A Factual Analysis on the Present Controversy
CONTROVERSY INITIATED BY SOME DEVOTEES IN SRI AUROBINDO ASHRAM
A FACTUAL ANALYSIS AND FEW OBSERVATIONS
- The present controversy brewing in Sri Aurobindo Ashram that is triggered by the reaction of some devotees and followers of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother to the biography of Sri Aurobindo written by Peter Heehs, which, as alleged, has hurt their feelings. In this connection, we do not have any reliable and objective data to assess the number of persons whose feelings are really and reasonably hurt after actually reading this book, which would justify any agitation. However, the persons who are unhappy with the presentation of the book have preferred to initiate an agitation and under the pretext to uphold the dignity of Sri Aurobindo and his Ashram have targeted the trustees of the Ashram. In this drive they are doing all that they can to tarnish their image and are determined to ensure their ouster by any means fair or foul with a plea to change even the constitution of its trust to serve this cause.
- Prima facie, it appears that the rationale and mode of operation of this agitation is not in consonance with the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.
- The promoters and monitors of this agitation have claimed that all that they have done and are doing aims at upholding the dignity of their Gurus Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and safeguarding the interest of their work, but facts as they are tell another story. The steps taken by them illustrate their strategy. They have attempted to humiliate and intimidate the trustees of this Ashram through the crowd gathered from near and far at some cost and to pump vehemently and ceaselessly in public mind the manipulated and malicious information in this connection through different media and through the meetings organized in the different cities. While proceeding with this drive they had gone to the extent of holding unscrupulous street demonstrations and exhibiting the promo of the withdrawn video clip of a scandalous sting operation which some of them might have managed through a popular T. V. Channel. Besides, their conscience could not restrain them from indulging in character assassination of these trustees. All these are evidently the patent tools of falsehood to ensure its survival. It reveals their stance to construct truth out of the easily available bricks of falsehood.
- Fair play, which necessitates transparency in thought and honesty of purpose, is the minimum requirement in the different dealings for a man of culture, much more important especially for those who pursue the course of spirituality. However, the people who claim to be the spiritual seekers closely associated with the work of the Mother, some of them being impressive writers and orators do not feel any guilt while compromising with even this primary requirement. Nor do they feel any discomfort in approaching politicians to procure an out of the way help and assistance in their drive, which would certainly create an opening for an uncalled-for interference in the affairs of the Ashram by outside agencies.
- It is quite strange that these people do not realize that thus their guns have only targeted the work of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, whom they adore as their Gurus, under cover of targeting the trustees. Besides, in order to accomplish the task that they have undertaken, they have simply abused the respect of the people that they had earned in virtue of their being inmates of Sri Aurobindo Ashram and especially as scholars and preachers of the Integral Philosophy and Yoga. This certainly is not in consonance with the fundamentals of even their preaching, but directly contradicts it.
- These friends for serving their dubious cause intend to remodel even the constitution of Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust and to replace the present management of this Ashram by what they call a broad-based and democratic organizational set-up. They propose to involve in this set-up the participation of the devotees who are associated with Sri Aurobindo Society and its Branches and Centers all over the world, besides the Ashramites, all Aurobindonions as it is said, mysteriously excluding the participation of Auovillians in this venture. They hope that this provision would ensure transparency and accountability of the management and bring in the life of the Ashram a sort of order, which would enable them to manage things impersonally in accordance with the well-set rules and regulations enunciating the specific rights and duties of the Ashramites, leaving no scope for injustice or for malfunctioning and corruption.
- The Mother in her mission to make even the managerial and organizational work a part of Yogic Discipline had initiated in the Ashram a new mode of administration of its affairs oriented towards promoting inner governance that would be receptive to the guidance of Higher Consciousness. It is quite possible that one comes across a few flaws in the working of the Ashram and its trustees in spite of their adopting this innovative practice. This happens because of its emphasis on the change of consciousness, which is a slow and difficult process as it has to deal with the still unregenerate human nature and has to encounter its die-hard habits, also because the people working on this new experiment are still sadhaks and not siddhas, who might commit a mistake here or there. Besides, the Mother believes not in performing miracles but in pursuing sincerely the line of evolution to achieve the goal.
