Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Chaotic and democratic, creative and therapeutic

from Tusar N. Mohapatra to Satheesh S date 31 March 2010 19:11 subject Re: Drawing one’s own conclusions and imposing them on others: the case of one Mr. RYD.
Dear Satheesh,

The 1993 edition of Savitri is now part of CWSA and thus bears the unmistakable stamp of authentication. Individual viewpoints, however, reflect diverse sentiments which require to be taken into consideration as and when the next edition is planned.

An advantage of Internet is that discussions on various emendations can be carried out online. This is serious work and such a constructive venture is yet to sprout. The earlier ivory tower approach should make way for this chaotic, but participative, method.

You may be right to take exception to certain pronouncements, but stifling our new found freedom of expression would be cruel and self-defeating. Let’s speak, think, make amends, and overturn our beliefs: that would be more democratic, more human, more creative and therapeutic as well (you don’t suffer from Freud-phobia, I hope). [TNM]

Heehs has enough ammunition to redeem himself.

A telescopic view of the Heehs imbroglio unravels its various segments. It snowballed over a fairly long period of time, and presumably, flexing of muscles by a few upcoming actors accelerated the cascading effect.

Parekh, as Paulette has hinted, had resisted blacking out of certain inconvenient documents and his legacy was carried on by Heehs. Obviously he drew the ire of MukherjeeBhattacharya and others from time to time.

The flashpoint was reached in 1993 with publication of the revised edition of Savitri. Protests and court cases followed suit. But Heehs managed to survive unscathed. His other books having contributed to his reputation as an austere scholar.

2008 brought the breaking point. It would be na├»ve of him to claim that he didn’t anticipate such widespread conflagration over the biography he wrote. The book, on the contrary, can be said to be meant to provoke, create a controversy, trigger a debate, and define the future. All these have taken place to an appreciable measure, but sales didn’t soar, alas!

Two words “retouched” and “hagiography” in the preface of The Lives of Sri Aurobindo speak volumes and constitute a defiant methodological manifesto. The following pages, however, fail to stand up to such exacting standards. He was done in by friends, but Heehs has enough ammunition in his hard disc to redeem himself.  [TNM] 

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Kazlev misjudges Heehs

Kazlev commits the same mistake that many others have succumbed to when he observes, Heehs is an academic, not a gnostic, and therefore he is not in a position to understand the higher aspects of Sri Aurobindo's life and teachings.” Deriving characteristics of Heehs’ psychological make-up from a specialized biography that he has authored is methodologically erroneous. [TNM] 

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Join Savitri Era Party

This is an illustration of the fact that not only has socialism in India failed as an economic ideology, it has also failed in Politics. Whereas Nehru and Gandhi were mass politicians in their own right, Chacha Manmohan is a backroom boy. From the backrooms, they try and remote-control politics – keep out the liberals and libertarians; maintain the BJP as the only alternative, a darker shade of black; deify casteism and reservations as appropriate policy responses; and keep on with the PSUs, including Air India; while turning all the attention on stupid issues like employment guarantees and “education.” …
Thus, the only solution to the country’s immense woes is to extend liberalism to Politics itself. There must be a Politics in India that speaks the language of Private Property, of Voluntary Exchange, and of a Rule of Law under these principles. This is a Politics that can have a civilizing effect on the nation and achieve a great purpose – achieve a new moral consensus in the land. Then only can there be peace and harmony.]

[No more reservations Sunday 28 March '10  IE »  Columnist » Tavleensingh»
Whichever way I say this, it is going to sound wrong in these politically correct times, so  I am going to say it straight out. We must stop all reservations...
In this column two weeks ago, I pointed out that reserving 190 seats for women in the Lok Sabha would weaken Parliament. I am happy to see from your letters that most of you agree with me but, unfortunately, we can do nothing because there are not enough people who are willing to stand up and be counted.] 

