Francois Gautier: Custodian of India’s Historical Heritage

Houston Web

HOUSTON: Eminent journalist and author Francois Gautier is passionate about India. His love affair with that country began in the ‘70s, when as a young student, he left his native France and meandered across Europe and arrived in India. So captivated was he by India’s arresting liveliness and the warmth and kindness of the people, that years later in the early ‘80s he returned to India and made it his home. During the last three decades, he has been a high-profile ambassador to India through the power of his pen.

“It is a wonderful privilege to be born Indian,” said Gautier to a multigenerational gathering at the Arya Samaj of Greater Houston on August 10. “I’m a westerner but I feel it is a privilege to live in India.”

The renowned writer is currently visiting several cities within the US to raise funds through his visionary foundation FACT – India for the creation of an Indian history museum in Pune, in the state of Maharashtra in India. The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Museum of Indian History, named for the Indian military leader Shivaji (1627 – 1680), will cost an estimated US$40 million. Gautier is eager to begin work as soon as he returns to India and is confident that this fundraising tour will bring in the much-needed initial $100, 000 to jumpstart the project. A wall within the museum will bear the names of donors supporting the museum project. The museum will be built on land donated by a private trust. Gautier believes that with the help of commissioned historians hired by the museum, visitors will be privy to accurate chronicles of India’s great history. For Gautier, the epiphany came upon him when he started research on a book he was writing. He found that history books carried outdated theories such as the Aryan invasion that have since found to be fictional.

Earlier in the day, he chatted informally with Indo American News sharing his thoughts and vision for the museum.

“India has been largely maligned by distorted information and misrepresentation. No records or schoolbooks have a correct account of the Hindu Kush genocide, where millions were slaughtered. Exactly how many were killed isn’t known but that was India’s holocaust. Yet everyone knows about the Jewish Holocaust,” said Gautier. “India’s history, falsely propagated by the British, Christian missionaries, and western media, has made me realize that we need to show Hindu civilization in its correct and true context. For the sake of our children and the generations to come, and the world!”

The first exhibit to be set up will honor the life and times of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. India’s rich cultural heritage will be portrayed through the Vedas. The museum will document and exhibit the various invasions from Alexander the Great to the Arabs, the Goa Inquisition, the ongoing massacre of thousands of Kashmiri Hindus by Muslim terrorists, the persecution of the Syrian Christians, Buddhism’s rise and decline, India past and current. Highlighted too, will be India’s glorious contribution of yoga and Ayurveda to the world community.

“The museum will be there for our children, for them to know that regardless of the fact that the British broke the backbone of our agricultural system and caused the deaths of millions of Indians from famine, and despite the Muslim onslaught, India prevailed and remains prosperous,” added Gautier, a practicing Hindu who was spiritually influenced by the writings of Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950). He has since joined forces with spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who supports him in his quest for the truth about India’s past. Gautier estimated that it would take several years till completion of the museum.

“I’m thinking about 10 to 15 years. Once people realize how important this project is, and how essential, the funds will pour in,” confided Gautier. Speaking softly in a lilting Indo-French accent, his messages however were undoubtedly strong as he condemned the slaughter and maniacal “ethnic cleansing” of Hindus in the Kashmir valley by the Muslims, an area Gautier covered as a political journalist from 1987 to the late ‘90s.

“There were over a million Hindus living peacefully in Kashmir. Today there are a mere hundreds. The Kashmiri Pandits moved me with their despair, but nobody else seemed to give a damn. Indian media abroad and in India were only covering the Muslim angle,” said Gautier.

Through FACT – India, an organization he founded in 2003 to draw attention to human rights abuses in South Asia, Gautier documented the genocide in Kashmir in a video called Terror Unleashed – An Exhibition on Kashmir, and presented it to the US Congress in the desperate hope that Washington would intervene and help resolve the issue.

“Several House Representatives saw it and lauded the video but nothing was really done about it,” said Gautier. “US presidents think that by pouring money into Pakistan, it will curb terrorism. That won’t work.”

Gautier said that the dissent among Hindu community leaders has led to disunity.

“If there’s fighting among ourselves, how do we present a united front to the world? After all this time that Indians have been in the US and enjoy great prosperity, they still do not have a voice that is heard. Yet other communities work together and in that unity, they find a voice. Indian organizations need to share a common agenda and work towards that.”

He confided that it is “tragic” that the children of Indian immigrants adopt the American way of life and are lost to India.

“They’re hostile to spirituality. And it’s mostly the fault of the parents who either don’t care, or don’t instill cultural pride in their children. Families are fragmented, values lost. Instead of pushing children to visit the temple, engage them in other spiritual activities like the classical arts and yoga. It will bring them closer to their cultural roots,” said Gautier. “It’s such a pity that India is so poor at sports, as that could have helped make them proud of India.”

At a private meeting with local youth at the Arya Samaj, Gautier urged young people to be proud of their cultural heritage. “It is a privilege and a responsibility to have Indian roots and there is no contradiction here – you hail from the lineage of the Vedas. People are moving forward and coming to Hinduism for spiritual answers,” said Gautier.

By Kalyani Giri,

33 responses to “Francois Gautier: Custodian of India’s Historical Heritage

  1. I admire Mr. Gautier for enlightening the world thru Indian history museum. Possibly this will also enlighten some anti-India Indologists of Harvard.

  2. Nice and great article once again. Very few Indians understand the timeless quailty of Sanatan Dharma which you have understood. I did some analysis and found that in earlier period Indians used to have just one name like Krishna, Arjun, Vishnugupta etc. The Upadhi or qualification like acharya etc used to denote profession like Prof, Doc etc. Also in Hinduism a yogi is called Sant while in christianity they call Saint.
    The world mellecha is coined to those who used to eat cow-meat as in India cow milk and cow dung cake is very useful. Muslims fit the bill as they used to eat cows.
    After the holocaust from Islamic invasion and Islamic rule , there is a change in hindu psych. Also in British rule they encouraged the fixed varna system and placed many in untouchable category to convert them, created filmsy stories and instigated disunity.
    Unfortunately, same policy was continued by later western educated leaders and now still people have to fill form of GC, OBC, SC , ST, minority etc. Maoism, naxalism is direct result of this.
    I hope all political parties take a united stand and create no more disunity among people.

  3. A white man cannot be the custodian of our history. You were all supposed to leave after 1947. Mr Gautier, mera desh se nikal jao! You whites think you can come in and out of our country as you please. Just because people don’t like you in your country, don’t think you can come and be part of ours. Stop making observations and analyses about us. Why don’t you people just mind your own business?

  4. Hello Bharat,

    Stop using Indian name. All know you are not a patriotic Indian (May be Pakistani or a maoist who is parasite to mother India) Why dont you tell this to Sonia Manio, she is ruling Bharat through proxy. India has been enriched by greats like Sister Nivedita, Mira Alfassa etc.
    Also in this age of globalization, Indians are infact going to the west.
    Yes some people from west are coming but to convert the people from the world’s ancient religion hinduism to a questionable desert religion whose teachings are nothing new which has been already preached by many rishis and sages of India.

  5. You are really blessed. Unfortunately we are living in kaliyuga where people believe in falsehood more than truth. Fanaticism of newly created religions in the last 2000 years, communism, materialism, capitalism is given more weightage. The morality of people have degraded heavily. But one thing is good that those who will have faith in almight brahman and do his duties in most spritual way will get salvation easily.
    If people understand the principals of karma, reincarnation and trans migration of soul, people will stop crimes, powerful will not subdue weak and people will strive for equality.

  6. Gautier,

    As a journalist you may be interested in this site that reflects on the news of Hindus and India: Media Watch India

  7. Kudos to you Sir. Makes me cry that till date there has been no person of Indian origin to have thought of it.

  8. screw you WHITE DEVIL!

  9. after i read biography of H.H Sri Sri Guru of Joy, I always wanted to get in touch with your views on India and Hinduism.. It is great misfortune that many prominent Indian journalists are biased against Hinduism. It is even more unfortunate that new generations of journalists will have learned erroneous version of Hinduism in their school and college text.
    At the same time it is delighting that a westerner is tirelessly engaged in showing Hinduism in its true light.

  10. Shourie Bannai

    Sir ,

    I have been a regular follower of your articles and blogs and I stand up in revere and salute the admiration that you hold for India and your often out of the way methods to praise Hindus for their work even when it means you often have to criticize people of your own. We Hindus need leaders like you who even though western understand the pains and belittlement we are put through in our own country for the cause of appeasing minorities .
    Sir ,In this article it has been mentioned that Shivaji Maharaj was a warrior leader but ,Sir I would like to point out that he was a true king of the masses and a lion of a son born to Mother India if you could rephrase the words in your article .
    And lastly I would like to share my sorrow over not being able to meet you even though I stay in Houston.I suppose I missed one of the biggest chances I had to meet you in person ,given that I am such a big fan of you , Konrad Elst and others who have lent their voice to our cause when our own have disowned or abandoned us.

  11. Cursing reflects poorly on the person doing the cursing. It isn’t powerful, it is vulgar.

  12. Hi FG,

    i agree with u ML what u mentioned and needs to be restricted

    My dear friend , have i realised that what work FG is doing is very valuable for our HINDU culture???. have u ever understood the magnitude of the holocaust happening in our own country. First stop that and then u talk about FG. FG , i know itdoesnot matter if some abuses u or some one else praises u, u will do ur work. keep up the good work, we all are there with u and we will fight against the holocaust with peace


  13. Terrific Article on a wonderful and dedicated person.

    For the people who read comments by “Bharat” and “Mahesh” : these are as someone pointed out – very likely muslims pretending to be Hindus. They are all over the internet misleading and deceiving.


  14. There is a Saying in When elephant walks in the market , the dogs bark….
    so keep on doing the good work which you are doing & there will be a lots of supports you will get on the way…& few dogs will always bark on the side…..

  15. I am very proud of FG. He teaches me my root.

  16. I am one who suffered at hands of terrorists. I want to document all feelings in a professional way. I am not writer , is it possible to get guidance

  17. SrinivasanAangirasan

    Dear Gautier,

    This is response to Bharath: “Expansion is life, contraction is death.” ” Love is virtue, hatred is sin”- Swami Vivekananda

    One sage in Tamil Nadu said to a Russsian Scholar who visited him that there are many people with Sanskrit names like Lopamudrova in Northern Russia. He further said that the ancient name of Russia is Rishivarsha and that Sage Yajnavalkya performed a yaga in Russia.

    One Russian traveller said to me that pre Christian religion in Russia had Zheev and Vizn: identical to Shiva and Vishnu. He said that people in Russia believe that they migrated to Russia from a place called KaalaDeonj. Deonj in Russian language means Peninsula.

  18. SrinivasanAangirasan

    Dear Gautier,

    Just as you feel that India has not got proper credit for its role in history, myself feels that France has not got been given proper credit for its role in Renaissance.

