In a letter explaining his stand with regard to the publication of The Lives of Sri Aurobindo by Peter Heehs and the campaign subsequently launched by certain "Aurobindonians" against both the book and its author, Manoj Das Gupta, the Managing Trustee of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, quotes the following statements from the works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.
MDG: Two teachers had a rather heated discussion about their work. One of them presented the problem to the Mother and asked for her opinion. She replied:
Truly speaking, I have no opinion. According to the truth-vision, everything is still terribly mixed, a more or less fortunate combination of light and darkness, of truth and falsehood, of knowledge and ignorance, and so long as decisions are made and action is carried out according to opinions, it will always be like that.
We want to give the example of an action that is carried out according to the truth-vision, but unfortunately we are still very far from realising this ideal; and even if the truth-vision is expressed, it is immediately distorted in its implementation. So, in the present state of things, it is impossible to say: this is true and this is false, this leads us away from the goal, this leads us nearer to the goal. Everything can be used for the sake of progress; everything can be useful if one knows how to use it. The important thing is never to lose sight of the ideal you want to realise and to make use of every circumstance for this purpose. After all, it is always preferable not to make any decision for or against things, but to watch events as they develop, with the impartiality of a witness, relying on the divine Wisdom which will decide for the best and do what is needful. (The Mother, On Education, 2002, pp. 320–321)
MDG: Once, when we young children (age group 11-12!) had a quarrel on some issue with the elder boys, we wrote to the Mother as to how the big boys had insulted us. This is what the Mother wrote to us:
My dear children,
The first thing to do is not to feel insulted, Sri Aurobindo's and my children must be above all insult.
The second thing is to try to understand the point of view of the others, which is indispensable to widen the consciousness and to prevent all anger and spite....
See how very little all outer circumstances matter. Why strive and strain so to realise thy own conception of Truth? Be more supple, more trusting. The only duty is not to let oneself be troubled by anything. To torment oneself about doing the right thing causes as much harm as a bad will. Only in a calm as of deep waters can be found the possibility of True Service. (The Mother, Prayers and Meditations, August 2, 1913)
A good advice to all the Ashramites in their dealings with visitors and foreigners (and even among themselves): “When you have nothing pleasant to say about something or somebody in the Ashram, keep silent. “You must know that this silence is faithfulness to the Divine’s work.” (Words of the Mother I, p. 145)
Extracts from Correspondence with Sri Aurobindo by Nirodbaran:
1) Let me remind you of what I wrote about the Avatar. There are two sides of the phenomenon of Avatarhood, the Divine Consciousness behind and the instrumental personality. The Divine Consciousness is omnipotent but it has put forward the instrumental personality in Nature, under the conditions of Nature, and it uses it according to the rules of the game — though also sometimes to change the rules of the game. If Avatarhood is only a flashing miracle, then I have no use for it. If it is a coherent part of the arrangement of the omnipresent Divine in Nature, then I can understand and accept it. (p. 150)
2) It is a silly imagination of yours that you are trying to foist on the truth of things. The Divine also comes down into the cycle of rebirths, makes the great holocaust, endures shame and obloquy, torture and crucifixion, the burden of human nature, sex and passion and sorrow and suffering, manifests many births before he reveals the Avatar. And when he does reveal it? Well, read the lives of the Avatars and try to understand and see. (p. 169)
[Editor's comment: Would Sri Aurobindo now have written, "read The Lives of Sri Aurobindo and try to understand and see"?]
3) I have borne every attack which human beings have borne, otherwise I would be unable to assure anybody 'This too can be conquered'. At least I would have no right to say so. Your psychology is terribly rigid. I repeat, the Divine when he takes on the burden of terrestrial nature, takes it fully, sincerely and without any conjuring truth or pretence. If he has something behind him which emerges always out of the coverings, it is the same thing in essence, even if greater in degree, that there is behind others - and it is to awaken that that he is there.
