Truthfulness

I am but a seeker after truth…….to find truth completely is to realize oneself and one’s destiny i.e. to become perfect. I am painfully conscious of my imperfections, and therein lies all the strength I possess, because of the presence of a witness whose eye misses nothing and with whom I strive to keep in tune.


Proneness to exaggerate, to suppress or modify the truth, wittingly or unwittingly, is a natural weakness of man, and silence is necessary in order to surmount it.


Silence of the sewn up lips is no silence. One may achieve the same result by chopping off one’s tongue. But that too would not be silence. He is silent who having the capacity to speak utters no idle word.


Gandhi identified absolute Truth with God…….”There was a time when I doubted the existence of God, but even at that time I did not doubt the existence of truth. This Truth is not a material quality …….It is God because it rules the whole universe.


My prayerful search gave me the revealing maxim “Truth is God” instead of the usual one “God is Truth.”


The truth has been revealed over and over again and will go on being revealed till the end of time. We hear it said that there is nothing new under the Sun. Well, there need be nothing new, for the Sun of Truth, exhaustless in its manifestations, ever presents aspects and visions new. Truth is that which you believe to be true at this moment, and that is your God. If a man worships this relative truth, he is sure to attain the Absolute Truth i.e. God in the course of time.


I am devoted to none but truth and I owe no discipline to anybody but truth.


I am but a humble seeker after truth and bent upon finding it. The instruments’ for this quest for truth are as simple as they are difficult.


They may appear quite impossible to an arrogant person, and quite possible to an innocent child. The seeker after truth should be humbler than the dust.


The foundation for a truly spiritual life is truthfulness, non violence and love. When one is honest one obeys the command of God. One must do the right thing for the right reasons and be truthful even when it does not pay, when one risks punishment or financial loss.


A truthful person acts according to his or her conscience; does not cheat at games or business, in class or in exams, , sifts evidence before passing judgment and always gives an honest verdict after looking at things as far as possible without bias or preconceived ideas. He or she is ready to correct the judgment when it is wrong. Does not condone evil or pass lightly over it, even when perpetrated by the rich and powerful.


Questions:

1) Do I try to deceive myself as to the motives of my actions?

2) Do I twist my conscience to suit my own likes and dislikes?

3) Do I always seek honestly to find the truth, or do I follow opinions, slogans and fashions of the day?

4) Does being ethical and moral a priority in my life?

5) When I lack the courage to do my duty and honour my commitments do I acknowledge it to myself or seek shelter behind false excuses and rationalize me actions?

Resolution:

I will try to tell the TRUTH always, whatever it may cost me, and take full responsibility for my actions and acknowledge my mistakes.


OFFERING:

God! Give me the courage and strength to follow and seek the TRUTH always ,as You are the Truth.


Ahimsa

Perfect love the Bible says, casts out fear.


Ahimsa is perfect love; it is the farthest thing from mere sentimentality; it is a life long challenge, a life long battle with oneself full of challenges and trials so severe that those who tread the path of love in every religious tradition have called it sharper than a razor’s edge.>


Gandhiji used to put the matter bluntly: When another person’s welfare means more to you than your own, when even his life means more to you than your own, only then can you say you love. Anything else is just business, give and take. To extend this love even to those who hate you is the farthest limit of ahimsa. It pushes at the boundaries of consciousness itself.


Gandhiji was a pioneer in these new realms of consciousness. Everything he did was an experiment in expanding man’s capacity to love, and as his capacity grew, the demands on his love grew more and more severe, as if to test what limits a human being can bear.


But Gandhiji had learnt to find a fierce joy in these storms and trials. Again and again, when the violence around him seemed impossible to face, he flung himself into the battle without thought of personal consolation or safety and every time, at the eleventh hour, some deeper power within him would flood him with new reserves of energy and love.


By the end of his life, he was aflame with love. It burned in him night and day like a fire nothing could quench, in which every lesser human consideration was consumed. The challenges he faced towards the end of his life were among the greatest tragedies that history has seen.
On the eve of Independence, Hindu and Muslim India was in the throes of civil war. All the government forces were powerless to stop the massacres occurring almost daily on both sides. Gandhiji, because he taught and lived the brotherhood of all religions, was hated intensely by many Hindus and Muslims alike.


The bloodshed and destruction touched the very depth of his being. Though in his mid-70s, he went straight to the heart of the violence, and walked barefoot through the remote ravaged villages of Bihar state and Noakhali as a one man force for peace dependent even for his food on the mercy of his enemies.
Some of his most trusted followers, who could be counted not to falter in their courage and love, he sent alone to other villages to follow his example. They had no instructions but to live the truths they went to teach: love and respect for all persons, complete self-reliance, and the utter fearlessness of ahimsa.


Ahimsa is our dharma, the central law of our being, written into our every cell. The law of the jungle Gandhiji used to say is alright for animals; violence is their dharma. But for men and women to be violent is to reverse the course of evolution and go against their deepest nature which is to love, to endure, to forgive.