    Swami Vivekananda’s view of rennaissance:
    Paris is the centre of Western civilization. Here, in Paris, matures and ripens every idea of Western ethics, manners and customs, light or darkness, good or evil. This Paris is like a vast ocean, in which there is many a precious gem, coral, and pearl, and in which, again, there are sharks and other rapacious sea-animals as well. Of Europe, the central field of work, the Karmakshetra, is France. A picturesque country, neither very cold nor very warm, very fertile, weather neither excessively wet nor extremely dry, sky clear, sun sweet, elms and oaks in abundance, grass-lands charming, hills and rivers small, springs delightful. Excepting some parts of China, no other country in the world have I seen that is so beautiful as France. That play of beauty in water and fascination in land, that madness in the air, that ecstasy in the sky! Nature so lovely — the men so fond of beauty! The rich and the poor, the young and the old, keep their houses, their rooms, the streets, the fields, the gardens, the walks, so artistically neat and clean — the whole country looks like a picture. Such love of nature and art have I seen nowhere else, except in Japan. The palatial structures, the gardens resembling Indra’s paradise, the groves, even the farmer’s fields — everywhere and in everything there is an attempt at beauty, an attempt at art, remarkable and effected with success, too.

    From ancient times, France has been the scene of conflict among the Gauls, the Romans, the Franks, and other nations. After the destruction of the Roman Empire, the Franks obtained absolute dominion over Europe. Their King, Charlemagne, forced Christianity into Europe, by the power of the sword. Europe was made known in Asia by these Franks. Hence we still call the Europeans Franki, Feringi, Planki or Filinga, and so on.

    Ancient Greece, the fountain-head of Western civilisation, sank into oblivion from the pinnacle of her glory, the vast empire of Rome was broken into pieces by the dashing waves of the barbarian invaders — the light of Europe went out; it was at this time that another barbarious race rose out of obscurity in Asia — the Arabs. With extraordinary rapidity, that Arab tide began to spread over the different parts of the world. Powerful Persia had to kiss the ground before the Arabs and adopt the Mohammedan religion, with the result that the Mussulman religion took quite a new shape; the religion of the Arabs and the civilisation of Persia became intermingled.

    With the sword of the Arabs, the Persian civilisation began to disseminate in all directions. That Persian civilisation had been borrowed from ancient Greece and India. From the East and from the West, the waves of Mussulman invaders dashed violently on Europe and along them also, the light of wisdom and civilisation began dispersing the darkness of blind and barbarous Europe. The wisdom, learning, and arts of ancient Greece entered into Italy, overpowered the barbarians, and with their quickening impulse, life began to pulsate in the dead body of the world-capital of Rome. The pulsation of this new life took a strong and formidable shape in the city of Florence — old Italy began showing signs of new life. This is called Renaissance, the new birth. But this new birth was for Italy only a rebirth; while for the rest of Europe, it was the first birth. Europe was born in the sixteenth century A.D. i.e. about the time when Akbar, Jehangir, Shahjahan, and other Moghul Emperors firmly established their mighty empire in India.

    Italy was an old nation. At the call of the Renaissance, she woke up and gave her response, but only to turn over on her side in bed, as it were, and fall fast asleep again. For various reasons, India also stirred up a little at this time. For three ruling generations from Akbar, learning, wisdom, and arts came to be much esteemed in India. But India was also a very old nation; and for some reason or other, she also did the same as Italy and slept on again.

    In Europe, the tide of revival in Italy struck the powerful, young and new nation, the Franks. The torrent of civilisation, flowing from all quarters to Florence and there uniting, assumed a new form; but Italy had not the power within herself to hold that stupendous mass of fresh energy. The revival would have, as in India, ended there, had it not been for the good fortune of Europe that the new nation of the Franks gladly took up that energy, and they in vigour of their youthful blood boldly floated their national ship on the tide; and the current of that progress gradually gathered in volume and strength — from one it swelled into a thousand courses. The other nations of Europe greedily took the water of that tide into their own countries by cutting new channels, and increased its volume and speed by pouring their own lifeblood into it. That tidal wave broke, in the fullness of time, on the shores of India. It reached as far as the coast of Japan, and she became revitalised by bathing in its water. Japan is the new nation of Asia.

    Paris is the fountain-head of European civilisation, as Gomukhi is of the Ganga. This huge metropolis is a vision of heaven on earth, the city of constant rejoicing. Such luxury, such enjoyments, such mirthfulness are neither in London nor in Berlin nor anywhere else. True, there is wealth in London and in New York, in Berlin there is learning and wisdom; but nowhere is that French soil, and above all, nowhere is that genius of the French man. Let there be wealth in plenty, let there be learning and wisdom, let there be beauty of nature also, elsewhere — but where is the MAN? This remarkable French character is the incarnation of the ancient Greek, as it were, that had died to be born again — always joyful, always full of enthusiasm, very light and silly, yet again exceedingly grave, prompt, and resolute to do every work, and again despondent at the least resistance. But that despondency is only for a moment with the Frenchman, his face soon after glowing again with fresh hope and trust.

    The Paris University is the model of European universities. All the Academies of Science that are in the world are imitations of the French Academy. Paris is the first teacher of the founding of colonial empires. The terms used in military art in all languages are still mostly French. The style and diction of French writings are copied in all the European languages. Of science, philosophy, and art, this Paris is the mine. Everywhere, in every respect, there is imitation of the French. As if the French were the townspeople, and the other nations only villagers compared with them! What the French initiate, the Germans, the English, and other nations imitate, may be fifty or twenty-five years later, whether it be in learning, or in art, or in social matters. This French civilisation reached Scotland, and when the Scottish king became the king of England, it awoke and roused England; it was during the reign of the Stuart Dynasty of Scotland that the Royal Society and other institutions were established in England.

    Again, France is the home of liberty. From here, the city of Paris, travelled with tremendous energy the power of the People, and shook the very foundations of Europe. From that time the face of Europe has completely changed and a new Europe has collie into existence. “Liberté, Equalité, Fraternité” is no more heard in France; she is now pursuing other ideas and other purposes, while the spirit of tile French Revolution is still working among the other nations of Europe.

    One distinguished scientist of England told me the other day that Paris was the centre of the world, and that the more a nation would succeed in establishing its connection with the city of Paris, the more would that nation’s progress in national life be achieved. Though such assertion is a partial exaggeration of fact, yet it is certainly true that if anyone has to give to the world any new idea, this Paris is the place for its dissemination. If one can gain the approbation of the citizens of Paris, that voice the whole of Europe is sure to echo back. The sculptor, the painter the musician the dancer, or any artist, if he can first obtain celebrate in Paris, acquires very easily the esteem and eulogy of other countries.

    We hear only of the darker side of this Paris in our country — that it is a horrible place, a hell on earth. Some of the English hold this view; and the wealthy people of other countries, in whose eyes no other enjoyment is possible in life except the gratification of the senses, naturally see Paris as the home of immorality and enjoyments.

    But it is the same in all big cities of the West, such as London, Berlin, Vienna, New York. The only difference is: in other countries the means of enjoyment are commonplace and vulgar, but the very dirt of civilised Paris is coated over with gold leaf. To compare tile refined enjoyments of Paris with the barbarity, in this respect, of other cities is to compare the wild boar’s wallowing in the mire with the peacock’s dance spreading out its feathers like a fan.

    What nation in the world has not the longing to enjoy and live a life of pleasure? Otherwise, why should those who get rich hasten to Paris of all places? Why do kings and emperors, assuming other names come to Paris and live incognito and feel themselves happy by bathing in this whirlpool of sense-enjoyment? The longing is in all countries, and no pains are spared to satisfy it; the only difference is: the French have perfected it as a science, they know how to enjoy, they have risen to the highest rung of the ladder of enjoyment.

    Even then, most of the vulgar dances and amusements are for the foreigner; the French people are very cautious, they never waste money for nothing. All those luxuries, those expensive hotels and cafes, at which the cost of a dinner is enough to ruin one, are for the rich foolish foreigner. The French are highly refined, profuse in etiquette, polished and suave in their manners, clever in drawing money from one’s pocket; and when they do, they laugh in their sleeve.

    Besides, there is another thing to note. Society, as it is among the Americans, Germans, and the English, is open to all nations; so the foreigner can quickly see the ins and outs of it. After an acquaintance of a few days, the American will invite one to live in his house for a while; the Germans also do the same; and the English do so after a longer acquaintance. But it is very different with the French; a Frenchman will never invite one to live with his family unless he is very intimately acquainted with him. But when a foreigner gets such all opportunity and has occasion and time enough to see and know the family, he forms quite a different opinion from what he generally hears. Is it not equally foolish of foreigners to venture an opinion on our national character, as they do, by seeing only the low quarters of Calcutta? So with Paris. The unmarried women in France are as well guarded as in our country, they cannot even mix flatly in society; only after marriage can they do so in company with their husbands. Like us, their negotiations for marriage are carried on by their parents. Being a jolly people, none of their big social functions will be complete without professional dancers, as with us performances of dancing-girls are given on the occasions of marriage and Puja. Living in a dark foggy country, the English are gloomy, make long faces and remark that such dances at one’s home are very improper, but at a theatre they are all right. It should lie noted here that their dances may appear improper to our eyes, but not so with them, they being accustomed to them. The girl may, at a dance, appear in a dress showing the to neck and shoulders, and that is not taken as improper; and the English and Americans would not object to attending such dances, but on going hone, might not refrain from condemning tile French customs!

    Again, the idea is the same everywhere regarding the chastity; of women, whose deviation from it is fraught with danger, but in the case of men it does not matter so much. The Frenchman is, no doubt, a little freer in this respect, and like the rich men of other countries cares not for criticism. Generally speaking, in Europe, the majority of men do not regard a little lax conduct as so very bad, and in the West, the same is the case with bachelors. The parents of young students consider it rather a drawback if the latter fight shy of women, lest they become effeminate. The one excellence which a man must have, in the West, is courage. Their word “virtue” and our word “Viratva” (heroism) are one and the same. Look to the derivation of the word “virtue” and see what they call goodness in man. For women, they hold chastity as the most important virtue, no doubt. One man marrying more than one wife is not so injurious to society as a woman having more than one husband at the same time, for the latter leads to the gradual decay of the race. Therefore, in all countries good care is taken to preserve the chastity of women. Behind this attempt of every society to preserve the chastity of women is seen the hand of nature. The tendency of nature is to multiply the population, and the chastity of women helps that tendency. Therefore, in being more anxious about the purity of women than of men, every society is only assisting nature in the fulfilment of her purpose.

    The object of my speaking of these things is to impress upon you the fact that the life of each nation has a moral purpose of its own, and the manners and customs of a nation must be judged from the standpoint of that purpose. The Westerners should be seen through their eyes; to see them through our eyes, and for them to see us with theirs — both these are mistakes. The purpose of our life is quite the opposite of theirs. The Sanskrit name for a student, Brahmachârin, is synonymous with the Sanskrit word Kâmajit. (One who has full control over his passions.) Our goal of life is Moksha; how can that be ever attained without Brahmacharya or absolute continence? Hence it is imposed upon our boys and youth as an indispensable condition during their studentship. The purpose of life in the West is Bhoga, enjoyment; hence much attention to strict Brahmacharya is not so indispensably necessary with them as it is with us.

    Now, to return to Paris. There is no city in the world that can compare with modern Paris. Formerly it was quite different from what it is now — it was somewhat like the Bengali quarters of Varanasi, with zigzag lanes and streets, two houses joined together by an arch over the lane here and there, wells by the side of walls, and so on. In the last Exhibition they showed a model of old Paris, but that Paris has completely disappeared by gradual changes; the warfare and revolutions through which the city has passed have, each time, caused ravages in one part or another, razing every thing to the ground, and again, new Paris has risen in its place, cleaner and more extensive.

