M.K. Gandhi

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, better known as Mahatma Gandhi, was, in the long series of sages, the latest one who reflected the spirit of true India, led the country towards her goal of political freedom along the spiritual path and deeply influenced the collective consciousness of India.

  He came to India’s national scene in 1920 and dominated it till his death in 1948. In his life time he was endearingly addressed by the teaming millions of Indian people as ‘Bapu’ or father, reverentially bestowed the title of ‘Mahatma, or the ‘great soul’ and post hummus designated as ‘the father of the nation’.

None of the great political personalities of his times came near his giant stature. At best, they claimed to be his true followers.

  Mahatma Gandhi records thus in his autobiography titled ‘My Experiments with truth’:   “From my sixth or seventh year up to my sixteenth I was at school, being taught all sorts of things except religion. I may say that I failed to get from the teachers what they could have given me without any effort on their part. And yet I kept on picking up things here and there from my surroundings, The term ‘religion’ I am using in its broadest sense, meaning thereby self-realization or knowledge of self.

  “Being born in the Vaishnava faith, I had often to go to the Haveli. But it never appealed to me. I did not like its glitter and pomp. Also I heard rumors of immorality practiced there, and lost all interest in it. Hence I could gain nothing from the Haveli.

  “But what I failed to get there I obtained from my nurse, an old servant of the family, whose affection for me I still recall. I have said before that there was in me a fear of ghosts and spirits. Rambha, for that was her name, suggested, as a remedy for this fear, the repetition of Ramanama. I had more faith in her than in her remedy, and so at a tender age I began repeating Ramanama to cure my fear of ghosts and spirits. This was of course short-lived, but the good seed sown in childhood was not sown in vain. I think it is due to the seed sown by that good woman Rambha that today Ramanama is an infallible remedy for me.”

  In ‘Harijan’ Gandhi wrote thus:   “Allah of Islam is the same what is God of Christians and Ishwar of Hindus. As there are many names of Ishwar in Hindu religion, in the same manner there are many names of Ishwar in Islam also. These names indicate the attributes (of Ishwar) and not (His) many personalities. And feeble man has attempted in his humble way to describe the Almighty God by His attributes, though He is beyond attributes, description and infinite.”

  He again wrote: “Yogic exercises I do not know. What I am given to do, is that which I had learnt from my nurse in my childhood. I had fear of ghost. To this she used to say, ‘there is nothing like ghost, but still if you have fear then resort to recitation of Ramanama.’

  “What I learnt in my childhood has assumed a gigantic form in my mental span. This sun has provided me a light in the moments of my darkest hours. The same assurance is received by a Christian on recitation of the name of Christ and by a Muscleman on recitation of the name of Allah.

  “All these things have the same meaning and produce the same resultin the similar circumstances. Only, this recitation of name should not be like a parrot, but this name-sound should arise out of the deep heart.”

  Gandhi wrote in ‘ Young India’: “I do not forget one saying of Tamil language. Its meaning is, “One who does not have any support, has the support of God.” If you want to pray to Him to help you, then you should go to Him with your true self, you should take the refuge in Him without having any hesitation or personal reservation and do not entertain a doubt that how He would help a debased and sinful person like you – how He would save you. Would He, who has helped those millions who took refuge in Him, leave you without His help? He doesn’t practice any sort of partiality or discrimination.

  “You will find that He listens to each of your prayer. God will listen to the prayers of the most sinful. I say this on the basis of my own experience. I have gone through the torments of this hell. You must first take refuge at the feet of God and you will get everything.”

  A statement of Gandhi in Young India reads thus: “But prayer (to God) is not the exercise of words or ears. It is not the Jap (repetition) of some meaningless Mantra or Sutra. It all will be useless to repeat Ramanama, how so ever you do it, if it (Ramanama) is not able to awaken the soul.

  “It is far better if you pray with your heart even without using the words rather than the prayer wherein there are very many words but no heart. The prayer should be in form of the clear answer to the soul’s longings, that (soul) always remains thirsty for Him. And as a hungry man feels happy on getting food, the thirsty soul feels happiness from a prayer done with heart.

  “I say on the basis of my own experience and of the experience of my comrades, that one who has experienced the miracle of prayer, can live without food for several days but (he) cannot live without prayer for a moment, for there is no internal peace without prayer.”

