Re: The Lives of Sri Aurobindo—a Controversial Biography by Peter Heehs
by RY Deshpande on Wed 24 Dec 2008 06:37 PM IST Profile Permanent Link
Let’s take a few examples from the biography—to begin with, for instance, the Auroville Interview mentioned above. It’s good Auroville Today interviewed the biographer, though too promptly, on The Lives of Sri Aurobindo and gave his version that furnishes a set of details about the effort which has gone into the making of the book. But it seems that Auroville Today was kind of ingeniously engaged in the strategy of promoting it, on the prima facie of it playing to the author. This is patent enough when we see that all the previous biographies are summarily dismissed as hagiographies, or else they awfully wanting in the extensive researched material that is available in the present one, they having not at their disposal the scoured gunny-sacks of official records. But this so-called researched material itself may not pass the rigorous professional test of scientific methodology which indeed appears to be the case here.
There are so many loopholes, and the endnotes pertaining to the archival documents being inaccessible to others make the whole thing suspect. That cannot be a proper way of organising such a research department whose one main architect is the author himself, as the publishers claim it so. In fact Auroville Today, as an aspect of good journalism, should have invited, pro-actively, other biographers and authors from Auroville itself and presented a comprehensive point of view, the subject being of such great importance. A comparative inquiry and analysis would have certainly given an objective and well-intentioned assessment of The Lives of Sri Aurobindo; but that is absent. Perhaps Auroville Today can still do it if a candid study of Sri Aurobindo is at the back of the mind. When our historian says that Sri Aurobindo was an extraordinarily complex individual, then this would have certainly proved rewarding. In Auroville itself there are published and competent biographers and they could have been approached to opine on the contents and proud contentions of the Lives.
The same happened earlier in the case of editing Savitri with one-sided presentation from an involved or committed group engaged in it. Why in those early days weren’t Amal or Nirodbaran or Jugal Mukherjee or Shraddhavan approached to express their views? That is what makes the credibility of this entire undertaking frail. We witness again the same thing in The Lives of Sri Aurobindo. Why didn’t its author explain his findings to the audience in the Ashram or write in the Ashram-connected periodicals? He went the whole world around, travelling extensively in and outside India but never spoke here, taking the initiative himself. That’s very unfair and erroneous indeed. ~ RYD Reply
Well, if such is the case, then how can one really trust the ‘documentation’ in this so-called historically researched biography? That gives rise to strong suspicion in our minds, ample misgivings of every kind. It is not only this instance but there are many other examples also, and it is desirable that we rather be wary of this whole biographical account. What is the use of it if it neither goes by the established research methodology nor by the principles of spiritual presentations, particularly in the case of one who is considered to have come to do the divine works, divyam karma as the Gita would put, divine works as an aspect of the evolutionary manifestation? If such divine works are a false claim, as asserted by the historians of the kind, by the biographer-author himself or by his staunch adherents, then the onus to disprove that these are not divine works lies on them, particularly on the meticulous researcher himself. This has not been done. ~ RYD Reply