Apropos the news about Shri Manoj Das and the Seashore Chit Fund scam reported in this site on the 28th and 29th of October 2014, I felt that by Divine Providence the Orissa Seashore Chit Bounty got channelled back to the flood victims near the Seashore in Orissa. Prompted by my inner voice, I went through the self assessment given by Shri Manoj Das in his reply dated 17 September 2014 to the column titled The Enemy Within in the journal Organiser (dt 21 Sep 2014).
What he wrote angrily there perhaps can be utilised with minor modifications to reflect on the current theme about Sri Manoj Das (MD in short).
While Shri MD in his rejoinder to the Organiser has claimed to be living in Sri Aurobindo Ashram for a little over fifty years, the tail piece in the site wellwishersofsriaurobindoashram which republished the same rejoinder, mentions that he has been an inmate of Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Puducherry since 1973. It is not clear how 1973 to 2014 adds up to 50 years! But possibly Sri Aurobindo’s line in Savitri, “Which less than zero grew and more than one” has been used in the computation.
Be that as it may, rarely could one imagine that Shri MD with the credentials of a renowned bilingual creative writer, who writes in Oriya and English and is the recipient of Sahitya Akademi Award Fellowship, Padmashree and Saraswati Samman, could get into association with outfits of a chit fund company. The Mother forbid!
While Shri MD had dared the columnist of the Organiser to swear by Mother India about his visit to the Ashram, can we not be inquisitive to learn whether he himself would swear by The Mother that, by staying in the Ashram for four decades, he has been able to fully imbibe the spirit sublime dominating the air, and not merely indulge in double cross and angry diatribes against fellow sadhaks? Receptivity to the Divine Will of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo in thought, word and deed, however, may or may not be beyond his aspiration. For everyone who is exposed to The Mother and Sri Aurobindo, the choice is imperative: If he wants to be a sadhak, then aspiration and sincerity are indispensable; if not, then it is the life of ordinary man, notwithstanding the number of years spent as a resident in the Ashram. There is still time since the Divine has the unlimited love of the mother and the unlimited patience of the teacher.
By his own writing, Shri MD has acknowledged to the fact that “Following the vision of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, the Ashram runs with the minimum of rules; ...... Its accounts are audited by premier agencies and are always certified to be clean.” But pray, let us know, whether Sri Aurobindo’s views on Money have also been given a go-by by the Trustees for elders like Sri MD who seem to be above all rules.
For a brief recollection, we may note what the Master had written in the book The Mother. The sadhak has to “regard wealth simply as a power to be won back for the Mother and placed at her service... In your personal use of money look on all you have or get or bring as the Mother’s......Be entirely selfless, entirely scrupulous, exact, careful in detail, a good trustee; always consider that it is her possession and not your own that you are handling. On the other hand, what you receive for her, lay religiously before her; turn nothing to your own or anybody else’s purpose.”
Shri MD’s literary genius flowered to heights under the benign grace of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo. But then has the wealth and honorarium collected by him for his literary work over the years (even by frequently missing out on his duties at the Centre of Education where he was a teacher) have all been accounted for and made over to the Ashram or laid at the Feet of the Mother? Something hurts us somewhere, but the concerned should be made aware of it.
Though the information that Shri MD has reportedly donated the bounties he received (in the past) from the chit fund organisation to flood victims in Orissa (now) is very touching, it appears that he has donated from his private purse. It is not clear whether the privately earned sums were reported to the Ashram authorities or handed over to them on accrual – as it would be expected of a sadhak. There is a sneaking suspicion that some of the older inmates of the Ashram, maintaining their private interests in money and property, are exempt from surrendering everything “one has, or one is, and one gets”. At the same time, the very same elder statesmen have been alleged to draw on the bounty of the Ashram resources for meeting their personal needs of frequent travel, medicare and other expenses. It would be a travesty of financial propriety if their incomes are classified as personal to them when requirements of monies for their travel on personal missions, hotel stay, hospital charges and hospitality in activities not connected with Ashram are clubbed with the resource outgo for meeting court cases of the Ashram, and charged to the common pool of the Ashram’s resource, which is built up from the offerings of devotees the world over. Let it be understood that “what is mine is mine and what is yours is negotiable” does not gel in financial matters related to a public charitable trust. Can such conduct bordering on financial impropriety be acceptable by independent and professional auditors? But then the easy way out is not to report such income under the general sweep that ”the Ashram runs with the minimum of rules”! No auditor can clarify such matters, unless the incomes are reported in the first instance. (Auditors always mention that their audit report is based on the records and documents made available for the purpose). To quote Shri MD again to himself, “Can he also swear by the Mother that he had at least asked the Ashram authorities or sought a clarification from them as to whether they had something to say on this matter?”
To selectively quote the Padma Shree again, “It is not unusual for any spiritual institution to attract attacks from some hostile elements. ....the Ashram is not an assembly of ascetics, but it represents numerous specimens of mankind, including an ambitious few who try to sabotage it from within while painting others as ‘enemy within’.” Having noted this, “surely we expected better sense“ from the respected elder. But then as mentioned by him “whoever does not live an inner life is bound to feel restless and, if he is unfortunate, will become a prey of maddening forces of falsehood.“ Very true, and bordering almost on autobiographical lines!
Like the adage “Physician heal thyself “, should we not say, “Professor reflect on yourself”?