We have recently come across an article that was written by the late Jayantilal Parekh, a senior and greatly respected member of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, that was published in the June 2001 issue of the Mother India magazine. This article describes the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and its administration and was explicitly written by him in the backdrop of adversely critical articles that were being planted by anti-Ashram elements in the various newspapers and journals in order to malign the Ashram. Given that history tends to repeat itself, and that anti-Ashram elements like Raman Reddy, Sraddhalu Ranade, R.Y. Deshpande and their ilk have been resorting to similar anti-Ashram smear campaigns in the media, we have found it beneficial to also reproduce this clear, logical and most honest piece about the Ashram and its functioning.
As the article is comprehensive and detailed, it runs for a considerable length. The article however is divided in several distinct parts that cover the following topics which can also be read individually, depending on one’s interest or preference:
1) Aim of the Ashram
2) Growth of the Ashram
3) Membership of the Ashram
4) The Ashram Trustees
5) Functioning of the Ashram
6) Ashram Finances
7) Ashram Property
8) Educational and Cultural Life
9) Sex and Spiritual Life
THE SRI AUROBINDO ASHRAM AND ITS ADMINISTRATION
[During the past few years, several articles critical of the Ashram have appeared in newspapers and journals. These reports contain much incorrect, distorted and exaggerated information, conveying a wrong impression of the Ashram. The following statement is an attempt to answer some of the points raised in the articles and, more generally, to explain the aim, character and functioning of the Ashram as it has evolved since its founding in 1926.]
Aim of the Ashram
THE Sri Aurobindo Ashram was not conceived as a cloister for the recluse. It was not meant to be a place for the exclusive pursuit of the Absolute, divorced from the activities of life. It was, on the contrary, intended to be a centre of life with the Divine as its base and growth in the divine consciousness as its aim. It has a creative purpose, many-sided and complex, which is part of the evolutionary unfolding of the higher possibilities in man and Nature.
This conception is born of Sri Aurobindo’s view of human existence and its destiny. According to him, man is a transitional being caught in the knot of body, life and mind, yet he has the possibility of coming out of his limitations because there is a spirit within him which has the power to change life into its own image. In the past, individuals have often tried to achieve self-realisation by withdrawing from worldly activities, but now the time is ripe to make this endeavour without withdrawing from the world, using spiritual means to effect a dynamic solution of the increasingly complex problems of life.
The Ashram is not a planned project, but an adventure of consciousness with innumerable possibilities and dimensions. Such an intricate and difficult path, with its goal of transformation, creates its own difficulties for the common man’s under standing. This has been the main reason why some’ people have not appreciated the life in the Ashram with its seemingly laissez-faire attitude in certain respects. But according to Sri Aurobindo, any worthwhile unfolding ‘of the inner life must have as its base a large freedom.
Growth of the Ashram
The Ashram came into existence at the end of 1926. At the beginning it consisted of hardly two dozen members, some of whom had been associated with Sri Aurobindo earlier in Calcutta and joined him after he came to Pondicherry in 1910. The whole emphasis initially was on spiritual progress, the opening of the inner being and purification of the nature to receive the creative Shakti that was being invoked and coming down in response.
Later, in the 1940s, when children were admitted to the Ashram and a school was started, the Ashram became more broadbased and was organised into a well-knit institution with different departments and services. There was greater freedom of movement and seemingly less pressure of the spiritual Force. Over the years, this system of organisation has grown larger and become more complex. A full-fledged International Centre of Education, which is part of the Ashram, has also come into being with various activities and experiments. It is not unnatural that a community of over two thousand should have to face from time to time its own share of problems, considering all the resistances and impurities of people coming from many different backgrounds and levels of inner development.
Membership of the Ashram
In the early period, up to the 1950s, someone who wished to join the Ashram had only to approach the Mother, and if she permitted it the person became a member of the Ashram. There were no formalities, no initiation to be gone through by the newcomer. The Mother’s approval was the essential thing, both for one’s living conditions and spiritual guidance. However, the person was clearly informed about a written set of rules laying down a few basic conditions to be observed; the most important were no intoxicating drinks, no drugs, no sex-life and no politics. These restrictions on one’s outer life had to be observed.
It was also understood and expected that if the Ashram provided the newcomer with all the necessities and conveniences of life, he should in tum give his all, including wealth and property, to the Ashram. Although this was not made a condition, it was considered a kind of spiritual obligation. While many people came almost empty-handed, there were others who were well off and yet they gave everything. But in no case was a member made to feel that his material contribution determined the treatment and benefits he received.
It was also an aspect of the spiritual process that all had to do some physical work as their contribution to the common organised life of the community. The work assigned to each member was determined by the Mother in the beginning; later it was decided by those she had trained, on the basis of the perceived needs of the situation. The work assigned had to be taken as a part of one’s sadhana or spiritual effort.
The Ashram Trustees
Till 1950, the Ashram was Sri Aurobindo’s and the Mother’s estate by virtue of their being its joint spiritual heads. The Ashram was their property in the traditional sense of the word “Ashram”: the Master’s house and establishment. The seekers who came to the Master (the Guru) had no claims and they lived in the Ashram by the consent and grace of the Master. It was not an association, trust or legally constituted body.
