18 Feb 2015

AVOID GROUPISM – by Raman Reddy

[The following letter of Raman Reddy to the Golden Chain magazine (run by the alumni association of the Ashram School) was published in the August issue of 2005. We republish it here because of its relevance in the present context and the number of criticisms that have been raised on our blog against the stand taken by the Golden Chain Fraternity in the current crisis at Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Readers should be informed that Reddy dissociated himself from the magazine after the directors of the Golden Chain decided to become mere tools in the hands of the Ashram Trust instead of taking their own independent stand in the matter. So much for “the hero warriors” of “the great battle of the future” that they were supposed to become! – Bireshwar Choudhury]

I will raise a murmur of pro­test against the last issue’s (May 2005) editorial page on The Golden Chain Fraternity. Why only a “murmur” and not “take strong objections”? Because I myself am an ex-student and closely linked with The Golden Chain magazine. But self-criti­cism, according to me, is the best way to progress, and so I bring into focus two apparently pleasant statements made by an editor which have become unpleasant by their very stat­ing: (1) We (that is, The Golden Chain Fraternity or more sim­ply called, the ex-students of the Ashram School) belong to that group of “sun-eyed children of a marvellous dawn” — I com­plete the half-quote from Sav­itri. (2) We have no samskaras to be erased as opposed to the poor guys who come from out­side with “a baggage of tradi­tions and beliefs which have to be left behind to walk on this path”.

My objection to the first quote can perhaps be brushed away by the editor saying that it was “just quoted like that and not really meant to be taken seriously”. But the word “just” or the attitude implied, is what makes all the difference. It is like saying to the “others” who are sometimes equally interested in Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, if not more, “You know, we are ‘just’ superior to you. But don’t take our words seriously.” It is sheer naiveté if the editor thinks that her words are not going to ruffle anybody. As it is, there is plenty of hostility against ex-students in general. Why add more fuel to these embers of hate?

Secondly, I was shocked to know (I should actually be very pleased) that I, as a member of the Fraternity, had no “sams­karas to erase”. There is a certain obvious truth about it in the sense that we “start with a clean slate”. We have repeated this of­ten enough and we all know the advantages of a new beginning. But that gives us only a progres­sive disposition and produces a conducive environment when many of us are into it. It does not resolve the basic issues of Yoga. In other words, we don’t turn into supermen or overmen by the very fact of studying at the Ashram School. What about the subconscient “baggage” that all of us carry, no matter where we come from? Have we got rid of that? What about the great symbolic battle of the fu­ture that the Mother wants us to fight? Has that battle begun earnestly? My objection could again be met by saying, “Oh, now, you are getting into yogic abstractions.” But what else can we get into if not Yoga, when we speak of these things? It is here that I want to pull the editor to ground level and say, “Let us be more humble in these mat­ters and let us recognise our strengths as well as our weak­nesses.” In any case, it is wrong to pat ourselves on the back so enthusiastically.

Incidentally, one great weak­ness with us, is that it takes us often a very long time to make a definite choice in life, because of the wonderful conditions we en­joy here. The choice is often in­built, but still it takes a long time to realise it as such. One great ad­vantage with people who come to the Ashram from outside is that they do make a choice, a very decisive one, without which they could not have broken away from their moorings. And when they come here, they often find us the very opposite of what they expected us to be. Not that what they say matters to us, but still, it is a point of view which should not be neglected. Nor, do I think, it makes a big difference to Yoga in the long run, because finally everybody seems to get his or her due share of human impossibilities.

Lastly, we seem to have for­gotten that the old guard of sadhaks who came here in the twenties and thirties, the solid and venerable pillars of the Ashram — Nolini, Pavitra, Am­rita, Dyuman, etc — all came from outside carrying plenty of luggage and yet they stood firm and built the foundations of the Ashram, of course, with the help and support of Sri Au­robindo and the Mother.

I take the opportunity to draw the attention of The Gold­en Chain Fraternity to look be­yond self-complacent defini­tions. We have plenty of things to learn from everybody even if they don’t have much to learn from us. In any case, the real Teachers are Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and not any group which claims the right under­standing of their teachings. The fact that we have survived and acted as a group is surely to our credit, but let us avoid groupism.

Let us make the magazine readable to all who are inter­ested in Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, and even to other sympathetic or like-minded groups. There is a place for spe­cific group interests which unite us, but let us also address other readers who have not grown up here. I understand we don’t want to start a newspaper for all and sundry, but neither do we want to convey the impression that “These Golden Chain peo­ple are mostly talking to each other, or rather, basking in their own imagined glory.”

I close my letter with an apology if I have hurt the feel­ings of the above mentioned editor, who otherwise is doing a commendable job and deserves full appreciation. It is only when her enthusiasm goes beyond the bounds of discretion that I re­serve the right to grumble.

Raman Reddy ’75
The Golden Chain, August  2005


  1. Comment by a devotee:

    It is one thing to be free from sanskaras and quite another to have no sanskaras. So also it is one thing to be truly free and quite another to be bound by your freedom!! Perhaps we are mistaking independence, a movement of the ego that smacks of arrogance, for freedom, that is always accompanied by a sense of service to all. Sri Aurobindo reminds us, - 'Break the moulds of the past, but keep safe its gains and its spirit, or else thou hast no future.' In any case any community that lives with the sense of superiority is foredoomed to fall and perish as the Yadavas of old who believed they were God's own special children until God Himself destroyed them.

  2. Comment by Ritwik Banerji:

    This mail is simply to thank Bireshwar for bringing to light Raman Reddy's letter of August 2005 published in Golden Chain magazine, which is of immense significance. It simply shows the hypocrisy and banality in the Ashram and the Golden Chain Fraternity (GCF) today.