Saturday, March 17, 2012

Supreme authority rested in the hands of The Mother

The Mother Mirra Alfassa was a much misunderstood Guru outside the  confines of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram.  Some derided her as authoritarian presumably because she supervised parades in the Ashram (these were intended to instill the discipline required for yogic transformation).  Others, after reading of her intimate involvement in the day-to-day decisions of the disciples, concluded that she had turned the Ashram into a cult.  Men especially had difficulty accepting an European (not to mention French) woman as a Guru.   Many hasty, as well as nasty, misconceptions arise because we superficially evaluate her external behaviour based on our own preconceptions and prejudices. 
A proper appraisal of her functioning as a Guru requires some patience along with a nascent psychic sensitivity to perceive the luminous consciousness behind her frontal personality. Sandeep says: September 28, 2011 at 2:23 pm Apropos the first paragraph of this article, here is a case of a man who found it difficult to accept the Mother. The person’s name was Garde and he visited the Ashram in Nov 1928. The story also illustrates the ability of both Sri Aurobindo and the Mother to read a person’s thoughts and peer deep into his or her soul. Sandeep says: February 18, 2012 at 9:24 pm Another critic of the Mother was Michael Murphy, co-founder of Esalen, who spent more than a year in the Ashram around 1956. A New Yorker profile of Michael Murphy published on Jan 5, 1976 states:

I may add that in my opinion, in the physical absence of the Mother, the danger of distortion by the vital emotional being that Sri Aurobindo wrote about in the chapter on the Intuitive Mind is very much increased, so that the demand for the shuddhi of the prana and the importance of the emergence of the mental pursha as a purifying agent, is greater today. Without these, we are seeing the repeated and insistent mouthing of the need for psychic emergence accompanied by fanatical narrowness and disturbed emotionalism.

Ranganath Raghavan's Response to "A Declaration of Solidarity" from A critique of the book "The Lives of Sri Aurobindo" by Peter Heehs  The trust deed was made purely for legal reasons. It was drafted in a hurry and the result was not really satisfactory. There is no spiritual sanctity to it and we know that legal matters did not interest the Mother. We have some statements from her clearly expressing this view. It is also known that the Mother was not at all happy with the draft. This was known to several of the old sadhaks and specially Mr. Counouma, who had spoken about it to some people. So to claim that it is a sacred document and fully approved by the Mother is not the fact at all. Besides, nothing in this transient world is a rigid truth for ever. Changing times and circumstances always necessitate adjustments and alterations to suit the new conditions that crop up.                                                            

Mirror of Tomorrow :: Integral Leadership by Anurag Banerjee 14 Jul 2011 – A question might arise: which style of leadership did Sri Aurobindo and the Mother follow? The answer would be that the Coaching Style was followed by Sri Aurobindo while the Mother followed the Authoritative Style. In the Coaching Style, the leader enables his subordinates to identify their strengths and weaknesses, helps them in their aspiration and encourages them to work for the accomplishment of their developmental aims. Sri Aurobindo’s view was: “All life is yoga”, so his followers were free to choose their own mediums of doing the integral yoga. Some adopted music as a part of their sadhana, some took up painting, some took up literary activities; those who found physical work attractive worked in the Press, laundry, gardens, bakery. So we find that every individual was given the freedom to pursue his aspiration in his own way. One may argue that since the inmates were given the freedom to select their own mediums of doing the yoga, the leadership style adopted by Sri Aurobindo could have been that of Laissez-faire. One must understand that Laissez-faire is a group-oriented leadership in which the members train themselves up and provide their own motivation and don't depend on their leader for motivation or increasing morale. But that was not the case with Sri Aurobindo. The inmates always looked upon Sri Aurobindo for motivation and encouragement. Moreover, in the Laissez-faire style, we know that delegation of authority is done at the fullest level. But neither Sri Aurobindo nor the Mother delegated absolute authority to any of the department-heads. The leaders following the “Coaching Style” provide regular feedback and encourage interaction between him and the employees; he conveys to them what he expects from them. And that is what Sri Aurobindo did. He always gave directions and advice whereas the leader following ‘laissez-faire’ would not do so. 
The Mother, as mentioned earlier, followed the Authoritative Style. As a visionary, she knew what she was doing and her followers/disciples also knew what and why they were doing and how their tasks would fit into the organizational goal. To ensure that the performance of the followers were in accordance with the vision of Ashram the Mother had defined the standard around the vision and provided feedback wherever and whenever necessary. But after determining the goal, she would leave the means of achieving them to her followers with the freedom to bring in innovation. In the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, the supreme authority rested in the hands of the Mother. Though all the assets were purchased in the name of Sri Aurobindo, it was the Mother who managed everything. It was she who took all the major decisions; it was she who saw to it that her instructions were implemented. She assigned work to the inmates and also set standards for the assigned work. No deviation or alteration in the plans of action could be incorporated without her approval. All the department-heads or managers had to report to her informing her of the progress made or difficulties faced and also for her advices regarding the concerned matter. Every detail of all the service-departments was presented to the Mother for her scrutiny and approval and the department-heads executed her orders. In certain important departments like the Atelier, even for the most trivial task an expressed approval of her was required. It was she who would decide what should be done and in which order. She believed in centralization and practised it accordingly. 

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