27 Jan 2014

Peter Heehs Challenges the Book Ban in the High Court of Orissa ― by Bireshwar Choudhury

The Trustees of Sri Aurobindo Ashram are again busy at their job of helping Peter Heehs malign Sri Aurobindo in the public domain. A week back Peter Heehs challenged the gazette notification passed by the Orissa Govt on 9 April, 2009 proscribing the Lives of Sri Aurobindo and thankfully sparing the Indian readers from its derogatory content on Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. The move to lift the ban on his book has obviously the backing, the full support and blessings of the Ashram Trustees, for otherwise how could you expect Peter Heehs (who is an impudent dud in legal matters) to move the High Court of Orissa by himself? The Trustees will surely deny their connection with it, as they have always denied in every embarrassing issue related to their ham handed administration. But how long can they pretend not to back Peter Heehs while doing everything on heaven and earth to keep him happy? How long will they publicly pretend to be neutral and circumspect while risking the displeasure of the entire Sri Aurobindonian community by their actions that betray their real intentions?

If the ban on the Lives of Sri Aurobindo is revoked by the Orissa High Court (it is very likely to be if nobody intervenes), I will not blame the Ashram Trustees or Peter Heehs for it but the larger community of disciples and followers of Sri Aurobindo who have been silenced into meek submission by the wily politics of the infamous duo Gupta Manoj and Byakta Manoj – Manoj Das Gupta the Managing Trustee, and Manoj Das the writer. Especially the people of Orissa should “know and rejoice” that they should henceforth be ready to listen to Peter Heehs’s interpretations of their revered Guru’s life and Yoga, their Guru’s human frailties, his human relation with the Mother, his lack of tact in politics, his share of responsibility in India’s partition and his substandard philosophy. Above all, be ready to follow the new Integral Yoga, American in style and practice, upgraded to fit with modern times and inclusive of sex. How can you do Yoga without sex, implies Peter Heehs, so he made even Sri Aurobindo enjoy “spontaneous erotic delight” (see Lives, p 425)! To this wonderful proposition, eminent writer Manoj Das and home grown student cum disciple Manoj Das Gupta and the intelligentsia of the Sri Aurobindonian community in the Ashram at Pondicherry, India and abroad have humbly bowed their heads in shameful approval. So be it! They don’t deserve anything better!

The case came up for hearing this Friday last (24 January, 2014). The inordinate delay of more than 800 days for challenging the gazette notification has been condoned. (Generally a gazette notification has to be challenged within 60 days of its publication.) Let us await the result with bated breath.

1 comment:

  1. Comment by Ritwik Bannerji:

    An appeal in the Hon'ble High Court of Orissa by Peter Heehs is no surprise, but the characters of the Ashram Trustees in this matter are. All they reveal therewith is tantamount to an unequivocal support to PH because so far they have given no clear unequivocal stand of either accepting or rejecting the book except giving some minced words willy-nilly to confuse others in the world, including Aurobindonians. They have proven to be nothing but irresponsible as Trustees and unworthy of the legacies of their Master. Some westerner-disciples in the Ashram, or westerners in general for that matter, seem to make it a point that the book is meant for western or westernised readers forgetting that Sri Aurobindo himself has already said enough to preclude a debate over East and West. And if the book in not banned in the West, why the anxiety to lift the ban in India if not for brainwashing the mind of India? Instead of so trying to denigrate a person (whose disciple Heehs is or pretends to be), he could have written rather, a la William Archer, Is India Spiritual? to befool the Indians. Furthermore, this inmate-author (or historian!!) has certainly betrayed the institution he has lived and worked with and defied and disobeyed the Master's categorical admonition in the matter of writing a biography of his in collusion with the Trustees. Sri Aurobindo "was very emphatic that only he can write truly about himself" and "he corrected misleading statements concerning him published in some journals and books" during his lifetime and "It would be only myself who could speak of things in my past giving them their true form and significance" and "neither you nor anyone else knows anything at all of my life; it has not been on the surface for men to see." etc. etc. (Vide Sri Aurobindo on Himself and on the Mother, Sri Aurobindo International University, Pondicherry, 1953 edition). Yet the majority of disciples in the Ashram in their sadhana have merged their consciousness in a witness-poise of the Brahman with which they can let anybody do what he likes with their Guru and they themselves witness it all in peace and equipoise of their perfection!!!

    Already there are authentic biographies Life of Sri Aurobindo by AB Purani and Sri Auribindo: a Biography and a History by KRS Iyengar published by the Ashram. Where is the need then for a new biography of the Master when he is not there with us physically? Such misdemeanors are not admissible as they are preposterous literary or commercial adventures.