    Modern Paris is, to a great extent, the creation of Napoleon III. He completed that material transformation of the city which had already been begun at the fall of the ancient monarchy. The student of the history of France need not be reminded how its people were oppressed by the absolute monarchs of France prior to the French Revolution. Napoleon III caused himself to be proclaimed Emperor by sheer force of arms, wading through blood. Since the first French Revolution, the French people were always fickle and thus a source of alarm to the Empire. Hence the Emperor, in order to keep his subjects contented and to please the ever-unstable masses of Paris by giving them work, went on continually making new and magnificent public roads and embankments and building gateways, theatres, and many other architectural structures, leaving the monuments of old Paris as before. Not only was the city traversed in all directions by new thoroughfares, straight and wide, with sumptuous houses raised or restored, but a line of fortification was built doubling the area of the city. Thus arose the boulevards, and the fine quarters of d’Antin and other neighbourhoods; and the avenue of the Champs Elysées, which is unique in the world was reconstructed. This avenue is so broad that down the middle and on both sides of it run gardens all along, and in one place it has taken a circular shape which comprises the city front, toward the West, called Place de la Concorde. Round this Place de la Concorde are statues in the form of women representing the eight chief towns of France. One of these statues represents the district of Strasburg. This district was wrested from the hands of the French by the Germans after the battle of 1870. The pain of this loss the French have not yet been able to get over, and that statue is still covered with flowers and garlands offered in memory of its dead spirit, as it were. As men place garlands over the tombs of their dead relations, so garlands are placed on that statue, at one time or another.

    It seems to me that the Chandni Chauk of Delhi might have been at one time somewhat like this Place de la Concorde. Here and there columns of victory, triumphal arches and sculptural art in the form of huge statues of man and women, lions, etc., adorn the square.

    A very big triumphal column in imitation of Trajan’s Column, made of gun-metal (procured by melting 1,200 guns), is erected in Place Vendome in memory of the great hero, Napoleon I; on the sides are engraved the victories of his reign, and on the top is the figure of Napoleon Bonaparte. In the Place de la Bastille stands the Column of July (in memory of the Revolution of July 1789) on the side of the old fortress, “The Bastille”, afterwards used as a State prison. Here were imprisoned those who incurred the king’s displeasure. In those old days, without any trial or anything of the kind, the king would issue a warrant bearing the royal seal, called “Lettre de Cachet”. Then, without any inquiry as to what good acts the victim had done for his country, or whether he was really guilty or not, without even any question as to what he actually did to incur the king’s wrath, he would be at once thrown into tile Bastille. If the fair favourites of the kings were displeased with anyone, they could obtain by request a “Lettre de Cachet” from the king against that man, and the poor man would at once be sent to the Bastille. Of the unfortunate who were imprisoned there, very few ever came out. When, afterwards, the whole country rose as one man in revolt against such oppression and tyranny and raised the cry of “Individual liberty, All are equal, No one is high or low”, the people of Paris in their mad excitement attacked the king and queen. The very first thing the mob did was to pull down the Bastille, the symbol of extreme tyranny of man over man, and passed the night in dancing, singing, and feasting on the spot. The king tried to escape, but the people managed to catch him, and hearing that the father-in-law of the king, the Emperor of Austria, was sending soldiers to aid his son-in-law, became blind with rage and killed the king and the queen. The whole French nation became mad in the name of liberty and equality — France became a republic — they killed all the nobility whom they could get hold of, and many of the nobility gave up their titles and rank and made common cause with the subject people. Not only so, they called all the nations of the world to rise — “Awake, kill the kings who are all tyrants, let all be free and have equal rights.” Then all the kings of Europe began to tremble in fear lest this fire might spread into their countries, lest it might bum their thrones; and hence, determined to put it down, they attacked France from all directions. On the other side, the leaders of the French Republic proclaimed, “Our native land is in peril, come one and all”, and the proclamation soon spread like the flames of a conflagration throughout the length and breadth of France. The young, the old, the men, the women, the rich, the poor, the high, the low, singing their martial song, La Marseillaise, the inspiring national song of France, came out — crowds of the poor French people, in rags, barefooted, in that severe cold, and half-starved — came out with guns on their shoulders — for the destruction of the wicked and the salvation of their homes — and boldly faced the vast united force of Europe. The whole of Europe could not stand the onrush of that French army. At the head and front of the French army, stood a hero at the movement of whose finger the whole world trembled. He was Napoleon. With the edge of the sword and at the point of the bayonet, he thrust “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity” into the very bone and marrow of Europe — and thus the victory of the tri-coloured Cocarde was achieved. Later, Napoleon became the Emperor of France and successfully accomplished the consolidation of the French Empire.

    Subsequently, not being favoured with an heir to the throne, he divorced the partner of his life in weal and woe, the guiding angel of his good fortune, the Empress Josephine, and married the daughter of the Emperor of Austria. But the wheel of his luck turned with his desertion of Josephine, his army died in the snow and ice during his expedition against Russia. Europe, getting this opportunity, forced him to abdicate his throne, sent him as an exile to an island, and put on the throne one of the old royal dynasty. The wounded lion escaped from the island and presented himself again in France; the whole of France welcomed him and rallied under his banner, and the reigning king fled. But this luck was broken once for all, and it never returned. Again the whole of Europe united against him and defeated him at the battle of Waterloo. Napoleon boarded an English man-of-war and surrendered himself; the English exiled him and kept him as a lifelong prisoner in the distant island of St. Helena. Again a member of the old royal family of France was reinstated as king. Later on, the French people became restless under the old monarchy, rose in rebellion, drove away the king and his family and re-established the Republic In the course of time a nephew of the great Napoleon became a favourite with the people, and by means of intrigues he proclaimed himself Emperor. He was Napoleon III. For some time his reign was very powerful; but being defeated in conflict with the Germans he lost his throne, and France became once more a republic; and since then down to the present day she has continued to be republican.

  19. SrinivasanAangirasan

    The below given have been taken from:

    We speak of the “Hindu religion”, but the religion denoted by the term did not in fact have such a name originally. According to some, the word “Hindu” means “love”; according to some others a Hindu is one who disapproves of himsa or violence. This may be an ingenious way of explaining the word.

    In none of our ancient sastras does the term “Hindu religion” occur. The name “Hindu” was given to us by foreigners. People from the West came to our land across the Sindhu river which they called “Indus” or “Hind” and the land adjacent to it by the name “India”. The religion of this land came to be called “Hindu”. The name of a neighbouring country is sometimes applied to the land adjacent to it. Let me tell you an interesting story in this connection.

    In the North people readily give alms to anybody calling himself a bairagi. The bairagis have a grievance against Southerners because they do not follow the same practice. “iIlai po po kahe Telungi” is one of their ditties. “Telugus do not say “po, po” but “vellu” for “go, go”. “Po” is a Tamil word. Then how would you explain the line quoted above? During their journey to the South, the bairagis had first to pass through the Telugu country (Andhra); so they thought that the land further south also belonged to the Telugus.

    There is the same logic behind the Telugus themselves referring to Tamil Nadu as “Arava Nadu” from the fact that a small area south of Andhra Pradesh is called “Arva”. Similarly, foreigners who came to the land of the Sindhu called all Bharata beyond also by the same name.

    However it be, “Hinduism” was not the name of our religion in the distant past. Nor was it known as “Vaidika Mata” (Vedic religion or as “sanatana dharma” ( the ancient or timeless religion). Our basic texts do not refer to our faith by any name. When I thought about it I felt that there was something deficient about our religion.

    One day, many years ago, someone came and said to me: “Ramu is here. ” At once I asked somewhat absent-mindedly: “Which Ramu? ” Immediately came the reply : ” Are there many Ramus? ” Only then did it occur to me that my question, “Which Ramu? “, had sprung from my memory of the past. There were four people in my place bearing the name of “Ramu”. So, to tell them apart, we called them “Dark Ramu”. When there is only one Ramu around there is no need to give him a distinguishing label.

    It dawned on me at once why our religion had no name. When there are a number of religions they have to be identified by different names. But when there is only one, where is the problem of identifying it?

    All religions barring our own were established by single individuals. “Buddhism” means the religion founded by Gautama Buddha. Jainism was founded by the Jina called Mahavira. So has Christianity its origin in Jesus Christ. Our religion predating all these had spread all over the world. Since there was no other religion to speak about then it was not necessary to give it a name. When I recognised this fact I felt at once that there was no need to be ashamed of the fact that our religion had no name in the past. On the contrary, I felt proud about it.

    If ours is primeval religion, the question arises as to who established it. All inquiries into this question have failed to yield an answer. Was it Vyasa, who composed the Brahmasutra, the founder of our religion? Or was it Krsna Paramatman who gave us the Bhagavad-Gita? But both Vyasa and Krsna state that the Vedas existed before them. If that be the case, are we to point to the rsis, the seers who gave us the Vedic mantras, as the founders of our religion? But they themselves declare: ” We did not create the Vedas. ” When we chant a mantra we touch our head with our hand mentioning the name of one seer or another. But the sages themselves say: “It is true that the mantras became manifest to the world through us. That is why we are mentioned as the ‘mantra rsis’. But the mantras were not composed by us but revealed to us. When we sat meditating with our minds under control, the mantras were perceived by us in space. Indeed we saw them (hence the term mantra-drastas). We did not compose them. “[the seers are not “mantra-kartas”. ]

    All sounds originate in space. From them arose creation. According to science, the cosmos was produced from the vibrations in space. By virtue of their austerities the sages had the gift of seeing the mantras in space, the mantras that liberate men from this creation. The Vedas are apauruseya (not the work of any human author) and are the very breath of the Paramatman in his form as space. The sages saw them and made a gift of them to the world.

    If we know this truth, we have reason to be proud of the fact that we do not know who founded our religion. In fact we must feel happy that we have the great good fortune to be heirs to a religion that is eternal, a religion containing the Vedas which are the very breath of the Paramatman.

  20. SrinivasanAangirasan

    The below given article has been taken from the translation of the speeches given by Sri Chandrasekhara Saraswathi posted in the website:

    The Universal Religion

    In the dim past what we call Hinduism today was prevalent all over the world. Archaeological studies reveal the existence of relics of our Vedic religion in many countries. For instance, excavations have brought up the text of a treaty between Rameses II and the Hittites dating back to the 14th century B. C. In this, the Vedic gods Mitra and Varuna are mentioned as witnesses to the pact. There is a connection between the name of Ramesses and that of our Rama.

    About 75 per cent of the names of places in Madagascar have a Sanskritic origin.

    In the Western Hemisphere too there is evidence of Hinduism having once flourished there. In Mexico a festival is celebrated at the same time as our Navaratri; it is called “Rama-Sita”. Wherever the earth is dug up images of Ganapati are discovered here. The Aztecs had inhabited Mexico before the Spaniards conquered that land. “Aztecs ” must be a distorted form of “Astikas”. In Peru, during the time of the holy equinox [vernal? ] worship was conducted in the sun temple. The people of this land were called Incas: “Ina” is one of the Sanskrit names of the sun god. Don’t we call Rama Inakula-tilaka?

