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The coronavirus in the light of Sri Aurobindo

For Sri Aurobindo, behind every event that is happening in the world, there are forces at play. Some of these forces are dharmic, that is they tend towards the good of humanity ; and others are asuric, destructive, striving to disrupt, to bring disharmony, to hurt even, and in general push for regression in human evolution.

This is nothing new : all great Scriptures, whether the Vedas, the Bible, or Buddha’s precepts, have said the same thing – the world is Maya, illusion; look behind appearances, search for Truth. Now if you take a glance at the coronavirus epidemic in that light, it acquires a new dimension. On the medical angle, it is nothing compared to other deadly diseases, such as cancer, heart attacks, or Aids. In India, for now, there are less than 0,0001 per cent of the country infected. But just observe what comes along with the coronavirus : fear, suspicion, mistrust, and a worldwide panic that seems to have gripped all – governments, as well as individuals. This is the very psychosis, which comes with asuric forces. We perceive also that the coronavirus is bringing with it tremendous economic damage to the world: airlines, businesses, governments even, might go bankrupt, and individuals are right now undergoing tremendous financial and psychological stress. This also is the Asura.

Now what Sri Aurobindo also says is that these hostile forces need vehicles, instruments, to do their harm. In the case of the coronavirus, this instrument has been the media, both printed and electronic, which has, with sensationalism, hyperbole, and photoshopping, amplified a million time the fears and concerns of people, putting pressure on governments, which all fell prey to this bloodsucking blackmail.

During the Second World War, Sri Aurobindo and his spiritual companion, the Mother, clearly indicated that Hitler was an asura, an evil force, and they put their spiritual power in play to help the Allies defeat him. It is therefore clear that while taking all hygienic and medical precautions, the coronavirus needs to be fought on a spiritual and occult level.

For having a clear occult indication on how to fight this coronavirus epidemic, we need to look at its origin. Well, it does come from China. We are not anti-Chinese per se, but whether the coronavirus is man-made, because the Chinese eat all kind of animals, from vampires to snakes, which are killed alive before being sold; or if it is biological, which accidentally escaped from a research laboratory, there is no doubt about its source. On a very material level, it is a timely reminder to the West of China’s indomitable thirst for hegemonic dominance of the world. Ninety five per cent of the antibiotics consumed on this planet, for example, are made in China; so are most of the automobiles parts, computer chips, mobile phones such as Apple, etc. The world is therefore totally dependent on China today and this is a signal that it is a dangerous thing and the West needs to delocalize from the Chinese and re-localize – in India, for instance – a much more friendly, spiritual and democratic nation.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama often spoke of a ‘black karma’ of the Chinese, not only because they massacred nearly a million Tibetans but also because Mao-Tse tung, in his megalomania, killed 20 million of his own people. Is the coronavirus which has paralyzed the whole China and which will damage its long-term ambitions, such as a new Silk Road that crosses the Himalayas to reach the Pakistani port of Gwadar, and hence flood the western world with Chinese goods, a consequence of that black karma? The future will say.

At any rate, while India needs to take all sanitary precautions, it is She only who can fight the invisible forces behind the coronavirus. All the great gurus of the moment, HH the Dalai-lama, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Amrita Anandamayi, Jaggi Satguru, the Shankarya, Gurumai, etc, should assemble together and performs pujas and yagnas; individually we can also fight the virus by repeating in our hearts the Mother’s prayer:

“In the name of the Divine,

For the sake of the Divine,

By the power of the Divine,

With the strength of the Divine,

To all adverse beings or forces,

I order you to quit this place at once and for ever”….

François Gautier

 

 

 

HINDU TERRORISM

Is there such thing as ‘Hindu terrorism’ ? We know today that Pakistani terrorist Mohammed Ajmal Kasab was to die as Bengaluru’s Samir Chaudhari. Luckily a courageous policeman shot him and he survived so that his true identity could be proved.

Well, I guess I was asked to write this column because I am one of this rare species of foreign correspondents: a lover of Hindus! A born Frenchman, Catholic-educated, non-Hindu, I do hope I will be given some credit for my opinions, garnered after 25 years of reporting in South Asia (for Le Journal de Genève and Le Figaro) – which are not the product of my parents’ ideas, my education or my atavism.

In the early eighties, when I started freelancing in the South , doing photo features on Kalaripayat, the Ayappa festival, or the Ayanars, I slowly realized, on the ground, that the genius of this country lies in its Hindu ethos, or rather in the true spirituality behind Hinduism. The average Hindu that you meet in a million villages, possesses this simple, innate spirituality in his or her genes and accepts your diversity, whether you are Christian, Muslim, or Jain, Arab, French or Chinese. It is this ‘Hindu-ness’ (which cannot be experienced if you sit in Delhi most of the time) that makes most Indian Christians different, from say a French Christian, or an Indian Muslim unlike a Saudi Muslim. I also learnt that Hindus not only believed that the Divine could manifest at different times, under different names, using different Scriptures, the wonderful avatar concept, the perfect answer to 21st century religious strife, but that they had given refuge to all persecuted minorities of the world, whether the Syrian Christians, the Parsis, the Jews (India is the only country in the world where Jews were not persecuted), the Armenians, or today the Tibetans. In 3500 years of known existence, Hindus have also never military invaded another country, never tried to impose their religion upon others, by force or even by induced conversions.

