Category Archives: philosophy

THE 125TH BIRTH ANNIVERSARY OF THE MOTHER OF PONDICHERY

THE 125TH BIRTH ANNIVERSARY OF THE MOTHER OF PONDICHERY

At a time when we see that politicians, journalists, philosophers, spiritualists even, utter only the politically correct. At a time when nobody really dares to call a spade a spade, whether it is the Chinese threat to India, the 20 millions Bangladeshis illegally staying here, or the bypassing of India as a democratic superpower by the West, it is high time we take a look at what the Mother of Pondichery, whose 125th birth anniversary falls this year, said on these subjects so long ago, but which is still very pertinent today.

What the Mother uttered is extremely interesting for several reasons. First she was French, and embodied the best qualities of France: forthrightness, courage and this same fearless frankness which kindled the French revolution and heralded an era of democracy in Europe: ‘liberté égalité, fraternité’. Secondly, the Mother was not only the spiritual companion of India’s great prophet, Sri Aurobindo, but also her most faithful disciple. Sri Aurobindo once said that nobody could match the surrender of the Mother. Thus, naturally, she espoused Sri Aurobindo’s ideals on India, particularly the political vision which he formulated, when he was the most ardent nationalist and revolutionary, an episode of his life which even some of his disciples have buried, forgetting that Sri Aurobindo had reenacted the Bhagavad-Gita’s extraordinary message: that force and violence can also sometimes be dharma, duty. Indeed, many of Sri Aurobindo’s disciples have forgotten that he let his own brother fabricate bombs in his house.

Thirdly, the Mother is also Durga. And it is under this form that her children still pray to her: “Mother Durga! Giver of force and love and knowledge, terrible art thou in thy own self of might, Mother beautiful and fierce. In the battle of life, in India’s battle, we are warriors commissioned by thee; mother give to our heart .and mind a titan’s energy, to our soul”. Thus the Mother is extremely forthright and clear in her sayings and writings on the problems India is facing today at the hands of Pakistan, China, Bangladesh or the United States. This is particularly true in her Agenda (*), her intimate conversations with her French disciple, Satprem, where she expressed herself freely.

On Bangladesh, the Mother said on the eve of the 1971 war with Pakistan: ” Can you imagine that along with the refugees, Pakistanis have entered India, and they have poisoned wells and rivers. Some of them were caught in the act. It’s dreadful”…. Then, her confident Satprem asks: ” But Mother, shouldn’t the problem of India and Pakistan be settled once for all”? And this is the Mother’s unequivocal answer: “That’s what I was hoping for. But they’ve made … such a mess with this whole Bangladesh affair, it’s dreadful – dreadful. Now, they’ve found a solution: the Americans are trying to come to an agreement with the Chinese – to help Pakistan massacre people… That’s the last straw” !

(July 17 1971). She had also faith in the Indian army and much less faith in the Government and what she said thirty years ago could be as well applied today: “The army is ready to fight up there on the borders of India and Bangladesh, but they’re forever waiting for the government to give the order”. (September 15 1971)

Has anything changed today ? Bangladesh has not only forgotten it owes its freedom to Indian soldiers, but it is also inimical to India, giving shelter to Islamic separatists groups. And who can forget the horrible way India’s BSF soldiers were mutilated by Bangladeshi soldiers? It would be enough for India to close the Farakka dam for three days to bring Bangladesh to its knees, or for a few Mirage to overflow Dhaka. But as usual Indian leaders are trapped in the goody image of the big brother and the “army is forever awaiting the Government’s orders”…

The Mother was equally forthright on Pakistan. When Satprem told her : “Mother, It’s obvious that India is the symbol of the New World in formation, so India must be ‘one’ symbolically, in order for the New World to see the light of day”…. The Mother answers succinctly: “Yes.” Satprem continues: “Consequently Pakistan has to disappear”.. “But of course”, is the Mother’s reply! And she adds: ” India already missed one chance. But now … they shouldn’t miss this one”. (April 7, 1971). And when she learns that the USSR is putting pressure on India to negotiate with Pakistan, she exclaims raising her arms): ” Everything has to be started all over again”.

We know the situation today: every time the Indian army has painfully made gains, the Indian Government whether Congress or BJP, surrendered it. The latest was the mobilising of the entire Indian army on the Pak border at great cost, to finally call them back under pressure from the US. That day, Islamabad knew that it could get away with anything.

But it is probably for China that the Mother reserves her strongest words. Satprem: “The latest argument is that Pakistan wants India to declare war so she can call China to her aid”. Replies the Mother: “In any case the Chinese are on Pakistan’s side as they are already there in Pakistan”. Satprem: ” Mother, don’t forget that India betrayed Tibet! When Tibet was invaded by the Chinese, India kept its mouth, ears and eyes shut and did nothing to help the Tibetans”… Mother: “Quite some time ago I had a vision of China invading India, even South India… And that would be the worst of catastrophes… It will probably take centuries before things can return to normalcy… (silence)… And the Chinese are very intelligent… (Mother goes within for a long time)”…Today this might seem a little far-fetched, except that the Chinese are still claiming huge chunks of India, such as Arunachal Pradesh or Sikkim, have given the nuclear capability to Pakistan and are blocking India’s entry as a permanent member of the UN, whereas they got theirs because of India’s support. Yet, we still see Indian leaders talking about “the everlasting Indo-Chinese friendship”.