- However, the immediate consequence of the apparently innocent proposal of these friends would be to shelve arbitrarily the experiment initiated by the Mother and revert to the organizational set-up having its faith in the mode of external governance and in the well-set mechanisms. This would amount to disowning the Mother. Secondly, the prescription of broad-based democratic set-up would open the gates for the rule of the mobs under the glamorous garb of Democracy, which is at the root of the evils that we are presently suffering in our country and even in the world at large. Finally, it would lead to institutionalizing the teachings of Sri Aurobindo, which might culminate into developing a well-knit Religion in his name and brand, a Religion that would fall in line with some of the existing Religions in the world.
- It is exactly what should not happen as far as Mother’s work is concerned.
- The existing Religions or specifically the Institutional Religions in the world had attempted to transform the Truth revealed to some saints or prophets into an intricate theology or dogma with concurrent rituals and codes of conduct. Moreover, they had insisted upon the necessity for the faithful followers to ensure conformity of their behavior with the prescribed standard or norms and had devised the complex mechanism of reward and punishment to get things done.
- These Religions took up these Revelation as the Absolute Truth, out of the sheer regard for the spiritual personalities, whom people adored as Prophets. They gave it the status of the Absolute Truth, a Truth beyond and besides which there is nothing. It was for them the final message delivered by God to the humankind for its good, which should command the unequivocal adherence of all humans.
- This belief in the finality of the basic concepts or ideals espoused by Religions encouraged the move for their horizontal expansion, while inadvertently sidelining the vertical growth. This happened because they regarded an aspect of Truth as the whole truth, which left no scope for any other quest or for the quest beyond. This state of affairs inculcated rigidity of approach, which eventually generated intolerance towards differing views. It caused conflict between the different sects, which at times had acquired criminal dimension. The agitating devotees of the Ashram while exhibiting such intolerance in the present context have exposed fully their religionist bias.
- Eventually, these Religions lost their contact with the genuine spiritual practice and promoted dichotomy of faith and reason, which led to the division of the religious life, which belonged to the domain of faith and the mundane one to the one of the reason. It created a scope for hypocrisy since the two lives have to unavoidably coexist and interact with each other. This state of affairs has generated the belief of an unbridgeable gulf between Principles and Practice.
- Moreover, because of the conformism promoted by these Religions the emphasis on the inner spiritual quest or growth in consciousness that is raison d’ etre of Spirituality was shifted to the conformity of behavior with the preconceived standard. This paradigm shift further instilled in the believers the faith in the efficacy of the prescribed rituals giving credence to the externalist view and approach to life, which made spirituality quite redundant. Thus, these Religions succeeded in preserving the body of the Truth at the cost of its soul.
- And now we come across a move to corporatize the Religious Institutions in order to make their working more effective as is done in the professionally managed corporate establishments, and thus the Religions are gradually being transformed into Mega-establishments dealing with the so-called Spiritual Goods.
- Thus, one would see that the source of inspiration of these friends in their effort to reform the Ashram is not the teachings of the Mother, but the Ideology subscribed by the prevalent Religious, Political and Business or Industrial Establishments. However, this ideology has lost its significance as far as further progress of Humanity is concerned, which necessitates the spiritualization of life as such. This amounts to serving the mission of the Mother like a legendary trader who would certainly worship his God but would prefer to keep Him away from his routine life and business. This approach found its support in the prevailing ideology, which took for granted the rift between God and mundane life as the final truth of existence and subscribed to the view that the earth and heaven would never meet.
- These friends are thus unknowingly working to perpetuate the old order of life while resurrecting the old mode of working, which the Mother was and is attempting to transform. However, the mission she has undertaken is not an easy task, since the old order, which has established itself firmly in the life of humanity, would certainly offer its resistance before it disappears and would make inroads to upset her work. It has made such inroads in the Ashram through the medium of these devotees.
