Tag Archives: PRANAYAMA

THE WORD AND ITS PUBLIC SPACE

First, we need to define what is the Word, as there are so many words floating around today in the Public Space, that it has become a cacophony…

In the Beginning, as we all know, There was Silence before the Word.

In the words of India’s great poet, philosopher, revolutionary and Yogi, Sri Aurobindo:

“It was the hour before the Gods awake. 

Across the path of the divine Event 

The huge foreboding mind of Night, alone

In her unlit temple of eternity,

Lay stretched immobile upon SILENCE’s marge…”

Thus, the first primeval sound, coming out of Silence, as the Animate, started replacing the Inanimate, is the sound ‘Hmmmmmmmm’, like a cosmic humming.

Out of this original sound was born the first mantras: OM for the Hindus, AUM for the Buddhists and Jains, Amen for the Christians, Amin for the Muslims…

What is it meaning of AUM or OM or AMIN? Don’t intellectualize it: just close your eyes, watch your breath for a few seconds and pronounce it thrice slowly and clearly, and then observe what’s happening in you. You will now have had the experience of the first sound of this Universe and understood why it remains the most important one, out of which all other sounds, in whichever languages, today and yesterday, derive….

Then we need to define what is Public Space

For a long time the Public Space was largely unoccupied and there still was mostly silence. Though writing was invented, some say in Mesopotamia, 5000  years ago, some say in the Saraswati-Indus civilization, in 5400 BC, it did not occupy much space and led to no cacophony. In France, in the old days, heralds would announce royal decrees at each street corners of cities, along with the beating of the drums.. .

After that came the invention of the Printing Press – which the West credits to Gutenberg – but which existed much before him in Asia , though Gutenberg’s Bible was probably the first mass produced book. A corner of the Public Space became occupied.

Then, the newspapers appeared. The Romans had some form of newsletters (the Senate’s proceedings), but it’s only in the 16th century, in Germany and Italy, that the first public-circulated newspapers saw the light.

Henceforth arrived the Radio, invented by Marconi officially, but actually experimented by many before him – including the Indian JC. Bose in Calcutta in 1896. And the cacophony of the world started. By the mid 20’s, 605 radio stations were broadcasting to millions in the USA.

Then Television made its entry in Scotland in 1926, invented by John Logie Baird. But it’s not till the 50’s that it became popular specially, in the mid 60’s as colour TV first appeared in the US. The Public Space started not only getting crowded, but influencing people’s opinions.

The birth of Internet Protocol Suit happened in 1982, again in the US, and by the mid 90’s, thanks to the birth of Social Media, the Public space had become a cacophony.

Yes, the Word is occupying it. But it’s overcrowded there. Not only that, but we live now in a virtual world of second hand opinions, which have a huge sway on billions of people, who lack first hand knowledge. Whoever reads what is said on India in mainstream newspapers or televisions in the West, knows that it’s mostly about the sensational, the clichéd and sometimes even the false. It is true that the freedom and the lack of politically correct control in the Social Media have made it the space which reflects in the most faithful manner the feelings of the People at large. But the cacophony remains…

How to go back to the some harmony? How does a journalist or a writer find his or her true inspiration, that is not fueled by alcohol, drugs or sleepless nights?

We need to revert back to the Silence to find true Intuition. In India there are tools that can help you do that: Pranayama meditation, or Hata yoga. These tools can be practiced by all, regardless of their ethnicity or religion: does the air we breathe around us have a religion or a race, asks @SriSri? The simple silent repeating of your God’s name in your heart region will also induce a quieting of the mind, that will leave space for true inspiration. And 20 mnts of daily of yoga will help the body be the vessel of a quieter mind.