    There is book containing photographs of the aborigines of Australia dancing in the nude (The Native Tribes of Central Australia, by Spencer Killan, pages 128 & 129). A close look at the pictures, captioned “Siva Dance”, shows that the dancers have a third eye drawn on the forehead.

    In a virgin forest in Borneo which, it is said, had not been penetrated by any human being until recently, explorers have found a sacrificial post with an inscription in a script akin to our Granthas characters. Historians know it as the inscription of Mulavarman of Kotei. Mention is made in it of a sacrifice, the king who performed it, the place where the yupas was installed. That the king gave away kalpavrksass as a gift to Brahmins is also stated in this inscription. All such details were discovered by Europeans, the very people who ridicule our religion.

    Now something occurs to me in this context, something that you may find amusing. You know that the Sagaras went on digging the earth down to the nether world in search of their sacrificial horse. An ocean came into being in this way and it was called sagara after the king Sagara.

    The Sagaras, at last found the horse near the hermitage of Kapila Maharsi. Thinking that he must be the man who had stolen the animal and hidden it in the nether world they laid violent hands on him. Whereupon the sage reduced them to ashes with a mere glance of his eye. Such is the story according to the Ramayana. America, which is at the antipodes, may be taken to Patala or the nether world. Kapilaranya(the forest in which Kapila had his hermitage), we may further take it, was situated there. It is likely that Kapilaranya changed to California in the same manner as Madurai is something altered to “Marudai”. Also noteworthy is the fact that there is a Horse Island near California as well as an Ash Island.

    Another idea occurs to me about Sagara and sagara. Geologists believe that ages ago the Sahara desert was an ocean. It seems to me that Sahara is derived from sagara.

    Some historians try to explain the evidence pointing to the worldwide prevalence of our religion in the past to the exchange of cultural and religious ideas between India and other countries established through travels. I myself believe that there was one common religion or dharma throughout and that the signs and symbols that we find of this today are the creation of the original inhabitants of the lands concerned.

    The view put forward by some students of history about the discovery of the remnants of our religion in other countries- these relating to what is considered the historical period of the past two or three thousand years- is that Indians went to these lands, destroyed the old native civilizations there and imposed Hindu culture in their place. Alternatively, they claim, Indians thrust their culture into the native ways of life in such a way that it became totally absorbed in them.

    The fact, however, is that evidence is to be found in many countries of their Vedic connection dating back to 4, 000 years or more. That is, with the dawn of civilization itself, aspects of the Vedic dharama existed in these lands. It was only subsequently that the inhabitants of these regions came to have a religion of their own.

    Greece had an ancient religion and had big temples where various deities were worshipped. The Hellenic religion had Vedic elements in it. The same was the case with the Semitic religions of the pre- Christian era in the region associated with Jesus. The aborigines of Mexico had a religion of their own. They shared the Vedic view of the divine in the forces of nature and worshipped them as deities. There was a good deal of ritual in all such religions.

    Now none of these religions, including that of Greece, survives. The Greek civilization had once attained to the heights of glory. Now Christianity flourishes in Greece. Buddhism has spread in Central Asia and in East Asia up to Japan. According to anthropologists, religions in their original form exist only in areas like the forests of Africa. But even these ancient faiths contain Vedic elements.

    Religious and philosophical truths are often explained through parables, stories, so that ignorant people can understand them easily. Since metaphysical concepts are difficult to grasp, either they have to be told in the form of a story or they have to be given the form of a ritual, that is they must find expression as religious acts. For the common people the performance of a rite is a means of finding the truth present in it in the form of a symbol. I do not, however, agree with the view that all rituals are nothing but symbolic in their significance and that there is no need to perform them so long as their inner meaning is understood.

    Ritual as ritual has its own place and efficacy. Similarly, I would not say that stories from the Puranas are nothing but illustrations or explanations of certain truths or doctrines. As stories they are of a high order and I believe that they really happened. But, at the same time, they demonstrate the meaning of certain truths. As for rites, their performance brings up benefits. But in due course, as we learn to appreciate their inner meaning we shall become purified in mind. This is the stage when we shall no more yearn for any benefits from their performance and will be rewarded with supreme well-being (that is, liberation).

    It is likely, though, that, with the passage of time, some stories or rites will become far removed from their inner meaning. Or, it may be, the inner meaning will be altogether forgotten. So it must be that, when new religions took shape abroad, after the lapse of thousands of years-religions not connected with the Vedic faith that is the root-the original Vedic concepts become transformed or distorted.

    You must be familiar with the story of Adam and Eve which belongs to the Hebrew tradition. It occurs in the Genesis of the Old Testament and speaks of the tree of knowledge and God’s commandment that its fruit shall not be eaten. Adam at first did not eat it but Eve did. After that Adam too ate the forbidden fruit.

    Here an Upanisadic concept has taken the form of a biblical story. But because of the change in the time and place the original idea has become distorted-or even obliterated.

    The Upanisadic story speaks of two birds perched on the branch of a pippala tree. One eats the fruit of tree while the order merely watches its companion without eating. The pippala tree stands for the body. The first bird represents a being that regards himself as the jivatman or individual self and the fruit it eats signifies sensual pleasure. In the same body (symbolized by the tree) the second bird is to be understood as the Paramatman. He is the support of all beings but he does not know sensual pleasure. Since he does not eat the fruit he naturally does not have the same experience as the jivatman (the first). The Upanisad speaks with poetic beauty of the two birds. He who eats the fruit is the individual self, jiva, and he who does not eat is the Supreme Reality, the one who knows himself to be the Atman.

    It is this jiva that has come to be called Eve in the Hebrew religious tradition. “Ji” changes to “i” according to a rule of grammar and “ja” to “ya”. We have the example of “Yamuna” becoming “Jamuna” or of “Yogindra” being changed to “Joginder “. In the biblical story “jiva” is “Eve” and “Atma” (or “Atman”) is “Adam”. “Pippala” has in the same way changed to “apple”. The Tree of Knowledge is our “bodhi-vrksa”. “Bodha” means “knowledge”. It is well known that the Budhha attained enlightenment under the bodhi tree. But the pipal (pippala) was known as the bodhi tree even before his time.

    The Upanisadic ideas transplanted into a distant land underwent a change after the lapse of centuries. Thus we see in the biblical story that the Atman (Adam) that can never be subject to sensual pleasure also eats the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. While our bodhi tree stands for enlightenment, the enlightenment that banishes all sensual pleasure, the biblical tree affords worldly pleasure. These differences notwithstanding there is sufficient evidence here that, once upon a time, Vedic religion was prevalent in the land of the Hebrews.

    Let me give the another example to strengthen the view that however much a custom or a concept changes with the passage of time and with its acceptance by people of another land, it will still retain elements pointing to its original source. Our TiruppavaiT and TiruvembavaiT are not as ancient as the Vedas. Scholars ascribe them to an age not later than 1, 500 years ago. However it be, the authors of these Tamil hymns, AndalT and ManikkavacakarT, belong to an age much later than that of the Vedas and epics. After their time Hindu empires arose across the seas. Even the Cola kings extended their sway beyond the shores of the country. More worthy of note than our naval expeditions was the great expansion in our sea trade and the increase with it of our foreign contacts. As a result, people abroad were drawn to the Hindu religion and culture. Among the regions that developed such contacts, South-East Asia was the most important. Islands like Bali in the Indonesian archipelago became wholly Hindu. People in Siam (Thailand), Indochina and the Philippines came under the influence of Hindu culture. Srivijaya was one of the great empires of South-East Asia.

    [Here the Paramaguru briefly touches upon the stages representing the emergence of various religions]. In primeval times the Vedic religion was prevalent everywhere: this was the first stage. In the second stage new religions emerged in various parts of the world. In the third stage these decayed and their place was taken by Buddhism, Christianity or Islam. In the subsequent stage the Hindu civilization became a living force outside the shores of India also, particularly in South-East Asia. This was the period during which great temples reminding us of those of Tamil Nadu arose with the spread of our religion and culture: Angkor-vat in Cambodia; Borobudur in Java, Indonesia; Prambanan, also in Java. Now it was that our Tiruppavai and Tiruvembavai made their passage to Thailand.

    Even today a big festival is held in Thailand in December- January, corresponding to the Tamil Margazhi, the same month during which we read the Tiruppavai and Tiruvembavai with devotion. As part of the celebrations a dolotsava (swing festival) is held. A remarkable feature of this is that, in the ceremony meant for Visnu, a man with the make-up of Siva is seated on the swing. This seems to be in keeping with the fact that the Tiruppavai and Tiruvembavai contribute to the unification of Vaisnavism and Saivism.

    If you ask the people of Thailand about the Pavai poems, they will not be able to speak about them. It might seem then that there is no basis for connecting the that festival with the Pavai works merely because it is held in the month corresponding to the Tamil Murgazhi. But the point to note is that the people of that country themselves call it “Triyampavai- Trippavai”.

    Those who read the Bible today are likely to be ignorant about the Upanisads, but they are sure to know the story that can be traced back to them, that of Adam and Eve. The Thais now must be likewise ignorant about the Pavis but, all the same, they hold in the month of Dhanus every year a celebration called “Triyampavai – Trippavai. ” As part of it they also have a swing festival in which figures a man dressed as Siva. Here the distortion in the observance of a rite have occurred during historical times- one of the distortions is that of Siva being substituted for Visnu. Also during this period the Thais have forgotten the Pavis but, significantly enough, they still conduct a festival named after them. Keeping these before you, take mind back to three thousand years ago and imagine how a religion or a culture would have changed after its passage to foreign lands.

    It is in this context that you must consider the Vedic tradition. For all the changes and distortions that it has undergone in other countries during the past millennia its presence there is still proclaimed through elements to be found in the religions that supplanted it.

    How are we to understand the presence of Hindu ideas or concepts in the religious beliefs of people said to belong to prehistoric times? It does not seem right to claim that in the distant past our religion or culture was propagated in other countries through an armed invasion or through trade, that is at a time when civilization itself has not taken shape there. That is why I feel that there is no question of anything having been taken from this land and introduced into another country. The fact according to me, is that in the beginning the Vedic religion was prevalent all over the world. Later, over the countries, it must have gone through a process of change and taken different forms. These forms came to be called the original religions of these various lands which in the subsequent period- during historical times- came under Buddhism, Christianity or Islam as the case may be.

  21. SrinivasanAangirasan

    Dear Gautier,

    Thank you for your interest shown in India and Hindu culture.

    Please forward the article on “Universal Religion” mentioned in which I have posted in the earlier mail to true Indologists like Dr.David Frawley.

  22. SrinivasanAangirasan

    Aurobindo Ghosh considered Vivekananda as his spiritual mentor.

    Vivekananda was a soul of puissance if ever there was one, a very lion among men, but the definitive work he has left behind is quite incommensurate with our impression of his creative might and energy. We perceive his influence still working gigantically, we know not well how, we know not well where, in something that is not yet formed, something leonine, grand, intuitive, upheaving that has entered the soul of India and we say, “Behold, Vivekananda still lives in the soul of his Mother and in the souls of her children.
    —Sri Aurobindo in Vedic Magazine(1915)

    The French Nobel Laureate, Romain Rolland writes, “His words are great music, phrases in the style of Beethoven, stirring rhythms like the march of Handel choruses. I cannot touch these sayings of his, scattered as they are through the pages of books, at thirty years’ distance, without receiving a thrill through my body like an electric shock. And what shocks, what transports, must have been produced when in burning words they issued from the lips of the hero!

