peter attacked or denigrated Sri Aurobindo. On that same account, there is no evidence to suggest that Peter attacked Sri Aurobindo’s faithless disciples.

Sridharan: The Managing Trustee Manoj Das Gupta himself has written an eighteen page essay on this issue. He found the book reprehensible; he says that Peter tried to make a cartoon of Sri Aurobindo in order to address people who understand only cartoons.  I quote the relevant portion from his essay:

I shall now try to analyse what went wrong with P.H.

i)   The Intention: P.H. has clearly stated that in his recent biography he has ‘tried to bring out Sri Aurobindo’s effort to achieve the full supramental transformation’ to highlight what Sri Aurobindo said: “I transformed my nature from what it was to what it was not”.

One can find nothing wrong with the intention. On the contrary; it can be, even for the non- intellectual bhakta, a very interesting and soul-inspiring topic.

ii)   The Methodology: In my humble opinion, it is here that P.H. went wrong, to have in mind only a particular readership. In his own words: “I chose to write my recent book mostly for an audience made up of Westerners or westernized Indians”. He therefore chose a style and language conducive to his goal and which would appeal to his limited audience; therefore he doggedly adopted an anti-hagiographic style.

His obsession of confining himself to the academic circle alone, has led him to tryto analyze even some of Sri Aurobindo’s actions in the light of Western psycho-analysis! As an example, look at the stupid motive he tries to ascribe to Sri Aurobindo’s writing the beautiful play “Vasavadatta”!! It is this over-smartness of his which has proved to be a great irritant in his otherwise informative book. I am surprised that P.H. who is well-read in all the writings of Sri Aurobindo should have been so callous to Sri Aurobindo’s strong views on psycho-analysis prevalent in Europe.

“I find it difficult to take these psycho-analysts at all seriously when they try to scrutinise spiritual experience by the flicker of their torch-lights, - yet perhaps one ought to, for half-knowledge is a powerful thing and can be a great obstacle to the coming in front of the true Truth.” (SABCL Vol. 24, p. 1608)

From all accounts so far received, his book has been widely acclaimed by this section of readership. But then it has also opened the Pandora’s Box.

Had he only kept in mind the following advice of the Mother he would have avoided the pitfall.

“My point of view is this, that anything written by a sadhak about Sri Aurobindo which brings him down to an ordinary level and admits the reader to a sort of gossiping familiarity with him is an unfaithfulness to Him and His work. Good intentions are not sufficient, it is necessary that this should be understood by everybody.” (CWM Vol. 13, p. 27)

How l wish that P.H would have written his book unmindful of any appreciative audience whatsoever – like the wandering minstrel of yore who sang just for the joy of singing!

To drive my point home I shall take recourse to an analogy (take it not with a pinch of salt but with a hand-full of salt!): A competent artist who is dexterous with his paint and brush decides to paint a portrait of Sri Aurobindo. This artist loves children. He therefore decides that his painting should be intended for children alone. Now, what do children like? Cartoons of course! Therefore our artist sets about to draw a cartoon of Sri Aurobindo instead!! (Q.E.D.)

(Manoj Das Gupta, Some Reflections on the Agonising Issue of a Book)

However, the fact that I have quoted Manoj Das Gupta’s letter should not mean that I agree with the rest of his letter. In any case his entire letter has been rebutted by several people.

Further, what about the two notices of the Ashram Trustees dissociating themselves from the book? Nowhere have they come up with their own appreciation of the book, even in the Court! They have stated the appreciation of other writers in order to condone their own guilty and non-committal silence on the issue! Let them come out openly with a thorough appreciation of the book and start selling the book in Ashram bookshops; then I will reconsider my “simplistic” appraisal of the book!   

Filio: If you do not think that what I have presented as facts are indeed facts, please prove me otherwise.

If you do not think that these facts support my position and views, please justify yourself.
 You have asked me a question and I have given you an answer that is supported by facts. It is your turn to either prove that my facts are wrong or that these facts don’t support my position and views. Please do not digress and bring in unrelated facts. Stick to these specific points.

Once this specific discussion has been taken to its logical end, it will be my turn to ask you a question and it will be your turn to provide facts to support your views.

 Lastly, as an addendum concerning your question and your feeling that some faithless “disciples” of Sri Aurobindo (like some of you) may have felt attacked, i.e. threatened, by Peter’s book, I personally agree that this is a possibility. But this an altogether different topic and discussion that has nothing to do with Sri Aurobindo or the Ashram and can be undertaken separately.

Sridharan: At last you are admitting the possibility of our position, but after writing all that you have written until now. This thought should have come to you in the very beginning! It is not an altogether different topic. It is germane to the main discussion and this is where it should have started!

