Thursday, November 11, 2010

Alok Pandey responds to half-truths in Auroville Today

Response to AV news item On court cases:
Dear editor,
I am sorry to read the news item published in AV Today regarding Affidavit against the trustees of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram.
I am sorry not because there is a court case against the trust. This is not the first time it has happened and if we do not take appropriate measures taking cue from the lessons that circumstances come to teach us, then it will not be the last one either. I am sorry because I see that the AV community has been dragged into the whole affair to suit certain vested interests. As far as I know the Ashram inmates and its journals have kept away from AV politics and have tried to contribute only in a positive and constructive manner towards the growth of AV. But what we find here is that an official organ of the AV community has been used to disseminate half-truths and a one sided picture of things. The worst part is that it is done with a ‘posture’ of neutrality as if an impartial view was being given to the readership. By doing so this beautiful journal has been dragged into the kind of stuff that seasoned politicians and government agencies often use to justify their stated position and public postures without regard to Truth and Justice. Yet they pay a lip-service to truth to make it ‘look’ acceptable to the world. One would have expected from AV a better response, either true neutrality that goes beyond disputes and aspires for unity and harmony, the kind of response that Shraddhavan has given. Or else a stand, but one taken on certain principle; a principle of Liberty or of Truth or of the fundamental principles of Integral Yoga that has given birth to the Ashram and AV. But instead the journal has chosen to simply propagate only the administration’s point of view here. My apprehension is that this too has been done primarily for legal purposes and / or because it concerns Mr PH and his friends have turned it into a battle of the ego rather than a genuine concern for the Ashram and the Truth. I am not sure if behind all this cry for freedom there is not hidden in a corner this sense of an inner or outer kinship. Let me explain what I mean by this and how the spirit of Truth and Love and even of Freedom has been violated. I have only to bring certain facts before you for consideration.
1.      Your paper makes it appear that some are for and some are against the book and that alone is the issue. This is not true. The problem is that a member of the Ashram community has repeatedly (mis)used his freedom and the trust placed in him; misused his unlimited access to privileged documents to write a book and publish articles adopting an openly critical, irreverent, judgmental and denigrating attitude towards the very Soul and center of the Ashram life. I am not sure if you are able to fathom even a little of the pain and agony that devotees feel when the object of their love is mistreated in this manner. People have come here from far and wide out of love for Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. They have come to give their life to Them for whatever it is worth. They are naturally pained (to say the least) that Sri Aurobindo and the Mother are (mis)treated in Their own Ashram in this way. Everything in this place belongs to Them and they have built this place with Their blood and Their tapasya. The very bricks and sand of this place throbs with Their Divine Presence and Grace for those who can see and feel. All that we wish and hope is that let at least one place upon earth remain consecrated to Them who have done so much and continue to do all for us. Just this one spot where we can live only for Them keeping Them at the very center and heart of all activities. Just as each man has his swadharma, so too each place and grouping of mankind has its swadharma, its very life center and soul that holds it together and inspires and moves and guides all its activities. It is this soul that attracts people to the place. As far as the Ashram is concerned, it is the Sacred Space meat for those who have faith in Sri Aurobindo’s Vision, who love Him and the Mother and are here only to give themselves heart and soul, body and mind to Them and Them alone. All the rest is subordinate and secondary to this one principle and first condition. Right from the very start the ashram life has evolved this way, centered around the Divine Personality of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. For the rest there is all the world and places where one can try out eclectic or other approaches. Whatever outer differences and defects of human nature the inmates may have (and there are surely plenty of them in each one of us), this is the one common factor that binds us all together. It is the central Will of this place so to say. If this is attacked and disturbed the community will split and be injured so badly that it will take a long time for it to recover, if it recovers at all. It will disturb the very seat and foundation of the Yoga as it has developed in the Ashram context. Please try to empathise with it. The diversity here spreads out from this basic core truth and falls back upon it. The multiplicity of approaches here all starts with and reach out to the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. Without Them this place does not even exist and has no meaning. How then can we strike a blow at the very core and center of this place? Is it not like giving a blow to the very body of the Divine? Which disciple will remain silent, his heart stone-hearted, when his Master is being treated this way in His own House, sadly by some of those who have been fed by His Hands and owe everything to Them. Whose heart will not suffer to see such ingratitude towards One to whom we owe each and every breath. Some may call it religion; some others may call it the very crown and heart of Integral Yoga, an intense inner identification with the Divine Beloved. If you know love, then you may understand a little of what many of us have experienced and continue to experience through all this cruel treatment being meted out to Sri Aurobindo by the wise and learned men trained by Her who have grown up under Her care and love. If this is wisdom then fie to such a wisdom.
