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“Ashram Affairs” from Auroville Today, October 2013 Issue

October 26, 2013

The October 2013 issue of ‘Auroville Today’ has carried a thoroughly researched report on recent ‘Ashram Affairs.’ The online version of this report is not yet available on the AVT website. While we await the online edition, we are making copies of this report available on our website. A PDF copy and version of the report can be downloaded here.

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Retired High Court judge appointed to probe allegations against the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust

The entrance of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram

The entrance of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Source: Auroville Today.

On August 30th, 2013, Justice K.K. Sasidharan of the Madras High Court appointed Justice P.R. Raman, a retired judge of the Kerala High Court, as inquiry officer to probe whether there is any truth in four allegations lev elled against the Sri Aurobindo Ashram: (1) sexual harassment of women and children; (2) violation of human rights and denial of fundamental rights to the inmates; (3) misappropriation of funds; and (4) illegal sale and lease of Ashram properties. The judge will be assisted by advocate Ms. Sathya Sri Priya Easwaran of Kochi.

The Madras High Court rejected pleas for dissolution of the Trust and the appointment of a neutral administrator to run the Ashram. Saying the inquiry should be concluded as early as possible, Justice K.K. Sasidharan adjourned the matter to November 4, 2013 for further proceedings.

How it all started

Five years ago, in issue # 234 of August 2008, Auroville Today published an interview with author Peter Heehs and a review of his book The Lives of Sri Aurobindo, which had just been published in the USA by Columbia University Press. Some people lauded it as inspiring and ground-breaking and making Sri Aurobindo accessible to an entirely new readership. Others feel that the book denigrates Sri Aurobindo.

Amongst those who object to the book, a few people took action. On the basis of extracts of the book compiled by them (the book is not available in India) they managed to obtain an interim order from the High Court of Orissa in Cuttack, to the effect that the book cannot be published in India until the publisher receives a No Objection from the Home Ministry and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting of the Government of India.

They also successfully moved the Government of Orissa to take action against the book. In April 2009, the Government of Orissa issued a Government Order that “every copy of the book … be forfeited to the Government” on the grounds that “the book contains matters that are deliberately and maliciously intended to insult religious beliefs of millions of Indians who idolize Sri Aurobindo as a National Hero and incarnation of “Almighty” and which promotes communal dissatisfaction affecting public peace and tranquility.”

But they were not successful in instigating criminal proceedings against Heehs in Orissa, nor in convincing the Government of India to remove the author from India. They then petitioned the High Court of Madras to direct the Managing Trustee of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, the Regional Registration Officer of Pondicherry, the Foreigners Regional Registration Officer in Chennai, and the Superintendent of Police (North), Pondicherry, to deport Heehs forthwith. This Writ was dismissed on 28 April 2010, as the power to grant or refuse stay in India to a foreigner is the exclusive privilege of the Government.

The case against the Ashram

Having failed in these attempts, in August 2010 five persons claiming to be inmates of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram (Sraddhalu Ranade, Raman Reddy, Niranjan Naik, Sudha Sinha, and S. Ramanathan) filed a so-called ‘leave application’ at the Puducherry District Court against the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust and its Trustees. With this application the plaintiffs, who are claiming to be beneficiaries of the Ashram Trust, seek the leave of the court to institute a suit against the Ashram Trust and its Trustees which, they claim, have committed a gross breach of trust by “instead of promoting Sri Aurobindo’s tenets and philosophy … continue to harbour, defend and openly extend support to Mr. Peter Heehs, who authored The Lives of Sri Aurobindo, a sacrilegious book…”. Their views are prominently displayed at the website http://www.thelivesofsriaurobindo.com

The stand of the Ashram trustees to the book and the proposed expulsion of Heehs has been consistently unambiguous. “The Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust does not project itself in the role of dictating to readers and followers of Sri Aurobindo as to what they should read and what they should not read. Each person is at complete liberty to decide for himself whether he finds any book to be meaningful and useful, or whether he does not find it to be so, and Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust respects and has full faith in the intellectual and spiritual discernment of the readers. No one should or needs to force his personal opinions on any other reader in general, and more particularly on the fol lowers of Sri Aurobindo,” wrote Dr. Datta, Trustee, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, in a statement given to the Press. And he added that the issue whether the author of the book, who has been in the Ashram since the year 1971, can stay in India or not is a matter that is entirely and exclusively within the purview of the Government of India.

