AVOID GROUPISM The Golden Chain AUGUST 2005
I will raise a murmur of protest against the last issue’s (May 2005) editorial page on The Golden Chain Fraternity. Why only a "murmur" and not "take strong objections"? Because I myself am an ex-student and closely linked with The Golden Chain magazine. But self-criticism, according to me, is the best way to progress, and so I bring into focus two apparently pleasant statements made by an editor which have become unpleasant by their very stating:
(1) We (that is, The Golden Chain Fraternity or more simply called, the ex-students of the Ashram School) belong to that group of "sun-eyed children of a marvellous dawn" — I complete the half-quote from Savitri.
(2) We have no samskaras to be erased as opposed to the poor guys who come from outside with "a baggage of traditions and beliefs which have to be left behind to walk on this path".
My objection to the first quote can perhaps be brushed away by the editor saying that it was "just quoted like that and not really meant to be taken seriously". But the word "just" or the attitude implied, is what makes all the difference. It is like saying to the "others" who are sometimes equally interested in Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, if not more, "You know, we are ‘just’ superior to you. But don’t take our words seriously." It is sheer naiveté if the editor thinks that her words are not going to ruffle anybody. As it is, there is plenty of hostility against ex-students in general. Why add more fuel to these embers of hate? Secondly, I was shocked to know (I should actually be very pleased) that I, as a member of the Fraternity, had no "samskaras to erase". There is a certain obvious truth about it in the sense that we "start with a clean slate". We have repeated this often enough and we all know the advantages of a new beginning. But that gives us only a progressive disposition and produces a conducive environment when many of us are into it. It does not resolve the basic issues of Yoga. In other words, we don’t turn into supermen or overmen by the very fact of studying at the Ashram School. What about the subconscient "baggage" that all of us carry, no matter where we come from? Have we got rid of that? What about the great symbolic battle of the future that the Mother wants us to fight? Has that battle begun earnestly? My objection could again be met by saying, "Oh, now, you are getting into yogic abstractions." But what else can we get into if not Yoga, when we speak of these things? It is here that I want to pull the editor to ground level and say, "Let us be more humble in these matters and let us recognise our strengths as well as our weaknesses." In any case, it is wrong to pat ourselves on the back so enthusiastically.
Incidentally, one great weakness with us, is that it takes us often a very long time to make a definite choice in life, because of the wonderful conditions we enjoy here. The choice is often inbuilt, but still it takes a long time to realise it as such. One great advantage with people who come to the Ashram from outside is that they do make a choice, a very decisive one, without which they could not have broken away from their moorings. And when they come here, they often find us the very opposite of what they expected us to be. Not that what they say matters to us, but still, it is a point of view which should not be neglected. Nor, do I think, it makes a big difference to Yoga in the long run, because finally everybody seems to get his or her due share of human impossibilities. Lastly, we seem to have forgotten that the old guard of sadhaks who came here in the twenties and thirties, the solid and venerable pillars of the Ashram — Nolini, Pavitra, Amrita, Dyuman, etc — all came from outside carrying plenty of luggage and yet they stood firm and built the foundations of the Ashram, of course, with the help and support of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. I take the opportunity to draw the attention of The Golden Chain Fraternity to look beyond self-complacent definitions. We have plenty of things to learn from everybody even if they don’t have much to learn from us. In any case, the real Teachers are Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and not any group which claims the right understanding of their teachings. The fact that we have survived and acted as a group is surely to our credit, but let us avoid groupism. Let us make the magazine readable to all who are interested in Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, and even to other sympathetic or like-minded groups. There is a place for specific group interests which unite us, but let us also address other readers who have not grown up here. I understand we don’t want to start a newspaper for all and sundry, but neither do we want to convey the impression that "These Golden Chain people are mostly talking to each other, or rather, basking in their own imagined glory." I close my letter with an apology if I have hurt the feelings of the above mentioned editor, who otherwise is doing a commendable job and deserves full appreciation. It is only when her enthusiasm goes beyond the bounds of discretion that I reserve the right to grumble. Raman Reddy ’75 Pondicherry
Dear Raman, You seem to have totally missed the point of the editorial of the last issue. The key words of the piece were "head start" and "responsibility". You have gone off at a tangent, arguing about comparisons which I have not made. The expression "sun-eyed children" was not used in any loose sense. I meant every word of it. This was told to all of us every single year as long as I was in the school by all our teachers. They repeated it every new session, adding, "You are the future, you are the ones through whom the new consciousness is going to work." We knew that a great responsibility was being placed in our hands and that we had to live up to that expectation.The "samskaras" of which I spoke were only the mental baggage that we acquire as we grow up. I did not mean "samskaras" of past lives, which is why I took care to mention a "way of thinking". Also, I have never said that we have nothing to learn from those who come from outside. One would have to be a total moron to say that. Not only were the early sadhaks, "the venerable pillars", from the outside world but actually the Mother and Sri Aurobindo were also from that self-same outside world. I am very much aware of the hostile feelings some people have for the former students. Fortunately this is limited only to Pondicherry and most people who are living outside are not even aware of it. I dismiss this hatred as sibling rivalry. It happens in biological families, it can happen in a spiritual family. It is something which is at the level of emotions and not of ideas therefore trying to explain it will lead us nowhere. So let us not give it more space than it deserves. I am sure that if I said that there is no sun in our eyes and that we are blind and ignorant, it is not going to make those who dislike us run and embrace us.The question is not "Can we become supermen just by having been students of the School?" The real question is "Can we become ordinary people, who have the same goals in life as people anywhere in the world, after having been exposed to such an extraordinary education?" A very large number of our alumni live and work in the outside world and we often feel that all our energy goes away in just fighting the battle of survival. Feeling spiritually superior to anyone is very far from our minds. The real problem is that the spiritual truths with which we were brought up only remain in our minds and hearts and often we can not translate it into anything constructive and concrete. My editorial was written keeping this feeling in mind. As for those who think that there is something wrong with "the Golden Chain people talking to each other" in the magazine, please ask them to look carefully at the cover. It clearly states that this is an alumni journal. It is the very purpose of an alumni journal to make it possible for all the members to talk to each other and keep in touch. It is when you speak about "basking in their own imagined glory" that I am really baffled. What is imagined? Is Binu-da’s glory imagined or Parasmani’s glory imagined? Is the tsunami relief work imagined? Or is the glory of continuing education for adults imagined? Let me also inform you that the number of non-alumni readers of our magazine is growing with every issue. Even though this magazine is meant for the former students to keep in touch with their Alma Mater we are very pleased that others too find something interesting in it. I think instead of arguing about who is superior to whom we should concentrate on the huge load of work at hand. Even as I write this our friends from the Shuddham Group have gone and started cleaning up Vaithikuppam, one of the dirtiest areas of Pondicherry. The time has come to act, to involve ourselves whole-heartedly to bring about Mother’s dream of a higher humanity into the reality of our everyday lives. Sunayana ’79
P.S.: I thank you for showing appreciation for my work for The Golden Chain. I too enjoy reading your well-researched articles zon Ashram history.