Category Archives: religion


I was a born and brought-up as a catholic and knew absolutely nothing about India, Hinduism and Hindus. When I was a young Frenchman of 19, I had the privilege to hear about the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, through a friend, whose father was the last Governor of Pondichery. My friend told me that a caravan of 5 cars was about to drive from Paris to Pondichery. On a hunch, I joined this caravan.
Upon arriving in Delhi after driving trough nine countries, I felt I had come home and that this country was a very special place.

I lived in the Pondichery Sri Aurobindo ashram for seven years. These were wonderful times: the Mother was still alive and everything looked new, everything seemed possible. One read Sri Aurobindo, of course, as he was the Master and the inspiration of the place, but one either did not understand or felt disconnected to his political writings.

Then, having done some journalism and photography in France, I started freelancing in South India and I discovered the Hindus. What I chanced upon was that their religion was not in their heads, as it is for us Christians – “I must pray, I must be good, I must not sin” – but that it was rather something they lived: they seemed, for instance, to accept me, a Westerner, a non Hindu, as they seemed to accept all other religions. This discovery would never leave me, even when I became a political journalist in Delhi for major French newspapers.

Thus slowly, I became acquainted with the eternal principles of Hinduism:
• A Hindu is one who searches for the Ultimate Truth.
• Unlike other religions, Hinduism refuses to sanction the monopoly of one God, or one Scripture as the only way to salvation.
• Hinduism is the eternal faith, Sanataana Dharma, or the universal law by which all humans are governed.
• Hindus believe that the soul takes birth in a physical body, dies, gets reborn, until it has attained Perfect Divinity.
• Hindus believe that one can cleanse oneself from karmas through yoga practices, such as pranayama, meditation or asanas.
• One can be a Christian, a Muslim, a Jew, or from any other religion and still practice Hinduism. His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has shown the way: breath has no religion and pranayama can be practiced by anybody, whatever their creed.

In that sense, I consider myself a Hindu

West and Islam

Author: Francois Gautier

Publication: Pioneer:
Date: July 10, 2002
Boston, Massachusetts – American newspapers publish daily commentaries by eminent Muslims, who all want to prove that Islam is a tolerant creed, that the Taliban were an isolated aberration, and that Osama bin Laden is desecrating the scared non-violent tenets of Islam with his terrible deeds.

It is in such times that it is useful to remind the world, particularly the United States – which has chosen as a frontline state for its war on terrorism, a nation which breeds terrorism – that while Pakistan is an aberration of what Islam has stood for since its inception in the 7th century, India is a living example of a peace loving nation, tolerant of other creeds, ethnic groups and religions. Most Western history books, for instance, eulogise the Mughal period in India as a time of refinement and enlightenment, and many of them say that Aurangzeb was a strict but just emperor. What is the truth?

Aurangzeb (1658-1707) did not just build an isolated mosque on a destroyed temple, he ordered all temples to be destroyed and had mosques built on a number of cleared temples sites. All other Hindu sacred places within his reach equally suffered destruction. A few examples: Krishna’s birth place temple in Mathura, the rebuilt Somnath temple on the coast of Gujarat, the Vishnu temple replaced with the Alamgir mosque now overlooking Varanasi and the Treta-ka-Thakur temple in Ayodhya. The number of temples destroyed by Aurangzeb is counted in 4, if not 5 figures. According to his own official court chronicles: “Aurangzeb ordered all provincial governors to destroy all schools and temples of the pagans and to make a complete end to all pagan teachings and practices.” Aurangzeb did not stop at destroying temples, their users were also wiped-out; even his own brother, Dara Shikoh, was executed for taking an interest in Hindu religion and the Sikh Guru Tegh Bahadur was beheaded because he objected to Aurangzeb’s forced conversions.

We can see, Romila Thapar and Percival Spear’s statement of a benevolent Aurangzeb is a flagrant attempt at negationism. Even the respectable Encyclopedia Britannica, in its entry on India, does not mention in its chapter on the Sultanate period any persecutions of Hindus by Muslims, except “that Firuz Shah Tughlaq made largely unsuccessful attempts at converting his Hindu subjects and sometime persecuted them”.

