27 Jul 2015

Reply to Benimadhav Mohanty – by Bireshwar Chowdhury

Yesterday Benimadhav Mohanty took a nasty swipe at a friend of mine who (along with many others) had the gumption to take on the Ashram Trustees when they shamelessly supported the denigration of Sri Aurobindo in his own Ashram by Peter Heehs.  As we all know, the crisis in Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, still continues, and perhaps by the end of this month the Supreme Court of India will give a major judgment in the Enquiry Case pending against the Ashram Trust. It is in this backdrop that I am replying to Benimadhav Mohanty who made the silly accusation of “self-aggrandisement” on those who have stood up to the Trust instead of whimpering down like puppies, as most Ashramites have done, to the insidious threats of the Ashram Trustees – threats of depriving their rations, cutting down on their petrol expenses, not allotting the accommodation of their choice, not admitting their relatives into the Ashram (as in the case of Benimadhav himself who apparently wanted to admit his cousin into the Ashram so that she could serve him for the rest of his life). Or the threat of not giving them proper medical care; not hauling them up for sheer indiscipline or not removing them as a teacher in School or captain in Group or boss in Department; or not publishing their articles in Ashram magazines or not allowing them to stage their plays in the Ashram theatre! The list can go on, for the Trustees have many such deterrents to make all sections of Ashramites think ten times before taking on a confrontational mode. Let me mention only one more, perhaps the most intimidating one for those who are vulnerable to it – the permission to go to Sri Aurobindo’s room. This threat really knocks the bottom out of the best and the brave, for who can miss out on the experience of meditating in Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s rooms? Unfortunately, it is the very attachment to this ineffable experience that is used strategically by the present Managing Trustee against those who seek to protect the dignity of the Masters in their own Ashram. The present situation then is that of the invisible Gurus (backed by a small group of motley supporters who feel deeply aggrieved by the insult to their Gurus) versus the visible mortal remains of the same Gurus, the custody of which lies in the hands of the current Trustees of the Ashram, who use every argument on the planet (including the clever excuse of leaving things to the Divine), to let the Gurus be thoroughly insulted in their own Ashram. What other proof do we need to show that this is verily the period of Kaliyug!

Let us come back to Benimadhav Mohanty, who is comparatively a mild irritant in this bigger conflict that is raging in the Ashram.  Since the last two years or so, Benimadhav has been desperately trying to educate the SAICE alumni by posting the works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother in his Facebook account. His pedagogical exercise has not been tremendously successful partly because of the overdose of study material (which the alumni can hardly digest given the rate at which they are being fed), and partly because he intersperses his comments (in the most atrocious English) with the words of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. The result is that the already overburdened reader does not even know where the quotations begin and where they end, and where Benimadhav’s comments begin and end, if they at all end, because he seems to go on forever with dots galore, dotting merrily his sentences in and out of the quotations of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother! For the information of readers, this gallant swash-buckling ex-student, who always rushes where angels fear to tread, teaches History in the Ashram School, where I expect him to follow the same Nobel prize-winning pedagogy.

But let me come to the grand finale! I would not have targeted Benimadhav Mohanty for not being well-read or for being a bumbling fool. Personally, I have respect for even idiots as long they are not deceitful and have respect for their Masters. But what bugs all of us is that, according to the friend of mine who has been accused of seeking self-aggrandisement, the same Benimadhav was a staunch supporter of Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya and a bitter critic of the Ashram Trustees a few years ago in the matter of Peter Heehs. So much so that he even procured for the editors of this site photocopies of the two long letters of Jugal Kishore Mukherji (one & two) and the letter of Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya written to the Trustees in 1986-87, which throw so much light on the Peter Heehs issue. 

So why and how did Benimadhav change? I would not put him to further shame by divulging the details of his betrayal because the same plight is shared by a number of Ashramites, who when Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya was there, thumped their chests aggressively or hissed out venom against the Trustees for supporting Peter Heehs! But alas Dada (PKB), who at that time had spearheaded the movement against the corrupt Ashram Trust, is dead and gone and the many dissenting voices of senior and junior Ashramites have been silenced by the clever manipulations of the Ashram Trustees! The erstwhile bold have now become pusillanimous, the roaring lions have become bleating lambs, the frank and outspoken have become subservient and ingratiating in order to curry a few favours from the Ashram Trust!

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