Monday, January 5, 2009

I wonder at this misplaced zeal

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Prof. Jugal Kishore Mukherjee
Sri Aurobindo Ashram
June 15, 1986

Respected Harikant da,
( Managing Trustee )
Brother Manoj (D.G.) and
Sister Paru (P.)

With MOTHER in my heart and in an attitude of genuine goodwill and humility, I beg to place before you certain undesirable trends in the publishing field, which have, over the last few years, made me somewhat uneasy. I have pondered over the question for many days and carefully introspected my thoughts and feelings to see if there is any personal spite or bias actuating me in this matter. Only after I have become sure of my bona fides, I have ventured to approach you and make you aware of my misgivings. In course of this long letter of mine I shall be constrained to refer to a few individuals for whom I have the greatest respect and friendliness, but the exigency of the situation demands that I be frank and forthright. I can only pray to the MOTHER that these guru-bhais of mine will understand me aright and forgive me for my supposed misdemeanour which may appear as an affront to them. I humbly crave their indulgence to be treated impersonally. From my side I can state that, irrespective of their possible displeasure towards me, I shall continue to hold them in the highest regard and love in future as well as in the past. To me this is just a passing incident and I pray with all my heart that they, too, will continue to show me the same love and affection that they have evinced till this day. At any rate, I am placing myself at the feet of MOTHER and SRI AUROBINDO to be judged by THEM and protected against any possible misunderstanding.

You being the venerable Trustees of our Institution, I feel no compunction of heart for bringing the matter before your careful notice; for, whom else can I approach if not you ? But once I have done so, I shall feel that I have done my duty and totally feel at ease afterwards. I shall not actively pursue the matter thereafter – unless, of course , you specifically ask me to do so. I shall leave it to your wise discretion to decide whether to take any remedial measures or not.

One last word : Whatever may be the reactions of the persons concerned when they come to know of the contents of this letter, may I earnestly request you three at least not to misunderstand me in any way or misconstrue my action. If I am assured of this, that will suffice for my consolation.

So far for my introductory remarks; now to come to the point in question .

Of late, I have been noting with regard that many types of lapses are being indulged in by many different persons in many different publications brought out either directly by our Ashram or by sister Institutions associated with the Ashram. To enumerate all the instances of lapses will require pages and pages and pages. I don’t want to tax your time and patience with that type of tedious labour. Let me content myself with some sort of broad categorization, citing one or two instances here and there only to exemplify my points.

A few Types of Lapses
( *** As this copy of my original letter, addressed to the Trustees, is meant for respected Jayantilalda , I leave out typing the portions pertaining to other publications. I confirm myself here solely to the sections dealing with some of the types of lapses as found in the journal SRI AUROBINDO Archives and Research. *** )

V. At times , spiritual explanation consistently and repeatedly given by Sri Aurobindo himself for some of his actions / decisions is being belittled, if not directly challenged, and some extraneous mundane considerations are being offered as contributory factors shaping Sri Aurobindo’s action: And on what ground ? – Because some Tom, Dick and Harry certify to be so !! How strange ! And this new theory is being propagated through our own journal (“Archives”) and our own publication ( “ Sri Aurobindo Ashram Pondicherry )
Let me cite here one flagrant instance of this type of lapse :

Subject : True reason operating behind Sri Aurobindo’s departure
from Calcutta to Chandernagore, then from
Chandernagore to Pondicherry.

All of us in the Ashram know and know it form many many years- and that, too, on Sri Aurobindo’s own testimony- that both these departures occurred due to some ‘Adesh’ or ‘spiritual command’ that Sri Aurobindo received. Sri Aurobindo has referred to this inner reason again and again in all his written and oral statements To cite only two of these;

1. Vide Sri Aurobindo on Himself ( Centenary Edition ) ( Vide ibid., p. 60 f.n.) :

“ Sri Aurobindo’s departure to Chandernagore was the result of a sudden decision taken on the strength of an Adesh from the above and was carried out rapidly and secretly without consultation with anybody or advice from any quarter.” ( Italics mine.- Jugal ).