Then in this Silence will we find our own Private Space and be able to communicate in a better and true manner onto the Public Space

OM

François Gautier

Advertisements

Islam and the Bhagavad-Gita

In the last 30 years, I have spoken against Islam and Islamic fundamentalism numerous times in my books as well as in in my articles and conferences. Often thus, I have been often branded as an Islamophobe or a hard-line pro-Hindu…

Yet, when I came to India, I was innocent : I did not know the difference between a Muslim and a Hindu. And as a journalist I had the same prejudices and ideas about India as any other Western correspondent. In fact I embraced the same ideas: ‘secularism, the Congress is the only party that can unify India, Hindus too can be fundamentalists’, et cetera…

But then, I started covering Kashmir during the 90s, when separatism bloomed and violence set fire to the Valley. It is there that I saw the first Hindu leaders whom I had interviewed previously, assassinated in the most savage manner, such as doctors, lawyers, or All India radio broadcasters. And then, when Benazir Bhutto gave her famous speech of ‘Azad Kashmir’, every mosque in Srinagar and the Valley repeated that cry, telling Hindus: “Convert or die”. And in a few weeks, 350,000 Kashmiri Pandits left their ancestral houses and land, for no other crime than being Hindus – and that without firing a shot in self-defence – becoming refugees in their own country, a first in the world.

Thus my eyes were opened and I lost my innocence. Since then, covering many other countries, I witnessed the same phenomenon in Bangladesh, Pakistan or Afghanistan, of Hindus being the target of hatred, as Jews have been for centuries. This set me to study Indian history and I quickly realised that great Hindu heroes such as Shivaji Maharaj or Maha Rana Pratap, had been bypassed in Indian history books, to a single paragraph: Shivaji Maharaj who alone with his wits, extraordinary courage and a few hundred men, defeated the most powerful army of the world of his time, is a ‘plunderer’; and Maharana Pratap, is described as a small chieftain, although he is the only Rajput to have fought the Moghols and to have held Akbar’s army at bay the Hadilghati battle. The irony is that tyrants such as Aurangzeb, who were monsters not only towards Hindus but also with their own family – Aurangzeb poisoned his own father, beheaded his brother Dara Shikoh, imprisoned his son – are lauded in history books as ‘firm but just emperors under whom arts flourished’ (Aurangzeb actually banned music at his court, because it was un-Islamic)….

…It happens that my wife and myself are teachers of the pranayama and meditation techniques of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, which we have practicing for the last 25 years and which have changed our lives, giving us energy, enthusiasm and commitment. We do this free, as a sewa, to partake of this great gift to humanity that originates from India.

During the last Shivaratri celebrations, we taught in Sri Sri’s Bangalore ashram a pranayama course to a batch of Iranians. Our group, which had many girls and ladies, some of them who always covered their heads, was reserved at first, but as the course progressed, there grew a bond of affection and warmth between us all. We could perceive so much love and humanity in all of them. And by the end of the course, we all danced and hugged each other.

Now it is not because I have fought Islam that I did no know before this course that Muslims are as much as the others, decent human beings, warm, family oriented, hospitable. I remember when I drove to India by road from Paris, crossing many Muslim countries. My best friend was then a Muslim French Moroccan. He would say “AssalamoAlaikum », and doors would open, smiles were flashed, we would be dined, entertained, respected. This universal brotherhood of Islam does not exist in the Hindu world.

So this set me thinking: Islam was born in Iran and since Khomeini’s takeover, though it has a Shia majority, Iran has an image of a hard-core Islamic nation, where the Sharia reigns supreme and which is ready even to use a nuclear weapon to impose the supremacy of its faith. Yet these people we taught were the opposite and showed values of refinement and love that are today missing in the western Christian world….

I do understand even more now that most Muslims are good, witness the many human right organizations, journalists or intellectuals that fight for their rights as refugees, at the moment Yet the stumbling block remains the Koran, a wonderful scripture, no doubt, but which was written for people and mentalities of 1400 years ago, when realities were harsh, punishments even harsher and survival a matter of life and death. Nobody has read the Koran properly, except the Islamic terrorists of today: it does say that the Infidels should be slayed, that Islam must be the world religion, that women can be stoned if unfaithful, or that being gay is a crime punishable by death. Logic would say that Muslim scholars of international repute should get together and reform the Koran, as Christians have done, so that it becomes adapted to the 21st century world. Problem is that nobody dares touch it or question it for fear of death. Problem is that even within the most moderate, educated and enlightened Muslims, logic and good sense, stops when it comes to the Koran…

