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Friday, August 6, 2010

Division and disharmony lies within each one of us

from Auro Lumiere aurolumiere@yahoo.fr to tusarnmohapatra@gmail.com date 6 August 2010 21:03 subject The Book

Dear Mr. Tusar Mohapatra, Here's a little message for your readers: 

All this fuss that is being made about a book – Mr. Peter Heehs’ book on the life or rather supposed lives of Aurobindo - is hilarious if not utterly ridiculous. An interesting remark about this book that was recently posted on your website is:

« This book is designed to give offense and create divisions and disharmony among Aurobindonians. »

If the author of this statement really believes that Harmony and Unity between people depended on a book, I seriously wonder what he has understood about the «Aurobindonian» philosophy, vision and objective.

Isn’t it a little too easy and convenient to project one’s weakness and faults onto something external and blame a book for the division and disharmony that lies within each one of us and the larger collectivity?

For even if the book was designed with such « evil » intentions, haven’t all of those persons who have vehemently, obsessively and even violently reacted or responded to such designs, fallen prey to the very objective of such a design? Who would be to blame in such an instance, the strength of the provoker or the weakness of the provoked?

It is surprising that some of these staunch «Aurobindonians» have chosen to ignore an obvious, simple and basic fact that good books get read, irrespective of the fact that some may like them or not, whereas bad books get forgotten on a bookshelf and are left to collect dust in the oblivion of the past. 
Always at the Service of Light and Truth, Françoise de Nielly

7 comments:

  1. "It is surprising that some of these staunch «Aurobindonians» have chosen to ignore an obvious, simple and basic fact that good books get read, irrespective of the fact that some may like them or not, whereas bad books get forgotten on a bookshelf and are left to collect dust in the oblivion of the past."

    I wish it were all that simple as you staunch Heehsians make it out to be. It takes decades or more to undo the lies and falsehoods that people write or say from positions of authority. I can give you many examples. You have obviously no understanding of how academia works either. See what happened to Ramakrishna Paramahansa - Heehs pal Jeffrey Kripal made him into a homosexual and no one has really been able to change that perception yet. Such matters end up becoming a "he said, she said, and....therefore Ramakrishna is a controversial figure"! This is what people want to avoid. The opponents of the book are saying that if Heehs had not written as an Ashramite he would not be taken as seriously. This is the problem with Heehs supporters. You just dont get it and maybe it's because of self-obsession.

    You say "All this fuss that is being made about a book – Mr. Peter Heehs’ book on the life or rather supposed lives of Aurobindo - is hilarious if not utterly ridiculous."

    Heehs supporters WOULD find it amusing - everyone knows that. If people are willing to defend their freedoms and liberties and ban the burqa in a great show of idealism and be taken seriously, why is it so funny if someone wants to defend and preserve the facts of Sri Aurobindo's life and works from distortion???

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  2. I don't consider myself a "Heehsian" because Heehs has not propounded any systematic doctrine concerning Aurobindo's life and work.

    "The opponents of the book are saying that if Heehs had not written as an Ashramite he would not be taken as seriously."

    That is false. An "Ashramite" can and does produce third rate work, or worse, trash. I am sure that the reviewers of Heehs' drafts of the book were looking at its contents and not taking his status as a member of the Aurobindo Ashram at face value.

    All the same, your tirade rests on a stupendous fallacy of irrelevance: Heehs' status as a member of the Aurobindo Ashram. This status is irrelevant to the issue of whether there are serious errors or distortions in Heehs' presentation of the life and work of Aurobindo.

    Would any of his claims on Aurobindo's life and work become true or false merely because of Heehs' status as a member of the Aurobindo Ashram? What sort of absurdity, or, idiocy, is this?

    So, judge his book in terms of his claims and supporting evidence and don't bring in irrelevant considerations.

    If it is argued that Heehs has no right to point out certain facts concerning Aurobindo, or that he has violated the code of conduct for a disciple of Aurobindo, in pointing out those facts, I would like to respond that it is the duty of a Sadhak or an aspirant on the spiritual path to pursue and record the truth about his Guru's life and work to the best of his ability.

    If Heehs has sincerely pursued this ideal, and I don't see any evidence to the contrary in his book, then his Guru would only be pleased with his work and regardless of any imperfections in it.

    "See what happened to Ramakrishna Paramahansa - Heehs pal Jeffrey Kripal made him into a homosexual and no one has really been able to change that perception yet."

    Heehs can't be held responsible for what his "pals" do! And you can't cast suspicions on the integrity of Heehs' work, or try to justify them, by pointing out alleged distortions in the work of his "pals".

