18 Jul 2014

Reply to Manoj Das’s Letter to Niranjan Naik (2) – by Bireshwar Choudhury

Manoj  Das suffers from an uncontrollable itch to put down his critics. It would have been so much better had the writer’s itch channelised itself in a more fruitful manner in his own realm of creative writing. But I have been told that from the last decade or two his literary creativity is ebbing in inverse proportion to his mounting desire to be honoured by all sorts of awards. The last big award he successfully managed to canvas for was the Padma Sri award, accorded by the Govt. of India in 2001. Now I suppose he is eying for the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Vibhushan. But what is he doing at Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Puducherry, and how does the Ashram help him in his enterprise?

No, he has certainly not thrown fame to the winds to attain the Supramental Transformation or even to achieve a Yogic poise! If he had really done so, why would he rush out for a fresh round of self-promotion each time he receives an invitation from literary circles?  Why would he criticise other awardees who have outshone him in literary output and perhaps deprived him of the award that he might have won instead? And why is he so keen on saving his reputation which has recently plummeted in his home state of Orissa after this site published the less known details of his activities in Pondicherry?

Not many people are aware how Manoj Das uses the Ashram as a plank to increase his literary reputation. Being the only eminent writer around makes him the uncontested spokesman of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, and he automatically partakes a little of the halo of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother in the eyes of powerful Govt. officials and eminent public figures who often visit the Ashram. It is somewhat like what happens when you stand in the focus of blinding halogen lamps or when you pose in front of a magnificent temple or palace, especially when you are an expert on its history. Visitors are naturally awestruck by what is behind but they also tend to be impressed by the person in front, who has enabled their wonder and appreciation of the monument. It is after this initial razzle dazzle that a cordial and friendly contact is established and even hard-crusted officials melt and become vulnerable to aggressive hospitality. “Put in a word, if you can, to the Padma Awards Committee” comes of course at a later stage when the officials have been thoroughly brainwashed by the greatness of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, overwhelmed by their spiritual presence at the Samadhi and baffled by their lofty Yoga and philosophy. This is what is I  call spiritual salesmanship, or rather how spirituality is used to promote sales! It is nothing new, it is as old as the hills, the clever Brahmins did it centuries ago and we do it even now.

Reading the portions quoted by Sripad Singh from Manoj Das’s letter to Niranjan Naik, you get the impression that Manoj Das is “Hypocrisy Personifed”. Let me show you how. I will comment on some of these passages from the last posting on this site.

Manoj Das to Niranjan Naik:You know a considerable number of malicious writings have been written against me. Some were anonymous and some were with pseudo names. It is the belief of all that you have written all these articles. I am not curious about it. It is a general fact that we cannot escape the consequences of our own actions. I have not done anything that is harmful to you.”

Sripad Singh has aptly replied to this pompous lie and listed at great length the revengeful actions of Manoj Das against Niranjan Naik. It has been until now a very unequal and one-sided contest, with the Trust acceding to every shameful request of Manoj Das. Niranjan Naik has been made to resign from the post of the manager of Navajyoti Karyalaya; removed from the editorship of the Oriya magazine Navaprakash; stopped from going to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s Rooms to carry the letters and offerings of Oriya devotees (which he was doing from the Mother’s time); he is constantly harassed at Navajyoti Karyalaya and was once almost physically assaulted by an Ashram gounda sent specifically for the purpose – Niranjan Naik had to report the matter to the Police station. If in spite of these incidents, Manoj Das still has the gumption to say, “I have not done anything harmful to you,” then we can certainly conclude that Manoj Das, the Padma Sri awardee, is not only a hypocrite but an outright liar.

Manoj Das to Niranjan Naik:The reason for writing this letter is that some people have made remarks... that pain me. The substance of their remarks is that a person who has remained in the Ashram for so many years can blame you so harshly? … The doubt behind their remarks was that it is useless to remain in the Ashram for so many years in the name of sadhana.”

Is it useless for Niranjan Naik or useless for Manoj Das himself to have stayed for so many years in the Ashram in the name of sadhana? Now that Manoj Das cannot restart his literary career outside the Ashram, he can at least be honest with himself at this ripe age! So many Ashramites thought he would rise to the occasion and condemn the Lives of Sri Aurobindo by Peter Heehs, but lo after the initial squeak (of ninety objections) his Master’s (Manoj Das Gupta’s) Voice spoke through him in a continuous and never-ending flow.

Manoj Das to Niranjan Naik:I know a large number of sadhaks and sadhikas of the Ashram who have a deep inner life. Most of them do not and should not express them. But sometimes the sadhaks or sadhikas have asked this writer the meaning of their supra-sensory experiences or visions according to the writings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. That signifies their progress and the Divine Mother’s Grace which astonishes this writer.”

