Monday, April 30, 2012

Falling in love with our greatness

About the same time that the Heehs controversy was brewing in 2008, the CNN-IBN news channel had carried out a bold sting operation on the Trustees of the ...

The author of this article Shri Surendra Singh Chouhan is an ex-student of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education (SAICE); after finishing his Higher Course he taught for a year in SAICE. He is an international educator and presently ...

Messages in this topic Knowledge of one's religion and culture puts one in love with that and the resultant output is a fanatic or a chauvinist - a stone-headed, single-track homo-sapien. Thus the culture-knowing Indian is often required to be balanced and corrected by a culture-neutral one. Thank God, Indian society contains both. As Hindus, we need to be very careful about falling in love with our greatness.
Secularism requires that we keep Eyes Wide Shut. Gentlemanliness often demands that we hold on to the blinkers, lest we see... . Vishwa's assertion that Tagore's song was composed to our own Mother and not to King George V is a piece of such gentlemanliness… One respects Rajat Gupta, one respects S Kumar for their contributions to our discussion even though their observations diverge. This is exactly the kind of discussion for which this forum exists. We don't need agreements, we need only cogent, well-informed arguments. Dilip Kumar Roy [sbicitizen]

I believe it lies in the devout person's need to idealize someone, somewhere, who is believed to be free of the psychic dangers that sex brings with it, and then to identify with this "divine" being. As normal human beings we are all acutely aware of these dangers. The insatiability of sex, with its waves of violent, consuming hunger, threatens the loss of those we hold dear. Naked in our desire, we are vulnerable to disapprobation, mortification, rejection. Challenging the keepers of the social order and guardians of its taboos, we tremble at the punishment fitting the crime, emasculation, or more generally an unsexing. Worse still for many is the specter of relentless self punishment; searing, burdensome guilt. For the devout, the mystic holds a promise of freedom from these psychic threats.

Indian literature: Volume 15 - Sahitya Akademi - 1972 – Prema Nandakumar
Himself a scholar, he enthuses us to take to a life of scholarship. Having renounced his princely position in the Baroda College for the sake of Mother India, he makes our hearts glow with love for the Motherland.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Schelling spoke of evolution; Spencer no heartless social Darwinist

Darwin is supposed to have discovered something nowadays called “evolution” and to have laid to rest something nowadays called “creationism.” But if this is so, what are we to make of the theories of Schelling and Goethe in Germany, and of Coleridge in England, articulated several decades earlier than he? Their Romantic conception of the transformation and morphogenesis of molecules, plants, and animals, is already fully evolutionary. Schelling spoke of evolution of plants and animals out of the earth by way of a chemical process (see, e.g., p. 168, The Romantic Conception of Life by Robert Richards). Goethe and Coleridge agreed.
The reason Darwin is supposed to have discovered the “real” evolution is that his version is a-teleological, based on a conception of nature driven exclusively by efficient causes, while the Romantic theory of evolution is not only teleological, but theological. It breaks the rules of scientific explanation by attributing animation/agency to that which it theorizes. Modern science takes it as a matter of course that nature is within intelligence or intrinsic value. Romantics experience nature as full of complex feeling and archetypal intention. Even if, for Goethe, Nature is God and God is Nature, divinity is ingredient in any Romantic philosophy of nature. Goethe, were he interested in the abstract distinctions of philosophical logic, may also have articulated a panentheistic (like Coleridge and Schelling), rather than a pantheistic ontology. But cosmologically, these three Romantic Naturphilosophen conceive of nature alike as a creative, archetypal process of generation. They understood the universe to be an ensouled being living in the midst of itself, like a snake eating its own tail (following Plato in Timaeus). Schelling and Coleridge, whose soul’s were more Christian than Goethe’s, also perceived something fallen in nature (following Paul in Romans 8), and so also something–or rather, someone–in the process of being resurrected.

The Spencer Myth from Cafe Hayek by Don Boudreaux
Here’s a letter to the Washington Post:
Jonah Goldberg rightly defends Herbert Spencer against the charge of being a heartless “social Darwinist” (“Top five cliches that liberals use to avoid real arguments,” April 28).  Spencer was, in fact, a profound and humane thinker who cherished individual liberty, celebrated the rich potential of voluntary action, championed women’s rights, vigorously opposed imperialism, and would never in a billion years have endorsed eugenics.  The myth that Spencer was a social Darwinist was created without basis by the historian Richard Hofstadter in the latter’s regrettably influential 1944 book, Social Darwinism in American Thought.
The persistence of Hofstadter’s myth was revealed in a telling way five years ago in the New York Times when reporter Patricia Cohen wrote “Victorian-era social Darwinists like Herbert Spencer adopted evolutionary theory to justify colonialism and imperialism, opposition to labor unions and the withdrawal of aid to the sick and needy” (“A Split Emerges as Conservatives Discuss Darwin,” May 5, 2007).  One week later the Times was obliged to offer this correction: “A front-page article last Saturday about a dispute among some conservatives over whether Darwinian theory undermines or supports conservative principles erroneously included one social Darwinist among Victorian-era social Darwinists who adopted evolutionary theory to justify colonialism and imperialism.  Herbert Spencer opposed both” (“Correction,” May 12, 2007).
The Times should have added also that Spencer, while opposed to guild-like monopoly privileges for producers (including for labor) as well as to the welfare state, objected neither to voluntary organizations of workers nor to charitable aid to the sick and needy. Sincerely, Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA  22030

Tweets 31 Mar Rod Hemsell @rodhemsell
From AV I have learned a profound distrust of ideologues who form power blocks to pervert the truth in the name of the truth. Only here?