Many orthodox Indian Muslims still cling to the Deoband school, which says that India was once “Dar-ul-Islam”, the house of Islam, and should return to that status. The Aligarh school, on the contrary, led by Mohammed Iqbal, propounded the creation of Pakistan. What particularly interests us in the Aligarh school is the attempt by Muslim historians, such as Mohammed Habib, to rewrite the chapter of Muslim invasions in India. In 1920, Habib started writing his magnum opus, which he based on four theories: One, that the records (written by the Muslims themselves) of slaughters of Hindus, the enslaving of their women and children and razing of temples were “mere exaggerations by court poets and zealous chroniclers to please their rulers”. Two, that they were indeed atrocities, but mainly committed by Turks, the savage riders from the Steppes. Three, the destruction of the temples took place because Hindus stored their gold and jewels inside them and therefore Muslim armies plundered these. Four, the conversion of millions of Hindus to Islam was not forced “but what happened was there was a shift of opinion in the population, who on its own free will chose the Shariat against the Hindu law (Smriti), as they were all oppressed by the bad Brahmins…”

Unfortunately for Habib and his school, the Muslims invaders did record with glee their genocide on Hindus, because they felt all along that they were doing their duty; that plundering, enslaving and razing temples was sanctioned by their religion. Indeed, whether it was Mahmud of Ghazni (997-1030) – no barbarian; although a Turk, he patronised art and literature and would recite a verse of the Quran every night after having razed temples and killed his quota of unbelievers – or Firuz Shah Tughlak (1351-1388) who personally confirms that the destruction of Pagan temples was done out of piety and writes: “On the day of a Hindu festival, I went there myself, ordered the executions of all the leaders and practitioners of his abomination; I destroyed their idols, temples and built mosques in their places.” Finally, as Belgian historian Konraad Elst points out, “Muslim fanatics were merely faithful executors of Quranic injunctions. It is not the Muslims who are guilty but Islam.”

It is not only Indian historians who are negationists, but also Western historians and India-specialists. We know that the first historians of India, the British, twisted India’s history to suit their theory that they had come to civilise a race which was not only inferior to them, but was also supposed to have been heavily influenced in its philosophies or arts by European invaders (read the Aryans or Alexander the Great).

However, but what is less known is that today many Western historians not only still cling to these outdated theories, but also actually, more or less willfully, mislead their public, which is generally totally ignorant and takes these “knowledgeable” comments about India as the absolute truth. Many of these India-specialists are not only Left-leaning, but they are also specialists of the Mughal period of Indian history, which is to say that they are sympathetic to Islam’s point of view on India, while they often consider Hindus fanatics.

It is time Indian historians looked again at their own history and wrote it based on the latest archaeological and linguistic discoveries, so that the West is better able to understand India.

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)

Hindus: majority yet minority

Hindus: majority yet minority

Author: Francois Gautier
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: December 4, 2000

Hindus, who comprise the majority population of India, boasts of one the oldest cultures of the world. Sanskrit is often thought as the mother of all languages; Hindu philosophy has to considerably fashioned Greek mythology and Celticlore (as demonstrated by French Indianist Guy Deleury); and these two traditions represent the foundation of all European culture.

We all know that the zero concept originated from India, but it is not so well known that the Egyptians used Hindu arithmetic concepts to build their pyramids, that Hindus inspired Pythagorean mathematics, or what an 18th century French astronomers Jean-Claude Bailly had remarked: ‘Hindu calculations of the position of the stars and of solar eclipses were so precise that we are still using them today’.

Thus the Hindus, inheritors of an immense, noble and age-old culture, constitute 85 per cent of India and represent the social, religious and cultural majority of this emerging Asian superpower of the 21st century. And yet, their voice is rarely heard in India. They are respected neither in home, nor abroad; and they generally lack self-confidence.

Could it be that Hindus are a psychological minority in India, whereas minorities, such as the Christians, which constitute only 3 per cent of the population, wield an enormous moral power in this country, thanks to the quality of their schools and hospitals and because of the pride they have in their own religion and moral standards?

All European children, Italian or German, are brought-up on Christian values and Greek philosophy. It would be impossible, in France for instance, for the Muslim minority – immigrants from French ex-colonies such as Algeria or Morocco to impose their views and culture on the government. In fact, Muslim girls are not allowed to wear a veil when they go to French school: ‘you are in France, you have been given the French nationality, so behave like a French first and like a Muslim second’, they are told bluntly.

