Friday, December 12, 2008

There is no denigration of Sri Aurobindo. However, I did look critically at things he wrote and did

I did look critically at what he said and did, says Heehs
TOI 12 Dec 2008, 0631 hrs IST
Peter Heehs, author of The Lives of Sri Aurobindo', a biography of the philosopher, tells Bosco Dominique that his book takes "a critical look at one of the most remarkable figures of modern times". Excerpts from the interview:

Why have you written a biography of Sri Aurobindo when there are several such works available from different publishers?

Any serious biography must be based on primary documents; first-hand records that are contemporary with the events dealt with. Only two of Sri Aurobindo's earlier biographers made significant use of primary documents AB Purani and KR Srinivasa Iyengar. Over the years I located a large number of documents in archives in Delhi, Calcutta, Baroda, London and Paris. I began to write about Sri Aurobindo's life in the journal of the archives. Subsequently, at the request of Oxford University Press, I wrote Brief Biography of Sri Aurobindo' (1989). My recent biography was the natural continuation of this work.

How is this work different from others?

It is the only full-length biography of Sri Aurobindo based on primary sources. It avoids hagiography. I feel there is a need for books aimed at people who wish to approach Sri Aurobindo in a different way, scholars for instance.

Devotees say you have made unacceptable remarks about Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and their relationship.

Some people, most of whom have read not the entire book but an unrepresentative set of extracts, have misunderstood it. Certain passages about the relationship of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, taken in isolation, have seemed to imply disrespect. The passages in which I spoke of the spiritual side of their relationship were deliberately omitted from the extracts. There is no denigration of Sri Aurobindo. However, I did look critically at things he wrote and did. I use the word "critical" in its technical sense, as understood by historians and scholars. If I had not done so, my assessment of Sri Aurobindo that he is one of the most remarkable figures of modern times would have been rejected by a certain class of readers.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Sir,
    In fact, some writers in the past who differed
    with the opinions, ideas and ideals of Sri Aurobindo,
    had voiced their opinions in a dignified and respectful
    manner. But the approach of Peter Heehs in the book
    “The Lives of Sri Aurobindo” is offensive as well as
    deteriorating and against the sublime stream of thoughts
    of Sri Aurobindo. Such a malicious mind should be kept
    away from the athenaeums of higher, spiritual thoughts.
    This is an attempt to tarnish the image of Sri Aurobindo
    by wrongly enlightening the generic public. Apart from
    the well-referred venomous passages of the book, there
    are undercurrents of venom in various other pages also.
    So, it does not really help to remove the cancerous portions
    of the book and replace them by rewritten passages in
    a cut and paste manner. The spirit of the book cannot change.
    Peter Heehs slowly built up his reputation as an authentic
    writer on Sri Aurobindo. But his attitude towards Sri Aurobindo
    began to change since some time. In his previous book “Nationalism,
    Religion and Beyond”, he wrote in the Introduction that what Sri
    Aurobindo “wrote on the issues of the day in 1906 has little direct
    bearing on the issues of the day a century later”. His interpretations
    of Sri Aurobindo have changed drastically.
    No doubt, the book “The Lives of Sri Aurobindo” with detailed
    research work could have become a great source of inspiration for
    the whole world if it was written in a right spirit by a right person.
    As Peter has tried to make psycho-analysis of Sri Aurobindo, all
    readers of this book are now trying to make psycho-analysis of Peter.
    The curses, hatred, bad feelings towards Peter generated by this book
    by the followers of Sri Aurobindo everywhere in the world will ever
    continue to haunt Peter and he may not find an easy escape from
    the consequences of his bad karma.
    Thanking you,
    Jitendra Sharma