- The prevalent mode of regulatory working with its prescription of several external sanctions is in tune with the ill-conceived notion of man as a self-centered mental being whose behavior needs a provision to control him for his personal and social good. It became necessary because man is very much prone to a variety of unruly and undesirable vital cravings, the cravings of the lower vital being. It presumes distrust in the basic human nature, which if left on its own would operate in the manner detrimental to his existence and its progress. The present-day society and its Institutions are subscribing knowingly or unknowingly to this faith while they remain busy in devising and operating a variety of mechanisms to tame the legendary wild horse in the interest of civilization and culture.
- However, since the man in the very scheme of things, or as it is said, his being in the process of evolution is required to outgrow this state of consciousness for a greater destiny, there has arisen a dire need for its change for which the Mother has been working. Her first step in this direction was to initiate a new approach to organize and manage the Ashram with an emphasis on freedom in thought and action in order to facilitate inner governance with a view to create an opening for the influence of Higher Consciousness in the actual working. It would not amount by any stretch of imagination to being lax and chaotic or subscribing to the laissez-faire order under the guise of freedom. This approach entails the sincerity of the purpose and clarity of the aim to prepare man for the Divine Life on the earth, in view of which it has departed from dogmatism and conformism for good. Thus, the adherence of the trustees of this Ashram to this mode of working does not amount to promoting or encouraging, much less to protecting and shielding any libertine behavior as alleged by these friends.
- The decision of the trustees of Sri Aurobindo Ashram not to join hands with the self-styled protectors of the dignity of the Gurus appears to be quite in consonance with this new approach initiated by the Mother and is quite judicious. Thus, the charge of undermining the dignity of the Ashram leveled against them is baseless and bereft of truth and so is the similar charge leveled against some devotees, who did not oblige them in denigrating the Trustees on this count and did not support their holier-than-thou attitude. Hence, one can reasonably assert that it is not the controversial book of Peter Hees, but the move to remodel the constitution of Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, that constitutes the hostile attack on her Work.
- Might be this book has certain deficiencies, but it does not come anywhere near the agitation of these so-called devotees in causing damage to the work of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother although their attempt is mischievously covered by pseudo-righteousness. However, there is no cause for worry as our Masters, like the physical Sun, shine by their own Light, which would not lose its luster even by the worst of dust storm.
- The Mother was and is ceaselessly fighting the grim battle with all Her Power and Strength so that the rule of falsehood upon the earth comes to end, establishing here the reign of Truth. However, being a realist, she did warn us that the falsehood would rise in full swing before its rule ends, and that this is an Hour of God. Things as they are, are unexpected, so is the Victory of the Truth. It is imminent. No power on the earth would succeed in setting back the cloak of evolution.
- Hence, those who Love her should remain unperturbed in the present untoward circumstances, when some so-called devotees are striving in her name to perpetuate the rule of falsehood and remain busy inciting people to support them in this uncanny revivalist endeavor. It does not matter whether they are doing it knowingly or unknowingly.
- She will certainly take care of us and of her work. However, one shall have to stand by her and see that he or she does not digress from the path and do a thing, which is not in tune with her teachings even in order to encounter this hostile move or for meeting the worst of exigencies. Ours would be the duty to strive to become living embodiment of her teaching. Utter transparency is the need of the hour. Let others do their worst. It is their problem.
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Govardhan Dave is a senior and scholarly disciple of Sri Aurobindo and an educationist. He was in close touch with Ambalal Purani and M.P. Pandit. The author was known to be close to M.P.Pandit and was considered to be M.P. Pandit’s right hand man, his representative, his “lieutenant” and “mouth-piece” in Gujarat. In the 1970s, he was also publishing the Gujarati edition of Sri Aurobindo’s Action. The author publishes other articles on his blog: In Quest of True Education.
It is important to note this as Sraddhalu Ranade is one of the leaders of the movement against the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and it’s Trust, and is trying to extend his influence among the larger Aurobindonian community because of his M.P. Pandit “lineage.”
- Well-Wishers of Sri Aurobindo Ashram -