The Ashram also clarified that it is not an organization promoting any kind of fundamental ism or standardized conformism. Each individual should engage himself in a personal quest for spiritual Truth and find his own path best suited for his own inner development. “It cannot be emphasized sufficiently that Sri Aurobindo Ashram is a spiritual institution and not a conventional religious organisation – something that has been stated on innumerable occasions by The Mother Herself and which is also a position that has been confirmed by the Supreme Court in the famous Mittal Case [more popularly known as the case of Auroville against the Sri Aurobindo Society, eds.] Hence the Ashram has consciously decided neither to promote this book nor to condemn it. Each one is left free to read it and appreciate it, or not read it if the book is not to his or her taste.”

Unfounded allegations

The filing of the case against the Trust and its Trustees was resented by many members of the Ashram. The website iyfundamentalism.info, which deals with Integral Yoga and fundamentalism, after examining all the allegations against the book in great detail, concluded that they are completely unfounded. “The book is described in the wildest and most irresponsible terms which do not correspond to anything Heehs has written. The effect of this rhetoric is to draw attention away from the real motive of the petition. The legal action brought against the current Trustees attempts to replace the balanced and judicious men who are long-time direct disciples of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother with ambitious figures…This lawsuit is a direct attack upon the rules, structure and functioning of the Ashram itself. It is an open attempt to take over the Ashram.” The website further states that the efforts to destabilize the Ashram are being openly assisted by a few other members of the Ashram.

Auroville and the Auroville International Centres also responded negatively to the filing of the affidavit against the Ashram. In September 2010, The Working Committee of the Residents’ Assembly sent a letter of solidarity and support to the Ashram Trustees, and individual Aurovilians too have written to the Trustees offering their support. The decision of some Auroville International centres to dissociate themselves from one of the main petitioners, Shraddalu Ranade, was soon followed by the other centres. In October 2010, they jointly sent an open letter to the members of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram expressing their concerns about the legal action instigated by a few members of the Ashram community and offering their support to the trustees. [see also Auroville Today issue # 256 of October 2010.]

The stand of the Sri Aurobindo Society

If these institutions were clear that the appreciation of the book is a personal matter and should be left to the individuals, the office bearers of the Sri Aurobindo Society decided otherwise. As early as September 2008, a member-executive of the Sri Aurobindo Society’s Executive Committee had sent a letter to the Ashram Trustees in which he writes that “with a combined effort we have to block completely the printing of the Indian edition and explore what can be done to stop the distribution of the American edition”. He presents The Lives as “a direct attack of a very hostile and evil force which has been able to enter because of our lack of purity and sincerity, and which is using us as its instruments to directly malign Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and to delay their great work of transformation of humanity.”

This view was repeated almost four years later in an “Important note for all the Members, Branches & Centres of the Society on the book ‘The Lives of Sri Aurobindo’ by Peter Heehs” from the Executive Committee of the Sri Aurobindo Society, published in the June 2012 edition of its All India magazine. After stating that the book contains misrepresentations and distortions and puts down other biographies, it concludes that the Sri Aurobindo Society strongly disapproves of the book.

Three court cases now pending

The attacks have been continuing on two fronts. One is the official one, in the Indian courts. While the Cuttack High Court is still to give the parties a hearing before giving its final order on the banning of the book (no Government Ministry has given any statement on it), in a separate court case Heehs has challenged the Orissa Government Order. In this case, the Court has asked for clarifications from the Government of Orissa. Both these cases are pending.

The Puducherry District Court, on February 15, 2011, allowed the Leave Petition. It overruled the objections of the Ashram that the petition was not bona fide as those initiating the case were not representative of the Ashram inmates, had not stated how they had been affected, and that also the views of those in favour of the book should be taken into account. The Ashram subsequently appealed the decision at the Chennai High Court, which, for technical reasons, referred the appeal back to the lower court. However, once again the lower court rejected the Ashram plea.

The Ashram then appealed to the Chennai High Court for the second time. The High Court expressed the view that it is not in a position to comment on the merits of the book as the petition- ers (Shraddhalu and others) have not placed it before the Court. Further, the High Court concluded that even if the book would denigrate Sri Aurobindo, there is no breach of trust as the book has not been published nor is being sold by the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. It also affirmed that the fact that Heehs is staying in Ashram premises cannot be brought within the ambit of breach of trust. But it then concluded that, as many persons were disturbed by the book, they are espousing not a personal but a public call, and because of this public nature of the call, the Leave should be allowed.

The Ashram then appealed against this verdict with the Supreme Court of India, which disagreed with the position of the High Court that, because a few people feel affected, there is a public call. It ordered notice to the petitioners to give their views and in the interregnum stayed all proceedings of the lower court.