The paragraph oozes with conceit. Manoj Das paves the way for self-glorification by mentioning the large number of sadhaks and sadhikas who have a deep inner life, so that he can allude to his much advertised experience of the Terrace Darshan of the Mother. Of late the story of Babaji Maharaj seeing “a dark force” behind Manoj Das has spread far and wide, so he is desperate to restore his lost glory. It is not surprising that as long as Prapatti and Babaji Maharaj were there, he never played a prominent role among the devotees and disciples of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother in Orissa.

Manoj Das to Niranjan Naik: “Recently a distinguished educationist had come to the Ashram from Bangalore. What you told him regarding me has pained him and me. The gentleman is a very sensible person and sincerely likes the Ashram. With what a healthy expectation he had come to this holy atmosphere! How are you justified to disturb him by blaming an insignificant person like me? I hope you will consider my appeal to desist henceforth from such actions.”

Manoj Das calling himself an “insignificant person” is highly amusing. The understatement is that he is actually a “very significant” person, and that if such a dignitary has prostrated himself at the feet of his Lord Gupta Manoj, all the other Ashramites should follow suit. The Bangalore gentleman was thoroughly disappointed by Manoj Das’s telephonic talk and his “healthy expectations” were dashed to the ground when he saw the state of affairs in the Ashram.

Manoj Das to Niranjan Naik:Some of your friends have taken a tremendous step. They have taken the help of the Court to nullify the Will of the Mother that is the backbone of the Ashram management. As per the ancient Ashram tradition of India, this step is unprecedented, unbelievable and unnatural. To nullify the Will of the founder of any Ashram through the Court is a strange event. Even when the Guru’s presence is not there his / her Will gives excellence to an Ashram. Without that an Ashram can remain, but it cannot be called a spiritual Ashram.”

The ancient tradition of India is to appoint a spiritual successor (mathadhipati) to the Guru of the Ashram. No such spiritual successor has been appointed by the Mother. Only a group of five Trustees have been chosen by Her to look after the material assets of the Ashram. Can an Ashram, which is supposed to be a centre for Yogic practice, run purely on such a material basis? Can the present Managing Trustee claim to spiritually guide the sadhaks and sadhikas of the Ashram? I think he himself will refuse to take that burden. So where is the unalterable sanctity of the Trust Deed signed by the Mother, which was only meant for preserving the properties of the Ashram?

Moreover, the recent secular public stand taken by the Ashram Trust deprives it of the little right that it would have had on the spiritual administration of the Ashram. A secular stand and the granting of freedom of speech to the Ashramites would automatically imply democracy and wider consultation than the present autocratic administration of the Ashram Trust. The Ashram Trust has to decide between a secular OR a spiritual stand, it cannot have both ways without being devious and opportunistic. If the Ashram Trust takes a spiritual stand, it would have to think in terms of the spiritual future of the Ashram, which is hardly compatible with insulting the Guru and supporting the perpetrator in the name of secularism. If it takes a secular stand, then there is no need to fuss over the sacredness of the Trust Deed. In such a case, it is but natural to file a Scheme Suit and amend the Trust Deed through the Court. This is the standard procedure adopted by religious / spiritual Trusts in India. Of course, Manoj Das will now cry hoarse over such irreverent statements on what he calls the sacred will of the Mother. I wish he would tone down his dramatics and come down to the level of practical realities.

Manoj Das to Niranjan Naik:With the result of your totally new and unprecedented effort the future of mankind will surely be affected. If your expedition will succeed, it will mean the end of the spiritual role of Ashram …. I do not believe that you are ignorant about the kind of force that is behind the attack on Mother’s Will. As you are trying to succeed in your effort, I also pray for the failure of your effort.  Let the Divine’s Will be fulfilled. When you are engaged in fulfilling such a high aim which is unheard of in the history of mankind, why are you wasting your time and word-power to blame an ordinary person like me? Henceforth I request you to abstain from it.

An “ordinary person” with plain common sense will not foresee the disaster of mankind caused by the attempt to amend a simple Trust Deed. It has to be “an extraordinary prophet” like Manoj Das who can see such catastrophic visions! He is also “a spiritual sage” to have perceived the “dark force” (of which all the others are ignorant) behind the effort to have a better administration in the Ashram? Or is it that the “dark force” is none other than himself and he is frightened of his own shadow? In any case, it is worth spending word-power and Internet space to expose hypocrites like Manoj Das, who unconditionally support the present Ashram administration for their own selfish interests!

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