2. Vide Sri Aurobindo and His Ashram (Ashram publication dating from 1948; revised and enlarged 1964. Reprinted April 1969). The Publisher’s Note declares that in the chapters on Sri Aurobindo, his own words, as far as available, have been used. Now, in this authorised publication issued by the Ashram in 1969, we find the following statement –

Mostly in the words of Sri Aurobindo himself, although put in the 3rd person :
“ Sri Aurobindo one night at the Karmayogin office received information of the Government’s intention to search the office and arrest him. While considering what should be his attitude, he received a sudden command from above to go to Chandernagore in French India. He obeyed the command at once, for it was now his rule to move only as he was moved by the divine guidance and never to resist and depart from it; he did not stay to consult with anyone, but in ten minutes was at the river ghat … … … At Chandernagore he plunged entirely into solitary meditation and ceased all other activities. Then there came to him a call to proceed to Pondicherry.” ( pp. 28-29. Italics is mine. – Jugal ).

Well , this is all that we, the children of Mother and Sri Aurobindo, knew and accepted and know till this day. But our ARCHIVES journal, without being satisfied with Sri Aurobindo’s assertion, seeks to discover some compelling outer reasons which must have (!) prompted Sri Aurobindo’s decision and departure ! A misplaced zeal for historical research has led our brother Peter H. to waste a lot his energy, also a lot of paper and ink, to come to this preposterous conclusion :

“ Warned by friends of a plan to have him arrested, Sri Aurobindo left Calcutta one night in February 1910.”
( Archives and Research, April, 1985, p. 109 ).

How daringly Peter asserts :

“Outwardly, Sri Aurobindo left Bengal in order to avoid arrest by the British Police.”
( Archives and Research, December 1985, p. 218 )

And what language does Peter use to depict Sri Aurobindo’s intention and conduct ! Hurting the feelings of all of us he asserts :

“ Once arrived in Pondicherry, his unwillingness to undergo a third political prosecution obliged him to remain there as an ‘absconder’ ” (Archives, Vol. IX, No. 2, p. 218. Italics mine – Jugal )

Pity is this that we have to swallow this stuff dished out by our own Ashram journal published by Sri Aurobindo Ashram itself ;

And the mischief does not end there. …To cap it all, the compiler of the booklet Sri Aurobindo and Pondicherry ( published by Sri Aurobindo Ashram ) devotes a long paragraph to the exposition of this new-found (!) ‘truth’ (!) . Here are some characteristic sentences occurring on pp. 4-5 of this book :

“ The writer of a life-sketch of Parthasarthy has even asserted that Sri Aurobindo’s choice of Pondicherry as a place of refuge was the result of a suggestion made by the Tamil youth. When Parthasarthy heard about the police harassment Sri Aurobindo was undergoing, he pointed out the advantages of Pondicherry, telling Sri Aurobindo that the French settlement might prove ‘congenial to his mission’. We have seen that Sri Aurobindo came to Pondicherry at the suggestion of no one, but in obedience to a divine command. But by speaking to Sri Aurobindo about the city, Parthasarthy may have played an instrumental role in Sri Aurobindo’s coming.”

My humble query is this : How true is this account as given by ‘ the writer of a life-sketch of Parthasarthy ’ ? Has Sri Aurobindo anywhere mentioned that ‘ the Tamil youth ’ suggested to him the ‘choice of Pondicherry as a place of refuge’ ? If not, why to bring in, then in our own journal Archives and Research this sort of far-fetched authenticated extraneous accounts only to belittle the importance of inner Adesh and referred to by Sri Aurobindo himself ? Is it really good on our part to do so ?

I have, I think, said enough about this point. Now, let me pass on to the consideration of another type of lapse indulged in by the archives journal and this is much more serious than the above mentioned fifth one.

