Monday, January 30, 2012

Peter Heehs continues to visit the Ashram Archives

I write this to you representing the pain and anguish of thousands of Inmates and devotees of the Ashram, and seek your intervention to ensure that Auroville and its institutions are not misused in this manner. Otherwise the views of SAIIER Board will be misconstrued as representing those of Auroville Foundation involving your implicit sanction and approval, and will be filed in the Courts tomorrow by the Trustees, as has been the case with other such letters that the Trustees have solicited and sponsored. […]
No disciplinary action has been taken against the author. No steps have been taken against either the author or the publisher to withdraw the book or to protect the Ashram from the violation of copyright. In fact, even to this day, Peter Heehs continues to visit the Ashram Archives practically every day outside official working hours, he still retains full privileged access to all its rare and unpublished documents, and he still keeps a large part of these documents and thousands of reference cards in his exclusive possession and not at the Ashram Archives!
While the Trustees took no actions to protect the Ashram from harm and to curb Peter Heehs from his abuse of Sri Aurobindo and his anti-national activities, the same Trustees came out in violent force to victimise and intimidate all those who criticised the book and exposed its factual distortions! Many Inmates were targeted by arbitrarily terminating their work in the community life, or by denying them food in the Dining Room community kitchen, or denying basic facilities of the community including medical facilities. Many others were threatened with denial of food, shelter and medical care, and some with threat of bodily harm and injury. All these threats were used by them to gain support and cooperation from unwilling Inmates for continuing to protect Heehs and promote abuse of Sri Aurobindo in the name of His own Ashram.
These malafide actions by the Trustees are not merely illegal, they are violations of basic human rights, and are, above all, violations of the spirit and values upon which the Ashram was originally founded by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. From: Sraddhalu Ranade, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry To: Dr Karan Singh, Chairman, Auroville Foundation, Auroville. 23 January 2012 Sub: Letter from SAIER dated December 12, 2011 and delivered on January 14, 2012. 

Inmates of Aurobindo Ashram observe dharna Puducherry Sunday, Jan 1 2012 IST
Controversy continues on Sri Aurobindo's biography The Sunday Indian CHITTARANJAN CHIRANJIT | Bhubaneswar, January 20, 2012
Aurobindo's disciples demand deportation of US national PTI | 08:01 PM, Jan 27, 2012 Bhubaneswar, Jan 27 (PTI)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Personal political and religious ambitions of the editor cast a shadow

The “Savitri Era” group of blogs and the so-called “honeycomb” of websites (listed below) are created and administered by Tusar N. Mohapatra, President of the Savitri Era Party.
The only position that is maintained consistently in all these websites is that the future of Sri Aurobindo’s and The Mother’s teachings and vision is best left in the hands of the Savitri Era Party.
However, there’s a small detail that the founder of the Savitri Era Party seems to be ignoring. Both Sri Aurobindo and The Mother created certain institutions such as the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and Auroville which were designed to carry out Their work. Moreover, They also spelled out rather clearly how these institutions had to be administered.
That the Savitri Era Party does not figure in any of these schemes is understandably an irritant to someone who has appointed himself as the flag-bearer of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.
It is therefore of no surprise that the Savitri Era party is always happy to present, carry and propagate any information that might show that the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and Auroville are riddled with problems. As a result of that any information which gives a hint of a controversy immediately appears on the Savitri Era Party’s websites.
As a result of that, even some of his sympathizers have not resisted to lable these blogs and websites as “bazaar blogs named after Savitri”. Links to Tusar N. Mohapatra’s websites: […]
This is best illustrated when some of those people like Raman Reddy and RY Deshpande who never complain when Tusar Mohapatatra spreads misleading and wrongful information about and against the Ashram on his various blogs, also suddenly find themselves at the receiving end.
But to their credit, in spite of their double standards, they have aptly called the “Savitri Era” blogs “bazaar blogs named after Savitri” which sums up the kind of information that is disseminated on these blogs.
- While Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy and vision are vast, it is unclear how the dangerous cocktail of religion and politics advocated by the editor of these websites fits in with Sri Aurobindo’s approach to spirituality.
- The personal political and religious ambitions of the editor cast a shadow on the intentions of the editor.
- The editors persistent attack on the management of the Ashram and his repeated calls for the resignation of the Managing Trustee betray the editors personal ambitions of seemingly wanting to determine the fate of Sri aurobindo’s teachings as well as that of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram institution.
Concluding observations:
Those who are interested in the personal views and opinions of the editor of these websites, especially to study the various nuances of the extent to which Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy can be interpreted, can visit these websites, if they have the time for such an excercise.
Apart from that these website have very little to do with the purity of the message of Sri Aurobindo’s poem Savitri (in whose name some of these websites are called) or the clarity of Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy or the humility, dignity and soberness of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. 