Finally, the Mother, although she had great hopes in America, did not at times mince her words. Satprem: “Mother, do you know that the President of the United States [Nixon] is going to China”? Mother: “Yes, can you beat that”! Satprem:: “They also have quietly started giving economic aid to Pakistan again; they’re doing it discreetly, but they’re doing it. Their intention is to put Pakistan back on her feet”. Mother: ” They’re mad! – They’re all mad, mad, mad…(silence) India missed the first chance; they missed the second chance; now we don’t know when it will come again”…. (Mother strikes her forehead, then shakes her head several times).

Today, we see that the United States, instead of choosing India – a democratic, pro-western, secular country – as a frontline state for its war on terrorism, favoured Pakistan, a non democratic, non secular – often anti western nation. How can Mr Bush be so short-sighted. It is not Iraq he should target, but Pakistan!

Let us all then remember the Mother’s strong words (which might displease some of her disciples, who would rather, as Satprem aptly says “lock Mother and Sri Aurobindo in their Samadhi, so that they can go on with their little spiritualized routine, instead of putting their vision into practice”) on the year of Her 125th birth anniversary. Let the strong spirit of Durga and Sri Aurobindo pervade India and make of us the Kshatriyas of the 21st century.

François Gautier

‘Nationalism is not a mere political programme; nationalism is a religion’

So, ultimately, what was true nationalism? Who were the real revolutionaries, those who had an inner vision of what the British really represented, those who knew what was the genius of India and how it was destined to be great again? Once more, we have a wrong understanding of nationalism, because we are induced in error by the West’s opinions about it.

In Europe, nationalism means external revolutionary movements, revolutionaries, materialism. But India’s greatness has always been her spirituality, her strength was always founded upon her spirit’s hold. Not only her Brahmins, but also her Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras even, drew their heroism from that fountain. Thus in India, the nationalist movement, the reawakening of India’s soul started at the source, in her spirit.

Sometimes a nation’s soul is more predominant in one region, in one particular culture. In India’s early Independence movement, it was Bengal which held high the light of reawakening. This has often been forgotten and justice should be done again. Thus, in Bengal, there was born a man who could not read and write a single word. A man without intellectual training, a man who would be considered totally useless by Britishers, or Westernised Indians.

But this man’s inner strength was so great, his truth so radiating, that from all over India, educated and uneducated, rich and poor, they came to the temple of Dakshineshwar in Calcutta and bowed at the feet of Shri Ramakrishna. The work of salvation, the work of raising India out of her lethargic sleep had begun.

Narendarnath Dutta, later known as Swami Vivekananda, was the brightest disciple of Ramakrishna, and a true son of India. He was the first spiritualised Indian political leader, an ardent Hindu, who was not afraid to call for Hinduism’s adaptation to the modern world. He was also the first to inspire in the Western world a certain respect towards Hinduism, because of his education and his forceful personality.

But the man who was the true visionary of an Independent India, the man who worked most of all for her liberation, the man who was a yogi, a saint, an avatar has been mostly ignored by history. Others, who played only a superficial role and did not have a millionth of his vision took the forefront. That man of course was Sri Aurobindo.

Born on August 15, 1872 in Calcutta, he spends his first years at Rangpur (now in Bangladesh) and at the age of 5 is sent to Loreto Convent school in Darjeeling. His father, who wants him to have a thorough Western education, packs him to England, where he enters St Paul’s school in London in 1884 and King’s College, Cambridge in 1890.

Sri Aurobindo is a brilliant student and passes the ICS, but ‘fails’ to appear for the riding test and is disqualified. After 13 years in England Sri Aurobindo returned to India on February 6, 1893 at the age of 20. He joined the Baroda State Service from 1897 to early 1906 and taught French and English at the Baroda college, before eventually becoming its principal. It was at that time that he started writing a series of articles, “New lamps for Old”, in the Indu Prakash, a Marathi-English daily from Bombay.

Sample of his early writings: “I say of the Congress that its aims are mistaken, that the spirit in which it is proceeding is not a spirit of sincerity and whole-heartedness and that the methods it has chosen are not the right methods, and their leaders in whom it trusts, not the right sort of men to be leaders. In brief that we are at present the blind led, if not by the blind, at least by the one-eyed. (Rebirth of India, page 10).

From 1900 onwards, Sri Aurobindo realised that passive resistance, constitutional agitation “A La Congress”, was not the right path to achieve an Independent India. In the true spirit of a yogi, he re-enacted the Bhagvad Gita’s great message: that violence is sometimes necessary, if it flows from Dharma — and today’s Dharma is the liberation of India. Thus he began contacting revolutionary groups in Maharashtra and Bengal and tried to co-ordinate their action.

One should remember that at that time, and indeed until Independence, violence against the oppressive British was not organised; it was the work of a few individuals or a sudden outburst of uncontrolled anger and that the famous freedom fighters of the Congress only went to jail because they were passive resisters. At Sri Aurobindo’s initiative, P Mitter, Surendranath Tagore and Sister Nivedita formed the first Secret Council for revolutionary activities in Bengal. But action was accompanied by inner vision: “While others look upon their country as an inert piece of matter, forests, hills and rivers, I look upon my country as the Mother. What would a son do if a demon sat on her mother’s breast and started sucking her blood? I know I have the strength to deliver this fallen race. It is not physical strength — I am not going to fight with sword or gun, but with the strength of knowledge” (India’s Rebirth, page 16)

In 1905, the terrible Lord Curzon partitioned Bengal. This divide-and-rule move was meant to break the back of Bengali political agitation and use the East Bengal Muslim community to drive a wedge between Hindus and Muslims, a policy that was to culminate in India’s Partition in 1947. Bengal responded to its partition with massive and unanimous protests in which many personalities took part, such as Rabindranath Tagore, Surendranath Banerjee, Bipin Chandra Pal… The ideal of Swadeshi, which called for the boycott of British goods, spread widely.