    Vivekananda inspired Jamshedji Tata[123] to set up Indian Institute of Science, one of India’s finest Institutions. Abroad, he had some interactions with Max Müller. Nikola Tesla was one of those influenced by the Vedic philosophy teachings of the Swami Vivekananda.

    Romain Rolland’s Reverence to Swami Vivekananda and Sri Ramakrishna the Guru of Swami Vivekananda:

    * “The true Vedantic spirit does not start out with a system of preconceived ideas. It possesses absolute liberty and unrivalled courage among religions with regard to the facts to be observed and the diverse hypotheses it has laid down for their coordination. Never having been hampered by a priestly order, each man has been entirely free to search wherever he pleased for the spiritual explanation of the spectacle of the universe.”,[16] Life of Vivekananda.

    Romain Rolland described the mystical states achieved by Ramakrishna and other mystics as an “‘oceanic’ sentiment,” one which Rolland had also experienced.[122] Rolland believed that the universal human religious emotion resembled this “oceanic sense.”[123] In his 1929 book La vie de Ramakrishna, Rolland distinguished between the feelings of unity and eternity which Ramakrishna experienced in his mystical states and Ramakrishna’s interpretation of those feelings as the goddess Kali.[124]

    Other quotation from Romain Rolland:
    * “If there is one place on the face of the earth where all the dreams of living men have found a home from the very earliest days when man began the dream of existence, it is India….For more than 30 centuries, the tree of vision, with all its thousand branches and their millions of twigs, has sprung from this torrid land, the burning womb of the Gods. It renews itself tirelessly showing no signs of decay.” [15] Life of Ramakrishna

    Christopher Isherwood who wrote the book Ramakrishna and his Disciples (1965) said in a late interview,”Ramakrishna was completely simple and guileless. He told people whatever came into his mind, like a child. If he had ever been troubled by homosexual desires, if that had ever been a problem he’d have told everybody about them.(…) His thoughts transcended physical love-making. He saw even the mating of two dogs on the street as an expression of the eternal male-female principle in the universe. I think that is always a sign of great spiritual enlightenment.”[125][126]

  23. SrinivasanAangirasan



    (The Hindu, Madras, February, 1897)

    Our representative met the Swami Vivekananda in the train at the Chingleput Station and travelled with him to Madras. The following is the report of the interview:

    “What made you go to America, Swamiji?”

    “Rather a serious question to answer in brief. I can only answer it partly now. Because I travelled all over India, I wanted to go over to other countries. I went to America by the Far East.”

    “What did you see in Japan, and is there any chance of India following in the progressive steps of Japan?”

    “None whatever, until all the three hundred millions of India combine together as a whole nation. The world has never seen such a patriotic and artistic race as the Japanese, and one special feature about them is this that while in Europe and elsewhere Art generally goes with dirt, Japanese Art is Art plus absolute cleanliness. I would wish that every one of our young men could visit Japan once at least in his lifetime. It is very easy to go there. The Japanese think that everything Hindu is great and believe that India is a holy land. Japanese Buddhism is entirely different from what you see in Ceylon. It is the same as Vedanta. It is positive and theistic Buddhism, not the negative atheistic Buddhism of Ceylon.

    “What is the key to Japan’s sudden greatness?”

    “The faith of the Japanese in themselves, and their love for their country. When you have men who are ready to sacrifice their everything for their country, sincere to the backbone — when such men arise, India w ill become great in every respect. It is the men that make the country! What is there in the country? If you catch the social morality and the political morality of the Japanese, you will be as great as they are. The Japanese are ready to sacrifice everything for their country, and they have become a great people. But you are not; you cannot be, you sacrifice everything only for your own families and possessions.”

    “Is it your wish that India should become like Japan?”

    “Decidedly not. India should continue to be what she is. How could India ever become like Japan, or any nation for the matter of that? In each nation, as in music, there is a main note, a central theme, upon which all others turn. Each nation has a theme: everything else is secondary. India’s theme is religion. Social reform and everything else are secondary. Therefore India cannot be like Japan. It is said that when ‘the heart breaks’, then the flow of thought comes. India’s heart must break, and the flow of spirituality will come out. India is India. We are not like the Japanese, we are Hindus. India’s very atmosphere is soothing. I have been working incessantly here, and amidst this work I am getting rest. It is only from spiritual work that we can get rest in India. If your work is material here, you die of — diabetes!”

    “So much for Japan. What was your first experience of America, Swamiji?”

    “From first to last it was very good. With the exception of the missionaries and ‘Church-women’ the Americans are most hospitable, kind-hearted, generous, and good-natured.”

    “Who are these ‘Church-women’ that you speak of, Swamiji?”

    “When a woman tries her best to find a husband, she goes to all the fashionable seaside resorts and tries all sorts of tricks to catch a man. When she fails in her attempts, she becomes, what they call in America, an ‘old maid’, and joins the Church. Some of them become very ‘Churchy’. These ‘Church-women’ are awful fanatics. They are under the thumb of the priests there. Between them and the priests they make hell of earth and make a mess of religion. With the exception of these, the Americans are a very good people. They loved me, and I love them a great deal. I felt as if I was one of them.”

    “What is your idea about the results of the Parliament of Religions?”

    “The Parliament of Religions, as it seems to me, was intended for a ‘heathen show’ before the world: but it turned out that the heathens had the upper hand and made it a Christian show all around. So the Parliament of Religions was a failure from the Christian standpoint, seeing that the Roman Catholics, who were the organisers of that Parliament, are, when there is a talk of another Parliament at Paris, now steadily opposing it. But the Chicago Parliament was a tremendous success for India and Indian thought. It helped on the tide of Vedanta, which is flooding the world. The American people — of course, minus the fanatical priests and Church-women — are very glad of the results of the Parliament.”

    “What prospects have you, Swamiji, for the spread of your mission in England?”

    “There is every prospect. Before many years elapse a vast majority of the English people will be Vedantins. There is a greater prospect of this in England than there is in America. You see, Americans make a fanfaronade of everything, which is not the case with Englishmen. Even Christians cannot understand their New Testament, without understanding the Vedanta. The Vedanta is the rationale of all religions. Without the Vedanta every religion is superstition; with it everything becomes religion.”

    “What is the special trait you noticed in the English character?”

    “The Englishman goes to practical work as soon as he believes in something. He has tremendous energy for practical work. There is in the whole world no human being superior to the English gentleman or lady. That is really the reason of my faith in them. John Bull is rather a thick-headed gentleman to deal with. You must push and push an idea till it reaches his brain, but once there, it does not get out. In England, there was not one missionary or anybody who said anything against me; not one who tried to make a scandal about me. To my astonishment, many of my friends belong to the Church of England. I learn, these missionaries do not come from the higher classes in England. Caste is as rigorous there as it is here, and the English churchmen belong to the class of gentlemen. They may differ in opinion from you, but that is no bar to their being friends with you; therefore, I would give a word of advice to my countrymen, which is, not to take notice of the vituperative missionaries, now that I have known that they are. We have ‘sized’ them, as the Americans say. Non-recognition is the only attitude to assume towards them.”

    “Will you kindly enlighten me, Swamiji, on the Social Reform movements in America and England?”

    “Yes. All the social upheavalists, at least the leaders of them, are trying to find that all their communistic or equalising theories must have a spiritual basis, and that spiritual basis is in the Vedanta only. I have been told by several leaders, who used to attend my lectures, that they required the Vedanta as the basis of the new order of things.”

    “What are your views with regard to the Indian masses?”

    “Oh, we are awfully poor, and our masses are very ignorant about secular things. Our masses are very good because poverty here is not a crime. Our masses are not violent. Many times I was near being mobbed in America and England, only on account of my dress. But I never heard of such a thing in India as a man being mobbed because of peculiar dress. In every other respect, our masses are much more civilised than the European masses.”

    “What will you propose for the improvement of our masses?”

    “We have to give them secular education. We have to follow the plan laid down by our ancestors, that is, to bring all the ideals slowly down among the masses. Raise them slowly up, raise them to equality. Impart even secular knowledge through religion.”

    “But do you think, Swamiji, it is a task that can be easily accomplished?”

    “It will, of course, have gradually to be worked out. But if there are enough self-sacrificing young fellows, who, I hope, will work with me, it can be done tomorrow. It all depends upon the zeal and the self-sacrifice brought to the task.”

    “But if the present degraded condition is due to their past Karma, Swamiji, how do you think they could get out of it easily, and how do you propose to help them?”

    The Swamiji readily answered “Karma is the eternal assertion of human freedom. If we can bring ourselves down by our Karma, surely it is in our power to raise ourselves by it. The masses, besides, have not brought themselves down altogether by their own Karma. So we should give them better environments to work in. I do not propose any levelling of castes. Caste is a very good thing. Caste is the plan we want to follow. What caste really is, not one in a million understands. There is no country in the world without caste. In India, from caste we reach to the point where there is no caste. Caste is based throughout on that principle. The plan in India is to make everybody a Brahmin, the Brahmin being the ideal of humanity. If you read the history of
    India you will find that attempts have always been made to raise the lower classes. Many are the classes that have been raised. Many more will follow till the whole will become Brahmin. That is the plan. We have only to raise them without bringing down anybody. And this has mostly to be done by the Brahmins themselves, because it is the duty of every aristocracy to dig its own grave; and the sooner it does so, the better for all. No time should be lost. Indian caste is better than the caste which prevails in Europe or America. I do not say it is absolutely good. Where would you be if there were no caste? Where would be your learning and other things, if there were no caste? There would be nothing left for the Europeans to study if caste had never existed! The Mohammedans would have smashed everything to pieces. Where do you find the Indian society standing still? It is always on the move. Sometimes, as in the times of foreign invasions, the movement has been slow, at other times quicker. This is what I say to my countrymen. I do not condemn them. I look into their past. I find that under the circumstances no nation could do more glorious work. I tell them that they have done well. I only ask them to do better.”

    “What are your views, Swamiji, in regard to the relation of caste to rituals?”

    “Caste is continually changing, rituals are continually changing, so are forms. It is the substance, the principle, that does not change. It is in the Vedas that we have to study our religion. With the exception of the Vedas every book must change. The authority of the Vedas is for all time to come; the authority of every one of our other books is for the time being. For instance; one Smriti is powerful for one age, another for another age. Great prophets are always coming and pointing the way to work. Some prophets worked for the lower classes, others like Madhva gave to women the right to study the Vedas. Caste should not go; but should only be readjusted occasionally. Within the old structure is to be found life enough for the building of two hundred thousand new ones. It is sheer nonsense to desire the abolition of caste. The new method is — evolution of the old.”

    “Do not Hindus stand in need of social reform?”

    “We do stand in need of social reform. At times great men would evolve new ideas of progress, and kings would give them the sanction of law. Thus social improvements had been in the past made in India, and in modern times to effect such progressive reforms, we will have first to build up such an authoritative power. Kings having gone, the power is the people’s. We have, therefore, to wait till the people are educated, till they understand their needs and are ready and able to solve their problems. The tyranny of the minority is the worst tyranny in the world. Therefore, instead of frittering away our energies on ideal reforms, which will never become practical, we had better go to the root of the evil and make a legislative body, that is to say, educate our people, so that they may be able to solve their own problems. Until that is done all these ideal reforms will remain ideals only. The new order of things is the salvation of the people by the people, and it takes time to make it workable, especially in India, which has always in the past been governed by kings.”