The matter is now pending with the Supreme Court of India.

Taking their fight to the streets

The court cases left many devotees of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother disgruntled if not disgusted. However, the court cases are as nothing compared to the subsequent attacks, especially those in the last two years.

Some of those who instigated the court cases started maligning the trustees in public lectures all over India; they brought people from outside to sit in dharnas (street protests) in front of the administrative office of the Ashram, which even led to the physical manhandling of one of the trustees; they instigated 68 Members of the Indian Parliament to sign a letter of enquiry addressed to the Ashram; they started circulating rumours of sexual misconduct and misappropriation of funds in the Ashram; and are suspected to be behind the pasting of posters all over Pondicherry carrying defamatory and malicious allegations against and pictorial representations of the trustees and executives of the Ashram. They were also instrumental in getting a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) of the Union Territory of Pondicherry to help convince the Pondicherry District Collector to order an enquiry into the allegations against the Ashram regarding alleged sexual harassment of women and children, the violation of human rights and the misappropriation of funds.

These acts resulted in many responses. One was from the Working Committee of the Residents’ Assembly of the Auroville Foundation, which, on February 29, 2012, made a public request to Savitri Bhavan to discontinue Shraddhalu’s talks there – they have since been suspended. Shraddhalu was also not given permission to speak about The Lives in a public venue in Auroville a few months later. As a member of the Working Committee clarified, “It should be stressed that the decision of the Working Committee and the response of the Bharat Nivas management are not based on the subject of the announced talk or anyone’s opinion about the controversial book. They are based on such facts as the following: Sraddhalu is one of those who have brought a legal case against the Ashram Trust and who in other less obvious ways have sought to undermine the Trust and so the Ashram itself. In addition, he was the spearhead of a movement to deprive a foreign member of the Ashram of the privilege of residing in India by pulling strings in Delhi. The obvious resemblances between these actions and the heavy-handedness of the Sri Aurobindo Society during the 1970s should not be lost on any Aurovilian.”

In August that year, the office bearers of the Sri Aurobindo Society issued a plea that all sides call a halt and “sit down together, introspect and talk to each other to hammer out a final solution with trust and an open heart.” Given the public stand and partisan stance of the Society against Heeh’s book issued only two months earlier, the plea has not been well-received.

Others supporting the Ashram trustees also fought back. The Golden Chain Fraternity, the organisation of the alumni of the Sri Aurobindo International Center of Education (SAICE), issued statements of support to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in an attempt “to ensure that external interference into the internal affairs of the Ashram is brought to an end.” A number of websites were created ‘to expose the lies of Shraddhalu and friends’ such as Auroleaks and Well-Wishers of Sri Aurobindo Ashram [:-)].

Also the parents and guardians of SAICE students took action. Aggrieved by the posters in which anti-Ashram elements had alleged that SAICE was allowing the sexual harassment of children,  several  of  them  sent  letters  to  the Lt. Governor, the Chief Minister and the Chief Secretary of the Government of Puducherry, stating that their children have not suffered any form of harassment or molestation. “Rather, there is a strong shared sense of safety and protection of our children in this school. Implicit in our decision to send our children to this school are our faith in The Mother and our trust in the School’s management and the Ashram’s Trustees.” The parents urge that steps are taken to stop the defamatory accusations immediately.

The Pondicherry government then agreed to order an inquiry into the posters put up against the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and assured that those responsible for it will be brought to book. However, at the time this article was written, no suspects had been apprehended.

The present case

Acting on the allegations of the MLA about financial mismanagement and other irregularities in the Ashram, the Puducherry Chief Minister told the assembly that his government would take a decision as regards appointing administrators to oversee the trust’s functioning.

The announcement triggered protests. A group of around 120 aggrieved inmates of the Ashram and other disciples of Sri Aurobindo lodged their displeasure to the MLA who raised the issue, stating their opinion that “there is a calculated attempt being made by a few disgruntled and misguided members in the community with active help from outside to wrest power from the present board of trustees.” They pointed out that the allegations are completely false and baseless, that there is not a shred of evidence to point to foul play and that, just because some people make noise, it doesn’t mean something is wrong.

The Ashram challenged the inquiry by the District Collector of Puducherry at the Chennai High Court. Not because the Ashram was against an inquiry into the complaints, but because the enquiry would be conducted by the Collector, who, said the Ashram, had a predetermined mind as was evidenced by the fact that the Collector had changed his regular counsel and, instead, had hired the same counsel who was also representing the litigants in cases against the Ashram. Then Justice K.K. Sasidharan, after getting the consent of the Ashram and the Government of Puducherry, decided that a retired High Court judge could be the inquiry officer, and a few weeks later appointed Justice Raman to conduct the investigation. This judgement was appealed by persons against the Ashram who had impleaded themselves in the case; but it was upheld by the Madras High Court.

