I saw Jules the last month in Paris, during the walk to close all the slaughterhouses. He was at the head of the demonstration, on a truck, holding a megaphone. I didn’t know him but I instantaneously fell hard for the energy he radiated. His body was covered with Hindu tattoos, signs of peace, wisdom and love and his smile was so radiant. I found out who he was and I discovered that he has a passionate interest in meditation and gives meditation courses. So I made a call to meet with him and a fortnight later I joined one of his meditation classes. Jules tells us about veganism, activism and meditation. Let us take you on a journey on the banks of the Ganges.
The recording is in French with English subtitles.
So the first thing I would like you to do is to introduce yourself.
My name is Jules. I am 42 years old. I live in Paris.
I became a vegetarian when I was 6 – 7 years old. It was a personal choice. I asked my mother to be vegetarian. I was happy that my mother and my grand mother agreed with this choice. It was not so easy at the beginning of the 80s in a small provincial town. It went well. I know that during one year, they cheated until I was able to read. They gave me raviolis and I didn’t know. But as soon as I was able to read they had to stop.
I was conscious that it was not a good thing to kill animals. That made me very sad so I asked my mother. So, until I was 32 years old. In between I heard about veganism but it was the 2000s, when the Internet started, effectively there was no information about that.
I heard about veganism when I went to NY with the movement Freegan. This challenged me but because I didn’t have so much information about the topic, I found it cool but a bit extreme. This scared me. We were in a time where there was no information, we didn’t meet vegans, the Internet was beginning so I was a little afraid to have a lack in proteins and blablabla….. and then in 2006, fortunately, the Internet became more standard, at least in my life. Information was accurate, reliable and so on. It took me one or two years to progressively cut things out.
Most of my friends are vegetarian or vegan and those I meet are either in my fitness club so they are very concerned with their body, whether they can get enough proteins, whether they will be in good shape and so on, or they are gay to whom looks are important, so they want to be sure to not become skeletal or fat or have pale skin.
I have been in better shape since I turned vegan rather than when I was vegetarian.
Thanks to Facebook, there was a little community that simmered like that. So I googled vegan on Facebook and I found this community, I don’t even remember the name of the page but I found people friendly, at least in the contacts I had.
I had already militated against fur before 2006. It went no so well. I found people aggressive, they leafleted aggressively, and I had the feeling that I didn’t find my place there so I went step by step and people who belonged to this Facebook page succeeded in convincing me to go one day to an anti-vivisection demonstration and there I saw that the movement was already large, it was a huge demonstration, and I found naturally my place and the will to militate.
So I militated a lot during 3-4 years. Several time a week, and it is true that… I felt that I developed an aggressiveness that should not be, that was foreign to me but that came. It’s true that I was full of hate and I even became psychosomatic. I had so much hate in me that I pulled muscle sprains by simply speaking through a megaphone. So I told myself that something went wrong.
It went too far
Yes, that’s it. And it had to stop. What I became didn’t please me and I needed to take a break not from veganism but from activism.
This happened at a time when some vegan movements were a bit aggressive. I found that it didn’t go well so I took a step back and I still stand back even if once a year Brigitte (Gothiere) from L214 asks me to be a voice and it’s a real pleasure to do so for the L214 association but it is a fact that I do less actions and do less leafleting, I do it a lot less.
And then I just resumed what I have always done. This means looking inward, meditating, and so I recovered quickly meaning became happy again and kind which I must confess was not always the case during those 4 years when I militated actively.
So today if I am here with you it’s because you invited me to a meditation workshop, thank you.
I practised when I was young and I stopped for a long time. I completely stopped when I was between 12 and 30 years old, because of school, because of work, because of life and perhaps less motivation, I don’t know exactly why, and I resumed progressively when I was 30 when I went to India for the first time. When I landed in India, it was so obvious. I have now been there thirty times. It’s a necessity. This leads me to the foundations, to go to schools, the Ashrams, to learn, to study, to experiment.
I watched a documentary on TV one day about Jainism and it was very relevant in relation to an education that I had when I was young and then I really wanted to see on the ground how it was. When I arrived there, it was so obvious.