2.      It is against this background of the Ashram and the context of the Yoga as it has grown here that we need to look at the issue. So let's restate the problem correctly before responding to it. The problem is not just that a book has been written by someone that some find good and some find bad. Plenty of such things happen and will happen all the time and no one is bothered. Besides this is true of anything The problem is that this ‘someone’ is an inmate who continues to have ‘privileged’ access to sacred and public documents of a deep historical interest for all times to come. And yet this man breaches the trust and goes on to write things that e knows very well to be offensive to those who love Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. If he has such an itch to write this kind of stuff then he can go anywhere else. It is sheer decency. I may or may not believe in Christ but I have no right to start openly and publicly criticizing Christ in a community that is centered around him. If I do not like him I am under no compulsion to stay there. I can find a better place for myself. This is sheer common sense and basic decency. We do not criticize someone publicly while we continue to live in his house and draw our rations from his store. All that the inmates have asked for is simply to state clearly and boldly that the documents give a slanted and false picture of Sri Aurobindo and have been used with cunning to create a certain impression; that it is not an objective book etc but a highly opinionated book. In addition the inmates are requesting that the author should no more be kept part of the Archives. He has broken the trust given to him, done it repeatedly and therefore he cannot be entrusted with this treasure anymore. Since repeated entreaties to the trustees for these two things went unheeded and even unacknowledged; if anything these entreaties were met with a snubbing and threatening, almost a hostile response from them, therefore some members decided to take to the signature campaign and next to the court since the signature campaign also did not make them budge. In other words there is a whole background and context of the case that cannot be ignored if we care for the truth or let's say even of the outer facts alone.
3.      Your article instead gives an impression that some inmates who are seeking power and disgruntled by the trustees for personal reasons have taken to the court to satisfy their ambition and jealousy. Well, this is the standard way that any political establishment reacts to keep its chair safe. I don’t see how such a response can be even remotely regarded as spiritual. Do you not think that a right response should have been at least an impartial inquiry to unearth the truth of the PH affair or for that matter even about some of the allegations that some inmates have made against the trust and the administrative machinery? That would be concern for Truth and not simply blaming away anyone who points a finger at you. After all people have a right to ask under what circumstances was permission granted to this man who is known for his notoriety with regard to Sri Aurobindo? They have a right to ask as to why have the trustees supported and continue to support him blindly when he is violating the very first fundamental principle of the spiritual life? What is the compulsion that has made the same man so meek before the author of TLOSA who had otherwise responded with such clarity of the head and the heart when Mr Makrand Paranjape (an Indian by the way) had just one objectionable passage in his Sri Aurobindo Reader. Mr Paranjape was not even an inmate and his book was otherwise fine enough. People see this gross disparity and wonder why and I think they have a right to know and have an answer that would satisfy them, if there is a valid answer at all. Instead, all this anguish was met with retort, then with silence, an indifferent couldn’t care attitude as if those who were seeking an answer and to be heard were simply a huddled and befuddled unthinking mass who were simply an unwanted disturbing lot in the ashram. This was an arrogant and high-handed way of dealing with a situation that was already at the boiling point. There was no co-operation of any sort when some senior members (who have also grown up since their childhood at the Ashram and have been trained by the Mother) wanted to know certain details about the nature of PH’s agreement with the ashram trust and the publishers. An 18 page letter from the MT, full of quotes did somehow find its way to the internet and a mild lukewarm note of disapproval, at first without a signature and on plain paper, later with a signature and on the official letterhead. But by then much water had flown over. The 18 page letter however read like a miserable attempt at spiritual justification of one’s own course of action, while the disapproval note read like a statement made under legal and political compulsions without a heart and soul and without care and concern for truth. Later, when some of them began to probe and raised certain uncomfortable questions to ascertain facts about some events related to PH and few other issues, they were snubbed rudely and told to shut up or face consequences. When this and all other efforts at persuasion and discussion with the trust board failed that some inmates took the course of a court case as a last option, after nearly two years of wait and especially when they started getting signals from the Trust that it is likely to reinstall PH into the sanctum sanctorum of the Archives as the head-priest. Let me tell you a bare fact. Whatever is the mood in AV community and each community has a right to its way of looking at life, the general mood in the Ashram community is not at all in favour of PH’s ever