A few years after Sri Aurobindo left his body in December 1950, the Mother decided to constitute the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust to administer and manage the affairs of the Ashram. She got it registered as a Public Charitable Trust in October 1955 in order to conform to the law of the land, and she formally set forth its central work and goal and objectives in a seminal way, without elaborating them, in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust Deed. Under the Trust Deed, a five-member Board of Trustees was responsible for the administration of the Ashram; the Mother remained its President and final authority.
After the Mother left her body in November 1973, the administration of the Ashram by the Board of Trustees has continued, with one of the Trustees being designated the Managing Trustee by a resolution of the Trust Board. Trusteeship is a responsibility and the work assigned has to be executed with the collaboration of all; it is not a position conferred on anybody as an honour. None of the Trustees has any declared spiritual status or claim. The spiritual authority of the Ashram rests entirely with Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. We firmly believe that their guidance and spiritual presence are ever here for all who need it and look for it. This has been the basis of work and organisation in the Ashram since the Mother withdrew from her body in 1973.
When a Trustee passes away or resigns, another is appointed in due course. It has been the practice from the beginning that responsible persons associated with the Ashram’s working are chosen as Trustees. As and when a vacancy arises, the choice of the person to fill the vacancy is a joint decision of the remaining Trustees, taken with the consent of the person so chosen.
Functioning of the Ashram
Work – physical work as well as intellectual, artistic and other kinds of work-has an important place in the life of the Ashram. All members take up some work as a useful contribution to the community and as part of their spiritual life. Beyond this, the practice of spiritual discipline is left to the choice and inclination of the individual and there is no imposition of any kind, direct or indirect. There is perfect freedom for one to meditate, pray, study or work, depending on one’s inclination, aspiration and understanding of the aims of the Integral Yoga as explained by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother in their writings. Each one has to find his or her own mode of approach to the Divine. But the one all-important factor is the palpable presence of the guiding light and power of protection that pervade the very atmosphere of the Ashram; this light and power are due to the subtle presence of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.
Although there is great freedom in the Ashram, it should be obvious that there can be no stable and healthy organisation unless the Trustees, who are the managers of the organisation, have the right to take corrective action when there is some errant behaviour on the part of a sadhak. This is true for the smooth functioning of any collective organisation, particularly in the area of work.
The Ashram is run largely on the donations and offerings of disciples, devotees and admirers. An attempt to achieve a degree of self-sufficiency was made at the beginning with the starting of a couple of agricultural farms and industries. More recently some small enterprises managed by disciples and members of the Ashram have also come up. These enterprises provide financial support to the Ashram and its activities by donating their profits to the Ashram under Section 35(1)(ii) of the Income Tax Act.
Due to the rising costs of housing, commodities and services in order to maintain a reasonable standard of living, the Ashram’s expenditure has been rising constantly. In earlier years the inmates lived in rented houses, which usually accommodated six or eight persons in a house. Gradually these rented houses had to be given up because the rents increased sharply. As a result, the Ashram was obliged to build large residential complexes in the space available on the lands in its possession. The costs of construction have run into many lakhs of rupees, but the work had to be done as there was no alternative available to the Ashram for accommodating its members.
The financing of the Ashram is not on budgetary lines; apart from recurring expenses, it is essentially need-based, depending upon the necessity and importance of the work and the availability of funds. Any surplus is invested in approved banks and financial institutions. Annual audited accounts are filed with the Government authorities and the Income Tax Department in strict accordance with the law. Tax exemptions to donors are available under Sections 80G and 35(1)(ii).
It has been reported that the Sri Aurobindo Ashram has property worth 500 or 600 crores of rupees. We have no idea who has estimated this improbable figure or what their method of reckoning was. But whatever be the figure, it does not mean anything to the life of the Ashram. The value of real estate has certainly escalated over the years and the process still continues. For example, a house purchased in Pondicherry for Rs. 25,000 some forty or fifty years back may now be worth Rs. 25 lakhs in market value, a rise of 100 times. But so long as the owner of the property does not indulge in speculative trading, this appreciation in value is only nominal and does not add in any way to its utility value to the owner; The houses belonging to the Ashram do not accommodate more members simply because the price of the properties has risen nor do its agricultural lands produce several times more crops than they used to do years back just because their monetary value has appreciated many times over. This fact is generally lost sight of by people who advance arguments against the Ashram. ‘
Educational and Cultural Life
It was Sri Aurobindo’s wish to see the Ashram grow as a spiritual centre in its fullest sense, embracing every aspect of life. Encouraged and supported by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, a distinct aesthetic and cultural ambience has grown in the Ashram. Writers, poets, painters, dramatists, musicians, dancers and others proficient in arts, crafts and skills of various kinds have blossomed and continue to do so. This cultural aspect of the Ashram has a special purpose and intention in the overall view of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Self-expression in various artistic forms is a training of the mind and the creative faculties of the being. To achieve power and beauty of expression is one of the great objects of education and culture. This aspect of life acquires a deeper meaning in a spiritual context, where the aim is communion with a higher Reality and an expression of its content.
