Friday, June 19, 2009

Alok never wanted a court case against Peter

from Paulette to compats


On Wednesday I met Alok, with Sraddhalu the other invitee to the AUM conference. Alok repeated what he had already written in an email to me, with copy for a few others: his was an over-reaction, not against me and what I wrote in ‘Mirror of Tomorrow’, for which he apologized, but out of exasperation for having been misunderstood in the blog SCIY (and by others too). In the attempt to solve the Heehs controversy, Alok had come up with a few proposals so as to drop the court case; but these had been twisted as a proof that, as he was proposing alternatives, this meant that he had the power to impose decisions regarding the withdrawal of the court case, hence he was involved in it.

One proposal was that Peter moves to Auroville. Another that a group of twelve senior ashramites takes a final decision, after due hearing from both groups in each other's presence, (he agreed that this is something similar to the system we have adopted in Auroville, but I told him that ours doesn’t always work that well); but this proposal had been misinterpreted by some as him wanting to undermine the authority of the Ashram trust. The other options he had suggested had been turned down too, so he has decided to withdraw altogether.

Alok also explained that, although he has used a strong language, he never wanted a court case against Peter; in fact he is against any court case in general, especially those involving ashramites. Even in his letter to the trustees he had suggested that Peter should step out of the Archives (not the Ashram though).

We discussed other issues, of a common interest for both of us. Alok agrees with the role played by the shadow. He is aware of the avadhuta aspect of young Aurobindo Ghose, and also of the dual nature of the Avatar, divine but also human. He agrees that, instead of Peter explaining and opining, in his own language, Sri Aurobindo’s sadhana and evolution, the transition from his human aspect to that of incarnated divine should have been highlighted using directly Sri Aurobindo’s texts, and particularly “Letters on Yoga” and “On Himself”. And that to highlight this transition is of a paramount importance, instead of keeping aside or minimizing the Avatar issue. Alok has explained his position so, I reproduce his own words:

it is not enough that the writer had this in his mind, it should be explicated in the book itself or in the preface at least, so that things could be put in the right perspective for a lay-reader. By omitting and ignoring this the writer has left scope for ambiguous interpretations.

We discussed other issues as well. It was a constructive meeting. I wish that it had happened earlier and that the issues we have discussed become part of a wider, in depth debate on Integral Yoga, which can no longer be postponed, so that something new is born.

Before posting it I have submitted this text to Alok Pandey and he has done his own corrections. However, he has decided to withdraw from the debate, leaving to me the decision whether to publish this text or not. I feel it should, so as to be evaluated by a larger audience, without preconceived positions, in a spirit of equanimity. Paulette

P.S. Before the controversy commenced I had given to Alok a copy of all the books I have published compiling from Sri Aurobindo and the Mother; ours was a dispassionate discussion within the framework of Integral Yoga, as it should be.

The following paragraph has been written directly by Alok Pandey, to further clarify his position and make sure of not being misunderstood:


My position regarding the court cases has been simply this that though in principle I do not support them, I however understood why at least the first complainant went to the court as a last ditch attempt feeling helpless against this in action especially as the date of publication of the book was drawing close. The stand I have taken is not against the person and private life of Peter Heehs (whom in all these years I have never met except once and that too in a dream!), but because Peter misused his official position at the Archives to reveal sensitive data in a way that may be easily misunderstood and interpreted dubiously. I am against supression of truth but I do believe in judicious use of information and exercising utmost caution and discrimination when dealing with a varied audience. Alok Pandey


  1. I think that Sri Aurobindo is lauging at our little mindedness....

  2. There is a very simple solution to this controversy. Man has fought for thousands of years to gain the right to express his individual views free from compulsion. All those who object to Heehs' book are, fortunately, now equally free to publish their own interpretative works should they find the energy and self-discipline to do so in order that the lay reader may have a fuller choice as to what to believe.

  3. "There is a very simple solution to this controversy. Man has fought for thousands of years to gain the right to express his individual views free from compulsion. All those who object to Heehs' book are, fortunately, now equally free to publish their own interpretative works should they find the energy and self-discipline to do so in order that the lay reader may have a fuller choice as to what to believe."

    No, they'd rather not have that freedom and bring the Guru down into the muck that you have created and called democracy and freedom of choice! What you really want is an unfettered individuality regardless of how detrimental it is to the larger community. And the Guru is of secondary importance to all of that.

    Heehs could have written the book from outside the Ashram or outer space but he chose to do it by burnishing his credentials as an Ashram Archivist and arrogating to himself the credibility that he would not otherwise have had. Naturally, he will end up misleading many readers of his book.

    The question we must ask ourselves is whether or not we deserve Sri Aurobindo when it is something else that we hold more sacred. Are we willing to sacrifice ourselves and our beliefs to him? If not we should just follow the teachings of a James Dobson, a Bill Maher or even Pat Roberston. Or, maybe, we should just enshrine the US constitution and worship it instead!

    Is there any institution or academy that you know of that will allow its employees to write ‘freely’ about itself? Especially when the writing tries to defame or sully the character or personality of the institution? The people who are asking the Ashram to do that for Heehs DONT have its interests in mind and are certainly not thinking of Sri Aurobindo.

    It is galling that people who come from a society where everyone sues everyone else should be so indignant about a lawsuit against Heehs!

  4. To Copernicus:

    "No, they'd rather not have that freedom . . ."

    Perhaps YOU would rather not have that freedom although you seem more than anxious to exercise it here. As you feel so strongly on the issue why don't you write and publish your own book to better inform what you consider to be all those "mislead" readers of Heeh's book? That would be constructive and something to be genuinely proud of rather than mere easy and unreflective criticism.

