Friday, April 17, 2009

Science, Culture, Politics, Religion and Integral Yoga

Fundamentalism in Integral Yoga - New Website Announcement
by Debashish on Thu 16 Apr 2009 11:40 AM PDT Permanent Link
Dear SCIY readers,

Because Sraddhalu Ranade and Alok Pandey have been invited to the US for the AUM conference this year, we wish to place certain facts about them before those who may be considering support or sponsorship of these peopleor their projects. These facts concern their involvement in what we regard as promotion of religious fundamentalism, censorship, distortion of truth, and defiance of Ashram rules and authority carried out by Ranade and Pandey recently, so that you may assess any possible support for them. To make people aware of the misleading activities of Ranade, Pandey, and others, and to increase awareness of an unfortunate growing trend among some who claim to be followers of Sri Aurobindo, a website, has been started

In May 2008, Peter Heehs, a well-known historian and long-standing member of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, published a detailed biography of Sri Aurobindo, titled "The Lives of Sri Aurobindo" (Columbia University Press).

Heehs has written acclaimed scholarly books and articles on Sri Aurobindo, India's freedom struggle, and other subjects, and has worked in the Ashram Archives since its inception in 1973. "The Lives of Sri Aurobindo" has been very well-received in the US both by academic readers and reviewers and by followers of Sri Aurobindo. As a result, the message of Sri Aurobindo, most urgently relevant to the world today is entering the academic mainstream.

Since September 2008, however, a few persons from India have begun a full-fledged campaign against the book and its author, claiming that it offends religious sentiments, and calling for the book to be withdrawn from publication and all future editions to be banned. In addition they have pressed for the author to be removed from his post at the Archives and expelled from the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. They have succeeded so far in dislodging Heehs from his irreplaceable work at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Archives (where he was one of the main editors of the Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo); suspending publication of the Indian edition of the book; and fostering widespread ill-will and hatred that has even resulted in violence. The movement against the author has created an atmosphere of spiritual intolerance that has cast a shadow on the Ashram, threatens to polarize the Integral Yoga community, and distort the legacy of Sri Aurobindo, who sought to establish harmony in the world.

Ranade and Pandey have been among the main architects and leaders of this continuing campaign to oust Heehs. Their activities have included the sending of emails and letters to a large number of people, most of whom have not read Heehs’s work. These emails contain demonstrable distortions of the original text, false insinuations against the author, and fabricated conspiracy theories. Viewed more broadly, these emails and letters represent a fundamentalist approach to the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo, which includes a campaign promoting censorship of the book.

In the website we present, among other content, the widely circulated original letters by the leaders of the movement against the book and its author, with explanatory annotations. You may read Ranade’s charges and Pandey’s letters at this site by going to the Annotated Documents and the Further Documents sections. Ranade in one of his first letters denouncing the book urged his audience to work toward banning the book in India. There is good reason to believe that Ranade is behind a Writ Petition submitted to the High Court of Orissa in the name of Gitanjali Bhattacharya, the wife of Ranade's school classmate and friend Jayant Bhattacharya. This writ is intended to block the publication of Heehs's book in India. All substantive portions of this Writ are taken bodily from an email written by Ranade in September 2008. It is most likely that the rest of the Writ also is the work of Ranade.

There have also been two criminal cases initiated against Heehs in district courts in Orissa related to the banning of the book, intended merely to impede the publication of its Indian version, and to harass its author. The first one was deliberately launched in the remote and conservative Keonjhar District, best known as the site of the brutal murder of the Australian Graham Staines and his two young children by members of the Bajrang Dal, a Hindu fundamentalist group, in 1999.

Ironically, Ranade has been representing himself at large as a spokesperson and champion of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, when in fact, he has long been in conflict with the Ashram Trust and has challenged the Managing Trustee and other administrators of the Ashram using unconscionable language. Ranade, Pandey and their cohorts do not, in fact, have the support or sympathy of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust in the activities outlined above. In regard to Heehs biography, we three (who have each been devoted to Sri Aurobindo’s teaching for several decades), have not found any reasonable support for the assertions made by Ranade and Pandey that the book insults Sri Aurobindo, the Mother, or their legacy in any way. We sincerely feel that it is important for you to take the time to inform yourself accurately regarding the activities of Ranade and Pandey.

We believe their actions should be a matter of grave concern to those who care about the work of Sri Aurobindo, his ashram and civil and spiritual society in general. Their activities and those of their supporters will be detailed at, and in other public forums, including but not limited to websites, journals, newsletters, books and conferences. It is hoped that at least in the US, which stands for freedom of speech and expression and for religious tolerance, democracy and pluralism, such rampant obscurantism and dangerous attitudes will be met with unambiguous discouragement.

Sincerely, David Hutchinson (dbhutchinson@ Debashish Banerji (debbanerji@yahoo. com) Rich Carlson (rcarlson@olypen. com) Print Article Keywords: SriAurobindo, IntegralYoga, Fundamentalism, AUMConference, American Science, Culture and Integral Yoga

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