Sex and Spiritual Life
The problem of sex and spirituality has been discussed through the ages. It is necessary to be clear-headed about it. Sex is neither a sin nor a perversion; it is a process of Nature, a biological necessity in animals and animal-man. However, it is inconsistent with true spiritual life because the sexual desire and act bring down the consciousness, whereas spirituality is an attempt to raise the consciousness and keep it stationed above the promptings of the lower nature. For the generality of men, this process of raising the consciousness is not simple or easy or even understandable. Even for the most ardent aspirants to the spiritual life, there are innumerable difficulties. During the process of the seeker’s sadhana, it is not unusual for him to have upsurges of sexual desire, which have to be progressively controlled, sublimated and transcended. This is the way in which a seeker of spiritual light and knowledge progresses; the ordinary man, on the other hand, lives within the ambit of his animal consciousness, tempered by social, moral and cultural constraints.
A seeker should not be shocked when this sexual urge surfaces and invades his consciousness. There is hardly any saint or sage who has not suffered from it at some time or other in his life before he attained spiritual enlightenment. Sri Ramakrishna, when he first became aware of it, wanted to kill himself if Mother Kali did not remove it from his nature.
Sri Aurobindo has dealt with the subject of sexual desire in many of his letters to disciples when they complained of its disturbance. He always said that this force of Nature, so deeply rooted in man, should first be seen as coming from outside, then controlled and ultimately transcended and transformed. Sex-energy becomes a crea tive power when it is purified and transformed. This creative energy has to be made a part of our life and not suppressed out of fear.
Sex need not be made a bugbear of spiritual life. It is only one part of the obstinate resistance of the lower nature. If there are falls in the course of one’s spiritual effort, if there are lapses in the process of self-purification, they have to be viewed with understanding and sympathy so long as the seeker realises his failings and does not try to justify them. Often for a long time, spiritual aspiration and the pull of the lower nature go side by side.
In the Ashram there is no attempt to hide instances of sexual lapses by individuals or to cover them up. At the same time, it is not necessary to publicise them or make a public confession of them for the gratification of the curious and the lovers of scandal, much less to fabricate stories which have no basis.
Having admitted children into the Ashram and taken charge of them, the problems arising from their attaining puberty cannot be ignored. Every boy and girl, the moment he or she reaches the age of puberty, becomes aware of the insistence of this force of Nature. It is a part of the problem that life has set before us to solve with love and patience towards the young. Spiritual life is not imposed on the children growing up here. It is for them to decide the course of their life when they are ready to take a decision on their own. Spiritual life can never be imposed on anyone. It is a call of the soul in its endeavour to conquer the lower nature.
In our Centre of Education, boys and girls study together, play games together and develop their physical and intellectual capacities in full freedom. Romantic ideas are not encouraged, but there is no segregation of men and women in cloisters; rather, a sense of responsibility for their behaviour is allowed to grow in them. If there is risk in this arrangement, the risk is taken with the full awareness and knowledge that men and women have to live together in life as well as in spiritual endeavour. This equality of men and women is being admitted in most countries and accepted even in spiritual pursuits. In our school, as in our Ashram, men and women are treated equally in all respects – in education, in work, in opportunities to progress.
The Ashram is an organisation which provides the needed atmosphere and facilities for those who seek to pursue the goal of our human existence as envisaged by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. The primary aim, as stated innumerable times by them, is for the individual to seek the Divine and come constantly nearer to Him. In this seeking, no social or political objectives come into play. The realisation of the Divine is the one ultimate objective and if this is not achieved, nothing is gained by the individual or the community. The facilities created in the Ashram are for this purpose only. If any individual finds that the facilities created by the Mother help him, he avails himself of them and follows the goal he has set for himself. If he does not find them agreeable, he has to find conditions suitable to him elsewhere.
All enjoy equally the facilities provided by the Ashram. There is no deliberate inequality of treatment of members, no intentional social inequality; a privileged class has not grown up here. It can be said without exaggeration that the Sri Aurobindo Ashram is one of the best-organised communities in the country in terms of living conditions: housing, nourishment, education, health-care, care of the old and infirm, and cultural avenues for growth and recreation. The Ashram provides an atmosphere with ample comfort, security and freedom of life. This is not to claim that the community and its working are perfect. A society made up of diverse human types from many cultures and backgrounds, having different degrees of growth, understanding and aspiration, is bound at times to exhibit prejudices and imperfections; but it is in such a mixed milieu that life has to exist, flourish and find its fulfilment to whatever degree it can.
If there are problems in the administration of theAshram as an institution, solutions to them can only be found by people who have travelled the spiritual path shown by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother; and these people must have understanding and benevolence and sympathy for evolving humanity. There are no short-cuts on the path of transformation, but a combined effort does help. Problems of disharmony must find harmonious solutions by the parties concerned, if possible free from unnecessary controversies and their distorted display in the news media. The press is not the best place to discuss the trials and tribulations of spiritual life; exaggerated and misleading reports about our difficulties will not provide enlightened solutions to them.