The inquiry

The Ashram is happy with Justice Sasidharan’s order. “We are never afraid of facing any inquiry. We were concerned with the unfair and partisan manner in which the inquiry was sought to be conducted by the District Collector,” said a representative of the Trust. Moreover, in the past similar allegations have been made against the Ashram and official enquiries which probed into these allegations have found them to be utterly false. The allegations with regard to human rights violation, for example, had already been investigated by the National Human Rights’ Commission, which found them baseless. Similarly, in the past the National Commission for Women, after a detailed investigation, had also dismissed complaints of sexual abuses in the Ashram and had observed “that there appeared to be a malicious design in the manner in which the complaints have been lodged.”

The Golden Chain Fraternity, in a recent statement, called on all its members “to write to the enquiry officer and get registered any evidence for Ashram’s well-being. This is especially addressed to the women students who have benefited so much over the years. It would be woe unto us if we don’t do our best now.” It appealed to the office bearers of the Sri Aurobindo Society to mobilise its branches and get a resolution passed by every branch of the society against the false charges against the Ashram trustees. It also asked Auroville’s Working Committee, after calling for a General Assembly meeting, to do likewise. Lastly, it requested all devotees, admirers and well wishers of the Ashram to wake up and write to the enquiry officer and categorically state that all allegations made are evil and false.

What is behind

The attacks, obviously, have no longer anything to do with the book The Lives of Sri Aurobindo. “One can reasonably assert that it is not the controversial book of Peter Heehs, but the move to remodel the constitution of Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust that constitutes the hostile attack on Her Work,” wrote Govardhan Dave, a senior and scholarly disciple of Sri Aurobindo who was in close touch with Ambalal Purani and considered to be M.P. Pandit’s right hand man in Gujarat. In his long article “A Factual Analysis on the Present Controversy” he concludes that the promoters and monitors of this agitation intend to replace the present management of this Ashram by what they call a broad-based and democratic organizational setup. “They propose to involve in this setup the participation of the devotees who are associated with the Sri Aurobindo Society and its Branches and Centres all over the world, besides the Ashramites, all Aurobindonians, mysteriously excluding the participation of Aurovilians in this venture.” He then explains that “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. …The immediate consequence of this apparently innocent proposal [to make the present management of the Ashram more democratic, eds.] would be to shelve arbitrarily the experiment initiated by the Mother and revert to the organizational setup 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 setup 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,” argued Dave, and concluded, “It is exactly what should not happen as far as Mother’s work is concerned.”

This is also the view of a group called “The Well-Wishers of Sri Aurobindo Ashram”, consisting of long-standing devotees in Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu, India and abroad. In a Notice published in the newspaper ‘The Hindu’ on August, 3rd, 2013, they informed the public that “over the past several months some vested interests (a handful of disgruntled inmates supported by outsiders) are trying to seize control of Sri Aurobindo Ashram by launching a vicious and malafide campaign against it … It is our firm belief that these vested interests are trying to take control of the Ashram for their personal gain. We strongly condemn such selfish motives and actions and extend our full support to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and its office bearers.”

Carel

Addendum:

The Letter of 68 MPs

In July 2012, in a 14-page letter with 12 appendixes, the Sri Aurobindo Ashram responded to the letter of 68 MP’s of May 22nd, 2012, seeking clarifications of what they alleged was the ‘mismanagement of the Heehs affair.’ The letter of the 68 MPs had been annexed to a letter to the Ashram of ex-MP Shri Kartikeshwar Patra. However, though asked to furnish the list of the names and addresses and the contact numbers of these MPs, so that the Ashram could send the MPs the required explanations directly, this list was not provided by Shri Kartikeshwar Patra. It was found later that the signatures of two MPs had been affixed twice. That, and the fact that none of the MPs has so far responded to the reply of the Ashram, has cast doubts on the authenticity of the MPs’ letter. The response of the Ashram can be read at: http://auroleaks.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/ashram-responds-to-mps

For more information consult the following web- sites:

http://iyfundamentalism.info

https://wellwishersofsaa.wordpress.com

http://auroleaks.wordpress.com

www.thelivesofsriaurobindo.com

http://integralyogaimpostor.wordpress.com

http://qted.wordpress.com (for the article of Govindhan Darve)

Copyrights: Auroville Today.