    “Do you think Hindu society can successfully adopt European social laws?”

    “No, not wholly. I would say, the combination of the Greek mind represented by the external European energy added to the Hindu spirituality would be an ideal society for India. For instance, it is absolutely necessary for you, instead of frittering away your energy and often talking of idle nonsense, to learn from the Englishman the idea of prompt obedience to leaders, the absence of jealousy, the indomitable perseverance and the undying faith in himself. As soon as he selects a leader for a work, the Englishman sticks to him through thick and thin and obeys him. Here in India, everybody wants to become a leader, and there is nobody to obey. Everyone should learn to obey before he can command. There is no end to our jealousies; and the more important the Hindu, the more jealous he is. Until this absence of jealousy and obedience to leaders are learnt by the Hindu, there will be no power of organization. We shall have to remain the hopelessly confused mob that we are now, hoping and doing nothing. India has to learn from Europe the conquest of external nature, and Europe has to learn from India the conquest of internal nature. Then there will be neither Hindus nor Europeans — there will be the ideal humanity which has conquered both the natures, the external and the internal. We have developed one phase of humanity, and they another. It is the union of the two that is wanted. The word freedom which is the watchword of our religion really means freedom physically, mentally, and spiritually.”

    “What relation, Swamiji, does ritual bear to religion?”

    “Rituals are the kindergarten of religion. They are absolutely necessary for the world as it is now; only we shall have to give people newer and fresher rituals. A party of thinkers must undertake to do this. Old rituals must be rejected and new ones substituted.”

    “Then you advocate the abolition of rituals, don’t you?”

    “No, my watchword is construction, not destruction. Out of the existing rituals, new ones will have to be evolved. There is infinite power of development in everything; that is my belief. One atom has the power of the whole universe at its back. All along, in the history of the Hindu race, there never was any attempt at destruction, only construction. One sect wanted to destroy, and they were thrown out of India: They were the Buddhists. We have had a host of reformers — Shankara, Râmânuja, Madhva, and Chaitanya. These were great reformers, who always were constructive and built according to the circumstances of their time. This is our peculiar method of work. All the modern reformers take to European destructive reformation, which will never do good to anyone and never did. Only once was a modern reformer mostly constructive, and that one was Raja Ram Mohan Ray. The progress of the Hindu race has been towards the realisation of the Vedantic ideals. All history of Indian life is the struggle for the realisation of the ideal of the Vedanta through good or bad fortune. Whenever there was any reforming sect or religion which rejected the Vedantic ideal, it was smashed into nothing.”

    “What is your programme of work here?”

    “I want to start two institutions, one in Madras and one in Calcutta, to carry out my plan; and that plan briefly is to bring the Vedantic ideals into the everyday practical life of the saint or the sinner, of the sage or the ignoramus, of the Brahmin or the Pariah.”

    Our representative here put to him a few questions relative to Indian politics; but before the Swami could attempt anything like an answer, the train steamed up to the Egmore platform, and the only hurried remark that fell from the Swami was that he was dead against all political entanglements of Indian and European problems. The interview then terminated.

  24. SrinivasanAangirasan


    (Translated from Bengali)


    [Shri Surendra Nath Sen — from private diary]


    Early in the morning I came to Swamiji who was then staying in the house of Balaram Babu at 57 Ramkanta Bose Street, Calcutta. The room was packed full with listeners. Swamiji was saying, “We want Shraddhâ, we want faith in our own selves. Strength is life, weakness is death. ‘We are the Âtman, deathless and free; pure, pure by nature. Can we ever commit any sin? Impossible!’ — such a faith is needed. Such a faith makes men of us, makes gods of us. It is by losing this idea of Shraddha that the country has gone to ruin.”

    Question: How did we come to lose this Shraddha?

    Swamiji: We have had a negative education all along from our boyhood. We have only learnt that we are nobodies. Seldom are we given to understand that great men were ever born in our country. Nothing positive has been taught to us. We do not even know how to use our hands and feet! We master all the facts and figures concerning the ancestors of the English, but we are sadly unmindful about our own. We have learnt only weakness. Being a conquered race, we have brought ourselves to believe that we are weak and have no independence in anything. So, how can it be but that the Shraddha is lost? The idea of true Shraddha must be brought back once more to us, the faith in our own selves must be reawakened, and, then only, all the problems which face our country will gradually be solved by ourselves.

    Q. How can that ever be? How will Shraddha alone remedy the innumerable evils with which our society is beset? Besides, there are so many crying evils in the country, to remove which the Indian National Congress and other patriotic associations are carrying on a strenuous agitation and petitioning the British government. How better can their wants be made known? What has Shraddha to do with the matter?

    Swamiji: Tell me, whose wants are those — yours or the ruler’s? If yours, will the ruler supply them for you, or will you have to do that for yourselves?

    Q. But it is the ruler’s duty to see to the wants of the subject people. Whom should we look up to for everything, if not to the king?

    Swamiji: Never are the wants of a beggar fulfilled. Suppose the government give you all you need, where are the men who are able to keep up the things demanded? So make men first. Men we want, and how can men be made unless Shraddha is there?

    Q. But such is not the view Of the majority, sir.

    Swamiji: What you call majority is mainly composed of fools and men of common intellect. Men who have brains to think for themselves are few, everywhere. These few men with brains are the real leaders in everything and in every department of work; the majority are guided by them as with a string, and that is good, for everything goes all right when they follow in the footsteps of these leaders. Those are only fools who think themselves too high to bend their heads to anyone, and they bring on their own ruin by acting on their own judgment. You talk of social reform? But what do you do? All that you mean by your social reform is either widow remarriage, or female emancipation, or something of that sort. Do you not? And these again are directed within the confines of a few of the castes only. Such a scheme of reform may do good to a few no doubt, but of what avail is that to the whole nation? Is that reform or only a form of selfishness — somehow to cleanse your own room and keep it tidy and let others go from bad to worse!

    Q. Then, you mean to say that there is no need of social reform at all?

    Swamiji: Who says so? Of course there is need of it. Most of what you talk of as social reform does not touch the poor masses; they have already those things — the widow remarriage, female emancipation, etc. — which you cry for. For this reason they will not think of those things as reforms at all. What I mean to say is that want of Shraddha has brought in all the evils among us, and is bringing in more and more. My method of treatment is to take out by the roots the very causes of the disease and not to keep them merely suppressed. Reforms we should have in many ways; who will be so foolish as to deny it? There is, for example, a good reason for intermarriage in India, in the absence of which the race is becoming physically weaker day by day.

    Since it was a day of a solar eclipse, the gentleman who was asking these questions saluted Swamiji and left saying “I must go now for a bath in the Ganga. I shall, however, come another day.”

  25. SrinivasanAangirasan



    [Shri Surendra Nath Sen — from private diary]


    The same gentleman who was asking questions of Swamiji on Saturday last came again. He raised again the topic of intermarriage and enquired, “How should intermarriage be introduced between different nationalities?”

    Swamiji: I do not advise our intermarriage with nations professing an alien religion. At least for the present, that will, of a certainty, slacken the ties of society and be a cause of manifold mischief. It is the intermarriage between people of the same religion that I advocate.

    Q. Even then, it will involve much perplexity. Suppose I have a daughter who is born and brought up in Bengal, and I marry her to a Marathi or a Madrasi. Neither will the girl understand her husband’s language nor the husband the girl’s. Again, the difference in their individual habits and customs is so great. Such are a few of the troubles in the case of the married couple. Then as regards society, it will make confusion worse confounded.

    Swamiji: The time is yet very long in coming when marriages of that kind will be widely possible. Besides, it is not judicious now to go in for that all of a sudden. One of the secrets of work is to go along the line of least resistance. So, first of all, let there be marriages within the sphere of one’s own caste-people. Take for instance, the Kayasthas of Bengal. They have several subdivisions amongst them, such as, the Uttar-rârhi, Dakshin-rârhi, Bangaja, etc., and they do not intermarry with each other. Now, let there be intermarriages between the Uttar-rarhis and the Dakshin-rarhis, and if that is not possible at present, let it be between the Bangajas and the Dakshin-rarhis. Thus we are to build up that which is already existing, and which is in our hands to reduce into practice — reform does not mean wholesale breaking down.

    Q. Very well, let it be as you say: but what corresponding good can come of it?

    Swamiji: Don’t you see how in our society, marriage, being restricted for several hundreds of years within the same subdivisions of each caste, has come to such a pass nowadays as virtually to mean marital alliance between cousins and near relations; and how for this very reason the race is getting deteriorated physically, and consequently all sorts of disease and other evils are finding a ready entrance into it? The blood having had to circulate within the narrow circle of a limited number of individuals has become vitiated; so the new-born children inherit from their very birth the constitutional diseases of their fathers. Thus, born with poor blood, their bodies have very little power to resist the microbes of any disease, which are ever ready to prey upon them. It is only by widening the circle of marriage that we can infuse a new and a different kind of blood into our progeny, so that they may be saved from the clutches of many of our present-day diseases and other consequent evils.

    Q. May I ask you, sir, what is your opinion about early marriage?

    Swamiji: Amongst the educated classes in Bengal, the custom of marrying their boys too early is dying out gradually. The girls are also given in marriage a year or two older than before, but that has been under compulsion — from pecuniary want. Whatever might be the reason for it, the age of marrying girls should be raised still higher. But what will the poor father do? As soon as the girl grows up a little, every one of the female sex, beginning with the mother down to the relatives and neighbours even, will begin to cry out that he must find a bridegroom for her, and will not leave him in peace until he does so! And, about your religious hypocrites, the less said the better. In these days no one hears them, but still they will take up the role of leaders themselves. The rulers passed the Age of Consent Bill prohibiting a man under the threat of penalty to live with a girl of twelve years, and at once all these so-called leaders of your religion raised a tremendous hue and cry against it, sounding the alarm, “Alas, our religion is lost! As if religion consisted in making a girl a mother at the age of twelve or thirteen! So the rulers also naturally think, “Goodness gracious! What a religion is theirs! And these people lead political agitations and demand political rights!”

    Q. Then, in your opinion, both men and women should be married at an advanced age?

    Swamiji: Certainly. But education should be imparted along with it, otherwise irregularity and corruption will ensue. By education I do not mean the present system, but something in the line of positive teaching. Mere book-learning won’t do. We want that education by which character is formed, strength of mind is increased, the intellect is expanded, and by which one can stand on one’s own feet.

    Q. We have to reform our women in many ways.

    Swamiji: With such an education women will solve their own problems. They have all the time been trained in helplessness, servile dependence on others, and so they are good only to weep their eyes out at the slightest approach of a mishap or danger. Along with other things they should acquire the spirit of valour and heroism. In the present day it has become necessary for them also to learn self-defence. See how grand was the Queen of Jhansi!

    Q. What you advise is quite a new departure, and it will, I am afraid, take a very long time yet to train our women in that way.