  Gandhi had a dream about India that is diagonally opposite to what India has chartered in practice during her existence after independence. Is it possible today after half a century to backtrack and charter the new course that was dreamt by Gandhi?

  Whether we are able to do so or not will shape the destiny of India. Whether India’s place in the unfolding history of mankind’s civilization is to be that of a spiritual teacher or a mere tail-end of the materialist rat-race going on in our world will depend on the answer to this question. This answer will also bear a momentous political significance for her life.

  Gandhi is reported to have said, informs the book ‘India of My Dreams’ – a compilation of his speeches, articles etc. – thus: “I believe that the goal of India is different from that of other countries. India has the capability that she can become the greatest in the field of religion. The world has not seen the parallel of what India has done willingly for self-purification. India does not need that much the iron weapons; she has fought with divine weapons and can fight even today with those weapons.

  “Brute force has been the ideal of other countries. … India can conquer all with her will power. History may provide as many examples as one wants that brute force is nothing in comparison to will power.

  “India’s destiny lies not along the bloody way of the West, of which she shows signs of tiredness, but along the bloodless way of peace that comes from a simple and godly life.

  “India is in danger of losing her soul. She cannot lose it and live. She must not, therefore, lazily and helplessly say, “I cannot escape the onrush from the West.” She must be strong enough to resist it for own sake and that of the world.”

  “I feel in the innermost recesses of my heart that the world is sick unto death of blood-spilling. The world is seeking a way out, and I flatter myself with the belief that perhaps it will be the privilege of the ancient land of India to show that way out to the hungering world.

  “If India fails, Asia dies .It has been aptly called the nursery of many blended cultures and civilizations. Let India be and remain the hope of all the exploited races of the earth, whether in Asia, Africa or in any part of the world.

  “Independence must begin at the bottom. Thus, every village will be a Republic or panchayat having full powers. It follows, therefore, that every village has to be self-sustained and capable of managing its affairs even to the extant of defending itself against the whole world. It will be trained and prepared to perish in its attempt to defend itself against any onslaught from without.

  “Thus, ultimately, it is the individual who is the unit. This does not exclude dependence on and willing help from neighbors or from the world. It will be free and voluntary play of mutual forces. Such a society is necessarily highly cultured, in which every man and woman knows what he or she wants and, what is more, knows that no one should want anything that others cannot have with equal labor.

  “This society must naturally be based on Truth and Non-violence which, in my opinion, are not possible without a living belief in God, meaning a self-existent, all-knowing living force which inheres every other force known to the world but which depends on none and which will live when all other forces may conceivably perish or cease to act. I am unable to account for my life without belief in this all embracing living light.

  “In this structure composed of innumerable villages there will be ever widening, never ascending, circles. Life will not be a pyramid with the apex sustained by the bottom. But it will be an oceanic circle whose centre will be the individual always ready to perish for the village, the later ready to perish for the circle of villages, till at last the whole becomes one life composed of individuals, never aggressive in their arrogance but ever humble, sharing the majesty of the oceanic circle of which they are integral units.

  “Therefore, the outermost circumference will not wield power to crush the inner circle but give strength to all within and derive its own from the centre. I may be taunted with the retort that this is all Utopian and therefore not a single thought. If Euclid’s point, though incapable of being drawn by human agency, has an imperishable value, my picture has its own for mankind to live.

  Let India live for this true picture, though never realizable in its completeness. We must have a proper picture of what we want before we can have something approaching it. If there ever is to be a republic of every village in India, then I claim variety for my picture in which the last is equal to the first, or in other words, none is to be the first and none the last.

  “In this picture every religion has its full and equal place. We are all leaves of a majestic tree whose trunk cannot be shaken off its roots, which are deep down in the bowels of the earth. The mightiest of winds cannot move it.

  “In this there is no room for machines that would displace human labor and that would concentrate power in a few hands. Labor has its unique place in a cultural human family. Every machine that helps every individual has a place. But I must confess that I have never sat down to think out what that machine can be. I have thought of Singer’s sewing machine. But even that is perfunctory. I do not need it to fill in my picture.

