Saturday, June 12, 2010

Peter Heehs presents his characters and facts with restraint

from cosmic human cosmichuman007@gmail.com to tusarnmohapatra@gmail.com date 12 June 2010 14:47 subject Review on The Lives of Sri Aurobindo by retired Judge David Annoussamy
Dear Mr. Tusar Mohapatra,
You and your readers would find this of particular interest in the context of the court case slapped on Mr. Peter Heehs in Orissa by Mr. Sraddhalu Ranade - under the guise and name of Gitanjali JB - and supported by a handful of the usual complainers and "Auro Thought Police"-men such as Dr. Alok Pandey, Dr. R.Y. Deshpande, Mr. Raman Reddy, Mr. Kittu Reddy, Mr. Ranganath & Co. who are willing to use any unscrupulous means to get rid of Mr. Peter Heehs and others who do not think or act in accordance to their canons.
The fact that Mr. David Annoussamy is a retired judge and goes out of his way to appreciate and recommend Mr. Peter Heehs' book goes a long way to show the true intentions and colors of Mr. Peter Heehs' critics and exposes their ploy to harass, even legally, anybody who thinks and acts differently by making what are obviously frivolous and baseless charges. In sincerity.
(From the May 2010 issue of Le Trait-d'union. The original French text follows.)
What does the name “Sri Aurobindo” mean to the people of Pondicherry?
For many it is simply the name of a street (which has the respectful “Sri” cut off). A significant minority knows more than this, their conception of him rising from the philosopher to the yogi, and for some going so far as to regard him as almost divine, the object of a devotion inspiring pilgrims to go and bow down at his tomb in the Ashram. In fact the Ashram ranks as one of India’s favorite places of pilgrimage, and people come by the busload from the four corners of India while making the rounds of the sacred places in the region. In the town, people are often disturbed by this influx of “outsiders.”
April 4 is the centenary of the coming of this sage to Pondicherry. Here he remained until the end of his earthly life on December 5, 1950.
Those who would like to have a more precise knowledge of this extraordinary being ought to read the book The Lives of Sri Aurobindo, which was published recently by Columbia University Press, New York. It can be ordered through the Internet and is delivered quickly. […] To the people of the city, the long concluding part of Aurobindo’s life is the best known, but they will have much to learn if they read this fast-paced and interesting book.
Peter Heehs shows himself to be a very serious historian who bases his conclusions on documents that are carefully cited in the endnotes. A bibliography completes the book, which is far indeed from being a hagiography.  We are surprised to learn that there will be no Indian edition, and that this work is the subject matter of several court cases. It is hard to believe this. What is the source of these attacks? Devotees concerned that the image that they had constructed of their idol has been shaken? Relatives of the persons spoken of in this work? My mind overflows with conjectures. Peter Heehs presents his characters and facts with restraint. He speaks for example about Sri Aurobindo’s few lady acquaintances in a neutral fashion and with discretion. Those who were hostile to Aurobindo and wronged him are not made the subjects of pejorative comments attempting to discredit them; on the contrary the author attempts to find the reasons why they opposed Aurobindo.  The author’s objectivity becomes clear as we read the book. And yet we are informed that this book has sparked wild reactions in India.
The author has given us a model biography, which is accessible to the general public. For this he deserves our thanks. David Annoussamy

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