Could you tell us more about Jainism, is it a religion, a philosophy, a lifestyle?
Yes, it’s a religion. Buddhism is also a religion unfortunately people try to make it a philosophy, it’s also a philosophy but it’s a religion as well. It’s a brahmanical counter-trend. Hinduism at this time drifted to lot of sacrifices and technical rituals. It was a reform against this that led to Jainism so against animal sacrifices, with Buddhism as well. The reformist of Jains, Mahavira, lived at the same time as Buddha, even though he was older, they were contemporaries. They never met but they knew each other’s teachings. They were two rival trends that had different developments but still exist today.
And where does your interest in Jainism come from because it’s very far from our Western culture?
It’s far but it’s close at the same time because it resonates with me. So yes of course, there was the animal issue that was crucial. If it was a bloody religion, it is clear that I would never have joined it. There were concepts that rang true to me and that resonated with my childhood. Ahimsa, which is a key topic for Jainism, is the triple non-violence: do not kill, do not ask for killing, do not accept killing and even triple of triple in thought, in word and in action.
It was something important for me, and which helped me to carry on, at least when I was a young adult.This transformed my life perhaps because it gave meaning to my vegetarianism at this time. I was only vegetarian when I started with that. It brought me welfare, serenity. There are also teachings, specific meditations, texts to read that are really beautiful, that lead you to think and echo what I learnt when I was young.
I realised that I needed to expand my experiences and I was lucky to meet a little nun at Rishikesh, who was singing on the banks of the Ganges, the Mataji, which is a Hindu song. She moved me so deeply that for 5 years I visited her twice a year just to listen to her singing and try to imitate her and try to learn what she sang at the same time.
And she, I wouldn’t say took me out of Jainism, I keep it with me and I will always keep it with me, but she opened up new possibilities and so I have perhaps indulged more in Hinduism. It’s true that she was the teacher that I sought, and that I found, that I was lucky to have found, that opened my eyes to lots of other things, even if she didn’t do this intentionally but she opened my eyes to lots of other things and I am grateful to her.
And you told me when we did our meditation workshop that you wanted to open a meditation school.
No, I don’t want to open a school but I would like to join a centre. The courses I give work well, for the moment I give them at home and there is no enough room to swing a cat so I should find a room and it would be great to find a room in a yoga centre. The only thing is when it’s at home it’s necessarily free and I want my courses to remain free. If they are given in a room, necessarily the price of the room should be shared and this is what refrains me. I like the idea that it’s free and people haven’t to pay for accessing wellbeing. This is something very important for me so yes I am seeking and at the same time it will corrupt my ideal to ask for a €5 contribution.
I saw that in relation with Hinduism and Jainism you write books
Yes, I try.
Tell us a bit more!
I wrote a book when I was 30 years old which was on iconography of Jainism. A self-published book.
Last year, I wrote a book on ‘The most flamboyant stories of Indian mythology’; I mean flamboyant as gay stories.
I went to a satsang, a religious speech. This was an American nun but Hindu, who roughly said that homosexuality has no place in Hinduism. It was a speech a bit narrow minded and this didn’t sound right to me. I even thought it was the opposite.
So I did some research and I found a lot of LGBT stories and so I wanted to write this small book. I didn’t give it to her. I wanted to give it to her but it is written in French and she doesn’t speak French. It was like a revenge on her speeches.
So I wrote it last year and then it came to my mind that I could also write a book about animals, the animal condition, what they represent and so on.
So I recently wrote one and now I am on my third book on ‘The fabulous aspects of the Goddess in the Hindu mythology’
We will have to end this interview. Do you have a final word to people who will watch you?
Yes, a little sentence from a book titled ‘Meditation saved me’ by Phakyab Rinpoche and which says that
‘without opening of the heart, ethics remains disembodied with the risk to drift towards intolerance’
Thank you so much
More information about Jules:
- Join his meditation workshops:
- Buy his books on www.lulu.com (only in French for the moment)
Le bestiaire incroyable de la mythologie hindoue
Les histoires les plus FOLLES de la mythologie hindoue