Home > serious posts > Proof that Heehs was indeed “used as a stick to beat the Ashram Trust with”

Proof that Heehs was indeed “used as a stick to beat the Ashram Trust with”

Recently there has been a spate of posts at the Aurofundamentalists’ blog asserting the need for a revision of the Ashram’s Trust Deed. We were under the impression that the Trust (Deed) was targeted after the Aurofundamentalists had realized that their demands gained no traction with the Trustees. But we were wrong.

This is what our History Desk has discovered:

The first documented act of hostility against Heehs was a letter written by Ranganath Raghavan and Raman Reddy, titled “The Role of Peter Heehs in the Archives,” which was submitted to the trustees around the beginning of September 2008.

On September 6, 2008, Ananda Reddy addressed a letter to the Managing Trustee of the Ashram. It was sent to others with an introductory note headed “Mahakali’s saving Grace.” While RR&RR had admittedly not read the book and had based their complaints about Heehs on their personal impressions of his allegedly non-conformist attitude, gathered while having tea with him in the Archives, AR’s letter seems to have been the first communication to the Trust by someone who had actually read the book got hold of a copy of the book. (Thanks to DBR for correcting us.)

On September 11, 2008, a duplicitous set of extracts from The Lives compiled by Raman Reddy was put into circulation by his cousin Ananda Reddy. Decontextualized passages were chosen to misrepresent the author’s intentions, by systematic distortions, deliberate misattributions, and selective omissions.

On September 14, 2008, Ranganath Raghavan wrote a piece titled “The Sri Aurobindo Ashram and its Internal Management,” in which he concludes that “the present arrangement by which trustees are appointed for life and their successors are chosen by themselves must be put an end to.”

This proves that the attack on Heehs and his biography was designed from the start as a means to attack the Trustees and with a view to revising the Trust Deed. As Heehs put it, “I am being used as a stick to beat the Ashram Trust with.”

Ranganath’s piece is reproduced below.

The Sri Aurobindo Ashram and its Internal Management ─ by Ranganath Raghavan

Our world is the sphere of imperfection and limitation, but it is moving towards perfection, though through a long, laborious aeonic process of evolution. But the affairs of men cannot wait for that far-off ideal to be materialised. Therefore the search for improvement in every field is constantly present and operative—again through stumblings, errors and blunders.

There is absolutely no doubt that, after the Mother left her body, the Sri Aurobindo Ashram has been beset with problems — externally, due to the pressure, impact and invasion of world forces and negative influences; internally, due to our own errors (inevitable, be it noted) of judgment, mismanagement and partisan attitude. How then do we solve this fundamental problem not peculiar to our own institution?

When a spiritual institution is led by spiritual, highly enlightened beings, capable of right action and control of the forces referred to above, they have access to superior powers beyond the mental plane from where solutions are initiated and worked out. The higher the consciousness of the leader, the more the control and better the management of day to day events.

Let us note clearly that the problems spoken of earlier were not absent in the early stages of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. But Mother and Sri Aurobindo had recourse to a higher vision and a higher corrective action. They had the keys to the Master Control Room as it were, where the switches that determine and govern the lower levels are located.

But when ordinary human beings, with all their limitations, misjudgments, misunderstandings and incapacities come into the arena, problems are inevitable. This is what we are witnessing today.

All men of goodwill must think out ways and means to attenuate these problems, if not solve them. It is not enough to think or say that “the Mother will take care of everything” and remain indolently inactive. This is a tamasic attitude that is ignorant and useless. The reliance on the Mother is always valid, nay indispensable, but our responsibilities cannot be shrugged off by that easy, shallow excuse. Heaven helps only those who help themselves—even when the action is ignorant, limited, but done with goodwill and sincerity. What then is to be done?

We must focus on the core problems of the institution itself and not on individual problems, which can multiply themselves without end. Are there any glaring defects in our organisation which we can try to solve?

