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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.

I have been a student and admirer of Sri Aurobindo for many decades, having been introduced to his work by a number of teachers, the most prominent of them being Haridas Chaudhuri. I have read nearly all of Sri Aurobindo's works, visited the ashram in 1963 and have held Sri Aurobindo's perspective of evolutionary spirituality as the cornerstone of the educational curriculum and philosophy of the University of which I am the President. In my capacity as a professor, I have written a number of books based on the views of Sri Aurobindo and continue to teach a course based on The Life Divine. Given this exposure and lifelong affinity with Sri Aurobindo's contribution and vision for the future of humanity, I was especially elated to come across and read Peter Heehs' biography ''The Lives of Sri Aurobindo.'' This biography brought Sri Aurobindo home to me as never before, as someone who the modern person of the world anywhere can relate to and who holds out a hope of transcendence, transformation and integral fulfillment to the modern consciousness. The book presents Sri Aurobindo in an admirable light, while at the same time helping to dispel doubts regarding cultural alienness held by western readers. There is a very fine line between reverence and idolatry. Those who cross it seldom return to the rational world.

When, after my wholly positive experience of reading the book, I learned from a friend that there was a determined campaign against the author at the ashram, that the author had to stop his work at the ashram archives of which he was an indispensable member since its foundation over 30 years ago, and that cases had been started to harass him and censor the publication of the book in India, I could hardly believe the reports. In this day and age, and in the ashram of Sri Aurobindo, who staked his all on human freedom, whether against colonialism, Nazism or Stalinism, that interests of a fundamentalistic nature are exerting themselves successfully, was the very distressing news to me. 

I was heartened though to hear that the Trustees had stood their ground against evicting Heehs from the ashram. On reading the book I had thought that the Sri Aurobindo community would be very happy to see the life and message of Sri Aurobindo enter the intellectual mainstream through a book of this kind published by Columbia University Press. The almost reverse reaction among a section of the ashram, has surprised me. I would like to take this moment to request the Trust to take a positive stand against such fanatical interests which are completely at odds against Sri Aurobindo's teachings. Regarding the author, I am informed that he was a team leader of the Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo project. I trust you will kindly to reinstate him to his position at the archives, so that the invaluable work of this department may continue smoothly and Heehs may be absolved of feeling punished for having written an excellent biography of Sri Aurobindo.

With high regards,

Obadiah Harris


Obadiah S. Harris, PhD, is the President of the University of Philosophical Research (UPR),
Los Angeles