Dear Manoj-da (Das*),
Thank you for your letter dated
28 June 2010. I have since come to know that your letter is being widely circulated from Manoj Das Gupta’s office as representing his views. Hence I am compelled to write this response to put in context certain erroneous assumptions in your note. In what follows, your entire letter is quoted in bold followed by my remarks. My reply is long because the issues you have raised are complex and central to the Ashram’s future well-being. You have been frank and so will I be.
[*Clarification for those unfamiliar with these names: Manoj Das Gupta (MDG) is the present Managing Trustee of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, while Manoj Das is the scholar and journalist in answer to whom this letter is written. Manoj Das was a Trustee of the Ashram from the period 1992 to 1994 when he resigned from this post after differences with Pranab-da who was Director of Physical Education of the Ashram.]
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are entirely the author’s and the Mirror of Tomorrow is not responsible to them in any way.
At first I wondered if your letter was not meant for some other ‘Manoj’, for I expected you to address Shri Manoj Das Gupta as Dear Manoj-da; not as Dear Manoj, for that goes so well with your courteous nature. I must confess that your address unpleasantly surprised me at first, but on reading the full letter I realised that it was in keeping with the spirit and tone of your text which I found rather unfortunate.
As you can remember very well, my agony on Peter’s book was no less than yours or anybody else’s and I went through the entire book listing out more than ninety objectionable observations or factual lapses.
I surely wished at least the Indian edition, if at all it comes out, to be a corrected version and if the foreign publishers go for a reprint, it should be a corrected and revised edition.
There were ways of achieving this without going public through large scale distribution of quotes from the book through internet and distributed printouts, or going to the court thereby inevitably attracting the press that was bound to pounce on the sensational aspect of the case. Thus, ironically, those who took such steps became (unwittingly?) the largest forum for spreading a virus against which they had launched their mission.
I deeply appreciated your advising Manoj-da against expelling Peter.
We all are creatures of ignorance and we are prone to commit blunders in different ways. The question is whether one is open to realising one’s mistake and alter one’s attitude for the better. Peter seems to have done that. No one can see the inner working of his mind.
If his regret is not genuine, the law of Karma will take care of that.
In any case he is out of the Archives.
But the chief purpose of my writing this letter to you is different. I have trusted you as a young man who has gained over the years a wide sense of perspective. I hope you will appreciate my observations even if you do not accept them.
Do you really believe that the reputation of Sri Aurobindo or even of the Ashram depended on a book? Peter was tempted by an urge to take recourse to some uncanny novelty in his approach to the biography and probably wished to be acknowledged as a so called academic, but books have been written earlier with pure hostile motive and hardly anybody bothers to remember them today as time rolled over them.
The Divine Genius of Sri Aurobindo is going on conquering ever expanding grounds of recognition and reverence plainly because of his revolutionary and epoch-making vision of human destiny and Peter’s book, like so many other articles, essays, newspaper reports and gossips will be nothing more than dead leaves scraping by or squirrels scratching a rising Himalayan peak.
So far as the Ashram’s reputation is concerned, it entirely depends on the community’s spiritual poise and not on its agitated behaviour on any issue of this nature—even if it comes to protecting God against infamy.
If we make a little introspection, it will be obvious that as a community we have ceased, at least temporarily, to live any inner life. That alone explains this huge hullabaloo on a book, with hardly anyone of the agitating multitude reading it, and their taking recourse to actions that can never go with an institution that claims itself to be spiritual.
I am really shocked that some senior Ashramites started showing signs that could be expected only of mobsters—promoting signature campaigns, enrolling even innocent and unsuspecting visitors into it bewildering them in the process, and sending letters of allegations—unverified and mostly consisting of hearsay and utterly venomous rumours, to different wings of the government.
The pity of pity is, lately some of them inspired a certain sickly lady, I do not know whether she is a mental case or one who is possessed, but who had proved her notoriety for using vulgar language against anybody who incurred her displeasure or envy for reason that were often inexplicable, to go on heaping abuses against Manoj-da and, as if that was not enough, instigating her to report to the police that her life was in danger!
I wish someone could make this self-righteous host of signature-campaigners, letter-writers and elements behind the aforesaid weird lady understand that they are the destroyers of the Ashram’s reputation—a thing they imagined endangered and for which they profess their concern.
