Jayantilal Parekh’s article “The Sri Aurobindo Ashram and its Administration” posted on the Well-wishers’ site is rather outdated. It applies perhaps to the first two decades of Ashram life after the Mother’s passing away in 1973, but certainly not to the next two decades, and especially to the present situation. Given the undeniable fact that the Ashram is going through a process of deterioration of values and motivations, we can hardly keep justifying all that happens here under the name of spirituality and Integral Yoga! How long are we going to repeat that “the Ashram is the cradle of a new world” and “not a religious monastery” in order to justify our human frailties? The question therefore is of the proportion of sadhana and human weaknesses, of when and how much their precarious balance tilts to the wrong side rather than a clear definition of what exactly qualifies us for the Ashram life. What I mean is that everybody in the wide world knows that “staying in the Ashram despite human weaknesses so that one day we can outgrow them” is different from “staying in the Ashram in order to fulfil our physical propensities and make the best of the facilities provided by the institution for that very purpose”. It is to the first form of Ashram life that Jayantilal Parekh refers to, and to that extent he is right, granting him of course sufficient benefit of doubt. But how can we stretch his argument beyond the limits of basic law and order, and include in the scope of its leniency molestation, cheating, abetment to suicide, medical neglect leading to death, forgery and shady land deals which the present Ashram Trustees can be accused of deliberately ignoring, if not directly involving themselves? (These accusations are not fabrications of a few spiteful inmates as the Trustees project them to be. This site has sufficiently documented them so that there is no need to repeat them here.)
The Trustees of the first two decades of the Ashram after the Mother’s passing away were chosen by the Mother herself – they were made of a different ilk. The present day Trustees belong to a later generation and have now resorted to a no-holds barred policy of corrupt pragmatism in order to save their own seats of power in the name of saving the Ashram! Unfortunately most inmates of the Ashram have lost all independence of mind due to their economic dependence on the Trustees, and are forced to believe in the sanctity of their ham-handed decisions! One final word before I quote below the Mother’s conversation of June 14, 1965 from the Agenda where she discusses the rules for Ashram life. She was faced at that time with the necessity of framing rules for the Ashram because requests for admission were “pouring in like locusts”, and “at least ninety-nine times out of a hundred”, it was from people who wanted “to come here [Ashram] to be comfortable and rest and do nothing”. If this was the state of Ashram affairs in 1965, what would be situation now! So lest we be too lenient on ourselves and merrily accept “everything as good for Ashram life”, let us not forget that at the end of the journey we might find ourselves to be in the despicable predicament of being “good for nothing”, that is, neither good for the successful fulfilment of the ordinary life nor for deriving the satisfaction of having walked the Yogic path, and thereby become a laughing-stock to the rest of the world!
The Mother on Rules for Ashram Life
We are putting together ... (what can I call it?) a set of rules (oh, that's an ugly word) for admission to the Ashram.... Yes! ... Not that if you accept the rules you're admitted, it's not that, but when someone is admitted, we tell him, "But, you know, here is ..." (when he is potentially admitted), "here is what you are committing yourself to by becoming a member of the Ashram." Because requests for admission are pouring in like locusts, and at least ninety-nine times out of a hundred, it's from people who want to come here to be comfortable and rest and do nothing – one in a hundred comes because he has a spiritual aspiration (oh, and even then ... it's mixed). So they shouldn't tell us afterwards (because we've had such experiences), "Oh, but I didn't know it was that way," with the excuse that they hadn't been told. For instance, "I didn't know we weren't allowed to ..." (Mother questions herself for a moment) What isn't allowed?... (Then, laughing, she points to Satprem:) Smoking isn't allowed. And drinking alcohol isn't allowed, being married isn't allowed, except nominally, and so on. And then you have to work, and all your desires aren't automatically satisfied. So they send me letters, "But you told me that ..." (oh, things I never said, naturally), "at such-and-such a date" (you understand, sufficiently far back for me not to remember!), "you told me that ..." And from what they write I see very clearly what I said and how they turned it upside down. So now we'll prepare a paper that we'll give them to read, and we'll ask them, "Have you clearly understood?" And when they have said they've clearly understood and have signed, at least we'll keep the paper, and when they start being a nuisance, we can show it to them and tell them, "Beg your pardon, we told you this wasn't a ..." (what's the word?) "an Eden where you can stay without doing anything and where your bread is buttered on both sides!"
So I put as first condition (I wrote it in English): the sole aim of life is to dedicate oneself to the divine realization (I didn't put it in these terms, but that's the idea). You must first (you may deceive yourself, but that doesn't make any difference), first be convinced that this is what you want and you want this alone – primo. Then Nolini told me that the second condition should be that my absolute authority had to be recognized. I said, "Not like that! ", we should put that "Sri Aurobindo's absolute authority is recognized" (we can add [laughing!, "represented by me," because he cannot speak, of course, except to me – to me he speaks very clearly, but others don't hear!). Then there are many other things, I don't remember, and finally a last paragraph that goes like this (Mother looks for a note).... Previously, I remember, Sri Aurobindo had also put together a little paper to give people, but it's outdated (it was about not quarrelling with the police! And what else, I don't remember – it's outdated). But I didn't want to put prohibitions in, because prohibitions ... first of all, it's an encouragement to revolt, always, and then there is a good proportion of characters who, when they are forbidden to do something, immediately feel an urge to do it – they might not even have thought of it otherwise, but they just have to be told about it to ... "Ah, but I do as I like." All right.
(Mother starts reading) To those ... I am making a distinction: there are people who come here and want to dedicate themselves to divine life, but they come to do work and they will work (they won't do an intensive yoga because not one in fifty is capable of doing it, but they are capable of dedicating their life and of working and doing good work disinterestedly, as a service to the Divine – that's very good), but in particular, To those who want to practice the integral yoga, it is strongly advised to abstain from three things.... So, the three things ([laughing] you put your fingers in your ears): sexual intercourse (it comes third) and drinking alcohol and ... [whispering] smoking.
(Mother’s Agenda, Volume 6, June 14, 1965)