As you can see, I have done the minimum editing of your email. I have cut off only the preamble, which was not of much use to the readers.


  1. Judging from his writing here and elsewhere, Filio aka AAD etc is not writing these responses himself. Other people, maybe even Heehs, are contributing to them. Ultimately, Filio will have to take a big part of the blame, and consequences if any, for the mess his mentors have creating. Does he fully understand that?

  2. Ajit Reddy (SAICE forum): I have gone through your response to Filio and though I see a lot of loopholes in the arguments I will focus on another aspect of this discussion.

    I accept that you have the liberty to feel Sri Aurobindo was attacked as much as others who have felt otherwise but are you on this basis entitled to indulge in lies, distortions and misrepresentations?

    Sridharan: You have the liberty to accuse us of indulging in lies, distortions and misrepresentations, but they don’t become true by the mere fact of your accusation. Suppose I say the same about you?

    Ajit: Is it ok for someone claiming to be a disciple of Sri Aurobindo and a practitioner of his Yoga to organize dharnas, file cases and incite people to go against the Ashram because of some perception that is purely subjective?

    Sridharan: Don’t put on a holier than thou attitude as if you are a saint and the inmates who have protested against the Trustees are sadhaks gone astray. You guys are as much into active campaigning as them. What about the lectures you are arranging for Peter Heehs – in Pondicherry University, etc? You seem to be actively promoting him as a great biographer of Sri Aurobindo when the Ashram Trust has dissociated itself from the book. Secondly, the fact that many of the inmates had to take to the streets for doing dharnas is an indicator of the extent of the maladministration and duplicity of the Trustees. No sane administrator of any institution will allow things to deteriorate this way. It only shows the level of obstinacy and doggedness of the Trustees than common sense and practicality, leave alone spiritual truth. Of course you are going to say that Manoj Das Gupta is holding on doggedly to great secular spiritual truths. So be it, adore and worship him further! Adore Peter Heehs also!

    Ajit: To my knowledge Sri Aurobindo has never ever encouraged or prompted anyone directly or indirectly to use false means to protect the truth. On the contrary he has used every occasion to urge Sadhaks to always remain open to the higher truth and reject and transcend their lower impulses.

    Sridharan: Again the holier than thou hypocritical posture! Have you any knowledge of Sri Aurobindo, his works, his revolutionary days, etc? What is “false means”, what is the “truth” according to you? These things are relative, and both of us can quote Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s quotations till the end of time without winning! So please corroborate your allegations. You are only blowing your conch!

    Ajit: We can take the discussion forward meaningfully once you give your views on these questions.

    Sridharan: You have not been meaningful, only mean with your outright accusations!

  3. Benimadhav speaks (through quotations):

    December 28, 1928
    THERE is a Power that no ruler can command; there is a Happiness that no earthly success can bring; there is a Light that no wisdom can possess; there is a Knowledge that no philosophy and no science can master; there is a Bliss of which no satisfaction of desire can give the enjoyment; there is a thirst for Love that no human relation can appease; there is a Peace that one finds nowhere, not even in death.
    It is the Power, the Happiness, the Light, the Knowledge, the Bliss, the Love, the Peace that flow from the Divine Grace.

    (Prayers and Meditations, Collected Works of the Mother, Vol. 1, p 380)

    Filio: I suppose that this means that those like SR & Co who want the Ashram to be run by the Government, do not want the Ashram to be run by the power of the Divine Grace.

    Sridharan: What a combination of fuzzy brains! First Benimadhav quotes from the Mother as if that is sufficient to silence anybody who does not agree with him. Then Filio rapidly concludes that the present Ashram administration is run by the power of the Divine Grace, so all those who do not want the present Trustees are against the Divine Grace. This implies that the present Trustees with all their defects should never be questioned, even if there is rampant corruption and administrative bungling. If this is the case, then raise Manoj Das Gupta to the stature of a Guru, fall at his feet in deep devotion and sing hallelujahs to him rather than Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Peter Heehs might also grace the occasion with an occasional pat on your submissive heads!

    Moreover, why do you think the Govt. administrator might not be part of the dispensation of Divine Grace? The way things are going on now at the Ashram, things might actually be better off with him! There would certainly not be anymore the deceitful dilly-dallying over the Peter Heehs issue and the summary dismissal of long-standing teachers from the School, nor the lack of stern action in serious cases of sexual harassment and molestation. Do you want me believe that all this is part of the Divine Grace?

  4. An Ex-Student:

    Notice how Mother, Ashram and Trustees are identified into one!