You have asked Manoj-da to resign if he could not act according to your suggestion. I certainly did not expect this from you.
The trustees are not elected by a body of voters; they are in the board following the principles and procedure laid down by the Mother, the founder of the Trust and of course they have to be from mortals like us.
Imagine a time when the trustees must resign because they cannot act according to the wish of a group or the wish of even a large body of people. Any action by the Trust can be unpleasant to a section or sections of people. This unhappy reality cannot be helped until the arrival of the golden age when we all would be victors over our ego.
The trustees must be guided by their own wisdom… though they must discuss issues with whoever is relevant for a particular issue, and pray for the Mother’s guidance.
The same applies to an Ashramite. One may convey one’s pleasure or displeasure on any matter to the Trust, but thereafter one must leave it to
One must not behave like a member of any commonplace institution, raising vociferous demands and taking recourse to the most deplorable tactics of pressure.
The primary reason for our stay here is our relation with the Divine Mother and the Master, and our progress to the best of our receptivity by their unlimited Grace.
Nobody can say that the Ashram management does not facilitate our aspiration in that regard.
In spite of that if I feel dissatisfied, it is for me to quit, not for me to ask anybody else to quit his position. I should not conclude that I alone am right and the other one, unless he agrees with me, should abdicate.
The trustees have their commitment to the Mother.
It will be a sad day in the calendar of courage if they bow down to populist demand.
No doubt they are responsible to us, but their ultimate responsibility is to the Mother and the Mother alone.
It is the duty of all Ashramites of goodwill to help them remain faithful to this ideal.
The truth of how some people are dominated by the delusion that they had the right to decide on other’s destiny became glaringly evident to me some time ago and let me share that experience with you. One day the Ashram Trust received a regular legal notice asking it to expel me from the Ashram forthwith or face the consequence. It was served through a costly lawyer by a dhoti-clad innocuous-looking gentleman who sat at the Ashram gate in the evening and I had never known him to be anything more than that in his outer life. But, strangely indeed, he had been assured by some fellows that he was the President of some association and that position had bestowed on him the right to decide who should be retained or expelled from the Ashram he could dictate the Ashram Trust his decision. His advisers decided that the first blow of his axe of authority ought to fall on my neck. My fault? He had heard that at the Krishnanagore court where a case had been filed against the revised version of Savitri, the Ashram lawyer said that the Mother did not read or understand the epic and even though I was present in the court I did not shout out my protest against our lawyer’s statement. The aggrieved gentleman’s mother tongue is Oriya as is mine. He could have very well asked me if what he heard was a fact. I could have informed him that whether it would have been possible for me to shout in the open court is a different matter, but such a situation never arose; the lawyer had no occasion to make any statement in regard to the Mother vis-à-vis Savitri.
I wondered, why did this elderly gentleman, on the basis of just a flying rumour, got ready to try his hand at wrecking the spiritual destiny of a gurubhai? Why did he not ask me before paying a handsome fee to a lawyer? I realised by and by that had he talked to me, he and the people behind him would have missed a great chance to proclaim themselves as hero-warriors coming to the rescue of the Mother’s prestige imperilled in a court room at Krishnanagore. (They circulated this imaginary situation and my silence through printed leaflets.)
Further I realised, how deceptive, alas, could be the Sadhu-like façade of a man! (For me personally it was an occasion to wonder if I really deserved to be in the Ashram but for Her Grace.)
A general air of irreverence has invaded the atmosphere of the Ashram through our lack of caution in our written or spoken words. This must not be. When we circulate a letter meant for the trustees, we should see to it that the language is dignified and confined to principles. Bitter words will necessarily invite more bitter words and there will be no end to the process.
I am happy that the Ashram Trust exercises the maximum restraint.
We, the inmates of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, enjoy a range of freedom that cannot be imagined by the members of any other Ashram or spiritual community in
or anywhere in the world. India
We must respect this exclusive privilege and should not allow our freedom of action or word to discredit this privilege. This freedom has far nobler purpose to serve in our life.
I have avoided being involved in any chain of correspondence and I will stick to my position. I wrote this only because I hold you in affection and I hope my words will receive whatever care they deserve. You need not take the trouble of replying. With best wishes, Manoj Das