Thus, I will continue fighting Islam, in the spirit of the Bhagavad Gita: so many of my brothers and sisters are in the opposite camp. I have come to love them and respect them too… Yet, I know that willingly or unwillingly, consciously or unconsciously, by accident or by karma, they are born in a religion that is harming the world, that is on the side of the anti-human and anti-divine forces. Therefore it must be challenged, even if it is with love in the heart – and not hatred.

Nevertheless, this course also opened my eyes: Sri Sri reminds us that we are one World family, Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. Let us not forget that…

François Gautier

European Cartesianism and Hinduism

“Only believe what you experience on yourself”, said the Buddha 2500 years ago. Indian philosophy and spiritual thought was thus always very down to earth and attempted to define scientifically and logically the different means and ways to reach the goal: “If you do this, this is what will happen; if you breathe in this way, this is what may result; if you practice this particular posture, these are the results you will gain”…

Yet the West is today wary of anything which has a Hindu flavor and is quick to label as “sects” everything that does not spring from the larger conventional family of Christianity. It is true that gurus teaching in  the West can be a mixed lot, and some of them might have brought a bad name to Hinduism, but the ordinary Indian meditating every morning, or doing his pujas, practicing his asanas, chanting bhajans, or doing pranayama,  does not feel he is doing anything out of the ordinary. There is no sectarism here, no fake mysticism, no pagan obscure rites.

 To understand India and Hinduism, one then has to go beyond the clichés of paganism and the accusations of sects that have been applied to Hindus, particularly after the coming of Christian missionaries to India who had a vested motive to show Hinduism in  a bad light. It is true that Hindus adore Gods made out of stone or cast in brass. But is it less rational or Cartesian to think, as the Catholics do, that Mary conceived a child while remaining a virgin, or that Christ came back from the dead and ascended physically to heaven (and not in his subtle body, which is more likely)? Muslim invaders were also immensely shocked by this worshipping of images and gods and set upon destroying hundreds of thousand of temples and idols. But Alexandra David-Neel, the remarkable French explorer, writer and mystic, had noticed that the role that Gods play in India is unique “because the images or statues are like a battery which is charged over the ages by the adoration of the devotees, who in turn can draw energy, inspiration, or grace from these statues”. She goes on: “As a battery, the energy in the statue will not get discharged, as long as the faithful continue worship it by their cult and adoration”. And she concludes: “Gods are thus created by the energy given out by the faith in their existence”.

 At any rate, Hindus are great rationalists: they have discovered for instance that the sound Aum, “Amen” for the Christians, possesses very strong vibrations which take you to the deepest level and that the Creator is the Original Verb: Shabda Brahman; that the ragas, these few notes of music on which one can improve indefinitely, have also a strong inner power; or that the breath is the physical conduit to the Divine, which they have codified into  pranayama, the Indian science of breathing. Sri Sri ravi Shankar has today shown that breath has no religion and can be practiced by anybody. But nothing, without any doubt, is more scientific, more logical, more Cartesian, more noble and prophetic than the Vedas, the most ancient and sacred Scriptures of Hinduism, which are nearly totally ignored in the West and misunderstood in India. (To be continued)

ARISE AGAIN O ANCIENT INDIA

Once again, a country, Italy, shows how little respect it has for India, this time by refusing to honor its word to send back the accused marines. Is it not then time to say: “Arise O India, be proud once more of Thyself”.