Thus for me, you cannot find less fundamentalist than a Hindu in this world and it saddens me when I see that the Indian and western Press always try to equate terrorists, such as ISIS, who blow up innocent civilians, to angry ordinary Hindus who burn churches without killing anybody. We know that most of these communal incidents often involve persons of the same caste, Dalits and tribals, some of them converted to Christianity and others not. Then, however reprehensible was the destruction of the Babri Masjid, no Muslim was killed in the process; compare this with the ‘vengeance’ bombings of 1993 in Mumbai, which wiped-out hundreds of innocent, mostly Hindus. Yet, the Babri Masjid destruction is often described by journalists as the most horrible act of the two. We also saw how the Indian Media

I have never been politically correct, but have always written – not what is the prevalent trend – but what I have discovered while reporting . Let me then be straightforward about this so-called Hindu terror. Hindus, since the first Arab invasions, have been at the receiving end of terrorism, whether it was by Teimur, who killed 100.000 Hindus in one day in 1399, or by the Portuguese Inquisition which crucified Brahmins in Goa. Today they are still being targeted: there were one million Hindus in the valley of Kashmir in 1900 – but only a few hundred today, the rest having been made to flee through terror. Blasts after blasts have killed hundreds of innocent Hindus all over India in the last four years; Hindus, the overwhelming majority community of this country, are being made fun of, are despised, are deprived of the most basic facilities for one of their most sacred pilgrimages in Armanath, when their Government heavily sponsors the Haj; they are witnessing their brothers and sisters converted to Christianity by financials traps, seeing a 84 year old harmless swami and his Mataji brutally murdered, reading of blasphemy about their Gods…

So, sometimes, Enough is Enough. At some point, after years or even centuries of submitting like sheep to slaughter, Hindus, those that the Mahatma Gandhi once called gently ‘cowards’, erupt in uncontrolled fury. And it hurts badly. It happened in Gujarat. It happened in Jammu, then in Khandamal, in Mangalore, and in Malgeaon. And it will happen again elsewhere. What should be understood is that this is a spontaneous revolution on the ground, by ordinary Hindus, without any preplanning from the political leadership. Therefore, the BJP, instead of acting embarrassed, should not disown its brothers and sisters who choose other means to let their anguished voices be heard.

Today there are about a billion Hindus, one in every six persons of this planet, one of the most successful, law abiding and integrated communities in the world. Can you call them terrorists?

Francois Gautier

 

The Greatest (Hindu) literature ?

Mr Basham, author of the “ The Wonder that was India”,  feels that “much of Sanskrit literature is dry and monotonous, or can only be appreciated after a considerable effort of the imagination” (Wonder that Was India, page 401), which shows a total misunderstanding of the greatness of the genius of that « Mother of all languages ». Sri Aurobindo evidently disagrees with him: “the ancient and classical literature of the Sanskrit tongue shows both in quality and in body an abundance of excellence, in their potent originality and force and beauty, in their substance and art and structure, in grandeur and justice and charm of speech, and in the heightened width of the reach of their spirit which stands very evidently in the front rank among the world’s great literatures.” (Foundations of Indian Culture p. 255)

Four masterpieces seem to embody India’s genius in literature: the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata. As seen earlier, the Vedas represent “a creation of an early and intuitive and symbolic mentality” (Foundations of Indian Culture, p.260). It was only because the Vedic rishis were careful to clothe their spiritual experiences in symbols, so that only the initiated would grasp them, that their meaning has escaped us, particularly after they got translated in the last two centuries. “The Veda is the WORD discovering truth and clothing in image and symbol, the mystic significance of life”, wrote again Sri Aurobindo. (India’s Rebirth, p.95)

As to the Upanishads, asserts the Sage from Pondichery, “they are the supreme work of the Indian mind, that of the highest self-expression of genius, its sublimest poetry, its greatest creation of the thought and word.. a large flood of spiritual revelation…” (Foundations of Indian Culture p.269). The Upanishads are Philosophy, Religion and Poetry blended together. They record high spiritual experiences, are a treaty of intuitive philosophy and show an extraordinary poetic rhythm. It is also a book of ecstasy: an ecstasy of luminous knowledge, of fulfilled experience, « a book to express the wonder and beauty of the rarest spiritual self-vision and the profoundest illumined truth of Self and God and the Universe », writes Sri Aurobindo (Found. of Indian Culture, 269). The problem is that the translations do not render the beauty of the original text, because these masterpieces have been misunderstood by foreign translators, who only strive to bring out the intellectual meaning without grasping the soul contents of it and do not perceive the ecstasy of the seer “seeing” his experiences.

