18 May, 2021

A Heretic Believer

Scholar or devotee? A schizoid split? Aurobhakts are torn over Peter Heehs.

Ramesh K.
A Heretic Believer

Matters of spirituality demand quiet contemplation in tranquil settings. The Aurobindo Ashram, intended as just such a transcendental commune, is today anything but. All-too-worldly intrigues and base-level controversies have periodically disrupted the peace here over the past few years, and profoundly so in recent months. At the centre of the storm is Peter Heehs, 63, the American historian and author of the controversial The Lives of Sri Aurobindo, who faces expulsion from the ashram, his home of 41 years, if his visa isn’t renewed. A small group of long-term ashram residents (about 1,300 live here on a permanent basis) deem portions of the book “blasphemous”. They have also called for the ouster of the trustees of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust. There’s another faction in the ashram whose “sentiments have been hurt”, but don’t want to see Heehs expelled. Besides the insider camps duking it out, there are public intellectuals and prominent historians who view this case as an infringement on...

More from Pushpa Iyengar

Latest Magazine

May 24, 2021

other articles from the issue

articles from the previous issue

Other magazine section