 This should be India’s motto for the Third Millennium, after five centuries of self-denial. For, in spite of its poverty, in spite of the false Aryan invasion, in spite of the Muslim holocaust, in spite of European colonialism, in spite of Macaulay’s children, in spite of the Partition, in spite of the Chinese threat, in spite of the westernised framework, India still has got tremendous potential. Everything is there, ready to be manifested again, ready to mould India in a new modern nation, a super power of the 21st century. Of course, India has to succeed its industrialisation, it has to liberalise, because unless you can compete economically with the West, no nation can become a super power. India has also to solve its political problems, settle its separatist troubles, get rid of corruption and bureaucracy. And lastly, it has to apply quickly its mind and genius to its ecological problems, because the environment in India is in a very bad way, near the point of no-return. Thus, if India can succeed into its industrialisation and liberalisation, become a force to be reckoned militarily, economically and socially, then the wonder that IS India could again manifest itself.

 And what is this Wonder ? Beyond the image of poverty, of backwardness, beyond even the wonder that is Hinduism, there is a Knowledge – spiritual, occult, esoteric, medical even – still alive today in India. This Knowledge was once roaming upon the shores of this world – in Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece… – but it has now vanished to be replaced by religions, with their dogmas and rituals, do’s and don’t, hells and heavens. For we have lost the truth. we have lost the Great Sense, the meaning of our evolution, the meaning of why so much suffering, why dying, why getting born, why this earth, who are we, what is the soul, what is reincarnation, where is the ultimate truth about the world, the universe… But India has kept this truth, India has managed to preserve it through seven millenniums of pitfalls, of genocides and attempts at killing her santanam dharma.

 And this will be India’s gift to this planet during the next century: to restore to the world its true sense. to recharge humanity with the real meaning and spirit of life, to gift to this dolorous Planet That which is beyond mind : the Supra-Mental. India will become the spiritual leader of the world :

“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 forth this nation to send forth my word…When therefore it is said that India shall rise, it is the Santana Dharma that shall rise, it is the Santana Dharma that shall be great. When it is said that India shall expand and extend herself, it is the Santana Dharma that shall expand and extend itself over the world. It is for the Dharma and by the Dharma that India exists”. (IUttarpara speech)

 This knowledge does not necessarily reside in mystical realms, but in authentic Indian traditional forms of genius which can be very practical. Take for example ancient medical systems, like Ayurveda, or Siddha. Today, allopathic medecines are found even in India’s remotest villages, making people dependant on harmful drugs which are expensive and only serve to enrich the big foreign multinationals. It takes a Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, to remind the world that Ayurveda is one of the greatest medical systems ever devised; that 3000 years ago, when the rest of the planet lived in total medical ignorance, Indian doctors were already performing plastic surgery, knew that the origin of many diseases were psychosomatic, had found in Mother nature the cure for most of man’s ailments and realised that the five natural elements have to be made balanced in the human body for a perfect harmonious life. Not only that, but Indian doctors were also yogis. They perceived that beyond the human body was another divine reality, of which the soul was the vehicle on earth. Today, Western doctors (and many Indian ones) are totally ignorant of the different planes of consciousness which superimpose our terrestrial life. Hence these doctors and the psychiatrists of the West are, as Sri Aurobindo pointed out, « searching with a torch light in the dark caverns of man’s Unconscious ». This ancient knowledge is unfortunately now being neglected. As a result, American companies are attempting to patent medicines using the properties of neem or haldi, for instance, which were known 3000 years ago by India’s forefathers. As in the case of Sanskrit, the Indian Government should thus put its energies and resources towards the reviving of Ayurveda.

 Or take pranayama, the science of breathing. The effects of pranayama have been studied for thousands of years and Indian teachers know exactly what results will this type of exercise have on you and what kind of routine you should do to improve that particular problem, or develop this certain faculty in you. Pranayama, in Sanskrit, means breath  – and in India, it is known that prana circulates in the whole body and that one breathes not only trough the nose and mouth, of course, but through ANY part of the body, making thus prana flow everywhere. Thus, according to yogis, prana can revitalise all these parts of our body which do not receive enough energy – and which, as a consequence, become weak and lose their vitality, like the eyes for instance. Pranayama is in fact everywhere : in the air which surrounds us, of course, but also in animals, in Nature, in the mineral world even. It is also found in food : today, one speaks of vitamins, proteins, calories – but one does not understand that it is actually the prana in the food which gives us energy; and the quality of this prana depends on the sort of food we are partaking.

