Home > serious posts > The Sri Aurobindo Society: then and now

The Sri Aurobindo Society: then and now

September 5, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

Several recent posts on this site [1, 2, 3, 4] and others [1, 2] have dealt with the Sri Aurobindo Society (SAS) and its role in the present crisis. These posts prompted us to consult the founding documents of the SAS to determine how well its current activities accord with its stated aims.

The Memorandum of Association of the SAS was signed in Calcutta on September 19, 1960, by ten individuals (four businessmen, two industrialists, two solicitors, and two advocates).

Around the same time (no date given) the Rules and Regulations of the SAS was signed by the Mother, Keshav Dev Poddar (Navajata), and Arunendra Nath Tagore.

The two documents were printed in a single pamphlet by Sri Aurobindo Ashram Press, Pondicherry (no date given but presumably 1960). PDF files of the printed versions of these public documents are available here: Memorandum of Association, Rules and Regulations.

Only the Rules and Regulations were signed by the Mother, not the Memorandum of Association. This is not remarkable in itself, given that the latter document was signed in Calcutta. It is however interesting and revealing that the SAS states the following on its website:

The Constitution and Memorandum of Association, bears her signature as the President, dated 19 September 1960.

Again, on page 12 of a PDF document titled The Mother: Our Executive President (available on its website), the SAS reproduces the last page of the Rules and Regulations, with the signatures of the Mother, Navajata, and Arunendra Nath Tagore. The reproduction is preceded by the following text

The Memorandum of Association of the Society bears the Mother’s signature as the President, and is dated 19th September 1960. The main objective of the Society is:

“To make known to the members and people in general the aims and ideals of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, their system of Integral Yoga and to work for its fulfilment in all possible ways and for the attainment of a spiritualised society as envisaged by Sri Aurobindo.”

and it bears the caption “The last page of the Memorandum of Association of the Sri Aurobindo Society, signed by the Mother.

The statements emphasized are incorrect.

As stated above, it was the Memorandum of Association that was signed on September 19, 1960; the undated document bearing the signatures of the Mother, Navajata, and Arunendra Nath Tagore, is the Rules and Regulations.

p12

The Objects of the SAS are contained in 14 clauses (numbered a-n) of the Memorandum of Association, which was not signed by the Mother.

The Rules and Regulations, which was signed by the Mother, contain routine details concerning “Executive & Management”, “Membership”, “Management”, etc.

For present purposes it will be sufficient to discuss points a-e of the Object of the SAS, which are identified in an SAS leaflet (probably published during the 1960s) as the “main objects of the Society”. These main objects are:

(a) To make known to the members and people in general the aims and ideals of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, their system of integral Yoga and to work for its fulfilment in all possible ways and for the attainment of a spiritualised society as envisaged by Sri Aurobindo;

(b) To train selected students and teachers from all over the world in the integral system of eduction i.e ., spiritual, psychic, mental, vital and physical;

(c) To help in cash or in kind by way of donations, gifts, subsidies, and also in other ways in the all-round development of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, and to help similar centres of Education;

(d) To establish study groups, libraries, Ashrams, and other institutions, centres, branches, and societies for study and practice of Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and to help the existing ones;

(e) To establish centres of Physical culture, sports and volunteer organisations for inculcating and promoting the spirit of discipline, co-operation and service to others and to undertake activities for promotion of health and bodily perfection.

According to what we know about the SAS, it has taken points a, b, and d very seriously, but is doing comparatively little in regard to point e. We are not in a position to say whether the SAS is doing anything in regard to point c, that is, whether it is donating money etc. to the SAICE. We do find it odd, however, that in tacitly supporting the recent attacks on the Sri Aurobindo Ashram (and hence on the SAICE, which is part of the Ashram), the SAS is in effect helping to destroy the institution it is supposed to support.

To be sure, the five “main objects” of the SAS are all laudable and we encourage the SAS to continue to pursue them. We think it is only fair, however, to compare the objects listed in the Memorandum of Association to what the Mother said about the SAS in 1961. We have already reproduced the Mother’s comments, but it is worth doing so again in the present context.

