Friday, April 30, 2010

Disagreements must be resolved without court cases


We in Auroville International would like to express our sympathy with those on all sides who have suffered pain and anxiety due to the controversy over the biography ‘The Lives of Sri Aurobindo’.
We are saddened and concerned by the polarization of opinion, much of it ill-informed or ill-judged which continues to divide the Aurobindonian community.
Auroville International believes that disagreements must be resolved without court cases and threats of expulsion from India. These tactics have been the source of irreversible personal loss and lasting damage to the reputation of our community.
We strongly urge those who have expressed themselves forcefully (in favour or in opposition to the book) to remember that the practice of Integral Yoga enjoins upon us all an attitude of detached benevolence towards others without exception.
Sri Aurobindo was a spiritual and intellectual giant who belongs to the world and it is certain that the biography in question will be followed in the course of time by many other studies reflecting differing views and different cultures. Natural justice demands that we would not attempt to suppress these.
Modern scholarship and criticism is notoriously intolerant of heroes and saints, but in the end only the verdict of history decides the reputation of the truly great. Auroville International will do everything in its power to reconcile opposing factions and restore the harmony to which we all aspire.

Peter’s approach is scholarly. Wherever possible he goes to primary sources. He also, on occasions, quotes different perspectives on events as well as on Sri Aurobindo himself. Some of these are unflattering, even antagonistic: this is far from being one-dimensional hagiography. Peter himself is not uncritical. He feels that Sri Aurobindo was “complacent” regarding the threat posed to Indian unity by the All-India Muslim League; he wonders whether Sri Aurobindo’s political “intransigence” aided or hindered the formation of an effective political force to oppose the British; and, in the domestic sphere, he notes “Sri Aurobindo could hardly be called a good husband”. (By the by, Peter is the first biographer to speculate, albeit briefly, about the nature of Sri Aurobindo’s sexual experience.) […]

Peter also seems less assured with the plays. At one point, abandoning his fine poise as an objective biographer, Peter surmises “if [Sri Aurobindo’s] earlier plays suggest that he was searching for his ideal life partner, Vasavadutta seems to hint that he had found the woman he was seeking and was waiting for the moment when she would join him.” Peter provides no evidence to substantiate this judgement, which seems to belong more to the Mills and Boon school of criticism than to a serious academic study.

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