Response to Jyotirmaya Sharma by Rich on Sat 19 Aug 2006 07:33 AM PDT
Since Joytirmaya brings up the views of Peter Heehs to support his claim that he gives Sri Aurobindo a balanced treatment, I will add that biographers and historians - even good ones - are forced to select, disregard, and interpret facts which they consider important from their own perspective. Jyotirmaya Sharma’s perspective is no different. To anyone who has studied Sri Aurobindo in any depth at all it will be painfully obvious just how egregiously Jyotirmaya selects his facts to fit his thesis. For example, the works of Sri Aurobindo which are quoted in the book are: On Himself, India’s Rebirth, On Nationalism, Bande Mataram, Essays on the Gita. Oddly enough, Jyotirmaya completely ignores Aurobindo’s major works, including: The Life Divine, The Synthesis of Yoga, Savitri, The Ideal of Human Unity, and only briefly quotes a few words from The Human Cycle. So forgive me if I do not agree with whomever may be the reviewer but, “in no way”, do I find that the neglect of the major corpus of an author’s work achieves balance.
Jyotirmaya's choice is to focus on Sri Aurobindo's role as an independence leader in what he hoped to be a united secular India of all faiths, but according to Jyotirmaya – and forgive my characterization – he [SA] was the narrow minded communalist leader of a bunch of Lingam worshipping Hindu zealots, who not only screamed for the blood of their Muslim neighbors but who intended to sacrifice secular Indian democracy in a fire ceremony to their ravenous goddess Kali. In this manner Jyotirmaya contrives what is a close resemblance to an Orientalist approach in this study. Rather than rooting out the cause of Hindutva in its social, political and even economic dimensions, which involves the exploitation of communal differences in the power agendas of a cold calculating leadership, Sharma seeks to uncover the cause of the social malady by invoking the mystical visions of India’s most prominent spiritual leaders. (Although I am only concerning myself with Sri Aurobindo in this review, both Vivekananda and Dayananda, from what I understand of their teachings, have also been the misplaced target of Jyotirmaya’s historical thesis. However, I do not claim the same for Savarkar, in whom the author has found a more fitting target)...
Due to these omissions by Jyotirmaya, almost the entire historical context is missing, within which Aurobindo at times advocates taking a hard line with Muslim fundamentalists, especially in their intolerance of secular democracy. Is this not the setting up of a straw man thesis?