 But without doubt, it is the Mahabarata and the Ramayana, which are dearest to all Indians, even today. Both the Mahabarata and the Ramayana are epical, in the spirit as well as the purpose. The Mahabarata is on a vast scale, maybe unsurpassed even today, the epic of the soul and tells a story of the ethics of India of that time, its social, political and cultural life. It is, notes Sri Aurobindo, “the expression of the mind of a nation, it is the poem of itself written by a whole nation… A vast temple unfolding slowly its immense and complex idea from chamber to chamber” (Foundations of Indian Culture, p 287). More than that even, it is the HISTORY OF DHARMA, of deva against asura, the strife between divine and titanic forces. You find on one side, a civilisation founded on Dharma, and on the other, beings who are embodiments of asuric egoism and misuse of Dharma. It is cast in the mould of tales, legends, anecdotes, telling  stories of philosophical, religious, social, spiritual values: « as in Indian architecture, there is the same power to embrace great spaces in a total view and the same tendency to fill them with an abundance of minute, effective, vivid and significant detail ». (Foundations of Indian Culture, p 288).

The Baghavad Gita must be the supreme work of spiritual revelation in the whole history of our human planet, for it is the most comprehensive, the most revealing, the highest in its intuitive reach. No religious book ever succeeded to say nearly everything that needs to be known on the mysteries of human life: why death, why life, why suffering? why fighting, why duty? Dharma, the supreme law, the duty to one’s soul, the adherence to truth, the faithfulness to the one and only divine reality which pertains all things in matter and spirit. « Such then is the divine Teacher of the Gita, the eternal Avatar, the Divine who has descended into human consciousness, the Lord seated within the heart of all beings, He who guides from behind the veil all our thought and action ». (Sri Aurobindo; Essays on the Gita, page 17)

The Ramayana’s inner genius does not differ from the Mahabharata’s, except by a greater simplicity of plan, a finer glow of poetry maybe. It seems to have been written by a single hand, as there is no deviation from story to story… But it is, remarks Sri Aurobindo, “like a vastness of vision, an even more winged-flight of epic in the conception and sustained richness of minute execution in the detail (289). For Indians, the Ramayana embodies the highest and most cherished ideals of manhood, beauty, courage, purity, gentleness. The subject is the same as in the Mahabharata: the struggle between the forces of light and darkness; but the setting is more imaginative, supernatural and there is an intensification of the characters in both their goodness and evil. As in the Mahabharata too, we are shown the ideal man with his virtues of courage, selflessness, virtue and spiritualised mind. The asuric forces have a near cosmic dimension of super-human egoism and near divine violence, as the chased angels of the Bible possessed after them. « The poet makes us conscious of the immense forces that are behind our life and sets his action in a magnificent epic scenery, the great imperial city, the mountains and the ocean, the forest and wilderness, described with such largesse as to make us feel that the whole world were the scene of his poem and its subject the whole divine and titanic possibility of man, imagined in a few great or monstrous figures ». (Found of Indian Culture page 290)

Does India’s literary genius end with the Ramayana? Not at all. It would take too long here  to jot down all the great figures of Indian literature and this is not a literary treatise. But we may mention Kalidasa, whose poetry was imitated by all succeeding generations of poets, who tried to copy the perfect and harmoniously designed model of his poetry. The Puranas and the Tantras, « which contain in themselves, writes Sri Aurobindo, the highest spiritual and philosophical truths, while embodying them in forms that are able to carry something of them to the popular imagination and feeling by way of legend, tale, symbols, miracles and parables » (Found of Indian Culture P.312).  The Vaishnava poetry, which sings the cry of the soul for God, as incarnated by the love stories of Radha and Krishna, which have struck forever Indian popular imagination, because they symbolise the nature in man seeking for the Divine soul through love. Valmiki, also moulded the Indian mind with his depiction of Rama and Sita, another classic of India’s love couples and one that has survived through the myth of enduring worship, in the folklore of this country, along with the popular figures of Hanuman and Laksmanan. “His diction, remarks Sri Aurobindo, is shaped in the manner of the direct intuitive mind as earlier expressed in the Upanishads”.

But Indian literature is not limited to Sanskrit or Pali. In Tamil, Tiruvalluvar, wrote  the highest ever gnomic poetry, perfect in its geometry, plan and force of execution. In Hindi, Tulsidas, is a master of lyric intensity and the sublimity of epic imagination. In Marathi,  Ramdas, poet, thinker, yogi, deals with the birth and awakening of a whole nation, with all the charm and the strength of a true bhakti. In Bengal, there is Kashiram, who retold in simple manner the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, accompanied by Tulsidas who did the same thing in Hindi and who managed to combine lyric intensity, romantic flight of imagination, while retaining the original sublimity of the story. One cannot end this short retrospective without mentioning Chaitanya, Nanak, Kabir, Mirabai…All these remarkable writers have often baffled the Western mind, which could never understand the greatness of Indian literature, forgetting that in India everything was centred around the spiritual.

