28 Jul 2014

Connecting the Dots between the pro-Ashram Trust Nexus – Sridharan

The Well-wishers of Sri Aurobindo Ashram website which follows closely our site has recently done some “remarkable investigation” and announced how it has “connected the dots” between the so-called anti-Ashram nexus. Let me first remind these “highly intelligent sleuths” that Sri Aurobindo Ashram (Pondicherry) is different from the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust (Pondicherry). The Ashram Trust was created by the Mother in 1955 for protecting the assets and properties of the Ashram, whereas Sri Aurobindo Ashram spontaneously began in 1926 when Sri Aurobindo gave “the spiritual and material charge” of his disciples to the Mother after the Siddhi Day. The Ashram is the spiritual institution and the Ashram Trust is only a legal body, whose administration has at first gradually and then rapidly deteriorated in recent times after the passing away of its Gurus. A section of the Ashramites are extremely unhappy with the corrupt and dictatorial functioning of the Ashram Trust and have therefore gone against it in various legitimate ways. They have not gone against the Ashram itself nor do they want to destroy the Ashram from the face of this earth, as the supporters of the Ashram Trust would like the ignorant public to believe. The solution to this rudderless present situation of the Ashram without any spiritual heads, or rather with the present Trustees who always get into loggerheads with anybody who differs from them, is an alternate system of fair and democratic governance. If this is difficult to understand and highly objectionable, then I think we have to set the clock back and go back to pre Magna Carta days.

The website in its last posting has cast aspersions (obviously with the consent of the Ashram Trustees) on a top law firm of the country and a successful business magnate. This is truly uncalled for and in very bad taste. After all, not only legal firms but any lawyer acts in a professional manner and he keeps aside his personal judgment in dealing with his case, whether he argues for the prosecution or the defence, because that is how the system works. Secondly, a successful businessman like Narendra Gehlaut cannot be faulted because he has gone out of the way to fund research work on Savitri (Sri Aurobindo’s epic poem) under the guidance of R.Y. Deshpande, who is an eminent scholar in his own domain. I wish the Ashram Trust had actually funded such projects instead of wasting all its time, energy and money in legal cases against its own beneficiaries.

I come now to the “irrefutable logic cum speculation” of the post, which can only be the result of the combined effort of Matriprasad Satyamurthy, the secretary of the Ashram Trust (which is evident by the sheer detail provided with regard to the Five Sisters’ case, the said law firm and the cost of litigation in the Supreme Court), and Richard Hartz, the main American editor of the 1993 revised edition of Savitri, in which many of the followers and disciples of Sri Aurobindo have now lost confidence. One can deduce the role of Richard Hartz by the very hatred expressed against R.Y. Deshpande, who has been his critic and contender from a long time. R.Y. Deshpande has challenged time and again the editing of Savitri and thereby exposed the arrogance of the American editors of Sri Aurobindo’s works, who think that they know better English than Sri Aurobindo himself. He has even dared them to publish their editorial work openly on the Net with the relevant manuscripts of Sri Aurobindo so that other scholars too can verify for themselves their editorial decisions. The Ashram Trust has never dared to do so because it knows that it will open the Pandora’s box!

Let us now come to the brilliant train of logic as expounded by the writer(s) of the post:

1. The Five Sisters (inmates of the Ashram), who are fighting against the Ashram Trust, are not poor because they have been represented in the Supreme Court by the topmost law firm of India, whose legal costs are beyond the means of ordinary litigants.

2. Therefore someone must have paid for their legal expenses.

3. This someone has to be in the anti-Ashram Trust nexus.

4. R.Y. Deshpande is against the Ashram Trust and is one of those despicable characters worth insulting on the Net to one’s heart’s content.

5. But R.Y. Deshpande has not much money! So it must be Narendra Gehlaut, the business man (RYD’s friend and fellow enthusiast of Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri) who has helped the five sisters in footing the bill for their legal expenditure. I suppose, according to this infallible logic, Narendra Gehlaut should be first held guilty (and be hanged by the neck) for associating himself with R.Y. Deshpande for promoting research on Savitri and propagating its message on the Internet to the wider world! Then he should be rightly accused for siding with the Five Sisters, whose names he perhaps does not even know.

These are the dots that have been so well connected by the extraordinary brainwork of Matriprasad Satyamurthy and Richard Hartz. I have surely a few objections.

1. First, Matriprasad Satyamurthy should decide whether the Five Sisters are poor or not, for he often suggests that they are not, leaving out the possibility that they might have been helped by a good Samaritan, which obviously seems to be the case.

2. Secondly, the good Samaritan need not be Narendra Gehlaut because he is a friend of RY Deshpande, who is regarded as an enemy of the Ashram Trust. The two parties (in this case the Five Sisters & RYD) do have a common enemy, but they need not necessarily be friends. Nor two individuals (RYD & NG) have to share a common enemy by becoming friends! Moreover, Narendra Gehlaut is a friend of RYD, so he is one step away from the Five Sisters whom he is accused of funding, which is certainly not a crime even if he did.

3. Next, when the Ashram Trust is accusing others of incurring exorbitant legal expenses as if it were a war crime, it should disclose its own legal expenditure to the devotees of Sri Aurobindo who have donated it their hard-earned money in good faith.  Does it get free the services of Sanjay Parikh, the Supreme Court lawyer, who has been so lavishly praised in the post? And what about Ashok Desai, another top Supreme Court lawyer, who represented them recently? Even the famous Gopal Subramaniam was once listed as their lawyer.  What about Sri Ram Panchu in the Madras High Court? What about Palaniappan, who is one of the sharpest lawyers in the Pondicherry Court? In fact, a few years ago, the legal panel of the Ashram Trust consisted of the best lawyers of Pondicherry. Are all these lawyers working pro-bono? We need not mention the number of times Matriprasad and his team fly to Delhi, the costly hotels in which they stay, the luxury cars they travel in and the lavish style of functioning that they have got used to. Deprive them of this life style, and you will then truly know their allegiance to the Ashram Trust!

4. Finally, what is exactly the nexus between the Ashram Trust and Richard Hartz & Co? Why is it so desperate to protect them? And what is the interest of Richard Hartz & Co. in this whole matter? Why are some of the Westerners in the Ashram and Auroville firmly propping up the fraudulent and mischievous scholarship of Peter Heehs? In the United States, this kind of attack on Indian Gurus and Hindu idols has been thoroughly exposed and Indian Americans have risen to the occasion and countered the vicious attacks of Wendy Doniger, Jeffrey Kripal, Paul Courtright, Sarah Caldwell et al, with whom Peter Heehs has associated himself. In the Ashram, I suppose, people are not even aware of the cultural battles that are being fought and the war between spirituality and materialism that is raging in the West. Until the disciples and followers of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother are well-informed about this threat and see a clear and present danger, we will keep mouthing the usual platitudes such as, “Leave it to the Divine”; “Westerners have their own viewpoint”; “Sri Aurobindo is like the Himalayas”; “Let us keep quiet for the sake of harmony”, etc, etc. Meanwhile, Richard Hartz will write a book on how fundamentalism has come back in India with specific reference to the Ashram, Peter Heehs will write on the futility of worshipping the Mother or the Divine Shakti and Ulrich Morhoff will confidently tell us how Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy is outdated! I suppose we Indians deserve this shabby treatment in order to wake up and realise what we are losing! I hope we don’t wake up after everything is lost!

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