11 Sept 2014

Sridharan Replies to Matriprasad Satyamurthy on the pro-Ashram Trust Nexus

Refer to the Well-wishers’ posting of August 30, 2014 “The Pro-Ashram Trust Nexus!” in reply to our “Connecting the Dots between the pro-Ashram Trust Nexus – Sridharan” (July 28, 2014), which in turn was a reply to the Well-wishers’ “Connecting the dots between the anti-Ashram nexus” (July 4, 2014).

I will not waste my time with the shameless jingoism and empty rhetoric of this particular posting on the Well-wishers’ forum, which is mainly due to the fact that the site is fully backed by the present authorities of the Ashram. Let me come straight to the distinction between the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust that we have always insisted upon. The Well-wishers’ forum is so overawed with the importance of legalities that they seem to forget that the Ashram is supposed to be a spiritual institution. (This is typical of Matriprasad Satyamurthy – secretary of the Ashram Trust, who always talks legal when you want to engage him with spiritual issues. He once told a newcomer to simply enjoy life at the Ashram instead of trying to practise Yoga!) When did we say that the Ashram and the Ashram Trust are two different legal entities? The Trust was of course created by the Mother to take care of the Ashram properties, but only the Mother is authorised to induct and evict persons from the Ashram. According to Clause 7 of the Trust Deed, this matter is left to her “absolute discretion” and no other clause qualifies any other Trustee to undertake this responsibility in her absence! In fact the Ashram Trust Deed, drafted in 1955 shortly after the de facto transfer of Pondicherry to the Indian Union, is framed for the period of her lifetime. Even the possibility of her demise is not mentioned in the Trust Deed and no future contingent arrangements are envisaged in it with regard to the guidance and administration of the sadhaks of the Ashram. For more information on this aspect, read the following article posted on our site. (“Misconceptions about the Ashram Trust Deed.”)

But let me hammer in again a point which is worth repeating a hundred times. An Ashram is supposed to have a Guru(s) or spiritually mature disciples to guide the sadhaks and administer it according to the spiritual principles enunciated by the Founder(s). Can anyone in the present Ashram Trust Board claim to be fit for this spiritual task? The present Trustees will themselves shy away from this privilege even if it be granted to them. So if there is no Guru in the centre, who can command unquestioning obedience from the inmates, the safest course for the Ashram is to democratise its governance. Instead of having a Managing Trustee who assumes the supreme power of a Guru but acts like a tyrant, it is better to have a secular setup with the introduction of various checks and balances. The minimum change in this direction that we can demand is something on the lines of Auroville Foundation. Is this asking for the impossible?

I will now come to the points posed by the Well-wishers’ forum whose anonymous spokesman I assume to be either guided by or Matriprasad Satyamurthy himself for the reason already stated above in paragraph 2. For once, he has asked some questions instead of only indulging in mere condemnation and rhetoric.

Matriprasad Satyamurthy: Was the Mother “pro-Ashram Trust” or not when she founded the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust?

What a silly question! It is like asking whether you were a good boy when you were born fifty years back! When the Mother was present, her overpowering spiritual influence resolved all human problems. Even the first Trustees chosen by the Mother were spiritually mature enough to command sufficient respect and obedience from the inmates of the Ashram. There were hardly any court cases then and differences with inmates, even if they were severe, never grew into legal confrontations because the Trustees managed to resolve or ignore them with goodwill.

The current “pro-Ashram Trust nexus” is made up of people who have vested interests linked to the power of the present Trustees. These interests are mostly very material and mundane such as positions in various departments of the Ashram, sanction of good accommodation, use of vehicles, medical facilities, and even extra milk and groceries, all of which depend on the supreme sanctioning authority of the Trustees. The life of the Ashramite materially depends on these basic necessities, which the Trustees threaten to withdraw if anyone dares to criticise their actions. It is this fear that keeps the Ashramites meek and subdued and makes them sing Hallellujahs to the Trustees!

Matriprasad Satyamurthy: As the Mother established the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust to ensure greater protection for Sri Aurobindo’s, Her’s and their followers’ spiritual work, how does attacking the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust help anyone?

Yes, the Ashram Trust was established to ensure the protection of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s spiritual work, but what do you do when the Trust itself is bent upon destroying it? Can justifying an obnoxious book on Sri Aurobindo by Peter Heehs be ever considered spiritual work? Can fighting tooth and nail in his defence in the Court of law be regarded as beneficial for the Ashram? The Managing Trustee has taken on everybody and put at stake everything for the sake of Peter Heehs as if he were a blood relative. What makes him put in jeopardy the very well-being of the Ashram for the sake of one stupid writer? (There is obviously something more than what meets the eye!) In this kind of situation, when the custodians themselves cannot be trusted, the inmates have no other option but to demand for a change of guard in the administration. After all, the Trustees have certain duties and obligations towards the Trust and, if they wilfully disregard or violate them and put to risk the very institution that they are supposed to protect, they have no right to remain as Trustees any longer. Under these circumstances, it is common practice to file scheme suits against the Trust, and the Court or Govt. intervenes for the sake of the beneficiaries and the larger good of the institution, as they have done in the case of Auroville. Matriprasad Satyamurthy writes as if such things never happened before and as if it is the first time in the legal history of India that the beneficiaries of a Trust have gone against the Trustees.