Would that be possible in India? Would any Indian except the much-maligned RSS, have the courage to ask Muslims to be Indians first, and Muslim second? Or tell Catholics and Protestants that they have to revert to a more Indianised Christianity, such as the one that existed in Kerala before the arrival of the Portuguese Jesuits? And see how stridently Muslims and Christians backed by most of the media – react when the Human Resources Minister, Dr Murli Manohar Joshi, wants to teach Indian children a little bit of the greatness of their culture.

There are two sets of standards used in India amongst intellectuals; one for the Christians or the Muslims; and one for the Hindus. When the Australian missionary Graham Stains and his two sons were killed the Indian and foreign press spent weeks – if not months – in eulogizing Graham and making Nazis of all Hindus held responsible for his murder. But if a few days later 20 labourers, as innocent as Stains’ two sons, are savagely assassinated by separatists in Kashmir, it will only warrant a few lines in Indian newspapers, without any of the outraged comments which followed Staines murder.

When the Ayodhya mosque was brought down, it was as if eternal shame had descended upon India. ‘Death of secularism’, ‘Hindu fundamentalists have taken over the country’, ‘a Black Day in the history of our democracy’, the newspapers screamed. However unfortunate the Ayodhya episode was, nobody was killed there; but the terrible Bombay blasts which followed, orchestrated by Indian Muslims, with the active help of Pakistan and the silent approval of Saudi Arabia, which took the lives of hundreds of innocent Hindus, never warranted the kind of moral indignation which followed Ayodhya.

Hindus are ironically chased from their own ancestral lands. There were one million of them in Kashmir in 1900 but only a few hundred today, the rest having been made to flee through terror. In the North-East, Hindus are being outnumbered by Bangladeshi illegal immigrants and terrorized by pro-Christian separatist groups, such as the Bodos or the Mizos. In Karnataka, a bill will bring more than 43,000 Hindu shrines and maths under the commissioner’s control. This act does not apply to Christians and Muslims. The Indian government still sponsors the Haj pilgrimage.

Hindus should become a little prouder of themselves: there is ample talent and brains in India today. Hindu children regularly top their schools and universities in the US, they are the best programmers of this planet and are are amongst the richest people in UK, the US or Canada. Why can’t the majority of this marvelous, diverse, ancient and extraordinary country stop behaving as if it was a moral minority?

Francois Gautier Writes

Francois Gautier Writes

Publication: Hindu Views International
Date: May 7, 2003

Dear friends,

India’s image in the West has never been so bad. We foreign correspondents have been propagating in the last few weeks a picture of an intolerant Hindu majority, ruthlessly hunting down the Muslim minority. Not only has it falsified public opinions abroad about India, but it has put pressure on Governments to bring out so called Human Rights reports on Gujarat, whereas they have no right to interfere in India’s affairs, given the fact that it is one of the very few working democracies in Asia. Would the British, who left a mess wherever they colonized, dare to interfere in such a way in China’s affairs, whose human rights record is a million times worse than India?

This is unfair: those of us who have lived long enough in this country, know that not only Hindus have historically been extremely tolerant, accepting the fact that God manifests himself at different times under different forms, but also that, in spite of the bureaucratic hassles, the dirtiness and the heat, we Westerners are living in a paradise of freedom, compared to what would be our lot in China, for instance:- we can criticize as much as we want, slander even, without fear of reprisal.

As a foreigner having covered India for 25 years, I am shocked by the ambivalence of our standards when it comes to Hindus. There were 400.000 Hindus in Kashmir in 1947 – and only a few hundreds today. All the rest have been made to flee through terror in the late eighties and early nineties. I remember when Muslim militants would stop buses all over Kashmir and kill all the Hindus, men women and children, none of the foreign correspondents and diplomats protested about human rights the way they are doing now after the Gujarat riots. There are 400.000 Hindus who are refugees in their own land, an ethnic cleansing without parallel in the world.

