Friday, March 26, 2010

Considering the 1950-51 edition as "the authoritative or the ‘sacred’ text of Savitri" is plainly ludicrous

from     Satheesh S to          "Tusar N. Mohapatra" date           19 March 2010 12:05 subject        Re: Drawing one’s own conclusions and imposing them on others: the case of one Mr. RYD.
Dear Tusar,
Thank you for your reply. I am travelling and will respond as soon as I am back.
Regards, Satheesh.

from     Satheesh S  to      "Tusar N. Mohapatra"  date 26 March 2010 13:54 subject        Re: Drawing one’s own conclusions and imposing them on others: the case of one Mr. RYD.
Dear Tusar,
Thank you for your response. I have returned from my travel and now have some time to respond to you.

I myself wasn’t sure whether to air my views about Mr. RYD's opinions publicly or privately, but as you have now published my message on your blog, this matter is taken care of and I am comfortable to offer views that oppose those of Mr. RYD, even though unlike Mr. RYD, I usually stay away from needless controversies. Maybe your spontaneous action was so destined!

About your point concerning the editing of a great, monumental and complex work such as the Savitri, I entirely agree with you that this is not a simple matter. If I recollect well, it took some 20 years for the study of the earlier editions and the manuscripts to finally arrive at the latest 1993 edition, which I have understood is the most authentic reproduction of Sri Aurobindo's Savitri, thanks to the careful and meticulous work of the removal of scores of human errors that had understandably found their way into the earlier publications and editions of the Savitri. 

This in itself demonstrates that if a person such as Mr. RYD trivializes such an important and complex work that was undertaken by the most credible people available such as Mr. Nirodhbaran and Mr. Amal Kiran, and by criticizing the quality of such a work in a public forum and with people who have no idea whatsoever about the nature and complexity of the workthen the motives of such an individual are evidently neither constructive nor respectable and in good faith.

Shouldn't one's opinions and views on the editing of the Savitri be based on the literature published and offered by the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, who according to me are the sole and only legitimate guardians of the literary works of Sri Aurobindo? Is it not only logical that the "restoration" of the Savitri be left to the discretion of the authorities of the SA Ashram and the people that they appoint and trust? 

Or should we instead abandon all common sense and pay heed to people such as Mr. RYD, who decide to appoint themselves as the sole enlightened scholars and visionaries, and whose motives are evidently questionable?

So when someone like Mr. RYD says that some “morons” (referring to Mr. Nirodhbaran and Mr. Amal Kiran) and some “blind officials” (referring to the authorities of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram) were utterly wrong, and were so due to a lack of interest and commitment(!), should and can we even take his words seriously? Where in all of this is Mr. RYD's credibility and integrity?

When it suits Mr. RYD, he attempts to re-establish some of his lost credibility by publicly displaying his alleged closeness to Mr. Nirodhbaran and Mr. Amal Kiran, presumably with the hope that the public display of such an alleged relationship with them might lend some credibility to his views and arguments. What Mr. RYD fails to see is the hollowness of his ploy and extent of his hypocrisy, because he doesn't seem to be able to make up his mind whether he enjoyed the company of people he calls "morons" or that of respectable men.

The only way for people such as Mr. RYD to gain some importance is to try impose their views and arguments. And they do so even if they have to adopt shrewed and sly means. This is whereone can clearly see the display of Mr. RYD's insidious methods of sowing doubts in people’s mindsThis is best displayed in a phrase that he carefully hand-picks, craftily misusing “The Mother’s” words and authority, used in an unknown context, to sow his opinions and doubts in the minds of innocent and well-meaning readers. To quote Mr. RYD (in the context of passing the editing of the 1993 edition) : “The unfortunate thing is, this was passed by "two morons" as the Mother calls them.” 

It is therefore evident that the views and arguments of people such as Mr. RYD are utterly misleading and therefore meaningless. The words of people like Mr. RYD may sound and appear profound, educated, enlightened and eloquent to the innocent and naive, but to me (and I am certain also to a vast majority) they are only the noise made by people who try to borrow some of the Glory of Sri Aurobindo and his institution, in order to satisfy their own little but inflated Egos.

But fortunately for us ordinary mortals, the actions of a person immediately demonstrate the sincerity of his words. And in the instance of Mr. RYD, his despicable and petty actions have clearly betrayed his many words.

