29 Aug 2014

Response to Govardhan Dave – by Sridharan

Govardhan Dave is perhaps at his illogical best in the recent posting of 19 August 2014 on the Well-Wishers’ forum. Logical analysis was never his strong point, but what concerns me is that he is also an ignoramus on life in Sri Aurobindo Ashram and on the stormy events that have recently occurred there. What is more disconcerting is that he proceeds to write a factual analysis of the controversy with this half-knowledge and with his half-baked mind. This double deficiency makes him indeed a dangerous disseminator of wrong information which gullible strangers might readily believe. Hence I will take the trouble to rebut him instead of dismissing him as a harmless nincompoop who is being used by the Well-Wishers’ forum to shoot over his shoulders. I quote below his so-called analysis with my comments below.

1.  Our Ashram truly belongs to the Mother and is set up for providing reasonable facilities to the people who have dedicated themselves to the pursuit of sadhana in accordance with the Teachings of the Mother. If so, the beneficiaries of these facilities are not supposed to have any claim over the rights usually claimed by the employees of a business establishment, primarily because they are not the employees. Second, because the Ashram has not invited them to join. They on their own have come to Ashram, which has admitted them and has provided them available facilities. These facilities are invariably linked to the spiritual pursuit, and become bereft of value when this relationship disappears.

This could have been true when Sri Aurobindo and the Mother were themselves there to guide the disciples of Sri Aurobindo Ashram. But their spiritual administration of the Ashram (which included the inner and outer life of the disciples) was humane and considerate by all means. It never invited trouble like the present Trustees of the Ashram, and even if there were cases of revolt, the disciples listened to the advice of their Gurus or left on their own. Nobody went to the Court out of desperation, nor did the Gurus let things drift to that point. Even the previous Trustees from the early generation of disciples managed to keep the Ashram together despite increasing differences with the Ashramites.

Govardhan Dave is committing the prime error of applying the early unwritten principles of Ashram life to a later period without taking into account the changes that have happened over the last few decades. The biggest change after the Mother’s passing away is the dilution of the spiritual motive in Ashram life, and this is the prime culprit in all the internal conflict in the Ashram. But that cannot be helped with the passing away of the Gurus. In such a situation, when this downward gravitational pull affects everybody in the Ashram, the onus is on the present Trustees to realise that they cannot expect the same kind of obedience from the present Ashramites as what they themselves perhaps gave to the Mother. The root cause of the present conflict is indeed the lack of this simple awareness in the Trustees, who have failed to come to terms with changing circumstances and obstinately refuse to adjust with the times. There is even duplicity here in the attitude of the Trustees. On one side, they will admit with great humility that they can never govern the Ashram the way Mother did. On the other side, they would reserve themselves the privilege of calling for unquestioning obedience from the Ashramites, which the Mother could expect from them, to continue forever. Otherwise, the excuse that is given by the Trustees for maintaining status quo is that it would lead to an institutional collapse and the Ashram will be destroyed. It is this threat of “After me the Deluge” and the unfounded fear of the unknown that has forced many devotees to unconditionally support the present Trustees.

But is the transition to a better form of self-governance in the Ashram really so impossible? And is it not one day or the other inevitable? Will a larger consultative body destroy the very fabric of Ashram life? Or is this fear the expression of a privileged coterie which is more concerned about the prospective loss of its own sanctified benefits and allowances than the larger good of the Ashram?

2. There is a clear distinction between an inmate of the Ashram, who is a Sadhak, and its employee. In view of this the reasonable option available to an inmate who is not satisfied on any count with his/her stay here is to voluntarily leave it for a haven elsewhere. It applies to Prasad Sisters, Gayatriji and their likes and also to their supporters and instigators who are honoured by people because of their association with the Ashram.  It appears that the Prasad Sisters have failed to appreciate this distinction and have virtually treated themselves as employees of the Ashram, which they are not. Besides, the behaviour of these Sisters proves beyond doubt that they are not even distantly related to Sadhana. It seems that they have deliberately dissociated themselves from the Teachings of the Mother. As such spiritually, they are not even inmates of the Ashram although they stay here. It is a happy augury that the Courts of Law have also rightly given credence to this fact which is reasonably undeniable.

If a sadhak of the Ashram is suddenly deprived of food, shelter and medical facilities, has he no right to demand them back? What if he has no financial means to resettle himself elsewhere, which is generally the case with long time inmates of the Ashram? Should he then simply die on the pavements of Pondicherry? And why should he leave the Ashram if he has severe differences with the present authorities, who are at least as much, if not more, fallible than him? Why should not the decisions of the Trustees be contested? Govardhan Dave’s conclusion is again misplaced and totally out of context. He is applying the principles that could be applied to the Ashram during the time of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother to the present time, when there are hardly any spiritual people left in the Ashram administration. An Ashram without the Gurus or spiritually mature administrators is not an Ashram but an institution which has to be run on democratic lines. Why is Dave himself fighting a court case in Gujarat over the possession of a school? He should have simply left it to the Sri Aurobindo Society (which is also a spiritual institution) to take over his school!

Secondly, the frequent gloating over the legal defeat of the Five Sisters on the Well-Wishers’ Forum is sickening! What will the Ashram Trust do now when the sisters have refused to obey the Court order? Call the Police and throw them on the streets while they scream and shout in full public view? And will Matriprasad Satyamurthy stamp his foot down in victory at last and indulge in further condemnation of the sisters? Will the other Ashramites look at this tamasha and clap their hands in delight? When this happens, as it is very likely to happen, do not consider it as a great victory of the Ashram Trust but its greatest defeat!

3.  Thus, these sisters have no locus standi in connection with their representations. Moreover their representations are found to be of no worth after reasonable inquiry even by the Apex Court of the Country, besides the Women’s Council of India, that addresses itself to the grievances of women. Thus as their stance is not reasonable, much less spiritual, they, on their own, stand disqualified to continue their stay in the Ashram and have not to wait till a law enforcing agency throws them off, if they have an iota of self-regard or a sense of personal identity. It is a pity that they are required to be enforced to follow even the civil norms. It is an indication of the fact that they are really sub-humans, the immature humans for whom the reason is still a far cry, leave aside spiritual orientation. These persons comparatively have a low degree of self consciousness and are driven by vital impulses only, while spirituality is only a mask for them.

It is disgusting to see Dave joining in the same inhuman rhetoric as the Well-Wishers with regard to the five sisters. First of all, how can Dave draw such nasty conclusions on their character simply on the basis of the Supreme Court’s interim order telling them to stay outside the Ashram, and that too at the expense of the Ashram Trust? Does he know at all that this is an interim order to the main case in the Pondicherry court which is still pending? If Dave automatically assumes them to be “sub-humans & immature humans for whom reason is still a far cry” or persons having “a low degree of self consciousness and ... driven by vital impulses only”, then I think he is seeing his own reflection in them. For a sane rational man or even an ordinary man with enough compassion and common sense would never come to such hasty and shocking conclusions on so little evidence.

4. One feels greatly shocked when so called gurus who masquerade as propagators of spirituality and profess of being forerunners of the Life come to support their indefensible ventures and instigates them to continue the same. It is quite shocking to see them not appreciating the distinction between an Employee and an Inmate. They have become totally oblivious of the fact that it is the sincerity of the purpose that is of value to an inmate and not his learning and his skill of effective and impressive presentation, or his charisma. These qualities too are of value but only when they reflect fundamental sincerity.

