Friday, July 22, 2011

Undesirable and purposeless passages under the radar

Take Larry Seidlitz’s thorough examination of the accusations against Peter, a document that has unfortunately slipped under the radar. Has anyone on the Right actually tried to dissect it and show where Larry might have gone wrong? He takes a neutral, open stance, analyses the allegations against Peter in detail, concludes in some instances that this statement here, that assertion there, is perhaps unnecessary or misplaced, but there are no signs of hostility anywhere. Why has no one on the Right dared to challenge him head on? […]
I should mention in this context that Manoj Das Gupta’s 18-page Reflections is one of the most balanced analyses of the various sides of the issue that one will find. It is unfortunate that this too seems to have slipped under the radar, as it answers many of the questions and accusations still doing the rounds.
In this essay, Larry Seidlitz, a resident and scholar at Pondicherry ...
An Examination of Larry Seidlitz's Defence of Heehs's Biography of Sri Aurobindo. Part 1. 
Mirror of Tomorrow :: Response to the Managing Trustee's “Some Reflections on the Agonising Issue of a Book” by Raman Reddy on Sat 21 Aug 2010 03:30 AM IST  |  Permanent Link  |  Cosmos

Manoj Das Gupta’s Analysis

I need not justify myself to any one. My sole concern is to try to be as faithful as possible, in my present state of consciousness, to the Mother and to the Mother alone. Hasn’t the Mother said: “I need not appear to be good if my sincerity is perfect. It is better to be than to seem.” (CWM, Vol. 15, p. 203) (Manoj Das Gupta’s Analysis, p. 1)

The main accusations against PH may be summarized under the following headings:
1. PH has violated copyright rules.
2. He has deliberately tried to denigrate Sri Aurobindo and lower his image in the eyes of the public.
3. As a consequence, he should be expelled from the Ashram
(Manoj Das Gupta’s Analysis, p. 1)

It is on record that P.H. had taken written permission for quoting from the writings of Sri Aurobindo. As for the bogey of using materials from Puraniji’s notebook, it is more a question of ethical propriety than a violation of copyright. I may mention here in passing that Puraniji has never ceded, in writing, his copyright to the Ashram. However, I agree that the passages thus quoted were quite unnecessary for the purport of the general theme of the book. P.H. himself has realized this at a heavy cost. (Manoj Das Gupta’s Analysis, p. 2)

In my long uninterrupted stay (over 65 years) in the Ashram I do not recall ever witnessing such a virulent commotion as is prevalent today, gripping our community life.

In the context of the above controversy the Ashramites may be classified into three groups:
a)  anti-PH Group—the most vociferous and militant of the three who would stop at nothing short of declaring a “Fatwa”;
b)  pro-PH group—more defensive and non-promotional;
c)  neutral group—this group, for various reasons, prefer to remain if not neutral at least silent….

Needless to say that according to the natural bent of my nature, my swadharma, my spontaneous sympathy is with the third group. But alas, am I permitted to enjoy the luxury of ‘neutrality’ while occupying an unenviable position in the Administration?

[The Managing Trustee quotes here Heehs’ letters regarding his intention to show how Sri Aurobindo transformed himself from the human to the divine]

From the above, my personal inclination is, if not to exonerate P.H. fully at least to give him, what in sporting parlance is known as ‘the benefit of the doubt’. (Manoj Das Gupta’s Analysis, pp. 3-5)

I’m sorry, I’m absolutely unable to agree with those who uphold the strong view that in order to vindicate the honour and prestige of the Ashram, P.H. should be expelled forthwith.

I strongly believe that before taking any hasty decision on the matter, we must be absolutely sure of the correctness of our judgment, weighing carefully, with an unprejudiced mind, all the pros and cons and especially examine the grave consequences that such a drastic action may entail on a spiritual community such as ours.

Another grave danger that we have to be cautious of is not to let our judgement be coloured in any way by our cultural background—what we loosely talk about as “lndian psyche”. Sri Aurobindo clearly states: “The Ashram has nothing to do with Hindu religion or culture or any religion or nationality. The Truth of the Divine which is the spiritual reality behind all religions and the descent of the supramental which is not known to any religion are the sole things which will be the foundation of the work of the future.” (Bulletin, April 1995, p.84) (Manoj Das Gupta’s Analysis, pp. 5-6)

It all began over an interview of Auroville Today with PH, in its August issue of 2008. Soon after, with the help of some friends R. began to circulate through the Internet and other means, a selection of extracts from PH’s book. This led to unprecedented furore and hue and cry among a section of devotees, culminating in a signature campaign—something that is never heard of in any Ashram—and goes obnoxiously against the exclusive character of our Ashram—for removing P.H. from the Archives. (I may say here in passing that I had already initiated a move asking PH to stay away from the Archives). The question that puzzles me, even to this day, is—Why did R of all persons, who by all accounts seemed to be a quiet and unobtrusive person, suddenly take up the cudgel to bash PH with? How does he justify such an action in the light of the Mother’s advice to the inmates of the Ashram put up on the Notice Board?