Writing a passionate blog post or a newspaper column or being engaged in animated discussion about the state of the nation is not enough. Join Savitri Era Party to give shape to your concern for the country. [TNM]

Banerji's subversive zeal

Banerji tells The Times of India that “The work of scholars like Dipesh Chakrabarty has influenced me a lot.” If a Marxist like him takes pride in proclaiming, “My work is an extension of his ideas of the subaltern subject,” there seems to be nothing amiss. But when such extension reaches the work of The Mother & Sri Aurobindo with a subversive zeal, the devotees need to be extremely vigilant. [TNM]     

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Common faith

[Some Creative Messiness, Please - Edit Page - Opinion - Home - The  Times of India 19 Mar 2010  Neat, prosperous and liveable, Singapore yet needs a grand story to tell ... 
Singapore politicians, city planners, architects, educators and think-tankers aspire to make the city a hi-tech global hub of trade and commerce that competes with Tokyo, Hong Kong and Shanghai, a goal that is not difficult to achieve. But to become a great centre for the arts and culture, like New York or London, Singapore needs unbridled freedom of speech and expression, and some tolerance for the creative messiness that accompanies it. It is freedom of speech in all its manifestations that enables a nation to generate an abiding grand narrative or a myth that binds its people. Today Singapore is a very neat, prosperous and liveable city. It is free from civic violence but its civic life is dull. The city-state has no great heroes. It has no grand story to tell the world. (The writer is professor, communication and diplomacy, Norwich University, US.)

Ashram’s grand narrative or myth that binds its people is faith and not freedom of speech. [TNM]

Kripalized disaster

Nagesh Rao, Dec 23, 2009
"How is the US different from India?" i am often asked. As a scholar of communication, my first impulse is to answer with deep theoretical insights. As i reflect, i realise that the most interesting comparisons are in our day-to-day experiences. Let us, for fun and learning, compare an American Christian wedding with an Indian Hindu wedding…
I could have told you how Americans are generally linear, direct and explicit in their thinking. And how Indians are often circular, indirect and implicit in their ways of life. We learn so much more about the same ideas when we unpack and compare our day-to-day experiences, like a wedding… The writer is an associate professor in the department of communication & journalism, University of New Mexico.]

We expected a “linear, direct and explicit” biography from Heehs. But he conjured a Kripalized disaster, alas! [TNM]   

Much more is at stake than the book

“The real issue is neither the court cases nor the internet blogs, but the book written by one Mr PH who has stolen the material entrusted to him,” writes Alok Pandey. He is right, but it should also be appreciated that the court cases weakened the moral stand. It implies incapability of resolving matters within the organization or the community. Heehs was able to garner the sympathy of the fence sitters just by claiming victim hood because of the cases.

It also exposed lack of vigilance as resistance was mobilized after three months of the release of the book. And it defies logic why Indians should be deprived of reading a book when no such bar is there for Americans and others.

Further, the probability of a favorable verdict from the court is not guaranteed. It can go either way. And this is purely a procedural matter. As is clear now, much more is at stake than the book. Das Gupta’s yoga with power and position is complete. He won’t leave the chair as long as his minions sing his choir, and this is ruining the institution. In such a situation, it would be instructive to reread the century-old doctrine of passive resistance. [TNM]  

Friday, March 26, 2010

A critical edition in several volumes

from        Tusar N. Mohapatra  to Satheesh S  date             26 March 2010 20:42 subject Re: Drawing one’s own conclusions and imposing them on othersthe case of one Mr. RYD.
Dear Satheesh,

Many may agree with you that the current edition is the most authentic reproduction/restoration of Savitri, but the wind of a sentimental longing for the earlier edition(s) has been blowing for the last many years. I’d prefer not to scoff at the latter nor resort to depicting it pejoratively.