Thank you Dave for the compliment on our “learning and skill of effective presentation” which you seem to value though with a grumble! And may I know how do you conclude that we are not sincere? Moreover, you should also learn a little more “effective presentation” of your point of view without mixing up so many issues in one argument and without making errors like “gurus...instigates”! First of all, are you jealous of the “gurus who masquerade as propagators of spirituality” or are you simply angry on us for not making the totally irrelevant distinction here between Employee and Inmate? When did the disciples who have stood up against the Ashram Trust say or act as if there was no distinction between an Employee and an Inmate? They have never asked for Provident Fund or the application of Labour Laws in the Ashram! How does asking for justice and basic subsistence due to every inmate of the Ashram put him on par with salaried employees? You are actually raising a hornet’s nest. Can you imagine what will happen if all the Ashramites start asking for regular salaries? The Managing Trustee will have to bolt for the Himalayas! Finally, if your assumption is that an Employee can demand for facilities that he has been unjustly deprived of whereas an Inmate should not, then all the Ashram inmates will rather become Employees of the Ashram Trust. We will then have a lot of fun with Ashramites being paid to do sadhana under the strict supervision of New Age American style “Yoga cum Bhoga” gurus such as Peter Heehs and Richard Hartz!

5.  It is further shocking that being influenced by such a quasi guru, a so-called devotee of the Mother could make a public declaration that henceforth she would not give any donation to the Ashram. While doing so she conveniently forgets the distinction between donation and offering. She also forgets that the Ashram had never asked for her donation nor does it survive on such donations. As we know, the Mother had rejected a large amount of governmental grant only because the same was linked to the conditions that were not in tune with Her working. There was also an instance when She had picked up only a token of money from the large amount offered, even during a period when the Ashram was facing financial crisis, only because She did not desire to boost up the ego of the donor. These people who are not accustomed to such a mode of working and are given to self-aggrandisement, usually become stumbling blocks in the March of Humanity towards its Luminous Future. They somehow get entry in the Spiritual Institutions like our Ashram and knowingly or unknowingly endeavour to spoil its work. But the Spirit of Time would not allow their offensive designs to succeed. Meanwhile, we who love Her have to stand by Her and behave as if She is looking at us, and this is not only a goody – goody advice.

First of all, is there any sharp distinction between the words “donation” and “offering”? I checked up the dictionary and found that “offering” is listed as a synonym of “donation” and vice versa.  Next, Dave has exposed his utter ignorance of the Ashram by writing that it does not “survive on such donations”. Everybody in the Ashram and all the devotees who visit the Ashram on a regular basis know that the Ashram does survive on public donations, that it will go bankrupt if the donations and offerings stop, and that its businesses can hardly provide the finance to make both ends meet. In fact Ashram businesses and farms are white elephants and are mostly run at huge losses. Dave should have at least checked out some facts instead of confidently making wrong statements.

The Mother refusing grants from the Govt., because they were linked with conditions, has nothing to do with her or the Ashram receiving donations (or offerings) from individual donors. What is the logical or moral connection between the two? Dave says that these donors have given money to the Ashram for “self-aggrandisement”, gained “entry in spiritual institutions like the Ashram” and now “endeavour to spoil its work”, and that they have become “stumbling blocks in the March of Humanity towards its Luminous Future”. I wonder who these mysterious people are and how are they connected with the present controversy! In any case, this grandiose statement will hardly please the donors who have given their hard-earned offerings with great goodwill towards the Ashram! With regard to the spiritual threat behind Dave’s “goody-goody advice” at the end, I am sure Mother is looking at us all, and it is she who will decide at the end of the day. But don’t be surprised if the Trustees have to step down sooner or later from their high pedestals!