It was at this time that B C Pal launched the famous English daily, Bande Mataram. Sri Aurobindo joined it and soon became its editor. Day after day, he jotted down his vision and tried to instil fire and courage in the nation through its pages. What was true nationalism for Sri Aurobindo?

“Nationalism is not a mere political programme; nationalism is a religion that has come from God; Nationalism is a creed which you shall have to live.. If you are going to be a nationalist, if you are going to assent to this religion of Nationalism, you must do it in the religious spirit. You must remember that you are the instruments of God… Then there will be a blessing on our work and this great nation will rise again and become once more what it was in the days of spiritual greatness. You are the instruments of God to save the light, to save the spirit of India from lasting obscuration and abasement…” (Bande Mataram)

But Sri Aurobindo had to fight against the Congress Moderates (who, it must be remembered came out openly for complete Independence only in 1929) of whom he said: “There is a certain section of India which regards Nationalism as madness and they say Nationalism will ruin the country. They are men who live in the pure intellect and they look at things purely from the intellectual point of view. What does the intellect think? Here is a work that you have undertaken, a work so gigantic, so stupendous, the means of which are so poor, the resistance to which will be so strong, so organised, so disciplined, so well equipped with all the weapons science can supply, with all the strength that human power and authority can give… (Bande Mataram)

Sri Aurobindo was very clear in what was demanded of a leader of India: “Politics is the work of the Kshatriya and it is the virtues of the Kshatriya we must develop if we are to be morally fit for freedom (India’s Rebirth, page 19). Or: “What India needs at the moment is the aggressive virtues, the spirit of soaring idealism, bold creation, fearless resistance, courageous attack”. (India’s Rebirth, page 22)

But if the Moderates dismissed Sri Aurobindo as a ‘mystic’, Lord Minto, then viceroy of India, made no such mistake, calling him, “the most dangerous man we have to deal with at present”. Thus Sri Aurobindo was arrested on May 2, 1908, following a failed assassination attempt on a British judge by a nationalist belonging to his brother’s secret society. Sri Aurobindo spent a year in jail, which proved to be the turning point of his life as he went through the whole gamut of spiritual realisations. When he came out, the nationalist movement had nearly collapsed and he set about giving it a fresh impetus, launching a new English weekly, the Karmayogin, as well as a Bengali weekly, Dharma.

This following is an extract from his famous Uttarpara speech, where he speaks of his spiritual experiences in jail: “Something has been shown to you in this year of seclusion, something about which you had your doubts and it is the truth of the Hindu religion. It is this religion that I am raising up before the world, it is this that I have perfected and developed through the rishis, saints and avatars, and now it is going forth to do my work among the nations. I am raising this nation to send forth my word…When therefore it is said that India shall rise, it is the Santana Dharma that shall rise. When it is said that India shall be great, it is the Santana Dharma that shall be great. But what is the Hindu religion? It is the Hindu religion only, because the Hindu nation has kept it, because in this peninsula it grew up in the seclusion of the sea and the Himalayas, because in this sacred and ancient land it was given as a charge to the Aryan race to preserve through the ages. That which we call the Hindu religion is really the eternal religion, because it is the universal religion which embraces all others. If a religion is not universal, it cannot be eternal. A narrow religion, a sectarian religion, an exclusive religion can live only for a limited time and limited purpose…I say no longer that Santana Dharma is for us Nationalism… Santana Dharma IS Nationalism” (India’s Rebirth, page 46)

In mid-February 1910, news reached that the British had again decided to arrest Sri Aurobindo and close down the offices of the Karmayogin. By that time Sri Aurobindo had the vision that India was free; for the external events are always preceded by an occult happening, sometimes long before they become fait accompli.

Sri Aurobindo then received an ‘Adesh,‘ an inspiration that he must go to Pondichery, then under French rule. He settled there, with a few disciples, the number of whom slowly swelled, until it became known as the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. He wrote all his masterpieces and devoted the remaining of his life to bringing down what he called the “supramental manifestation on the earth”. The great Sage passed away on 5 December 1950.

Hinduism, true Hinduism was for Sri Aurobindo the basis for India’s past greatness, it was also the essence of nationalism, the means of liberating India and ultimately the foundation of the future India. Unfortunately, the leaders of the Indian National Congress did not have the same vision. Of these leaders, history has mostly remembered two, the most famous of all: Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi.

‘Gandhi was a misfit in India’

Nehru, writes French historian Alain Danielou, “was the perfect replica of a certain type of Englishman. He often used the expression ‘continental people’, with an amused and sarcastic manner, to designate French or Italians. He despised non-anglicised Indians and had a very superficial and partial knowledge of India. His ideal was the romantic socialism of 19th century Britain. But this type of socialism was totally unfit to India, where there was no class struggle and where the conditions were totally different from 19th century Europe.”