The psychic being does the same for all who are interested for the spiritual way,— men need not be extraordinary beings to follow yoga. That is the mistake you are making, to harp on greatness as if only the great can be spiritual. (p. 176)
4) The Divine does not need to suffer or struggle for himself: if he takes on these things it is in order to bear the world-burden and help the world and men; and if the suffering and struggles are to be of any help, they must be real. A sham or falsehood cannot help. They must be as real as the struggles and sufferings of men themselves — the Divine bears them and at the same time shows the way out of them. Otherwise his assumption of human nature has no meaning and no utility and no value. It is strange that you cannot understand or refuse to admit so simple and crucial a point. What is the use of admitting Avatarhood if you take all the meaning out of it? (p. 175)
5) The question involved is also this — is a man bound to the character and qualities he has come with into this life — can he not become a new man by Yoga? That also I have proved in my sadhana, it can be done. When you say I could do this only in my case because I am an Avatar (!) and it is impossible in any other case, you reduce my sadhana to an absurdity and Avatarhood also to an absurdity. For my yoga is done not for myself who need nothing and do not seek salvation or anything else, but precisely for the earth-consciousness, to open a way to the earth-consciousness to change. Has the Divine need to come down to prove that he can do this or that or has he any personal need of doing it? Your argument proves that I am 'not an Avatar but only a big human person. It may well be so as a matter of fact, but you start your argument from the other basis. Besides, even if I am only a big human person, what I achieve shows that that achievement is possible for humanity. (p. 138)
From Thoughts and Aphorisms by Sri Aurobindo:
1) To hate the sinner is the worst sin, for it is hating God; yet he who commits it glories in his superior virtues. (p. 9)
2) When I hear of a righteous wrath, I wonder at man's capacity for self-deception. (p. 9)
3) Examine thyself without pity, then thou wilt be more charitable and pitiful to others. (p. 12)
4) When thou callest another a fool, as thou must sometimes, yet do not forget that thou thyself hast been the supreme fool in humanity. (p. 30)
5) When thou findest thyself scorning another, look then at thy own heart and laugh at thy folly. (p. 48)
6) When thou hearest an opinion that displeases thee, study and find out the truth in it. (p. 49)
7) Avoid vain disputing; but exchange views freely. If dispute thou must, learn from thy adversary; for even from a fool, if thou listen not with the ear and the reasoning mind but by the soul's light, thou canst gather much wisdom. (p. 48)
8) It is easy to distinguish the evil worked by sin and vice, but the trained eye sees also the evil done by self-righteous or self-regarding virtue. (p. 57)
9) Dost thou hate the atheist because he does not love God? Then shouldst thou be disliked because thou dost not love God perfectly. (p. 75)
MDG: But what is of great worry at present is that this sad episode has given the pernicious excuse, in certain quarters, to raise the ugly head of 'East-West divide'. We have to condemn strongly this despicable mentality. Listen then to Sri Aurobindo in his "Message to America":
It has been customary to dwell on the division and difference between these two sections of the human family and even oppose them to each other; but, for myself I would rather be disposed to dwell on oneness and unity than on division and difference. East and West have the same human nature, a common human destiny, the same aspiration after a greater perfection, the same seeking after something higher than itself, something towards which inwardly and even outwardly we move. There has been a tendency in some minds to dwell on the spirituality or mysticism of the East and the materialism of the West; but the West has had no less than the East its spiritual seekings and, though not in such profusion, its saints and sages and mystics the East has had, its materialistic tendencies, its material splendours, its similar or identical dealings with life and Matter and the world in which we live. East and West have always met and mixed more or less closely, they have powerfully influenced each other and at the present day are under an increasing compulsion of Nature and Fate to do so more than ever before.
There is a common hope, a common destiny, both spiritual and material, for which both are needed as co-workers. It is no longer towards division and difference that we should turn our minds, but on unity, union, even oneness necessary for the pursuit and realization of a common ideal, the destined goal; the fulfilment towards which Nature in her beginning obscurely set out and must in an increasing light of knowledge replacing her first ignorance constantly persevere. (Sri Aurobindo, Autobiographical Notes and Other Writings of Historical Interest, p. 551)
MDG: For those of us who are still under some spell of 'the hurt Indian psyche', the following words of Sri Aurobindo may help us to have a clearer perspective of Sri Aurobindo's yoga:
The Ashram has nothing to do with Hindu religion or culture or any religion or nationality. The Truth of the Divine which is the spiritual reality behind all religions and the descent of the supramental which is not known to any religion are the sole things which will be the foundation of the work of the future. (The Bulletin of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, April 1995, p. 84)
I appreciate your feelings about what a sadhak ought to be and from that point of view, what you say is quite true. But it is well understood that the Ashram is not exclusively composed of sadhaks. The Ashram is a reduced image of life where those who practice yoga are a minority, and if I were to keep here only those who are quite sincere in their sadhana, very few indeed would remain.
Sri Aurobindo always reminds us of the fact that the Divine is everywhere and in everything, and asks us to practice a true compassion, as is so beautifully expressed in this aphorism which I am just commenting upon, "Examine thyself without pity, then thou will be more charitable and pitiful to others." (Words of the Mother I, p. 144)
There is no harm in seeing and observing if it is done with sympathy and impartiality — it is the tendency unnecessarily to criticize, find fault, condemn others (often quite wrongly) which creates a bad atmosphere both for oneself and others. And why this harshness and cocksure condemnation? Has not each man his own faults — why should he be so eager to find fault with others and condemn them? Sometimes one has to judge but it should not be done hastily or in a censorious spirit. (Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga II, p. 826)
Queer idea all you fellows seem to have of the "prestige" of the Ashram. The prestige of an institution claiming to be a centre of spirituality lies in its spirituality, not in newspaper columns or famous people. Is it because of this mundane view of life and of the Ashram held by the sadhaks that this Ashram is not yet the centre of spirituality it set out to be? (Nirodbaran's Correspondence with Sri Aurobindo 2, p. 1105.)
You must also understand that there is only one Power at work and neither you nor he nor anybody else matters. Let each open himself to the working of that Power in him and let there be no attempt at forming a body of sadhaks with somebody leading or intervening between the one Power and the sadhaks. (Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga II, p. 1036)
MDG: Lastly, to those of us who have a 'holier than thou' attitude, I would like to remind them of what Mother thought of us:
...most of the people are insincere, a great many are dishonest, a big number are unfaithful and all, except so very few that they can be counted, are selfish.
Useless to say that my force and help are intensely with all those who, along with me, are fighting this state of affairs and all I ask them is to be confident and to endure.
The Truth shall triumph.