Peter Heehs says that the crisis in the Ashram can be solved by offering career “advancement prospects” to the senior sadhaks who are unhappy with the present administration of the Ashram. The Ashram Trust could also establish daughter Ashrams which could provide “new job opportunities for young men anxious to obtain leadership positions upon finding themselves blocked by a lack of available positions, with older men holding onto their positions for life”! [read full article below]
Peter Heehs on the Crisis in Sri Aurobindo Ashram
Peter Heehs: It was relatively easy [for members of the Ashram] to accept subordination in an organization headed by the Mother; it is not so easy to accept it when the final authority is the trust board. Indeed, the lack of advancement prospects for senior sadhaks may have driven some of them to join the anti-Trust group. One potential solution to the problem of overcrowding at the top is that used by the Hutterites, who allow mature colonies to establish daughter colonies, thus providing ‘‘new job opportunities’’ for young men ‘‘anxious to obtain leadership positions’’ upon finding themselves ‘‘blocked by a lack of available positions, with older men holding onto their positions for life.’’ Each colony has its ‘‘own leadership structure,’’ and daughter colonies are not regarded as inherently inferior to mother colonies. Some such mechanism might help relieve pressure in the ashram, but it would be difficult to implement owing to the strong attachment to the original establishment, the site of the samadhi or tomb of the founders. In the absence of such a solution, it looks as though the conflict will continue until the pro- and anti-Trust factions either realize that a diverse, united community is in everyone’s best interest, or else decide to go their own ways.
Peter Heehs, Sri Aurobindo and His Ashram 1910-2010, An Unfinished History, p 81.
Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, Vol. 19, No. 1 (August 2015), pp. 65-86
Published by: University of California Press
Comment: This is what Peter Heehs writes in his latest article on the crisis in Sri Aurobindo Ashram caused by his derogatory biography of Sri Aurobindo. He says that the crisis can be solved by offering career “advancement prospects” to the senior sadhaks who are unhappy with the present administration of the Ashram. The Ashram Trust could also establish daughter Ashrams which could provide “new job opportunities for young men anxious to obtain leadership positions upon finding themselves blocked by a lack of available positions, with older men holding onto their positions for life”! Vow! What superb wisdom speaks from the lips of this so-called sadhak of the Ashram after spending 40 years there with the ostensible purpose of practising the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother! So the whole crisis boils down to a struggle for power and position. I would not be surprised if he concludes tomorrow that Sri Aurobindo came away to Pondicherry because he did not get the position he desired in the freedom movement against the British. That even the Mother came away to India because she did not get enough recognition in the spiritual groups of Paris! That both were disgruntled about not being recognised and ambitiously founded the Ashram in order to become famous spiritual leaders in their own right, instead of humbling doing their individual yoga outside Pondicherry!
But I suppose I should not even counter such wise suggestions, for it would be cliché (besides being “academically” incorrect) to remind Peter Heehs that the fundamental basis of Yoga is the renunciation of ego, that people join the Ashram in order to surrender themselves to the Divine and not become heads of departments or even its Trustees. That many of the disciples come from influential backgrounds and, had they stayed outside, they would have retired by now as top C.E.O’s or Managing Directors, or even founded their own businesses. The senior sadhaks who have expressed their reservations about the administration of the present Ashram Trust are certainly not anxiously waiting to climb the ladder of administrative hierarchy. After all, what coveted positions can a small Ashram of 1500 inmates offer them materially: the prospect of being the Registrar of the Ashram School with a meagre strength of 400 students? Being the head of a department such as the Ashram Press with a small number of paid employees and a corresponding number of relaxed Ashramites, who spend most of their time talking about everything on earth except the immediate work in hand? Or even the unenviable position of the Managing Trustee, who has lost control of the Ashram and knows too well that the community is rapidly going downhill? It would actually be more intelligent to jump off than try to occupy the driver’s seat of this symbolic bus that has lost its brakes and is heading for a crash in the near future!
What should however deeply embarrass the Ashram Trustees is that they are described as the “older men holding onto their positions for life” by the very same person for whom they have literally staked the future of the Ashram! So if you want an example of “utter ungratefulness” for your teenage son or daughter, here is an excellent one. But then P.H. has his own standard defence, which is full of conceit and suffers from overuse. He would say that he wrote it for an academic journal (with restricted access), where he had to naturally take an objective stand, without bringing his personal feelings into consideration. Therefore his sympathy and appreciation for the Trust remain unabated despite having stated the unpalatable truth of the matter. So there you are. The long and the short of it is that he has kicked hard the Trust (where it hurts most) and would then cheekily state the unavoidable reasons for having done so!