 Pranayama is probably the best suited Indian yogic discipline for the West, as His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of the Art of Living Movement has shown. It is so down to earth, so scientific : there are no miracles, no levitation, no smoky mysticism, as everything can be explained in a rational way. And again, the U.S.A., always prompt to experience new techniques, is using this knowledge : quite a few American companies have included exercises of pranayama in the peps sessions of their executives; sportsmen too are experimenting with it to improve their performances, as the film « the Great Blue », has shown when the hero does a series of breathing exercises known in India as « Viloma », to store as much air as possible in his lungs, before breaking a world record in underwater diving without oxygen.

 And what about Kalaripayat, a very ancient multi-faceted martial art, which is still practised in the villages of Kerala ? In 522 A.D., an Indian Buddhist monk named Boddidharma, who had become a master of  Kalaripayat (Buddhist monks, who travelled a lot in Asia to propagate their religion, used bare-handed fighting and the bamboo stick they used for walking to defend themselves against attacks) and was the son of the king of Kancheepuram in the state of Tamil Nadu, arrived at the court of the Chinese Emperor Liang Nuti of the 6th dynasty. The Emperor granted him a, audience and gave him travel documents to walk to the Kingdom of Wei (now Junan province) at the foot of the Han Shan mountains, to a Buddhist monastery called the temple of Shaolin.

 Father and founder of Zen Buddhism (called C’han in China and Dhyana in India), Boddidharma taught the Chinese monks the barehanded fighting techniques of Kalaripayat, a very ancient Indian martial art, so that they could defend themselves against the frequent attacks of bandits. In time the monks became know all over China as skilled exponents of barehanded fighting, which came to be known as the Shaolin boxing art.

The Shaolin temple which was handed back a few years ago to the C ’han Buddhist monks by the Chinese Government, inheritors of Boddhidharma’s spiritual and martial teachings, is now open to visitors. On one of its walls, one can see a fresco depicting dark-skinned Indians teaching their lighter-skinned brothers the art of barehanded fighting. On the painting is inscribed : « Tenjiku Naranokaku », which means : « the fighting techniques to train the body (which come) from India.

 Kalaripayat, or Shaolin boxing as it is came to be known, passed from China to Japan, through the Ryukyu islands, landing in Okinawa to blossom in the art of the Empty Hand, or later, Karate. Later it manifested in the Japanese mainland as jiu-jiu-tso, judo, Shorinji Kempo, etc. Karate, the art of the Empty Hand, father of all Japanese martial arts, is a blend of Boddhidharma’s martial teachings and the local fighting techniques, which existed there before the advent of Zen Buddhism. All Asian martial arts, particularly those of China and Japan,  recognize their origin in the Shaolin Temple and honour Boddhidarma, (whom the Japanese call Dharuma). His portrait is often displayed in their dojos, where martial arts are practised.

 And what of meditation, queen of all the yogic sciences  ? That which is above everything, that without which any yogic discipline is impossible. That which interiorizes us, carries us within ourselves, to the discovery of our true soul and nature. There are hundreds of different mediation techniques, simple, cartesian, easy to experience, which have been devised by Indian sages since the dawn of Bharat. Each one has its own characteristics, each one gives particular results, which has been experienced by the billions of aspirants who have practised them since the dawn of Vedic times. Meditation is being practised more and more in the West and there have been numerous scientific studies, which have shown the positive effect of meditation on heart problems, psychological stress or blood circulation.

 The irony of it all is that not only most of the Indian upper class and intellectual elite does not practise meditation and pranayama, ignores what is Kalaripayat and does not gets treated for its problems with Ayurveda, but that none of these wonders are included in the schools and universities curriculum. So you have this wonderful knowledge, which has disappeared from the rest of the world, but if you go to cities like Delhi, or Bombay, you realise that most of the youth there have no idea about meditation, or have never heard of pranayama. They are totally cut off from their ancient culture, from the greatness of their tradition, and even look down on it.  So unless Indians start taking pride in their own culture, India will never be able to gift it to the world.