It should be added that Nehru was not a fiery leader, maybe because of his innate “gentlemanship” and often succumbed not only to Gandhi’s views, with which he sometimes disagreed, not only to the blackmailing of Jinnah and the fanatical Indian Muslim minority, but also to the British, particularly Lord Mountbatten, whom history has portrayed as the benevolent last viceroy of India, but who actually was most instrumental in the Partition of India, whatever Freedom at Midnight a very romanticised book, says. (Remember Churchill’s words on learning about Partition: “At last we had the last word”!).

It may be added that the British had a habit of leaving a total mess when they had to surrender a colony, witness Ireland, Palestine, or India-Pakistan.

Mahatma Gandhi was indeed a great soul, an extraordinary human being, a man with a tremendous appeal to the people. But, unfortunately, he was a misfit in India. Karma or fate, or God, or whatever you want to call it, made a mistake when they sent him down to the land of Bharat. For at heart, Gandhi was a European, his ideals were a blend of Christianity raised to an exalted moral standard and a dose of liberalism ‘à la Tolstoy.’ The patterns and goals he put forward for India, not only came to naught, but sometimes did great harm to a country, which unquestionably he loved immensely.

Furthermore, even after his death, Gandhism, although it does not really have any relevance to Modern India, is still used shamelessly by all politicians and intellectuals, particularly Congressmen, ‘secular’ Muslims and pseudo-Marxists, to smoke-screen their ineffectiveness and to perpetuate their power. To understand Gandhi properly, one has to put in perspective his aims, his goals, and the results today.

One has to start at the beginning. There is no doubt that after his bitter experiences with racism in South Africa, he took to heart the plight of fellow Indians there. But what did he achieve for them? Second class citizenship! Worse, he dissociated them from their black Africans brothers, who share the same colour and are the majority. And today the Indians in South Africa are in a difficult position, sandwiched between the Whites who prefer them to the Blacks but do not accept them fully as their own, and the Blacks who often despise them for their superior attitudes.

Ultimately, they sided with the Moderate Whites led by de Klerk and this was a mistake as Mandela was elected and the Blacks wrested total power in South Africa — and once more we might have an exodus of Indians from a place where they have lived and which they have loved for generations.

The Mahatma did a lot for India. But the question again is: What remains today in India of Gandhi’s heritage? Spinning was a joke. “He made Charkha a religious article of faith and excluded all people from Congress membership who would not spin. How many, even among his own followers believe in the gospel of Charkha? Such a tremendous waste of energy, just for the sake of a few annas is most unreasonable,” wrote Sri Aurobindo in 1938 (India’s Rebirth, page 207). Does any Congress leader today still weave cotton? And has Gandhi’s Khadi policy of village handicrafts for India survived him? Nehru was the first to embark upon a massive “Soviet type” heavy industrialisation, resolutely turning his back on Gandhi’s policy, although handicrafts in India do have their place.

Then, nowhere does Gandhi’s great Christian morality find more expression than in his attitude towards sex. All his life he felt guilty about having made love to his wife while his father was dying. But guilt is truly a Western prerogative. In India, sex has (was at least) always been put in its proper place, neither suppressed, as in Victorian times, nor brought to its extreme perversion, like in the West today. Gandhi’s attitude towards sex was to remain ambivalent all his life, sleeping with his beautiful nieces “to test his brahmacharya,” while advocating abstinence for India’s population control. But why impose on others what he practised for himself?

Again, this is a very Christian attitude: John Paul II, or Mother Teresa, fifty years later, enjoined all Christians to do the same. But did Gandhi think for a minute how millions of Indian women would be able to persuade their husbands to abstain from sex when they are fertile? And who will suffer abortions, pregnancy and other ignominies? And again, India has totally turned its back on Gandhi’s policy: today its birth control programme must be the most elaborate in the world — and does not even utilise force (except for a short period during the Emergency), as the Chinese have done.

For all the world, Gandhi is synonymous with non-violence. But once more, a very Christian notion. Gandhi loved the Mahabharata. But did he understand that sometimes non-violence does more harm than violence itself? That violence can also be “Dharma,” if it is done for defending one’s country, or oneself, or one’s mother, or sisters? Take the Cripps proposals for instance.

In 1942, the Japanese were at the doors of India. England was weakened, vulnerable and desperately needed support. Churchill sent Sir Stafford Cripps to India to propose that if India participated in the war effort, Great Britain would grant her Dominion status (as in Australia or Canada) at the end of the war. Sri Aurobindo sent a personal letter to the Congress, urging it to accept. Nehru wavered, but ultimately, Gandhi in the name of non-violence put his foot down and the Cripps proposal was rejected. Had it been accepted, history might have been changed, Partition and its terrible bloodshed would have been avoided.

Gandhi also never seemed to have realised the great danger that Nazism represented for humanity. A great Asuric wave had risen in Europe and threatened to engulf the world and it had to be fought — with violence. Calling Hitler “my beloved brother,” a man who murdered 6 million Jews in cold blood just to prove the purity of his own race, is more than just innocence, it borders on criminal credulity. And did not Gandhi also advise the Jews to let themselves be butchered?

Ultimately, it must be said that whatever his saintliness, his extreme and somehow rigid asceticism, Gandhi did enormous harm to India and this harm has two names: Muslims and Untouchables.

