Intro: To his credit, Peter Heehs, the fraudulent historian, the author of the controversial book “Lives of Sri Aurobindo”, has learnt his lessons from Indian history – like the wily Colonizer and invader; he has both identified and befriended the enemy within!
India is slowly but surely waking up to the virulent and concerted attacks mounted on its spiritual and cultural foundations by pseudo Western scholars in the garb of deceptive academic studies. The Indian defence in this regard has been led by the seminal and pioneering work of many in India and abroad. One such defence was demonstrated by Dinanath Batra, who took on Wendy Doniger and her obnoxious vituperations parading as research.
While Wendy Doniger’s has been an unapologetic and frontal assault aimed at erotic misinterpretation and denigration of sacred Hindu symbolism, two lesser known henchmen of her loathsome tribe, namely Jeffrey Kripal and Peter Heehs, have adopted a more devious and crafty modus operandi in the endeavour to denigrate, defame, misrepresent and misinterpret Hindu spiritual masters, philosophers, saints and icons. They chose to embed and implant themselves in the very Institution and Ashram of such spiritual giants they had chosen to target. For Peter Heehs at least, supping with the ‘enemy’ has been very profitable and has paid rich dividends.
While our Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, draws inspiration from his idol Swami Vivekananda and reverently refers to the sage and seer Shri Aurobindo in his first Independence Day speech, he would be profoundly shocked and pained to learn that the very same Jeffrey Kripal, who has painted Swami Vivekananda and Sri Ramakrishna as contemptible homosexuals and pedophiles, is the mentor and comrade in arms of Peter Heehs, who has shamelessly portrayed Sri Aurobindo as an individual of loose moral character and a sexually frustrated poet suffering from schizophrenia.
|The Trustees of Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, in a shocking and shameful act of betrayal, enabled Heehs to falsely represent himself as one of the founders of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Archives and stood firmly by his side in the face of serious civil unrest and protest all over India by devotees and disciples of Sri Aurobindo.|
The unholy Trinity of Doniger, Kripal and Heehs have much in common by way of competence deficit in contrast to studies and research undertaken.
- By her own admission, Wendy Doniger has no credentials as a historian and yet she flippantly ventures out to ink an alternative history of the Hindus and essentialises this ancient culture with its human elements as nothing better than sexually conflicted and obsessed monkeys in her infamous book, “The Hindus: An Alternative History”.
- Her doctoral understudy Jeffrey Kripal, without a clue of the Bengali language and culture, proceeds to conjure dubious and derisory research and declares Sri Ramakrishna a homoerotic Tantric lusting after Swami Vivekananda and any young boy in sight in his notorious book “Kali’s Child”.
- Peter Heehs, the least qualified of the triumvirate, a school dropout with no formal educational qualifications and a failed taxi driver by his own admission, condemns and trashes Sri Aurobindo’s life, literature and spiritual achievements in his atrocious and defamatory biography “Lives of Sri Aurobindo”.
However, in a proverbial twist to the tale, it is the dubious Heehs, who trumps his infamous and more formidable mentors at the finishing line. To his credit, Peter Heehs, the fraudulent historian, has learnt his lessons from Indian history – like the wily Colonizer and invader; he identified and befriended the enemy within! While Peter Heehs may have drawn inspiration, support and sustenance in his hatred for all things Hindu from his mentor Jeffrey Kripal, he was not blind to the robust, intellectual and effective response to Kripal by the Ramakrishna Mission in the form of Swami Tyagnanada’s acclaimed rebuttal, “Kali’s Child Revisited”. In his effort to pre-empt and neutralise an institutional backlash, Heehs found willing and obliging partners in the imprudent and incompetent Trustees of Sri Aurobindo Ashram.
The Trustees of Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, in a shocking and shameful act of betrayal, enabled Heehs to falsely represent himself as one of the founders of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Archives and stood firmly by his side in the face of serious civil unrest and protest all over India by devotees and disciples of Sri Aurobindo. Even after the Government of Orissa issued an extraordinary Gazette Notification stating without equivocation that the only intention of Peter Heehs was to create communal strife in the country, the Trustees of the Ashram continued to support Heehs financially and enabled his stay in the Ashram. Additionally, this brazen and notorious critic of Sri Aurobindo in particular and Indian culture in general was anointed the Chief Editor of the Collected Works of Sri Aurobindo. All protests in this regard have thus far fallen on deaf ears lending credence to the countrywide clamour of foul play and breach of trust. Thus, while Heehs and a bunch of equally unqualified foreigners have been handed over complete control of all the Archival material and original manuscripts of Sri Aurobindo’s writings and granted privileged access , ordinary members of the Ashram or the public at large are denied access to the original archival documents. The Trustees have also stubbornly refused to place all original archival documents in the public domain as is the accepted practice in all such Public Institutions thereby fuelling allegations of a dubious and anti-Ashram and anti-national agenda.
In the incumbent Trustees of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Heehs has found, and bonded well, a proverbial enemy within and has possibly pioneered a new modus operandi for future attacks by his ilk: custody of the custodians! However, such a disgraceful exploitation by Heehs has only been possible because of the decade long rot at the very core of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram as an institution.
While the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust and all the establishments under its administrative umbrella form by and large the centerpiece of Puducherry (Pondicherry), and are its largest generator of tourism revenue and one of the biggest employers in the Union Territory, it remains shockingly opaque and beyond any kind of scrutiny by its beneficiaries and the general public alike.
The Trust is administered by five Trustees, who have allegedly usurped all power and have actively terrorised the resident inmates and beneficiaries alike by denying them their fundamental and constitutional rights. Surprising as it may sound in this day and age, the Trustees have lifetime tenures and there is no mechanism for election, change or any form of accountability.
For over a decade now, there have been serious and sustained complaints against the incumbent Trustees involving violation of human rights, rampant sexual abuse of women and children, gross financial mismanagement and land grabbing, tax evasions and illegal sale of valuable Ashram property. There has been massive negative media coverage highlighting the corrupt practices of the Trustees and news magazines such as The Week, Tehelka and Outlook amongst others have published detailed reports. In 2008, CNN-IBN conducted a sting operation into the affairs of the Ashram exposing sexual harassment, violations of human rights and land grabbing by the Trustees. The present Managing Trustee is currently out on bail in a case relating to petty forgery and land grabbing but continues to hold office.
Thus, it is not difficult to see why Peter Heehs has been successful where some of his comrades have failed. The Enemy Within is a far greater threat than the pseudo scholars and soldiers of fortune, which have set out to destroy and decimate Indian cultural and spiritual ethos.
The Government and the people of India cannot afford to be complacent and must guard against cultural terrorists finding refuge, support and willing accomplices in institutions of national and cultural importance which form the bedrock of our cultural and spiritual legacy and also the nation’s first line of defence against organised civilisational attacks.
-Seshadri Char i(The author is former editor of Organiser and now Secretary General of Forum for Integrated National Security (FINS). His email: [email protected] )