Category Archives: sri Aurobindo

WHY I AM A HINDU

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

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Ramachandra Guha and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Ramachandra Guha represents the typical Indian intellectual: brilliant, totally westernized – and who looks down on anything Hindu – because he has inherited from the British colonization a gigantic inferiority complex about his own culture and spirituality. And like many of his brothers and sisters of India’s intelligentsia, he feels nowhere better than in the West. This can be gathered from his Oslo diary published in the Outlook magazine of 20th October, where he says, and I quote : “…After two weeks in Oslo, my hosts send me off to Svalbard, deep into the Arctic CircleI spend four enchanting days in and around the little town of Longybein, located at 78° N. I have the privilege of sampling the northernmost bar, the northernmost cafe, the northernmost supermarket, and the northernmost souvenir store in the world “… Then he adds – and this shows that this Macaulayan fixation is transmitted since many generations from father to children: “The person most envious of my trip is my daughter, who has read evocative descriptions of Svalbard in the novels of Philip Pullman”. Wow: I am a born Frenchman, brought up in some of the best European schools, I vaguely known of Philipp Pullman (do you?), but have never heard of that he wrote about the archipelago of Svalbard” (have you?). <!– @page { size: 8.5in 11in; margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08in } –>

Once he has proved his credentials of a connoisseur of western literature and lover of western atmospheres, Guha, because he is in Norway, home of the Nobel Peace Prize, chooses to attack Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of the Art of Living movement, who has been the most nominated Indian in the last three years: “After my talk, a lady comes up and introduces herself as a doctor, and an advisor to the Peace Institute. The names I had mentioned were all very good, she said, but surely it was time that the peace prize went to an Indian? She mentions the name of a fellow townsman of mine (Sri Sri Ravi Shankar), a man who has grown long hair, given himself four fancy initials (HH/SS), and whose name is also that of a very great exponent of the sitar”. And of course, Guha tells her gleefully: “I suggested to the doctor that if not giving Gandhi the prize was a scandal, awarding it to my fellow townsman would be an even bigger scandal”. How typical of these Indian intellectuals, who are always spitting on their own culture, specially if it is Hindu-related.

Yet, there is no doubt that Guruji, as he is known to his followers, qualifies for the NPP – in fact he does tenfold time the work of a Mother Teresa or a R.K Pachauri: he not only performs charity work in many of India’s villages, he also promotes pesticide and fertilizer free farming, takes orphans from Kashmir or the North-East in his ashram, and his volunteers do relief work, both at the physical and psychological level, whether in Bihar during the floods, in Iraq or in the US during the recent cyclone. Sri Sri is also trying to revive single handed, the ancient Vedic tradition by training young priests in a Gurukkul which blends ancient knowledge, with modern thought, while promoting Ayurveda as the medicine of the 21st century. He is attempting as well to mediate in many conflicts, in Kashmir, Sri Lanka, or between the Christians and Hindus. And lastly he has revived and modernized the ancient science of pranayama.

Of course, Guha is an unabashed admirer of the Norwegian Peace Committee: “The Nobel Peace Prize is itself a splendid example of Norwegian internationalism, in keeping with the country’s ethos of generous aid to poorer countries, not to mention its efforts to resolve ethnic conflicts around the world”. But not everybody in Europe would agree with him : Norwegians have sometimes the reputation of being staunch, left-leaning Protestants, who often have a condescending view of Asia. Thus, when they award prizes, they are necessarily influenced by a Christian vision of the world and an idealistic left-leaning sympathy. For, as most Europeans, they have been brought-up in the belief that democracy and philosophy started with Greece and that a Humane civilization, began with Jesus Christ. And of course, they have a covert – or at best unconscious – suspicion, if not of India, at least of Hindus, who for them remain the heathen, the pagans which the missionaries of yesteryears, and unfortunately those of today too, have created in the minds of many westerners.

They can only agree with Mr Guha: how can they then, give their Peace Prize to a Hindu?

François Gautier

Terrorism – Islam in India must be different

Terrorism – Islam in India must be different
Source: The Sunday Indian
Terrorist attacks in India will stop if Indian Muslims stop actively participating in them
Francois Gautier

French Journalist

Islam in India is different. It is the inheritor of a long tradition of Sufism – the blending of Vedanta and the best of Islam – and a certain philosophy of acceptance. I remember when I was covering Kashmir in the late seventies, one could still see remnants of that tradition and observe Hindus and Muslims worshipping in dargahs and visiting each other’s homes during their respective religious festivals.