Once the copyright is rescinded and multiple editions land in the market, devotees would be free to choose as per their liking. But a critical edition in several volumes furnishing alternative readings and sequence of emendations will be the ultimate venture. [TNM]   

Bandwagon and weathercock

Defending the thesis is one questionable skill that the academicians are trained in early on. Philosophies grow out of such one-sided marshalling of arguments. A lawyer’s ability, on the other hand, to plead for either side of a case appears flexible, but paradoxical at the same time. Because spatio-temporal fixity fails to accommodate varying perspectives of the seven blind men admiring an elephant. Rationalizing such a scenario under an overarching postulate of sapta-bhangi-naya too is not free from ambiguity as invoking avyakta or unmanifest is something difficult to grasp.

Logical positivism, in its halcyon days, encountered deadlocks on many fronts and consequently the epistemological rigor had to be abandoned. The same happened with analysis of language in the recent years. The current obsession with SR/OOO is sure to meet a similar fate. But the puerile passion with which it is pursued at present is really astonishing. That a Bourdieuian field is the binding force is however understandable.

The need for perceiving that the opposite is also true is considered normal in the Sri Aurobindian landscape. As if this challenge is not high enough, empirical astuteness is further elevated to the genre of knowledge by identity. Academic verification, obviously, is out of question in such instances, but speculative reasoning firmly points in this direction. Thus the choice, clearly, is between a bandwagon and a weathercock.  [TNM]

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Rama's mother and lemonade

Watching participants from St. Stephen’s College unable to name Rama's mother in a Doordarshan quiz contest, Anant Pai went on to create Amar Chitra Katha. Deepa Sreenivas weaves a colorful tale and takes the story further in SCULPTING A MIDDLE CLASS: History, Masculinity and the Amar Chitra Katha in India (Routledge2010). 

An interesting addition to the genealogy of nationalist sentiment in India discourse. Needless to say that Sri Aurobindo finds no mention in the book. India's Middle Class: New Forms of Urban Leisure, Consumption and Prosperity (Cities and the Urban Imperative) and Ritual Matters: Dynamic Dimensions in Practice  are two related studies by Christiane Brosius. [TNM] 

LSD: Live-in, suicide, & derailment

Live-in, pre-marital sex no offence,” holds the apex court while “Mulayam links women's bill to eve teasing.” “Maoists blow up rail track,” derail Rajdhani Express,” and “kill three policemen in Orissa,” whereas “Naxalism founder Sanyal kills self.” One wonders in which century we live in India today. [TNM]

Alphabets do conspire a coup

Right here I summarize the basic argument behind Wilber's answer to the question of why and how things change over time: ultimately, it's because of Providence working through the minds of Great Men. I find this implausible, but it is a useful context for those who want to interpret Wilber's more monomaniacal claims about his own importance: there is an internal logic to such claims, I mean. To wit:
Great ideas make history, and if Wilber's ideas are to change history, then they must be recognized as great and taken seriously by enough people so that some change is actually effected.
Yes, the argument is circular and specious, but it is something more than just malignant narcissism. It fits in with the whole Weltanschauung, it ties the room together...]

Anderson’s continued interest in Wilber signifies that it is not easy to wish away the formidable formulations of the latter. Whether or not Wilber is an instantiation of “Providence working through the minds of Great Men” one thing is certain that new ideas coagulate while writing. Alphabets do conspire a coup and hijack old themes away.  [TNM]

Banerji bars images

Times of India - Pervez Iqbal Siddiqui - ‎LUCKNOW: Garlands and statues in Uttar Pradesh have an uncanny similarity: they are impressive symbols of political competitiveness.
Times of India - ‎NEW DELHI: Ambedkar united the dalits but his birth anniversary next month will trigger a clash for community votes in Uttar Pradesh, with BSP set to join Congress in playing to the dalit gallery. 'Maya spent Rs 4500 cr on memorials' Indian Express Mayawati spent over Rs.14000 cr on memorials: Congress Sify]

Banerji complains of increased number of photographs of The Mother & Sri Aurobindo. He might have graduated to an impersonal zone of sadhana, but he should be sympathetic to the younger devotees who need the images. After all, it is a personal choice, and why Banerji should be issuing permits for how many images to possess and where to keep them. [TNM]

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

From Chicago with love

This report is an attempt to create a particular kind of world, one defined by the projection of American power—a certain kind of religious power… Assuming that we agree with Sullivan, as I do, that “established religion is by definition not accepting of ‘pluralism, freedom, and democracy,’” it becomes clear that this report is not about engaging religious communities to promote either religious freedom or democracy. It is about the projection of American power through the securitization of religion.]