The British must have rubbed their hands in glee: here was a man who was perfecting their policy of rule-and-divide, for ultimately nobody more than Gandhi contributed to the Partition of India, by his obsession to always give in to the Muslims, by his obstinate refusal to see that the Muslims always started rioting, Hindus only retaliated. By his indulgence of Jinnah, going as far as proposing to make him the prime minister of India.

Sri Aurobindo was very clear about Hindu-Muslim unity: “I am sorry they are making a fetish of Hindu-Muslim unity. It is no use ignoring facts; some day the Hindus may have to fight the Muslims and they must prepare for it. Hindu-Muslim unity should not mean the subjection of the Hindus. Every time the mildness of the Hindu has given way. The best solution would be to allow the Hindus to organise themselves and the Hindu-Muslim unity would take care of itself, it would automatically solve the problem. Otherwise we are lulled into a false sense of satisfaction that we have solved a difficult problem, when in fact we have only shelved it.” (India’s Rebirth, page 159)

Gandhi’s love of the Harijans, as he called them, was certainly very touching and sprang from the highest motivations, but it had also as its base a Christian notion that would have found a truer meaning in Europe, where there are no castes, only classes. Glorifying the scavenger as a man of God makes good poetry, but little social meaning. In the words of Sri Aurobindo: “The idea that it needs a special ‘punya‘ to be born a Bhangi is, of course one of these forceful exaggerations which are common to the Mahatma and impress greatly the mind of his hearers. The idea behind is that his function is an indispensable service to society, quite as much as the Brahmin’s, but that being disagreeable, it would need a special moral heroism to choose it voluntarily and he thinks as if the soul freely chose it as such a heroic service to the society and as reward of righteous acts, but that is hardly likely.

“In any case, it is not true that the Bhangi life is superior to the Brahmin life and the reward of special righteousness, no more that it is true that a man is superior because he is born a Brahmin. A spiritual man of pariah birth is superior in the divine values to an unspiritual and worldly-minded Brahmin. Birth counts but the basic value is in the soul behind the man and the degree to which it manifests itself in nature”. (India’s Rebirth, page 201)

Once more Gandhi took the European element in the decrying of the caste system, forgetting the divine element behind. And unfortunately he sowed the seeds of future disorders and of a caste war in India, of which we see the effects only today.

Non-violence, you say? But Gandhi did the greatest violence to his body, in true Christian fashion, punishing it, to blackmail others in doing his will, even if he thought it was for the greater good. And ultimately, it may be asked, what remains of Gandhi’s non-violence today? India has fought three wars with Pakistan (four, if you count Kargil), had to combat the Chinese, has the second biggest army in the world and has to fight counter-insurgency movements in Punjab, Assam and Kashmir. Gandhi must have died a broken man indeed. He saw India partitioned, Hindus and Muslims fighting each other and his ideals of Charkha, non-violence and Brahmacharya being flouted by the very men he brought up as his disciples.

However, his heritage is not dead, for it survives where it should have been in the first instance: in the West. His ideals have inspired countless great figures, from Martin Luther King, to Albert Einstein, to Nelson Mandela, the Dalaï Lama or Attenborough and continue to inspire many others. Gandhi’s birth in India was an accident, for here, there is nothing left of him, except million of statues and streets and saintly mouthings by politicians, who don’t apply the least bit what Gandhi had taught so ardently.

History will judge. But with Nehru on one side and his Westernised concept of India and Gandhi on the other, who tried to impose upon India a non-violence which was not hers, India was destined to be partitioned. Thus when the time came, India was bled into two, in three even, and Muslims took their pound of flesh while leaving. India never recovered from that trauma and today she is still suffering from its consequences. Yet has anybody really understood the lessons of history?

Francois Gautier

Doping, truth and the media

August 01, 2006
One of the greatest realities today is that what appears as truth, is often untrue, or at best half true; and what people think as untrue, or not politically correct, is often much nearer to the truth than we think.

In the 21st century, more than anybody else, the media has become the magician of modern times, often making untruth appear as truth and truth appear as untruth.

Take, for instance, the recent cases of US sprinter Justin Gatlin and cyclist Floyd Landis, who have become, at the hands of the media, the villains of the day — the same media, both international and Indian, that for long eulogised them, carried them to the pinnacle of glory, making then of them modern day heroes.

The untruth goes like this. Landis and Gatlin are the great cheaters, they have taken performance-enhancing substances. They have disgraced the world of sport, they have broken the ethics of good sportsmanship. They will be thus banned, stripped of their titles and generally disgraced.

But look at it like this: It is not the Landis or the Gatlins who are responsible for doping, or the performance-enhancing substances that are taking over world sport more and more in nearly all disciplines, but the organisers, the sponsors, and particularly the television channels.

If you take the Tour de France, for instance, you will notice that every year it has become more and more difficult, with longer and longer and longer stages, more and more demanding mountain climbs.

Why? Because television channels want more and more sensational footage, more and more dramatic finishes, where players collapse at the rear end and where one single ‘hero’ sizzles up everybody and rides a lonely death to the finishing line.

In turn, the sponsors put more and more and more pressure on the organisers for the spectacular, the sensational, the dramatic. And the Tour de France is like a drug: the longer you’re on it, the more drugs you take to get a kick.

In the same way, the television viewer wants more and more action, more blood every year. It is like the old time gladiators in the Roman games where someone had to die.

Thus, Landis or Gatlin are only victims of the greed of television: they have to perform in harsher and harsher conditions, their bodies are submitted to more and more demanding stress. And they are not supermen, however much they practice and however much they build their bodies.