6. The situation becomes extremely grave when these self-styled gurus, who have no source of personal income endeavour to explore the favour of businessmen and politicians. They have to carry out effectively their dubious program of launching propaganda drives and holding dharnas and also for availing the services of costly lawyers to fight frivolous suits instituted against the Ashram in order to defame its present management and upset its working. They need, to fulfil this self-chosen task, a continuous flow of money along with extra-constitutional political patronage. In order to serve this purpose,they had transferred their loyalty to the Politicians and Corporate houses replacing their loyalty to the Mother in the style of a Jaichand, who had invited foreign invasions to serve his petty interest. It is a pity that they do not feel ashamed of their design to make provision for political or governmental interference in the working of the Ashram only because they feel that this is the only means to fulfil their ambition. They do not feel ashamed of disowning the Mother who had brought them up. And this is done under the banner: Cling to Truth. Thus, they have descended to the lowest valley of falsehood under the pretext of scaling the highest peak of Truth. One would be prompted to use the words like ‘hypocrisy’ and ‘stupidity’ in this context.

This is one of those standard verbose condemnations without any substance, the kind that politicians often indulge in. Note that there no details here, no specifics, no particular instances, no detailed presentations. When you don’t follow up general statements by corroborating them with hard facts, then you are talking through your hat! Dave seems to excel at this kind of fuzzy rhetoric!

Why only Dave? Most of the sites supporting the Trustees and especially Peter Heehs have been doing that from Day One of this conflict. According to them, those who condemn Peter Heehs are fundamentalists simply because they have criticised him, as if he is above criticism. There has never been any proper defence or counter arguments, barring a few exceptions, on the points raised by the devotees, who as a matter of fact have criticised the Lives of Sri Aurobindo in great detail – this site itself has around a thousand pages of detailed criticism posted on it. If arguments are won or lost on the basis of how much detail you can command to back up your statements, then the supporters of Peter Heehs have hardly contested the charges put on him. They have only ranted and fumed and accused the opposite camp of emotional sensitivity and irrationality when they themselves could not respond with counter arguments.

With regard to the controversy surrounding the Ashram Trust, it is the same. Supporters of the Ashram Trust equate the Mother with the Ashram Trust, and therefore indirectly link Manoj Das Gupta, the present Managing Trustee, with the Mother. Whatever Manoj Das Gupta says is right because he is in the place of the Mother, so whoever differs with him is under the Devil’s influence! The rest follows automatically: those who are against the Trust are traitors, they are in the grip of politicians and businessmen, they want to destroy the Ashram, etc, etc, which is the content of Dave’s long tirade. But there has never been any detailed rebuttal of the accusations against the Trust except in the case of the five sisters, and there too in a very partial manner, so that the real truth is fudged.

On the contrary, our site has cited very specific instances of gross injustice meted out to devotees and long-standing inmates such as deprival of food and removal from their workplace (1) (2) (3). Specific cases of molestation have been reported, documents on land deals involving the Trustees have been published (1) (2), to which no answer as yet has been given. Why? I suppose the Trustees would like to reserve their answers for the Court, where they can tell a pack of lies without any publicity.

Dave’s rambling analysis is therefore least analytical and follows the well beaten path of the sycophants of the Trustees, which is that of outright condemnation without any corroboration. It only shows that he does not have the guts to call a spade a spade and lives only in the past glory of the Ashram without coming to terms with the present reality.

7.   It is the right time for us, the children of the Mother, to see that this design does not succeed. She is with us and will certainly help us and eventually it is Her will that will be fulfilled.

As if we are not all children of the Mother! How can Dave and his group monopolise their claim on the Mother? And for God’s sake, stop assuming that Manoj Das Gupta and the other Trustees are the Mother’s sole representatives!

8.   I present these observations, not with a view to defending our Ashram. The Ashram is an extended body of the Mother and stands on its own. It does not need any defence. Thus, these observations are meant just to clarify our understanding about the issues that we are presently facing.

           Govardhan Dave

What a hypocrite! Dave is not defending the Ashram but the Ashram Trust! Yes, the Ashram is the extended body of the Mother, but the Ashram Trust is not. It is only a legal body made up of very defective and arrogant Trustees, who are sowing the seeds of hostility towards Mother and Sri Aurobindo in the very Ashram that they have founded.

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