Why are none of us interested in highlighting this fact? Do we know that Hindus themselves have been for centuries the targets of genocide at the hands of Muslim invaders and that today in Bangladesh or Pakistan they are still at risk? In Assam, Tripura, or Nagaland, Hindus are being chased out by Bangladeshi illegal immigrants and terrorized by separatist groups, such as the Bodos or the Mizos, while local governments often turn a blind eye. Are we playing our role, which is to inform, educate our fellow countrymen, who are generally totally ignorant about India? Many of us are using the word “genocide” to describe the riots in Gujarat, or even making comparisons with the Holocaust. But do we tell our readers that Jews in India were never persecuted and lived and prospered in total freedom till most of them went back to Israel? The same cannot be said about my country France, where even today they face problems. We do not care to balance our articles: we take an isolated incident such as the murder of ‘Graham Staines’ or the riots against Muslims in Gujarat, and we make it look, as it is a whole, telling our readers abroad that Christians and Muslims are persecuted in India.

When the Ayodhya mosque was brought down, it was as if eternal shame had descended upon India: “death of secularism, Hindu fundamentalists have taken over the country, a Black Day in the history of our democracy”, we screamed ad infinitum… However unfortunate the ‘Ayodhya’ episode was, nobody was killed there; but the terrible Bombay lasts which followed, orchestrated by Indian Muslims, with the active help of Pakistan and the silent approval of Saudi Arabia, which took the lives of hundreds of innocent Hindus, never warranted the kind of moral indignation which followed the rioting against Muslims in Gujarat.

Why does nobody bother to say that maybe, the tolerant, easy going middle class Hindu, is so fed-up with being made fun of, hated, targeted, killed, and bombed, that he is ready to take to the streets? If you dare say that there are 850 millions Hindus in this country and not only they represent the majority culture, but they have a tradition of tolerance and gentleness and they cannot be the fundamentalists that the Press makes them out, you are immediately branded as an RSS Spokesman or a VHP lover. Why this primitive labels?

In the West we are not ashamed to call ourselves a Christian civilization: the American President swears on the Bible when he takes office and look also how all European children, be them Italian or German, are brought-up on the values of Christianity and the greatness of Greek philosophy. It would be impossible, in France for instance, for the Muslim minority – immigrants from France’s ex-colonies such as Algeria or Morocco to Impose their views and culture on the government. In fact, Muslim girls are not allowed to wear a veil when they go to French school: “you are in France, you have been given the French nationality, so behave like a French first and like a Muslim in second”, they are told bluntly. Would that be possible in India? Does any Indian, except the much-maligned RSS, have the courage to ask Muslims to be Indians first and Muslim second? Or tell Catholics and Protestants that they have to revert to a more Indianized Christianity, such as the one that existed in ‘Kerala’ before the arrival of the Portuguese Jesuits? And see how stridently Muslims and Christians – backed by most of the foreign Media * react when the Human Resources Minister, Dr Joshi, wants to teach Indian children a little bit of the greatness of their culture!

I know that many of the foreign correspondents arrive here with an aspiration to understand India and report fairly. The problems is that there is no way we are going to know India if we stay in Delhi, or fly all over the place, staying in five star hotels, to do features which give justice to a civilization which is 5000 years old. It is also true that in Delhi, an arrogant, superficial city, we are never in contact with the real India and always hears the same stories in the Journalists parties, or diplomatic cocktails, about secularism, the ‘Sangh Parivar’ or Human Rights in Kashmir. We should take some time off the political situation and go out to the South, which is much more gentle and easygoing than the North.

Do for instance some features on ‘Kalaripayat’, the ‘Kerala’ martial art which gave birth to ‘Kung fu’ and ‘Karate’, or on Ayurveda, the oldest medical science still in practice; or see for oneself the extraordinary ‘Ayappa festival’ in the mountains bordering ‘Tamil Nadu’, or witness the one million Christians who descend every year on the “Lourdes” of India, Velangani on the Coromandel coast. There you will discover that the genius of India, its tradition of tolerance, hospitality and gentleness lies in rural areas, amongst the humble people – and not in the arrogant westernized cities that have lost contact with their own roots. Or else, do an Art of Living Basic course and learn first hand India’s ancient traditions of meditation and ‘Pranayama’… For the truth is that if you want to know and understand this country in some degree, you have to LIVE India from the inside.