Thursday, March 1, 2012

Unadulterated Hutchinson

The true story of an event is often revealed only long afterwards Re: Explanation of my Stand wrt The Lives of Sri Aurobindo by David Hutchinson on Sat 29 Nov 2008 08:55 AM PST |  Profile |  Permanent Link A few thoughts that may be applicable to this discussion and current situation:
  • Every individual believes he/she knows the absolute truth, and that others are misguided. 
  • Group consciousness has a deep and unrecognized influence upon the individual. 
  • Emotion is a stronger force than reason, even when the truth is known. 
  • A lie repeated often enough, and loudly enough, will appear to be the truth. 
  • Hysteria, once begun, needs to play itself out. 
  • Divisive movements usually have a stronger force than inclusive ones. 
  • If you can dictate the terms of the discussion, you have already won. 
  • The most subtle and problematic aspect of an organization is its culture. 
  • Fear incites immediate destructive actions, which have to be remedied when the fear has passed. 
  • A useful tactic when mobilizing people is to define and then vilify an imagined common enemy. 
  • The true story of an event is often revealed only long afterwards. 
  • Those who sit on a fence get to see everything, but they never go anywhere. 
  • Just because a person has knowledge in one area does not mean he/she is wise in another. 
Re: Explanation of my Stand wrt The Lives of Sri Aurobindo by David Hutchinson on Wed 26 Nov 2008 06:24 AM PST Profile Permanent Link 4:36 PM - Science, Culture and Integral Yoga :: Post Comment A few comments on Debashish's note.

1. On feeling offended at criticism. I'm not sure one can say so quickly that this impulse is not spiritual... It depends on what we understand as the sense of being offended, where that comes from, and how it manifests. I believe that when the spiritual impulse toward perfection manifests in the world, it addresses what it sees as needing improvement, whether that be in oneself or outside. This is relevant to the current situation in the Pondicherry Ashram. A small group of people are saying that Peter's book, and Peter himself, "need improvement." They are using that (natural) impulse to convince people that the book, and Peter himself, are anti-spiritual. The spirit strives for satchitananda, and through our instruments, and in our natures, strives to remove anything that goes against those essential qualities. That is as it should be, whether internal obstacles or external ones. But the problem in this situation is that, again, a small group has set themselves up as judges for what needs to be changed, and have engaged in essentially political activities (not spiritual ones). The other problem is that this impulse for change, like everything else, can get mixed with other motives (as you note, see below), with group behaviors, with past beliefs, with wider political movements (such as the Hindutva movement, which I believe is related to this situation), with historical events (such as the campaign against the revision of Savitri, which I also believe is related to this situation). An argument is put forward for what seems a simple, spiritual matter, but it can be anything but.
I agree that one central issue is that the Pondicherry Ashram is trying to be two things here, and this situation shows the weakness of that stance. On the one hand, it tries to be a group of individuals who are bound together only by spiritual ties; that is not an "institution" at all. On the other, it is a more or less traditional institution, which is supplying housing, employment, health care, as well as "governing" many aspects of the lives of its members. Institutions need policies, rules, guidelines, procedures, even laws. What has happened here is that in the absence of such guidelines (in this case, related to freedom of expression and publication), a group of people have (so far successfully) engaged in a smear campaign to discredit someone with whom they disagree. As Debashish points out, merely disagreeing with someone should not be grounds for having that person discredited, jailed, or worse. But in the absence of guidelines, those who want to manipulate public opinion will do just that. Any large institution that is involved in publishing needs policies that address individual copyright, the ability of its members to write and publish within the subject matter of their jobs and their role within the institution. It is the nature of writing that it may offend some people, or there may be questions about the right of a person to publish certain material. An institution needs to address this directly. In addition, a large institution needs policies and procedures related to communication and public relations. This issue only shows the current weakness. This "controversy" is common knowledge in the Ashram, in Auroville, and across the world, and is bringing a bad name to the Ashram. There should be a person or an office that is empowered to speak to this, that can be the voice of the Ashram as a whole, that can tell residents, locals, and the world what the actions of the institution are, how it is approaching this matter. In the absence of such a voice, it seems that the institution is throwing itself open to arbitrary actions, movements, and outcomes. If every person in the Ashram were of a higher form of humanity, "psychicised" or spiritual (in the language of this yoga), rules and procedures would not be necessary. But as we can see in this instance, that state has not yet been reached.
2. Motivations. I agree completely with Debashish that treating this as a debate about the merits or flaws of a book is misleading, and essentially plays into the hands of those who are trying to discredit Peter's book. People who go to such great lengths to censor a publication, bring a lawsuit to prevent it being published again, and try to expel the writer from his home and community have other motives than knowledge and clarity. I am not familiar with those who have done this, so I can't speak to why they have done this, but they should be called to task (by the Ashram) to explain themselves. On a related note, the "ringleaders" should be named and known to the wider world. The practice of making accusations in secret, of anonymously slurring another person, has a long and dark history, and brings to mind the worst of McCarthyism in the United States, los desaparecidos in Latin America, and black limousines in Communist USSR.
3. On the accusations themselves. I have been privately sent the actual accusations. I think these should be placed in a public place, such as SCIY, so that the public can read them. In many ways, the document speaks for itself, in a negative way: it is highly inflammatory, with selective quotation, unbelievable demands and accusations. Again, the practice of waving a document about that nobody can read, that supposedly has damning information, is a despicable practice. The names I have heard who instigated this are individuals who purport to have wisdom and knowledge in this yoga, and who speak in India and abroad. They can't have it both ways: if they want to have and keep such a reputation as wise, as trusted figures, then they should be willing to stand up, and acknowledge their actions and writings. Secrecy has no place in public affairs or politics -- and what has been done is very much a political matter.
4. Politics. A last thought. I have often heard that "no politics" is one of the acknowledges unwritten rules of the Pondicherry Ashram. In discussion with disciples, and reading Sri Aurobindo, I have come to understand that this means not engaging in emotional, fiery debate, which can adversely affect one emotionally, and unbalance one's yoga. My observation is that those who are behind this situation have engaged in politics in the worst way, both in the sense above, and in the external methods. They have stirred up a large number of people in the Ashram, emotionally; have used questionable tactics in doing so; and have created turmoil for ends that are not at all clear. This kind of politics has no place in the Ashram -- or anywhere else, for that matter.