The genius of (Hindu) Indian politics

Another of these great prejudices with which Indians had to battle for centuries, is that whatever the spiritual, cultural, artistic, even social greatness of India, it always was disunited, except under Ashoka and some of the Mughal emperors -just a bunch of barbarian rulers, constantly fighting themselves -and that it was thanks to the Mughals and the British, that India was finally politically united. This is doing again a grave injustice to India. The Vedic sages had devised a monarchical system, whereby the king was at the top, but could be constitutionally challenged. In fact, it even allowed for men’s inclination to war, but made sure that it never went beyond a certain stage, for only professional armies fought and the majority of the population remained untouched. Indeed, at no time in ancient India, were there great fratricidal wars, like those between the British and the French, or even the Protestants and the Catholics within France itself. Moreover, the system allowed for a great federalism: for instance, a long time after the Vedic fathers, the real power lay in the village panchayats. Sri Aurobindo refutes the charge (which Basham levels), that India has always shown an incompetence for any free and sound political organisation and has been constantly a divided nation. « There always was a strong democratic element in pre-Muslim India, which certainly showed a certain similarity with Western parliamentary forms, but these institutions were INDIAN ». The early Indian system was that of the clan, or tribal system, founded upon the equality of all members of the tribe. In the same way, the village community had its own assembly, the “visah”, with only the king above this democratic body. The priests, who acted as the sacrifice makers and were poets, occultists and yogis, had no other occupation in life and their positions were thus not hereditary but depended on their inner abilities. And it was the same thing with warriors, merchants, or lower class people. “Even when these classes became hereditary, remarks Sri Aurobindo, from the king downwards to the Shudra, the predominance, say of the Brahmins, did not result in a theocracy, because the Brahmins in spite of their ever-increasing and finally predominant authority, did not and could not usurp in India the political power”. (Foundations of Indian Culture p. 326). The Rishi had a peculiar place, he was the sage, born from any caste, who was often counsellor to the King, of whom he was also the religious preceptor.

Later it seems that it was the Republican form of government which took over many parts of India. In some cases these “Republics” appear to have been governed by a democratic assembly and some came out of a revolution; in other cases, they seem to have had an oligarchic senate. But they enjoyed throughout India a solid reputation for the excellence of their civil administration and the redoubtable efficiency of their armies. It is to be noted that these Indian Republics existed long before the Greek ones, although the world credits the Greeks with having created democracy; but as usual History is recorded through the prism of the Western world and is very selective indeed. One should also add that none of these Indian republics developed an aggressive colonising spirit and that they were content to defend themselves and forge alliances amongst them.

But after the invasion of Alexander’s armies, India felt for the first time the need to unify its forces. Thus the monarchical system was raised-up again; but once more, there was no despotism as happened in Europe until the French revolution: the Indian king did enjoy supreme power, but he was first the representative and guardian of Dharma, the sacred law; his power was not personal and there were safeguards against abuses so that he could be removed. Furthermore, although the king was a Hindu, Hinduism was never the state religion, and each cult enjoyed its liberties. Thus could the Jews and the Parsis and the Jains and the Buddhists, and even the early Christians (who abused that freedom), practised their faith in peace. Which religion in the world can boast of such tolerance ?

As in a human being, a nation has a soul, which is eternal; and if this soul, this idea-force, is strong enough, it will keep evolving new forms to reincarnate itself constantly. “And a people, maintains Sri Aurobindo, who learn consciously to think always in terms of Dharma, of the eternal truth behind man, and learn to look beyond transient appearances, such as the people of India, always survives » (Foundations of Indian Culture, p.334).

And in truth, Indians always regarded life as a manifestation of Self and the master idea that governed life, culture and social ideals of India has been the seeking of man for his inner self -everything was organised around this single goal. Thus, Indian politics, although very complex, always allowed a communal freedom for self-determination. In the last stages of the pre-Muslim period, the summit of the political structure was occupied by three governing bodies: the King in his Ministerial Council, the Metropolitan Assembly and the General Assembly of the kingdom. The members of the Ministerial Council were drawn from all castes. Indeed the whole Indian system was founded upon a close participation of all the classes; even the Shudra had his share in the civic life. Thus the Council had a fixed number of Brahmin, Kshatrya, Vaishya and Shudra representatives, with the Vaishya having a greater preponderance. And in turn, each town, each village, had its own Metropolitan Civic Assembly allowing a great amount of autonomy. Even the great Ashoka was defeated in his power tussle with his Council and he had practically to abdicate.