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3 Comments
  1. Pradeep permalink

    The dirty tricks department of the Society is at it again. Not satisfied with the problems that they left Auroville with, the younger Poddar, Vijay is bent upon repeating the same story all over again with the Ashram. Shame on the Society. It is time for members of the Society to rise against this kind of egocentric, destructive path and really start following their real spiritual Masters instead of being led by these agents of falsehood,

  2. FACTUAL ANALYSIS OF THE CONTOVERSY INITIATED BY SOME DEVOTEES II
    I have read with interest the write-up of Mr. Sridharan on the article published in the ‘Auroville Today’ on the Ashram Affairs in which he has raised a few significant points which deserve clarification. Hence these detailed comments, which I hope would put the matter in almost right perspective besides clearing the misunderstandings that his presentation has created.
    1. Initially, I prefer to clarify the confusion created by his observations about my background which are based on misinformation and are not relevant to the issues under consideration and he too had not shown the impact of this background on my views expressed in the write-up under reference. He in his attempted research to dig it out has come across a concocted version which has prompted me to put the record straight. Till now I was avoiding to present the facts in this connection in public forum which would have caused embarrassment to some distinguished persons in Sri Aurobindo Ashram and Sri Aurobindo Society. But now in order to uphold the dignity of our Trust in Gujarat known as Navsarjan Society which is wedded to the Mother’s ideals and of which I am one of the founder trustees, as well as that of the Society of which I am a life member, and also of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, which I adore, it has become necessary to reveal the real facts.
    2. To say that Sri Aurobindo Society had stepped in to offer financial aid when the School managed by me was running in loss is far from truth, as this Society actually had not taken any initiative to help us, but it was just dragged in by its office-bearers and that too in the mire of corrupt practices, under the pretext of helping us but evidently to serve their dubious intentions as would become evident from the verifiable facts related herein under.
    3. After I retired from the active management of the Navsarjan Trust in June 2007 a team of our three trustees namely Roshan Dumasia, Apurva Joshi – who are attached to the Ashram in some manner – and Kamal Mangal – basically a businessman – took over the management in September 2008. Their mismanagement culminated in the Government passing an order to withdraw the affiliation of our prestigious School having 40 years of reputation in Gujarat and forced its closure. This team then made efforts in explicit and implicit manner to facilitate the transfer of the management control of our Trust to the one managed by Kamal Mangal which does not subscribe to our ideal. These efforts did not succeed because of my insistence on preserving the identity of our Trust and keep intact its property.
    4. Under these circumstances when no other trustee was willing to make any kind of effort to salvage the Institution, I moved all alone and after several efforts succeeded in obtaining a reliable assurance of help to the tune of 25 to 30 Crores of Rupees on the basis of which I prepared in January 2010 a detailed program to restart the School with better outfit from June 2010 and also for the total renovation of its entire campus.
    5. This proposal was duly verified by the trustees and then given written sanction. Subsequently, I made serious efforts to work out the program. However when the first phase of this program was nearing completion, this team mysteriously sabotaged the entire program in May 2010, since they feared that its success would have otherwise prevented fulfilling their dubious agenda.
    6. It is at this juncture that this team thought of transferring the responsibility of our work to some other party and with that in view it sought the help of Pradip Narang of Sri Aurobindo Society and on his advice appointed three members of its executive committee namely Pradip Narang, Vijay Poddar and Kaivalya Smart as Trustees along with two of its other members namely Akshay Mehta and Shreyans Jain. All these members were appointed in their individual capacity and not as representatives of the Society.
    7. This new team took over the management of this Institution, i.e. Navsarjan Trust in June 2011 with a mandate to take up some Constructive Program. However, while conveniently sidetracking this mandate, Kaivalya Smart on behalf of the team appointed his close relative, one Shraddha Mehta as Principal of a School, which was not in existence and under the pretext of monthly salary, arranged to send to her residence at Mumbai a hefty amount of Rs 45,000/- every month from July 2011 onwards, although she had done no work, nor was any work assigned to her in the Navsarjan and she had not even marked her presence in its roll for a single day. I alerted Pradip Narang about this dealing being not in order, but he instead of mending things preferred to approve it through a resolution adopted in a meeting held in January 2012 which was approved by all the members of his team and also by the three old trustees. He made an attempt through this resolution to justify the entire deal through an explanation that during this period she was working for Sri Aurobindo Society and was temporarily transferred to its roll. This excuse was evidently false as she was continued on our roll only and the salary amount that was paid to her was paid through the books of accounts of our trust.