Lastly, we do not claim to posses the Truth, but we believe that we can help remove those obstacles that come in the way of or obfuscate Truth - especially those obstacles that are in the form of deliberate misrepresentation and distortion of facts or the creation of myths – by providing more reliable, accurate and  complete information. Administrators.

January 21 at Sri Aurobindo Bhavan, 8 Shakespeare Sarani; 6pm: A discussion on Barindra Kumar Ghosh's The Tale of My Exile, published by Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry. Speaker: Dr Sachidananda Mohanty. Co-ordinator: Anurag Banerjee.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Peter Heehs has appealed in High Court to withdraw the ban

CHITTARANJAN CHIRANJIT | Bhubaneswar, January 20, 2012 17:51

A bench of Odisha High court asked the Chief Secretary, Odisha to reply on the issue regarding the ban on Sri Aurobindo's biography in the state. A petition was filed before the High Court challenging the ban imposed by the State Government. The notice has been served to Chief Secretary though a special messenger.

Earlier, the State government had issued a gazette notification for prohibition over publication of the controversial book. The prohibition is for alleged disrespect of the spiritual guru Sri Aurobindo. The bench comprising Chief Justice V.Gopal Gauda, Justice Madanmohan Das and Justice Indrajeet Mohanty heard the petition filed by author Peter Heehs.

It should be noted that the book titled 'The Lives of Sri Aurobindo' was penned by Peter Heehs, a former inmate of Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Origionally, the book was brought out by Penguine Publication outside India. After it heat the stands, admirers and followers of Sri Aurobindo complained of insulting words about Sri Aurobindo. The issue has shocked a large no of devotees and that is why High Court had put a ban over publication of the book in India. Now, Peter Heehs has appealed in High Court to withdraw the ban on the book.

Another section of his devotees led by Geetanjali Bhattacharya, a resident of Balasore in Orissa, had filed a petition in the Orissa High Court seeking a ban on the book and action against writer Peter Heehs for sensationalising the actual story of the spiritual leader. She had alleged that it contains 'obnoxious and ill-shaped facts about the late spiritual leader'. The court has stayed the release of the book in India. "Peter will lose the legal battle as he has tried to tarnish the image of Sri Aurobindo", said Bhattacharya's counsel Millan Kanoongo.

The Columbia University Press in USA first published 'The Lives of Sri Aurobindo' in April 2008 and in India in November 2009 by Penguin India.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Kepler attempts a nuanced reading

Against the Grain and with the Grain'via Blog this' Page 1 of 4
While eschewing the colorful hyperboles of "Mahakali's wrath"–mongers, this review by J. Kepler attempts a nuanced reading sympathetic to the sentiments some of the aggrieved.
Article Index
Against the Grain and with the Grain
Comment by Debashish on 25 Feb 2009
Comment by Tony Clifton
Comment by Ulrich Mohrhoff
All Pages
The front cover gives the first impression of Peter Heeh's new biography, The Lives of Sri Aurobindo. It features a fine photograph of Sri Aurobindo, which makes the book a delight to keep physically near, whatever one's ultimate reaction to the text. The second impression, from the back cover, is of a different nature. A long quote is featured from Jeffrey Kripal (author of Kali's Child, a controversial Freudian analysis of Sri Ramakrishna), praising Heeh's book for, among other things, the way it “problematizes” Sri Aurobindo. [...]
At other times the author contributes a personal opinion that rings arrogant and unnecessary. He describes Sri Aurobindo's Isha Upanishad as the “pithiest” of his works. “Its carefully chiseled sentences leave much for the reader to reflect upon, unlike his ordinary expository prose, in which clause is added to clause and refinement to refinement until the sentences become almost unreadable.” Whatever the author's personal reactions may be, I suspect many others find Sri Aurobindo's “ordinary” prose quite readable and find much there to “reflect upon”. Occasional forays into a genre of pop psychology are also off-putting.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Petition to Trustees to initiate a dialogue