Decentralize, spread out, enlarge

Sri Aurobindo Devotees: Pushpanjali, Sasi Balika Vidya Mandir, R.S. Puram, 9.30 am.; Sri Annai Meditation Centre, Kovaipudur, 4 p.m.

Our worth lies only in the measure of our effort to exceed ourselves, and to exceed ourselves is to attain the Divine. -The Mother

PURANI, AB (1967), Lectures on Savitri (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram). RAY, SIBNARAYAN (2000), Bengal Renaissance: The First Phase (Calcutta: Minerva). RAYCHAUDHURI, TAPAN (1988), Europe Reconsidered: Perceptions ...
Sumangali Morhall chased everything Western society taught her to pursue: material wealth, academic success, and even the perfect relationship, only to discover something deeply significant was still missing.
Sil, Swami Vivekananda, 116–117. 67. Sil, Swami Vivekananda, 115. 68. Chatterjee, Pather Dabi, 208. 69. Mukherjee and Mukherjee, Sri Aurobindo's Political Thought, 149. 70. Mukherjee and Mukherjee, Sri Aurobindo's Political Thought, 29.
West of Eden: Communes and Utopia in Northern California - Page 128 - Iain Boal, Janferie Stone, Michael Watts - 2012 - 304 pages - Preview
Fall '66 we went to an Intentional Communities conference in Ben Lomond and introduced ourselves as a Sri Aurobindo ashram. I had become a mad aficionado of sun-gazing, doing it in semishaded redwood groves. My thoughts would stop; ...
Thus it is that, at least in a conversational sense, one could point to St. Teresa of Avila, the Zen master Dogen, the Sufi al-Hallaj, or the Hindu sage Sri Aurobindo as “mystics”; the Enneads, the Upanisads, or the Zohar as classic ...
This is essentially the point Sri Aurobindo makes: “You must find, in the depths of your being, that which carries in it the sense of universality, limitless expansion, timeless continuity. Then you decentralize, spread out, ...

Friday, April 27, 2012

Ambedkar, Sikand, & Auroville

Bodhi Sattva’s Hindutva: Part 5 from Centre Right India by Aravindan Neelakandan
In his seminal but incomplete work, “Buddha or Karl Marx” Dr. Ambedkar had made a comparison between Marxism and Buddhist Indic philosophy with Parliamentary democracy as an important factor of distinction:
“Man must grow materially as well as spiritually. Society has been aiming to lay a new foundation was summarised by the French Revolution in three words, Fraternity, Liberty and Equality. The French Revolution was welcomed because of this slogan. It failed to produce equality.
We welcome the Russian Revolution because it aims to produce equality. But it cannot be too much emphasised that in producing equality society cannot afford to sacrifice fraternity or liberty. Equality will be of no value without fraternity or liberty. It seems that the three can coexist only if one follows the way of the Buddha.”[xv] Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Writings and Speeches, Vol-3, Education Dept., Govt. of Maharashtra, pp.452- 462

Living in an illiberal Indian Society from AV's politics by A. V. Satish Chandra
The contradiction here is that the sacred is invoked in order to perpetuate most unsacred and politically divisive agendas.  However, what concerns me here is the fact that this tendency of illiberalism is growing and restricting the freedoms and autonomy that various people are entitled to constitutionally and civilisationally.  An illiberal society that is tending to become fascist is also uncivil and unconstitutional apart from being an affront on the sensibilities of rational and sensible people. While it is not really possible to predict the exact consequences of this illiberalism, what can definitely be prognosticated is a society and nation that will be increasingly burdened with violence and lack of peace.
I will now conclude this piece by grinding one of my favourite axes. People who designate themselves as intellectuals and teaching professionals talk of the ills of Indian society as being a result of liberalism.  In doing so they are unwittingly strengthening the hands of the conservative fascists who use the idea of liberalism as being an enemy of the people. 

Yoginder Sikand's apology and clarification regarding his article 21 April, 2012 Dear Friends, This is with regard to an article that I recently wrote titled 'Why I Gave up on "Social Activisim"'. A number of friends and others were upset about the article, and hence I decided that I needed to write this note.
To begin with, I have to say that I am open to my mistakes being pointed out, for which I am grateful, for otherwise how will I know where I'm wrong? I do need to know this so that I am able to correct and improve myself.
I have to clarify that I did not seek to generalise about all activists, and a careful reading of the article will indicate this. I was talking essentially of folks who, wittingly or unwittingly, were making a living out of 'activism' and actually doing little for the people in whose names they spoke--and I have said I was doing quite the same in my own way (Surely, not everyone was doing that, of course, and I didn't claim this either). In making this point, I was trying to suggest that this was doing nothing much good for the poor people in whose names these folks were making money and careers for themselves. Obviously, all of this made the task of genuine activists even more difficult and had made it easy for their critics (Hindutvawalas etc.) to brand all forms of activism as tainted and to question the credentials of all activists as such. However, if what I wrote can possibly be construed as de-legitimising activism altogether, I have to apologise because this is not what I really intended.
Secondly, I didn't mean to downplay or ignore or minimize the reality of social oppression, in the form of imperialism, Hindutva fascism and caste/class/religious oppression and so on, and especially the sort of discrimination that caste/religious minorities face. I didn't intend to blame the victims for their own oppression, though I now realise and agree with some friends that the article could possibly be misinterpreted by others to suggest this. Let me clarify that I do recognise such forms of oppression as very real. And I certainly didnt mean to suggest that there was no need to meaningfully work against such forms of oppression. If what I have written seems to suggest anything to the contrary, I am honestly and truly sorry. I would be very sad if this article were seen as a means to legitimise oppression in any form.
I also have to say that I didn't intend to equate minority and majority communalism, or caste assertion by Dalits with caste oppression by 'upper' caste Hindus, but if that is what some people can interpret the article as suggesting, I really and sincerely apologise for the mistake. I have to thank folks who faulted my article for indicating to me where I had gone wrong, and once again say I am sorry for any mistakes I might have made, such as I've outlined above. With love, yoginder sikand

Beware of religion from auroleaks by auroleaks - We find it useful to republish here this article by Carel from the October 2003 issue of Auroville Today.
“Have we, the editors, become Indianised? For none of our Indian readers raised a concern and perhaps not even an eyebrow as living with images of gods and goddesses or of swamis and yogis is such a daily occurrence. In the West, however, it is different. It is a common experience for all those who endeavour to raise funds for Auroville’s projects that one has to be careful in describing the city’s spiritual aims. Funding agencies, particularly Western funding agencies, take a somewhat jaundiced view of anything that might appear a cult. So do income tax authorities in some countries. A few years ago, Auroville International Germany successfully defended in court that Auroville is not a sect, in order not to lose the income tax exemption German donors enjoy for donations to Auroville projects.”

It is the objective historian who will define the yoga for us. Nay he will redefine it, even improving upon what Sri Aurobindo and the Mother revealed. We are fools who have been poring our hearts and soul over Their writings, reading them without context with our poor knowledge of English and our emotional brains. That is not how we need to read and understand. It is Peter who will provide the context…
Oh yes and coming to originality of ideas, Sri Aurobindo borrowed the ideas of Western thinkers and expanded them into the Life Divine and the Human Cycle. In poetry He ‘could do nothing better than imitate’ some already outdated Western models though ironically and mistakenly He called it Future poetry. But that is excusable since He did not know what is coming in the Future just as He ‘did not anticipate the advances in molecular biology and used metaphors such as the Idea of the tree is in the seed’ that we foolish Indians interpret as some great fundamental truth. There is no idea out there, only genes. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Sri Aurobindo Study Circle, Bangalore devotees incensed over Heehs

Letter to the Trustees from Sri Aurobindo Study Circle, Bangalore From: Sri Aurobindo Study Circle 17th April 2012
We must regretfully admit that our faith and confidence has been shattered in the incumbent establishment as the preserver and protector of the living memory of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. Although we may not claim to be the anointed custodians of the well being of the Ashram, it cannot be denied that as devotees we too have a certain responsibility in respect of preserving and fostering this sacred institution and protecting its sanctity and dignity. It is in this larger indirect role that we wish to make the following suggestions for due consideration of the Trustees in earnest hope that they will not be misunderstood as an encroachment on their authority but will be welcomed instead in the right spirit as issuing from fellow Sadhaks on important matters of common concern. Measures requested:
1. Not to permit Peter Heehs to stay in the premises of any part of Sri Aurobindo Ashram or of its connected institutions.
2. He must be disowned forthwith by the Ashram Authorities and its other institutions in writing followed by public endorsement through the media.
3. To get in touch immediately with the foreign Publishers of Peter’s Book and contain the damage even if it means initiating necessary legal action in this regard. 
4. To convey effectively to the Publisher the rage and resentment that the book has evoked among the Devotees and admirers worldwide so that they desist from
5. reprinting the same or publishing modified or abridged versions of it in any form in the future. 
6. To take careful stock of pilferage, misuse etc. of documents in any form in the Archives and elsewhere by Peter Heehs and make efforts at retrieval 
7. The Managing Trustee to issue an unequivocal statement through the media and in writing that the contents of the book are distorted and are entirely the personal views of Peter Heehs and certainly do not reflect the views of the Ashram.
8. As a matter of official policy from now on, the Trustees may invariably consider the following people as Invitees to broaden participation in the collective decision making process:
Representatives of Sri Aurobindo Society
Heads of Departments within the Ashram
By rotation, (once in two/three years), a few senior Sadhaks within the Ashram and also a few representatives from the various Branches of Sri Aurobindo Society all over India. Thanking You, Sincerely yours, for SRI AUROBINDO STUDY CIRCLE Dr. G. N. Narayana Reddy
cc : For the kind information of His Excellency The Lt. Governor of Pondicherry,
Raj Nivas, Pondicherry – 605001. Signatures of Members of Sri Aurobindo Study Circle [367]

M R Venkatesh, Deccan Herald Blasphemy tag strains Aurobindo Ashram Pondicherry, April 21 2012
Any ban on the book would not only be against the basic freedom of expression, but will militate against Aurobindo’s free spirit, many felt.

If allegations in a publication or proposed publication are true, or the author believes them to be true, they are entitled to be published. A publication may be defamatory, but it is entitled to be published as long as it is true or a defence of truth or of a privilege is made out. 

Parameters of privacy - Indian Express Soli J. Sorabjee : Sun Apr 22 2012
Privacy is distinct from defamation. If the facts stated about a person are false, then the person responsible may be sued for libel. Privacy is invaded when without consent there is disclosure of information about a person’s private life, which is true, but causes the person embarrassment and distress. Truth is no defence to breach of privacy. Right to privacy is not absolute. 

another call for major media not to provide a platform for trolls from Object-Oriented Philosophy - Apr 21, 2012  by doctorzamalek (Graham Harman)
Freedom of speech means that you can’t face judicial punishment for what you say. It doesn’t mean you won’t become a social outcast for saying certain things.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Mother enshrined Sri Aurobindo's Relics

Sad to see so much confrontation around Aurobindo and the Mother. They were very clear about not wishing to create, or continue religions. There will always be power-play, but one of the things the in spirants of Aurobindo and the Mother could do is to create a polyphony of views, a shared and divergent ecology of communities who are each working together towards social transformation, despite their disagreements. We are all part of this spiritual and metaphysical transformation together. How silly it is to argue and bicker over authority. Let the writings speak for themselves. Let the scholars share their voice among many.
I think part of the response we can give to the religious communities around Sri Aurobindo is to consider them part of that ecology. I find Gebser's work helpful here, because he too felt that we can't necessarily eliminate old consciousness structures, but see them as co-constituents in the integral world. Within the Integral Yoga community, maybe, this can also happen?
Great point about focusing on the writings alone. Made me think about the legalistic view, which I hadn't considered before when saying "let their works speak for themselves." It still leaves tension, however, between the original work and the subsequent adaptations. Some things can get lost in this process. So how to acknowledge the "practice?" I guess the answer isn't academic. Maybe, simply, creating another "practice" which aligns more with our own take on Aurobindo and the Mother. Or any philosophy/school for that matter! :)
Very interesting that the Mother enshrined Aurobindo's relics. Well, that does complicate the reality, doesn't it? As far as Gebser and the Supramental Manifestation, I don't think we can say, either way, what he envisioned or inspired his work. In the second publication of EPO, Gebser made a point to say he and Aurobindo were doing work in parallel and that he was pleased with this.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Slap on the face of religious fundamentalism

Tweets Gautam Chikermane  @gchikermane Peter Heehs: Have a safe journey. Come back and continue with your vast, deep and inspiring work. We wait for your next book. 11:55 AM - 14 Apr 12. Uma Shashikant  @Uma_Shashikant - @gchikermane You led a very spirited and inspiring twitter campaign for Heehs, Gautam. Kudos! 10:48 AM - 14 Apr 12. Gautam Chikermane  @gchikermane - @Uma_Shashikant Thanks. It's going to be a long war - book by book, idea by idea, cartoon by cartoon. 11:27 AM - 14 Apr 12. This is a decision in favour of free speech and a slap on the face of religious fundamentalism. 10:15 PM - 13 Apr 12. Madanmohan Rao  @MadanRao Gautam Chikermane: I wrote about deportation of Peters Heehs (biographer of Sri Aurobindo), got shallow reactions from twitterati #PulEjawan 5:17 PM - 14 Apr 12. Malini Parthasarathy  @MaliniP Heehs biography is well researched and ultimately a tribute to Aurobindo. We are a tolerant society but don’t want our heroes smirched! :) 6:47 PM - 14 Apr 12

A Heretic Believer Scholar or devotee? A schizoid split? Aurobhakts are torn over Peter Heehs. CONTROVERSY: AUROBINDO ASHRAM PUSHPA IYENGAR Outlook MAGAZINE APR 23, 2012 Hot seat Peter Heehs with the ‘offending’ book … Underneath the surface though, there are valid, fundamental questions about how he could be a part of the ashram and yet write such a book… His backers say the book has become a victim of the prevailing climate of “fundamentalism” and “increasing religiosity”.
But the naysayers claim he wrote the book to trigger controversy, and get mileage… An insider says Heehs’s book has bothered those who feel they are the rightful inheritors of Aurobindo’s intellectual tradition. Not Heehs, who has written nine books and several articles on him over 40 years.

These observations are incorrect. Sri Aurobindo certainly did not regard the Darshan as a “ancient form that Indians have difficulty going beyond.” What Sri Aurobindo thought about the Darshan can be read from the recently published “Letters on Himself and the Ashram”

Mr Pratap Bhanu Mehta’s work says much about our media culture of readership as regards to Sri Aurobindo. His article represents a new dimension, a new layer, a scholarly-professionally sordid element in the patronizing of Mr Heehs. As yet the controversy was of content. Mr Mehta goes a step further, dismissing the objections to content [...] Read more of this post - RY Deshpande from Mirror of Tomorrow April 14, 2012 at 6:20 am URL:

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Bye-bye, Peter Heehs e-mails PTI

Historian to leave India before April 16 PTI 10:04 PM, Apr 12, 2012
Chennai, Apr12 (PTI) American historian Peter Heehs, whose book on Sri Aurobindo created a controversy and whose visa extension was not considered by the Home Ministry, today said he would not be in the country on April 16. "..if nothing happens before then (April 15), I will certainly not be in the country on the 16th," Peter Heehs told PTI through an email.
Heehs present visa is valid up to April 15. He was asked to leave the country after spending nearly four decades working on a project of digitisation and archival of works of freedom fighter and spiritual leader Aurobindo. "I have told the Regional Registration Office, Pondy (Puducherry), that I would abide by the terms of their response to my application, which specified that the Home Ministry was granting me an extension good until April 15 but would not consider a new application for renewal of my current entry visa. It follows that I should not be in the country after April 15," Heehs said.
The inmate of Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Puducherry was told by the Regional Registration Office at Puducherry that his visa will not be extended after April 15. Some historians had protested against the move of cancelling his visa and had also petitioned Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister Chidambaram for reconsideration of decision. New Indian Express  @NewIndianXpress Historian Heehs to leave India before April 16: #PeterHeehs 10:29 PM - 12 Apr 12

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Heehs is prepared to strike out “questionable” passages

Friends, Since more than a week the impressive number of mushroom-like interviews have cropped up in the national media, mostly protesting against the Government of India's decision not to extend visa to a US citizen. In spite of the detailed explanation that the man has to leave India for Violation of Visa norms, the overwhelming subterfuge - around the issuing of the mischievous "biography" of Sri Aurobindo - has been playing the fish, while muddying the waters. Some people suspect the ample supply of the green currency in various forms intervening as a menacing anti-establishment force jeering at the Authorities.
Speaking about the recent condescending and rude attitude of the NDTV interviewer towards Professor Kittu Reddy, the brilliant representative of the Ashramites who had enough of the American's "history", a TV watcher from Kolkata has been under the impression that the situation was mysteriously reversed. Our liberal ethics taught us indeed to prefer defending a saheb (even if he is a lawbreaker) to the detriment of any native dissident. Once I have heard an Indian citizen lamenting: "Had we not been happy and secure under the British Raj ? What a madness to have driven them away!" His voice sounded like the yelping of the collar-less dog, nostalgic of its collar.
This reminds me of the sad state of affairs in Kolkata, in 1989. Boosted by the cream of Bengali intellectuals, an upstart French film maker had been insulting Maitrayee Devi, a respectable author and social worker, in the name of shooting the filmed version of La nuit bengali, a fiction by Mircea Eliade; the novel boasts of an adventurous European student abusing the universal norms of hospitality by trying to pick up young Maitrayee, daughter of his mentor, the philosopher Surendranath Dasgupta. On returning to Paris, invited by a friend, literary editor of the Anandabazar Patrika, I spent hours to disclose how insignificant Klotz was and what a flop his film had proved to be; but the logic of the infallibility of a saheb prevailed and the editor was asked not to publish the paper.
Historian or not, the cunning US hero of our story has not lost his time during his stay in India: perfectly aware of our weak points, he seems to be far from playing his last card. Prithwindra Mukherjee Paris, 7 April, 2012

Visa extension still hangs fire Debjani Dutta Last Updated : 08 Apr 2012 10:05:14 AM IST PUDUCHERRY: The Sunday Standard
Is American historian Peter Heehs being deported or not? The visa of the ashram resident here is set to expire on April 15. But Union Home Minister P Chidambaram is yet to decide whether or not to extend it.
Facing possible expulsion from the country he has been living in for 41 years after his controversial book Lives of Sri Aurobindo published in the US in 2008 sparked unease among followers of the spiritual leader, Heehs now says he is prepared for a revised Indian version of his book to be published by Penguin India.
Regretting the controversy, Heehs says that both he and the publishers are prepared to strike out any “questionable” passages. “Got permission for publishing the modified version for use of devotees,” Heehs told The Sunday Standard. “Please give benefit of doubt,” he said, referring to the controversial portions in the book, the root cause of his worry today. Heehs also refutes allegations on refusal of his visa extension due to visa violations. “No anomaly in the visa or in my stay. I have been here 41 years and have never hurt anyone,” says Heehs. “The local Foreigners Regional Registration Office has never been dissatisfied with me and I have complied with all their directions,” he said.
Elaborating on his proposals, Heehs said, “I had given two proposals—one to recompose certain passages which had become controversial and the other to allow yet another publication for the devotees—as a few changes may not satisfy those opposed to the book. Though there would be a financial loss for the publishers, they were willing to do it.” To publish the book, however, clearance is required from the Orissa High Court, which had banned its publication in 2008. The court had then issued a temporary injunction stating that until disposal of the appeal against the order, the book could be printed by obtaining a ‘No Objection Certificate’ from the home ministry.
Taking up the case of Heehs, around 30 renowned historians and scholars, including Union Minister Jairam Ramesh, have written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chidambaram.
“It (the book) is among the finest-ever written of a major Indian nationalist and spiritualist. Factional disagreements in Heehs’ home town should not receive the implicit support of the Indian state, which would happen if the home ministry were to deny him a visa allowing him to continue in India. It would be greatly to the detriment of our country to be seen as having driven out an internationally recognised scholar who is committed to writing biography and history of the highest calibre. We urge you to grant Heehs his visa at the earliest, so that he is not forced to leave our shores by April 15,” the letter said. It is yet to be seen what decision is taken by the home minister.