    8. This team in order to arrange for such unusually out of the way dealings had preferred to open a special account in a bank at Nargol in the name of Sri Aurobindo Society, although no work of the Society was on the anvil there, nor was there any of its franchisees. In order to accomplish this uncanny task the above mentioned three members of its executive committee abused their power and authority and coerced the members of this committee to adopt a resolution for opening this account and also for regular remittance of money from its funds in this account to meet their personal obligations that had arisen out of their working in our trust. Thus the Society had to scoff off about thirteen Lakh Rupees over a period, might be more to oblige its office bearers. I wonder how these out of the way dealing would be accounted in the books of the Society which is a Society registered under the Societies Registration Act.
    9. Realizing the criminal implications of such an out of the way working, Kaivalya Smart in a bid to destroy the evidence manipulated the accounts and put the same for consideration in a meeting held in August 2012. Although I had duly acquainted these members including Vijay Poddar and Pradip Narang of the accounts thus being deprived of their reliability, none of them objected to such wrongful indulgence having criminal overtones.
    10. These above cited acts do not come any way near the avowed contention of Sridharan. Instead, they reveal how these two Institutions, Sri Aurobindo Society and our Navsarjan Trust were duped and defrauded by these persons who were supposed to be the promoters and protectors of interest of these two Institutions. They had thus tarnished the image of the Institutions which were held in high esteem by people. Hence, if Sridharan had taken care to verify his premises he would not have made such embarrassing and baseless observations about my background. It is needless to say that in a healthy dialogue people just dwell upon the merits of the contents of the issues involved and do not cast aspersions, and that too unfounded, and create thereby a prejudice against persons with whom they do not agree. I suppose his thoughtless reference to my background was not in good taste, to say the least.
    11. With regard to the Ashram trustees and Peter Hees referred to by him, I say that I do not hold any brief for either of them and my write-up under consideration was not meant to defend any party and denounce or denigrate another. If they are defended, it was just incidental and was not my motive. However, I do believe and repeat my observation made in my write-up under reference that the means employed by those inmates and devotees of the Ashram who had targeted its trustees to humiliate or intimidate them through the crowd gathered from near and far at some cost and in order to malign them to pump vehemently and ceaselessly in public mind the manipulated and malicious information through different media and through street demonstrations and through sting operations and character assassination or in order to accomplish short term gains to seek assistance of unscrupulous politicians etc. being patent tools of falsehood do not concur with the Mother’s teachings. I have also come across the stance of some other devotees of the Ashram who have used emotive or emotionally charged language in their zeal to defend the Ashram Trustees and had entertained the intention to pay the attackers in the same coin in order to give vent to their anguish and indignation. In this connection also I say that this style of presentation does not go well with the Mother’s Teachings. Actually for all those who profess to serve the Mother and desire to stand by truth there is a patent advice that implores us to behave as if She is looking at us, and indeed She is looking at us.
    12. Sridharan in this write-up seems to be worried about “why I had not presented my views on this controversy when it had erupted in August 2008 and had come up when an inquiry on the Ashram Trustees was sought from the Puduchery Collector”. In response, may I ask why he had sought to dwell over the alleged shortcomings of my write-up in December 2013 after I was quoted in Auroville Today, when it was already published a year before in December 2012? He would certainly find his answer as both of us were waiting for a right time.
    13. Sridharan’s another worry is why I did not express my views on several allegations made against the Ashram Trustees. In this connection I have to say that I prefer to express my opinion on matters when I am in possession of reliable evidence for proper evaluation. I suppose I am right when I discriminate between having information and having knowledge and do not jump to judge the matters from the surface appearances on a spur of the moment. Besides for my purpose when I had dispassionately presented my analysis of the facts related to the entire controversy in general, to opine on particular issues had become redundant. However this purpose is also served as the Ashram Trustees have now agreed to impartial investigation of the allegations made against them by a High Court Judge. If they were found to be averse earlier, it was against politically engineered investigation and not against investigation as such. I suppose, their stand was right.
    14. Sridharan seems to hold an opinion that Democracy because of its pluralistic orientation promotes freedom even to hold divergent views. Then why to put ban on the publication of the book written by Peter Hees on Sri Aurobindo. Would it not be violating the tenets of Democracy, if someone is denigrated because he does not support the demand to ban this or that book? And what ambiguity or inconsistency is there if Manoj Dasgupta at some point of time had found some faults in Peter’s book and then he pronounces in his capacity as the Managing Trustee of the Ashram that the Ashram does not prescribe or proscribe the book? Is this attitude not consistent with the Spirit of Democracy?
