François Gautier reviews The Lives of Sri Aurobindo.
The Lives of Sri Aurobindo — a Controversial Biography
by R.Y. Deshpande
Peter Heehs's Lives of Sri Aurobindo is a recent arrival in the thriving genre of biographies and professes itself to be founded on researched material. It essentially treats the subject as a human person, one in our nature, and not really as an exceptional yogi or a spiritual stalwart, and in the least as an incarnate. The book has been recently published by the Columbia University Press and appears to be rough on the sentiments of the devotees of the Mother and the Master. The author claims himself to be a meticulous professional historian and wants to present the life, howsoever remarkable it be, strictly as it should emerge from the documentary material.
(From the May 2010 issue of Le Trait-d'union. The original French text follows.)
The Lives of Sri Aurobindo
What does the name “Sri Aurobindo” mean to the people of Pondicherry?
For many it is simply the name of a street (which has the respectful “Sri” cut off). A significant minority knows more than this, their conception of him rising from the philosopher to the yogi, and for some going so far as to regard him as almost divine, the object of a devotion inspiring pilgrims to go and bow down at his tomb in the Ashram. In fact the Ashram ranks as one of India’s favorite places of pilgrimage, and people come by the busload from the four corners of India while making the rounds of the sacred places in the region. In the town, people are often disturbed by this influx of “outsiders.”
The Lives of Sri Aurobindo, reviewed by Katinka Hesselink on August 3, 2010,
with a Comment by Nirmalya Mukherjee.
Reviewed in the West as the only decent biography of Sri Aurobindo Goshe, from politician, to poet and guru. This guy lived a fascinating life and Peter Heehs describes as many aspects of it as the Sri Aurobindo archives can help enlighten us on.
In India this is a controversial book. It’s even been banned in Orissa. The ban is due to the book not putting everything Sri Aurobindo did in a starry light. It deigns to suggest psychological motives, finding them in the plays Aurobindo wrote as well as his letters.
From a Western perspective, the suggestion that the man had personal motives as well as spiritual ones, doesn’t detract from his stature. However, many Indian devotees perceive them as an insult to his name. It’s called ‘Freudian Psychoanalys’ by some – when there really isn’t a word of Freudian psychology in the whole book.