Heehs and Banerji seem to be keen on an analogical project. [TNM]

Blogs dissolve ego-blocks

The Earth had to slog for over four billion years to devise blog. This incredible means of instant publishing has rewritten the old etiquettes of editorial protocol and prestige. Domains of most newspapers and journals now have a mandatory channel for blogs. Google has a separate search facility exclusively for the blogs and dedicated bloggers are growing by the day.

The reach of the blogs, nevertheless, is minimal considering the world population and the digital divide. The content of a tiny blog is literally a drop in the ocean and it is easy to sink without leaving a trace. But the same probability at its other extreme can work wonders. Quality content do get noticed and by those who need it. Consistency can carry one to the upper zones of a search page.

The teachings of The Mother & Sri Aurobindo have not reached a substantial number of people. Persistent effort is necessary to make them available to those who have not heard their names.  All devotees are requested to initiate a blog towards this purpose. Uploading a few lines regularly will enhance our visibility as well as viability.   

Raman Reddy writing, “I admit that most of us Indian disciples of Sri Aurobindo need to awaken our intellects” is a matter worth pondering over. SELF Group Blogs have been active in spreading this message over the Internet for quite a while.

E-mail clubs like SAICE Yahoo Group and Auroconf are underground affairs and hence one doesn’t get to read what transpires in their hallowed discussions. But not many are participating in blog comment threads offered in the public domain. One may guess that many feel either too superior or are shy and lack confidence. It is desirable to get over both these attitudes. [TNM]

Emotional content in Indian politics is on the rise

India’s path of rapid growth from 1982 (Asian Games) to 2010 (Commonwealth Games) is a gift of globalization. The sheer logic of freedom aided by technology has unleashed innovation and knack of risk taking in diverse spheres. The people are willing to march forward but the political parties are a drag. A few aged and jaded individuals are ruining the future of the younger generation.

The emotional content in Indian politics is on the rise and thinking is anchored to medieval enunciations. Each party is propagating a distorted version of history leading to selective amnesia in its followers. Such induced belief systems are causing immense harm to the future of the nation as a whole.

A large number of devotees of The Mother & Sri Aurobindo are also victims of such a warped awareness of history. But the blow this subject received from one of its noted students connected with the ashram is the most tragic. [TNM] 

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Kazlev votes for Heehs to seal the East-West chasm

Kazlev has cast his vote for Heehs so as to seal the East-West chasm, whereas the coming together of The Mother & Sri Aurobindo on March 29, 1914 stands for the fusion of the twain. Sri Aurobindo, in his series of essays in the Arya, responded to major thinkers like Marx, Darwin, Spencer, Nietzsche, Bergson, Freud, and James. The synthesis he attempted seems to have not made much headway a century later. 

India was under the British rule then, but today it is poised to be a dominant economy. Technology and prosperity have also generated a lot of hubris. Past equilibriums are collapsing causing immense heartburn to those used to privileged treatment. It would be unwise to assume that these have no resonances in an ashram environment. Or, incidents like attacks upon Indians in Australia have no bearing upon the emotions of those residing in an ashram.

The Flat World thesis was offered parading equality and as a consolation, but the meltdown showed its hollowness. Understanding the timing of Heehs’ outpouring, hence, is extremely significant. His targets are many and the repercussions, as per script. Obviously, a 21st century mini edition of colonialism won’t be tolerated within the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Puducherry. [TNM]   

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Power, Wealth, Sex - Liberty, Equality, Fraternity

Upon decoding the abstraction, it becomes apparent that “the three forces - power, wealth, sex - that have the strongest attraction for the human ego and the Asura” are basically inter-personal relationships integral to our embodied existence. Sublimation of these three into “The great mantra of the French revolution - Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” is perhaps one of the major objectives of collective yoga.

