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Showing posts from May 4, 2008

The road to progress requires vision

The road to progress requires vision There are many areas, from the mundane to the spiritual, where India risks long- term losses by opting for short-term gains It is true that there are still unforgivable gaps between the rich and the poor, that Dalits in some parts of India are still discriminated against (but mostly by other slightly ‘higher' low castes) Source New Indian Express (Sunday may 4th 2008) By Francois Gautier
There is a very famous and wise guru who once said something like: "Whatever brings you short-terms gains, is not very good for you. Whatever brings you longterms gains will make you progress."It seems at the moment that there are many areas where India is opting for short-term gains, but might lose heavily in the long run. It goes from the mundane to the most spiritual.Take hospitality for instance. In the last six months, five-star hotels in India have doubled - if not sometimes tripled - their prices. An ordinary room in Taj's Fisherman's Cove …

Cricket the vampire

Cricket the vampire



Forget about the cricket scam! If the Indian government would legalise betting, not only might it lessen scams, but the state would also reap huge profits. Most of the black money, cheating, smuggling, etc, happening in India is triggered by obsolete laws enacted by Nehru, which were meant to tax the rich to benefit the poor, but which in the end made the rich richer (with black money) and the poor poorer (with white money).

If only this present government would understand that it has huge popular support to make changes -- forget what the secular press says -- it could take bold decisions in liberalising, privatising and above all trusting the people of India. This would help the country make giant strides forward.

The government should also press forward in cuts of subsidies, also a legacy of Nehru. The present drought, for instance, is partly a result of water mismanagement, such as the farmers pumping for 24 hours without a thought for the water table, because wat…

The billion is not quite Indian

The billion is not quite Indian



Officially India's population crossed the one-billion mark last week, although some UN agency had unilaterally declared that this landmark was reached last August, so that it could conveniently coincide with India's Independence Day.

The story was first taken up by êiThe New York Timesêr and the whole of the foreign correspondents corps followed suit. All the major European newspapers did full-page stories on how India, already poor and afflicted with debilitating problems (corruption, or the ubiquitous caste system the French love to talk about) had even more mouths to feed. The usual negative and condescending talk about India which sells so well abroad.

All the reasons have been paraded, then and now: the failure of India's successive family programme, the inertia of the bureaucracy, the backwardness of its people, the underprivileged condition of women in India (although Indian women have known, in ancient Hindu India, much more freedom tha…

India, the land of refuge

India, the land of refuge



It is common for India's enemies -- whether outsiders or, unfortunately, Indians themselves -- to harp on the "rise of Hindu fundamentalism in India" (while mentioning Muslim fundamentalism in passing) and the growing intolerance of "fanatical" Hindu movements (the RSS, VHP, and the Bajrang Dal) towards India's minorities. This has become an accepted proposition among the India specialists, historians, and foreign correspondents.

Yet, everyone seems to forget that, for thousands of years, India has been the land of refuge for all persecuted minorities of the world, whether the Jews after the sack of their temple in Jerusalem, Arab merchants, Parsis from Persia, Syrian Christians, Armenians, or the early Sri Lankan Tamils fleeing Sinhalese persecution.

Nobody mentions that not only is this tolerance a Hindu tradition, because Hinduism has always accepted the divinity of other Gods, but also that, in return for their goodness, Hindus ha…

Is `Refugee' a secular film?

Is `Refugee' a secular film?



Have you ever heard of a secular film? If there is such a thing, `Refugee' must be the one! You have the hero, Abhishek Bachchan, a selfless and brave Indian Muslim, who has a Hindu guru, a rare happening today for a Muslim; you have the Bangladeshi Muslim refugees, who are the real heroes of the film -- simple, good-natured folks who only want to live in peace in the land of their choice. You have the tough but good-hearted Indian BSF officer, who happens to be played by a Christian, Jackie Shroff. You have the nice Pakistani Ranger, acted by Sunil Shetty, a Hindu, as opposed to the bad Pakistani infiltrators.

But `Refugee' is also a bit of a devious film and whoever wrote the script knew very well what he was doing, as it takes advantage of the innocence of the average viewer to put across a few messages which are sometimes of adoubtful nature. First, notice that the real villains of the film are not the Pakistani infiltrators -- after all, lik…

Regain the spirituality of art

Regain the spirituality of art

Like A L Basham, the author of The Wonder That Was India (which unfortunately is still considered a classic), most Europeans have seen at best in India an exalted civilisation of religious and artistic achievements.