By MC Rajan Demystifying one of the country's most revered mystics, Sri Aurobindo, has landed American historian Peter Heehs in hot water.
American historian Peter Heehs has been asked to leave India over his autobiography on Sri Aurobindo which allegedly portrays the freedom fighter-yogi as ...
A recent statement by Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust April 9, 2012 The following statement was issued in February 2012. Emphases as in the original. — Ed.

The Mother's Blessing Faith And Rituals Article on The Divine Grace of The Mother can be felt all over Puducherry, says SHVETA BHAGAT.
Puducherry is such a place which fills you with divine grace, the moment you enter its sphere. You don’t need to meditate to feel the all-pervading sense of well-being. It is in the air which comes in one sudden gush. You feel purity in the air; certain luminosity and lightness lifts you. You don’t need to visit a tomb or spend all of your time at a temple to feel that power. I experienced it by just being in the city, earlier known as Pondicherry...
Puducherry is the closest I have come to heaven on earth, thanks to the consciousness that the place is abuzz with. It’s an experience that makes you once again realise that you don’t need to go to many places, you only need that environment to Just Be.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Directing our longing toward the only perfect object

Love’s ladder’s God from The Immanent Frame by Patrick Lee Miller Apr 5, 2012
Platonism and Augustinian Christianity describe an ascent from sensuality to divinity, from time to eternity; together they believe that only by climbing this ladder will we find genuine satisfaction. Modern philosophers have generally been critical, even contemptuous, of this belief. Nietzsche epitomizes this contempt when he calls Christianity “Platonism for the masses"…
At his best, and most evidently in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche makes a psychological argument about Christian belief at any time, including the present. Resentment is always operative in it, he argues, because we are all weak and thus tempted to create values in order to feel stronger. But are not some strong and some weak? Why are we all supposed to be weak? In a word, we die. While we live, moreover, greedy time robs us of our finest moments. In this inexorable weakness, Nietzsche argues, we inevitably dream of another life, an eternal one, where we will escape time, cheat death, and assume the power of an omnipotent God. By focusing our energies on this fantasy of spiritual eternity, however, we divert them from the bodily life we have, here in time. By loving God in his heaven, above all, we denigrate worldly loves.
Notice how neatly this critique fits the conversation between Augustine and his mother. “Any pleasure whatsoever of the bodily senses, in any brightness whatsoever of corporeal light,” he writes, “seemed to us not worthy of comparison with the pleasure of that eternal Light, not worthy even of mention.” To this demotion of bodily pleasure he adds an implicit criticism of time. Eternal is the Wisdom of God that he and his mother touched for an instant; but “leaving the first fruits of our spirit bound to it,” he sighs, “we returned to the sound of our own tongue, in which a word has both beginning and ending.” Augustine’s phrasing thus invites Nietzsche’s attack. What’s worse, many Christians today, no less than in other ages, invite this attack. How many times has a Christian’s profession of love proven to be a covert way of feeling superior to another person, let alone the whole of bodily and temporal existence in which the unredeemed live and breathe and have their being? How often have Christians hidden this deception even from themselves? Too often. Nietzsche is right about this much: Christian belief, whatever else it may be, is an ingenious disguise for resentment.
But as so often with Nietzsche, he over-states his case. His exaggeration becomes clearest when we consider how the Nietzschean attack applies to the Platonic ladder of love upon which Augustine’s love-story is modeled. According to this critique, Plato denigrates everything lovable in this temporal world: beautiful bodies, cultivated souls, political power…
Socrates does not abandon his friends, nor even the pleasures of the body. He is at a drinking party, with food and conversation, which he enjoys more than anyone else. Nor can Augustine be advocating solipsistic asceticism. He and his mother do not climb over each other to reach the divine bliss alone. They go there together, in conversation. In my view, Plato and Augustine are instead saying that as we climb the ladder of love, directing our longing to superior objects, we do not despise the inferior objects. On the contrary, we love them better.
Thus, if you climb from body to soul, you will still enjoy sensual pleasure. Furthermore, because you will enjoy it for what it is—something pleasant to be sure, but ill-equipped to satisfy your deepest longing—you will enjoy it better. After all, your enjoyment of it will no longer be tinged with the disappointment that is bound to follow whenever you try to enjoy it as a substitute for the object of your deepest longing. Similarly, if you climb from soul to institution, law, and philosophy, you will still enjoy the company of friends. Having climbed higher than soul, now you will no longer wish that they were perfect. No one who seeks perfection from his friends can love them fully; they will always disappoint, engendering resentment. Having climbed higher than friendship, though, you could love them better—that is, without any resentment. To love them best, Plato is saying, we must climb to the top of the ladder. This applies equally to the love of our children, our parents, our spouses, and all those many people we try to embrace with our love. To perfect it at every rung, even the lowest, we must direct our longing toward the only perfect object. Plato says too little about it; Augustine says more. 

a sign of second-rate philosophy from Object-Oriented Philosophy by doctorzamalek (Graham Harman)
I’m just saying, it seems a bit absurd to use the question of someone’s belief or disbelief in God as one of the chef pillars of your judgment about that person’s intellectual caliber. To some extent, the parochialism of presumed atheism among Western intellectuals (i.e., everyone enters every conversation simply assuming that they can dump on religion from the first minute and everyone else will automatically agree with them) really bothers me.