How far more can the world record for the 100 metres go down to? Scientists already feel that the present 9.77 seconds is the fastest that a human body can run. But don’t worry it will still go down and be broken again and again: sponsorship, spectacle and viewer interest demand it.

And another Gatlin will find another performance enhancing drug, which has not yet been traced. And then he will get caught and disgraced.

But the ultimate irony is that the first to condemn Gatlin or Landis are the organisers, the sponsors, and the media, those who made millions out of them. Because make no mistake, the billion of dollars earned in the Olympic games or in Le Tour de France by the organisers and the televisions channels are made on the sweat and blood of not only the Landis’ and Gatlins, but also of the thousands of faceless athletes who struggle, come last and about whom nobody speaks.

Yet they are very much part of the spectacle, which could not happen without them, as there can be no winners without worthy losers.

Oh, what hypocrites, these sponsors, television and organisers are. It is they who should be condemned by the media, these armchair athletes, these vampires of others’ efforts, who have never trained for hundred of hours, sweating their guts day after day, known the pain of losing, the loneliness of hotel rooms after a difficult day, the struggle of being a small time athlete, struggling to make ends meet when one has not yet reached glory and fame.

And what is doping after all? It is the logical continuation of the ‘natural’ medication the team doctor starts giving to a runner, a cyclist or a footballer: vitamins, proteins, or tonics. Slowly under pressure to perform more and more, faster and faster, with more and more competition at hand, the athlete turns to aspirin when he has an ache here and there, and eventually to some amphetamine.

From there, there is no turning back. Don’t blame him, blame the demands made on his body by the rapacious sponsors and media barons.

It is all about money, brothers and sisters, not sport. Nevertheless, even in the midst of this untruth, of this race for sensationalism, blood and death, sport triumphs. There is always that magical moment when the tennis player forgets about the millions of dollars he or she is going to make — or lose — the performance enhancers he may or may not have taken and surpasses himself, or herself, a moment of pure sporting miracle. This is what we should remember.

Nobody can take away from Gatlin the fact that he ran the 100 metres in 9.77 seconds, or from Landis that he won the Tour de France with only one hip. Testosterone or no testosterone. If you are not talented, you can take any amounts of testosterone, it will not make you into a Gatlin, a Landis, or even a Ben Johnson.

The media is so unfair. It’s all about untruth taking the appearance of truth. And what is valid for sports is even more valid for the world of politics. But that is another story.

Francois Gautier, who usually contributes columns to our news pages, plays basketball and tennis and jogs.

Auroville, the City of Dawn

Auroville, the City of Dawn
Author: Francois Gautier
Publication: The Times of India
Date: May 12, 2001
The project of Auroville is now thirty-three years old. This city, a few kilometres north of Pondicherry, was born of a dream that the Mother (1878-1973) had in 1967: There should be somewhere upon earth a place that no nation could claim as its sole property, a place where all beings of goodwill, sincere in their aspiration, could live freely as citizens of the world, obeying one single authority, that of the supreme Truth.

It was also directly inspired by Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950), India’s great yogi, philosopher, poet, revolutionary and prophet of man after man: “The final dream is a step in evolution which would raise man to a higher and larger consciousness and begin the solutions of the problems which have perplexed and vexed him since he first began to think and dream of individual perfection and a perfect society…” Thus, in February 1968, in the midst of a severely eroded plateau extending eastward to the sea, young people representing 124 nations and 23 Indian states each placed a handful of earth from their countries in a simple lotus-shaped urn: a gesture symbolising the start of the international township. The Charter of Auroville was then read by the Mother herself: Auroville belongs to nobody in particular. Auroville belongs to humanity as a whole. Auroville will be the place of an unending education, of constant progress, and a youth that never ages. Auroville wants to be the bridge between the past and the future. Auroville will be a site of material and spiritual search for a living embodiment of an actual human unity.

The beginnings were auspicious: money poured in from many countries keen to have a role in the shaping of Auroville; the UNESCO took a keen interest in the project; journalists and television crews from all over the world came to report about the City of the Future; and the Government of India lent active support to the budding township. One million trees were planted by the early pioneers, dams were built to stop the rain water from running into the sea; and beautiful buildings, which were revolutionary for their times, sprang up from nowhere, such as the Last School and the Sanskrit School.

Thirty-three years later, what is the assessment? Well, certainly many hopes have been belied. Instead of the 50,000 population that the Mother had envisaged, there are only about 2000 full time Aurovillians; the development of Auroville has been severely curtailed because of lack of funds, and many of the ambitious buildings lie unfinished, although, money is starting to trickle in again. The pioneers of yesterday, clad only in loincloth, have been often replaced by executives with laptops. And the cultural, social and economic gap between the 5000 villagers living in city area and the Aurovillians, many of whom come from affluent western countries, has never been fully bridged, although the standard of living of the villagers has considerably gone up because of the work generated by Auroville.

Yet small hesitant steps have been made: the circulation of money has been reduced to the minimum between Aurovillians; it has been ensured that those who are in charge of running the City are chosen by consensus and have limited tenures; communities, such as Verite (Truth in French), have managed to evolve an interesting blend of collective sharing with a living spirituality; Auroville has also become one of the few green areas in Tamil Nadu and ecologists from all over the world come to study the city’s forest and water management. And above all the `Matrimandir’, the Mother’s House, an extraordinary 100-foot-high elliptical sphere resting on four pillars sunk deep into its foundation, where in the inner chamber lies a sphere of pure crystal, 70 cm. in diameter, illuminated by sunlight channelled from an opening at the top of the chamber, stands today as Auroville’s spiritual centre.