returning back to the Archives. Most favour that he peacefully leaves the place and follows whatever he wishes to do elsewhere. The trustees cannot impose their will upon this mood, even if they forcibly have their way. It may be helpful to know that while the Ashram rules modified in 2003 provide quite a few proscriptions for the inmates, do’s and don’ts with regard to how they must relate with the trust but not one that qualifies how the trust must relate with the inmates! It would seem from these rules and the implicit obedience demanded from the inmates that the Trust has placed itself / assumed for itself a position that only is valid ad justifiable only with regard to the embodied Divine or a Perfect Master. Having done that they now seek to drive a nail through the devotee’s heart and crucify the One by whose Name they get their daily bread. This is simply not acceptable to many of us, though out of fear people do not speak about it openly. This is 21st century and the world has moved ahead and one cannot allow the drama of the crucifixion of the embodied divine to be re-enacted under any pretext.     
4.      Yet, it is true that one needs some kind of order for practical purposes to run an organization. One cannot just say that let each follow his own swadharma etc when we are part of an institution. Fair enough, but in that case should there be not at least some checks and balances that make the trust board members also accountable in some way, make the system transparent and keep the possibility that one of the trust members actually goes hostile to the very function and purpose of the Trust? Can one say that such a possibility can never happen? That would be like saying that the trustees belong to a different class of humanity, a perfect kind who need no outer control but are always being guided by the Mother. Well, that is the myth that has been busted at last in this episode and one that the trust naturally finds uncomfortable since it makes them vulnerable and brings them down to an ordinary level. It is this ego that they are trying to defend and nothing else. One such simple practical means is not to keep the trustees for life but have an upper limit of age, say 75 years. AV does not experience this problem since you change your board of members. How would you find it if the same persons continued to remain until death? Let each AV member give his answer.
The issue is not about freedom of speech. If that were so then the trust would not destroy 7000 copies of a particular journal since it contained an article on Guru Ninda. It was not even against PH. It was in response to a question someone asked about the right to criticize the Master and the editor had simply expressed his views as seen from the spiritual standpoint. So also articles by Alok and Deshpande were never allowed to see the light of the day since they were around the same theme again without reference to PH. Will the Ashram, for example allow some of us to publish our views on the Savitri cases and other issue from any of its journals? Will it allow a letter or a book to be published that is critical of the Ashram management? Even a fair and frank discussion on the book is banned and Mr RY Deshpande was summarily dismissed from taking classes without an inquiry for the same while some others who spoke in favour of the book in the class continue to enjoy the favour of the trust… much for the freedom of mind and speech!
Nor is it about religion etc. To begin with it is a gross misunderstanding to believe that religion has to do with belief in the Master. The Trust deed itself mentions that the Ashram is a place for those who have faith in Sri Aurobindo. The number of letters Sri Aurobindo has written on such elementary spiritual qualities as faith and surrender should be more than enough to understand that faith, devotion, surrender are psychic attributes and indispensable spiritual qualities necessary for the path. I am also surprised that you pit religion against philosophy. Both are ignorant movements and man has to transcend both. If religion has done harm to man and been the case of so much violence then certain philosophies have done much worse. The religion that the Mother and Sri Aurobindo spoke of and were not in favour of is well summarized in His words: [...] From the Karmayogin
In fact the religion that They would not wish to be seen is already forming through the trust itself and right under the nose. If one has eyes one will see it. I leave it at that…. May Truth prevail. May Hers be the victory. May Her Will be done. Love Alok

1 comment:

  1. Alok Pandey's latest inspirational letters are going to provide us months' of entertainment as we dismantle his letters one bit at a time:

    Let's for instance start with his letter addressed to the "Dear gurubandhus" in which he states:
    "Let me also add at the very outset two things clearly. I am, like you, not in favour of court cases, not only this one but also any other and feel immensely sorry to see the number of cases heaped on to the ashram."

    Now let's see what he states to the Editors of AVT:
    "I am sorry to read the news item published in AV Today regarding Affidavit against the trustees of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram.
    I am sorry not because there is a court case against the trust. This is not the first time it has happened and if we do not take appropriate measures taking cue from the lessons that circumstances come to teach us, then it will not be the last one either."

    Now, is he sorry about the court cases or not? He doesn't seem to be able to make up his mind.
    Is he mightily confused and in need of psychiatric help? Or is he just suffering from chronic hypocrisy and like a chameleon tries to adapt to his reader's environment?

    And does he write just because he is "inspired" or is it because he is simply compelled to?
    Either way he surely doesn't seem to be too bothered with issues like consistency, coherence, integrity, credibility, etc., etc.

    Good for us!
    More later.