Frantic orthodoxy is never rooted in faith but in doubt. It is when we are not sure that we are doubly sure. Fundamentalism is, therefore, inevitable in an age which has destroyed so many certainties by which faith once expressed itself and upon which it relied.

— Reinhold Niebuhr

I trust you won't mind if I reflect on past experiences and express some thoughts on a topic of mutual interest; spiritual life. I began the study of Sri Aurobindo's writings in 1955, and first visited his ashram in Pondicherry in 1957, having obtained the written permission of the Mother, Mirra Alfassa, to do so. The ashram was not an open institution at that time and housed just a few hundred dedicated spiritual aspirants. Even so, those who did not have sufficient inner strength and sincerity could suddenly vacate overnight after having come face to face with the intense spiritual energy the Mother focused on every individual sadhana. Standing in the early morning under her balcony for Darshan was an inner phenomenon impossible to describe adequately — and which I am sure each one would do so differently — yet I am sure no one would deny that various levels of the consciousness were stirred up for change to occur, sometimes quite disturbingly.

July 14, 2009

Dear Mr. Dasgupta:

I am a Professor of Religion at Truman State University in the United States. I recently wrote a review of Peter Heehs's biography, The Lives of Sri Aurobindo, for a refereed journal. For many years I have been interested in Sri Aurobindo's life and work.

I was very happy to learn that Heehs had written a biography of Sri Aurobindo, and read that biography with enthusiasm. Heehs's work answered many questions that I have had for a long time about Sri Aurobindo. As a scholar, I also appreciate the care that Heehs has taken in producing a fine book. He is a first-rate historian, and has given readers a first-rate account of Sri Aurobindo's life.

Dec. 6, 2008
To: Sri Manoj DasGupta, Managing Trustee
Sri Aurobindo Ashram

Subject: Commentary on the positive contribution of Peter Heehs'; The Lives of Sri Aurobindo to India and the world.

Dear Manoj,

Greetings. I fondly recall our meeting in January of 2007 at the time of Michael Murphy';s revisit to the Ashram. Much has transpired since then, in America, in India and in the world at large. We are passing, as you well know, through difficult and dangerous times in our evolution as a species. Witness the recent events in Mumbai and the contagion of violent intolerance, communalism, reactionary fundamentalism and ideological extremism polarizing our planet.

15 September 2008

Dear Manoj-da,

The basic question raised by Peter's biography and the reactions to it is whether different approaches to Sri Aurobindo can be tolerated. Peter has adopted a typically "Western" approach. Otherwise Columbia University Press would not have been interested in the book and Sri Aurobindo would have remained unknown to most of those who are now reading it. I imagined that its publication in America would be welcomed by Sri Aurobindo's followers as a step in the fulfilment of his dream of the gift of India's spiritual knowledge to the world. Instead, we are told that this book has hurt the Indian psyche. This is puzzling. Can the soul of India be hurt so easily?

Dear Manoj Das Gupta

To begin with, my apologies for writing to you without an invitation to do so.

I write in order to express a sense of solidarity for a good friend, Peter Heehs. Being a good friend of his, it is highly likely that my views are biased; being an artist and an academician, it is also likely that I speak with a certain detachment. I have known Peter for several years now — and whatever be the criticism for his new book, I am extremely pained by the manner in which several devotees of Sri Aurobindo, have reacted to it.

25 September 2008

Dear Manoj-da,

During a conversation the other day, you asked me whether I would write a brief note to clarify what I was trying to do when I wrote my recent biography....

Dear Manoj–

Since 1950 (even before we played on the Ashram basketball team together!), Sri Aurobindo has been the chief influence on my life and work. For that reason I've been thrilled by the new interest in him among American opinion elites that's been inspired by Peter Heehs's biography. Because of Peter's book, more and more people here are exhibiting new interest in the revolutionary leader, philosopher, and spiritual genius who inspires us. I can now reach academics and others I couldn't before with the rich portrait Peter has given us.