It is this system which allowed India to flower in an unprecedented way, to excel perhaps as no other nation had done before her, in all fields, be it literature, architecture, sculpture, or painting and develop great civilisations, one upon the other and one upon the other, each one more sumptuous, more grandiose, more glittering than the previous one.

 

A MUSEUM OF INDIAN HISTORY

I had just completed my 18th year and I was living in Paris, France, the city of my birth, when I heard that a caravan of cars was driving from Paris to Pondicherry. I had never heard of India, but something in me pushed me to go. Thus in approx. 6 weeks, we crossed ten countries and had many adventures. We reached Delhi, driving from Lahore, in late September 1969.

I spent my first night in India in the Sri Aurobindo ashram New Delhi, in Aurobindo marg. As I said, I knew nothing about India and had no interest in spirituality. In those days, there were still fields in this part of Delhi. It was evening by the time we settled. I had with me a book of Sri Aurobindo, called the Life Divine, which I had never managed to read. I climbed on one of the vans with which we had come. It was a very beautiful sunset as you often see in India. I felt so peaceful: birds were singing, farmers were coming home. I opened the book and read a few lines. Suddenly I had a strong spiritual experience, a feeling of intense peace and joy and in a few seconds an intuition of what was karma, reincarnation, and of the worlds that were opening to me. Also, an immediate knowledge that I would live in India for the rest of my life.

This I believe, was an experience of Mother India. As many saints have said, India is not just a piece of land, it is the living Shakti, a body that, in spite of so many assaults over the centuries, as our Hindu Tolerance exhibition has shown, still radiates knowledge and power to whomsoever opens to it. My first guru was Mother India and to Her I dedicate this shrine and our Museum.

Of course, 2 weeks later in Pondicherry I met the Mother, Sri Aurobindo’s companion – and it was the turning point of my life: my whole outlook turned upside down – or rather, became as it should be. Since then, it is my strong belief that Mother India guided me in all these years: often, for instance, I have felt spontaneously ‘at home’ in some cities in India, as if I knew them from before. Places like Almora in the Himalayas, for instance, where we have had powerful intuitions on how ancient our souls are.

I even had this experience in Srinagar. I covered Kashmir as a journalist for the largest French political daily in the worst of its unrest, from the late eighties till the Kargil war. It is there without any doubt that I went through some of the most dangerous incidents of my life – and where I acquired, I think, a little bit of fearlessness, which has helped me till today. There was only one hotel opened for journalists during the unrest, it was called Adhoos and it was on the banks of the river Jhelum. There was curfew most of the time and nobody could go out without a pass, but at night I would step out of the hotel and walk on the bund that stops the river Jhelum from overflowing into Srinagar. One could hear gunfire and sometimes-even grenades in the distance, yet I could feel the presence of the millions of saints, yogis, avatars and simple people who had prayed and meditated for thousands of years in Kashmir. It seems today like an abstract experience, but on the spot, it was so strong and vivid and I felt that this was the very reason that India should keep Kashmir, for its sacredness and the Mother’s presence in spite of all the strife.

I came to Pune 12 years ago for an Art of Living course. In the same way I immediately felt at home here. The course happened in a beautiful Jain temple outside the city. I knew of course about Shivaji Maharaj, having researched him for my books and becoming a long-standing admirer of him. I had some time after the course and I asked my driver to take me to the main Museum, which is called Kelkar. I was surprised and shocked to find that there was not a single exhibit on Shivaji and that in the city of his birth, there was no Museum worth the name honoring him. Great men and women who walk this earth and are instruments of God, do most of their work while in their physical body. But when they die, I believe they leave something behind, a presence, a will, an influence. This day I felt that I should do something to honor Shivaji Maharaj who was so devoted to his country, which he worshipped as the Mother and the idea of a Museum of true Indian History, dedicated to Shivaji Maharaj, started taking shape in my mind. Pune is the ideal place for this Museum: it’s Shivaji Maharaj’s realm, it is central to India and easily accessible from the South or the North and more than anything, Marathas have a stronger national fiber than in other states and I felt the Museum will be better protected here.

Yet, having spent the first 18 years of my life France, I still believe in logic and understanding with the mind. What is then the purpose of the Shivaji Maharaj shrine and of the Museum? Firstly, this is a place of knowledge. People can come to the temple, meditate, pray to Mother India or do a puja and come down a bit from their heads to their hearts. Then, they can learn something about the history of their country in the three exhibition halls, while the main Museum comes-up. Programs can also happen in our small amphitheater: films made by our foundation FACT can be screened, plays, satsangs can happen, art of living courses. Some of the Pune youth can come out feeling a little prouder of being Indian, a little more knowledgeable about the history of this great civilization that is India. It is a tragedy that the Indian education system produces so many brilliant youth, who are just good for export, as they are not made to learn about their own history, poets, avatars, legends.

