24 Nov 2015

The Mahabharata in Sri Aurobindo Ashram – by Sampdas

This has reference to an interesting write-up titled The Bhishmacharya Complex in Sri Aurobindo Ashram (posted on this site on 25 October, 2015). The write-up has touched the crux of the matter; to me and a large number of followers of the Mother, the legend of the Mahabharata looks as being re-enacted at the Ashram, with variations in content and scope. While the ancient epic is largely a legend and a symbol, when we ponder on the present state of affairs in the Ashram, it looks that today’s Mahabharata is for real.

The epic portrays the fight in Kurukshetra (a place in the northern part of India) between the warring clans of the Pandavas and Kauravas, representing respectively the Right and the Unrighteous. But today’s Mahabharata has for its location the Sri Aurobindo Ashram at Pondicherry. The protagonists in the epic were cousins fighting for the rights over a kingdom, but the one at the Ashram is between those who stand for ensuring the primacy of Light and Truth as opposed to those who are on the side of Darkness, Perfidy, and Division.  It is veritably a struggle between the sons of the Divine Mother and the sons of Darkness and Falsehood.

Further, in today’s Mahabharata there are characters that can be traced to the likes of those in the legend, though as perverted specimens of the originals. The epic has one Bhishmacharya, but today there are a number of similar elders in the Ashram marked by the Bhishmacharya complex. Again there are many like Karna, who are on the side of  Dhritarashtra and Duryodhana. The ruling elite of the Ashram Trust could possibly qualify to be today’s Kauravas, who are athirst for power, position and wealth. They seem to fit in aptly in the following lines of Savitri:

There each in his own darkness walked alone:
Only they agreed to differ in Evil’s paths,
There Ego was lord upon his peacock seat
And Falsehood sat by him, his mate and queen:
Power and utility were their Truth and Right

(Savitri, Book II, Canto 7)

Herein the influentials in the Ashram Trust seem a magnified version of the mythical characters. While the earlier write-up has likened Manoj Das Gupta, the Managing Trustee, to Dhritharashtra, with his foster son Peter Heehs as Duryodhana, and Devilprasad as Shakuni, there are other characters as well.

Even the character of Vidura - a model of virtue and righteousness in the original epic – is replicated here with the difference that he has cast his lot with the negative forces, instead of distancing himself from the king as he did in the Mahabharata. No doubt, the erudite Sri Manoj Das was in the mould of Vidura when he first discovered a hundred fallacies, lies and perversion in the Lives of Sri Aurobindo by Peter Heehs. But then he suddenly went on reverse gear to sing paeans in praise of PH’s defective and prejudiced work. Perhaps the convenience of free travel  for personal visits to different parts of the country and hassle free costly medical treatment being met from the Ashram Trust coffers, as well as the need to disentangle from the Seashore Chit Fund  scam  enquiry by investigating agencies, brought about this remarkable transformation in him. It looks as if the erstwhile roaring lion has now become the well-domesticated, mewing cat. Surely this is not the transformation that the Mother and Sri Aurobindo envisaged from senior Ashramites professing to be their disciples.

The downslide in matters relating to the Ashram Trust is palpably clear. The proverbial Gresham’s law known in economics theory, whereby the bad coin drives out the good coin from circulation, seems to hold true here. With the demise of stalwarts and enlightened yogis like Nolini-da, Dyuman, and the walking out by the thoroughly disgusted Champaklalji due to the goings on in the Ashram, the stage was left open for the mean and lesser mortals to take over the Ashram. Within the Ashram, many sadhaks still doubt as to whether some of the incumbent Trustees have not ascended to their present positions through deceit and forgery. It is indeed the case that clearly shows that there is no smoke without a fire. The Ashram Trust today is suspected to have indulged in serious financial irregularities and has a track record of denying food, shelter and medical facilities to inmates who have dared to question them. To top it all, the Ashram Trust stands as one man in defending PH, who continues to write derogatorily about Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, the sadhaks of the Ashram, and even about the Trust members. Nothing can be worse than when an inmate of the Ashram devalues Sri Aurobindo and the Mother in public, and the Trustees come to defend him and not the Master, in whose name the Ashram stands.