    Every normal human being has some form of sexuality. It is a myth or delusion that true yogis or mystics have no sexuality.

    So what if Jeffery Kripal "made " Ramakrishna into a (Platonic) homosexual? Unless you think that homosexuality is an evil, it does not detract from Ramakrishna's status as a remarkable religious figure.

    In the same way, any remarks Heehs has made on Aurobindo's sexuality does nothing to detract from his book's account of Aurobindo's stature and achievements.

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  3. “I don't consider myself a "Heehsian" because Heehs has not propounded any systematic doctrine concerning Aurobindo's life and work.”
    His books are indeed firming up a theory that might well contribute towards a “doctrine” very soon! Anyway why are you so keen to argue over even irrelevant issues? It’s a hallmark of the argumentative and the quarrelsome (a good name for a soap opera, you think?).

    “I am sure that the reviewers of Heehs' drafts of the book were looking at its contents and not taking his status as a member of the Aurobindo Ashram at face value.”
    And institutional affiliation and institutional reputation don’t count? Please don’t try to bamboozle people. Moreover, I would like to know who the reviewers were – that should tell us how exacting the review really was not to mention how independent. I would bet that Kripal was one of them. You scratch my back….

    “All the same, your tirade rests on a stupendous fallacy of irrelevance.”
    What?? And mine is a tirade? Come on man, spare us the rhetoric and let’s retain some sense of proportion. In the face of your head-chopping, eye-gouging, hair-singeing, bone-crushing, incendiary posts, I cannot but slink away from competition!

    “This status is irrelevant to the issue of whether there are serious errors or distortions in Heehs' presentation of the life and work of Aurobindo.”
    Heehs status is in fact very relevant and there ARE serious errors and distortions ably brought out by many people. You have arrived very late on this scene and are raising arguments that have already been raised and answered months ago. It’s probably one more reason why no one wants to engage with you – it’s a waste of time to have to do it all over again.

    “Would any of his claims on Aurobindo's life and work become true or false merely because of Heehs' status as a member of the Aurobindo Ashram?”
    You make up something and inveigh that it is the basis for the other side’s argument. No one said that his claims become true or false based on his ashram membership. First, what he makes are confidently asserted statements that will be construed as facts by the lay reader, one who may not be very familiar with Sri Aurobindo. Second, when delivered by someone who says he is an ashramite or the keeper of the archives, the statements assume even more significance/importance/authority (not whether true or false). If you can deny that, you can deny anything.

    “I would like to respond that it is the duty of a Sadhak or an aspirant on the spiritual path to pursue and record the truth about his Guru's life and work to the best of his ability. “
    Parts of what you say are debatable. Who said that Sadhaks are duty-bound to “record” anything about their Gurus? They may do so only in response to the inexactitudes or distortions that have been generated as in Heehs case or as the Ramakrishna mission has had to do.

    “Heehs can't be held responsible for what his "pals" do! And you can't cast suspicions on the integrity of Heehs' work, or try to justify them, by pointing out alleged distortions in the work of his "pals".”
    Who held him responsible for what? I gave Kripal’s book as an example of the problem. Distortions and fallacies have been pointed out in Heehs work itself without even getting to Kripal. Regardless, their association may not be as innocent or inconsequential as you make it out to be (I assume you are giving him the benefit of your doubt).

    “It is a myth or delusion that true yogis or mystics have no sexuality. “
    I don’t know what you mean by “sexuality”. Yours is much too overconfident and broad a statement and assumes too many things not just the unlikelihood of yogis and mystics being entirely similar to you and me. Again! we talk of things we don’t know much about.

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  4. To make my last point..

    “Unless you think that homosexuality is an evil, it does not detract from Ramakrishna's status as a remarkable religious figure.”
    We want only facts, whatever they are. No embellishments, no fabrications, and certainly not highly tenuous theories that have been force-fitted to someone else’s theories and passed off as facts.

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  5. Anonymous: "His books are indeed firming up a theory that might well contribute towards a “doctrine” very soon!"

    What is that theory? In a typical fashion, you simply make assertions without supporting evidence. Something doesn't become true of Heehs or his book just because you and the rest of the gang think so!

    Anonymous: "And institutional affiliation and institutional reputation don’t count?"