Then the Sunni Wahabite influence, via the Paksitani and Afghan jehadis, who supplanted the early JKLF movement, seeped in and everything changed for the worst. I was there in 1995 when the last Sufi shrine – the magnificent Chrar-e-Sharif, tomb of Sheikh Nuruddin, which was a sumptuous brick-and-cedar building with architectural and aesthetic roots right out of Central Asia – was burnt to the ground.

Though it has been rebuilt now, its destruction signalled the end of Sufism and tolerance in Kashmir. The 300,000 Kashmiri Hindus who had to flee their ancestral homeland are the living testimony of it.

For a long time, the present Indian government has been able to blame the successive terrorists attacks – Jaipur, Varanasi, Mumbai train blasts, Hyderabad, etc. – on the ISI or Bangaldeshi outfits and get away with it. The Delhi blasts signal the end of the charade and for the first time – barring the Ahmedabad blasts, where the Centre did not have much to do with the investigations – it was recognised that they were the handiwork of Indian Muslims.

Yet, the Indian government went on with the same pattern it used repeatedly after a terrorist attack in the last four years: (a) condemn ‘in the strongest terms’ this ‘barbarous act’; (b) appeal for calm and ‘communal harmony’; (c) give a few lakhs each to the families of the deceased or injured, so that they shut-up; and (d) never catch the culprits and go on as before till the next terrorist act.

But look at America, the most hated and targeted country in the world: it has not suffered a single terrorist attack since September 11, 2001. Which Indian politician will have the courage to call a spade a spade and tackle terrorism with courage and determination?

Does the UPA think that the common citizen of India is a nitwit and does not understand that Manmohan Singh or Sonia Gandhi have never pronounced once the word ‘Islamic terrorism’ not only because of the matter of vote banks in times of coming elections, but also because of the fact that politicians in India want to keep a blindfold on their citizens and pretend that nothing is happening?

Muslims should also realise that their Hindu brothers and sisters are angry now. Hindus gave refuge to all persecuted minorities of the world – from the Parsis, to the Jews (India is the only country in the world where Jews were not persecuted) to the Armenians, and the Tibetans today. The first Christian community in the world, that of the Syrian Christians, flourished in Kerala, thanks to Hindu tolerance; Arab merchants were welcomed by Hindu rulers to do trade and live in India, while freely practicing their religion, from very early times. It’s a pity that these two communities turned against their Hindus brothers and sisters, the former by way of lured conversions, and the latter with bloody invasions.

Ultimately, Islam in India can still preserve its difference, show the rest of the world that Muslims can live in peace with their brother and sisters and practice an Islam which is faithful to its own creed, while accepting other religions. But for that, terrorists attacks have to stop in India – and they will if Indian Muslims stop participating actively in them.

Islam cannot be wished away. As Sri Aurobindo said, “Mohammed’s mission was necessary, else we might have ended by thinking, in the exaggeration of our efforts at self-purification, that earth was meant only for the monk and the city created as a vestibule for the desert”.

Thus, Indian Muslims have to keep their faith and any attempt by Hindus to convert them back is not only futile but counterproductive. But the question to be asked to them is: what kind of Islam do you want to practice? An Islam which looks westwards, towards a foreign city, the Mecca, swears by a scripture, the Koran, which is not only not relevant to India, but which was meant for people living 1,500 years ago, in a language which is not Indian ? Or do they want to practice an Islam which is ‘Indianised’, which accepts the reality of other Gods, as Hinduism and Buddhism accept that there have been other avatars than Ram or Buddha.

Do India Muslims want to worship Babar, a man who destroyed everything which was good, beautiful and holy and lived by the power of violence, or do they want to imbibe the qualities of Ram, who believed in the equality of all, who gave-up all riches and honours of the world because he thought his brother deserved the throne more than him?

Why must India kow-tow to China?

April 18, 2008
For 60 years, China has humiliated India at every step. It betrayed Jawaharlal Nehru’s naive trust in a Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai friendship. It treacherously attacked India from Tibet [Images] which Nehru had implicitly left to the Chinese, humiliating the Indian army which would take decades to recover.

It directly or indirectly encouraged separatist movements in the Northeast; it used Nepal as a front State against India; it armed, and worst of all, gave the nuclear bomb to Pakistan, a crime against humanity.

Today it is still sitting on a million square metres in Aksai Chin (supposedly given to Pakistan), which rightfully belongs to India; it claims Arunachal Pradesh, and sometimes Sikkim, does regular incursions into Indian territory and is still busy encircling India in Burma.

The Chinese despise Indians, witness how they summoned the Indian ambassador at 2 am in the morning as if she was some lower hireling.

Indian leaders are also perfectly aware that the Chinese, in a span of fifty years, have killed 1.2 million Tibetans, razed to the ground 6,254 monasteries, destroyed 60 per cent of religious, historical and cultural archives and that one Tibetan out of ten is still in jail.

