6 Nov 2015

On the Visit of BJP President Amit Shah to Sri Aurobindo Ashram – by Sampdas

It is both comical and ironical that the Ashram Trustees first took the BJP President, Sri Amit Shah, to the Samadhi of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and then to the Archives Cold Storage, where their manuscripts are  preserved. It is ironical because the very supporters of the denigration of Sri Aurobindo posed as earnest followers of the Master in front of powerful politicians. At the same time, it is comical that those who insolently tamper with the writings of Sri Aurobindo are introduced as the ones who reverentially preserve his writings. [read full article below]

On the Visit of BJP President Amit Shah to Sri Aurobindo Ashram – by Sampdas

It was in the news in the not too distant past that the President of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Shri Amit Shah, visited the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry while he was on a tour of south India. He came to Pondicherry en route, after visiting the famous Nataraja temple at Chidambaram. The Bharatiya Janata Party, as we all know, is currently the ruling party of the Union Govt. of India.

As a devotee and disciple of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, it is a matter of pride for many like me that the head of the political party, which recognises the spiritual traditions of India, came to the Ashram, visited Sri Aurobindo’s and the Mother’s rooms, bowed down at their Samadhi, and had a look at the Cold Storage of the Archives Dept. which preserves the writings and manuscripts of the Gurus.

It is however a matter of comic contrast as to how his visit was interpreted. First, in the reporting of the Press, it was a brief news item in The Hindu ; and then with a little more detail in The Times of India by Bosco Dominique, the  reporter, who generally travels an extra  mile with the Ashram Trust in reporting matters connected to it.

This was duly followed by a write-up in the wellwishersofsaa site. As is the usual custom in India to mention Sri Ganeshaya Namaha to start any activity, the Well-wishers site first invoked the presiding deities of their target – the triad of Raman Reddy, Sraddhalu Ranade and R.Y. Deshpande, mercifully omitting Alok Pandey this time. They felt that the visit of Shri Amit Shah had to be viewed in the background of the disinformation campaign carried out by these worthies. In one of my earlier write-ups, I had mentioned that the wellwishersofsaa are very generous in crediting the triad, whom they dread, with literally everything not to their liking. Thank your stars, in this monsoon season, the triad has not yet been credited for the excess or scanty rainfall at the portal and precincts of the Ashram.

This site (thelivesofsriaurobindo.com) too carried the news item on Shri Amit Shah’s visit, criticising the Ashram Trustees for bending backwards to a visiting  dignitary of the present ruling party, in much the same manner as they had ingratiated themselves earlier to the erstwhile ruling party leaders. To an impartial observer, it is all too apparent that the Ashram Trustees and their secretary ‘Devilprasad Asatyamoorthy’ want to be on the right side of the rulers because their own standing is at stake, more so with the Union Govt. filing an affidavit in the Supreme Court favouring an independent Enquiry into the mismanagement of the Ashram Trust, as was also done earlier by the local Govt. of Pondicherry in September 2012. Notwithstanding the bravado of the top notch lawyer of the Ashram Trust declaring in the Supreme Court that they would welcome any enquiry, there seems to be an underlying fear in the minds of the wrongdoers in as much as the earlier enquiry ordered by the local Govt. was sought to be torpedoed by the Ashram Trust by rushing to the Madras High Court and getting a stay order on the proposed enquiry. The proceedings in the Madras High Court however led to the appointment of a retired judge of the Kerala High Court as the Enquiry Officer in September 2013. The retired judge after preliminary work recused himself, as he wanted to practise in the Supreme Court. The second retired judge from the Kerala High Court, who was named by the Madras High Court as the Enquiry Officer in October 2013, had one meeting with an extremely limited circle of persons (as per the order of the High Court which appeared to be restrictive in scope and coverage). Before the Enquiry with such truncated terms of reference could proceed further, the second Enquiry Judge breathed his last in January 2014. As of now the Enquiry is a non starter. It is hoped that the proposed Enquiry contemplated by the Supreme Court would not be as restrictive as the one ordered by the Madras High Court, that it will be much more comprehensive and provide the opportunity to all the devotees and disciples to flag the perceived misdeeds of the Trustees and their henchmen before the Enquiry Officer. Only an impartial and time bound enquiry into the gravamen of the charges, without any interference from the Trustees, can set things right in the Ashram.