Kozhikode: The CPI(M), engaged in reviewing the reverses it suffered in the Lok Sabha and the recent assembly polls, is also confronting the charges of alcoholism and immoral behaviour of the party cadres. The party, which is meeting at the 20th congress, here has cautioned its cadres against indulging in vices like alcoholism and immoral behaviour generally associated with members of bourgeois parties…
On the ills plaguing the party as mentioned in the report, Karat told reporters Thursday that it did not mean that CPI(M) was a party of alcoholics and persons with other vices. "That shows that in imposing our discipline, in correcting or taking action against party members at various levels, these are the type of charges that have come. That does not mean my party has become a party of alcoholics. I don't think that is the implication", Karat said. The report cites allegations of corruption, alcoholism, substance abuse and misdemeanour towards women that cropped up against some party cadres and recommends stringent action against such persons. Sexual harassment, alcoholism cited in CPM report of weaknesses NDTV - Monideepa Banerjie, Updated: April 06, 2012 00:52 IST
The CPM, which has more than 10 lakh members today, is worried about what it calls wrong trends among some of its party workers, including sexually harassing women, immoral activities, taking bribes, hankering for Parliament tickets, and alcoholism.

Dancing in the dark Indian Express - Piyasree Dasgupta , Nandini Nair , Dipti Nagpaul-D'Souza : New Delhi, Sun Apr 01 2012, 22:32 hrs
In the bylanes of Kolkata, in the suburbs of Mumbai and the badlands of north India, dancers are dancing. They work in unglamorous settings and pander to unruly crowds in their attempt to keep dying traditions alive. But we only see Kareena Kapoor bat her eyelids in a mujra Dil mera muft ka (Agent Vinod), Vidya Balan doing a lavani in Ferarri ki Sawari, Bipasha Basu in a nautanki-inspired number in Beedi jalaile (Omkara) or laugh at the hero’s launda-inspired dance in Luv ka the End. Bollywood might have brought these folk forms to our homes, but their true practitioners devote their lives to the art, usually aware that their children will not further this legacy. We bring you the original performers of these folk traditions…
The erotic nature of the dance form, and the fact that the performers mostly came from the bottom of the pyramid of the Indian caste system, did not go down well with the emerging middle class after Independence. By the 1960s, the cultural relevance of lavani and its performers was almost lost…
Devendra believes that the “whole structure of Bollywood is based on nautanki.” He traces the roots of the song and dance routine of Hindi cinema to this form and says songs like Salman Khan’s Dhinka chika or Bipasha Basu’s Beedi jalaile reflect the obvious influences of nautanki…
The downfall began with the dissipation of royalty under British rule, and the eradication of the zamindari system after Independence. The emergence of the middle class hit the tawaifs hard, their morality equating them with prostitutes, their private lives mostly sagas of unrequited love…
Launda dancers, cross-dressing men, are a staple at weddings, mostly in eastern UP and Bihar. They usually dance as part of the baraat (wedding procession), during the haldi ceremony of the groom and when the baraat leaves for the girl’s house… However, the one thing that needs some rehearsing is handling drunk men.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Heehs speaks

After four years of falsely claiming that he could not speak publicly because of legal cases, Peter Heehs is now freely giving interviews to any and every newspaper or TV channel that approaches him in a desperate attempt to tilt public opinion in the hope that his deportation order can be overturned. Heehs pleads to be given the same treatment that he has received for the last 40 years, yet claims that he does not ask for any special privileges. Having abused the many privileges that he received for so long, the appeal comes a tad too late. Moreover, one has to ask, what has he done to deserve pardon. Even now, as always in the last four decades, he disdainfully rejects all discussion and refuses to apologise for abusing his provileges, for insulting Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and for causing so much pain to millions of devotees. 
For the last four years Heehs avoided public debates and spoke through his many proxies to avoid direct discussion on the many factual distortions and the academic fraudulences on which his book is based. His latest live discussion on Times Now on April 5, 2012 is revealing. Among other things, it shows how hard Heehs finds it to defend the many perverse passages in his book. When challenged with the false charges of Sri Aurobindo's "madness", Heehs claims that he was merely "studying" the "suggestion" of "correlation between mental instability and genius"!

Will U.S historian get a visa extension? Times - 6 Apr 2012, 0841 hrs IST
Puducherry has been his home for the last four decades but America born historian Peter Heehs is now being forced to leave India after the Regional Registration Office at Puducherry has refused to extend his visa. Heehs had spent nearly four decades while working on a project of digitisation and archival of works of freedom fighter and spiritual leader Sri Aurobindo. His controversial biography of Sri Aurobindo- “The Lives Of Sri Aurobindo” maybe the root cause of his worry today, paving the way to his deportation.
But with the matter still under the purview of the Union Home Ministry, a worried Heehs can now only hope that the Government will listen to his appeal and let him stay in the country where he has spent 40 years of his life. Some historians had protested against the move of cancelling his visa and had also petitioned Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chidambaram for reconsideration of decision. 

Peter aptly defends his work and the Ashram Trust in this interview with IBN's Sagarika Ghose Link to: Peter Heehs TV Interview.

