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An Account of Prof. Manoj Das’s views

July 12, 2012

An appreciative reader of our blog  has posted the following account which we have found contains significant information and views on Prof. Manoj Das’s take on the events surrounding Peter Heehs book “The Lives of Sri Aurobindo.” As Prof. Manoj Das’s name has been used by anti-Ashram elements to justify their stand – as was recently done by H. Acharya during one of our dialogues – we believe that reproducing this account as a full-fledged post will put things in the right perspective. Highlights (bold, underline) in the text have been added by us.


Posted by “akd” on 2012/07/11 at 6:23 pm:

Dear Friends,

I do not know who you are but I congratulate you for your courage and no-nonsense stand. I have been reading the statements and counter-statements in yours as well as other websites with interest. I had no intention of participating in the exchange. But today I felt provoked to contribute to it because Shri H. Acharya brought in the name of Prof. Manoj Das to justify his Gurudrohi theory. My temptation to do so was linked to a coincidence. You may publish my statement depending on your estimate of its worth.

I am a devotee from Orissa and I knew the deep anguish Manoj Babu felt in his heart because of the role of several people from our state in this sorry episode. About three weeks back I was talking to him when a former student of the Ashram’s Centre of Education showed him a bunch of print-out of items circulating through different websites. He glanced through them and expressed surprise at the letters written by Shri Acharya. He told us that he knows a gentleman by that name for a very long time but that gentleman was highly sensible and conscientious and he considered him his friend. This Achaya must be someone else. However, as he felt uneasy at harbouring doubts about a gentleman whom he thought to be his friend, after some hesitation he telephoned to him before us. He sighed in despair as he understood that the Acharaya concerned was none other than his friend. I asked him, “Why did you not tell him that he was misguided?” The summary of what Manoj Babu told us in a sad voice is that he had lost faith in people whom he thought to be intellectuals and broad-minded. Not that they had ceased to be intellectuals, but they were under a terrible force of falsehood when they prided themselves to be defenders of Sri Aurobindo and his friendly advice was not going to be effective. He cited a case as an example. He was in Delhi for treatment when he heard about a relatively young man of Bhubaneswar busy collecting signatures against the Ashram Trust. Manoj Babu was sure that the young man had been misinformed and because of his great faith in him he called him up over phone and first informed him that what he proposed to tell him was strictly personal and confidential and he will tell only if he promises to keep it to himself. Upon the young man making a solemn promise, Manoj Babu suggested to him that let him read the book in question first and then decide upon his action. The young man promised to do so, but at the earliest opportunity, announced in a public meeting that Manoj Babu was trying to influence him. In that same public meeting two pioneers of the anti-Ashram move were heaping lie after lie on the audience. Manoj Babu is a disappointed man. He said, “If this is the nature of the educated devotees, if a book which is at best controversial can excite them like bigots of middle ages and make them gullible enough to swallow lies against the Ashram, as if the Trustees were not devotees, then what hope is there?”

Answering my question about Acharya’s argument that he was against the book, Manoj Babu explained that one evening when he was going to the Hall of Harmony for taking a class he saw one of his former students, now quite well known as a speaker and scholar, distributing some leaflets to a crowd of people. He gave a copy to Manoj Babu too. Manoj Babu read it at night. It was a virulent attack against the book and its author and it contained passages from the book that were offensive. Manoj Babu phoned the former student and asked him to meet him in the morning. He came and Manoj Babu told him, “You don’t want people to read the book; how is it that you are choosing the worst passages from it and distributing them among people who had no chance or enthusiasm to read the book?” The former student seemed to appreciate the point. Manoj Babu believes that he did not do so thereafter.

