I hope I am mistaken, but for the first time in nearly thirty years that I have lived in the Ashram I seem to be noticing a polarisation between Indians and Westerners based on differing reactions to The Lives of Sri Aurobindo. There are exceptions, of course, but this appears to be the general trend. Perhaps we should remember Sri Aurobindo's words:

Here in this Ashram I have found the members of it who came from the West (I include especially those who have been here longest) typically occidental with all the quality and also all the difficulties of the Western mind and temperament and they have had to cope with their difficulties, just as the Indian members have been obliged to struggle with the limitations and obstacles created by their temperament and training. No doubt, they have accepted in principle the conditions of the yoga, but they had no Hindu outlook when they came and I do not think they have tried to acquire one. Why should they do so? It is not the Hindu outlook or the Western that fundamentally matters in yoga, but the psychic turn and the spiritual urge, and these are the same everywhere. (SABCL 23:557)

In his preface, Peter discusses two photographs of Sri Aurobindo, one that was retouched and one that was not. He compares his approach as a biographer to the second photograph. This photograph happens to be the one that is less appealing to most devotees. But is there any need to decide which is the "true" photograph and suppress the other? Surely both photographs — and both kinds of biography — should be available and people should be free to choose.

I am accompanying this letter with a selection of representative passages from the book. If you read these pages, you will get a glimpse of how some major aspects of Sri Aurobindo's life and work have been presented. I think you will see why I expect this biography to have a positive impact among open-minded people, especially overseas.


Richard Hartz