Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Iraq and Hinduism -- Francois Gautier

Francois Gautier explains why it is utterly important for the world to learn from Hinduism how to let different kinds of people live in harmony.

Francois Gautier writes on Rediff:
Iraq and Hinduism

March 19, 2003

We see today that the whole world is shying in horror from the war America is planning against Iraq. And indeed the devastating consequences of war on human beings and the environment have been so well documented, that no man or woman, in his or her right mind, would condone it in the 21st century.

There is on top of that in the West, a growing distaste for violence, to which Christianity, which not only emphasises love for the neighbour but also adds a sense of guilt at having committed a sin when you kill someone, has greatly contributed.

In India, Buddhism and Mahatma Gandhi's non-violent philosophy, have also given rise to a similar distaste for battle, even if it is done in self-defence. It is not the purpose of this piece to debate the moral wrongs or rightfulness of an eventual war on Iraq, as it has been widely and repeatedly done -- and very brilliantly -- elsewhere. But rather to look at war from a Hindu point of view, a point of view that has often been the subject of many misunderstandings.

'Man's natural tendency,' writes Sri Aurobindo, India's great nationalist, yogi and prophet of the New Age, 'is to worship nature as love and life and beauty and good -- and to turn away from her grim mask of death. We adore god as Shiva, but refuse to adore him as Rudra.'

Thus, war has often baffled or even repelled man. We saw how Ashoka turned Buddhist in Kalinga, or how Gandhi refused to help in the war effort against the Nazis and the Japanese, or how today, youngsters all over the world have spontaneously risen in protest against the impending US battle against Iraq.

Five or six thousand years ago, Arjuna faced the same dilemma. Remember how, casting down the divine bow given to him by the gods for that tremendous hour, he says: 'It is more for my welfare that the sons of Dhritarashtra, armed, should slay me unarmed and unresisting... I-will-not-fight.'

In the words of Sri Aurobindo, Arjuna's refusal to fight, 'is the emotional revolt of a man hitherto satisfied with action and its current standards, who finds himself cast by them into a hideous chaos where human beings are in violent conflict with each other and where there is no moral standing ground left, nothing to lay hold of and walk by, no dharma.'

Yet, if we observe man and nature closely, we find -- even today -- that war and destruction are not only a universal principle of our life here in its purely material aspects, but also of our mental and moral existence. Everything is a struggle in our planet, all plants, animals and human beings have to struggle against each other, right from the moment of birth; even business is a warfare in disguise. It is then evident that the actual life of man can make no real step forward without a struggle between what exists and lives and what seeks to exist.

The Gita, as we have seen, takes for its frame such a period of transition and crisis as humanity periodically experiences in its history, in which great forces clash together for a huge destruction, and reconstruction, intellectual, social, moral, religious and political.

Furthermore, in the words of India's great avatar: 'It is an illusion to think that our hands should remain clean and our souls unstained for the law of strife and destruction to die out from the world. On the contrary, abstention from strife and concomitant destruction may help one's moral being, but leaves the slayer of creatures unabolished.'

We have seen for example how France has still not come to terms with the collaboration of many Frenchmen with the Germans during the Second World War, or how the neutrality of Switzerland is a sham. The prosperity of Switzerland often rests on the ill-gotten gains of dictators, or on the stolen money of Jews murdered by the great asura Hitler.

'It is only a few religions which have had the courage, like the Indian, to lift-up the image of the force that acts in the world in the figure not only of the beneficent Durga, but also of the terrible Kali in her blood-stained dance of destruction and to say: "this too is the Mother." And it is significant that the religion which had this unflinching honesty and tremendous courage, has succeeded in creating a profound and widespread spirituality such as no other can parallel.'

The Gita thus proceeds from the acceptance of the necessity in nature for such vehement crisises and it accepts the moral aspect of the struggle between righteousness and unrighteousness, between the self affirming law of good and the forces that oppose its progression. The Gita, concludes Sri Aurobindo, is therefore addressed to the fighters, the men of action, those whose duty in life is that of war and protection of those who are at the mercy of the strong and the violent and for the maintenance of right and justice in the world.

In this light, the proposed war on Iraq takes another shape: men in their folly, think they are the deciders, the doers, the great arbiters, but who is pulling the strings from behind? Mr Bush and his generals believe they have planned every possibility, plugged every loophole. But there is no way they can control the consequences of the action they are going to undertake.

Who is right and who is wrong in this whole affair? There is no such thing as a good Bush and a bad Saddam and the tendency of the whole Western and Indian intelligentsia to portray America as an evil empire bent on hegemony and Iraq as an innocent, persecuted nation, makes one a little uneasy. After all, has not the United States risen up and paid with its blood every time the free world was in danger and is not Iraq one of the nations which has sponsored international terrorism, particularly against Israel?

Therefore, in the present state of human nature, with its ego, ambition, lack of love and brotherhood, war is still inevitable and we have to accept it. Awaiting better times, the 'supramental' which Sri Aurobindo and the Mother of Pondichery came to usher, we should only remember what Krishna tells Arjuna on the eve of the Kurukshetra battle: 'You are not killing the soul, but merely the material body: we will all be reborn, again and again, till humanity understands that love -- and love only -- is the only answer to all our differences.'