  “I know that the work (of shaping the ideal village) is as difficult as to make of India an ideal country  But if one van produce one ideal village, he will have provided a pattern not only for the whole country but perhaps.

  “I want to write about the difference that we have in our outlooks. If that difference is basic, then the people must know the same. Keeping them in dark about this (difference) would be harmful to our work of Swarajya. I am of the firm conviction that if India is to achieve true freedom, and through India also the world, then sooner or later we shall have to understand that the people have to live in villages and not in cities; they have to live in huts and not in palaces.

  Crores of people can never live peacefully with each other in cities and palaces. In that event they would have no alternative but to resort to both violence and untruth.”

 How far the ‘true’ followers of Gandhi understood him and followed him in letter and spirit?

  We are not concerned here with his ideological criticism made by his contemporaries. There were many great political personalities who claimed to be his true followers. One among them, who inherited his political legacy, was Jawahalal Nehru. He was more influenced with the Marxian concept of Socialism than the Gandhian Spiritualism. His secular views, in juxtaposition to spiritualism, reflect ideological moorings of the following generations of Congressmen, the professional cadre of a political party that was once led by Gandhi and that after his death shaped the future of India, India that it is today.

  When judging of Gandhi’s contemporary political personalities, one thing that we must make clear here is that we hold that human beings are mere play grounds of subtle forces. Man is not free. A human being is not only placed in a set of particular circumstances, which make him a mere tool of the time, but also he is constantly used by the operating subtle forces, which are reflected in the spirit of that time. No individual, howsoever great or insignificant he might be in the contemporary Indian political firmament, can justifiably be judged without losing sight of the fact that he or she was being used as an instrument by the higher subtle forces, which were destined to shape the things that were to come.

    M. Chalapathi, the author of the biography of Jawaharlal Nehru says:  “(Gandhi’s) greatness or his services to India or the tremendous debt Jawaharlal owed to him was not in question. His (Gandhi’s) manner and approach were perplexing; they were not always rational. He seemed to belong to the order of medieval Christian saints; much that he said fitted in with this, not at all with modern psychological experience and method.

  “Apart from any explanations, vagueness in the objective seemed deplorable to Jawaharlal, and he made as assessment for himself of how far he agreed with Gandhi and how far he did not.”

  We shall make one more reference about Jawaharlal Nehru in the context of his views of spiritual legacy of India. He respected the ancient heritage of India but was was equally infatuated by the charms of modernism and scientific advancement. On April, 25, 1956 while addressing a meeting under the auspices of the All India Mahavir Jayanti Committee, Nehru called upon the people to adjust their minds to take up the challenge of the 20th century and not let old customs and ideas imprison them.

  His words were:   “We have to link up the light of our ancient teachings with the exigencies of the present times. We will succeed to the extent we are able to create this link… I see our young men today raising loud slogans of socialism and Communism. But in their daily social life they are still 400 years or more behind the present times.”

  But how India is to link up the light of her ancient teachings with the exigencies of the current times? It was a burning problem before spiritual India then when Nehru uttered these words and equally is today when we are more than half a century away in time since then.

  They apparently seem to be paradoxical to one another in their nature. In essence, it is a question of according primacy to one over another. One may accord primacy to the present (modern times’) exigencies and from that vintage point station the ancient teachings at their appropriate, that is, secondary, place. Or, conversely, one may accord primacy to the ancient teachings and, in their light, station the modern times’ exigencies at their appropriate, that is, secondary, place. Free India chose the former path.

  The political fate of would-be India was sealed with this choice, as was proved by the events of her later life. The choice of a path dictated by the exigencies of current passing times and not by the wisdom shaped by the vision of eternal truth was a political blunder that free India committed at the threshold of her independent life.

  The mistake committed by India was apparent to many leading lights of free India and they were anguished by it.

  Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the first President of the Republic of India, on July 10, 1956 while inaugurating the Gandhi Bhawan building at Hyderabad said thus:   “… (I)t was with a sense of regret and in a spirit of honesty that he would admit the picture of the society they were building in India to-day was quite different from what Gandhiji had conceived. Therefore, (he) attached the highest value to any constructive work being done on Gandhian lines, with the hope that someday light might dawn and they would return to the path shown by the Mahatma and establish the society of his conception.”

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