March 4, 1961:

the Sri Aurobindo Society [is] a strictly external thing, organized by businessmen to bring in money — EXCLUSIVELY. That is, they want to put people in a position where they feel obliged to give (so far they have succeeded and I believe they will succeed). But this has nothing to do with working for an ideal, it is COMPLETELY practical. “But your name is there as President of the Sri Aurobindo Society,” they said. My name is there to give an entirely material guarantee that the money donated will really and truly be used for the Work to be done and for nothing else; it’s only a moral and purely practical guarantee. These people aren’t even asked to understand what Sri Aurobindo has said but simply to participate.

April 25, 1961:

They [the Sri Aurobindo Society] have put together a brochure saying, “We will facilitate your relations with the Mother”!! Luckily, the draft was sent to me. I said, “I do not accept this responsibility.” I agreed to be President because money is involved and I wanted to be a guarantee that all these people who make propaganda don’t put the money into their own pockets for their personal use; so I agreed to be President — to guarantee that the money would really go to work for Sri Aurobindo, that’s all. But no spiritual responsibility; I have nothing to teach to anyone, thank God!…

I received the draft of the Sri Aurobindo Society’s brochure to be distributed among all disciples, all society members, in order to “encourage” them. Well, that was the last straw! Oh, the most asinine propaganda! And plump in the middle of a bunch of other things (which had nothing to do with me), I come across this: “We have the great fortune to have the Mother among us, and we propose to be the intermediary for all who wish to come into direct contact with her”! They wanted to print this and distribute it, just like that! So I took my brightest red ink and wrote: “I do not accept this responsibility, you cannot make this promise.”…

The Sri Aurobindo Society people had ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with the spiritual life when they began; they didn’t at all present themselves as a ‘spiritual group’ — nothing of the kind; they were people of good will who volunteered to collect money to help the Ashram. So I said, “Very well, excellent” and as long as it’s like that, I’m behind it. Leaflets can be handed out — whatever people like; it’s enough if their interest is aroused, if they know there is an Ashram and that it needs some help to go on. But that’s all. It has nothing to do with yoga or spiritual progress or anything of the kind — it was a strictly practical organization….

But then, they [the Sri Aurobindo Society] began posing as … almost as teachers! Luckily, the draft of their brochure was brought to me. I said, “Nothing doing. If you want to talk to people, tell them what you like, it’s all the same to me, but I am not publishing this. What you have written about me is not to be printed and you are not to distribute it. I’m not in the picture. My name, the fact that I am president, is simply to give my guarantee that the money won’t go into the pockets of those who collect it but will be used for the Ashram, the running of the Ashram, and that’s all. And on this basis alone I give my guarantee. I am in no way going to help people imagine they are doing a yoga!” It’s absurd…. People imagine that by the simple fact of being here they become disciples and apprentice yogis! But it’s not true.

During the course of this conversation reference was made to a letter by Sri Aurobindo. The following is an extract from it:

I don’t believe in advertisement except for books etc., and in propaganda except for politics and patent medicines. But for serious work it is a poison. It means either a stunt or a boom – and stunts and booms exhaust the thing they carry on their crest and leave it lifeless and broken high and dry on the shores of nowhere – or it means a movement. A movement in the case of a work like mine means the founding of a school or a sect or some other damned nonsense. It means that hundreds or thousands of useless people join in and corrupt the work or reduce it to a pompous farce from which the Truth that was coming down recedes into secrecy and silence. It is what has happened to the “religions” and is the reason of their failure…. (October 2, 1934,  On Himself, Cent. Ed.Vol. XXVI, pp. 375-76)

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  1. September 5, 2012 at 10:04 am

    Dear Editor

    You missed out Mother’s comment on Sri Aurobindo Society made in 1972. It is clear that SAS’s ambition for self aggrandizement at the expense of the true work was there right from its inception. It is therefore not surprising that the SAS is now behaving the way it is. Instead of supporting the Ashram it is doing all it can to destabilize it.

    Can you add the following comment by the Mother to your post.

    “You see, N. keeps wanting to expand and expand the Sri Aurobindo Society, he buys plots of land worth lakhs of rupees, and instead of the money being used for the general work, it is frittered away …”

    Agenda March 10, 1972

    Santosh

  2. V
    September 6, 2012 at 11:53 pm

    SAS – first Auroville, and now the Ashram. Hopefully the latter will free itself from its clutches, just as the former did…

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