Manoj Babu had not read the book till then. He was given a copy of it by those people who are the crusaders against it now. They told Manoj Babu that the publishers have agreed to bring out a revised edition. It is for this reason and for this reason alone that Manoj Babu went through the entire book and detailed its defects, some technical in nature, some factual and some sentences here and there which he believed to be unwarranted. He also found that the quotations distributed did not carry the same offensive air when read in their context. Yes, he certainly did not like the approach of the author to his subject. But that is a position as far removed from what some people are doing today on the basis of the book. The difference was like between chiding a fellow who pruned a plant wrongly and murdering that fellow on account of that. Manoj Babu disapproves the approach George Bernard Shaw took to portray the personality of Joan of Arc. That does not mean that he would demand a ban on Shaw’s book or demand (if he could) the expulsion of Shaw from Britain. He was shocked when these people went to the court against the Ashram Trust, with the book as a pretext. He was shocked when these people went on character assassination of those who were in the Ashram administration. He was shocked that they would mobilise crowds who had never read the book sign petitions and make them sit in dharna before an institution that for him was the most harmonious and beautiful institution in the world. It was clear that the motive of these people was dangerously deceptive.

I thought it proper to put on record what I knew about Manoj Babu’s attitude to the book. He believes that no reader, if he reads the whole book, will feel unrewarded, despite its defects. He also said that what he sees as defects may be a certain approach the writer had taken. He also told us that the writer’s contribution to the building up of the Ashram archives was commendable.

I too have read the book. If the author of the book should be expelled from the Ashram on account of that book, those who are pioneering a movement against the book should be expelled before him. They do nothing for the Ashram except trying to destroy it. They do nothing for the devotees in far away Orissa and other places except confusing them with nasty leaflets and misguiding them, destroying their peace.

My appeal to these men who are playing havoc with the Ashram is to courageously come out of the mire in which they find themselves stuck, instead of dragging others to get stuck. They are not only spoiling the unique atmosphere of the Ashram, not only disturbing thousands of devoted visitors, but also are stabbing at the psyche of a few inmates of the Ashram whom they have recruited. These inmates should understand that they had come to the Ashram for Sadhana. Difficulties they are bound to face, but difficulties are necessary for their progress. Their leaders are hacking at the very foundation of the Ashram. If they cannot take control of the Ashram, let Government take it over. That is their intention. Well, these few inmates do not know whom they are supporting, that they are ringing the death-knell of their own souls. Far better it will be for them as well as for the work of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother if they leave the Ashram. They did not create the Ashram. It is the Mother who created it and it is Her Will that keeps it running. You and I have no right to change that Will; we can only change ourselves under the Blessings of that Will. Nobody of the present inmates was invited to join the Ashram. He or she submitted to the Will and found a place here. He or she can quit the Ashram if they cannot find any opportunity for their inner progress here. The Mother’s Will must be there for aspirants who would come in the future. Please stop playing with the fire of Mahakali’s wrath. Do not carry on signature campaigns like petty politicos. Let the Trust decide matters that fall into their domain. They are far far more responsible people than those who thrive on lies and on exploiting cheap sentiments of crowds. What they are doing is the exact opposite of spirituality. Thank you.

– A devotee from Orissa.


– Well-wishers of Sri Aurobindo Ashram –


From → Uncategorized

  1. Rajeev permalink

    Thank you AKD for your detailed account of the views of Shri Manoj Das. This shows how he is being misused by the anti-Trustee, anti-Ashram groups. What is very interesting to learn is your description of how Shri Manoj Das got drawn into the trap of these unscrupulous elements. You describe:
    “He was given a copy of it (the book) by those people who are the crusaders against it now. They told Manoj Babu that the publishers have agreed to bring out a revised edition. It is for this reason and for this reason alone that Manoj Babu went through the entire book and detailed its defects, some technical in nature, some factual and some sentences here and there which he believed to be unwarranted.”
    Shri Manoj Das acted out of good will, but these shameless people have misused it. But now the truth is coming out.

