I, on my first visit to Sri Aurobindo Ashram in early nineties, was impressed by a rule on the notice board which read, if you do not have anything good to say about a fellow Ashramite, the least you could do is to keep silent. That would be a service to the divine.
Criticism is the autobiography of a critic; Oscar Wilde wrote somewhere. Evolved beings, who experience Divine, write hagiography; the beings of night can muster their own darkness only. The writing reflects the inner nature, dispensation and consciousness of the writer. An event rewritten by Peter Heehs out of the book of AB Purani, illustrates this difference. The original source creates a feeling of divinity and reverence, while the retelling of the same event by Peter Heehs gives a sense of degradation to the reader. In one, you experience the meaning of divine surrender, the other is mawkish. Great beings can only see greatness in others.
I felt shocked to see the excerpts from a book by an Ashramite, by implication a follower of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo. In navadhā bhakti, hatred for the divine is also a means for salvation. But the hatred of Peter Heehs for The Mother and Sri Aurobindo, Aurobindo in his language, has no such thought in it. PH seems to be a split personality who is a devotee and an enemy at the same time. He could be many more things...
Is it for the Ashramites to compare their Master and objectively evaluate Sri Aurobindo and the Mothers in the light of the statements of a few unsympathetic outsiders? What signal will it send to the outsiders? It will only give them a wrong feeling that the things here are murky from the beginning to end. The message that this Ashram was started by psychopaths who claimed mystical experiences, will diminish the respect for the Ashram and Ashramites in public eye. History, psychology, philosophy, spirituality are the subjects which are read and understood by lay people with the ease of a specialist.
PH has only studied the Appearance and not the Reality. Despite his claim of objectivity, he has no method at hand. Therefore his study of appearances could prove to be a damaging influence on serious academicians, it may permanently bias them. It is only an attempt to pull down and humanise suprahuman lives. It is easy to describe one’s surface life and misinterpret it. That was why Sri Aurobindo had warned about the attempts to write his biography. He lived beyond appearances.
I feel that the people working in the Archives should sign a legal bond for a million dollars to the effect that they will never publish a book on their name or any other name. They will do the job as selfless sadhana. Only those with such purity and dedication should be allowed in the portals of the Archives.
PH in his ambition to win some award had earlier belittled the role of Sri Aurobindo in India’s freedom struggle. He won that award. I fear still worse from him. Why did he not publish his work in India? Because he leads a double life: one, as a sadhak of integral yoga to gain access to materials in the Archives, and the other as an ambitious worldly man to earn fame and money.
The book has demolished the divine persona of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo, and all what they stood for. I am certain that PH has written his book with full preparation to bid farewell to the Ashram and gather fame and money outside. He should be allowed that.
Sirs, kindly consult all the senior sadhaks who have abundant goodwill and remain in touch with The Mother and Sri Aurobindo about this matter.
Anand Kumar MD, All India Institute of Medical Sciences
The author’s claim to ‘objectivity’ is not only invalid, it again carries an under-current which means; ‘the other biographies have been more of a sentimental devotee type’. Apart from this logic denigrating some well-known biographers whose sincerity cannot be questioned, this statement implies two things:
First, the devotee biographers simply exaggerate certain qualities which are not really there. Now, our Mr. Objective will show us through his objectifying lens how they are wrong, that Sri Aurobindo is really not as great (read as divine) as they make him to be. It also implies by default that his words do not necessarily carry the same absolute authority as it did, that he can be flawed, mistaken and err as most of us human beings do! Well, this strikes the very foundation of yogic life wherein a disciple is supposed to have an implicit trust in the Guru’s words. But our Mr. Objective does not feel comfortable with it.
So he must measure the Master’s stature with his scale and rod with exactness and thoroughness of a tailor and re-stitch his attire for us to see. He must tell us his true size and stature which is less than what the devotee ignorantly believes! Second, what is meant by the word ‘objective’ here,—studying ‘dispassionately’, ‘without any preconceived ideas/beliefs etc’, ‘as someone who studies from outside as one studies an object!’
In any case, it means taking into note and highlighting the most objectively verifiable details. The rest is left to the readers to conclude, whether things like self-realisation, Supermind, etc ‘claimed’ by Sri Aurobindo are true or delusive. He almost stops short of suggesting that they could be considered ‘schizophrenic’ by some.
Who are these some, one may ask? It means focusing much more on the external outer life rather than inner. It means seeing the Illimitable with the small physical mind rather than with the psychic feeling and vision. Here too, our Mr. Objective is quite selective. He seems to be much more interested in producing stray letters, diary notes, some odd comments and questionable observations or reports as ‘objective facts’ and lays much less stress on the much more obvious and glaring facts of the massive correspondence, Savitri, The Life Divine and many many other things. And how about the countless devotees and their testimonies,—blind faith, superstition, sentimentality,—or the historians willful blindness? Is it simply a case of ignorance or a deliberate mischief to underplay few things and insert certain footnotes that would colour the perceptions and give a different hew and taste to the whole thing.
Such a misrepresentation of truth taken out of context or half-quoted and misplaced is one of the standard strategies of the asura in man who falsifies things very subtly and craftily. It is also interesting that this man had already written a brief biography of Sri Aurobindo which did raise a few eyebrows… So, should we wait for a third, even more ‘objective’ biography micro-analyzing (read psychoanalyzing) Sri Aurobindo? AP