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.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Kittu Reddy and R.Y. Deshpande addressed the Press

A section of the inmates and devotees of Sri Aurobindo Ashram have demanded the immediate expulsion of Peter Heehs from the Ashram community membership.
Mr. Heehs, a U.S. national, has written a controversial book ‘Lives of Sri Aurobindo' which, the inmates said, hurt their sentiments and that of the devotees.
Addressing the Press here on Thursday, senior members of the Ashram, including Kittu Reddy and R.Y. Deshpande, said that they wanted the dismissal of the present group of trustees of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, “on account of criminal Breach of Trust.”
The devotees and inmates have been conducting a silent protest over the matter outside the Ashram every day since January 1. He had written a controversial book titled ‘Lives of Sri Aurobindo'

Monday, January 2, 2012

Dharna and Thane

Inmates of Aurobindo Ashram observe dharna
Puducherry | Sunday, Jan 1 2012 IST

About 50 inmates of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram here today observed a dharna at the back gate of the Ashram. The agitation was to condemn the Ashram management for its alleged protection of an American national, an inmate even after the reported cancellation of his visa. According to a statement issued by the agitators, Peter Heehs, an American national, who is an inmate at the Ashram, had written a book on the Life of Aurobindo in which he allegedly defamed the philosopher. Following protests from the inmates, the release of the book was banned. Heehs s visa was cancelled and he was reportedly asked to leave the country. However, the Ashram trust and others allowed him to stay at the Ashram. Protesting against this action of the Ashram management, the inmates resorted to the agitation. UNI PAB AKM AE SB1534 -- (UNI) -- 01MS19.xml

Cyclone Thane hits Auroville causing total devastation
At the Auroville beach communities, the situation was judged worse than the 2004 tsunami, with high waves compounding the damage caused by falling trees. The Auroville farms suffered heavily, with one farmer complaining that 40 years of work has gone with uprooted fruit trees and crops being severely damaged. In the Auroville forests, more than 70% of the trees have fallen. The commercial units suffered as well. The office of Upasana suffered a direct hit from a falling tree, while the office of Auromodèle Atelier was narrowly saved with the tree falling in front of its entrance. In the villages around Auroville, the damage is no less. The landscape which Auroville has been at great pains to build over the last 40 years has been disfigured and mutilated...

Assessments of the damage start coming in. At a first rough estimate, the immediate emergency relief would need Rs 4-5 crores (approximately US $ 1 million). The estimates for long-term rehabilitation and restoration will run into a multitude of that. The detailed assessment will be undertaken after the emergency phase is over. The Auroville community asks its friends and well-wishers for financial help which is most urgent. Please make a donation for Auroville Cyclone Relief. For more information you can contact
Checks mentioning Auroville Cyclone Relief can be sent to Auroville Unity Fund, Town Hall, Auroville 605101, Tamil Nadu, India. Bank transfers from within India can be made to State Bank of India Auroville Township, IFS Code SBIN0003160, account name Auroville Unity Fund, account number 10237876031, reference Auroville Cyclone Relief. Bank transfer from abroad can be made to State Bank of India Auroville Township, Branch Code 03160, Swift Code SBININBB474, account Auroville Unity Fund, account number 10237876508 reference Auroville Cyclone Relief.