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A recent statement by Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust

The following statement was issued in February 2012. Emphases as in the original. — Ed.


Since the year 2008, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust has been receiving representations from some quarters regarding a book entitled “The Lives of Sri Aurobindo” which had been authored by one Peter Heehs, an American national and published by Columbia University Press.

Those who disliked the style and contents of the book have generally made their feelings known through mass-petitions.

Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust has also received a large number of communications from persons — some of them being also persons of eminence — who claim to have read the book and who have expressed their appreciation of the same. These have been generally received in the form of individual letters addressed to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. The noted Jurist and Scholar Dr. Justice David Annoussamy, retired Judge of the High Court at Madras has in a published review observed: “…Those who would like to have a precise knowledge of this extraordinary being ought to read the book The Lives of Sri Aurobindo, which was published recently by Columbia University Press, New York. .. The book, which is around 500 pages long is remarkable … Peter Heehs shows himself to be a very serious historian who bases his conclusions on documents that are carefully cited in the endnotes … The author has given us a model biography, which is accessible to the general public…

Similarly the noted Historian Shri Ramachandra Guha wrote in the Telegraph: “…Heehs is a real scholar, the author of several substantial works of history … In 2008, Columbia University Press in New York published Peter Heehs’s The Lives of Sri Aurobindo. The product of a lifetime of scholarship, its empirical depth and analytical sharpness is unlikely to be surpassed. For Heehs knows the documentary evidence on and around Sri Aurobindo’s life better than anyone else. He has deep knowledge of the political and spiritual worlds in which his subject moved and by which he was shaped…

According to many who have written to the Ashram in appreciation of the book, they felt that those who found the book to be offensive have either not read it in its entirety, or have clearly misunderstood its import.

The considered view of Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust is that it does not project itself in the role of dictating to readers and followers of Sri Aurobindo, as to what they should read and what they should not read. Each person is at complete liberty to decide for himself whether he finds any book to be meaningful and useful, or whether he does not find it to be so, and Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust respects and has full faith in the intellectual and spiritual discernment of the readers. No one should or needs to force his personal opinions on any other reader in general, and more particularly on the followers of Sri Aurobindo.

Further, whether the author of the book, who has been in the Ashram since the year 1971, can stay in India or not is a matter that is entirely and exclusively within the purview of the responsibilities exercised by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. With all the materials available before it, it is the said Ministry alone that has to take the necessary decision in this matter. By the Order dated 28.4.2009 dismissing the application in WP 24599 of 2009, even the Hon ‘ble High Court at Madras refused to interfere and affirmed that the Ministry of Home Affairs is the sole competent Authority to deal with such matters.

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