    It doesn't count if you are dealing with issues of fact or evidence. It doesn't count if you are dealing with issues of plausibility of a proffered interpretation or explanation. Perhaps, the kind of literature you are immersed in typically has inferences of the following form?
    "X belongs to Ashram Y. So, X's claim that the Founder of Ashram Y is a mathematical genius must be true."
    "X belongs to Ashram Y. So, X's explanation that the Founder of Ashram Y did z because of "penis envy" must be correct." LOL

    Anonymous: "First, what he makes are confidently asserted statements that will be construed as facts by the lay reader, one who may not be very familiar with Sri Aurobindo. Second, when delivered by someone who says he is an Ashramite or the keeper of the archives, the statements assume even more significance/importance/authority (not whether true or false)."

    You pitifully and illogically attempt to leave the sins of the "lay reader" at the door of the author! If some "lay reader" concludes that Aurobindo's prediction that the division between India and Pakistan will be overcome or resolved in some way implies that Pakistan will be obliterated in a nuclear war, would we hold Aurobindo responsible for that interpretation?

    Peter Heehs gives sources and references to works and documents for his major claims. A "lay reader" of your ilk would do well to check those sources and references instead of thinking that Heehs' status as a member of the Ashram community automatically makes those claims true.

    I challenge you to give me just one instance in his book in which Heehs bandies about his membership in the Ashram community to overtly or covertly persuade even a "lay reader" to accept his claims.

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  6. Anonymous: "Who said that Sadhaks are duty-bound to “record” anything about their Gurus?"

    Ok, Man, just add the qualifier "Those Sadhaks who want to convey information about their Guru and his teachings to others." to my statement "...it is the duty of a Sadhak or an aspirant on the spiritual path to pursue and record the truth about his Guru's life and work to the best of his ability."

    Anonymous: "I gave Kripal’s book as an example of the problem."
    Yes, and the problem according to you is "It takes decades or more to undo the lies and falsehoods that people write or say from positions of authority. See what happened to Ramakrishna Paramahansa - Heehs pal Jeffrey Kripal made him into a homosexual and no one has really been able to change that perception yet."

    Well, have you done any surveys to see how many people are even aware of Kripal's interpretation, let alone their espousal of it??? You simply jump to the conclusion that just because an academic writer proffers an interpretation in a book, it is going to be prevalent or widely accepted to the exclusion of other intepretations! It is you who are ignorant of how academia works, at least in the Western world. For every interpretation, there are rival and contentiously rival interpretations!

    Anonymous (in an earlier post): "The opponents of the book are saying that if Heehs had not written as an Ashramite he would not be taken as seriously. This is the problem with Heehs supporters. You just dont get it and maybe it's because of self-obsession."

    You just don't get it and have no clue as to how the reviewing process works especially in a prestigious university press such as Columbia! Nobody there gives a tuppence or hoot about Aurobindo Ashram. They may not even have known of its existence prior to reading Heehs' manuscript!

    And your claim that if Heehs had not written as an Ashramite, he would not have been taken seriously is simply a delusion!It only exposes your ignorance of how the peer review process works for academic manuscripts submitted for publication in a university press!

    Further, have you ever asked why Heehs never harps in his book on his membership in the Ashram? If his membership in the Ashram is so powerful a factor of influence as you fondly imagine, why has Heehs not exploited it to his advantage in his book? As Aurobindo would have said "Kindly do not talk facile nonsense!"

    Anonymous: "I don’t know what you mean by “sexuality”."

    What? LOL Oh, well, then you must count yourself in the company of these allegedly asexual "yogis and mystics" you so admire!

    Anonymous: "the unlikelihood of yogis and mystics being entirely similar to you and me."

    They don't have to be entirely similar to "you and me". In fact, no two human beings are entirely similar. They only need to be similar to us in some important ways, ways pertaining to the basic biology and psychology of humans. A female mystic does not escape from the laws of menstruation or reproduction simply because she is a mystic. Since sexuality is a deeply ingrained aspect of human biology, it is extremely unlikely that yogis and mystics are free from it.

    You may not know much about yogis and mystics, but that doesn't mean that others do not know. Have you heard of the Tantric tradition and its use of sexuality? Doesn't that tradition have its "yogis and mystics"? They could not have practiced those Tantric sadhanas without awakening and harnessing their sexuality.

    Don't forget that Ramakrishna also practiced the sixty-four forms of Tantric sadhana with a female teacher, Bhairavi Brahmani. From his comments on the subject, he seems to have had more than an indirect or cursory knowledge of Vamachara, although some of his puritanical biographers claim that he had nothing to do with it.

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  7. Here Heeh is not the central character. This is an organised attack again from the universal negative force that is controlling the "Duryodhans" of this millennium. But whatever the situation given be divine will surely win the war of Kurukshetra at last. Whatever manifestation may come from the opponents, none can even dare to think of hindering the process of Supramantalisation of this earth that is going on under the leadership of Sriaurobindo and the mother.

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