 Famous French writer Andre  Malraux had said that unless the 21 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 material dryness, of conflicts within itself, that it seems doomed and there appears no way that it can redeem Itself : it is just going towards self-destruction, – ecologically, socially, spiritually. So unless the 21st century allows a new spiritual order to take over – not a religious order, because religion has been a failure, all over the world – then the world is going towards pralaya. And India holds the key to the world’s future, for India is the only nation which still preserves in the darkness of Her Himalayan caves, on the luminous ghats of Benares, in the hearts of her countless yogis, or even in the minds of her ordinary folk, the key to the planetary evolution, its future and its hope.

 The 21st century then, will be the era of the East; this is where the sun is going to rise again, after centuries of decadence and submission to Western colonialism; this is where the focus of the world is going to shift. And as when India used to shine and send forth Her Dharma all over the Orient: to Japan, Thailand, China, Burma, or Cambodia and influence their civilisations and religions for centuries to come, once more She will emit Her light and radiate, Queen among nations: “India of the ages is not dead nor has She spoken Her last creative word; She lives and has still something to do for Herself and the human peoples. And that which She must seek now to awake, is not an anglicised oriental people, docile pupil of the West and doomed to repeat the cycle of the Occident’s success and failure, but still the ancient immemorial Shakti recovering Her deepest self, lifting Her head higher towards the supreme source of light and strength and turning to discover the complete meaning and vaster form of Her Dharma”.

 #FRANCOISGAUTIER

 

 

It is a special privilege to be born a Hindu: Francois Gautier

_Gauiteweb_912441932NEW YORK: Noted French journalist and writer Francois Gautier who has made India his home and propagation of Hinduism his cause and mission for over three decades, is currently traveling across the US to raise funds through his foundation, FACT – India, for the setting up of an Indian history museum in Pune, India.

Gautier, perhaps one of the very few Westerners to have unconditionally adopted a Hindu way of life, feels the widely prevalent distorted image of Indian history as propagated by the British, Christian missionaries, communists and the western world in general for over two centuries, has necessitated the museum to portray Hindu civilization in the right light.

In an interview with India Post during his visit to New York last week, Gautier spoke about his ambitious museum project, the many threats to Hinduism in today’s world and how Hindus can gain the respect of the world.

IP: Can you tell us about the Museum of Indian History?

Gautier: I have been donated some land in Pune by a private trust where I want to build the museum to be called the Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Museum of Indian History.

I see in India there are no museums of Indian history worth the name. So the idea is to start from the Vedas, go on to talk about the greatness of the whole of India and the entire drama of the invasions through history, the Hindu holocaust, and then portray India of today and tomorrow.

IP: What kind of funds do you need and how long will it take to complete the museum?

Gautier: It’s a huge project but definitely it will happen. It’s about $40m dollars, and I don’t know how long it will take — perhaps 10-20 years, because I don’t have the money right away. But I am ready to start, once I start, the donations will come and people will understand the importance of this museum.

IP: Why is it important to have such a museum?

Gautier: As a journalist and writer, when I started documenting for my book, I realized that most history books on India are based upon very old theories considered defunct or debatable such as the Aryan invasion theory, which evidence shows has never taken place.

Both British historians and later Nehruvian historians have toned down the considerable impact on Indian culture of the invasions starting from Alexander the Great to the Arabs, the Muslim invaders and the British — that entire part of the history has been swept under the carpet. And even later, the history of India’s Independence is very unfairly portrayed.

The need of the museum is very important so we can look at India’s history in a very scientific manner, which is what my organization FACT India is doing.

IP: Will the museum focus only on the Hindu history of India?

Gautier: The museum will also broach upon many of India’s dark periods in its history like the inquisition in Goa by the Portuguese, the Sufi persecution, the Ahmedi Muslim persecution in Bangladesh, how the Buddhist history was wiped out and how some of the early Syrian Christians of Kerala were persecuted. And of course the Hindu holocaust right from Hindu Kush (massacre of Hindus) to the current terrorist activities against them.