VI. At times, in the pages of our journal Archives and Research, accounts of events given by some sundry persons are made use of in order to prove Sri Aurobindo wrong !!
Sri Aurobindo’s own spiritual statements are controverter and are sought to be proved false – and that, too, on the authority of our young friend Matriprasad ! Too strange to believe ? – Yes, so is it. Let me explain .

Subject :- Sri Aurobindo’s giving instructions or not to his Counsel
Chitta Ranjan Das.

Here is what Sri Aurobindo himself has to say about the matter. After his release from year-long detention in the Alipore jail, Sri Aurobindo delivered his famous Uttarpara Speech on 30th May, 1909. In course of this speech, while referring to his trial proceedings in the Court, Sri Aurobindo clearly stated :

“ When the trial opened in the Sessions Court, I began to write many instructions for my Counsel as to what was false in the evidence against me and on what points the witnesses might be cross-examined. Then something happened which I had not expected. The arrangements which had been made for my defence were suddenly changed and another Counsel stood there to defend me. He came unexpectedly , - a friend of mine, but I did not know he was coming. You have all heard the name of the man who put away from him all other thoughts and abandoned all his practice, who sat up half the night day after day for months and broke his health to save me, - Srijut Chittaranjan Das. When I saw him I was satisfied, but I still thought it necessary to write instructions. Then all that was put away from me and I had the message from within, ‘This is the man who will save you from the snares put around your feet. Put aside those papers. It is not you who will instruct him. I will instruct him.’ From that time I did not of myself speak a word to my Counsel about the case or give a single instruction, and if ever I was asked a question, I always found that my answer did not help the case. I had left it to him and he took it entirely into his hands, with what result you know.” (Centenary Volume 2, pp. 5 & 6. Italics mine – Jugal )

Years later Sri Aurobindo, writing of himself in the 3rd Person, confirmed the same spiritual truth of the matter. Here are his own words :

“ In the Sessions Court the accused were confined in a large prisoners’ cage and here during the whole day he ( Sri Aurobindo ) remained absorbed in his meditation, attending little to the trial and hardly listening to the evidence. C.R. Das, one of his Nationalist collaborators and a famous lawyer, had put aside his large practice and devoted himself for months to the defence of Sri Aurobindo who left the case entirely to him and troubled no more about it; for he had been assured from within and knew that he would be acquitted.” ( Vide Sri Aurobindo on Himself, Cent. Ed. p. 34. Italics mine.- Jugal )

So, this is the truth as revealed by Sri Aurobindo himself and this the spiritual Explanation behind Sri Aurobindo taking little interest in the later stages of the trial proceedings; and all of us, children of Mother and Sri Aurobindo, have all along accepted it to be so.

But now our Archives and Research journal has sought to re-examine the question and have devoted a full page and a long footnote to come to the astounding conclusion :

“ Sri Aurobindo continued to give advice to his lawyers throughout the trial period.”
( See Archives and Research , December 1982, p. 230 )

And what basis is there for Peter to arrive at this preposterous discovery which turns Sri Aurobindo into a deliberate liar ? – Oh, according to the writer of the archives, our Matriprasad remembers to have had a conversation with Nolinida in July or August 1982 in course of which Nolinida is reported to have made a statement like that and ‘ Matriprasad says ’ Nolinida confirmed the same on Sept. 15 !

The writer of Archives expressed “ thanks to Matriprasad for this and other pieces of information from Nolinida.” ( See Archives and Research, Dec.’ 82 , p. 230 footnote ) .

“Thanks”, indeed, for the credit of proving Sri Aurobindo wrong !
I wonder what our Mother would have thought about this sort of sacrilegious writing in our own Ashram journal ! Alas, our most revered brother Nonini-da is no longer there in his body to consult him. Otherwise I would have gone to him and brought the matter to his notice. From my close personal acquaintance with Nolini-da, spread over more than thirty years, I can testify to his utter reverence for all Sri Aurobindo’s utterances and statements. And, to cite him, of all persons, against what Sri Aurobindo himself has unequivocally said !! Oh !

