TRANSCRIPT OF PROF KITTU REDDY'S TALK
AT THE PRESS CONFERENCE ON 5TH JANUARY, 2012.
1. We have always believed in freedom of speech and expression; at the same time we do not try to convince or convert anyone to become a follower of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Each one has to find out for himself and make his own assessment.
2. Regarding the book written by Peter Heehs, I have read it twice and consider it a bad book. It may also be noted that the Managing Trustee also told us that the book was unacceptable and had crossed all limits of decency.
3. While believing in freedom of speech and expression, it is not acceptable that an inmate of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram be permitted to write a book questioning and even denigrating Sri Aurobindo and the Mother; for the basis of being an inmate of the Ashram is acceptance of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother as your spiritual gurus; and here there arises no question whatsoever of questioning, doubting or discrediting them; for this goes totally against the very foundation of spiritual life and discipline. The book is therefore totally not acceptable to us and Peter has violated the basic discipline of the Ashram. One can justify and cover up all this nonsense in the name of objective history or hagiography, but that is not acceptable.
4. However it must be noted that this problem did not erupt suddenly in 2008-9. It surfaced as early as 1986 when Peter wrote articles in the journal of the Archives questioning and casting doubts on Sri Aurobindo. At that time two senior sadhaks of the Ashram, Jugal Kishore Mukherjee who was the head of the college section of the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education and Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya who was the Director of Physical Education and a close confidant of the Mother, wrote letters to the Trustees requesting them to take immediate remedial steps to stop this kind of research in future. Unfortunately, the Trustees neither replied nor did they take any preventive action. Is it not therefore legitimate to believe that they too are responsible for the latest book of Peter? If this kind of research activity is accepted in the Ashram, it will change the very basis of the Ashram. The Ashram will then become not a spiritual centre but an intellectual club or a cultural centre. This goes totally against the wishes and directions of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.
5. The question that arises is why did this problem take place and next how do we avoid this problem in the future. When the Sri Aurobindo Ashram was created in 1926, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother were the gurus; after 1950 when Sri Aurobindo left his body, the Mother continued to be the guru. In 1955, the Mother created the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust. But she continued to be the guru. Quite naturally the Trust Deed reflected this by giving absolute powers to the Mother. She was made President for life and she was given the authority to choose the other Trustees; all decisions were take by her and she was answerable to no one.
7. The remedy to this situation is to have a larger body for the decision making process in the field of administration, in other words a new system of governance. This does not involve a change in the goals and aims or the fundamentals of the Ashram. All that is demanded is a wider process of consultation with the inmates of the Ashram and transparency in the decision making process.
8. The question is how to bring about this change. This can be brought by altering some aspects of the Trust Deed. The only way seems to be to go to court with a scheme suit. This may mean inevitably governmental interference or court interference. The other and better method will be to solve the problem internally by discussion and dialogue. The Ashram should solve its own problems. But for that the Trustees must initiate a dialogue. They must also realise and accept that there are serious problems and a deep discontent within the Ashram and secondly that those who raise questions are not against the Mother or Sri Aurobindo. It is only on this basis that a dialogue can start and bear fruit. Let us hope that good sense prevails among the authorities. It is our most earnest belief that with good will, trust and faith in the Mother this problem can be resolved. Otherwise one has to be prepared for the worst.