Friday, October 30, 2009

Trustees chose to ignore this issue and the reason for this silence is beyond our comprehension

The Book and its Background -- by Alok Pandey
from A critique of the book "The Lives of Sri Aurobindo" by Peter Heehs by Raman Reddy

The Man and his Motives: These motives were never really hidden from Ashram inmates. Right from the beginning, this man has courted controversies, the aim of which has been to raise doubts about Sri Aurobindo’s statements on his own life, his English, his works, his yoga, on the Mother and so on and so forth. All these controversies have landed the Ashram into bitter debates and even legal disputes; they have always been a force of division that have led to a polarisation of opinion along racial and other lines. This of course is due to his ingrained strong bias against India, Indian tradition and culture, and his favouring the Western views of life as superior to any other. This colonial bias is reflected everywhere in his book and raises once again the unanswered but pertinent question, –

  • why is he here in India that he is so critical of?
  • Is it some kind of compulsion?
  • As was rumoured earlier, was he a drug addict?
  • Or was he part of a more sinister design of certain groups whose sole purpose is to denounce and debunk, denigrate and belittle Indian culture and its heroes under the guise of admiration for it?

These adverse theories of Indian culture have been advanced with very strong arguments from Macaulay and Max Muller to even some present day scholars who have come to India and gone back to start their own independent schools without acknowledging the source of their inspiration. We need not go into the details of this U–turn theory. For our present purpose, it is enough to turn our attention on this single person and question his real motives. [...]

All this is directly connected with his intent and cunning nature, the degree of his insensitivity to everything that is around him – the ethos in which he lives and breathes, the country whose culture has accepted him as one of its own, the very soul and spirit of the Ashram that feeds him, whose services he enjoys and whose atmosphere nourishes and nurtures him. This insensitivity is not due to any ignorance, but due to his arrogance and utter disregard and disrespect for everyone else, whom he treats as his inferiors, like some outdated colonialist. His colleagues describe him as vain and arrogant, someone who takes great glee in looking down upon India and its glorious traditions, not by the way of any higher enlightenment but out of superior pride that exults in its self-adulatory and inflated self-esteem.

On more than one occasion, several of his colleagues have approached the Trustees after finding his activities suspicious and feeling that such a person would be unfit to work at the Archives. Not only the average devotee but a disciple of unquestionable integrity (Jugal-da) and the closest aide of the Mother (Pranab-da) voiced their concern to the Trustees about the nature of this man. Several others raised the alarm in a similar vein, among them the well-known exponents of Sri Aurobindo’s teachings and yoga such as Amal Kiran, Nirodbaran, Chotte Narayan Sharma and R Y Deshpande (a few of these articles and letters have been published on this site). Of course, it is strange that the normally alert Trustees somehow chose to ignore this issue and did not pay much attention to it. The reason for this silence is beyond our comprehension, but it only shows the extent of the menace that Peter Heehs is and the degree of control he exercises over the will of others. [...]

Not satisfied with his onslaught on Sri Aurobindo, the writer goes on to attack Indian thought and civilisation as something outdated and lacking in originality, the Ashram community as a bunch of poor imitators who are hardly engaged in sadhana, the failed Indian revolutionary movement and so on. At many places, he attempts to clearly rewrite history by supporting the British as in the case of the partition of Bengal, or taking the side of William Archer – the most biased anti-Indian colonial writer in whose refutation Sri Aurobindo wrote a whole book. [...]

It is this constant deception that underlies his work. He is trying to be someone which he is not, masquerading now as an expert in literary criticism, now as an exponent of yoga, now as an authority in psychology, but all the time his eye is on the one single goal, –to distort and misrepresent, belittle and denigrate Sri Aurobindo, his life and his yoga, Indian culture in general and re-establish once again another form of imperialism – the intellectual supremacy of the West, and prove it not on its own merits but by a selective misuse of documents. It is the relic of a colonial mind at its mischievous best, – to sow seeds of doubt within the Indian mind about its innate abilities and strength, to vulgarise and trivialise the sacred and the great, and to create confusion and division between the Hindu and the Muslim, the East and the West, the devotee and the philosopher.

In fact Peter has hijacked the Sri Aurobindonian platform to project himself as some sort of an authority, a myth that got perpetuated due to his total and unrestricted access to archival sources, thanks to the complacency of the Ashram authorities. He, on his side, not only misused his office to the fullest by theft of intellectual property and academic fraud, but also changed Sri Aurobindo’s own words under the pretext of rectifying certain errors. It is strange that this man, who so vociferously promoted the changes in Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri and even engaged the Ashram in a bitter legal battle dividing the devotees over the issue, [...] Alok Pandey November 2008

1 comment:

  1. Stop Scapegoating Peter Heehs

    Alok Pandey’s thoughtful article about the Heehs imbroglio brought up a number of important points but his burning questions about HOW and WHY this dispute occurred in the first place remain unanswered. To understand the HOW and WHY behind the Heehs’ controversy, one must be willing to stop the scapegoating and go deeper into the origins of the ignorance and confusion from which this literary heresy came into being.

    Since the Mother’s departure in 1973 both Auroville and the Ashram have suffered and continue to experience the eroding effect of incompetent leadership. Instead of forming around a common Soul and a Supramental knowledge, which was the Mother’s avowed intention, Auroville and the Ashram have formed around a Collective Ego. Instead of a true spiritual community guided by Realized Beings, the seat of Sri Aurobindo’s work was taken over by the Indian government and is now run by Philosophers and Politicians who, the Mother warned us, would be the very last to be transformed. This is the polluted soil from which Heehs' book emerged and the noxious influence that nursed his iconoclastic attitude.

    The most important causal factor behind the Heehs’ controversy, completely absent from these discussions, and apparently quite unknown to Alok and others, is the existence of and the occult effect of a true collective Center or Soul. In the parlance of the Integral Yoga it is called the ‘Psychic Being’. It is the ordering and unifying principle of any collectivity and if it were truly present in the Auroville and Ashram community, the bitter controversies, legal disputes and polarization of devotees upon racial and other lines would have been a virtual impossibility. The community of devotees would know this if they had bothered to acquire a direct lived experience of the Yoga and the Vedic ‘Skambha’ instead of the lifeless mental orthodoxy that has been offered in its place. Indeed, one need only look at the ongoing disharmony and chaos in Auroville and the Ashram to know TO A CERTAINTY that there is NO CENTER. William Butler Yeats, himself a realized being, eloquently describes this occult phenomenon in the first lines of his poem ‘The Second Coming’.

    ‘…Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.’

    You could not find a better description of how Alok Pandey and others have experienced Peter Heehs’ destructive influence but what they fail to realize is that Heehs is not the CAUSE of this ongoing controversy but merely one of the SYMPTOMS of the CENTERLESS condition that exists today in Auroville and the Ashram. To someone who SEES, the situation and its errors have an almost formulaic precision to it producing a mathematical result when something essential is left out of the mix. It may be compared to G.W.H. Hegel’s famous three part dialectical formula known as Hegel’s law. If you apply the principles of Thesis and Antithesis but reject the Third principle of Synthesis, the formula is fractured, true unity cannot be achieved and an integral understanding becomes impossible…

    The complete article may be found at: