Category Archives: yoga

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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Relink science to spirit

Author: Francois Gautier

Publication: The Indian Express
Date: January 1, 2001

Will science and spirituality ever meet? This was the topic of a recent seminar at the prestigious Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore. Indian scientists, one after the other, expounded, on how reason, rigour, logic and the spirit of inquiry are the most important parameters of scientific discovery. None of them, except for Abdul Kalam, made references to ancient Indian science. All of them spoke of science from a western point of view.

Truly western science, because of its immense material resources, has come to dominate the world. Billions of dollars is required these days for research which India can not afford. Since it is unable to remunerate honorably its scientists and engineers many of them have migrated to the West.

Western science is like a blind man, because it dissociated itself from the spirit in the 17th century. Reasons are several: First, because the powerful Christian church interfered in government matters. Thus it was very rigid and backward in scientific topics, believing until very late that the earth was flat or that the world started in 4003 BC. And whoever disagreed with these views was burnt at the stake!

Many thinkers of the 17th century, particularly French philosophers such as Descartes or Pascal, had unilaterally decreed that the only valid scientific and philosophical tools of inquiry were reason and logic. A third factor came in the 20th century with the advent of Marxism and Communism, which decreed that spirituality poisoned people minds and hence had to be eradicated.

Was this divorce of science from the spirit beneficial to the West? Well, western scientists have been able to devise the most sophisticated weapons to kill man; but man is still not capable of killing his own ego. The West, in spite of its huge prosperity based on its tremendous technological and scientific achievements, is becoming a sick society, where children go on rampage killings; where every other person in the US is under psychiatric treatment for depression or insomnia. Where out of five marriages, three end up in divorce.

Nobody in the conference, except Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who was a guest of honour, also bothered to ask this question: has Indian science kept in touch with the spirit? Well, major discoveries in Indian science, such as the position of the stars, the calculation of solar eclipses, or the concept of the zero, were made at the time when there were no instruments. How were they made? Because of a profound and everlasting quest for the spirit in India. It is in this manner that Buddha, was able to say, long before western science, that everything in our Universe is constituted of atoms, constantly changing, dying and being reborn at each moment. And this is the first theorem that any scientist should apply: Know Thyself, Know Thy mind. Because If you know your own mind, then you can fathom all other minds; if you know one particle of the world you know all the particles of the world. This is the truth that India has been practicing for millenniums.

Finally, nobody in the symposium cared to mention that western science owesa lot to India. Pythagoras, pioneer of modern geometry, was inspired byIndian mathematics; Egyptians built their pyramids by means of Indianarithmetic; 18th century French astronomers were using Hindu calculationsof the positions of the stars and the solar eclipses.

But unfortunately, Indian science today is very westernized, because the scientific knowledge taught in the universities lacks a connection with the spiritual, and never mentions India’s ancient tradition of scientific inquiry.

The British colonials imparted through education a certain western bent of mind. Additionally, many of India’s top scientists today have a strong connection with the West. The ultimate achievement for them is to have a chair in a foreign university, where some of them brand India as a backward, fundamentalist country. Isn’ it so Mr Amartya Sen? But the real issue is: how can Indian science re-link itself again with the spiritual? There is no question that the Spirit is very much present in India: everywhere you go, you find ashrams, yogis, sadhus, ordinary people practicing meditation or pranayama.

The natural tendency here is to understand the levels of consciousness beyond the surface materiality. Other than Indian Nobel laureates there have been geniuses like Ramanujan, who, with no sophisticated means, were able to devise stupendous mathematical theorems. But Indian science has to look within and delve in its scientific past. The secrets of the Vedas, for instance, both spiritual and scientific, have never been fully deciphered; Sanskrit too has never been analyzed in a modern manner. Indian science mustshow the West how to reestablish the spiritual link and at last unite matter and spirit.

