Sunday, December 11, 2011
After much hue-and-cry about the removal of AK Ramanujan’s essay, 300 Ramayanas, from the concurrent course list last month, a course went missing from the approved syllabus for political science at Delhi University (DU). The paper on the political beliefs and workings of nationalist freedom fighter Aurobindo Ghosh, who later set up the Aurobindo Ashram, was approved by the Committee of Courses when it deliberated upon the semester course earlier in the year.
But when the final course came up for approval before the Academic Council — the highest decision-making body in the university — the course was found missing from the list.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
Date: 3 December 2011, 10:44
Dear Mr. Tusar,
As you have published a few e-mails from Prof. Kamal Das on your websites, I was thinking that you might also be interested to publish this e-mail from Maggi regarding Prof. Kamal Das and his analyses.
An email from Maggi Lidchi-Grassi: Nov. 11, 2011:
The other day there came an e-mail from a friend and devotee in Italy. [...]
"One cardinal axiom Raman Reddy would do well to remember always is that no “interpretation is faulty” and hence maintaining an attitude of democratic respect and tolerance towards contrasting and adverse viewpoints is essential for personal growth as well as community well being. By not arrogating to himself the burden of offering the official interpretation, he can save himself from much torment and spare his readers too."
I think I should reply to the high and mighty Tusar Mohapatra of the Savitri Era Forum, who keeps on making the most opposite comments on the same issue, once for and once against, without realising that one should be at least stable with one’s own opinion. Or does he think that even fluctuating in one’s opinion like the wind is being democratic with the multiple selves that one has in one’s own being? But democracy being the foundation of TNM, he would say, “It does not matter even if I contradict myself for I am giving respect to all my selves!”
When did I claim that my version is official, for that credit should go to the Ashram Trust which has been remarkably silent on the web? I find the interpretation faulty does not mean that I am claiming my version is official! Unless you mean that my version has become official because the others are silent or are unable to say something convincing in return. But then that is not our fault.
I think Tusar should play a positive role in this affair instead of constantly arraigning those who are earnestly fighting PH’s views on Sri Aurobindo.
Raman Reddy is an ashramite working in the archives for the last many years. As a sadhak and a scholar, it is expected that his articles conform to the academic norms of politeness. The opening paragraph, conversely, appears to be combative in this instance. It is, in fact, a question of substituting a few phrases here and there. Let me attempt a cosmetic makeover so that the reader is not put off by the menacing horns. [TNM]
"On reading the booklet entitled Sri Aurobindo on Hinduism by Peter Heehs (published by the Sri Aurobindo Society, Hyderabad centre in 2007), I came across certain distortions. It seemed to me that the author has deliberately adopted a deceptive and confusing style such that even a well-informed reader of Sri Aurobindo will be easily taken in by the flow of arguments. Even the interpretation and conclusion appear to be so equivocal that the reader would sometimes not realise that he has actually skimmed over deep contradictions which bear the false impression of a balanced view. I have quoted the following paragraph in order to examine the discrepancies."
Is this some kind of advertisement that you are giving free lessons on "writing with courtesy" on the Savitri Era forum?
Yes, now and then I've been seeing those bazaar blogs named after Savitri always playing a dubious role, acting like paid agents yet keeping a facade of journalistic fairness. The best is to dismiss what they say. Take an example. At
there is a poser: "Does anyone stand by the Pranab’s proposal?" The right question to ask would be: What are we doing with Pranab's Proposals? and so on.
Peter Heehs has attempted for a very long time to erase any linkages Sri Aurobindo and his Yoga may have to Hinduism. Inspired by him, Rich Carlson has tried to do the same and Ulrich Mohrhoff has written to Outlook magazine online and every blog he could find just to register the exact same objections of Heehs and propagate the same message. They do this to justify whatever little attraction they have for Sri Aurobindo to the political milieu they cling to.
