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....

More importantly, there are talks of forming a pressure group (with the help of some inmates of the Ashram) and 'force the Trustees' to evict Peter Heehs for his 'asuric' act. Peter's book (I am in the process of reading it) is an academic work of merit and has received wonderful reviews in academic circles. If scholars wish to point out its shortcomings (in any) they need to do it in a scholarly way. And even though it presents the 'human' side of Sri Aurobindo it certainly does not show any disrespect for Him nor does it take away his divinity. I thought an 'avatar' was precisely the divine who came down and took a 'human' body (capable of feeling the pangs and sorrows of the human being), thereby showing us the path of transformation.

Well, my objective for writing this letter to you is to present the dangers of such web groups like the SAICE [Yahoo group] and the free circulation of opinions over the web that are 'communal' in nature. These opinions appear to gather some sort of 'sanction' of the Ashram community. Words like 'fatwa', 'am willing to kill him', 'asura' and the like are potentially dangerous for the Ashram in the eyes of the outside world....

Therefore, in my opinion, it is best for the Ashram to 'disown' these views and perhaps advise the inmates not to help in their instigation or circulation. I say this, because there are some Ashramites (I don't want to name them) who seem to be adding fuel to the fire: their opinions are posted on the SAICE group. Just one reading of some of the views (whether it be those of ex-students or of the inmates) is enough to reveal the dangers they pose for the Ashram.

With genuine concern for Sri Aurobindo, the Mother and the Ashram,

Warm regards,

Dhir Sarangi