Sunday, October 26, 2008

Unfortunately, not one in a hundred has read the book. Nor do they think it is necessary

Taking Stock by Debashish on Fri 24 Oct 2008 09:41 PM PDT Profile Permanent Link

It is now time to step back a little and see what is happening. Peter Heehs wrote a biography of Sri Aurobindo published by Columbia University Press. Undoubtedly, it will get wide publicity targeted at the western academic circle. The book deals with the different phases of Sri Aurobindo's life as "jumps", not entirely discrete, but showing distinct characteristics. This is why he calls it "The Lives of Sri Aurobindo." The book brings together a lot of research on the factual details of Sri Aurobindo's outer life and also the first hand personal accounts of Sri Aurobindo's inner life. The response to the book, in the west, has so far been very positive.

This book has not yet been published or distributed in India. But a few copies have gotten to some hands. In response, there has arisen a huge furor. This furor has been spearheaded by a few who are all so-called intellectuals and teachers of Sri Aurobindo's sadhana at the ashram. At the outset, one of them, a person who runs an accredited Indian University teaching Sri Aurobindo studies, has circulated a document containing distorted and out-of-context quotes from the book to prove that the book is derogatory towards Sri Aurobindo. Another well known "authority" and "descendant" of an "authoritative lineage" has been circulating a conspiracy theory whose substance is to prove that the author of the book has interests to show Sri Aurobindo to be a madman and a sexual deviant. Both these widely circulated pieces of propaganda are spurious and mischievous. The out-of-context quotes have been disclosed in this post on sciy.

But what could not be corrected is the violence done to a 500 page positive biography in pulling out quotes which give an entirely wrong impression. The insinuations of madness and sexual deviance are absurd to the point of laughter. But the huge majoritarian population of Pondicherry which has not found these laughable and has responded with signatures calling for the author's eviction from the archives and the ashram has been overwhelming.

  • Is this "tyranny of the masses" based on well-founded judgments?
  • Unfortunately, not one in a hundred has read the book. Nor do they think it is necessary. With their "psychic faith"in their leaders, what need is there for reading books?
  • The arm of the managing trustee has been twisted to force the author out of the archives and worse has been done and threatened.
  • What does this bode for the future of the ashram and its law and order?

Now let us consider the arguments used. The arguments have distilled themselves to two.

(1) Both Sri Aurobindo and the Mother were against writing their biographies, specially by their disciples, so we are justified in destroying this biography and expelling its author from the ranks of "the disciples."

(2) The Mother has a quote where she wants it understood that anything which brings Sri Aurobindo to a low level of "gossiping familiarity" should not be indulged in by disciples, so the author, who has disobeyed this, is fair game. These quotes are repeated in large letters in post after post. Unfortunately, the word of god in the sonorous mouth of a fool does not remain any more the word of god but becomes the word of a fool, however much the fool may think he has become god as a result of voicing it.

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have indeed pointed out that no one could write their true lives. But neither does this mean that all representation of their lives is a crime nor has this prevented a number of biographies from being written. There are biographies by Srinivasa Iyengar, Purani, Satprem, Nirodbaran, Georges van Vrekhem. Where were our commentators with their lynching mobs then? Two of these biographers were personal attendants to Sri Aurobindo and one of them read out the whole of his biography to the Mother and had her strong approval. In fact, the Mother felt that biography would introduce many to Sri Aurobindo, which indeed it did.

Why then could it not be allowed that this biography could also conceivably do the same? Oh no, such a thing is impossible and if someone claimed to have been moved by it or to have wanted to know more about Sri Aurobindo and his teaching, we must find out who this is and hold our quotes under their eyes and force them to understand "the truth" - that this biography is the voice of the asura, the awakening of adharma.

And what about the trump card, Mother's stern admonition for bringing Sri Aurobindo to a level of "gossiping familiarity"? Is this not enough to warrant expulsion and ex-communication and worse, elimination, whatever form that may take, for the faithful cannot tolerate disobedience to such an injunction, surely? No question need be asked about context, time, place, circumstance, person spoken to, intention of the work, narrative logic, interpretations, intended audience or the consciousness of the Mother. It feels divine to assume the authority of that quote, doesn't it? We are sure of what Mother would have done to the author, aren't we? It gives us the pleasure chills!

So, what is it all about? Why the need for misrepresentation or for incitement of the "blind" masses using propaganda? Or getting strategic signatures so as to twist the managing trustee's arm and force ashram policy? Is it not clear? Sri Aurobindo and the Mother are not dead. They are here - in their wise teachers and their use of quotes and the faithful multitudes. God lives, Dharma lives, Religion lives, so what if there's a suspicious smell of human manure about? That's just your imagination. This is certitude. Reply

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