Friday, July 30, 2010

Public conference in which Heehs, his supporters, and his critics can have a rational discussion

from to date 30 July 2010 15:05 subject Re: Pl. post
Do Not Project Intolerance, Pettiness, and Dogmatism on Sri Aurobindo!
Govind: “My challenge to you, however, still stands. Show me where a sadhak who has publicly cast doubts or critically judged, even disparaged, Sri Aurobindo's Life and Work was either admitted into or allowed to remain in the Ashram holding those views. You are sure to come up empty.”
I wonder if this man knows anything of what people like Nirodbaran, Amal Kiran, Dilip Kumar Roy have published on Aurobindo? Has he read their reminiscences of Aurobindo? If he had read Nirodbaran's or Dilip Kumar Roy's published correspondence with Aurobindo, he would know that they had directly expressed to Aurobindo himself various doubts, criticisms, and outright challenges concerning his views and actions and received from him patient and rational answers to their objections and doubts rather than threats or notices of dismissal or expulsion! In Dilip's case, he had "issues" with the Mother. Did the Mother ask him to leave? No! For various reasons, Dilip left on his own accord after Aurobindo's passing.
Has Govind any inkling of Aurobindo's great spirit of charitable understanding in dealing with repeat offences by "sadhaks" or inmates of the Ashram? After reading his post, I don't think he does. Well, speaking of "projection", perhaps he believes that Aurobindo and the Mother share his own outlook and values!
Here are few examples representative examples of Aurobindo's liberal approach to criticisms by sadhaks in the Ashram and other problems.
1. Let us start with Amal Kiran. In Light and Laughter he says :
"Once I told the Mother that I found Sri Aurobindo’s Life Divine not sufficiently logical! She opened wide her eyes and said “This is the first time anybody has said such a thing.” …She related the incident to Sri Aurobindo : “Look what he says….”. Sri Aurobindo, it seems, just nodded and smiled, as he often used to do.”(Clear Ray Trust, 2004, p.16)
So, the response to the criticism that Aurobindo's magnum opus was "not sufficently logical" was not expulsion from the Ashram or rancor and abuse in the manner of RYD, Govind, and "Auroman" (See their attacks on me in the ominous "Mirror of Tomorrow" website), but plain astonishment on the part of the Mother and an unruffled acknowledgement from Aurobindo that such criticism was expressed!
2. Here is Nirodbaran on Aurobindo's response to a  sadhak's criticisms of the Mother (from Light and Laughter):
another Sadhak used to write letters critical of some actions of the Mother. Sri Aurobindo tolerated them once, twice, thrice answering his points, but when it became a little too much he said to me, a bit vexed perhaps Why does he write like that about the Mother?” That was all…the tone betrayed nothing of the irritation or vexationall he sent was a very calm and quiet reasoned argument.And to this same sadhak when once he…wanted to leave the Ashram, Sri Aurobindo wrote back – the sadhak himself told me – “I beg of you, I pray to you”. Sri Aurobindo saying this to a disciple…what humility!” (pp. 124-125)
3. Nirodbaran again on Aurobindo's response to a sadhak's repeated ill-tempered beahvior:
“One day, the Mother brought the report of a sadhak flying into a temper…and it was not the first or the second occasion. So the Mother said to Sri Aurobindo “I ask for your sanction”. He heard her quietly and said “Let him be given a final warning.” We knew that there would be many final warnings.” (Light and Laughter, p. 122)
Govind writes "“when Sri Aurobindo was appraised of rumors that some Sadhaks were supporting Hitler He said that He was ready to close down the Ashram if the Sadhaks wanted So what would His reaction have been in the case someone had "gone public" with their support? Banning the book, and/or throwing the hostile element out of the Ashram are both certainly within the realm of possibility and would have been consistent with His position.”
Again I ask Govind to read Nirodbaran's full account of this episode on p. 126 of Light And Laughter. The FACT of the matter is that Aurobindo was concerned that the ignorant support of Hitler by many of the “Sadhaks” would lead thePondicherry government to dissolve the Ashram. Hence, he said that “If these people want that the ashram should be dissolved, they can come and tell me, and I will dissolve it instead of the police doing it. They…talk like children. Hitlerism is the greatest menace that the world has ever met.” And Nirod adds “From what depth of sorrow Sri Aurobindo must have said this! He could have easily sent away all these ignorant and harmful people.”
Thus Aurobindo did not threaten even these ignorant "sadhaks" with expulsion, but announced that he was willing to voluntarily do in advance what the actions of these "sadhaks" was likely to bring about.
Anyone familiar with English ought to be able to infer from this that although Aurobindo could have sent away, in the spirit of the “spiritual dictatorship” some on this forum seem eager to see implemented in the Ashram, these sorts of ignorant and dangerous “inmates”, he in fact did not do so due to his  extraordinary charity and tolerance.  So, we have just another example of Aurobindo’s extraordinary tolerance towards the inmates of the Ashram even when they seriously deviated from his rational stance and not a counter-example to that tolerance and liberal approach.
Govind’s distortions of Aurobindo reach unprecedented and extreme  levels when he claims that “If your liberal ideology is opposed to totalitarianism, fascism, communism and religious fanatcism that does not mean that Sri Aurobindo was oppposed to them unconditionally. In that you are simply projecting your own value systems on Him and getting the whole thing muddled up. Just to give you an example, Sri Aurobindo has supported even dictators and their dictatorship in certain conditions. If memory serves me right he has also had good things to say about communism relative to other ideologies.”
Where does Aurobindo offer "conditional support" for fascism, totalitarianism, communism, and religious fanaticism? Provide your evidence for this claim! Which dictators and dictatorships did Aurobindo support? What are your sources?
Here is the evidence against these gruesome distortions of Aurobindo:
  1. All fanaticism is false, because it is a contradiction of the very nature of God and of TruthTruth cannot be shut up in a single book, Bible or Veda, or Koran, or in a single religion.”(Birth Centenary Vol. 26, p.483)
  2. Aurobindo on communism: See his letter on Korea in On Himself, pp. 416-417. Aurobindo emphasizes the need for Truman to take decisive action to stem the tide of communist takeover in Asia.
  3. Aurobindo's unconditional support for the Allied cause in WWII should convince all but the mentally challenged that he opposed “Hitlerism” and similar forms of fascism. He said that Hitlerism (which is a fascist and racist ideology) is the greatest menace the world has known! Hitlerism is the very exemplar or paradigm of fascism and Aurobindo's  rejection of it clearly shows his rejection of fascism and racism.
  4. As proposed in his Ideal of Human Unity, Aurobindo’s alternative of a “Free World-Union” excludes, in principle, fascism, totalitarianism, and communism and is inconsistent with them. Read his 1950 postscript to the Ideal of Human unity in which he clearly states that an alliance between the communist giants Russia and China is a “perilous situation” for Asia. He was clearly opposed not to socialism per se, but to Soviet and Chinese style communist dictatorships.
Govind: "The only scenario where one can be ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN that Sri Aurobindo would NOT have supported banning the book is if He were prepared to tolerate anything and everything from Sadhaks or, as I have put it, "anything goes""
This is silly! One makes probabilistic inductive inferences every day on what people are likely to do based on a record of their past behavior. Obviously, there is no "absolute certainty" in these inferences, but to insist on "absolute certainty" as the criterion of acceptance of such inferences is ludicrous. There is no "absolute certainty" that any of us will be alive tomorrow, but it would be ludicrous to cease from making plans or reject decisions based on the probability that oneself and others will be alive tomorrow on the grounds that there is no "absolute certainty" here! So, I am not claiming that it is absolutely certain that Aurobindo would not support a ban on Heehs' book. I am concluding that it is highly unlikely that he would support that ban based on many representative examples from his life and the total absence of any examples to the contrary! I am not drawing any "Mein Kampf analogy". I offered the example of his not calling for  a ban even on the Mein Kampf as part of the list of examples to support my conclusion that he is unlikely to support a ban on Heehs' book.
I need to clarify the term “fallacy of false alternatives” for the benefit of “Auroman” and Govind. This fallacy occurs when the number of legitimate alternatives is artificially reduced. For example, if you have five brands of tea available and you say to someone “Either you have Brand X or brand Y”, you are committing the fallacy of false alternative since you have left out three alternative brands of tea one could select from.
Govind conflates two different issues here. There is the fundamental issue of whether the “expulsion or suppression” (Auroman's alternatives) or “allow absolute license or expulsion or suppression” (Govind's alternatives) constitutes a fallacy of false alternatives. And then there is the issue of whether any of these alternatives is  a good or reasonable choice.
Even if one of their alternatives is  a "good choice", that would not undermine the fact that their list of alternatives is artificially restricted, and that, therefore, the fallacy of false alternatives afflicts their thinking.
It is clear that Auroman and Govind both commit the fallacy of false alternatives since they fail to mention and explore other alternatives such as issuing a reprimand if there is justification for it, asking Heehs to provide clarifications and to respond to criticisms, having a public conference in which Heehs, his supporters, and his critics can have a rational discussion and closure on the issues, etc.