Spirituality as a Level-IV defence mechanism is definitely useful for the individual and therefore liberation (moksha) had the sanction of tradition. A broad division of labour based on age (four ashramas) and aptitude (four varnas) got stabilized for realization of the aim (four purusharthas). Religion also stepped in to translate these ideals by mass producing variations catering to popular culture.

When The Mother & Sri Aurobindo ambitiously embarked upon building a spiritual society, the past principles went haywire. The individual’s journey was within a manageable limit of a few decades, whereas the society’s progress covers a much longer span of history. Effectuation, evaluation, and interpretation of a progressively transforming reality are obviously fraught with problems. Besides, the inter-personal dynamics dictating politics, economics, and procreation (power, wealth, and sex) are too entrenched in primordial laws and instincts.

Spirituality, as held by The Mother & Sri Aurobindo, is to leapfrog from the echelon of individual realization (psychicization) to being immersed in the ocean (varuna, vastness, wideness) of universality (spiritualization) which, in turn, dovetails into the causal cauldron level (supramentalization). What fundamental modification would these higher realms of consciousness entail is within the womb of the future and difficult to speculate. But, the good news is that human imagination and action are the only portals through which they will manifest. The abhorrence of the mental, therefore, needs to be moderated. [TNM]  

Friday, March 19, 2010

Trust is only a convenient legal fiction

[Interrogating the ashram Indian Express Tridip Suhrud Friday , Mar 19, 2010
Remember the mystic yogi Sri Aurobindo. His yogic sadhana was both a political and a spiritual act… as communities these were essentially dialogic spaces…They were transparent institutions. They recognised that as public institutions, they were beyond the realm of private property and personal inheritance…
The organisation is suspicious of all public scrutiny, including that by police. They are dismissive of all pleas for openness and their conduct was unbecoming of spiritual seekers.
One suspects that one possible reason for the closed nature of these institutions arises out of its relation with land and property. Here spiritual powers and wealth are both seen as a matter of private ownership, which can be passed on and inherited by a member of the family. Trust in this sense is only a convenient legal fiction.
The idea of the saint is too beautiful and evocative to be eroded by the transgressions of a few figures bearing that name. But these movements collectively have eroded the idea of the ashram as an open, dialogic, experimental space devoted to the pursuit of truth.]

Das Gupta should wake up before media scrutiny makes the matter worse for him. [TNM]

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Reservation for male teachers

[MPs in chains Thursday 18 March '10
The women’s bill will further disempower MPs and parliamentary debate.... Indians to vote on quota Bill for women Irish Times - Rahul Bedi - ‎Mar 8, 2010‎ “Reserving a third of seats for women means that in future they will be confined to these seats and pitted only against other women,” said columnist Coomi ... Future of women's bill still uncertain Malaysia Star - ‎Mar 14, 2010‎ By COOMI KAPOOR Though the enabling legislation passed the first hurdle, the Government developed cold feet in bringing the Women's Reservation Bill to Lok ...]

[SIOI wary of foreign varsity Bill Times of India, 18 March '10‎
HRD Minister Kapil Sibal is of the view that the Bill if passed in Parliament would be a revolution larger than the one in the telecom sector. ... Education leaps into the unknown Express Buzz]

Near-elimination of male teachers from co-ed public schools has spawned serious distortions within the educational environment affecting the psychological well-being of the students. Savitri Era Party demands ensuring reasonable reservation for male teachers in every school at the secondary level. [TNM]

The Life Divine, like Savitri, is not an organic whole

[In a letter to Motilal Roy from June of 1914, he wrote:
a new philosophical review with Richard and myself as Editors — the Arya, which is to be brought out in French and English, two separate editions, — one for France, one for India, England and America. In this Review my new theory of the Veda will appear as also translation and explanation of the Upanishads, a series of essays giving my system of Yoga and a book of Vedantic philosophy (not Shankara's but Vedic Vedanta) giving the Upanishadic foundations of my theory of the ideal life towards which humanity must move. You will see so far as my share is concerned, it will be the intellectual side of my work for the world.[2]]