It is a pity that in the context of such sordid events in the once hallowed Ashram, a large number of senior inmates are caught by the Bhishmacharya complex, and they have neither the voice to protest against the financial irregularities nor are courageous enough to come out openly against the vilification of Sri Aurobindo. Even if it is a case of being faithful to the Ashram as an institution established by the Mother herself, it defies logic and reason as to why the elders do not raise their voices when the very tenets of spiritual life, as envisaged by their Masters, are blatantly flouted by the Trust.  But if it is a question of security and survival in a commune with strict surveillance against dissension and the constant threat of denial of food, shelter and medical help by the powers that be, it is a different matter. It is in this context that an impartial enquiry into the murky affairs of the Ashram has to be done without any interference from the Trustees and their henchmen. The senior and elder sadhaks of the Ashram, who still swear by the Mother, need to come out openly on the side of the Truth sooner than later. They cannot afford to be mute spectators to the downslide in the conduct of the Trust, as did Bhishmacharya of lore.  It is time to remind them of the words of the Master, “Nor let worldly prudence whisper too closely in thy ear, for the hour is often terrible.” Let them also not forget the fate that befell Bhishmacharya in the epic – how he was thoroughly disillusioned at the end and fell by the wayside waiting for his exit. 

Another protagonist on the side of Dhritarashtra’s court was Karna, the warrior who cast his lot with the unrighteous, since that side had given him honour and shelter, and assured him the comforts of life. True to the enlarged version of the story as witnessed in the Ashram, there is not one Karna but a number of Karnas. But there is a rider. These Karnas are not givers of gifts, but adepts in receiving favours from the offices of the unrighteous. The students from the International Centre of Education, who are adjudged as automatically qualified to be admitted in the Ashram, courtesy approval by the Trustees, are naturally beholden to their benefactors. Being members of the Ashram – not necessarily being sadhaks - assures them comfortable accommodation, food and other perquisites of an easy life, with or without any spiritual requirements. It is no surprise that they are staunch well wishers of the Ashram Trust rather than faithful followers of Sri Aurobindo. I am not making a sweeping generalisation, since there are many ex-students turned Ashramites who are indeed seriously pursuing the spiritual life, but there are many more who have the least interest in spiritual matters, and are like ordinary men of the world both in their inner and outer life. These are the Karnas of today, more in the nature of mercenaries, with unswerving loyalty to the Trust.

A question arises as to who are the Pandavas? But in today’s Mahabharata there are no Pandavas, since there is no kingdom to be captured from Dhritarashtra and his ilk. Of course, there are a large number of devotees and disciples who are willing and prepared to take the side of Truth and Light. For them the cause is simply the victory of the Divine, and hastening the advent of the Truth is what matters most to them. Hence they are the sons of the Divine Mother who are on the side of Sri Aurobindo – the Krishna of today’s Mahabharata.

Just as Krishna emphasised on kartavyam karma, listening to the inner call and the importance of surrender to the Lord in the Bhagawad Gita, so has Sri Aurobindo described his Yoga in a symbolic way in Savitri, the Veda of the New Age. Regarding the perennial war of the forces of Truth and Light against the agents of Darkness and Untruth, Sri Aurobindo says the following in Savitri:

Sri Aurobindo Uvacha:

      A dark concealed hostility is lodged
      In the human depths, in the hidden heart of Time
      That claims the right to change and mar God’s work.
      A secret enmity ambushes the world’s march;
      It leaves a mark on thought and speech and act;
      It stamps stain and defect on all things done;
      There is no visible foe, but the unseen
      Is round us, forces intangible besiege,
      Touches from alien realms, thoughts not our own
      Overtake us and compel the erring heart;
      A power came in to veil the eternal Light,
      A power opposed to the eternal will
      Diverts the message of the infallible Word,
      A whisper lures to evil the human heart,
      This hidden foe lodged in the human breast
      Man must overcome or miss his high fate.
      This is the inner war without escape.

      (Savitri, Book VI, Canto Two)

Do we have the will to wage this inner war without escape and overcome the hidden foe lodged in our breasts?  Can we measure up to the challenge? Or do we still need to side with the present day Dhritarashtra, Duryodhana, Shakuni, and their cohorts?  It is for each one of us to ponder and stand on the side of Sri Aurobindo and not on the side of antagonistic forces. As sincere aspirants and sons of the Divine Mother, we should remind ourselves of her advice to Savitri:

            ....Remember why thou cam’st:
            Find out thy soul, recover thy hid self,
            In silence seek God’s meaning in thy depths,
            Then mortal nature change to the divine.
            Open God’s door, enter into his trance.
            Cast from thee sense that veils thy spirit’s sight:
            (Savitri, Book VII, Canto II)

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