    15. And it is beyond understanding that the revised version of Savitri is made an issue on which people thought it wise to approach the Courts. Those who have attempted to decipher the hand writings of Sri Aurobindo have found it very difficult to say with certainty that their reading was perfect. Then what is wrong if the previous script was revised, when someone came across some mistakes, unless it is shown that some dubious intention had prompted such revision.
    16. And now about the central issue raised by Sridharan about my observations on the broad-based democratic set-up to replace the present working of the Ashram and about sarcastic remark made by him whether I prefer Dictatorship or Oligarchy or One Party Rule or Anarchy. With regard to my observations about Democracy turning into Mobocracy, he opines that the mob does not come to spiritual Institutions; it is only the spiritual elite, the psychically awakened who come to settle in the Ashram. Is it really so? Even the Mother in Her reply to a question as to how many persons in the Ashram had reached to the state of Nirvana had observed that there were very few there, the rest were children still to grow up, still to become mature. Hence, the membership of the Ashram of such persons, who are still a bit away from maturity, does not necessarily vouch for their fully imbibing the spirit of the Ashram, much less of their being psychically awakened.
    17. Moreover, as the proposal for broad-based management as it envisages participation of the devotees all over the world creates a greater mob, especially because in the present set up of life, the domination of the awareness of the Rights over that of the Duty generates conditions favorable to creation of a mob which would relegate those who are consciously pursuing Sadhana to a negligible minority. It is such mobs or masses known as public and their ideology, or rather lack of ideology that is found determining in some manner the working of our Governments, which are presently under dominating influence of the power of money and muscles. And when a mob come to a Spiritual Institutions and starts influencing its management there emerge a tendency to bring Spirituality to its level instead of raising the life of people to the level of Spirituality. This had been the fate of several Religions in the world. It is quite likely that the Ashram too might fall in line, and get exposed to the deviating influence of the prevalent state of affairs. Plato, who had envisaged this conversion of Democracy into Mobocracy is proved right by the present developments. Our Mother has moved far ahead of this stage of Human Evolution and has laid down the foundation of the new mode of management which would concur with the life to come.
    18. Historically Democracy is the product of the transition of the Society from its conservative pattern to the individualistic creating conditions favorable to the gradual replacement of the hold of the Traditions by that of Reason. But in the present stage of evolution of Man, because of the unregenerate state of the majority of the humans, Reasoning is found giving way to Rationalizing and the support of the enlightened public opinion which is the necessary condition of the success of Democracy remains unfulfilled. Consequently the Rule of Ignorance continues and Rule by Knowledge is still a far cry.
    19. As envisaged by Sri Aurobindo, humanity is to proceed to the transition from the Individualistic to the Subjective or Spiritual pattern of life, which alone would facilitate the replacement of the Rule of Ignorance by that of Knowledge. And it seems that our Ashram is an Institution chosen to work out the possibility of this transition for the mankind. To leave midway this experiment launched by the Mother and fall back to the prevalent mode of working because of our familiarity with it would certainly amount to disowning the Mother as brought out by me in my write-up under reference.
    20. And there is still a greater problem as the promoters of the proposal for the democratization of the Ashram management did not include the Aurovillians therein which amounts to saying that they do not qualify for participation in the management of the Ashram. This interpretation is confirmed by the attempt of Sridharan to equate Aurovillians with the Westerners and has promoted a theory of Indians there being dominated by the views of the Westerners in order to upheld this equation, might be in his role as a spokesperson of this team. While subscribing to this equation he seems to be quite doubtful about the allegiance of these Westerners to the work of the Mother and about their capacity to absorb Her influence in their beings. He also seems to believe that they were cursing the Ashram as a decrepit Institution and looking down upon it and therefore is wondering about their new-found respect that they have suddenly acquired and feels that their overnight support wells from selfish interest of a few foreigners who are more concerned about their visa than the spiritual future of Sri Aurobindo Ashram. On the basis of this diagnosis he has offered a remedy that these foreigners, which would or rather should include non-foreign Aurovillians, i.e. Brown Aurovillians (in the style adopted in the Colonial India in which some people were branded Black Europeans – Kala Angrej) should not be allowed to indulge in internal politics of this country where they were granted visa for the practice of Yoga and a certain limitation should be attached to their right to express their views as there is with Indians residing abroad. It appears that it is in view of this belief that this team of which Sridharan seems to be a spokesperson has virtually proposed to debar Aurovillians from participating in the proposed scheme and thereby has virtually rejected the Mother’s Synthesis of the East and the West and her vision of Global Township.