It should be recognised that no democratic assembly, no commission of inquiry, not even a competent judiciary can fairly sit in judgment on matters spiritual. The truth of spiritual reality has first to be perceived and then realised by the individual in life. No outside agency can help the individual other than his spiritual master and guide. In our case, we tum to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother for help in solving our problems. We believe that their guidance, support and protection will always be with us if we sincerely try to follow the ideal they have set before us. What is most important is that we always remember the spiritual objective that is the aim of our life in the Ashram.
(N.B. The article was found among the papers of the late author and has been touched up here and there for publication.)
Source: Mother India (magazine), June 2001
About a fortnight ago, on 27th Jan ’15, the Supreme Court had heard a case filed by Dr. Gayathri Satapathy and others against the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust which was reported in some of the media but which we failed to pick up and share on our website. As we have received some information about this case, we are sharing it with our readers.
The reports of the hearing in the Supreme Court suggest that the bench consisting of Chief Justice H.L. Dattu and Justice A.K. Sikri had good reasons to be suspicious of the motivations of those making malicious charges against the Ashram. The Supreme Court has wisely decided that it should adopt a cautious approach and first be sure of the merits of the charges leveled by the anti-Ashram elements before ordering a probe against the Ashram.
The bench judiciously observed that “before we appoint an inquiry committee we want to be sure about [it] ourselves. The moment we say some inquiry committee has to be appointed it has its own ramifications and that will be a disaster for the institution. If necessary, we will do so after the final hearing.”
The Supreme Court has very astutely identified that the anti-Ashram elements are not really interested in a probe, but they are in reality more interested in exploiting the various ramifications that ordering such a probe could have. Because the moment that the Supreme Court orders a probe, the anti-Ashram elements will use this to cast further aspersions on the Ashram, irrespective of whether the outcome of the probe finds the Ashram free of all charges.
The fact that anti-Ashram elements like Raman Reddy, Sraddhalu Ranade, R.Y. Deshpande and their ilk are not showing any interest in pursuing the inquiry that was initiated in 2013 goes to show that these agents of falsehood do not want the truth to emerge. Their objective is to cast aspersions against the Ashram and sully its reputation so that they can try to justify a change in the management of the Ashram which they wish to take over. Truth is a hindrance for these people and the only thing that matters to them is to make charges against the Ashram, even if they are completely false and baseless. It is pertinent to remind our readers that these anti-Ashram elements had even made efforts to stall the judicial inquiry. Instead of inquiry reports these trouble-makers only want more and more cases and probes ordered so that they can try to exploit them to create negative publicity against the Ashram.
The Supreme Court of India appears to have seen through their malicious ploys and has wisely decided to look into the merits of the allegations that are leveled against the Ashram before ordering any further action. After the Supreme Court saw from close quarters the case and drama of the Prasad sisters and got a good sense of what these anti-Ashram elements are made of, it is encouraging to find that a cautious approach is being adopted to ensure that the legal system is not abused by these perverted people.
It is also revealing to note that the website ‘thelivesofsriaurobindo.com’ which is managed by Raman Reddy, Sraddhalu Ranade, R.Y. Deshpande and other anti-Ashram elements and which is always reproducing news reports on their website has failed to report this news report that goes against them. It only goes to show how committed they really are to “objective, academic, respectful and honest discussions.”
We reproduce here the news report of the Supreme Court’s observations:
Probe only after full hearing: Supreme Court
Jan 28, 2015 | Age Correspondent | New Delhi
Observing that ordering a probe into the allegations of sexual harassment at Aurobindo Ashram in Puducherry without a full-fledged hearing will have serious ramifications, the Supreme Court on Tuesday refrained from passing an order for a probe at this stage.
A bench of Chief Justice H.L. Dattu and Justice A.K. Sikri told senior counsel Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for the petitioner Dr Gayathri Satapathy and others seeking such a probe “before we appoint an inquiry committee we want to be sure about ourselves. The moment we say some inquiry committee has to be appointed it has its own ramifications and that will be a disaster for the institution. If necessary, we will do so after the final hearing.”
Earlier, Mr Dhavan pleaded for a probe and said the Centre was also in favour of such a probe. Senior counsel Gopal Subramanium, appearing for the Ashram, brought to the notice of the bench that a similar writ petition was filed in the Madras high court and a probe was ordered to be conducted by a retired Kerala high court judge, T.L. Viswanatha Iyer. The bench then posted the matter for final hearing on March 19.
The Centre in its response to the notice on the petition had urged the court to order a fair probe by a retired high court judge into the allegations of sexual harassment of women and children in Aurobindo Ashram in Puducherry. The allegations by the inmates of the Ashram and local MLA include misappropriation of Ashram funds and illegal sale and lease of Ashram properties.