I want school children to come to the museum and learn of their own culture and be proud. Kids in Indian schools are learning about Shakespeare and Milton, not about their Hindu or Indian culture. In my country we are taught about great French people like our poets, social reformers, artists etc… so I grew up proud of my culture, but Indian kids do not grow up learning about or feeling proud of their culture.

IP: Do you see any kind of opposition to your project from either the government or any section of the Indian society?

Gautier: Of course there’s bound to be some opposition, you can’t make everybody happy. But one has to go by the truth. Whatever one’s limitations, if backed by truth, even if it is opposed, there will be some kind of direction and protection.

In fact, there are three reasons for setting up the museum in Pune: One– of course the land donated is in Pune; second– since I work in Pune, I found that people of Pune, irrespective of their political affiliations, are quite nationalistic in nature. I feel my museum will be more protected in Pune than anywhere else in India; thirdly– Pune is Shivaji’s birth place. There is no museum of Shivaji anywhere in Maharashtra though he is a true hero. So naming it after Shivaji will be a protection for this museum.

IP: Over the many years of your career, how successful have you been in changing western perceptions of Hinduism?

Gautier: It’s a very difficult task, because unfortunately the image of Hinduism is not that good. But, there is more ignorance than hostility. Westerners do not know that it is a monotheistic religion. Secondly, Hindus, especially Brahmins have been at the receiving end of many like the British, the missionaries, the Islamic invaders all of who created a very negative image of Hinduism — particularly the missionaries emphasized only the negative sides of Hinduism and amplified them a thousand times. Today we still find that even after 200 years, these negative images have survived even in the minds of Hindus in India.

Unfortunately it is a great handicap for journalists like me who like Hinduism and want to defend it. I can’t say I have been very successful, but at least now westerners are open to going to India and understanding Hindus.

There are so many good things to be said for Hinduism, but unfortunately there is no will among Hindus to try to explain to westerners. Hindus are just content to come to the West and melt into local cultures or at best keep their spirituality and religion to themselves.

IP: What do you think of the role of the Indian intellectual elite and media in projecting the image of Hindus?

Gautier: The British have left such a mark on the minds of much of Indian intelligentsia and elite, right from the erstwhile Maharajas who have copied the British way of life that it has left a deep impression on generations after that. Today Indians think that everything that comes from the West is good. It’s very stupid, because many things in the West have failed like family values etc.

This generation of Indian intelligentsia is aping Marxism so brilliantly, which is dead even in Russia, and is probably only left in Cuba, but I don’t see why Indians should copy Cuba (laughs).

Look at the Chinese, they are so proud of their culture; nobody dares to fiddle with them, even America will not dare to interfere with their affairs.

IP: Many Hindus fear the very survival of Hinduism in the face of Islamic fundamentalism. How real are their fears?

Gautier: The fear is very real. I see there are five or six enemies that may be covertly or overtly attacking Hinduism. In the past there was any one threat at a time like the Greek, British or Muslim invasions. But today, there are the threats of Muslim fundamentalism, Christian conversions, Marxist onslaught, Westernization and so on which are eroding the Indian culture all at the same time. However, there are many great gurus today like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and others who are repackaging the Hindu tenets like spirituality. pranayama, yoga, ayurveda etc for everyone’s easy consumption while not associating them with Hinduism. Though I do not agree with that, it’s an important movement today and helping to preserve that culture.

It’s true that Hinduism is under attack and it looks frightening at times. That’s why the museum is so important.

IP: Have you ever felt conflicted about the culture you were born into and the one you adopted?

Gautier: Personally I have never felt conflicted, but people of my country often do not understand why I defend the Hindus– that has been a bit of a problem. Though my country is sympathetic to India, when you touch the intellectual layer – people who are fed on the Nehruvian history and the downgrading of Hindu culture, I have come into conflict sometimes with these people. But for me living in India is a protection; people often appreciate the work I do. Some of my friends do not understand why I poke the dangerous Islamic fundamentalism by defending Hindus. I started speaking about it (Islamic fundamentalism) 20-25 years ago when it was not at all politically correct to speak about it. Even those friends who like me sometimes do not really understand me. I have faced a lot of hostility also.