The question is: Did Sri Aurobindo and Mother disallow people who wanted to do pranam to them the muslim way? Or by kneeling as some Christians do? If someone wanted to lift and touch their knees to their noses as a novel pranamic technique, would they have objected?? It’s very doubtful. So, what is Heehs really objecting to? Only that Sri Aurobindo allowed the Hindus to worship him in their way!
Do these people expect that Sri Aurobindo should have created a whole new lexicon for his yoga completely outside of Indian religion and given brand new names to various powers or maybe even renamed Krishna as Jehovah or something else just to please them? Maybe they will next insist that Sri Aurobindo should have changed his own name so that it would not sound even remotely Hindu? It’s not possible to convince such small-minded, unreasonable, people if these are the levels they stoop to.
Coming to his commentary about the externals aspects of a devotee’s worship: how can Heehs claim to know anything about the devotee’s attitude and/or consciousness while worshiping Sri Aurobindo that he can generalize and comment so glibly about it? If, as Sri Aurobindo says, the attitude and consciousness are more important than the externalities, Heehs oozes pure arrogance by assuming to know anything about the devotee’s attitude and/or consciousness.
Sunday, November 6, 2011
Secondly but equally importantly, it is not The Mother who is complaining or being critical about any wrong-doings with regards to Sri Aurobindo’s publications, but it is instead Satprem who is complaining and making allegations to The Mother and She is merely reacting and responding to his complaints. Therefore, how does RYD assume that what Satprem was reporting to The Mother was based on accurate information? RYD would like us to believe that all of Satprem’s observations were always accurate. However, what emerges rather clearly in this passage is that Satprem, like RYD had a few axes to grind and that he was more preoccupied with trying to settle a few personal scores with people he didn’t get along too well, especially when it concerned matters relating to his own publications.
Thirdly, Satprem’s grouse is only with two individuals – one from SABDA and the other from the All India Press – who were involved with the distribution and sale of Sri Aurobindo’s books and had nothing to do with the editing or correcting Sri Aurobindo’s works. How are therefore the doings of these people in anyway related to the editing of the 1954 or 1970-’72 editions of Savitri? There is in fact absolutely no connection whatsoever, except presumably in the perverted imagination of RYD. http://mirrorofdayaftertomorrow.wordpress.com/
Friday, October 14, 2011
27: The Editing of Savitri—A few Samples from the Manuscripts
We present here a few examples of the manuscript of Savitri as the composition proceeded during the period 1942-50; these mostly pertain to Book Two Canto Four. As is clear from these available illustrations, the complexity of preparing the final text cannot be underestimated. But at times factors of judgement also enter into picture, and these can give rise to controversial or unacceptable readings. The best approach is to go by the original edition of Savitri that essentially came out during the lifetime of the author himself, and provide data as gathered from several drafts. ~ RYD
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
I understand that critics of Mr. Heehs love Sri Aurobindo and are concerned his book will debase Sri Aurobindo's image and hinder the spread of His truth and teaching. I would like to reassure you that no such negative outcome will happen, for several reasons. First, this book is written for an academic (i.e. university professor) audience, but intellectuals are too focused on their careers and mental pursuits to be interested in Sri Aurobindo. Second, among the potentially large audience of lay people who are seeking a spiritual path, most end up in one of the major religions, or studying with a guru or teacher who has a physical body. Very few can relate to a spiritual Presence, such as of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, that is real but does not have a physical body in the conventional sense. And third, whether academic or lay, most readers read to re-inforce what they already believe, not to alter their core beliefs. Thus, this book will have very few readers, even if it is widely available, and it will not alter what those few already believe.
So you see, the only audience for Mr. Heehs's book is the Master and his existing devotees, whose views on the book are already set. This whole debate is therefore only an opportunity for us, individually and collectively, to grow in His consciousness. No one outside our community cares about this discussion, because the rest of the world is busy with its own sectarian conflicts! We should be more friendly with each other about this book, and focus on improving it rather than banning it. And we should not let our reaction to the book become more of a problem than the book itself.