    Swamiji: Anyhow, we have to try our best. We have not only to teach them but to teach ourselves also. Mere begetting children does not make a father; a great many responsibilities have to be taken upon one’s shoulders as well. To make a beginning in women’s education: our Hindu women easily understand what chastity means, because it is their heritage. Now, first of all, intensify that ideal within them above everything else, so that they may develop a strong character by the force of which, in every stage of their life, whether married, or single if they prefer to remain so, they will not be in the least afraid even to give up their lives rather than flinch an inch from their chastity. Is it little heroism to be able to sacrifice one’s life for the sake of one’s ideal whatever that ideal may be? Studying the present needs of the age, it seems imperative to train some women up in the ideal of renunciation, so that they will take up the vow of lifelong virginity, fired with the strength of that virtue of chastity which is innate in their life-blood from hoary antiquity. Along with that they should be taught sciences and other things which would be of benefit, not only to them but to others as well, and knowing this they would easily learn these things and feel pleasure in doing so. Our motherland requires for her well-being some of her children to become such pure-souled Brahmachârins and Brahmachârinis.

    Q. In what way will that conduce to her well-being?

    Swamiji: By their example and through their endeavours to hold the national ideal before the eyes of the people, a revolution in thoughts and aspirations will take place. How do matters stand now? Somehow, the parents must dispose of a girl in marriage, if she he nine or ten years of age! And what a rejoicing of the whole family if a child is born to her at the age of thirteen! If the trend of such ideas is reversed, then only there is some hope for the ancient Shraddhâ to return. And what to talk of those who will practice Brahmacharya as defined above — think how much faith in themselves will be theirs! And what a power for good they will be!

    The questioner now saluted Swamiji and was ready to take leave. Swamiji asked him to come now and then “Certainly, sir,” replied the gentleman, “I feel so much benefited. I have heard from you many new things, which I have not been told anywhere before.” I also went home as it was about time for dinner.

  26. SrinivasanAangirasan

    Swami Vivekananda:

    We want that education by which character is formed, strength of mind is increased, the intellect is expanded, and by which one can stand on one’s own feet.

  27. SrinivasanAangirasan



    (Prabuddha Bharata, April, 1899)

    Having been directed by the Editor, writes our representative, to interview Swami Vivekananda on the question of converts to Hinduism, I found an opportunity one evening on the roof of a Garga houseboat. It was after nightfall, and we had stopped at the embankments of the Ramakrishna Math, and there the Swami came down to speak with me.

    Time and place were alike delightful. Overhead the stars, and around — the rolling Ganga; and on one side stood the dimly lighted building, with its background of palms and lofty shade-trees.

    “I want to see you, Swami”, I began, “on this matter of receiving back into Hinduism those who have been perverted from it. Is it your opinion that they should be received?”

    “Certainly,” said the Swami, “they can and ought to be taken.”

    He sat gravely for a moment, thinking, and then resumed. “Besides,” he said, “we shall otherwise decrease in numbers. When the Mohammedans first came, we are said — I think on the authority of Ferishta, the oldest Mohammedan historian — to have been six hundred millions of Hindus. Now we are about two hundred millions. And then every man going out of the Hindu pale is not only a man less, but an enemy the more.

    “Again, the vast majority of Hindu perverts to Islam and Christianity are perverts by the sword, or the descendants of these. It would be obviously unfair to subject these to disabilities of any kind. As to the case of born aliens, did you say? Why, born aliens have been converted in the past by crowds, and the process is still going on.

    “In my own opinion, this statement not only applies to aboriginal tribes, to outlying nations, and to almost all our conquerors before the Mohammedan conquest, but also in the Purânas. I hold that they have been aliens thus adopted.

    “Ceremonies of expiation are no doubt suitable in the case of willing converts, returning to their Mother-Church, as it were; but on those who were alienated by conquest — as in Kashmir and Nepal — or on strangers wishing to join us, no penance should be imposed.”

    “But of what caste would these people be, Swamiji?” I ventured to ask. “They must have some, or they can never be assimilated into the great body of Hindus. Where shall we look for their rightful place?”

    “Returning converts”, said the Swami quietly, “will gain their own castes, of course. And new people will make theirs. You will remember,” he added, “that this has already been done in the case of Vaishnavism. Converts from different castes and aliens were all able to combine under that flag and form a caste by themselves — and a very respectable one too. From Râmânuja down to Chaitanya of Bengal, all great Vaishnava Teachers have done the same.”

    “And where should these new people expect to marry?” I asked.

    “Amongst themselves, as they do now”, said the Swami quietly.

    “Then as to names,” I enquired, “I suppose aliens and perverts who have adopted non-Hindu names should be named newly. Would you give them caste-names, or what?”

    “Certainly,” said the Swami, thoughtfully, “there is a great deal in a name!” and on this question he would say no more.

    But my next enquiry drew blood. “Would you leave these new-comers, Swamiji, to choose their own form of religious belief out of many-visaged Hinduism, or would you chalk out a religion for them?”

    “Can you ask that?” he said. “They will choose for themselves. For unless a man chooses for himself, the very spirit of Hinduism is destroyed. The essence of our Faith consists simply in this freedom of the Ishta.”

    I thought the utterance a weighty one, for the man before me has spent more years than any one else living I fancy, in studying the common bases of Hinduism in a scientific and sympathetic spirit — and the freedom of the Ishta is obviously a principle big enough to accommodate the world.

    But the talk passed to other matters, and then with a cordial good night this great teacher of religion lifted his lantern and went back into the monastery, while I by the pathless paths of the Ganga, in and out amongst her crafts of many sizes, made the best of my way back to my Calcutta home.

  28. SrinivasanAangirasan



    (Prabuddha Bharata, September, 1898)

    In an interview which a representative of Prabuddha Bharata had recently with the Swami Vivekananda, that great Teacher was asked: “What do you consider the distinguishing feature of your movement, Swamiji?”

    “Aggression,” said the Swami promptly, “aggression in a religious sense only. Other sects and parties have carried spirituality all over India, but since the days of Buddha we have been the first to break bounds and try to flood the world with missionary zeal.”

    “And what do you consider to be the function of your movement as regards India?’

    “To find the common bases of Hinduism and awaken the national consciousness to them. At present there are three parties in India included under the term ‘Hindu’ — the orthodox, the reforming sects of the Mohammedan period, and the reforming sects of the present time. Hindus from North to South are only agreed on one point, viz. on not eating beef.”

    “Not in a common love for the Vedas?”

    “Certainly not. That is just what we want to reawaken. India has not yet assimilated the work of Buddha. She is hypnotised by his voice, not made alive by it.”

    “In what way do you see this importance of Buddhism in India today?”

    “It is obvious and overwhelming. You see India never loses anything; only she takes time to turn everything into bone and muscle. Buddha dealt a blow at animal sacrifice from which India has never recovered; and Buddha said, ‘Kill no cows’, and cow-killing is an impossibility with us.”

    “With which of the three parties you name do you indentify yourself, Swamiji?”

    “With all of them. We are orthodox Hindus,” said the Swami, “but”, he added suddenly with great earnestness and emphasis, “we refuse entirely to identify ourselves with ‘Don’t-touchism’. That is not Hinduism: it is in none of our books; it is an unorthodox superstition which has interfered with national efficiency all along the line.”

    “Then what you really desire is national efficiency?”

    “Certainly. Can you adduce any reason why India should lie in the ebb-tide of the Aryan nations? Is she inferior in intellect? Is she inferior in dexterity? Can you look at her art, at her mathematics, at her philosophy, and answer ‘yes’? All that is needed is that she should de-hypnotise herself and wake up from her age-long sleep to take her true rank in the hierarchy of nations.”

    “But India has always had her deep inner life. Are you not afraid, Swamiji, that in attempting to make her active you may take from her, her one great treasure?”

    “Not at all. The history of the past has gone to develop the inner life of India and the activity (i.e. the outer life) of the West. Hitherto these have been divergent. The time has now come for them to unite. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa was alive to the depths of being, yet on the outer plane who was more active? This is the secret. Let your life be as deep as the ocean, but let it also be as wide as the sky.

    “It is a curious thing”, continued the Swami, “that the inner life is often most profoundly developed where the outer conditions are most cramping and limiting. But this is an accidental — not an essential — association, and if we set ourselves right here in India, the world will be ‘tightened’. For are we not all one?”

    “Your last remarks, Swamiji, raise another question. In what sense is Shri Ramakrishna a part of this awakened Hinduism?”

    “That is not for me to determine”, said the Swami. “I have never preached personalities. My own life is guided by the enthusiasm of this great soul; but others will decide for themselves how far they share in this attitude. Inspiration is not filtered out to the world through one channel, however great. Each generation should be inspired afresh. Are we not all God?”

    “Thank you. I have only one question more to ask you. You have defined the attitude and function of your movement with regard to your own people. Could you in the same way characterise your methods of action as a whole?”

    “Our method”, said the Swami, “is very easily described. It simply consists in reasserting the national life. Buddha preached renunciation. India heard, and yet in six centuries she reached heir greatest height. The secret lies there. The national. ideals of India are RENUNCIATION and SERVICE. Intensify her in those channels, and the rest will take carte of itself. The banner of the spiritual cannot be raised too high in this country. In it alone is salvation.

  29. SrinivasanAangirasan



    (India, London, 1896)

    During the London season, Swami Vivekananda has been teaching and lecturing to considerable numbers of people who have been attracted by his doctrine and philosophy. Most English people fancy that England has the practical monopoly of missionary enterprise, almost unbroken save for a small effort on the part of France. I therefore sought the Swami in his temporary home in South Belgravia to enquire what message India could possibly send to England, apart from the remonstrances she has too often had to make on the subject of home charges, judicial and executive functions combined in one person, the settlement of expenses connected with Sudanese and other expeditions.

    “It is no new thing”, said the Swami composedly, “that India should send forth missionaries. She used to do so under the Emperor Asoka, in the days when the Buddhist faith was young, when she had something to teach the surrounding nation.”

    “Well, might one ask why she ever ceased doing so, and why she has now begun again?”

    “She ceased because she grew selfish, forgot the principle that nations and individuals alike subsist and prosper by a system of give and take. Her mission to the world has always been the same. It is spiritual, the realm of introspective thought has been hers through all the ages; abstract science, metaphysics, logic, are her special domain. In reality, my mission to England is an outcome of England’s to India. It has been hers to conquer, to govern, to use her knowledge of physical science to her advantage and ours. In trying to sum up India’s contribution to the world, I am reminded of a Sanskrit and an English idiom. When you say a man dies, your phrase is, ‘He gave up the ghost’, whereas we say, ‘He gave up the body’. Similarly, you more than imply that the body is the chief part of man by saying it possesses a soul. Whereas we say a man is a soul and possesses a body. These are but small ripples on the surface, yet they show the current of your national thought. I should like to remind you how Schopenhauer predicted that the influence of Indian philosophy upon Europe would be as momentous when it became well known as was the revival of Greek and Latin learning at the close of the Dark Ages. Oriental research is making great progress; a new world of ideas is opening to the seeker after truth.”

    “And is India finally to conquer her conquerors?”

    “Yes, in the world of ideas. England has the sword, the material world, as our Mohammedan conquerors had before her. Yet Akbar the Great became practically a Hindu; educated Mohammedans, the Sufis, are hardly to be distinguished from the Hindus; they do not eat beef, and in other ways conform to our usages. Their thought has become permeated bv ours.”

    “So, that is the fate you foresee for the lordly Sahib? Just at this moment he seems to be a long way off it.”