    21. Then would not the declaration of the Aurovillians being persona non grata cover the Auroville, it being contaminated by such Aurovillians? And what about Matrimandir? And while extending further this logic should it not be proposed to include Pavitra and Andre and the score of several other foreign Ashramites, and lastly or rather most importantly, the Mother herself also in their list of persona non grata? Then, why to keep Sri Aurobindo out of this list? He too at some point of time was a foreigner.
    22. There are still people in India who believe that the foreigners or even the foreign returns can never become spiritual and woman a guru. Are the promoters of this scheme heading towards joining this tribe? It is the height of absurdity where reason has no access. But incidentally it exposes their design to empower themselves with the right to redefine and decide as to which individuals or groups qualify to be devotees and thereby have sought to reserve for themselves the key position or rather the position of Kingmakers in the scheme that they have proposed for the management of the Ashram.
    23. However, Sridharan has opined that nothing of the sort was intended and has stated in the present write up that the group of inmates and devotees who have gone against the present trustees are asking the Government to intervene and appoint an interim or a permanent administrator for Sri Aurobindo Ashram and that they have never sought to appoint themselves in the place of the Trustees. Thus the proposal for the broad-based democratic management boils down to surrendering the Ashram to the Government to be governed by its nominee with a hope that he will resolve the differences that have arisen or would arise in future among the Ashramites.
    24. Thus according to these friends the differences could be resolved only by compromising with the identity of the Ashram and transforming it into an ordinary Institution managed by the Government. It is an irony of fate when the Enlightened Chiefs of the Progressive Schools and Universities are clamoring for autonomy and freedom from the Governmental interference, the devotees of an autonomous Ashram on its way to prepare for the advent of a New age for Humanity are inviting the Governmental intervention, even a permanent intervention as contended by Sridharan in his write-up, to mend things.
    25. Sridharan expects the Government, which is not capable to resolve its internal differences and dissensions, to resolve our differences through its nominee. Thus it appears that he has conveniently transferred his faith from the Mother to the present day Government. It is again another peak of absurdity from which the Spirituality could be pushed to deep valley without straining any one any further.
    26. Since Sridharan expects a Governmental nominee to manage things in the manner that would ensure impartiality and justice, which would certainly necessitate the well-defined rules and regulations for regular reference. This could be done by permanent or semi-permanent codification of the teachings of the Mother in the terms understandable by or acceptable to the present state of the mind in general. It is my apprehension that this move which inadvertently replaces the Mother by the codified version of Her teachings in order to meet certain exigencies might culminate in transforming the Ashram into a Static Unit practically facilitating the formation of a new Religion. And we find that the movement to create Religion on the basis of the Teachings of our Masters which is already on its way in the Ashram and more in the outside world might get accelerated if this proposal gets implemented.
    27. If so, is it possible to conveniently avoid codification? Then how would a Government and especially the Democratic Government function in absence of Laws i.e. without codification of the norms of behavior? Actually the Government itself is an Institution and operates through institutionalizations of its operations which necessitate the framing of the Rules and Regulations i.e. of the Laws which by their very nature are supposed to be the static formulations. It is this requirement that would certainly lead to the emergence or formation of Religions.
    28. Still Sridharan has faith in efficacy of the Democratic set up to resolve the contradictory opinions because of its pluralistic orientation and to bring in harmony where confusion prevails. Well, let us hope. But it contradicts our normal experience of the working of the Democratic Governments in the History of Mankind. Even when the Governmental set up or any other organizational set up has succeeded, it is because it had become a vehicle of the influence of some human good will, i.e. because it had become a medium of transmission of the Consciousness of some enlightened persons. Thus since the Consciousness holds the key, because of which the Mother had insisted upon the Change of Consciousness and I suppose that the Governmental machinery is not equipped to bring in the expected change. Probably the Religions are better placed in this respect because of their roots being a bit near to Spirituality. But even in their present form they also would fall short of the requirement.
    29. I would say that the entire attack on the Ashram Trustees is ill conceived and the remedy that is proposed to overhaul the Ashram management is self-defeating. One might disagree with some decisions of this or that person might be a real fault, but that does not warrant the reversal proposed eventually disrobing the Ashram of its essential characteristic or to say of its soul and make certain grievances an occasion to promote hatred in the community which is wedded to the Ideal of Harmony.
    December 17, 2013 Govardhan Dave

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  1. Govardhan Dave responds to “Sridharan” reg. ‘Ashram Affairs’ in AVT | Well-wishers of Sri Aurobindo Ashram

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