Therefore, if Mr. RYD hopes that his self-appointment to "priesthood" can be achieved by declaring the two volumes of the 1950-51 editions of the Savitri as his "sacred" texts, he is fooling none else but himself and the followers he tries to charm with his lofty but hollow words.

Indeed, the proposition of considering the 1950-51 editions of the Savitri as "the authoritative or if you like the ‘sacred’ text of Savitri" is plainly ludicrous and appears to be Mr. RYD's hopeless and lost cause. Particularly in the light of the detailed research and study that was subsequently undertaken to restore, if we may so say, the Savitri to its most authentic form.

Isn't it absolutely understandable that all sorts of errors, human errors that may have been made by the several people that are involved in publishing and printing a book, could have found their way in the earlier editions of the Savitri? Or does Mr. RYD want us to expect that for the publication of Mr. RYD's so-called "sacred" edition of the 1950-51 edition of the Savitri, Sri Aurobindo himself went to the press to letterpress or typeset each and every page of the first "sacred" copy of the Savitri?

If it isn't evident to Mr. RYD that the printing of a book is a complex process involving many steps during which errors can easily and mostly do find a way into the published and printed materials (maybe Mr. RYD isn't familiar with Murphy's Law!), then I am considerably worried about my country's Nuclear development programmes if it is in the hands of such people.

It is also intriguing to find that Mr. RYD doesn't seem to make a fuss about the other editions that preceded the 1993 edition of the Savitri. These editions were published during "The Mother's" time and I believe that She evidently approved of those later editions of the Savitri.

So does Mr. RYD mean that "The Mother" was equally wrong to allow changes to be made to the 1950-51 editions? Did She err before the year 1972 when she oversaw the work that was being undertaken by Mr. Nirodhbaran and Mr. Amal Kiran which resulted in the earlier editions of the Savitri, which our self-appointed priest, visionary, scholar and enlightened soul has declared as inferior to the version which he considers "sacred"?

Of Course I too want to have Savitri exactly as Sri Aurobindo wrote it. Mr. RYD should not think that he is the only one who likes to have Savitri in its pure form. The difference is that for me the Savitri that was created by Sri Aurobndo was the text of Savitri that I find in the manuscripts of Sri Aurobindo and not what had been done thereafter based on those manuscripts, by some typesetter in the press unless of course if that typesetter could faithfully reproduce in the printed version exactly what Sri Aurobindo had written in his manuscripts, which I understand has been best achieved in the 1993 edition. What came out from Sri Aurobindo directly was what he wrote with his pen - that alone according to me can, if at all, be called "sacred".

So Mr. RYD should not try to impose on us his dogma that the only true and pure form of Savitri is what the type-setter did in the Printing Press before 1951! Mr. RYD of course has the right to believe in whatever he likes as a matter of personal faith, but we are surely not bound to buy his line that the type-setter's work is superior to what came directly out of Sri Aurobindo's pen!

Or does Mr. RYD really want to suggest that he is more enlightened, committed, devoted, concerned, etc., etc., than the authorities of the SA Ashram, Mr. Nirodhbaran, Mr. Amal Kiran and the countless other individuals who have been selflessly involved in the restoration work of the Savitri? Isn’t Mr. RYD a tad presumptuous? Doesn’t he maybe then deserve to be treated a tad harshly?

Therefore, if Mr. RYD keeps harping about what he considers are the flaws of others, then it only goes to show that he has nothing else but an axe to grind. And judging from his recent posts and involvement in all kinds of controversies, the only clear image that emerges is that he deosn't approve of those who disagree with him. And Mr. RYD's list appears to be rather long starting with Mr. Nirodhbaran, Mr. Amal Kiran, the blind officials of the Ashram, myself now, and the list is getting longer and longer by the day. 

If based upon these untenable and absurd assumptions Mr. RYD wants to debunk whatever was done by the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Mr. Nirodbaran and Mr. Amal Kiran, as also pointlessly spew venom on them whenever possible, then I can only call him obtusely opinionated and arrogant.

It is therefore no wonder that Mr. RYD feels that my sincere and honest words are like a pile of bricks that are being hurled at him and I can only hope that this will encourage him to introspect on the quality of his enlightenment and his failed attempt to attain a self-declared priesthood by declaring "sacred" texts arbitrarily chosen by him.