Reply Re: reconciliation, expectation, outcome by David Hutchinson on Sun 30 Nov 2008 07:54 PM PST |  Profile |  Permanent Link
I agree with Rich, that those who started this are unlikely to participate in any kind of dialogue. And I think the suggestion by Rich for publicizing it is probably the most practical one that can be reasonably attempted, and the most likely to be effective. 
Specifically, I think one (or several) of us should write an account of what has happened, giving names, dates, events, outcomes. Include the lawsuit, the banning, even the violence against Peter. Do it not in inflammatory language, but essentially as a journalistic piece. 
Then send this to every center, institution, etc. that we know that interacts with the Pondicherry Ashram. This would have the virtue of at least making facts known. This can include all centers and study groups in the United States (there is a list that can be used for this purpose); teaching institutions that have sponsored speakers (such as CIF and CIIS); and centers around the world, including places like the Delhi ashram. At the same time, let the Ashram trustees know, and send the same material to them. This would effectively put public pressure on those who started the affair, the Ashram as a whole, and the Trustees to be transparent with what is happening. Doing something in secret is very different from doing it in the public eye. 
Given the highly emotional nature of the events, it is likely that most people are getting a biased or partial account, and cannot evaluate things for themselves. Putting out a well-documented notice would at least give people information with which to understand the situation. I would be happy to assist with this, in terms of drafting, editing, and distribution.