But India's greatness encompassed all aspects of life, from the highest to the most material, from the most mundane to the supremely spiritualised. As Aurobindo emphasises: "The tendency of the West is to live from below upward and from out inward... The inner existence is thus formed and governed by external powers. India's constant aim has been on the contrary, to find a basis of living in the higher spiritual truth and to live from the inner spirit outwards".

The old Vedic seers had said the same thing in a different form: "Their divine foundation was above, even while they stood below. Let its rays besettled deep within us."

In art also, ancient India applied this wisdom: the highest business of Indian art has alwa…

Regain the spirituality of art

Regain the spirituality of art

Like A L Basham, the author of The Wonder That Was India (which unfortunately is still considered a classic), most Europeans have seen at best in India an exalted civilisation of religious and artistic achievements.

But India's greatness encompassed all aspects of life, from the highest to the most material, from the most mundane to the supremely spiritualised. As Aurobindo emphasises: "The tendency of the West is to live from below upward and from out inward... The inner existence is thus formed and governed by external powers. India's constant aim has been on the contrary, to find a basis of living in the higher spiritual truth and to live from the inner spirit outwards".

The old Vedic seers had said the same thing in a different form: "Their divine foundation was above, even while they stood below. Let its rays besettled deep within us."

In art also, ancient India applied this wisdom: the highest business of Indian art has alwa…

Mother of melting pots

Mother of melting pots

It was always thought that India was a melting pot of different influences coming from the West, either by trade or through invasions, and that she owes many of her achievements - her sciences, philosophy, or religion - to outside influences, whether by the way of the Aryan invasions, or via the Greek incursions.

But more and more discoveries, both archaeological and linguistic, are pointing to exactly the opposite direction: in the millenniums before Christ, it is Indian civilization which went gradually westwards and influenced the religions, the sciences and the philosophies of many of the civilizations which are considered today by the West as the cradle of its culture and thought.

American mathematician A Seindenberg, for instance, has demonstrated that the Sulbasutras, the ancient Vedic mathematics, have inspired all the mathematic sciences of the antique world from Babylonia to Egypt and Greece. "Arithmetic equations from the Sulbasutras were used in th…

It was all in our stars

It was all in our stars


Today, because of the vulgarisation of astrology, people tend to think that it is not a science and that the planets are so far away that they cannot have a definite influence on human life. But it is not so, contends Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of the Bangalore-based Art of Living, an International Foundation which cuts across all barriers of nationality and religion and brings enlightenment to millions of people all over the world.

He points out, for instance, the strong influence which the moon has on the huge oceans, whose tides rise and fall according to the lunar cycles. ``In the same way,'' he continues, ``the moon has a sway on the human body, which is made-up of 60 per cent of fluids.'' The moon has also a power on the mind: This is why on full moon days, mental hospitals receive the maximum number of patients. People, in the past, knew this but it has been dismissedtoday as just another superstition.

What about the sun? It definitel…

When war becomes dharma

When war becomes dharma



In the Bhagvad Gita, Arjuna once throws down his bow and tells Krishna, "I will not fight." Many scholars consider this an exhortation to an inner war instead of a physical one, against one's own ego and weaknesses. While the Gita is essentially a divine message of yoga -- of transforming one's own nature while reaching for the absolute -- it reconciles war with the notion of duty and dharma. Since the beginning of times, war has been an integral part of man's quest.

Yet, war is the most misunderstood factor of human history. Sri Aurobindo in his remarkable Essays on the Gita writes: "Man's natural tendency is to worship nature as love and life and beauty and good and to turn away from her grim mask of death." War has always repelled man: Ashoka turned Buddhist after the battle of Kalinga, American youngsters refused to participate in the Vietnam war, and we are witnessing today massive protests against the atom bomb.

Yet, the G…

Indian Muslims: Babar or Ram?

Columns by Francois Gautier

Indian Muslims: Babar or Ram?


INDIAN Muslims are today at the crossroads. The destruction of the Buddhist statues in Afghanistan has shown that Islam still considers Buddhist and Hindu statues, temples and worshippers as infidels, to be razed and eliminated. For the Taliban and those who support them, covertly or overtly, nothing has changed since Mohammed broke the first `idols' in the 7th century and the task has been left unfinished. The suicide attacks on the Indian army by Islamic groups, supported and financed by Pakistan, in spite of India's unilateral ceasefire, should also prove that the Islamic injunction of jehad is still very much alive and in practice in much of the Islamic world, from Sudan to Libya, from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan.

The question that Indian Muslims should ask themselves now is simple: who are we? Among the 120 millions of Muslims in India, only a tiny percentage descends from the Turks, Afghans, or Iranians who invaded Indi…