Matriprasad Satyamurty: As the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust was created by the Mother to also protect the properties and assets that belong to the spiritual institution, who gains by making these assets and properties more vulnerable when the Ashram Trust is attacked?

The whole problem with the present Trustees is that they think only in terms of properties and assets of the Ashram. Had they focussed on the spiritual life of the Ashram, their administration would have been so much better. Have they ever thought about the spiritual vulnerability of the Ashram when they defend a book like the Lives of Sri Aurobindo by Peter Heehs? It is stupid to say that Sri Aurobindo can defend himself and allow at the same time Heehs’s insidious lies like “Sri Aurobindo wanted to marry Mother” to spread in the public domain, or that he was an outright liar when he was young and that his spiritual experiences could have been after all hallucinations! Apparently, these “liberal” interpretations are now being taught in the final years of the Ashram School by teachers such as Matriprasad Satyamurthy and his assistant Devdip Ganguly. Soon the children of the Ashram School will grow up with a different version of Sri Aurobindo’s life and philosophy and will say, “If Sri Aurobindo can tell a lie, why should not we?”

For the disciples and devotees, who care more for the spiritual work of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother than the material assets of the Ashram, there is absolutely nothing wrong about challenging the Ashram Trust. It is in fact their bounden duty to save the Ashram from the clutches of the present Trustees who are working against the core interests of the Ashram. After all, money and property of the Ashram are for the growth of the spirit and not for the perpetuation of a corrupt administration.

Matriprasad Satyamurthy: Lastly, how is it that  real estate tycoons, land-craving politicians, and other vested interests – exactly the kind of elements from which the Mother wanted to protect the Ashram – are backing anti-Trust elements like Raman Reddy, Sraddhalu Ranade and R.Y. Deshpande, helping them to split, weaken and break the Ashram apart? Is such a planned, well-coordinated collaboration which includes significant financial support, just a mere coincidence?

May I know who are these land-craving politicians? As a matter of fact, there are serious allegations of land-grabbing on the Trustees of the Ashram. Manoj Das Gupta, the present Managing Trustee, was accused of petty forgery and illegally acquiring for the Ashram three houses belonging to one Mr. Selvaraj Chettiar. (For more details, see the following posts. 1, 2, 3) Is it not shocking that the Managing Trustee is presently out on bail? Or is this also part of the divine dispensation which the Trustees claim to represent?

The second land deal is that of Dr. Dilip Datta (another Trustee) facilitating his son in the purchase of a property at the cost of the Ashram! The house bought by Dr. Dilip Datta’s son was bought from a French national, who was then given alternative accommodation by the Ashram because she was an inmate. Not only the house was allegedly purchased at half the market rate but its possession was given to Dr. Dilip Datta’s son even before full payment. Is this not misusing one’s position as the Trustee of a public charitable Trust for personal gain? And what was the need of giving fresh accommodation to the French national when she had already a house?

The third is the recent allegation of a political party which demonstrated in front of the Assembly on 5 September, 2014 and urged the Chief Minister of Puducherry to take over the Ashram Tennis Ground. The party spokesman said that the Ashram Trust “had contravened the conditions” in the deed of exchange between the Puducherry Govt. and the Ashram Trust in which the Tennis Ground had been exchanged for some other land belonging to the Trust.

All these are not wild allegations – documentary evidence has been published on our site. Why are there no answers to these accusations by the Well-wishers’ forum? Their silence on these matters tantamounts to admission of guilt!

Finally, the significant financial support comes from the fact that devotees are truly concerned about the present situation in the Ashram and are therefore ready to spend their hard-earned money to revamp the corrupt administration of the Ashram Trustees in order to save the Ashram from the Ashram Trust.

1 comment:

  1. Comment by Shubhamastu:

    All kinds of lies on Sri Aurobindo are being concocted in Sri Aurobindo Ashram in a conspiracy to malign him, but why are the Ashramites afraid to stand up against this conspiracy? Do they fear that their daily free meal will be withdrawn or that the size of the banana they enjoy will be reduced or that, instead of a cup of milk they receive, their quota will come down to half a cup! I think their concern is justified because, if they dare open their mouth against the misdeeds of the Ashram Trustees, they will be punished. But isn’t it obvious that the torture by the Trustees will seem insignificant if they have to face the wrath of the Divine. It is unfortunate that they don’t realise that they are in Sri Aurobindo Ashram not by the grace of one individual but to be a part of the mission initiated by the Mother and Sri Aurobindo.