  1. I am gratified by the time and effort you seem to to have put into your response. However I will keep my responses brief and to-the-point not waste any more useless virtual ink after this post

    1) What you cite from Amal Kiran and Nirodbaran are parts of their private and personal conversations with Sri Aurobindo. They clarified their doubts and got their questions answered. They did not go public with their ignorance and any falsehoods that might have crept in, which gave Sri Aurobindo and the Mother the chance to CORRECT them. This is a regular feature of any relationship between a spiritual mentor and mentee and totally distinct from the actions of a self-appointed scholar subjecting his avowed Guru to critical scrutiny in public, or a historian indulging in revisionism. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the relationship of a shishya with his Guru and, if anything, is antithetical to the spirit of the relationship.

    2) Please look for the quotes yourself. If you can issue challenges and ask people to disprove something that is based only on your "probabilistic inductive inference" then I can certainly ask you rely on my probabilistic memory. But since you have cited some quotes of Sri Aurobindo to prop your hypothesis I will at least give you a clue. You will find them in the Evening Talks where He says something to the effect that when the time requires it the dictator comes.

    You are most welcome to have the last word.

  2. I was simply trying to emulate Aurobindo's own example of patiently and exhaustively dealing with intellectual confusion and distortion! :)
    And I was simply revisiting material I had read in my teens!
    Whether the criticisms were confined to the Ashram community, or a small circle within it, or publicized outside the Ashram is IRRELEVANT to the point that Aurobindo responded to them with understanding, patience, and tolerance. I don't think Aurobindo suffered from any insecurity concerning public opinion. Hence, it would not have mattered to him had these criticisms by Amal, Dilip, etc., been made public or published. He would have dealt with them in the same way.
    Well, I must remember to use your inference from "Aurobindo (allegedly) said that when the time requires it the dictator comes" to "Aurobindo supported dicatatorships" as an example of particularly astute logical reasoning!
    There is a simple difference between EXPLAINING why a dictator gained power or why a dictatorship emerged in a certain society at a certain time and JUSTIFYING or SUPPORTING the dictator or the dictatorship. If one says that Hitler emerged because the conditions were ripe for a dictatorship in Germany at that time, one is surely not supporting or justifying that dictator or dictatorship!
    So, The fact (if it is a fact) that Aurobindo was explaining or alluding to the factors which bring about the ascendancy of a dictator or a dictatorship does not mean that he was justifying or supporting it.