  5. There is also the issue of access to the materials. Archives should ensure original materials are accessible to all without the lens of interpretation - through a website of facsimile images, for eg.

  6. "why don't you write and publish your own book to better inform what you consider to be all those "mislead" readers of Heeh's book? That would be constructive and something to be genuinely proud of rather than mere easy and unreflective criticism."

    Would you prescribe that all those who read Heeh's book read mine? Oops, I forgot! I cant say that I am an ashram archivist - now, how many will read my book and believe me?! People with privilege and in positions of responsibility should be careful because they can cause a lot of damage before they can be counteracted!

    What would be really constructive is if people such as YOU stopped seeing all matters through the narrow prism of "freedom". And lose the blind and immovable faith in Heehs.

    Again, as I said earlier and as your post demonstrates, Sri Aurobindo is the farthest from the minds of Heehs supporters.

    By the way, any scholar will tell you that criticism is not always easy or unreflective.

  7. To Copernicus:

    "Would you prescribe that all those who read Heehs' book read mine?"

    Why not . . . though it is hardly my responsibility to do anything of the sort? Your book will have to stand, like all books, on its own merits. But the benefit in this course of action is that it will give you both something constructive to do as well as the opportunity to educate others to another view of these matters. As Heehs' book is now fait accompli how can you deny the practical truth in this?

    Although you continue to remonstrate against the notion of "freedom" I see that you are more than willing to engage quite vigorously in that same freedom here.

    Now go write that book and really test your intellect and sincere commitment to explaining to those "mislead" Heehs' reader your more correct version of the matter.

    All the best in your efforts.

  8. What you miss completely in your obsession with Heehs and his Rights are the points I have made already:

    That his book is likely to reach a far wider audience than it might have bcos of the Columbia Univ. press label and the reviews by academics such as Kripal.

    The US academy (not so much the european ones) is notorious for how it throttles unfashionable views and labels them as non-liberal (and therefore 'uncivilized'). So pl. dont try to brainwash us about how freely anyone can write about anything. That everything is a level playing field is assumed to be a concocted theory of the american conservatives but is clearly also used by their liberal opponents when convenient to them. And of course I was only joking and dont see what credibility you have that will help promote 'my book' if I wrote one!

    For some time at least no-one else can refute anything Heehs wrote because of the shield of authority that he has grabbed. Powerful arguments against him have already been made and you shouldn't be as smug as you seem to be that Heehs is intellectually invulnerable. The entire problem is with marketing these refutations and rebuttals and you know that. Maybe that IS the reason why you are so smug and keep repeating ad nauseum about how others too can write a book.

    Ever heard of defamation??? You cant defame someone and then say that people who disagreed have only to write a book in response!! Stupid, arrogant solution if I ever heard one.

    There clearly appear to be Ashram norms (written and unwritten) and issues of loyalty to the Guru all of which have been undercut by Heehs and his supporters. No institution can and should tolerate it and no US or European institution does - so why are they asking for special privileges in India?

    Heehs distortions and academic improprieties are being glossed over by people like you in this monominded defense of his rights. And unfortunately they will be overlooked by most of his uninformed readers as well.

    And you deliberately continue to ignore the fact that many people might not like to write a book (or a pamphlet or anything else) in responding to Heehs simply because it means dragging Sri Aurobindo into the mud and exacerbating the controversy all over again. It's a dilemma that most of the Americans who are clearly spearheading all of this nonsense will never understand - for them it's only about rights and freedom of speech!

    I see your undying support for Heehs but still no expression of any allegiance to Sri Aurobindo. I forgot! You have to be a fundamentalist to do that!

    I have my doubts but I still hope you will have the humility to admit some of these.

  9. To Copernicus:

    All excuses and pretexts to avoid sitting down and doing some hard thinking, research, organization and writing of your own. It matters not what a thousand Heehs' write if you can express what you have inside of you with at least equal clarity and conviction. There are lots of people out there waiting for other approaches to the life of Sri Aurobindo and if you could throw off some of your intellectual inertia you could play a valuable role in all this. But I'm beginning to see I'm wasting my time attempting to overcome your lack of creative self-confidence.

  10. As expected you skirted all the issues once again! I guess you weren't really interested in anything but your own views and your lack of humility could have been foreseen. But One Heehs has mattered a great deal in this case and it will take a while to set things right.

    If there is any lesson to be learned in this entire issue, it is probably that people like Heehs should never again be trusted in the Ashram's affairs.

    Fare well.

  11. The real lesson here is that people like Copernicus are much better at cheap and easy citicism of others than they are at genuine constructive and creative thought and work of their own.

  12. RYD demands full length articles. Anon demands a book. Such privileging over blog posts is unfair and anachronistic. [TNM]

  13. "cheap and easy citicism of others"

    It is you and your Guru Heehs who have taken the cheap and easy way out to defame SA, gain personal glory and profit at the same time, havent you? Not to mention lying about credentials, stealing other people's data, and taking advantage of the Ashram's liberality and rules. Then crying religious fundamentalism when challenged and expecting people to be pushovers. Didnt work, did it? Yes, I think you are wasting your time with me - it might be better spent on the converted at SCIY!

  14. "Unfair and anachronistic" to urge others to use their talents and energies to think and act in a constructive fashion?

  15. Temper, temper, Copernicus. As a supposed devotee have you learned absolutely nothing about yogic equanimity?

  16. Dear Anon,
    I think I have learned more about equanimity than you have freed yourself of egoism. Go ahead - you clearly want to have the last meaningless word in this pointless exercise.

  17. Your intellectual inertia wedded to what Sri Aurobindo refers to as a "righteous indignation" has rendered it meaningless.