As we have entered the Third Millennium, a quarter million Chinese troops are occupying Tibet and there are 7.5 million Chinese settlers for six million Tibetans — in fact, in many places such as the capital, Lhasa, Tibetans are outnumbered two to one…

India has also to wake up to the plain fact that China needs space and has hegemonic aspirations: It got Tibet, it got Hong Kong, it got part of Ladakh; now it wants Taiwan, Arunachal Pradesh, the Spratly islands and what not!

Fifty years ago, during the Korean war, Sri Aurobindo, had seen clearly in the Chinese game: ‘the first move in the Chinese Communist plan of campaign is to dominate and take possession first of these northern parts and then of South East Asia as a preliminary to their manoeuvres with regard to the rest of the continent in passing Tibet as a gate opening to India.’

And magically, for once, India had a chance to get back at China without appearing to do so. It would have been easy to have a little less security for the Olympic torch and let the Tibetans express their anger and resentment in a way that would have once more been flashed all over the world.

Yet, India did exactly the opposite: It went overboard to please the Chinese, giving more security to this sham that was the Olympic relay in New Delhi than it does for Republic Day.

Did anybody see the utter farcical absurdity of this flame, which slept in a five star hotel, had to be guarded by 17,000 security men and ran without spectators, creating unheard off problems for the poor citizen caught in traffic jams?

Is there any peace, is there any sporting and Olympic spirit in such a flame which has become the symbol of Chinese repression, arrogance and thirst for domination in Asia?

Tibet is so important for India: It has always acted as a peaceful, non-violent buffer zone between the two giants of Asia: China and India. And the Dalai Lama [Images] wants it even more peaceful: A demilitarised, denuclearised harmony region.

But it’s exactly the opposite which has happened: According to the CIA, China has transferred one third of its nuclear arsenal to Nagchuka, 250 kms away from Lhasa, a region full of huge caves, which the Chinese have linked together by an intricate underground network and installed nearly 100 intercontinental ballistic missiles, many of them pointed at Indian cities.

The reason for this is that the Chinese, who are probably among the most intelligent people in the world, have always understood that India is their number one potential enemy in Asia — in military, nuclear and economic terms.

Today India is encircled by hostile neighbours, from Pakistan to Bangladesh, from Chinese-occupied Tibet, to a Maoist Nepal.

Never has India faced a darker hour whatever gurus say. Never has she faced so many enemies at the same time — and truly China is one of the most dangerous ones. Yet India always bends backwards to please the Chinese.

Why is that so? Because the Indian intelligentsia, the secular politicians, the journalists, top bureaucrats, are the descendants of these Brown Sahibs, created by Macaulay more than 250 years ago.

The man who thought that all the historical information which can be collected from all the books which have been written in the Sanskrit language, is less valuable than what may be found in the most paltry abridgement used at preparatory schools in England [Images], wished to make of Indians a darker version of the British. He has been immensely successful and has created a nation with a colonised mind.

Many of India’s politicians, bureaucrats and journalists are always aping the West, or are always worrying about what the West thinks of them. They never think Indian, they have no idea about India’s great culture, philosophy and spirituality. Very few have read the Bhagavad Gita, or understood that it encourages yoga in action and that sometimes it is important to defend one’s country, culture and borders, by force if necessary.

They are no match for the Chinese, who are proud of themselves and their nation and will use any means, open and covert, legal and foul, to foster their dream of a Greater China. The Olympics [Images] are just such a tool for them.

Francois Gautier

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

Auroville’s tsunami relief effort

March 09, 2005

In Ganagachettikullam, one of the worst affected villages on the Pondicherry coast, there was this old lady who had lost her baby and kept crying: “I just took her hand in my own and my body language did all the talking,” says Bhavana, a volunteer from the Auroville Tsunami Rehabilitation Programme.

Auroville, the international township inspired by the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, which is situated near Pondicherry, was the first to swing into action. On December 26, 2004, barely two hours after the first tsunami wave struck, a first emergency meeting was called in the house of two Aurovilians, Paul Pinton and Laura, and it was immediately decided to set up a camp for the persons affected by the tidal waves.

Three days later, Auroville realised it was time to switch from immediate relief, to a rehabilitation effort. An office was set-up with computers, phone, faxes and e-mail, the Auroville financial service was put to contribution to channel and account for the contributions which started coming (see below) and two teams were formed to make an assessment of the situation on the ground.