It is not out of love for Raman Reddy or Sradhhalu Ranade or R. Y. Deshpande – the dreaded trio – that I am writing this, but out of love for the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. It is also a matter of great concern to a large number of devotees at Pondicherry and elsewhere, as well as the hapless inmates of the Ashram who dare not speak in public about the wrongdoings of the Ashram Trust due to the threat of withdrawal of their basic amenities such as food, shelter and medical treatment by the ruling junta.

A question arises again and again as to the genesis of the crisis at the Ashram. While harassment of inmates and financial irregularities have been going on for some time past, they were kept under tabs since Ashramites are enjoined not to resort to the police or outside authorities for redressal of grievances, or allowed to complain against the misdeeds of the high and mighty in the Ashram. These are sins which the majority of the inmates have been stoically putting up with for many years and pretending to be ignorant about. In some cases, a few had to approach the local magisterial courts for getting back their basic amenities which were withdrawn by the Ashram Trust in retaliation to raising these issues in the public domain. But these events never drew much the attention of all the inmates and disciples nor the general public at large.

However, the proverbial “last straw on the camel’s back” came when Peter Heehs and his cohorts systematically started tampering with the writings of Sri Aurobindo in the name of editing them at the Ashram Archives, and attempted to sully his image by portraying an extremely negative picture of his life. While those who were fortunate to have had personal association with the Master, had already written a number of inspirational biographies on him, Peter Heehs the nomadic sojourner from overseas, who neither had any personal interface with the Master, nor an objective mind, nor any spiritual bent, crowned himself as an objective historian and published a highly prejudiced biography of the Master in the U.S.A. This was apparently with the consent of the Trustees for reasons best known to them. Claiming to be an authority on Sri Aurobindo by working at the Ashram Archives, PH went by bits of highly opinionated versions of westernised scholars and fished out stray references for salacious and negative interpretations of the Master and his spiritual work. What is most appalling is that the Ashram Trustees, who ought to be faithful to the Master (in whose name the Ashram stands and to whom they owe everything), have been supportive of Peter Heehs in his effort to wreck the Ashram from within.

As an interesting aside, it is worth noting that Sri M.P. Pandit, one of the senior disciples, who had written more than a hundred and fifty books on the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, does not even find mention as a disciple on any of the Ashram’s websites. For many of us Indians as well as seekers in the West, his writings brought the message of positive and affirmative spirituality of the Mother and the Master. While he has been blacked out by the Ashram Trust, the well orchestrated campaign in support of Peter Heehs’s negative and sub-standard biography of the Master at the instance of those who are currently in power in the Ashram, shows not only a mindset of utter insincerity, but also an attitude of putting one’s personal interest above the Ideal for which the Ashram was originally founded. Is it only monetary interest that has come in the way or are the Trustees hostage to some ulterior interest, one does not know yet. But surely, those who stand by the denigration of Sri Aurobindo seem to be the ones who have sold their soul for a mess of pottage. For them the soul is not of primacy but personal interests are the sole concern!

It is both comical and ironical that the Ashram Trustees first took the BJP President, Sri Amit Shah, to the Samadhi of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and then to the Archives Cold Storage, where their manuscripts are  preserved. It is ironical because the very supporters of the denigration of Sri Aurobindo posed as earnest followers of the Master in front of powerful politicians. At the same time, it is comical that those who insolently tamper with the writings of Sri Aurobindo are introduced as the ones who reverentially preserve his writings. In a sense, the way the Ashram Trustees have managed the visit of the political dignitary only reflects the underlying truth of the matter. MDG, Asatyamurthy & Co. first showed Sri Amit Shah the Samadhi of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, the sanctified place where the mortal remains of the great spiritual Gurus are kept. And then, as a contrast to it, they showed him how the current crop of time-servers has managed to build another samadhi for the writings of the Master in the form of the Ashram Cold Storage. The latter is not only actual but also symbolic. For by consigning the writings of the Master for preservation under controlled conditions (the actual), and by denying access to those who find fault with the likes of Peter Heehs, thereby aiding the disinformation about the life and works of the Master (the intellectual and symbolic side), they have buried the works of the Master five fathoms deep into an irretrievable cave of the Panis!

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