– The Well-wishers of Sri Aurobindo Ashram –
A well-wisher of Sri Aurobindo Ashram has sent to us a set of key documents that contain volumes of facts and details about the case of the Prasad sisters. These documents were shared with us as they had already been made available to concerned members of the public in the days that followed the misinformed, malicious and unfortunate violent attacks against the Ashram that the Prasad sisters had deliberately triggered.
Bits and pieces of the information that are contained in these documents have already been made public by various agencies such as the press and through other channels. But the sheer scale of utter dishonesty and malicious perversion of the Prasad sisters can only be appreciated by reading through these voluminous documents.
As these documents are considerably lengthy we shall also be trying to summarize them and highlight key revelations in subsequent posts. There are so many incidents that point to the clear culpability of the Prasad sisters that we once again share the recent observation of Government officials who found the actions of the Prasad sisters literally “beyond belief.”
By clicking on the links below the relevant documents can be viewed and downloaded:
1) Report of Equiry conducted by the High Court of Chennai – This enquiry report dated October 2002 substantiates Hemlata Prasad’s gross act of misconduct and indiscipline and justifies the action taken against her by the S.A. Ashram Trust.
2) Judgement of the Judicial Magistrate, Pondicherry – This judgement dated November 2004 substantiates that Hemlata Prasad’s charges of having been defamed and of having also been harassed and sexually assaulted are not only baseless but are full of contradictions and therefore made with mischievous intent.
3) Report of the Fact Finding Enquiry Officer A.V. Nagarajan (Government of Pondicherry) This enquiry report dated January 2005 substantiates that the complaints filed by the Prasad sisters against several members of the Ashram who lived in the same apartment block were false, malicious and motivated. Moreover, the complaints against the Prasad sisters filed by numerous other members of the Ashram and co-residents of the same apartment block were true and serious. The report concludes and clearly establishes that “the undesirable demeanour of the five sisters [renders] them unsuitable for being inmates of the Ashram.”
4) News report dated Jan 2005 of the enquiry conducted by the National Commission for Women (NCW) looking into the allegations of sexual harassment made by the Prasad sisters. As the NCW did not submit a copy of its report to the Ashram, it is not available. But the independent news report clearly states that the allegation made by the Prasad sisters are false, that there “appears to be malicious planning behind the complaints.”
5) Enquiry Report of the National Human Right Commission, New Delhi – This enquiry report dated June 2005 substantiates that the complaints filed by Arunashri Prasad against several members of the Ashram are completely baseless and there is no ground for any human rights violation in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram.
6) Order of the Madras High Court dated June 2010 ordering the Prasad sisters to find accomodation outside of the Ashram premises.
7) Another Order of the Madras High Court dated August 2012 ordering the Prasad sisters to find any accomodation outside of the Ashram premises.
8) Order of the Supreme Court dated April 2014 ordering the Prasad sisters to vacate their premises and the Ashram by 31st July, 2014. This order was issued after the Prasad sisters challenged the High Court’s order of August 2012. It is here that the Prasad sisters hired India’s topmost law firm in a final, desperate attempt to win their case against the Ashram. Considering that all along the Prasad sisters stated that their financial position was weak, someone or some people must have bet heavily on this case against the Ashram, putting all the resources required to try find the Ashram at fault, by hook or crook. The order shows that the Ashram prevailed.
9) Affidavits of undertakings dated May 2014, signed by all the Prasad sisters assuring the courts and the Sri Aurobindo Ashram that they shall vacate their premises in the Ashram by 31st July as ordered by the Supreme Court.
10) Order of the Supreme Court dated December 2014 issuing an arrest warrant for the Prasad sisters for their contempt of court, for not having vacated their premises in the Ashram as agreed by them in their sworn affidavit of undertaking.
11) The letter to the Trustees dated 15th December 2014 containing the Prasad sisters’ threat to commit suicide. This letter also contains a premeditated threat of a) holding all those people whom they would name in a suicide note responsible for their death, b) causing adverse repercussions against the Ashram in the event of their death.
12) Ashram Trust’s letter to the Superintendent of Police dated 15th December 2014 informing the Police of the Prasad sisters’ suicide threat and asking the police to take all precautions to protect the sisters from causing any harm to themselves and others.
All of these documents and the incidents described therein, clearly show that the Prasad sisters were abusing the legal system and official machinery to prolong their unjustified and undesirable stay in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram for as long as they possibly could. All of the above facts and details as well as the recent events that have resulted in violent attacks against the Ashram unambiguously show that if the Prasad sisters are deeply devoted to something, it is entirely to making as much trouble as is humanly possible, both in their life as well as in their death.
– Well-wishers of Sri Aurobindo Ashram –
The STATEMENT BY WELL WISHERS OF SRI AUROBINDO ASHRAM announced on our website yesterday has also appeared in today’s edition of the following two Tamil dailies:
Dinakaran on page 2
Daily Thanthi on page 5
– Well-wishers of Sri Aurobindo Ashram –
There is a large number of devotees of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother as well as other people all over the world who sincerely wish the Sri Aurobindo Ashram well. These people make up the large, silent majority of well-wishers of Sri Aurobindo Ashram who do not wish to see any harm come to the Ashram. The group of Well-wishers of Sri Aurobindo Ashram based in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, has once again come forth to issue a much appreciated press statement in response to the recent spate of motivated attacks against the Ashram. We reproduce the press statement here. The original statement in Tamil follows its english translation.