It is a well recognized truth that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. And this need not be grossly apparent but can happen in a very subtle manner. That is why everywhere in the world, dictatorships are frowned upon and in democracies no one is allowed to be in power for more than five years, with a possible extension only in the case of a really good performance. And we know that, in the spiritual field, this is even more true—that the ego and the vital are full of impurities, pretence, posturing and self-deceit (remember Vivekananda’s simile of the dog’s tail which reverts to its natural crookedness, however much you try to straighten it). And this truth is very conspicuous when the leaders feel secure in a situation where their position is unassailable, permanent, unquestionable and cannot be dislodged from their seats. This is a dangerous arrangement that cannot be allowed to continue.

Therefore the present arrangement by which trustees are appointed for life and their successors are chosen by themselves must be put an end to.

But this involves a legal arrangement and the best brains in the country must be tapped for this most important work. The exact details can be worked out in many combinations, depending on the advice given by the legal luminaries and their advice should be taken in our best interests.

Basically, every five years, change must be made and the choice of the trustees must be left to the beneficiaries of the Trust. It is important to remember that the Trustees are servants and not masters. At present the practical arrangement is almost the opposite. It is possible that a large, representative body is empowered to make the appointments. This body may consist of senior sadhaks above 70 years of age or of sadhaks having a residential record of more than 50 years in the Ashram.

But these are ideas thrown off the cuff for general consideration by all well wishers: the final arrangement must be made after legal consultations.

It must be recognised and realised that these suggestions are being made in the best interests of our institution and are absolutely bonafide. They are impersonal suggestions not aimed at any particular individual and are free of any malicious content.  Of course, the sitting trustees will not accept the arrangement easily and will put up a stiff resistance. It is to be hoped that a smooth change-over can be executed with harmony and restricted to a completely internal process. But if external pressure becomes inevitable and necessary, we must not shirk from that possibility either.

All suggestions are most welcome. The necessity of these changes must be realized by the beneficiaries of the trust and must be made known to all.

It is a truism to say that problems are best known to those who face them and not someone sitting far away and uninvolved in the day to day action. This is the reasoning behind the Panchayati Raj in the Villages. So, in the Sri Aurobindo Udyog Trust, who could be the best trustees except the departmental heads? There could be a system of rotation every two or three years and a new set of  departmental heads taking over in regular intervals. Of course, they will be assisted by legal and financial experts.

Further thoughts on the question of the SAAT:

In the new arrangement, it may be asked how the future problems will be more easy to solve, given the fact that all human beings are plunged in ignorance.

The first point is that the institution has a greater chance for improvement, because fresh ideas, newer methods can be tried out, whereas the old group will not be easily willing to change their fixed habits. The second point is that if bad management continues, the responsibility is now not laid at the feet of the same old setup. The blame, as well as the credit is now shared by a greater representative group. The third point is that, in any case, the possibility of a change is always available to the community. The fourth point is even if the administration is no better than the previous one, we have lost nothing and the possibility of a change for the better is always open.

The main point is that the existing trust deed was drawn up in a hurry when conditions were completely different. The Mother was present then and no one visualised the problems that would arise half a century later.

Besides, one knows that there is always a deep rooted resistance to change in human nature.  One may indeed ask on the contrary as to what are the valid objections to a new arrangement. Even if there are any, other suggestions are always welcome.

The most important thing, however, is whether the community is convinced of the necessity of a change in the administrative set-up.

Points to be kept in Mind:

These suggestions are being made in the best interests of the Institution, although they will be opposed by some who stand to lose their positions in the organisation. Their acceptance or rejection will be decided by the whole community, who are likely to be affected the most.

The proof of what has been said above is there for all to see in the recent events concerning Peter Heehs, who sitting in the centre of the department that possesses all of Sri Aurobindo’s and the Mother’s manuscripts, apart from so many other private documents, cold-bloodedly denounces, drags down the Gurus to the level of ordinary mortals and our Trustees, far from taking punitive action, actually are trying their best to defend this perfidious character, in spite of the mounting anger and just resentment of the entire Ashram community.

The changes suggested are only a rough framework. Many details have to be worked out and certainly lawyers and experienced administrators should be consulted, apart from the elders of the Ashram itself.

In fact all suggestions are welcome as they aid the finalisation of the proposed changes.

