Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Francois Gautier's Story

About myself

I was born in Paris. My father was a devout catholic and an extremely good man, who became quite famous an artist in his own field; my mother, who influenced me a lot, was an intellectual and a part time journalist, while looking full time after my father’s PR and finances. They remained faithful to one another during their lifetime.

Yet I had an unhappy childhood, not understanding who I was, where I was and what I was doing there. As a result I grew up as a rather rebellious and antisocial child, always looking for solitude and dreaming of ‘other’ things.

When I had just turned 19, I heard through a friend that a caravan of five cars was about to set out from Paris to Pondicherry to start an international city, based on the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, called Auroville. I had no knowledge about India, no interest in Indian spirituality, but I wanted to see the world and grow up a ‘man’. This seemed like a good opportunity.

After 5 weeks of adventurous travel (we had an accident in Iran, were waylaid in Afghanistan and had to pull the two vans which broke down), we drove from Lahore to Delhi and reached the Indian capital by early morning on a Sunday.

We stayed at the branch of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, in Aurobindo Marg, which in these days was still amongst fields. In the evening as the sun was setting, I climbed on the roof of one of the vans with a book by Sri Aurobindo: the Life Divine. There, as farmers were coming home, birds singing and the sky turning a bright red, I read a few random lines. A wave of peace suddenly descended upon me and I had an intense spiritual experience, understanding in a flash concepts which I had never even thought about: karma, dharma, or avatar. It also dawned upon me that I had finally come HOME.

By the time we reached Pondicherry, I had decided that I would remain in India all my life and that I would devote myself to yoga.

The spiritual path resembles life: the first years are enthusiastic, effortless, but as time rolls by, routine can set in, tamas and sometimes even disillusion. The first four years of my stay in Pondicherry were thus extraordinary: the Mother was still in Her body and I had the privilege to meet Her several times. I felt as if I had entered my real childhood: everything was beautiful, and the sky was the limit. But then She left in November 1973 and things became more difficult thereafter.

My Art of Living experience

I broke my nose when I was a kid and two operations later, was still breathing badly. I knew about pranayama and in 1993 someone told me about AOL. We met Guruji with my wife Namrita on 24th December 1993, in Gyan Mandir. We did the basic course as directed by Guruji with Michael Fischman and then immediately, a number of advance courses with the most extraordinary teachers: Rajshree and Phillip, to whom we owe an eternal debt of gratitude, for they set us upon the path.

Those of you who run the marathon or the semi-marathon, know that often, as fatigue or lassitude sets in, you find a second breath which carries you all the way to the finish line. This meeting with Guruji was our second breath on this sacred land which is India.

Being a Frenchman and a journalist (both by ‘accident’, or by fate, whichever you want to call it), I still do believe that one should be able to observe within oneself the benefits of a spiritual life. What has Sri Sri Ravi Shankar brought to us?

He brought back enthusiasm, confidence, joy and drive in our lives and into whichever field we are in, whether writing, , Auroville or even sports. To know a living Guru during one’s lifetime, as intimately as we have been able to be with Guruji through our work, or writing the Guru of Joy, is an immense privilege which is given to very few. I have had even the extraordinary chance to meet two gurus in this lifetime, the Mother and HH Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

There is nothing sadder than an aging sadhak or sadhika, once in his or her spiritual prime, but which decrepitude overtakes. Once we pass 40, our physical endurance declines and henceforth our powers of concentration and endurance. After we started practicing Guruji’s pranayama and SK, our energy level has increased both at the mental and physical level - and still does.

Sri Sri has also taught us the wonderful concept of sewa (*). In the West, we practice charity, but charity always expects something in return. Mother Teresa, a Nobel Prize, was a great proponent of Charity, but she did insist on conversion. Guruji, whose work is so manifold and thus deserves so much more the Nobel Prize, not only expects nothing in return, but gives a little of Himself every time. His tireless 16 hours a day work, his relentless travelling across time zones, are bound to affect his body, in spite of his Divinity. This is the great mystery and sacrifice of avatarhood, something so immense, that it wrings your heart, every time you think about it.

I have had a fair amount of accolades and rewards (and also criticism) so far, but nothing tops teaching His Holiness’ courses. It is a privilege and a boon and when you take that seat in front of the class, you are elevated to a consciousness… which you are not always able to maintain in everyday’s life.

Finally, as some of you may know, I am an ardent defender of Hindus. Sri Sri, although he is a universal Guru, applying his love and energy to people of all ethnic origin and religion, with the help of teachers and volunteers belonging to all walks and beliefs, has embarked upon the revitalisation and modernization of the eternal spiritual values which stand behind and prop up what is called Hinduism.

To Him goes my gratitude. Fr

(*) We have embarked upon our biggest sewa project: a Museum of (true) Indian History in Pune, for which we need your support (see: fact-india.com)


  1. I have gone through 'Guru of Joy' three times and right now reading it the fourth time, very very intensely. Every time I go through the lines, I feel it is nothing but my own experience worded by someone. At times, my voice gets choked with gratitude, some other time tears roll down from my eyes. Every time I read about Guruji remembering his mother at Varanasi and your sudden emotional expression, the tears just cannot stop flowing out of my eyes.

    Recently I met two of the personalities of Guru og Joy. On 11th August 2010,Sanjay, acted as a messenger in facilitating my direct meeting with Guruji at Delhi. I also met Indu Sinha, on 15th August at a Satsang at Chhattarpur. How amazing. I felt as if your book is unfolding the whole of Art Of Living, before my life.

    Waiting to meet you personally sometime.

    New Delhi

  2. Jai Gurudev!

    You have made the big task of compressing your experience around Guruji (and with India) so easy with your smooth flowing narrative, full of deep feeling. Thanks a lot! May we see more from your pen about Guruji and AoL and India!!!



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