It is no coincidence that the project of Auroville is happening in India with its tradition of tolerance and encouragement to all kinds of experiments, regardless of their unorthodoxy. Indeed, today the Government of India is once again actively helping Auroville, a positive development. For Auroville’s greatest virtue is to show that there is still, in this world engulfed by uniformity, globalisation, MTV and Coca Cola, a place where men and women of goodwill are attempting to live differently, to evolve novel ways of controlling money and power. This is why Auroville deserves our respect and help.

Religion of man

Religion of man

Author: Francois Gautier
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: December 25, 2002

Famous French writer and politician Andre Malraux once said that “unless the 21st century is spiritual, then it will not be”. What he meant was that the world has now come to such a stage of unhappiness, of stress, of natural resources wastage, of religious and ethnic conflicts, that it seems doomed – ecologically, politically and socially. So unless the 21st century allows a new spiritual order to take over – not a religious order, mind you (because religion has often proved too narrow and dogmatic) – then we are all going towards self-destruction, Pralaya. And the September 11, 2001, tragedy has reminded us that time is pressing and that we are desperately and badly in need of spiritual regeneration.

As the founder of the Art of Living Movement, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, says: “I see a crisis facing the world today. It is fundamentally one of identification. People identify themselves with limited characteristics such as gender, race, religion and nationality, forgetting their basic identity as part of the universal spirit. These limited identifications lead to conflict. There are wars happening throughout the world today in the name of religion.”

What is the solution, then? I will quote again Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: “Every individual is much more than the sum of these limited identifications. The highest identification we can make is that we are part of Divinity, and second to that, we are human beings and members of the human family. In divine creation, the whole of the human race is united. Along with this proper identification of ourselves, the right vision of who we really are, we need to return to the values that are the essence of all major traditions. These shared values need to be reintroduced in society today.”

What the world needs today is to find a third way, which is neither of capitalism, nor of communism. Communism has long collapsed all over the world. China pays only lip service to it and it is only in India, Kerala, or Bengal, that we see leaders and intellectuals believing in its virtues. Capitalism is not the answer to all the world’s woes that the Americans think; with it comes a lot of inequality, selfishness, a disregard for the poorer sections of society and the forgetfulness of true spiritual values. It also engenders avarice and greed. No, what we are looking for now is a something we could call a “spiritualised socialism”, as envisioned by India’s revolutionary poet, philosopher and yogi, Sri Aurobindo.

A Hindu temple, a Christian church or a Muslim mosque, have no meaning unless they also act as social centres, helping the poor, giving away money, houses, imparting education and hygiene. Indeed the Art of Living foundation does just that with its volunteers going in thousands of villages all over the world and selflessly bringing Hygiene, Housing, Harmony and Human values. It is true that there are countless NGOs doing the same job wherever there is poverty and conflicts, but unless they pass on along with their material help some spiritual values, they are failing in their task.

How can the people of India contribute to this wonderful goal of spiritual regeneration and shared human values? Indians have always recognised unity in diversity through the concept of the avatar: God manifests himself at different times, in different countries and places , under so many different names.

Thus, they have always granted everybody the right to worship God under any form.

This is a very precious spiritual – not religious – knowledge, and which, even the most humble Hindu peasant spontaneously practices. Indeed, a recent report by the UNESCO pointed out that out of the 128 countries where Jews lived up to 1948, in only one country, India, they were not persecuted!

What India has therefore gifted to the world is not a religion but a living spirituality, of which we can even distinguish certain forms in the West at present: Hatha-yoga, copied and imitated by thousands of gymnastic and aerobic movements; meditation practiced by millions of Americans and Europeans, many of them Christians; or pranayama, which is taught by the Art of Living Foundation and can be practiced by anybody, whatever their nationality and religion. Indeed, for the past two decades, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has transformed the lives of millions of people around the globe with his Basic Course, a combination of simple yet extremely powerful breathing and relaxation techniques, that eliminate stress, handle negative emotions, improve health and help ordinary folks to enjoy life to its fullest.

But we can do much more than that: Let us all move away from political or religious ideologies to show our support for the revival of human values such as honoring one’s own traditions while respecting diversity, compassion, non-violence and honoring the wisdom of age-old traditions. Let us also move away from the rites and rituals of religions.

As Sri Sri Ravi Shankar again says: “Religion has three aspects – value, ritual and symbol. The moral and spiritual values are common to all traditions. The symbols and practices, those rituals and customs that form a way of life within a religion, are what distinguish one tradition from another and give each their charm. The symbols and practices are like the banana skin, and the spiritual values – the quest for truth and knowing deep within us that we are part of divinity – are the banana. People in every tradition have thrown away the banana and are holding on to the skin.”

May the 21st century herald then a new era in humanity, an era of accepting each other and understanding one another’s culture. May the spiritual regeneration of the world begin now. Let India show the way, by throwing away the banana skin and holding on to the banana only.