And what a funny explanation is offered by the Archives journal to account for the “apparent contradiction between the two statements of Sri Aurobindo and the observation of Nolini-da.

“ Nolini-da clarified that when Sri Aurobindo put his defence into Das’s hand – or rather into the hands of the Supreme Lord using Das as his instrument – it was an inner movement and this did not prevent him from taking a detached outward interest in the affairs.”

What a clever play with words ! I humbly ask : Did Nolini-da really say so to Matriprasad ? Even if it is proud that he really said so, my humble question is this : Should our own journal Archives be a forum to cite a disciple , however great he may be, to controvert Sri Aurobindo’s own written statements ???

The climax is still to come. The learned writer of the Archives and Research goes on to incorporate a historical instance to prove a point ! He states to mock seriousness:

“ One is remained of a well-known anecdote of Napoleon. Asked why he spent so much time planning if he believed in the power of Fate, he replied that it was fated that he should plan.” ( Archives and Research, Dec. ’82, p. 230 footnote )

**Oh ! how wonderfully we ourselves, disciples and children of Sri Aurobindo , through the pages of our own journal, are making our Guru Sri Aurobindo a laughingstock before the reading public !!!!

Now, let me exemplify another type of lapse, in which our Archives and Research is indulging.

VIII. At times, against written statements of Sri Aurobindo, repeated many a time, that such and such facts did not occur in his life , our archives and Research is obstinately bringing forward a “reported” statement of Sri Aurobindo, claimed to have been orally uttered by Sri Aurobindo – and which totally contradicts his repeated written assertions. Here is a glaring example.

Subject :- Whether Sri Aurobindo met Sister Nivedita after he
suddenly decided, on the strength of an Adesh, to leave
Calcutta for Chandernagore.

( Be it noted, in this connection, that people associated with the Ramakrishna Mission have been assiduously spreading the unfounded rumour that on the day of his departure Sri Aurobindo saw Nivedita, also visited Sri Saradamani Devi, wife of Ramakrishna Paramahansa, and received from her some kind of diksa. Sri Aurobindo has strongly denied the veracity of both these claims – and that, too, many a time. For us, children of Mother and Sri Aurobindo, the matter should obviously rest there.

But our brother Peter, in the pages of the journal Archives, has engaged himself in a hotly debated controversy around these settled questions as if Sri Aurobindo needs to be cross-examined !!

Leaving aside for the moment the issue of Saradamani Devi, let me confine myself to the question of Nivedita alone. )

Here are some of Sri Aurobindo’s own statements regarding the question of his seeing or not Sister Nivedita immediately before his departure from Calcutta. All these citations are taken from the book Sri Aurobindo on Himself ( Centenary edition ).

(1) Dictated by Sri Aurobindo himself in the 3rd person : “Sri Aurobindo did not see Sister Nivodita on his way to Chandernagore.” ( pp. 62-63 ).

(2) “Neither Ganes Maharaj nor Nivedita saw me off at the Ghat. Neither of them knew anything about my going ! Nivedita learnt of it only afterwards when I sent a message to her asking her to conduct the Karmayogin in my absence.” ( p.56)

(3) Dictated by Sri Aurobindo himself, although in the 3rd person : “He obeyed the command at once, … in a few hours he was at Chandernagore where he went into secret residence. He sent a message to Sister Nivedita asking her to take up the editing of theKarmayogin in his absence.” (p.36)

(4) “Sister Nivedita knew nothing of these new happenings till after I reached Chandernagore. I did not go to her house or see her.”(p.70).

