Thursday, July 29, 2010

You are simply projecting your own value systems on Sri Aurobindo

from Govind Rajesh to date, 29 July 2010 19:13
subject My response to Raghu
Following is my reply to Raghu. Please remove my e-mail address:

The mein kampf analogy is misleading. Hitler was not a sadhak of the Ashram. The right analogy should have been, "what if some Sadhak would have published a book praising Hitler and attacking Sri Aurobindo's stand?". Forget about expelling individual disciples, even when Sri Aurobindo was appraised of rumors that some Sadhaks were supporting Hitler He said that He was ready to close down the Ashram if the Sadhaks wanted. So what would His reaction have been in the case someone had "gone public" with their support? Banning the book, and/or throwing the hostile element out of the Ashram are both certainly within the realm of possibility and would have been consistent with His position.

About the Mother's tolerating such behaviour there is even less chance. Since you are quoting the Mother's description of Sri Aurobindo as a gentleman there is one more quote of Hers which you need to consider where she has said that although Sri Aurobindo was a gentleman She herself was not. Please remember that it was NOT the Mother's or Sri Aurobindo's primary objective to uphold YOUR liberal values and conform to YOUR system of political correctness, but to do a certain Work which They over and over stressed would not be helped by Sadhaks taking the liberty (yes, liberty) to doubt or, worse, to criticize and judge or, worst, give a distorted picture to the world at large. Once again, go back and try to see with an unbiased eye what was the expectation that Mother Sri Aurobindo had of the Sadhaks when it came to public pronouncements about Them and Their Work. If your liberal ideology is opposed to totalitarianism, fascism, communism and religious fanatcism that does not mean that Sri Aurobindo was oppposed to them unconditionally. In that you are simply projecting your own value systems on Him and getting the whole thing muddled up. Just to give you an example, Sri Aurobindo has supported even dictators and their dictatorship in certain conditions. If memory serves me right he has also had good things to say about communism relative to other ideologies. Yet here you are, bent upon making a liberal ideologue and fanatic out of him in your own mould.

The only scenario where one can be ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN that Sri Aurobindo would NOT have supported banning the book is if He were prepared to tolerate anything and everything from Sadhaks or, as I have put it, "anything goes". So if that is not your premise then you need to reject your premature conclusion and take your challenge back. My challenge to you, however, still stands. Show me where a sadhak who has publicly cast doubts or critically judged, even disparaged, Sri Aurobindo's Life and Work was either admitted into or allowed to remain in the Ashram holding those views. You are sure to come up empty. There are, on the contrary, several instances where people have had to leave. Hence, Auroman's statement that either the book should have been rejected by the Author or he should have been expelled from the Ashram. If you are as "familiar" with Ashram life as you say then this should be known to you. It is a basic expectation of any sadhak. Given this fundamental violation of Ashram norms and the obstruction put up by Asharm authorities, some Ashramites have chosen to take legal action, as a result of which the sale of the book has been prohibited by the government. In a civil society it is quite normal and commendable for citizens who have greivances to approach the law for redress. What is so disturbing or hard for you to understand here, particularly since you have established your domicile in what is arguably the most litigious society in the world? I really wonder why this should bother you so much and what for all this moral grandstanding and these baseless proclamations of intellectual self-superiority.

In fact, if you care to examine your own position critically you will see that it is you who are committing the fallacy of false choice. Even if, for argument's sake, we agreed with you that Sri Aurobindo espoused liberal values, still, HE WAS NOT BOUND BY THEM. So, at least in His case, there is nothing that necessitates any course of action or inaction. And that is precisely what Auroman has been trying to explain to you, but to no avail.

Even ordinary humans who define and bind themselves to liberal values draw the line somewhere. Even in your great "liberality" I doubt if you would give a free hand to someone who, posing as your good friend, comes in to your house and starts denigrating you and passing critical judgment on you in front of your own children. You would be within your rights to throw him out and, if he persists, then you would be well within your rights to take legal action against him to get him to stop. This is not a false choice. It is simply a rational choice.


  1. The real issue which everyone seems to have forgotten is: Has the book really denigrated Sri Aurobindo? Or is there a divergence of views among His followers on this very fundamental issue?

    Or again, is it that the book presents Him in a way that is simply not the way some other sadhaks would have, had they written a book about Him?

    Points to ponder on...


  2. V, I appreciate your point and it is certainly very valid. I do agree wholeheartedly that any book can be read in more ways than one. Furthermore, any subject can be portrayed in any number of ways.