When you have nothing pleasant to say about something or somebody in the Ashram, keep silent.
You must know that this silence is faithfulness to the Divine’s work.

Whatever be the reason, R. has certainly achieved the dubious success of arousing the rabble like Antony in Julius Caesar:

…mischief, thou art afoot,
Take thou what course thou wilt!

(Manoj Das Gupta’s Analysis, p. 7)

Here is an interesting observation by a thoughtful Ashramite that should make us pause to think: “Peter Heehs, as we and several others who have read his book feel, was motivated by an ambition to pass off as an academic critic by Western standards and used certain materials irreverently and without creating the right context for them. When extracts from his book were circulated by his critics in thousands and through the internet, that was done even without that much context which Heehs had built up. The Press wrought further havoc by selectively quoting from the lawyer’s submissions in the court and from other circulated materials only such stuff that suited its present day competitive character. For any unbiased person these extracts read far more horrible than when read in the book Time will tell who is more responsible for the public furore: the author who lacked proper understanding of his sublime task or those who picked up and circulated the very lines and passages from his book which they would not like people to read and gave those words publicity reaching tens of thousands of people whereas the book itself might have been limited to a few hundred or just a thousand copies. How many of those who are agitated read the book or would have read the book? But everybody read the undesirable and purposeless passages so widely distributed.” (Manoj Das Gupta’s Analysis, p. 7)

My Stand
From day one till this date my stand has been one of prayer and patience and wait and see. I know that it is very disconcerting for the ‘man of action’ and I have been accused of ‘escapism’ and gross dereliction of my duty. To these critics I can only say: “Sorry, I have been prompted to this by what I consider to be my faithfulness to the Mother; and I can assert in all sincerity that not even for a second have I ever had any remorse of conscience, admitting that I have one!”

It is better to perish following one’s own dharma; disastrous it is to follow someone else’s dharma. (Bhagwad Gita, 3:35)

I especially took courage for my stand from the following advice of the Mother to me: 
After all, it is always preferable not to make any decision for or against things, but to watch events as they develop, with the impartiality of a witness, relying on the divine Wisdom which will decide for the best and do what is needful. (CWM, Vol. 12, p. 323)  

(Manoj Das Gupta’s Analysis, p. 8) 

[1] Manoj Das Gupta’s Analysis (pp. 9-10)
A Few Comments
I shall now try to analyse what went wrong with PH.

i) The Intention: PH has clearly stated that in his recent biography he has ‘tried to bring out Sri Aurobindo’s effort to achieve the full supramental transformation’—to highlight what Sri Aurobindo said: “I transformed my nature from what it was to what it was not”.

One can find nothing wrong with the intention. On the contrary; it can be, even for the non-intellectual bhakta, a very interesting and soul-inspiring topic.

ii) The Methodology: In my humble opinion, it is here that P.H. went wrong, to have in mind only a particular readership. In his own words: “I chose to write my recent book mostly for an audience made up of Westerners or westernized Indians”. He therefore chose a style and language conducive to his goal and which would appeal to his limited audience; therefore he doggedly adopted an anti-hagiographic style.

His obsession of confining himself to the academic circle alone, has led him to try to analyze even some of Sri Aurobindo’s actions in the light of Western psychoanalysis! As an example, look at the stupid motive he tries to ascribe to Sri Aurobindo’s writing the beautiful play Vasavadatta!! It is this over-smartness of his which has proved to be a great irritant in his otherwise informative book. I am surprised that PH who is well-read in all the writings of Sri Aurobindo should have been so callous to Sri Aurobindo’s strong views on psycho-analysis prevalent in Europe.

“I find it difficult to take these psycho-analysts at all seriously when they try  to scrutinise spiritual experience by the flicker of their torch-lights,—yet perhaps one ought to, for half-knowledge is a powerful thing and can be a great obstacle to the coming in front of the true Truth.” (SABCL, Vol. 24, p. 1608)

From all accounts so far received, his book has been widely acclaimed by this section of readership. But then it has also opened the Pandora’s Box.

Had he only kept in mind the following advice of the Mother he would have avoided the pitfall.

My point of view is this, that anything written by a sadhak about Sri Aurobindo which brings him down to an ordinary level and admits the reader to a sort of gossiping familiarity with him is an unfaithfulness o Him and His work. Good intentions are not sufficient, it is necessary that this should be understood by everybody. (CWM, Vol. 13, p. 27)

How l wish that PH would have written his book unmindful of any appreciative audience whatsoever—like the wandering minstrel of yore who sang just for the joy of singing!

To drive my point home I shall take recourse to an analogy (take it not with a pinch of salt but with a hand-full of salt!): A competent artist who is dexterous with his paint and brush decides to paint a portrait of Sri Aurobindo. This artist loves children. He therefore decides that his painting should be intended for children alone. Now, what do children like? Cartoons of course! Therefore our artist sets about to draw a cartoon of Sri Aurobindo instead!! (QED) (Manoj Das Gupta’s Analysis, pp. 9-10)

[2] 23 February 1932 (Bulletin, Feb 2000, p. 80)
[3] SABCL, Vol. 23, p. 556

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