Prof. Manoj Das’s letter to the Organizer

September 30, 2014 3 comments

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Dear Sir,

Greetings from Pondicherry

Not only have I been living in Sri Aurobindo Ashram for a little over fifty years, but I have also been entrusted at different times with the responsibility of writing regular personal columns in India’s major newspapers such as The Hindustan Times, The Times of India and The Hindu, apart from newspapers in my mother-tongue, Odia. But rarely in my career either as an inmate of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, nor as a free lance columnist had anything shocked me so much as the item “The Enemy Within” in the Opinion column of the esteemed Organiserdated the 21st of September, 2014. No less was my shock to see the author sporting his credential as a former editor of the Organiser. God forbid!

Has Mr. Chari the courage to swear by the name of Organiser, if not Mother India, that he had visited the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, if not to imbibe the spirit sublime dominating the air which may be beyond his aspiration,but at least to verify the credibility of the nasty and naked lies about the Ashram offered to him before he swallowed them? The book by Heehs was of course only a ploy to vomit out on the absorbing newsprint the dirt he was fed with, but can he swear by the truth that had read the book? Can he also swear by the truth that he had atleast asked the Ashram authorities or sought a clarification whether they had something to say about this matter?

It is not unusual for any spiritual institution to attract attacks from some hostile elements. In our times their zeal becomes redoubled because of the media’s propensity for such stuff and because of the unfortunate activities of some pseudo-spiritual institutions. But, surely, we expected better sense from your journal!

I assert that during my half-century in the Ashram I have never come across a single instance of violation of human rights and the other sins your author has attributed to the Ashram. I assure you I keep my eyes open and had there been any such instance, I would have surely acknowledged it to you. Following the vision of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, the Ashram runs with the minimum of rules; each inmate had joined the Ashram out of his or her free-will and is free to leave it at any time. The Ashram does not have even a compound wall around it; its residential houses and departments are scattered all over the town. Lady-inmates play a leading role in so many of its activities and the possibility of sexual abuse can hardly be imagined in its atmosphere.Its accounts are audited by premier agencies and are always certified to be clean.

In order to appreciate the Ashram we have to remember the philosophy behind its foundation. Sri Aurobindo visualised man as an evolving being; the time was coming for mankind to be transformed into a Supramental race. In other words Sri Aurobindo’s yogic vision embraced the destiny of humanity as a whole. Hence the Ashramis not an assembly of ascetics, but it represents numerous specimens of mankind, including an ambitious few who try to sabotage it from within while painting others as “enemy within”. The truth is, whoever is here for Sadhana is taken care of by the Mother’s Grace; whoever does not live an inner life is bound to feel restless and, if he is unfortunate, will become a prey of maddening forces of falsehood. The Ashram is not to be judged on par with ordinary social association – it is presided over by the Divine Mother. Either I accept this basic truth or I don’t. If I don’t, the wide world outside is there for me. Anyone who is unhappy here due to their own frustrated inner ambitions and desires is free to leave this place at any time.

Mr. Chari has referred to a few periodicals (Tehelka included) in which over the years some stray critical articles were published. But why not – if Organiser could publish such a blatant exercise in falsehood? A reference has also been made to CNN-IBN conducting a so called sting-operation. But the statement clearly avoids stating that the channel management realised that the so-called sting was fake journalism, and the said program has never been telecast.

We can easily guess the sources that have provided the “author” with the stuff, for the stock is familiar enough. The sly motive to draw the Prime Minister’s attention to it is poor and pathetic.

Coming to the book in question, I am not at all concerned here with Wendy Doniger or Jeffrey Kripal, whom the author has mischeivously and perversely clubbed with Peter Heehs. Peter Heehs cannot by any means be equated with these persons. Nevertheless, Heeh’s book is not published by Sri Aurobindo Ashram; the Ashram channels do not sell it. Many readers like the book – and they include not only noted intellectuals, but also genuine admirers and devotees of the Master and the Mother. If some do not like it, that is fine. The Ashram has no business to ask anybody to read it or prohibit anybody from doing so. There may be errors in the book, at certain places the author’s style of narration may be disliked by some (my style of writing is also not in tune with that of the author’s), but that does not justify the propaganda carried on through quotations taken out of context. If at all harm could be done to Sri Aurobindo, it is these fake enthusiasts who have done it.