    Still, I would say that from the point of view of Sadhaks and of Yoga (IMHO) there is an even more fundamental issue, and this it NOT a question mind you, which is that the book presents Him in a way that goes against the way that the Mother and Sri Aurobindo have presented Him Themselves.

    This is one book where the author clearly states his purpose from the very start. In the very preface of the book he declares his intention of de-legitimizing the current image of Sri Aurobindo. However, the image of Sri Aurobindo that the man is trying to demolish or at least de-legitimize is one that the Mother and Sri Aurobindo have Themselves REVEALED. We need to keep this fundamental fact continuously in mind. This book does not just present a "different" view or aspect. It is designed to demolish or at least to de-legitimize an EXISTING Image that has been revealed by Mother Sri Aurobindo themselves. The "Hagiographers" and "other sadhaks" are a red herring. What could these so-called hagiographers have done without the approval of Mother Sri Aurobindo? Even the "Academic" audience is a red herring. The author does not say that both his own presentation of Sri Aurobindo and the way Mother Sri Aurobindo have presented Him are right. In fact the man implies it very clearly that the current image of Sri Aurobindo is a false one.

    The net result would be that ultimately everybody has to discard the false Aurobindonian REVELATION for the more true-to-type Heehsian CREATION.

    Now what part of Yoga is it to try and foist one's own image as the authoritative one while dismantling the one that has been revealed by one's own spiritual preceptors? The answer is obvious. The truth has been staring out at us since the very first page. It is for this reason that I believe very strongly that this whole sorry episode has been designed to reveal to us not a "new" Sri Aurobindo but some very old and deep cankers that have persisted in many sadhaks and aspiring children of the Mother.

  3. Govind: "the book presents Him in a way that goes against the way that the Mother and Sri Aurobindo have presented Him Themselves."

    Two quick responses:
    1. We need to first hear from this man what he thinks are the central features of the image of Aurobindo presented by the Mother and Aurobindo himself before we can decide whether any other account or image of Aurobindo is compatible or incompatible with it.
    2. He begs the question of whether this image of Aurobindo presented by the Mother and Aurobindo himself was a complete and perfect one. Further, did they ever claim that this image was a complete and perfect one? Or is this claim of completeness and perfection something Govind foists on them?

  4. 1. Whatever his idea of the central features, his opinion as to the falsehood of the self-revealed image is already stated in the preface. However much we keep hearing him that is the central fact is not going to change.

    2. An image does not have to be complete to be distorted, and I have not claimed completeness or perfection.

  5. 1. A course in reading comprehension appears to be necessary for those who think that in the preface to his TLOSA Heehs claims that Aurobindo was misrepresenting the facts concerning himself or that the image Aurobindo presented of himself is a "falsehood". I have been reading Heehs book again very carefully this weekend and noting statements which could possibly give "offense" to any deifying self-styled disciple of Aurobindo. I will share the results of my reading in due course on this forum, but for now I will point out that Govind may have in mind the following sentence in a paragraph toward the end of Heehs' preface:
    "Biographers....have to examine all sorts of materials...not giving special treatment even to the subject's own version of events." (TLOSA, p. xiv).
    It is hasty and illogical to draw from this the conclusion that Heehs thinks that subject's (viz., Aurobindo's) own version of events must be rejected or marginalized. It is the Dharma of a biographer to consider accounts other than the subject's own account of events in his or her life. This does not mean that the subject's own account or "self-revealed image" must be rejected as false. It only means that this image must be considered and compared with other images. As Heehs puts it in the very next sentence:
    "Accounts by the subject have exceptional value, but they need to be compared against other narrative accounts and, more important, against documents that do not reflect a particular point of view." (TLOSA, p.xiv)
    I am sure that Aurobindo would heartily agree with this truism of biographical research! Govind's antipathy seems to spring from the fallacy of drawing hasty conclusions and conclusions at variance with Heehs' own claims IN THIS CONTEXT of the preface.

    2.I agree with Govind that an image need not be perfect or complete in order for there to distortions of it. However, if he admits, as he does, that the image of Aurobindo received from Aurobindo himself and the Mother is not perfect or complete, then he must, by virtue of logic, accept that comparisons of this image with other images of Aurobindo is indispensable for a growth in our understanding, not only of the received image of Aurobindo, but of the real man Aurobindo behind these images. And this is exactly what Peter Heehs has set out to do. Whether or not he is successful in accomplishing this goal and to what degree is a different issue.