(Francois Gautier on India and the spiritual regeneration of the world)

The Kurukshetra War of the 21st Century

Source: http://www.francoisgautier.com

” There is nothing wrong about war”, once said Sri Aurobindo. And it is true that throughout the ages, war has been an essential part of man’s life on this planet and there have been very few periods in modern history which have not seen strife. The French fought three bloody wars against the Germans in the last 125 years, India has battled five wars in 55 years, four against Pakistan, if you count Kargil, and one against the Chinese.

Of course the horrors of war, the devastation it creates, have been documented enough so that there is no need to delve upon them. In the olden times, it was accepted as a fact of life and very few people protested. Actually, of all the nations in the world, India is the one who handled best the business of war, as Sri Aurobindo points out: “Vedic India 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.

But today, as there is a new awareness of the value of life, both human, animal and vegetal, man often recoils from the terrors of conflicts and its consequences on the human being and its environment. Naturally also, humanity aspires to a more harmonious life, where not only will it not be necessary to kill each other to survive, but also where all human beings would love and respect each other, regardless of their colour, religion and nationality. Thus, particularly in the United States during the Vietnam war, there manifested amongst the youth this longing for “no war, but peace”, as symbolized by the famous photo of a young American girl sticking a flower in the barrel of the gun of a national Guard. This antiwar pressure was so great that it took out the wind of the Unites States to fight this bloody conflict in a faraway country. and ultimately it surrendered meekly Vietnam to the Vietcongs. Since then, although there is no more such antiwar movement in the United States, American soldiers seem to have lost their valour and now their wars are fought from the safety of supersonic planes and very rarely on the ground. And as soon as a few American, or French, or English soldiers are killed, the will to fight goes, because of intense media and public pressure on Governments. This is why hijackers and kidnappers have such a field day now: they kill one or two people and whole governments surrender, as seen during the hijack of the Kathmandu-Delhi flight in December 1999. It takes Israelis soldiers to keep on fighting with their own public, press and government behind them, when suicide after suicide bombers kill scores of innocent people every month.

In India too, there has risen a strong, coherent antiwar lobby. Intellectuals such as Arundhadi Roy have brilliantly pleaded for a peaceful and restrained India, powerful but benevolent, who learns not to retaliate, to be merciful and generous towards her smaller neighbours. The spectre of a nuclear war has of course come as a strong argument for the antiwar lobby in India and we have seen in the last two weeks how both foreign correspondents and Indian magazines have used the available data on the horrendous consequences of a nuclear war to put pressure on the Government to back out from a conflict with Pakistan.

At any rate, Indian Governments have not been exceptionally bold militarily. Two factors appear to have inhibited the Indian courage to face adversity when faced with threats: the first is Buddhism, which made out of non-violence a rigid creed; and the second is the Mahatma Gandhi’s equally unbending theorem of non-violence, which may have precipitated India’s partition. And this is why maybe, under the guise of non-violence and peace, so many Indian intellectuals and politicians have shied away from war since independence, witness Nehru’s refusal to heed warnings about China’s hostility, which triggered the humiliation of the Indian army in 1962.

But will there be a nuclear war? Musharraf, whatever his obsession about Kashmir, which is basically a revenge for the loss of Eastern Pakistan, now Bangladesh, thanks to India’s support, is an intelligent man: he knows that if he does manage to drop one nuclear bomb on Delhi or Bombay, there will no more Pakistan worth the name, as all major Pakistani cities will be wiped off the face of the earth. Islam, who has made of the use of violence a near religious practice, understands the language of violence: see how it kept quiet when America showed its muscle after the 11th September attack, or when the Allies invaded Iraq. Thus Musharaff is doing a nuclear blackmail on the world… which is unfortunately working, as so many nations have evacuated their nationals and so much pressure is brought upon (successfully?) on India by the US and the EC.

If there is a war between Pakistan and India, whatever the politicians say, it will be a war between two brothers, for except for their religion, everything unite Indians and Pakistanis: their colour, ethnic origin, food habits, language… In fact, some Indian Muslim soldiers might have to shoot on some Pakistani cousins, or uncles. Will they pull the trigger when their commander says so? Will not their conscience tell them that it is wrong to shoot on one’s brothers? Does not that remind you of something? Did not Arjuna face the same dilemma five thousand years ago in Kurukshetra? Did he not throw his bow on the ground and tell Krishna: “no I will not fight, because war is such a horrible thing and I refuse to kill my bothers”.

But what does Krishna tell him: “not only you are not killing the soul, but merely the material body; but also sometimes, when all other means have failed and it is necessary to protect one’s borders, wives, children and culture, war can become dharma. And that brings in the final question: is a war against Pakistan justified? Would it be dharma? Well you have to decide for yourself: for nearly twenty years Pakistan has waged a proxy war against India in Punjab, in Kashmir and now more and more in the North-East; it has killed thousands of innocent people, raped women dismembered children, mutilated Indian soldiers in the most horrible manner… Several Indian Prime Ministers have made one-sided attempts at peace, without getting reciprocity from Islamabad.

Indeed, a war between Pakistan and India might be the Kurukshestra of the 21st century, the ultimate war which will set right fifteen hundred years of Islamic terror and both redeem the Hindus’ karma of cowardice, as well as the Muslims’ karma of bloodshed. This war, if it ever happens, will also pave the way for the reunification of India and Pakistan, by force or by natural means. For the two brothers can fight for a time, but ultimately they have to embrace each other anew, as they are basically one, beyond time and body, as Krishna once told Arjuna.

Francois Gautier