(5) Dictated by Sri Aurobindo, although in the 3rd person: “His residence at Chandernagore was kept quite secret; it was known only to Srijut Motilal Roy who arranged for his stay and to a few others. Sister Nivedita was confidentially informed the day after his departure and asked to conduct the Karmayogin in place of Sri Aurobindo to which she consented.” ( pg. 60-61 )

I ask : Can any Child of Sri Aurobindo entertain any doubt about the matter after all these written statements of Sri Aurobindo ? Surely not, I dare say. But not so is the case with the writer in our Archives ! He catches hold of a stray sentence occurring in Nirod da’s Talks with Sri Aurobindo wherein Nirod-da, quite erroneously, has reported that Sri Aurobindo told him on February 3, 1939 :

“I saw Nivedita before I left Calcutta for Chandernagore and asked her to take charge of the paper (Karmayogin).”
( Talks, 1966 edition, pp. 377-78)

When this discrepancy was brought to Nirod-da’s notice, he readily agreed that ; “ Sri Aurobindo’s words were not recorded correctly” (See Archives and Research, Vol. III, No. 2, p.232) .

Note the word “ I believe ”, also “ mistake ” in the telling . Trying to protect the so-called prestige of the disciple by proving the Guru wrong !! How audacious !

Peter is quite aware of the fact that Sri Aurobindo has again and again denied the ‘fact’ (!) of his having seen Nivedita on his way to Chandernagore. Our friend Peter himself writes : “ Here ( in Nirod-da’s recorded Talks, recorded from memory) and no where else Sri Aurobindo said he met Nivedita before going to Chandernagore.” (See Archives and Research, Dec. 84 pp. 231-32 Italics mine.)

Peter writes too : “ All Sri Aurobindo’s written and dictated accounts are consistent in saying that he went directly from the Karmayogin office to the ghat without stopping to see anybody.” ( ibid., p. 231 Italics mine – Jugal )

I humbly submit : Knowing these consistent and many times reiterated assertion of Sri Aurobindo, our writer in the Archives should have closed the chapter at that and dismissed Nirod-da’s reporting as an inadvertent slip. But, alas, Peter could not accept Nirod-da’s own explanation that it was not Sri Aurobido who made the slip but it was he (Nirod-da) who might have misreported Sri Aurobindo’s utterance. Peter H. is determined to ‘prove’ that “in 1939 he (Sri Aurobindo) made a slip about one detail.” (See Archives, Ibid, p. 233) – Not only that. Hypothetically accepting for the moment that Sri Aurobindo had indeed seen Nivedita before his departure for Chandernagore, Pater H. advances to “psycho-analyses” Sri Aurobindo in order to find out possible factors operating behind his (Sri Aurobindo’s) repeated denial to the contrary. Too shocking to believe ?? Yes it is true. For this, one may read the first half of para two of p. 233 of archives, Vol. No.2.

As a matter of fact , our brother P.H., claiming to act as a so-called impartial (!) historian, wants first to put Sri Aurobindo in the dock, hypothetically advance all sorts of charges that could possibly be framed against him, examine them in turn and then come to the judgment that, after all, all other charges against Sri Aurobindo are proved fallacious except perhaps one or two counts (!) under which Sri Aurobindo may be proceeded against !

I wonder at this misplaced zeal. Pages and pages of our own Ashram journal Archives have been consumed to deal with this unnecessary and unsavory controversy !

And what atrocious irreverent expression P.H. uses with references to Sri Aurobindo’s hypothetically supposed action and conduct ! Here are some samples of his “ historical ” investigation concerning the question at issue: ( All italics are mine )

(1) “ In (an) oral account, however, that of ... © 2008 Sri Aurobindo Ashram Beneficiary Association. Terms & Conditions Privacy Policy Terms of Use Website by - Wonder Guru Communications

1 comment:

  1. Here is what Nirod-da had to say in reference to Peter.
    "He came to see me....Our main point was as regards the principle he has taken up. I couldn't naturally accept his contention(nobody will) that he is first a biographer, then anything else. To say the least it is absurd. ir-rational, unspiritual. If he sticks to his tenet, it will be risky ..."