    “No, it is not so remote as you imply. In the world of religious ideas, the Hindu and the Englishman have much in common, and there is proof of the same thing among other religious communities. Where the English ruler or civil servant has had any knowledge of India’s literature, especially her philosophy, there exists the ground of a common sympathy, a territory constantly widening. It is not too much to say that only ignorance is the cause of that exclusive — sometimes even contemptuous — attitude assumed by some.”

    “Yes, it is the measure of folly. Will you say why you went to America rather than to England on your mission?”

    “That was a mere accident — a result of the World’s Parliament of Religions being held in Chicago at the time of the World’s Fair, instead of in London, as it ought to have been. The Raja of Mysore and some other friends sent me to America as the Hindu representative. I stayed there three years, with the exception of last summer and this summer, when I came to lecture in London. The Americans are a great people, with a future before them. I admire them very much, and found many kind friends among them. They are less prejudiced than the English, more ready to weigh end examine anew idea, to value it in spite of its newness. They are most hospitable too; far less time is lost in showing one’s credentials, as it were. You travel in America, as I did, from city to city, always lecturing among friends. I saw Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Des Moines, Memphis, and numbers of other places.”

    “And leaving disciples in each of them?”

    “Yes, disciples, but not organizations. That is no part of my work. Of these there are enough in all conscience. Organisations need men to manage them; they must seek power, money, influence. Often they struggle for domination, and even fight.”

    “Could the gist of this mission of yours be summed up in a few words? Is it comparative religion you want to preach?”

    “It is really the philosophy of religion, the kernel of all its outward forms. All forms of religion have an essential and a non-essential part. If we strip from them the latter, there remains the real basis of all religion, which all forms of religion possess in common. Unity is behind them all. We may call it God, Allah, Jehovah, the Spirit, Love; it is the same unity that animates all life, from its lowest form to its noblest manifestation in man. It is on this unity that we need to lay stress, whereas in the West, and indeed everywhere, it is on the non-essential that men are apt to lay stress. They will fight and kill each other for these forms, to make their fellows conform. Seeing that the essential is love of God and love of man, this is curious, to say the least.”

    “I suppose a Hindu could never persecute.”

    “He never yet has done so; he is the most tolerant of all the races of men. Considering how profoundly religious he is, one might have thought that he would persecute those who believe in no God. The Jains regard such belief as sheer delusion, yet no Jain has ever been persecuted. In India the Mohammedans were the first who ever took the sword.”

    “What progress does the doctrine of essential unity make in England? Here we have a thousand sects.”

    “They must gradually disappear as liberty and knowledge increase. They are founded on the nonessential, which by the nature of things cannot survive. The sects have served their purpose, which was that of an exclusive brotherhood on lines comprehended by those within it. Gradually we reach the idea of universal brotherhood by flinging down the walls of partition which separate such aggregations of individuals. In England the work proceeds slowly, possibly because the time is not yet ripe for it; but all the same, it makes progress. Let me call your attention to the similar work that England is engaged upon in India. Modern caste distinction is a barrier to India’s progress. It narrows, restricts, separates. It will crumble before the advance of ideas.

    “Yet some Englishmen, and they are not the least sympathetic to India nor the most ignorant of her history, regard caste as in the main beneficent. One may easily be too much Europeanised. You yourself condemn many of our ideals as materialistic.”

    “True. No reasonable person aims at assimilating India to England; the body is made by the thought that lies behind it. The body politic is thus the expression of national thought, and in India, of thousands of years of thought. To Europeanise India is therefore an impossible and foolish task: the elements of progress were always actively present in India. As soon as a peaceful government was there, these have always shown themselves. From the time of the Upanishads down to the present day, nearly all our great Teachers have wanted to break through the barriers of caste, i.e. caste in its degenerate state, not the original system. What little good you see in the present caste clings to it from the original caste, which was the most glorious social institution. Buddha tried to re-establish caste in its original form. At every period of India’s awakening, there have always been great efforts made to break down caste. But it must always be we who build up a new India as an effect and continuation of her past, assimilating helpful foreign ideas wherever they may be found. Never can it be they; growth must proceed from within. All that England can do is to help India to work out her own salvation. All progress at the dictation of another, whose hand is at India’s throat, is valueless in my opinion. The highest work can only degenerate when slave-labour produces it.”

    “Have you given any attention to the Indian National Congress movement?”

    “I cannot claim to have given much; my work is in another part of the field. But I regard the movement as significant, and heartily wish it success. A nation is being made out of India’s different races. I sometimes think they are no less various than the different peoples of Europe. In the past, Europe has struggled for Indian trade, a trade which has played a tremendous part in the civilisation of the world; its acquisition might almost be called a turning-point in the history of humanity. We see the Dutch, Portuguese, French, and English contending for it in succession. The discovery of America may be traced to the indemnification the Venetians sought in the far distant West for the loss they suffered in the East.”

    “Where will it end?”

    “It will certainly end in the working out of India’s homogeneity, in her acquiring what we may call democratic ideas. Intelligence must not remain the monopoly of the cultured few; it will be disseminated from higher to lower classes. Education is coming, and compulsory education will follow. The immense power of our people for work must be utilised. India’s potentialities are great and will be called forth”

    “Has any nation ever been great without being a great military power?”

    “Yes,” said the Swami without a moment’s hesitation, “China has. Amongst other countries, I have travelled in China and Japan. Today, China is like a disorganised mob; but in the heyday of her greatness she possessed the most admirable organisation any nation has yet known Many of the devices and methods we term modern were practiced by the Chinese for hundreds and even thousands of years. Take competitive examination as an illustration.”

    “Why did she become disorganized?”

    “Because she could not produce men equal to the system. You have the saying that men cannot be made virtuous by an Act of Parliament; the Chinese experienced it before you. And that is why religion is of deeper importance than politics, since it goes to the root, and deals with the essential of conduct.”

    “Is India conscious of the awakening that you allude to?”

    “Perfectly conscious. The world perhaps sees it chiefly in the Congress movement and in the field of social reform; but the awakening is quite as real in religion, though it works more silently.”

    “The West and East have such different ideals of life. Ours seems to be the perfecting of the social state. Whilst we are busy seeing to these matters, Orientals are meditating on abstractions. Here has Parliament been discussing the payment of the Indian army in the Sudan. All the respectable section of the Conservative press has made a loud outcry against the unjust decision of the Government, whereas you probably think the whole affair not worth attention.”

    “But you are quite wrong”, said the Swami, taking the paper and running his eyes over extracts from the Conservative Journals. “My sympathies in this matter are naturally with my country. Yet it reminds one of the old Sanskrit proverb: ‘You have sold the elephant, why quarrel over the goad?’ India always pays. The quarrels of politicians are very curious. It will take ages to bring religion into politics.”

    “One ought to make the effort very soon all the same.”

    “Yes, it is worth one’s while to plant an idea in the heart of this great London, surely the greatest governing machine that has ever been set in motion. I often watch it working, the power and perfection with which the minutest vein is reached, its wonderful system of circulation and distribution. It helps one to realise how great is the Empire and how great its task. And with all the rest, it distributes thought. It would be worth a man’s while to place some ideas in the heart of this great machine, so that they might circulate to the remotest part.”

    The Swami is a man of distinguished appearance. Tall, broad, with fine features enhanced by his picturesque Eastern dress, his personality is very striking. By birth, he is a Bengali, and by education, a graduate of the Calcutta University. His gifts as an orator are high. He can speak for an hour and a half without a note or the slightest pause for a word.

    C. S. B.


  30. SrinivasanAangirasan



    (The Echo, London, 1896)

    . . . I presume that in his own country the Swami would live under a tree, or at most in the precincts of a temple, his head shaved, dressed in the costume of his country. But these things are not done in London, so that I found the Swami located much like other people, and, save that he wears a long coat of a dark orange shade, dressed like other mortals likewise. He laughingly related that his dress, especially when he wears a turban, does not commend itself to the London street arab, whose observations are scarcely worth repeating. I began by asking the Indian Yogi to spell his name very slowly. . . .

    “Do you think that nowadays people are laying much stress on the non-essential?”

    “I think so among the backward nations, and among the less cultured portion of the civilised people of the West. Your question implies that among the cultured and the wealthy, matters are on a different footing. So they are; the wealthy are either immersed in the enjoyment of health or grubbing for more. They, and a large section of the busy people, say of religion that it is rot, stuff, nonsense, and they honestly think so The only religion that is fashionable is patriotism and Mrs. Grundy. People merely go to church when they are marrying or burying somebody.”

    “Will your message take them oftener to church?”

    “I scarcely think it will. Since I have nothing whatever to do with ritual or dogma; my mission is to show that religion is everything and in everything. . . . And what can we say of the system here in England? Everything goes to show that Socialism or some form of rule by the people, call it what you w ill, is coming on the boards. The people will certainly want the satisfaction of their material needs, less work, no oppression, no war, more food. What guarantee have we that this or any civilisation will last, unless it is based on religion, on the goodness of man? Depend on it, religion goes to the root of the matter. If it is right, all is right.”

    “It must be difficult to get the essential, the metaphysical, part of religion into the minds of the people. It is remote from their thoughts and manner of life.”

    “In all religions we travel from a lesser to a higher truth, never from error to truth. There is a Oneness. behind all creation, but minds are very various. ‘That which exists is One, sages call It variously.’ What I mean is that one progresses from a smaller to a greater truth. The worst religions are only bad readings of the froth. One gets to understand bit by bit. Even devil-worship is but a perverted reading of the ever-true and immutable Brahman. Other phases have more or less of the truth in them. No form of religion possesses it entirely.”

    “May one ask if you originated this religion you have come to preach to England?”

    “Certainly not. I am a pupil of a great Indian sage, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. He was not what one might call a very learned man, as some of our sages are, but a very holy one, deeply imbued with the spirit of the Vedanta philosophy. When I say philosophy, I hardly know whether I ought not to say religion, for it is really both. You must read Professor Max Müller’s account of my Master in a recent number of the Nineteenth Century. Ramakrishna was born in the Hooghly district in 1836 and died in 1886. He produced a deep effect on the life of Keshab Chandra Sen and others. By discipline of the body and subduing of the mind he obtained a wonderful insight into the spiritual world. His face was distinguished by a childlike tenderness, profound humility, and remarkable sweetness of expression. No one could look upon it unmoved.”

    “Then your teaching is derived from the Vedas?”

    “Yes, Vedanta means the end of the Vedas, the third section or Upanishads, containing the ripened ideas which we find more as germs in the earlier portion. The most ancient portion of the Vedas is the Samhitâ, which is in very archaic Sanskrit, only to be understood by the aid of a very old dictionary, the Nirukta of Yâska.”

    “I fear that we English have rather the idea that India has much to learn from us; the average man is pretty ignorant as to what may be learnt from India.”

    “That is so, but the world of scholars know well how much is to be learnt and how important the lesson. You would not find Max Müller, Monier Williams, Sir William Hunter, or German Oriental scholars making light of Indian abstract science.”

    . . . The Swami gives his lecture at 39 Victoria Street. All are made welcome, and as in ancient apostolic times, the new teaching is without money and without price. The Indian missionary is a mall of exceptionally fine physique; his command of English can only be described as perfect.

    C. S. B.

  31. Please send your hindi version of your web,

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