STATEMENT BY WELL WISHERS OF SRI AUROBINDO ASHRAM
The Well-Wishers of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, consisting of long-standing devotees in Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu, India and abroad, would like to offer its sincere condolences for the two departed ex-inmates of Sri Aurobindo Ashram and their mother. At the same time, the Well-Wishers condemn the mindless attacks by miscreants on the Ashram over the past weeks. Certain vested interest groups, who were earlier hurling baseless allegations against the Ashram without a shred of evidence, are still resorting to spreading deliberate misinformation and mislead the public at large. These vested interest groups are using the incident of the sisters to achieve their hidden agenda of destabilizing the Ashram and creating disturbance in Puducherry.
In order to clear the air, we would like to reiterate the following:
- One of the five Prasad sisters was expelled from the Ashram in 2002 on account of gross misconduct. In order to confuse the issue, all the five sisters falsely alleged that they were facing sexual harassment in the Ashram.
- Several independent enquiries, including enquiries by the National Commission for Women and the Human Rights Commission found the allegations of sexual harassment by the five sisters to be false and motivated. Based on these findings, the Ashram expelled the other four sisters.
- The sisters filed various criminal cases against the Ashram and its inmates. All these allegations were found to be false by the Courts in Puducherry. It may be noted that on many occasions the Ashram offered a separate house exclusively for the use of the sisters. However, they refused to leave the housing complex, even though they alleged they were facing harassment there.
- The five sisters then started litigating against the Ashram. This despite their claim that they were helpless and didn’t have the means to fight legal cases. In 2008, the High Court of Madras ordered the five sisters to vacate the Ashram premises and ordered the Ashram to pay Rs. 29,000/- per month to the sisters for their maintenance. Even though the parents of the five sisters had their own apartment nearby Ashram in Puducherry, and even though some of the sisters were working outside the Ashram, the Ashram agreed to pay this amount readily. However, the sisters refused to receive this money and continued to stay in the Ashram defying the order of the High Court.
- The five sisters then filed an appeal before the Supreme Court of India. The Supreme Court of India confirmed the judgements of the courts below and ordered the sisters to leave the Ashram within 3 months, by 31.07.2014. When the sisters defied the Order once again, the Supreme Court of India on 09.12.2014 ordered the 5 sisters to leave by 16.12.2014, or else face police eviction.
- It is clear from the above that the five sisters were creating trouble within the Ashram and were causing great discomfort to other inmates due to which all enquires and courts found them guilty. Therefore, the attempt to portray the sisters as the victims and the Ashram as an aggressor is a deliberate endeavour to distort facts. The five sisters have used every possible means to tarnish the Ashram and in that sense it is the Ashram which is the victim. Today the Ashram continues to be the victim of deliberate misinformation, distortion of facts and physical attacks perpetrated by vested interest groups.
- The Well Wishers of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, consisting of devotees of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother from all over India and the world, extends its full support to the management of the Ashram in these difficult times. We condemn and disapprove any attempt by the vested interest groups to promote anybody who is guilty of disobeying the Supreme Court order. It is defiance and holding to ransom the Supreme Court itself and it amounts to an illegal and anti-national activity. The Ashram is fully capable of solving its internal problems within the ambits of the rules of the Ashram, the laws of the land and the spiritual guidance of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo.
- Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry has made Pondicherry a “Peaceful Pondicherry” with its spiritual ambience. Pondicherry has become a well-known tourist destination in the world because of Sri Aurobindo Ashram and it has generated a lot of local employment. We appeal to the peace-loving people of Pondicherry to maintain calm and request them to know the real facts and extend their support to this world renowned spiritual institution.
Asok Adhithyan, Advocate, High Court
For WELL-WISHERS OF SRI AUROBINDO ASHRAM,
Source: Dinamalar ePaper (http://epaper.dinamalar.com/) page 31. Printed edition, Page 7.
“Beyond belief” is how the officials who have recently been dealing with the Prasad sisters, have described these siblings and their actions. The dismay of these officials is not borne out of appreciation or elation, but purely out of despair. The officials who are now struggling to deal with the Prasad sisters are only getting a taste of what the Ashram has had to endure for more than the last decade.
Those who have been witness to the entire saga of the Prasad sisters have and still watch the actions of these sisters that even today are “beyond belief.” We present some of the many instances that many have found to be unbelievable.
For years, the Prasad sisters alleged that they were being sexually harassed, physically threatened and victimized in the Ashram. However, when the courts, that the sisters themselves had approached, asked them to relocate in a place of their choice that they felt was safe, outside of the Ashram, the Prasad sisters refused to budge and instead insisted on staying put in the very same place in which they alleged that they were most unsafe. It also turns out that they were willing to die in order to keep living in the place that they alleged was most unsafe for them! Such contradictory logic and behavior is incomprehensible and “beyond belief.”