Title: India as a teacher in a new era

Title: India as a teacher in a new era
Author: Francois Gautier
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: January 3, 2000

India is entering the third millennium. It doesn’t matters that this is a bit of an artificial date created by the West, which arbitrarily decided that the year zero started with the birth of Jesus Christ. India is entering the third millennium.

What does she wish for herself? That she succeeds in her liberalisation? Overcomes the consequ-ences of westernisation, which has killed the soul of so many so-called Third World countries? Or gets rid of the dreadful Nehruvian legacies, which tried to destroy all that was holy and ancient in this country and embraced instead western concepts totally alien to India like Marxism?

And if she does this then, perhaps, in spite of her huge problems she will emerge as a superpower in the third millennium. And then, finally, the West will also take notice of her, as it did of China 30 years ago.

But what does India have that Ch-ina doesn’t? Democracy for sure. India is certainly a much more democratic country than China. She has proved it through 50 years of strife.She has a proved it by throwing up leaders and throwing them out when they perfo-rmed badly.

What else does she possess that China does not? India is also a bastion of the pro-western, open-minded, English-speaking, highly cultured upper and middle classes. Soon the West will realise that in Asia India is fighting an isolated battle against Muslim terrorism, which is rising everywhere in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh or faraway in Chechnya. No western nation could wish a friendlier country than India, whose elite dr-eams of sending their sons and da-ughters to study in Harvard!

But there is so-mething else, so-mething infinitely more important, which India can bring to the West. And that is her spirituality. India is a vast and ancient land which alone has managed to keep within herself thanks to the stubborn will of her people and by the silent tapasaya of her yogis hidden in their Himalayan caves the immaculate truth, the ultimate knowledge, the secret of our destiny.

At a time when the worldhas never been as disoriented as it is now; at a time when mankind is erring on the road to evolution; at a time when man has forgotten the `why’ and `how’ of his existence and all religions have failed, India holds the key to man’s future.

And what is this knowledge? It is not some mystical, faraway and smoky Ut-opia, but a pragmatic, down-to-earth, Cartesian knowledge which can be put immediately into practice. Take pran-ayama, for instance, the most exacting, precise, mathema-tical, powerful bre-athing discipline one can dream off. Its effects and results have been observed and categorised by Indian yogis for millennia and it brings in, ve-ry quickly, wonderful results in both the well-being of the body and the quietude of the mind.

What about hata yoga, a 5000-year-old technique, which has inspired today all kind of aerobic, and so-called yogic techniques and gymnastic drills around the world? Practised properly it brings health, strength and endurance to the body. It is the secret of Indian yogis’incredible longevity and it may help foster immortality in the future.

What about meditation, that queen of all the yogic sciences? That which is above everything, that without which any yogic discipline is impossible? That which interiorises us, carries us within ourselves, to the discovery of our true soul and nature. There are hundreds of different meditation techniques, simple, Cartesian, easy to experience, which have been devised by Indian sages since the dawn of Bharat. And so many scientific studies have been done in the West which have shown that it decreases stress.

India is full of ashrams, of yogis, of masters who are still keeping alive all those wonderful sciences. From the tip of Kanyakumari to Kashmir, you cannot go anywhere in this country without finding some ashram, some sadhu, practising a particular tapasaya. If Indian schoolchildren were taught at a very early age the combined techniques of pranayama, hata yoga and meditation, it would may be produce the next human species of ourera, a race which is spiritualised in both mind and body.

Unfortunately, for a long time, the Indian government did not recognise the wonder that India possessed. But India’s yogis and gurus are going all around the world to spread this wonderful knowledge. Some of these men are genuine, some are semi-fakes, some are total fakes. But it does not matter because almost all of them carry abroad the message of yoga and are propagating India’s eternal dharma to the western world.

It may be even that India will become conscious of the wonderful treasures she harbours within herself when the West will point its finger at it. After all, this happened in a lesser way in Japan with its martial art techniques, Zen Buddhism, rock gardens and Bonsai art, when America took to them after the Second World War. Let us hope though, that the true India will emerge before that and enter the third millennium with the knowledge of herself.