The Peter Heehs and Sri Aurobindo Controversy Discussed on Face the Nation By Columbia University Press April 6th, 2012 at 9:19 am
Recently Peter Heehs, author of The Lives of Sri Aurobindo was denied an extension of his visa to stay in India despite the fact that he has spent the last four decades there. His visa denial is a result of the continuing controversy surrounding his book about Sri Aurobindo, the revered Indian freedom fighter, religious leader, poet, scholar, and political and cultural theorist, who died in 1950.
Heehs’s book has been challenged by a small minority of Sri Aurobindo’s followers, who have successfully put appealed to Right-wing politicians in the Indian government to ban the book in India. On the Indian program Face the Nation, two followers of Sri Aurobindo and two scholars discuss the controversy and the increasing frequency on bans of and threats to writers and scholars in India. Posted by Columbia University Press in ReligionSouth Asian Studies

American historian Peter Heehs, whose book 'The Lives of Sri Aurobindo' has sparked protests and demands for him to leave India, says powerful people are pressurizing the government not to renew his visa. Heehs also said democracies should not ban books and his book on Sri Aurobindo is a scholarly biography which is an attempt to examine Aurobindo as a spiritual leader and not as an avatar of god. He was speaking to CNN-IBN Deputy Editor Sagarika Ghose.  .

Any Sri Aurobindo followers out there?

It is on April 4th, 1910, that Sri Aurobindo, after one month of hiding in a French territory, Chandernagor, near Calcutta, arrived in the other French territory the Divine had arranged as the permanent refuge from the British, where he could henceforth do his inner work for the world: Pondichery…
As for ‘Pondy’, as it came later to be commonly called, the coming of Sri Aurobindo gave it a new life and a new importance, putting it on the map of the places where the light of the Spirit was especially shining, in this case showing the way to the evolutive future of humanity and of the Earth as a whole.
Conversely, it was in Pondy that Sri Aurobindo himself started to read the Veda, and discovered at last in it the description and explanation of some very special experiences he was having, that he had not found mentioned in any other spiritual text: in the Veda only the presence of the Divine in Matter itself was revealed, he found, indicating the possible unveiling of it and re-divinization of Matter just as of the other parts of our being, The crucial difference was that for the awakening of Matter nothing but the power of the Supramental Consciousness could do it, not in the diluted form under which some of it reaches the terrestrial plane, but in its original highly intense vibratory frequency, straight from its own supreme regions, that Sri Aurobindo’s consciousness happened to have already reached before.

This Yoga of Sri Aurobindo is a revolution | Motherland - Prayers of ... ubliĆ© le 5 avril 2012 par Anita Guha Roy This Yoga of Sri Aurobindo is a spiritual revolution
‘The Synthesis of Yoga’ will be a wonderful lifelong friend. You will find in it almost everything connected with the yoga of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. One day, the future generations will recognise in them the most beautiful and forceful English ever written. ‘Savitri’ is the epic story of the aspiring human soul step by step rising to the Divinity. Messages in this topic (1)

American historian in trouble over a book on Sri Aurobindo he wrote 4 years ago, makes a public appeal after he is told to leave India 5 Apr 2012, 2104 hrs IST

AuroOne1 If you are, say, a Christian, wouldn't you want to know everything about Jesus Christ? You probably would, but the Church doesn't want you to. It wants you to accept and endorse the official narrative sanctioned by the Church. What is happening here is an attempt to establish an Aurobindonian religion. If you write something that does not conform to the official narrative of the Aurobindonian Church you are a heretic. This is the greatest possible travesty of all that Sri Aurobindo stands for.

200,000 hurt devotees in Orissa? Assuming they all know English, how did they read the book if it’s banned in Orissa?

Tweets Sagarika Ghose  @sagarikaghose Utterly tragic that groups are not letting Lives Of Sri Aurobindo be published in India... Heehs shd be celebrated not hounded 12:53 PM - 6 Apr 12 'The Lives Of Sri Aurobindo' by Peter Heehs. A must read for anyone who wants to know more about an exceptional life.. abs brilliant book 12:51 PM - 6 Apr 12 Aurobindo's dilemmas about West and East remain greatly relevant in a globalising world.. so much to learn from Heehs biography.. 12:55 PM - 6 Apr 12 Every fact scrupulously footnoted, every assertion researched, Heehs book is the product of a lifetime's work.. breathtaking 12:52 PM - 6 Apr 12 via web · Sandip Ghose  @SandipGhose - @sagarikaghose So if one "Ghose" (Sagarika) is endorsing another "Ghose" (#Aurobindo) - we must take note of it. @gchikermane #PeterHeehs 1:07 PM - 6 Apr 12 vicky  @193vicky Sri Aurobindo had an indian mind while his whole education was of west. When he started spiritual life he was in dialema @sagarikaghose 1:36 PM - 6 Apr 12 Ramesh  @netargument Peter Heehs shown the door by Gov of India, for Scandalous writing. Laine was similar. Jaffrelot, Russell are no better. 10:01 AM - 6 Apr 12 Gautam Chikermane  @gchikermane Respects to Jairam Ramesh for his unrelenting liberalism and support to Peter Heehs, whose exit from India would be a huge loss to us. 10:38 AM - 5 Apr 12 Mihir Jha  @MihirKumarJha @sagarikaghose a devotee of Peter Heehs, The Traitor, asks if there is any Sri Aurobindo fans on Twitter. Yes Madam, tell me. :56 PM - 6 Apr 12