  2. PKS permalink

    The former student that Manoj Das met in the Ashram school is unmistakably Sraddhalu Ranade. But Manoj Das is being too generous in suggesting that Sraddhalu had appreciated the point that Manoj Das was making and that he had stopped distributing leaflets. On the contrary, Sraddhalu only pretended to appreciate the point. Because it is well known that Sraddhalu not only insulted Manoj Das in an exchange of open letters but he was also conducting his business of mass propaganda as usual, except that he started using aliases like Prof. Kamal Das. Sraddhalu is an incorrigible offender and corrupted to the core. If he had even an iota of conscience left in him he would have shut down his rotten website which is nothing else but “the central hub of lies” of the Ashram. If someone has brought shame to Sri Aurobindo and the Ashram it is Sraddhalu and his friend Jayanto. Their only concern is how to fill up their pockets with as much money as possible. They hope that they could take over the Ashram and rule it as they wished. We all have to make sure that this doesn’t happen.

    • V. R. Roy permalink

      Dear “PKS”,
      I refer to your conjecture about Prof. Manoj Das’ former student who was distributing leaflets with abominably constructed stuff. I have ascertained that he was not Sraddhalu Ranade. In fact this gentleman had never been Prof. Manoj Das’ student. The student concerned was Shri Anand Reddy. Prof. Das believes that he stopped distributing leaflets after being pointed out the irony inherent in his action – that he was making people read what he thinks to be too bad to be read. Maybe Prof. Das’ belief or impression is influenced by a teacher’s natural affection for his student. In my view Sraddhalu Ranade is incorrigible.
      Vivek R. Roy
      (A literary reader of Shri Manoj Das)

  3. RK Mohanty permalink

    This AKD may be Dr. Ashok Kumar Das. That does not matter. One thing we devotees do not understand is why when the Ashram has such a huge Theater building, the Managing Trustee call upon a meeting of atleast a few from both the sides in presence of the dignitaries like Prof. Manoj Das to deliberate upon the issue on a very friendly & cordial manner? Is he afraid to face the inmates of his own ashram?

    RKM from Odisha
    [Editor’s note: This comment qualifies as a “Miscellaneous Comment”. Henceforth such unrelated comments shall be moved to the “Miscellaneous Comments” page.]

  4. M. Mohapatra permalink

    Dear Shri RK Mohanty:
    You say you are a Devotee. I know that this is become very fashionable nowdays to call one self a “devotee.” But can you please tell us to what are you devoted? From your question you look like as though you are devoted to Shradhalu and his unnecessary, stupid dramas.
    If you are really devoted to Sri Aurobindo, then instead of promoting or suggesting useless, ridiculous drama in the theater please try to follow Shri Aurobindo’s advice of solving the problems from inside, within the self instead of trying to solve problems like monkeys with all their drama and monkey tricks. I know that reality TV has become a way of life, even marriage fights are shown on TV shows. But please be a little serious. Don’t lower spirituality to the road level.
    Senior, respected sadhaks like Shri Manoj Das Gupta and Shri (Prof.) Manoj Das know how to handle Ashram’s problems better than any of us. Nobody is afraid. It is Shradhalu who is afraid to loose all that he has and so he is trying to create as much problems and drama just to get publicity. But to all of us he only looks like a stupid monkey. Be devoted to him and you will ask stupid questions. Be devoted to our Great Masters and you will appreciate what the Ashram Trustees are doing and be happy.
    If you are really devoted to Shradhalu, instead of wasting time with his stupid, useless ideas, use your good time to tell Shradhalu to stop insulting our Great Master’s Spritual Ashram. He will only destroy himself as it is already happening to him. The more he tries to hurt the Ashram, the more he will get hurt. Everyone can see it is happening just like that. His life in the Ashram is now finished. For his own good let him move on. Those who want to follow him can also go and follow him.
    M. Mohapatra
    [Editor’s note: This comment qualifies as a “Miscellaneous Comment”. Henceforth such unrelated comments shall be moved to the “Miscellaneous Comments” page.]