The Auroville rehabilitation story is about caring and it takes three aspects:

Cleaning up and clearing up villages: “Cleaning-up and clearing affected villages, is much more than what it looks like,” says Alok, one of the coordinators, “We establish a bond with the villagers, we work with them, we show them that we care, rather than come, distribute goods or cash — and then disappear after the photo op.”

Many of the students of Auroville schools have been engaged in village cleaning, in the worst affected of the coastal fishing communities. At first the villagers watched from a distance with curiosity, sometimes even with a little bit of hostility, but as they saw the enthusiasm of the Auroville children, some of them joined the cleaning effort.

One of the classes of ten year olds were asked to write about their experience, particularly about their reasons to want to help with the cleaning, their job and their feelings during and after the work. The following is an extract from one of the children’s writing, a girl from Holland: ‘On Thursday, my class and I went to the beach to help clean up the dirt left by the tsunami wave. We wanted to help cleaning very much because I felt really sad after seeing people crying near the streets or broken houses, and hearing horrifying stories. I felt something in my chest telling me I had to do something to help clean up the tsunami disaster. Sometimes people think of children as people that are irresponsible or that can’t do anything by themselves. Usually, I find that frustrating. So, I wanted to show that I care about what is happening and I would put some energy to help out a bit.’

Counselling: Aware that it is not only material needs which have to be addressed, but also the psychological needs, the Auroville Tamil Women’s Group, consisting of both Western and Indian women, visit the affected villages, not with goods, but with open hearts to listen and sympathise. At first they were a bit unsure about how this would be accepted in the villages, perhaps the people would only be asking for money or material things, but it was quite the opposite that happened.

“Our van, recalls Bhavana, one of the leaders of Auroville’s Women’s Group, brought us down the streets of the village — we could see how the houses got smaller as we moved closer to the sea — the richer people had built farther from the shore long ago, and newer poorer houses were of necessity located closer to the water. In one of these streets, with nice houses on either side, a boat was sitting — it had come up with the wave and been left stranded there. The last couple of rows of houses were the ones built just of mud and thatch — and you can’t see them any more — just a pile of thatch and some sign of former walls — all have been washed away.”

“We had coached ourselves that our mission was just to listen, so we asked people how they were, what had happened and heard their stories,” she continued. “There was a young man who had been caught between who to rescue first — his children or his old father, he’d chosen his children first, but also managed to bring his father to safety. But now they have nothing.

Another old lady was so traumatised that she took Phoenix, an, American’s lady’s hand and would not let it go. This work has only started and is bound to take many more months. Two counselling experts are coming from Bangalore to assist with the counselling process. At the moment there is still a big gap between what is given in the area of counselling and what is really needed.”

Every day, when the Women’s Group goes back to Auroville, they all sit in a circle. Women share how the people they meet had been so grateful for the visit. Some people even said how much they appreciated Auroville. “They said at their temple they always worshipped the sea,” recalls Bhavana. “It keeps holding up their boats, giving them fish and livelihood, but now it seems to have turned against them — perhaps because they have strayed from caring for others. But actually now it seems to them that people do come and listen to their woes. And thus they turn to Auroville with gratitude.”

Rebuilding: Donations of Rs 62 lakhs (Rs 6.2 million) have so far been received by the Auroville Rehabilitation Fund. About Rs 10 lakhs (Rs 1 million) have been spent. Rs 21.5 lakhs (Rs 2.15 million) have been received for the AV-Beach community fund, (which have also suffered a lot, Rs 3 lakhs (Rs 300,000) have already been spent. Auroville has a huge know-how in ecological, environment-conscious housing, using natural materials, such as bricks made of compressed red earth available locally.

Only 5% cement I used, and these bricks have shown that they are cheap, provide coolness and are waterproof and termite proof. The Auroville architects and town planners are now ready to put their skills at the service of the rehabilitation housings for all the coastal Pondicherry villages. In an emergency meeting, it was decided that the plinth of the reconstructed houses would be higher than the normal and have certain innovations to permit a flow through of water in case of flooding such as in the case of tsunami.

But to accomplish this, Auroville needs the help of the Tamil Nadu government, as well as the cooperation of the Auroville Secretary, Mr Sharma, an IAS officer posted by the central government.

1. Cheque/Demand Draft to be made payable to ‘AUROVILLE FUND’
On the reverse of the cheque please write for Village Flood Relief OR Auroville Beaches Relief. DDs payable at Pondicherry.

Please send the cheques to: Auroville Tsunami Rehabilitation
Opposite Aurelec, Kuilapalayam, Auroville 605 101
Tamil Nadu, India

For e-mail contact: tsunami@auroville.org.in Phone: 0413 – 2622184

Please note that Indian donations are exempted under Section 80G of the Income Tax Act.

Francois 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.