The Sri Aurobindo Ashram is indeed a home for tens of thousands of seekers spread all over the world. It should not be treated so casually – at least by a journal of your status.

I trust that you will be broad and kind enough to publish my rejoinder in full, even if it is bitter, and not be partial towards Mr. Chari simply because he was your former editor.

Thanking you,

Sincerely,

Prof Manoj Das

Sri Aurobindo Ashram,

Pondicherry

(The writer is a renowned bilingual creative writer who writes in Oriya and English. He is the recipient of Sahitya Akademi Award Fellowship, Padmashree and Saraswati Samman. He has been an inmate of Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Puducherry since 1973.)

100

This, by the way, is Auroleaks’s 100th post!

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Prasad sisters to vacate the ashram

May 6, 2014 3 comments

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The Supreme Court has directed Jayashreee Prasad and her four sisters, residents of Sri Aurobindo Ashram who repeatedly levelled serious charges against representatives of the commune that the Madras high court found were false and motivated, to vacate the ashram by July 31.

Disposing a special leave petition filed by the sisters against a Madras high court order asking them to vacate the ashram, a bench of Justice Sudhansu Jyoti Mukhopdhaya and Justice Ranjan Gogoi had on April 29 directed the sisters to follow the rules and regulations of the ashram for as long as they remain there.

The bench said it would be open to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust to initiate contempt proceedings against the sisters if they fail to comply with the order.

The Madras high court in June 2010 had directed the sisters to vacate the ashram and suggested that they stay in a women’s hostel. The sisters refused to follow the high court’s orders following which the ashram’s administrators filed a contempt case against them.

The protracted battle between Jayashreee and her sisters, Arunashri, Rajyashree, Nivedita and Hemlata and the ashram management began when a retired district judge appointed by the Madras high court in 2002 to probe misconduct charges against Hemlata declared her guilty and recommended that the ashram initiate disciplinary action against her.

The Madras High Court in August, 2012 directed the sisters who are originally from Bihar to leave the ashram by September 2, 2012. The Madras High Court passed the order on a petition filed by the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust against the order of the Puducherry principal district munsif which had directed the trust not to deny the ashram’s facilities to the five sisters till the suit remained pending.

Pulling up the district munsif for exceeding its jurisdiction by passing an order allowing the siblings to stay in the ashram despite Madras High Court ordering them to move out of the ashram in 2010, high court judge Justice S Manikumar directed the sisters to make their own arrangements for accommodation outside the ashram.

In his report in 2002, the retired judge had noted that the allegations against Hemlata were serious and said it would set a bad precedent if no action were to be taken against her.

Hemlata challenged the report of the retired judge and filed a suit to restrain the ashram from taking action against her. In response, the ashram trust charged the sisters with making false allegations of sexual harassment against representatives of the ashram and its members. The trust pointed out that the National Commission for Women and National Human Rights Commission had found their complaints to be false and motivated.

One of the siblings had also filed a complaint of criminal defamation against trustees of the ashram and other inmates. A judicial magistrate in Puducherry dismissed the complaint and noted that Hemlata lied under oath.

The sisters and some of their associates in 2012 again complained to the Puducherry collector against the ashram and its members, suppressing the facts that the courts and various commissions had already found that the complaints to be false.

How to prove that a square is a circle

April 11, 2014 1 comment

We at AuroLeaks have often wondered how the Sraddhalunatics manage to interpret passages from a certain biography of Sri Aurobindo as they do. We have found an explanation:

It would not be impossible to prove with sufficient repetition and psychological understanding of the people concerned that a square is in fact a circle. What after all are a square and a circle? They are mere words and words can be molded until they clothe ideas in disguise.

— Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda

Auroville Today report on Ashram Affairs

October 26, 2013 Leave a comment

A PDF of this report, which appeared in the October 2013 issue of Auroville Today, is available at this link. The text is also available here.

One hand is enough to stab somebody

October 12, 2013 3 comments

Order appointing Justice P.R. Raman upheld

September 27, 2013 Leave a comment