We would like to have many Bharat Mata temples such as ours in Pune, along with one exhibition hall, come up, first all over Maharashtra, then in Gujarat and eventually, if God wills, all over India. It can be dedicated to different heroes and heroins: In Maharashtra it could also be dedicated to Dr Ambedkar, who is a true son of Bombay; in Rajasthan it can be dedicated to Rana Pratap, in Madhya Padesh Ahylyabai or Rani of Jhansi, in Karnataka Chennamai, in Tamil Nadu to poet Bharati, and so on.

This is a difficult project. Whoever has never attempted to raise money for a Museum should give it a try. I have met hundreds of potential donors, but when you say “ I need funds to build a Museum of Indian History, as it happened, not as it has been written”, you can see the mind of your interlocutor doing click and then pat comes the answer: “oh I have to speak to my board, oh, we only give to for health or education projects”, full stop. There must be a reason why there is no Museum of Shivaji Maharaj worth the name in Pune, for at every step we encountered problems, some foreseen, some unforeseen, some even coming from our own people. Trying to portray Indian History as it happened, not as it has been written, is a very sensitive task that leaves one exposed to all kind of troubles. We even are facing some threats from some Shivaji group, who objects to Shivaji Maharaj being associated with Mother India or the Vedas. Shivaji was an extraordinary being, an instrument of god and whoever binds him to a particular caste, or even a particular guru, demeans him and hampers his work, for he was a supra national figure and his qualities of dedication to Mother India, of extreme courage, of respect of human rights and honest administration, are badly needed in today’s India.

This is just a humble beginning: we will soon start the foundations of the main Museum, which will house exhibitions from the Vedas to the India of tomorrow. If God, in spite of my shortcomings, gives me the strength, the enthusiasm and the dynamism, it will be a wonderful and noble project that will be talked about for centuries. But for that, we need funds, a lot of funds. I hope those of you who will read these words, will be touched and will pass along the message to their friends. This is a Museum of the greatness, tragedy and enduring power of the Hindus. THIS IS A MUSEUM OF HINDU POWER.

FACT is a registered Trust and has US, UK and Indian tax exemption, as well as FCRA. Donations in Indian rupees can be made at the following account:

 

Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism (FACT)

Account No: 04071450000237. IFCS code: HDFC0000407

Bank Address: HDFC Bank Ltd., T S No.6, 100 Feet Road

Ellaipillaichavadi, Pondicherry-605 005.

Namaste

 

François Gautier/Trustee FACT (fgautier@rediffmail.com)

 

 

What is true Hindu-ness? (Part I)

A country needs a people who are proud of their own culture and civilisation to move forward. That is what true nationalism – not jingoism – is about. It also requires an intelligentsia which reflects this pride in its newspapers, books, paintings, sculpture, sports even. But for this purpose, both intellectuals and grass root people have to be groomed in the intricacy, the subtlety and genius of their own culture, while not being blind to its faults. We have thus to educate the children of India and this is why this book is addressed to all Indian youth, wherever they are from, from whichever strata of Indian society they originate, whatever is their first language. It will endeavour to teach them why it is a great privilege to be born an Indian today and what travails, pitfalls and genocides, their culture had to endure throughout the centuries. Then only will each Indian ask himself this question: ”what can I do for my country” ? In what way can I contribute to this great nation which is India? What is it to be an Indian today? What is meant by Indian-ness, this natural inner space, which automatically confers certain qualities” ?

Firstly and foremost: “I accept you; I accept that you may be White or Black, Red or Yellow, Christian, Buddhist, or Muslim”. Not only that, “but I am even ready to go and worship in a church or a mosque, besides my temple.” “I accept that my Gods are avatars, incarnations of the Divine, but so are Jesus Christ, and also Buddha and even Mohamed”. This is why India has always been a country of freedom, where all persecuted religious minorities in the world have found refuge over the centuries, whether the Jews, the Parsis, the Syrian Christians, or today the Tibetans.

This accepting of the other is an extraordinary statement and a marvellous instrument towards world peace, at a time when the two great monotheist religions of the world, Islam and Christianity, still say: “there is only one true God in the world – mine- and if you worship any other god, you are an Infidel and a Pagan and it is my right to convert you by any means, or even to kill you”. The 11th September 2001 attacks are nothing but a consequence of that dangerous theorem.

What else ? “I have inherited from my ancestors the tools to become a better man, whatever my religion, ethnicity and profession: a better Christian, a better Hindu, a better Muslim, a better carpenter, or CEO, IT engineer, or sailor”. What are these tools ? Hata-yoga, India’s gift to the world, which has been copied and imitated everywhere (although Time magazine did a story on yoga without mentioning the name “India” once). What else ? Meditation, this extraordinary technique of coming back to one’s Self, of settling the mind and the body, which is today practiced by millions around the world – another bequest of India to humanity. Pranayama, the science of respiration, perfected by Indians for three millenniums. “Does the breath have any religion”, asks Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of the Art of Living movement, which has spread today in 140 countries ?