The Prasad sisters were the ones to approach the courts against the Ashram. They were the ones who moved the Supreme Court challenging the Chennai High Court’s order against them. The Prasad sisters also hired the country’s topmost law firm. And while they financed (directly or through sponsors) a legal battle that spanned more than 12 years, everyone was taken aback when they suddenly publicly claimed that they had not enough financial resources to travel to New Delhi to appear in court when it became clear that things were not going in their favor. It is certain that it isn’t only the judges who found this story to be “beyond belief.”
Many of those who have been directly or indirectly victims of the Prasad sisters have witnessed “beyond belief” their perverse machinations. But nothing really compares with their most malicious design and intention to inflict as much damage as possible to the Ashram and its members by threatening to end their lives in a bid to commit mass suicide in order to “cause adverse repercussions on the Ashram community as a whole and most specifically on all the persons named” by them. Such malicious and perverse intentions to cause widespread harm has seldom been witnessed by anyone and has made even disinterested government officials conclude that this is just “beyond belief.”
It is no wonder that psychiatric care as reported in the article below is now finally being recommended to the remaining sisters of the Prasad family. Now that the matter has come into the hands of the appropriate officials, the truth has come out that dealings with the Prasad sisters are typically in realms that are “beyond belief”! It is hoped that the sisters will now find their deserved place where their custodians are typically used to people who are in the habit of creating trouble of the type that is “beyond belief.”
But while the Prasad sisters occupy center stage it is not surprising to find that not too far behind the sisters are other anti-Ashram elements like Raman Reddy, Sraddhalu Ranade, R.Y. Deshpande and their ilk who are also starting to gain the notorious distinction of achieving an anti-Ashram obsession that is equally “beyond belief.” For while they go around blowing their trumpets, claiming to be protectors of the image of Sri Aurobindo and his Ashram, they revel, gloat and try to profit from every instance that the Ashram is attacked, abused and victimized. Such hypocrisy is also “beyond belief.”
Options to rehabilitate surviving sisters explored
PUDUCHERRY, December 29, 2014
M. DINESH VARMA
The government is exploring various options to provide housing for the three sisters and their father who survived a suicide attempt after being evicted from the Sri Aurobindo Ashram.
Among the proposals that cropped up at meetings with stakeholders were to put the family under the care of a women’s welfare organisation, an NGO-run home or a rented house.
Chief Minister N. Rangasamy is said to have offered help in arranging housing and the Ashram has reiterated its readiness to offer monthly assistance.
However, before finalising on an alternative accommodation for the three sisters and their father — the immediate task seems to be extending counselling assistance, most likely at Nimhans (National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences) in Bangalore.
“Though a few viable suggestions and offers for help cropped up, the priority now is to offer them some expert psychiatric assistance. These are persons who tried to end their lives so we need to wean them away from this unfortunate ideation,” a top government official said.
“What they seem to require is fortifying of the mind … they need to be evaluated by experts. Only after they become mentally strong enough to cope with life on their own would we be able to lodge them in an independent house,” he added.
While there has been criticism against the police for having left the sisters and parents unmonitored the night after they were removed from the Ashram-run Ambabhikshu apartments based on a Supreme Court directive, officials aver that what happened — the entire family attempting suicide in which two sisters and the mother were drowned — was “extremely rare and unexpected.” The officials stand by their decision pointing out that given the acute distress in which the five sisters were after being evicted, sheltering them with their parents was certainly the soundest thing to have been done, though what transpired was beyond belief. The thinking now is that only after the family is determined by an expert psychiatric evaluation to have overcome the crisis, they can be left to deal with life on their own.
– Well-wishers of Sri Aurobindo Ashram –
- The Prasad Sisters when they approached the Court of Law for redress of their grievance they had willingly opted for bringing the matter in the Jurisdiction of the legal authority and had implicitly agreed to abide by the Court Verdicts. Thus they on their own had removed this matter from the purview of the Ashram. Then they fully exercised the option available to them to approach a higher court, if not satisfied by the verdict of a lower court and at last presented the matter before the Highest Court of the Country for adjudication through the best of the available legal experts. However since the Court Verdict was not to their liking they chose to dishonor their commitment.
- The Ashram too had agreed to abide by the Court Verdicts on joining this matter as a party. However, since it honored its commitment the only option available to the Supreme Court was to depute the Police to execute its order and in the exercise of this option Police did its job. Then, the Ashram had not to play and did not play any role and was completely out of the picture in the entire eviction episode. Thus, there had remained no reasonable ground for any type of protest against the Ashram.
- Moreover the Courts of Law from the lowest to the Highest in the country and even the statutory bodies of the stature of National Commission of Women and that of the Human Rights after hearing them, also their advocates fully and after thorough and impartial probe in the matter each one of these authorities found no substance in their grievance. It is a clear indication of these grievances being concocted and of their motive being malicious. Moreover, no flaw was shown by them, at any stage, in the legal process or any ground to doubt the integrity of the Judiciary. Hence, there was no ground to uphold their view that justice was not done and the Court verdict was illegal.