Reply Re: reconciliation, expectation, outcome by David Hutchinson on Wed 03 Dec 2008 07:09 AM PST |  Profile |  Permanent Link Thomas asks "How’d we all end up in this mess, and what part do we play in resolving it?"
I think the answer to the first is complex. It is in our human nature, and the difficulties of achieving true spirituality versus a form of religion. Everyone is prone to falling back into religious forms, mistaking belief for faith, ideas for experience, dogma for knowledge. The whole difficulty is trying to move from one to the other. 
The history of religion -- and this yoga -- is one of some people moving deeply into religion, while fervently believing that they have the "one true yoga." We should remember the Satprem era, which has not ended, as well as Patrizia,'s influence and other, less-well-known "teachers." 
There are many specific factors that come into play. The rise of Indian nationalism, as India modernizes; the rise of Hindu fundamentalism, which appeals to deep feelings of group and self; the place of Pondicherry historically in this yoga, as well as it being the resting place of the bodies of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother; the quasi-official status of the Pondicherry Ashram as "owner" of the texts in this yoga; the role and influence of the west in terms of scholarship and academic cachet, which creates a love/hate relationship in many in the yoga, and how that plays out in the role of the Archives within the Ashram.
There are also the familiar dynamics of groups, which has been studied and documented over the last century, and how impressionable people are, how prone to being swayed as a group, the power of group thought and action, and the difficulties of breaking free to be an individual. Add to this the particular group culture in India as a whole, where individuality is much less a force than it is in the west. 
Then we have to add the spiritual/religious dimension of devotion to a teacher, which has a strongly Indian character, but is not limited to India. In this instance, in this yoga, the commonly accepted view within this yoga is that Sri Aurobindo and the Mother are avatars, beings of an exalted, and in this yoga, unique character, world-changing individuals who partake of divinity, or whose entire being and action are/were divine.
In this yoga there is also a strong tendency among many to limit their reading to source texts by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Even if they have a secondary book available, they prefer to spend their time with the original texts.

Then there is the inability of most people (educated or not, east or west) to recognize rhetorical devices, false argument, circular chains of thought, appeals to emotion couched in the voice of reason. It takes real intelligence and work to see a manipulative argument. 
Then there is the aura effect of people who are seen as teachers, who have given lectures, who can speak at length on a subject. It is natural to be less critical of them, to believe what they say. 
There is also the natural tendency of people to believe themselves (and those they identify with) as good, honest, true, and not susceptible to bad thoughts, forces, or actions. Even in the face of evidence to the contrary, people tend not to accept that they have done a bad thing. 
There is also the drive for power and control. The Ashram is a very wealthy institution, which has extensive businesses and land; has considerable reputation and authority in the area, and elsewhere. Some people are simply drawn to power, see themselves as worthy of it, and will engage in less than perfect behavior to achieve it. 
There is the tendency of a group to believe in its own description, or narrative, even when evidence points in another direction. The Integral Yoga community prides itself on NOT being a religion; so that when religious behavior appears, people actively want to deny it. "It must be something other than that -- must be anything but that." As a community, we are vested in a self-view, I would almost say a self-serving view, that we are not religious.
Similar to this, there is the "narrative" within the Ashram that there is "no politics." So that people may tend to look at a situation, an event, and say "Well, something is going on, but it can't be political -- that doesn't happen here, isn't allowed here." 
This yoga is also prone to individuals proclaiming themselves the repository of truth, because there is no specific structure to the yoga, no ecclesiastical hierarchy, no definite creed or dogma. In the absence of these forms, one can simply say "I see the truth." Essentially, many of the real arguments in this discussion boil down to "I feel something bad here," and it is a question whether one believes that speaker.
There may be deeper forces at work that none of us are privy to. It may be that this is in fact the force of the yoga, of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, working through all individuals, to break up some defect or blockage in this yoga, in the Ashram, or elsewhere. As to the second question, how to resolve it -- will leave that for another day. Dave Hutchinson 12:50 PM

MA Sri Aurobindo Studies This M.A. programme is designed to give the learner a broad and deep understanding of Sri Aurobindo's thought, vision and spiritual practice. Plenty of course ...

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