September 14, 2008

  1. Jeeves
    July 26, 2012 at 11:04 am

    …the attack on Heehs and his biography was designed from the start as a means to attack the Trustees and with a view to revising the Trust Deed.

    Ranganath must have had the Trust (Deed) in his sights ever since he was kicked out of the Ashram Press and put in the Archives, where he promptly messed things up for everyone.

  2. A Firangi Devotee
    July 26, 2012 at 11:59 am

    In “The Role of Peter Heehs in the Archives”, RR&RR write that Heehs

    has on many occasions expressed himself as not being a devotee…. He has often enough denigrated the devotional attitude of Indians towards Mother and Sri Aurobindo.

    As a firangi devotee, I understand these false impressions only too well. Most of us firangis are repelled by the ostentatious display of devotion that seems to be de rigeur in the Ashram; this is what we tend to speak of disparagingly. (I am the first to admit that this, too, may be based on a false impression, at least in some cases.) We consider our deeply felt devotion for our Masters too sacred to be displayed to all and sundry. Our culturally conditioned reticence is then interpreted by those differently conditioned as a lack of devotion.

  3. DBR
    July 26, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Dear Editor,

    Correct me if I am wrong but you write:

    “……… AR’s letter seems to have been the first communication to the Trust by someone who had actually read the book…….”

    Are you serious about it?????

    AR and reading a book??? I managed to go to some of his talks first out of curiosity, then out of amusement …. and finally decided to drop out of boredom…..

    This man is bundle of standardized stock phrases!!!!!! Nothing more. Those phrases he can go on repeating endlessly . Generally the mind stops functioning when the tongue takes over.

    Such persons actually never read a book . they get it read for them by others….A kind of spiritual outsourcing that they practice..

    So please reconsider if yo want to continue using the phrase that AR had read the book

    Fraternally yours
    DBR = Determined Book Reader

  4. auroleaks
    July 26, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    DBR :

    Correct me if I am wrong

    Dear DBR, it is we who stand corrected! In his letter Ananda Reddy actually wrote “I got the book by Peter Heehs, The Lives of Sri Aurobindo, and started reading it but I could not go far…”

    We completely agree with what you say about him. It is really quite unbelievable that this man is the director of an institute, the Sri Aurobindo Centre for Advanced Research, which claims to be

    a centre of research and learning dedicated to acquiring and implementing in all areas a new and broader perspective on human life [which] underlies and unifies the multifarious solutions and changes to be made throughout the nations of the globe. The guiding principle of all our activities is the synthesizing movement to unite in a practical and progressive way the highest spiritual realisations with the development and perfection of the outer life — two fields that have been historically the special domain of Eastern and Western nations, respectively. Our focal point in this endeavour is the spiritual knowledge and vision behind this effort of synthesis.

    Then comes the howler:

    SACAR is NOT an institution of religious education. It is important to emphasize that the philosophy and thought of Sri Aurobindo in which SACAR specialises is NOT a religion.

    Indeed it is not, but Reddy tries his level best to make it one.

  5. Ex-Naive Auro Bindonian
    July 26, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    What was Ananda Reddy’s motive for assisting his cousin Raman Reddy in trying to subvert SAAT apart from family reflexes? Was it because SAAT did not support his SACAR project?
    This is what his own website shows for affiliation:
    Sri Aurobindo Centre for Advanced Research (SACAR), started in Pondicherry in 1998, is a research unit of the Institute of Human Study which was launched at Hyderabad in 1964. He wisely did not rock any boat till IGNOU signed the for him vital collaboration wit SACAR on 15 August 2008. This timing lines up with his publicly joining the assault on his own Ashram management from early September 2008 onwards.

  6. Kalidas
    July 27, 2012 at 7:54 am

    I once attended a meeting in Auroville where they discussed the project of a University, which seems to have become the University of Human Unity. Five centers were contemplated, one for each of the five Auroville zones. Whereupon Ananda Ready raised himself to his full height and brazenly suggested to the stupefied audience that the center corresponding to Truth already existed: his own University of Tomorrow!

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