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Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Heed the New Hindu Mood -- Francois Gautier

Francois Gautier exposes the ongoing persecution of Hindus in the Indian subcontinent over the last 1500 years; one that led to the killing of over 80 million Hindus over five centuries, the biggest Holocaust in the History of Humanity, and asks the Western world to understand the Hindu community's legitimate grievances.

Francois Gautier writes on Rediff:
Heed the New Hindu Mood

March 11, 2003

It is not easy to be an Indian living abroad: Not only one has to retain one's Indian-ness while coping with the West's positive and less positive aspects which creep into one's life, but one is also subjected to the humiliation of seeing one's own countrymen spit on India in mainstream foreign newspapers and television. Recently, the Gujarat riots and the IDRF episode have been used by a few Indian academics/scholars/writers, particularly in the United States, to demean India and Hindus.

Many of us are appalled by the comments people like Pankaj Mishra or Angana Chatterji, both Indians -- and Hindus at that -- make about their country in mainstream American newspapers such as The New York Times. Americans are generally very ignorant about India and ready to gobble up any rubbish they are fed. Hindus are portrayed as Nazis killing innocent Muslims in Gujarat. But this is historical nonsense.

My experience as a Westerner living in India for more than 30 years and married to an Indian is that not only does this country owe a lot to Hinduism, but Hinduism must be the most tolerant spirituality in the world, recognizing the fact that God is One, but that he manifests in many ways, under different forms, at different times. To take the Gujarat episode and make it an absolute theorem of Hindu fundamentalism is not only bad academism, but unfair and highly biased. Do they mean to say that the 30 millions Gujaratis who voted for Narendra Modi in the last election are all Nazis and Hindu fanatics?

It is true that during the Gujarat riots horrible things, which no human being should condone, happened. But Chatterji and Mishra forget to mention that that 25% of the people killed during the riots were Hindus or that, according to police records, the 157 subsequent riots which happened in Gujarat were started by Muslims.

They are unable to explain how 125,000 Hindus, many of them Dalits, tribals, or even upper middle class, came out on the streets of Ahmedabad with such anger after Godhra. While condemning their terrible acts one has to at least understand the cause of their deep-rooted rage, as Hindus throughout the ages have shown that they are patient and tolerant of others. There is also not a single mention of Hindus reaching out to Muslims after the riots such as the Hindu businessman who built 90 houses in Ahmedabad for Muslims whose homes had been destroyed.

America is fighting a war against terrorism today. India has suffered most from Muslim fundamentalism. In 1399, Taimur killed 100,000 Hindus in a single day. Professor K S Lal, in his Growth of Muslim Population in India, writes that according to his calculations, the Hindu population decreased by 80 million between the years 1000 and 1525, probably the biggest holocaust in world history. Today, Mishra and Chatterji are not without knowing that 400,000 Kashmiri Pandits are refugees in their own country, an ethnic cleansing without parallel. They must be also aware of what is happening to Hindus in Bangladesh today. I wonder why they do not mention all this in their articles.

Why is it that when for decades Saudi Arabia has funded madrassas in India some of which preach sedition, Mishra and Chatterji find nothing to say about it? Why is it that when foreign Christian organizations pour billions of dollars in India to convert innocent Harijans and tribals, teaching them to hate their culture and country, they also keep quiet? And why is it that when a few Hindu organizations, such as the IDRF, collect funds for harmless programmes like the Ekal Vidyalaya schools, which are doing a wonderful job for tribal children, they are attacked as fundamentalists?

The India Development and Relief Fund, a Maryland-based charity, has been targeted not only by Chatterji and Mishra, but also by the Federation of Indian American Christian Organisations of Northern America, Teesta and Javed Anand's Sabrang Communications for 'funding hate.' The irony is Indians have demanded a probe by the US Congress into IDRF and asked the IRS to blacklist it and withdraw its tax exemption status.

Last August in Washington I met IRDF's chief executives, Vinod and Sarala Prakash, two old, harmless, friendly people who would not hurt a fly. Their biggest achievement was to gather funds during the 1999 Orissa cyclone. It is true they are RSS affiliated and that they give first priority to Hindus afflicted by riots/cyclone/poverty. So what? We find nothing to say that Saudi Arabia only funds Muslims refugees in Bosnia, Palestine or Chechnya. Is it not time to call a spade a spade?

The specter of a 'dangerous' RSS, for example, is a creation of the British who understood, as the Muslims invaders did before them, that Hindus were the greatest hurdle to their grip on India. So their press started attacking anything Hindu or any group trying to protect Hindu culture or leaders such as the brilliant Hindu Mahasabha of Veer Savarkar who today is maligned by 'secular' Indians.

It is also time for Hindus of the world to face the truth: We are looking at the Gujarat riots only through the prism of what the Western press and the English-speaking Indian media have said -- mad 'fundamentalist' Hindus going after peace-loving Muslims. But the reality might be totally different: Are not tolerant, God fearing, peace-loving Hindus fed up of being constantly maligned, attacked, killed, their women raped, their temples sprayed with bullets and grenades?

The Western press and governments should take notice of this new popular mood of Hindus, who after all represent 1 billion people in the world, one of the most peace-loving, law-abiding, tolerant and prosperous communities of this planet -- one sixth of humanity -- and try to understand their feelings, instead of accusing them of being 'fanatics.'

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