There is a craze amongst Indians to rush to the United States or to send their children to US universities. America holds thus a great fascination for Indians – most of them Hindus. But is America really the benevolent, casteless society ? Well, for one, what the White Americans did to the Blacks not that long ago, must be ranking amongst some of the saddest deeds perpetuated by one class of humanity on another; not to speak of the terrible and shameful treatment inflicted upon the hapless Red Indians, the original inhabitants of their land. There are also a lot of inequalities in the States: extremely rich people and some incredibly poor folks. American journalists and human rights activists like to highlight the “oppressed” condition of women in India. But as early as the late sixties, India elected democratically a woman Prime Minister, the highest post of the nation – and that for nearly twenty years. Can the country of triumphant feminism and gender equality boast of a woman President – Hillary Clinton did not make it recently? The problem is that most Indians suffer too much from an inferiority complex vis à vis the West, to point this out to the Americans who are constantly criticizing India for its human rights in Kashmir .

Yes, in America one enjoys the liberty to do whatever one wants without the red tape, bureaucracy and heavy taxation that one is subjected to in India, or even in industrialized countries such as France. But after 11th September 2001, freedoms have been heavily curtailed in the US, especially if you have a brown skin, as many Indians, are finding out today, being mistaken by ignorant Americans for Pakistanis, Afghanis or Saudis. Today, each of your movements is watched in the US, as there are video cameras everywhere, not only at airports, but also at traffic lights, in stores, at cinemas. Everything is known about you, thanks to computerization – and we even once heard on the PA of Atlanta airport: “ you can go to jail for something you say as a joke” ! Compare this to India: I have lived here for 40 years, I have gone to the most remote places, traveled to sacred spots with my cameras, tape recorder and white face. And never once have I been aggressed, never once has my passport been asked in the streets (try traveling in the subway in Paris if you have a brown face and a leather jacket), never once have I been mugged at late nights in Delhi, Mumbai or Chennai, whereas in Washington, the capital of the ‘land of freedom’, we were told not to go out alone in certain parts after 8 PM.

Some speak about the extraordinary “religious freedom one can enjoy in the US, where nobody bothers whether you are a Jew, a Hindu, or a Christian”. Fair enough. But let’s put it that way: the American population is overwhelmingly Christian and nobody there finds anything to say that the President of the United States is sworn in on the Bible, or that in some states a Christian prayer is uttered before the start of the school. India has a thumping Hindu majority (80%), but imagine the uproar if Mr. Modi and his ministers were sworn in on the Bhagavad-Gita ! Yet, India had three Muslim Presidents since independence. Did the US ever have a Muslim President?

 

Extract from the book ‘Hindu Power- Fears and obstacles’ to be released next year published by Har Anand, New Delhi

 

THE DALITS AS BRAHMINS AND THE BRAHMINS AS DALITS

At a time where Twitter had Jack Dorsey on a trip to India, is photographed with a poster protesting the ‘so-called’ Brahmin dominance and what referred as ‘caste apartheid’, nobody talks about the plight of the upper castes. The public image of the Brahmins, for instance, is one of an affluent, pampered class. But is it so today ? Well, judge for yourself: There are 50 Sulabh Shauchalayas (public toilets) in Delhi; ALL are cleaned and looked after by Brahmins (this very welcome public institution was started by a Brahmin). There are 5 to 6 Brahmins manning each Shauchalaya. These Brahmins came to Delhi eight to ten years back looking for a source of income, as they were in minority in most of their villages, where Dalits are in majority (60 – 65%). In most villages in UP and Bihar, Dalits have a union which helps them to secure jobs in villages. Too bad for the Brahmins ! Did you know that you also find a number of Brahmins working as coolies in the Delhi railway station ? Kripa Shankar Sharma, one of them, says that his daughter is doing her Bachelors in Science but he is not sure if she will be able to secure a job. “Dalits have often five to six kids, he says, but they are confident of placing them easily and well. As a result, the Dalit population is increasing in villages”. He adds:“ Dalits are provided with housing even their pigs have spaces; whereas there is no provision for goshalas for the cows of the Brahmins”.

You also find Brahmins rickshaw pullers in Delhi. 50% of the richshaw pullers in Patel Nagar are Brahmins who like their other brethren have moved to the city looking for jobs. Even after toiling the whole day, Vijay Pratap and Sidharth Tiwari, two Brahmin rickshaw pullers, say they are hardly able to make both ends meet. Their rickshaws, which are on a daily rent of Rs.25 /-, get stolen very often. These men make about Rs.100/- to 150/- on an average every day from which Rs.500 /- to 600/- go towards the rent of their rooms, shared by 3 to 4 people or their families.