Finally, if Mr. RYD is so discontent and disturbed about what he considers an un-enlightened management of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram or the editing of the Savitri, why does he remain associated to an institution and people that he enjoys tarnishing? In addition to narcissism, self-glorification and -elevation, etc., is there also a strain of sadism in Mr. RYD?
Sincerely, Satheesh.
p.s. Now that my first post has been made public, you may if you wish, post this message as a sequel to my first post. [Links added by TNM]


  1. I am sorry that I do not know either of the disputants here. But that is an advantage, perhaps, in that I can claim no motive based on personal influence or loyalty.

    I tend to agree with RYD that SOME of the so-called "corrections" to the later text of Savitri may be wrong. I believe that definitely, according to my own sensibilities, some of them are wrong.

    Why would Sri Aurobindo, for example, change "learnt" into "learned," as has been done in several places. "Learnt" and other verbs ending in "t" was the common way of speaking and writing in the British tongue which Sri Aurobindo learned in England and which was current throughout the world (except perhaps in America) at that time. Changing it to "learned" as the editors have done is not good, poetically, because it takes more time to say "learned" than "learnt" and within the lineaments of poetic conventions such a change can be disastrous. That is only one example. I have notated my own text of the later version of Savitri with dozens, maybe a hundred or more, corrections from my own viewpoint. Sometimes I think the new editors were right. That might be half the time. The other half of the time I think they were wrong, and sometimes seriously mutilated Sri Aurobindo's text.

    I am quite sure that the final word on this has not been put down for the ages. Future editors will correct the "correctors." I look forward to a truly critical edition of Savitri which will report all the versions and all the possible corrections and give a true and reasonable elucidation of what seems to be Sri Aurobindo's intent in each case.

    Hugh Higgins

  2. The personal element in the dispute here does not touch me because I know none of the participants. I will merely state what seems to me self-evident, that we need a "critical edition" of Savitri prepared by impartial scholars. If the 1993 edition is correct and impartial, well and good, but many of us have serious doubts about many of the variant readings. The only way those doubts can be cleared up is to have a scholarly "critical edition." What that means is this: Every variant reading between the different versions will be thoroughly explained in footnotes. I realize that those who want a mantric sacred text might not like this. I use Savitri daily as a mantric sacred text! So I as much as anyone care about the edition I use being exactly correct according to Sri Aurobindo's latest corrections and wishes. But the only way we can get to that goal is through a thoroughly annotated critical edition, explaining exactly why there are variant readings in every case in which they appear.

    I have an edition I purchased in America in 1972. It is thoroughly worn, the pages all separated, the cover weather-beaten. I once carried it with me to a meeting of the New York Sri Aurobindo Center (when there was such a thing) in the rain, refusing to close it while reading walking in the rain, so that it was thoroughly soaked. I offered it to Sri Aurobindo in the rain. I do not regret that, because it is still readable. I felt, "It is more important for me to read these words now than for this copy to be left dry." I knew that Sri Aurobindo could stop the rain if He wanted to.

    I have had other later editions, and the one I use now appears to be the latest (the tiny version). In the back of the book is this statement: "A Table of Readings and a Table of Emendations listing the differences between this and previous editions are included in the 'Supplement to the Revised Edition of Savitri.'" Well, that is welcome information but I have never seen that Supplement. I would say it ought to be included in every printed edition of the book. It was not included in the one I purchased just a few years ago. If it is not included, or a new critical edition is not issued, we are left with the latest editors of the text---who no doubt are very well-intentioned---shoving their decisions about the text down our throat with no recourse of our own to decide whether they were right or not. That is not the way things should be.

    On page 627 of my early edition we have ". . . In earth's anomalous and tragic field . . . " In the latest edition I find: ". . . In earth's anomalous and magic field." Most of us would indeed prefer the later version, if we prefer magic to tragedy (as I certainly do). What bothers me is that I do not know why there are these two variant readings and why the editors chose the latter. Did Sri Aurobindo write "tragic" first, then later cross it out and write "magic" above it? Or are there two versions scripted by him, one earlier and one later? Or did he dictate one or both versions and the scribe mis-heard what he said, or wrote two different versions of what he heard? Or was there an ink blot on the page so that the word could not be deciphered, and one editor decided it must be "tragic" and another that it must be "magic"? The reader deserves to know what is going on here.

    That is what a critical edition would explain, so that "let the reader decide," as Jitendra put it, could become a reality.

    Hugh Higgins