[The Arya was advertised as "a review of pure philosophy"[4] with a twofold object:
A systematic study of the highest problems of existence.
The formation of a synthesis of knowledge, harmonizing the diverse religious traditions of humanity, occidental as well as oriental.[5]
The method of the review was described as one of "realism, at once rational and transcendental; a realism consisting in the unification of intellectual and scientific discipline with those of intuitive experimentation."[6]]

[Aim of the "Arya": "To feel out for the thought of the future, to help in shaping its foundations and to link it to the best and most vital thought of the past." (Sri Aurobindo in "Our Ideal" in 'Arya' 15 August 1915)]

The Life Divine, like Savitri, is not an organic whole and cannot be delinked from its past. It germinated on March 29, 1914 and grew leaf by leaf, i.e. chapter by chapter every month ending in a long interregnum. Picked up again, was revised, enlarged with eight chapters cast aside and published, the volume-2 after a year’s gap. Not to forget its ten different pre-1914 drafts. The Life Divine is the nucleus around which massive discourse will be woven like an expanding galaxy.

Vikas and Akash have the potential of making a good duo like Banerji & Carlson. They know their subject with matching grip on expression. A few longer pieces can turn them more confident and creative rather than the reactive profile that runs currently. A similar collaborative enterprise between Kepler and Auroman could mark a quantum leap. [TNM]

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Savitri averted

from       Tusar N. Mohapatra to            Satheesh S date           17 March 2010 16:36 subject             Re: Drawing one’s own conclusions and imposing them on others: the case of one Mr. RYD.
Dear Satheesh,

I have published your letter although nothing of the sort was indicated. That you have applied your mind and cared to speak out is indeed welcome. The issue, you would appreciate, is complex with a long & undulating history and only the surface has been scratched so far.

RYD has taken a categorical stand, and he is rightfully entitled to it. He represents one pole, let’s say. Others can come out with theirs. The controversy can’t simply be pushed under the carpet for long, nor can it be supposed that the current edition is final.

Be that as it may, your criticism appeared to me a tad harsh. Hope, you think about it all over again. [TNM]

Savitri Era Party is the future

Baba Ramdev and Varun Gandhi adorning the headlines today indicates bankruptcy of politics in the country. Kumbh Mela and Mayawati's mala are pointers as to how people in India are unable to unshackle themselves from the clutch of medieval mentality.

While technological devices are multiplying channels of learning and communication, confusion within the younger generation pervades. The Mother & Sri Aurobindo have unveiled an illumined path for the future of India and the world. Savitri Era Party rededicates itself for the realization of those dreams. [TNM] 

Monday, March 15, 2010

Engaging contemporary intellectual culture

Auroman was earnest while responding to Raman. But when Kepler made some suggestions in unambiguous terms, Auroman flippantly tossed them around with circuitous repartee. This is a major flaw in normal online discussion threads. The participant’s mood and motive are crucial to what he would say. Pseudonym permits greater liberty for such frolicking:
  • The most common feature is spread (Joe Perez). Instead of replying to the point, just mention three or four additional facts and figures, every time.
  • Drop an anecdote or recount what you had heard from Mr. so and so. And the aura of authenticity is unmistakable.
  • An apt quotation is like a bomb. Hurl it and the opponent is instantly demolished.
  • Replying to one person but simultaneously targeting several others is economy. Using metonymy comes handy here so also many other slants and codes.
  • A rambling account by giving vent to too many things especially when one is provoked or sulks.
  • Hijack the discussion by introducing more juicy and volatile topics.
  • Delay in responding a query also kills zeal; either a dignified silence or a condescending poise.
In the newly discovered corridors of cyberspace the lure of personal positioning often derails academic discussions. Integrity (Habermas) is essential for making written conversation fruitful. [TNM]