Tuesday, 20 September 2011 4:10 AM
But I am not writing to perpetuate the debate at its current level, and I am not choosing side A or B. I am trying to introduce a third option, which is working collaboratively to improve the book. I understand the likelihood of this coming to pass is small, but I feel the best way to honor Sri Aurobindo is to remain open to the possibility of working together to produce a better book about Him. I don't know that Peter will accept this proposition, nor that his opponents will, but I am extending a standing invitation to both sides to do so.
Let me briefly state the potential benefits of improving this book. First, as Larry noted, this book is extremely well researched and documented. It could use some editing, but setting aside those important details for now, I would ask people to stand back and look at the "big picture." No religious leader or major spiritual teacher in the history of the world has had a biography written of them with such academic depth and rigor as this one--I mean at the level of raw data and collateral information, not how the data is presented and interpreted at times. It is a credit to the synthetic nature of Sri Aurobindo's vision, and the culture that spawned within the Ashram and our community, that it produced such a bold attempt to bridge two worldviews (the "follower" and the academic). No other Ashram in India has produced a biography half as detailed and innovative as Peter's. If we can navigate through this conflict productively, and improve the book, we have the opportunity of presenting to Sri Aurobindo a first in the history of world literature. I think He deserves that.
Second, although the final choice to accept or reject suggested revisions is Peter's, and he is and will bear the inner karmic results of these choices, there is still a communal aspect to this that cannot be overlooked in our yoga. We are here to transform human nature and the ills of humanity. Religious schism and sectarian conflict is a major human problem, and has been throughout history. Our current communal split into For and Against is repeating this age old dynamic. So, if we can find some way to work through this problem, we can be of spiritual help to the world. If not, then we will simply repeat the world.
Third, from a purely practical perspective, I would urge Peter's critics to focus on improving the book because in today's world you cannot stop the spread of information--but you can still influence what is spread. Look at the case of Satprem, who clearly went against the Mother's word by publishing the Agenda so soon (She said wait 30-40 years). The Agenda is now available for free all over the Internet, including the original audio files, and no one has been able to contain this spread. Peter's book will have a smaller audience than the Agenda, but the same principles apply. People in India who want to read it will simply order it by Internet, or email a friend in the U.S. or Europe to obtain it, and there will be pirated PDFs on the web. In 10, 30, or 50 years the government of India will drop the ban, and there you have it.
So, the best thing you can do in the long run is to focus now on improving the book. Then everyone will benefit ultimately from a better product.
I could say much more about suggested revisions and ways to improve the book, but that is for another day.
23 September 2011
While I would agree that there are a small number of ungracious remarks made in the book, overall it is highly laudatory of Sri Aurobindo, informative about his life and work, and well-researched and documented. The book is not an attack on Sri Aurobindo's life or work as a few have suggested, or if it is an attack, then it is a very lame attack indeed which many intelligent, devotee readers could not even detect.
On the other hand, there are certain norms of the Ashram that are very well known and some even embedded in its rules. These have been trampled with impunity by the perpetrators of this malicious attack upon the author and the book.
22 September 2011
Re: A Question of Hagiography and Biography by Kepler on Tue 17 Feb 2009 02:58 AM
Very interesting article. Good point about the inherent conflict in writing usefully about a saint in a non-hagiographic style, unless one is purposely trying to write about the saint completely outside the context of his or her sainthood, e.g. a book solely about Sri Aurobindo’s external political work. He was a historical figure and a historical biography could be written entirely from that perspective. As you indicate, in such a book it may be best to say nothing about the spirituality of the saint. Perhaps it’s the mélange of purposes attempted in this book that is causing the jarring clash.
Here’s a question: what if one did want to know, as objectively as possible, all that could be documented about Sri Aurobindo’s external life, not in order to critique, reduce, or explain his spiritual greatness by mundane details, but rather because one has a deep love for Sri Aurobindo, and finds everything one learns about the actual external life he led is filled with sweetness and brings an increasing sense of closeness. In terms of that purpose, would one prefer a biography of Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual life and experiences, based necessarily on his own and some of his disciple’s descriptions of them, or would a painstaking, historical, critical attempt to gather and present all the discoverable external details be more likely to deliver the desired result?