Sri Manoj:

I am writing to you because of my concern about the personal attacks and threats towards Peter Heehs because of his book The Lives of Sri Aurobindo. You probably do not know of me, but I have been involved in this Yoga since meeting the Mother in 1970, which later inspired me to join Auroville, with her blessing, and live there for 7 years in the 1970's. Afterwards I remained active in the USA as the editor of the journal Collaboration, was one of the founders of the All USA Meeting (AUM) and a member of the board of the Foundation for World Education.

24 September 2008

Dear Manoj-da,

For the past one week or so I have been following the discussions and debates over the new biography of Sri Aurobindo by Peter Heehs. Initially, I thought I would not voice my opinion on the SAICE [Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education] yahoo group, but I finally did so judging by some of the reactions that were posted on the group. Frankly, I cannot understand how this group of 'ex-students' could claim to be custodians of Sri Aurobindo's philosophy or for that matter, his Ashram....

17 October 2008

Dear Manoj-da,

In a world torn with conflict and one where every human solution is being shown to be inadequate, the message of Sri Aurobindo is needed like never before – not in a dogmatic or religious form, but as a concrete ray of hope with the power of the sun visible in it. The heavy atmosphere of mental doubt which pervades the mainstream structures of organized academic preparation, are designed to keep out the possibility of a fair hearing to the voice of divine realization which Sri Aurobindo represents. In this atmosphere, strident claims of avatarhood, absolutism, belief in mythologies and miraculous births etc. are just the kinds of things which will help most effectively to marginalize and exclude Sri Aurobindo and his message from credible consideration.

Dear members of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust,

I am writing to you to express my thoughts regarding the recent biography of Sri Aurobindo ''The Lives of Sri Aurobindo'' written by one of your ashram members, who I am told is being persecuted as a result of his authorship of this book.

November 12, 2008

My dear Karan Singh– 

With the election of Obama, I and my colleagues anticipate a new era in American life that will bring the dreams for human advance that you and I share closer to reality.

And as a sign of these new times, the publication of Peter Heehs's Sri Aurobindo biography by the Columbia University Press is opening new doors to us among American opinion leaders who have not until now appreciated his importance for the world-at-large.

November 13, 2008

Dear Karan-ji,

You have perhaps heard of some of the hubbub surrounding the publication of Peter Heeh's recent biography of Sri Aurobindo, The Lives of Sri Aurobindo, published by Columbia University Press. As a professor teaching Art History at Pasadena City College and UCLA, I can see the beginning of a new opening to the message of Indian spirituality and the special contribuition of Sri Aurobindo as a result of scholarly attention to this book. All those I know who have read the book have been positively impacted by the horizons of human possibility represented in Sri Aurobindo's life through the book's unsentimental portrayal.

Daiva Tamosaityte
Institute of Culture, Philosophy and Arts
Saltoniskiu 58, LT-08105
Vilnius, Lithuania

October 5, 2010

Dear Mr. Das Gupta,

My acquaintance with Sri Aurobindo's works began in 1988. Since then I have been studying his works on metaphysics as well as his psychological, social and political thought. I wrote over 20 scientific articles and gave lectures in conferences presenting Sri Aurobindo's thought to the academic audience. On the 18th of December, 2009, I successfully defended my doctor's thesis in philosophy at the Institute of Culture, Philosophy and Arts and Vytautas Magnus University in Vilnius, Lithuania. During my research work from 2005 to 2009 I came across Mr. Peter Heehs's scientific papers on nationalism and Sri Aurobindo's early stage of political life as a revolutionary, published by prestigious publishers like the Columbia University Press, Oxford University Press and others. Knowing that Mr. P. Heehs is the only and the best expert in the field, I studied his materials (Nationalism, Terrorism, Communalism, Indian Religions etc.), which were very helpful in a process of scrutinizing the problem of Indian movement of independence at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, and the role Sri Aurobindo played in it.