The rickshawpullers working in West Patel Nagar, most of them in their thirties, reside in the nearby areas like Baljeet Nagar and Shadipur gaun. All of them belong to Bahraich district of Uttar Pradesh. Some of them are qualified like Arun Kumar Pandey, a 28 year old Brahmin, who has done high schooling. He says that he is working as a rickshawpuller because there are less employment opportunities in his village and the schooling is not up to the mark. He is living on rent in a room which is shared by four people and pays Rs.600 monthly. Did you also know that most of Benares’ rickshaws pullers are Brahmins ?

This reverse discrimination is also found in bureaucracy and politics. Most of the intellectual Brahmin Tamil class has emigrated outside Tamil Nadu. Only 5 seats out 600 in the combined UP and Bihar assembly are held by Brahmins – the rest are in the hands of the Yadavs. There last 400.000 Brahmins of the Kashmir valley, the once respected Kashmiri Pandits, now live as refugees in their own country, sometimes in refugees camps in Jammu and Delhi in appalling conditions. But who gives a damn about them ? Their vote bank is negligible.

Do you think it is only in the North ? 75% of domestic help and cooks in Andhra Pradesh are Brahmlns. A study of the Brahmin community in a district in

Andhra Pradesh (Brahmins of India by J.Radhakrishna, published by Chugh Publications) reveals that all purohits today live below the poverty line.  Eighty

per cent of those surveyed stated that their poverty and traditional style of dress and hair (tuft) had made them the butt of ridicule. Financial constraints coupled with the existing system of reservations for the “backward classes” prevented them from providing secular education to their children.

In fact according to this study there has been an overall decline in the number of Brahmin students. The average income of Brahmins being less than that of non-Brahmins, a high percentage of Brahmin students drop out at the intermediate level. In the 5-18 year age group, 44 per cent Brahmin students stopped education at the primary level and 36 per cent at the pre-matriculation level. The study also found that 55 per cent of all Brahmins lived below the poverty line that is below a per capita

income of Rs.650 a month. Since 45 per cent of the total population of India is officially stated to be below the poverty line it follows that the percentage

of destitute Brahmins is 10 per cent higher than the all-India figure. There is no reason to believe that the condition of Brahmins in other parts of the

country is different. In this connection it would be revealing to quote the

per capita income of various communities as stated by the Karnataka Finance Minister in the State Assembly: Christian Rs.1562, Vokkaligas Rs.914,

Muslims Rs.794, Scheduled caste Rs.680, ScheduledTribes Rs.577 and Brahmins Rs.537.

Appalling poverty compels many Brahmins to migrate to towns leading to spatial dispersal and consequent decline in their local influence and institutions.

Brahmins initially turned to government jobs and modern occupations such as law and medicine. But preferential policies for the non-Brahmins have forced

the Brahmins to retreat in these spheres as well. According to the Andhra Pradesh study, the largest percentage of Brahmins today are employed as domestic servants. The unemployment rate among them is as high as 75 per cent

What about this other myth of the rich and arrogant Brahmin priest ? Seventy percent of Brahmins are still relying on their hereditary vocation. There are hundreds of families that are surviving on just Rs. 500 per month as priests in various temples  (Department of Endowments statistics)  Priests are under tremendous difficulty today, sometimes even forced to beg for alms for survival. There are innumerable instances in which Brahmin priests who spent a lifetime studying Vedas are being ridiculed and disrespected. At Tamil Nadu’s Ranganathaswamy Temple, a priest’s monthly salary is Rs.300 (Census Department studies) and a daily allowance of one measure of rice. The government staff at the same temples receive Rs.2500 plus per month. But these facts have not modified the priests’ reputation as “haves” and as “exploiters.” The destitution of Hindu priests has moved none, not even parties known for Hindu sympathy.

The tragedy of modern India is that the combined votes of Dalits/OBC and Muslims are enough for any government to be elected. The Congress quickly cashed on it after Independence, but probably no other party than the Congress of Sonia & Rahul Gandhi has have gone so far in shamelessly dividing Indian society for garnering votes. Her The last Congress Govt gave 1000 crores for salaries of imams in mosques and 200 crores as Haj subsidies. But no such help is available to Brahmins and upper castes.  The BJP present Govt, for fear of appearing non-secular, is not making much efforts either. As a result, not only the Brahmins, but also some of the other upper castes in the lower middle class are suffering in silence today, seeing slowly the minorities taking control of their majority. Anti-brahminism originated in, and still prospers in anti-Hindu circles. It is particularly welcome among Marxists, missionaries, Muslims, separatists and Christian-backed Dalit movements of different hues. When they attack brahmins, their target is unmistakably Hinduism. Twitter & FaceBook are no different as they have guidelines against Islamophobia, but seem to welcome Hinduphobia.

So the question has to be asked : are the Brahmins (and other upper castes) of yesterday becoming the Dalits of today ?

 

François Gautier