    • RK Mohanty permalink

      Mr. Mohapatra. Your remarks against my simple suggestion shows how impatience and stupidity you have in store with you. I’m not devoted to any person but to the Master alone which psychophants like you floating in air can never judge in your life time. Instead of deciding about others’ activities in or outside ashram, its better for you hollow men to look into your own business. And stop using such languages at anybody whosoever he may be, else you would not be spared. Time for idiots like you are running out very fast.

      RK Mohanty
      [Editor’s note: This comment qualifies as a “Miscellaneous Comment”. Henceforth such unrelated comments shall be moved to the “Miscellaneous Comments” page.]

      • permalink

        Dear Mr. Mohapatra,

        As Mr. RK Mohanty has pointed out to you, try not to be an idiot – that is Mr. RK Mohanty’s exclusive privilege. You are trespassing into his domain.

        You stop deciding about others’ activities – that is Mr. RK Mohanty ‘s function

        You look into your own business – Mr. RK Mohanty will look into those of others

        You are a hollow man – Mr. RK Mohanty of course is full of stuff

        Remember Mr. RK Mohanty gives simple solutions – after all he is simply a simpleton

        I hope you have understood

        – from anther the cousin of Mr. RK Mohanty namely Aar Key Mohanty
        [Editors’ note: This comment qualifies as a “Miscellaneous Comment”. Henceforth such unrelated comments shall be moved to the “Miscellaneous Comments” page.]

      • M. Mohapatra permalink

        Dear Shri RK Mohanty, Yes I am impatient and intolerant towards people like you who call themselves devotees of the Master, but who instead behave like devotees of Sradhalu who is only interested in insulting and harming the Ashram. Who has ever asked for your suggestions? Did Shri Manoj Das ask you for his advise? Is Shri Manoj Das giving you his advise on how to be a devotee or live your life or manage your work? No! Also, if you think that it is only your exclusive privilege to insult people, calling them cowards, you are mistaken. We are also free to treat you however we want. Odisha is still a free state and we are free to do whatever we want in our state and country. Who are you to tell us what to do? If my time is running out, your time has gone a long time ago.

        [Editors’ note: This comment qualifies as a “Miscellaneous Comment”. Henceforth such unrelated comments shall be moved to the “Miscellaneous Comments” page.]

  5. Govind permalink

    The first time that I read Peter’s book I liked it. Then I was taught and tutored to read it in a way so that I don’t like it. Even the Mahabharata and Ramayana can be read in a manner in which these epics appear to be immoral and unethical. Thus, when Prof. Manoj Das was asked to suggest improvements to the book, he must have read the book with an over-critical mind, like I did the second time. I must admit that it is unfair for someone like H. Acharya to use Prof. MD’s critical remarks out of this context. Although I have my own, personal nuanced and conflicting interpretations of the book, I appreciate AKD’s account which sheds much light on an issue which need not have assumed such exaggerated proportions. The time for the book’s critics to back off in humility is long overdue.

  6. A Devotee permalink

    Indeed if you look for faults you will surely find them – if you do not find them – unconsciously you will manufacture them.

    After all the Gita was sought be banned in Russia because among other things, it promotes or at least condones:

    quarreling between cousins
    killing of a grandfather for the sake of grabbing property
    assassination of teacher and instructor by trickery
    sharing of multiple marriage partners
    use of deception and crookedness as legitimate means when you want to win

    I can go one adding and create a very long list……

    If you want to find faults , if you go with a magnifying glass , if you decide to fish out what you would choose to call defects – be sure of one thing, you will come out with your hands full….

    Try , and you would be able to find if you choose to, pornography even in the Bible or the Koran or the Veda. That would not be a difficult task.

    – A devotee who refuses to be identified with any nation or province in India

  7. RK Mohanty permalink

    [Editors’ note: This comment has been moved to the Miscellaneous Comments Page.]

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