IP: What can Hindus living in America do to preserve their culture?

Gautier: For Hindus living in the US, whether fist or second generation, it is important that they carry their Hinduness. It is a special privilege to be born a Hindu, because you inherit the knowledge which is very ancient and very practical. Also the many Hindu groups which are scattered should unite to become a lobby like the Jews. They should teach their children to be proud of being Hindu while being faithful to their Americanness. They should create a lobby in the US to be able to influence South Asia policy at the administration level and see that it does not cap India’s nuclear policy.

IP: Is there something that really frustrates you?

Gautier: Hindus don’t think big. Most Hindu movements in the US have mostly people without a vision, they don’t unite; it’s very frustrating. When I last visited the US in 2002, the Hindu community was more vibrant, today I find many of the Hindu leaders of that time burnt out or taken a back seat or gone back into mainstream life; that is saddening. If only Hindus knew their own power — there are one billion in the world — Islam is conscious of its might and its numbers; Christianity though on the decline, is conscious of its greatness in terms of technology and power. Hindus, who are not all that small in number, have to use more muscle. Meekness and submissiveness will not take them far, they have to show muscle power. That’s the way to get respect in the world.

By SRIREKHA  N. CHAKRAVARTY, India Post News Service

URL: http://www.indiapost.com/us-news/5138-special-privilege-born-Hindu-Francois-Gautier.html

Correspond to values

Correspond to values
Author: Francois Gautier
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: April 30, 2002
Dear friends – India’s image in the West has never been so bad. We, the 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 this falsified public opinions abroad about India, but has also 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 colonised, dare to interfere in such a way in China’s affairs, whose human rights record is a million times worse than India’s? This is unfair: Those of us who have lived long enough in this country, know that not only have Hindus 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, for instance, China. Here we can criticise as much as we want, slander even, without fear of reprisal.

As a foreign journalist having covered India for the last 25 years, I am shocked by the ambivalence of our standards when it comes to writing or reporting on Hindus. There were 400,000 Hindus in Kashmir in 1947; there are only a few hundreds left today. All the rest have been made to flee through terror in the late 1980s and early ‘90s. I remember the time when Muslim militants would stop buses in Kashmir and kill all its Hindus occupants – 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 instance of ethnic cleansing without parallel in the world.

Why are none of us interested in highlighting these facts? Do we know that Hindus themselves have been for centuries the target of a genocide at the hands of Muslim invaders, and that today in Bangladesh and Pakistan they are still at risk? In Assam, Tripura, and Nagaland, Hindus are being outnumbered by Bangladeshi illegal immigrants and terrorised by pro-Christian 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 and 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 that they 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’, ‘Black Day in the history of our democracy’, we 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 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, bombed, that he is ready to take to the streets?

If you dare say that there are 850 millions Hindus in this country and that they not only represent the majority culture, but also a tradition of tolerance and gentleness, and they cannot be the fundamentalists that the Press makes them out to be, 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 civilisation: The American President swears on the Bible when he takes office and look also how all European children, be they 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, 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 Muslims 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 foreign media – react when Human Resource Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi wants to teach Indian children a little bit of the greatness of their culture!

I know that many foreign correspondents arrive here with an aspiration to understand India and to report on it fairly. The problem 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 civilisation which is 5,000 years old. It is also true that in Delhi, an arrogant, superficial city, we are never in contact with the real India, and always hear 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 so much more gentle and easy-going than the North.

Write, for instance, some features on Kalaripayat, Kerala’s martial art that gave birth to kung fu and karate; or on Ayurveda, the oldest medical science still in practice; or see for yourself the extraordinary Ayyappa festival in the mountains bordering Tamil Nadu; or witness 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 westernised 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.