- In light of this background their non-compliance of the verdicts of the Courts one after another only revealed their stance of habitual defiance through fabricated allegations which had crossed the limits of even civility. It is also indicative of their attitude that they would make hell of the life around if it did not revolve around their whims. As a consequence of this attitude it was the Ashram and the score of its inmates there that had suffered their eccentricities for such a long period. Thus it was confirmed by the legal process initiated by them only and carried to its logical culmination that it was a matter not of their grievance against the Ashram but that of the Ashram against them. It goes to the credit of the Ashram, especially its Trustees that they maintained equanimity even under totally hostile circumstances of the rare of the rarest type.
- The fact that these poor girls who claim to have no property of their own and were solely dependent on the facilities provided by the Ashram could approach the Court of Law and carry on their fight against the Ashram up to the Supreme Court and then could avail of the costliest legal assistance at different levels while incurring ancillary expenses, all beyond their known means, indicates that there were persons or agencies instigating and supporting them all throughout evidently to upset the working of the Ashram. It was undoubtedly a hostile force that was not happy with the mission that is undertaken by the Mother and is interested in its failure. Might be the property and prestige of the Ashram was an alluring feature that had prompted some of them to establish their hold on the Ashram, by means fair or foul.
- It appears that some of the learned friends from the Ashram who profess to be the devotees of the Mother and propagators of Her message had joined hands with this hostile force and had become its tools as these sisters had become their tools whom they fully supported all throughout. However, none of them stood by these sisters in their hour of crisis when their very survival was at stake on their eviction from the Ashram by the Police. Thus they were left to their fate with the only available alternative of committing suicide. Actually it was their sympathizers who had capitalized their pseudo- grievances had pushed them to take an extreme step of suicide by leaving them in lurch on realizing that they were no more useful. It is the basic characteristic of the dark forces which uses people for their own purpose and throws them off after squeezing them fully when their utility is exhausted.
- These friends identified themselves with this hostile force and endeavored to build inroads for its intrusion in the Ashram and worked out its dual strategy of weakening the Ashram from within and then arranging for the attack from outside. It might be even the grossly violent attack of which the Ashram had the taste in the recent past when a section of hooligans staged protest against it in the aftermath of the suicide bid of these sisters.
- These friends chose to operate under the cover of the Ashram by exploiting the prestige and position that they had acquired in society because of their being attached to the Ashram. They misused even the significant आदेश of the Mother: “Cling to Truth” and proclaimed that they were striving to protect Her mission. This stance besides providing them a कवच – a protective cover, had facilitated their drive to seek support of the public at large and especially of the Devotees who entertain a very high regard for the Mother; also for Her words.
- However, the indiscriminate use of the unfair means by these overzealous personalities in their impatience to obtain speedy results became counter-productive and exposed their mala fide intentions while degrading their being to the category of miscreants. The means that they used like organizing public demonstrations through hired crowd, ugly propaganda drive by fabricating unimaginable falsehood and character assassination, also through repulsive posters besides initiating a series of baseless legal proceedings, direct and through proxy, which are usually employed by the dishonest political and social activists are certainly not in consonance with the fair practices in public life, much less with the teachings of the Mother. Moreover, their bid to seek favor of the unscrupulous politicians and business tycoons, who had their own axe to grind, for obtaining much needed financial assistance and political patronage turned out to be a greater blow to their prestige. Finally the outcome of the episode of these five sisters shattered the remnants of their credentials. In this context I suppose that the reason for which these sisters had to leave the Ashram holds good for these friends also.
- Still it is the hour of crisis for our Ashram in which we look to the Mother for help and guidance and She out of Her Grace would certainly do the needful. But as we know, Her force operates through those who invoke it and their corresponding action facilitates its operation. Hence those who love Her and Her work in the world and especially in our Ashram have not only to stand by it but also to make known their solidarity with the Ashram, and reiterate their Trust in the Ashram and the Ashram Trust, it being an integral part of the Ashram. In this context, the appeal of Raghvan is quite appropriate and timely and deserves our wholehearted response.
- In this connection I might refer to a minor point in the appeal regarding ‘punishing all those who have indulged in mudslinging, tarnishing the Ashram reputation’. There is no dispute regarding the misdemeanour of these mudslingers which had injured Ashram’s interest considerably. However we as the children of the Mother have to desire to protect its interest only and in this process if someone is punished it would be incidental and not intentional. This subtle distinction is important because we Her children would not like to entertain vengeance against any one or subscribe to the idea of ‘tit for tat’ and say that as you had harmed me I would harm you. Even the Law is enacted for the purpose of maintaining order in the society and in this course if a person is punished it is incidental and not intentional. Thus in order to ward off the possibility of entertaining vengeance which is related to Lower consciousness, we have to aim only at the positive aspect of the matter. Even the Bhagavadgita which enjoins to Arjun to fight, it means to fight without getting agitated – युध्यस्व विगतज्वरः. Thus, our intention would be to protect the interest of our Ashram and to do all that is required of us.