Perhaps it’s partly the “confusion of dharmas” (as someone phrased it on this site) in this single book that leads some to love it and many to despise it, based on the approach they desired and expected from it.
Re: A Question of Hagiography and Biography by Kepler on Thu 19 Feb 2009 02:12 AM
Thanks for the recap of existing biographies. I’ve read some but not all, and none of them recently, so I can’t comment just now on their particular treatment of Sri Aurobindo’s “external life”.
What prompted my question (perhaps posed too confusingly), was your observation of the folly of an overly empirical, rationalistic approach to writing about a Yogin who by definition has been established in a consciousness that exceeds the rational thinking mind. This is very well taken.
But it then occurred to me that as a highly empirical, rationalistic approach works rather well when seeking knowledge about the external, physical world (even if at a loss when expounding upon spiritual experience), so perhaps a heavily rationalistic approach might bear fruit when fully documenting the purely external life of a saint. I think there are some who have read the Lives book and appreciated that aspect of it, even while being annoyed by the misapplication of that approach to Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual life and persona.
I realize some interpret the appreciation of any aspect of the Lives book to be an attempt to negate all criticism of it, but that was of course not my point. No need for anyone to remind me of all the objectionable quotes :-)
Re: A Question of Hagiography and Biography--Empirical Rationalism by Kepler on Thu 19 Feb 2009 09:51 PM
Thank you for your eloquent reply. I have also previously read with interest your articles on “Can there be an Indian science?” I fear that my point is perhaps so narrow and tangential that, like a small twig standing against a flooding wave, it is readily swept away unnoticed.
My question actually was not of a rationalistic approach “bearing fruit while expounding the spiritual experience”, but rather “might bear fruit when fully documenting the purely external life of a saint”, with emphasis on “the purely external life”.
I’m in full agreement regarding the pathetic limitations of such an approach in comprehending or evaluating the spiritual experience and consciousness of the saint, which is of course the overwhelmingly more important task.
But consider the much less important, but still interesting (to some of us), attempt to get at all the available external documentation of, for example, Sri Aurobindo’s outer life in Baroda, i.e. what he did, where he went and when, whom he associated with, what they recorded as their impressions of him, etc. Would the empirical, critical, “scientific” historian’s approach to this specific task produce more reliable results than a hagiographic one?
I personally do appreciate the results of the rationalistic approach to this “documentation of external facts” about the saint’s life, meaning just those facts that actually were “on the surface for others to see”. I think the raw tasks of collecting, evaluating and presenting the available physical data, do lend themselves to the empirical, rationalistic approach. My problem with the Lives book is that it also attempts to turn that approach on Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual life and persona, with obviously jarring and distorting consequences. I suppose the strength of that jarring effect makes it impossible for many to appreciate this other, smaller result, and I’m happy to drop the point.
Sunday, August 28, 2011
Saturday, August 20, 2011
Subject: RE: link please
Date: Sun, 21 Aug 2011 12:34:39 -0400
Dear Prof Kamal Das,
I am not so sure that Peter Heehs actually refused to have this article downloaded. The statement was rather ambiguous and it was unclear whether it was the Psychohistory Review that gave the statement or the website (http://www.researchgate.net/publication/11731087_Genius_mysticism_and_madness) where I was looking for the article. Perhaps Peter Heehs was never asked for permission, I really don't know.
With best regards,
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Monday, August 15, 2011
Saturday, August 13, 2011
These are questions which come to a sane man's mind who find Sri Aurobindo's works as sane, 100% rational, poetry and prose of super value without an iota of insanity or anything else. Will prof Das and you answer- if true really why not a movement would begin to throw the enemies of Sri Aurobindo out of an institution in his name, running for his works to spread and teach people? These are at this point questions put before you for you have brought this to our notice- written and posted by you.