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magazine Mar 15, 1999 Editing Aurobindo The trustees of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram are accused of tampering with his original works A.S. Panneerselvan
RATHER than meditate on the meaning of life, the inmates of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry are now involved in a semantic debate. The ashram has been witness to many legal battles since the death of Mother, the spiritual successor of Sri Aurobindo, on November 17, 1973. But while most of the cases pertained to the formation and functioning of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust (SAAT), the new spat has a literary dimension.
In a recent writ petition filed in the Calcutta High Court, some of Aurobindo's devotees have raised questions about the legality of the SAAT trustees "making corrections to the writings of Sri Aurobindo in a manner that undermines the worth of the masterpieces created by the great guru". The opponents to the changes contend that "SAAT was formed in 1956, six years after Aurobindo's death and that the copyright was obtained much after the death of the author, and hence SAAT has no authority to tamper with the original versions".
The main grouse, though, is in the deletion of a sentence that actually calls for the ashram's winding up. Pranab Bhattacharya-the ashram's physical education director-points out in his book I Remember: "The editor must have thought himself to be very clever in avoiding one line and bringing in the changes, perhaps thinking that it could change the Ashram's fate."
The line in question is in The Teachings of Sri Aurobindo and Sri Aurobindo Ashram, first published in 1934. In that, Aurobindo explains his concept of an ashram:
"An Ashram means the house or houses of a Teacher or Master of spiritual philosophy in which he receives and lodges those who come to him for the teaching and practice. An Ashram is not an association or a religious body or a monastery-it is only what has been indicated above and nothing more. Everything in the Ashram belongs to the Teacher. The sadhaks (disciples) have no claim, right or voice in any matter. They remain and go according to his Will. Whatever money he receives is his property and not that of a public body. It is not a trust or fund, for there is no public institution. Such Ashrams have existed in India for centuries before Christ and still exist in large numbers. It all depends on the Teacher and ends with his lifetime, unless there is another Teacher who can take his place."
By deleting the last line-which actually means the ashram's rationale for existence ended with the passing of the Mother-the trustees, say the opponents, "are sustaining an institution against the teachings of Sri Aurobindo". They point out that till the 1972 birth centenary editions, there had been no tampering with Aurobindo's works. [...] Link to this story as it appears on the site :- Editing Aurobindo outlookindia.com Subscribe Online: Outlook Magazine