“I hold myself to be incapable of hating any being on earth. By a long course of prayerful discipline, I have ceased for over 40 years to hate anybody. I know this is a big claim. Nevertheless, I make it in all humility.
But I can and do hate evil wherever it exists. I hate the system of government that the British people have set up in India. I hate the ruthless exploitation of India even as I hate, from the bottom of my heart, the hideous system of untouchability for which millions of Hindus have made themselves responsible. But I do not hate the domineering Englishmen as I refuse to hate the domineering Hindus. I seek to reform them in all the loving ways that are open to me. My non-cooperation has its roots not in hatred but in love.


Gandhiji campaigned from the Himalayas south to Ceylon.
Everywhere the message was the same: “All of us are one. When you inflict suffering on others, you are bringing suffering on yourself. When you weaken others, you are weakening yourself, weakening the whole nation.”
On some occasions he would shame all India by refusing to enter the great temples whose gates ad been closed for centuries to low caste Hindu worshippers. “There is no God here,” he would tell the crowds who had gathered to hear him. “If God were here, everyone would have access. He is in every one of us.”
Because of the love the people bore him, such words went in very deep. Temples and homes throughout India, after centuries of exclusion, began to open their doors to all.


Ahimsa, non-violence was the noblest expression of truth for Gandhiji or properly speaking, the way to truth.
Ahimsa and truth are so intertwined that it is practically impossible to disentangle and separate them. Nevertheless, ahimsa is the means and truth is the end.
In the Manu Smriti, the great law book of Hinduism, it is written, Ahimsa Paramo Dharma: Ahimsa is the highest law. It is as Gandhiji put it, the very essence of human nature.
The word non-violence connotes a negative, almost passive condition, whereas the Sanskrit term “Ahimsa” suggests a dynamic state of mind in which power is released.


Strength, said Gandhiji, does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will. Therein he found his own strength and there he exhorted others to look for theirs.
Ahimsa properly understood is invincible. With satya combined with ahimsa Gandhiji writes, you can bring the world to your feet.


Gandhiji applied ahimsa in every walk of life: domestic, institutional, economic, and political. He knew of no single case in which it had failed. Anything short of this total application did not interest Gandhi, because ahimsa sprang from and worked in the same continuum as his religion, politics, and personal life. Only practice could determine its value, when it acted in the midst of and in spite of opposition, and he advised critics to observe the results of his experiments rather than dissect his theories.


“Non-violence is not a cloistered virtue to be practiced by the individual for his peace and final salvation, but it is a rule of conduct for society…to practice non-violence in mundane matters is to know its true value. It is to bring heaven upon earth…I hold it therefore to be wrong to limit the use of non-violence (ahimsa) to cave dwellers (hermits) and for acquiring merit for a favored position in the other world. All virtue ceases to have use if it serves no purpose in every walk of life.”


Gandhiji’s adherence to non-violence grew from his experience that it was the only way to resolve the problem of conflict permanently. Violence, he felt, only made the pretence of a solution, and sowed seeds of bitterness and enmity that would ultimately disrupt the situation.


One needs to practice ahimsa to understand it. To profess non-violence with sincerity, or even to write a book about it, was, for Gandhiji, not adequate. “If one does not practice non-violence in one’s personal relationships with others, one is vastly mistaken. Ahimsa, like charity, must begin at home.” The practice of ahimsa is by no means a simple matter, and Gandhiji never intimated that it was. As a discipline, a code of conduct, true ahimsa demands endless vigilance over one’s entire way of life because it includes words and thoughts as well as actions.


“Ahimsa is not the crude thing it is made to appear. Not to hurt any living thing is no doubt a part of ahimsa. But it is its least expression. The principle of ahimsa is hurt by every evil thought, by undue haste, by lying, by hatred, by wishing ill to anybody. It is also violated by our holding onto to what the world needs.”


The practice of ahimsa is thus a serious matter. Lived properly, it would alter the fabric of life. True ahimsa might require a lifetime to learn, but Gandhiji is not talking about a momentary diversion or pastime. He is talking about changing the face of the world and he is quite serious.


“Ahimsa in its dynamic condition means conscious suffering. It does not mean meek submission to the will of the evil doer, but it means pitting of one’s whole soul against the will of the tyrant. Working under this law of our being, it is possible for a single individual to defy the whole might of an unjust empire to save his honor, his religion, his soul, and lay the foundation for that empire’s fall or its regeneration.”


Ahimsa is not weak. This is a common misconception. Ahimsa faces the opponent with kindness and sympathy but with the sure determination that whatever the opposition, it will hold its ground. Unlike violence, ahimsa is subtle and pervasive so that we are not likely to be aware of its work. Its subtlety does not diminish its efficacy; on the contrary, it makes it more difficult to oppose.


“Non violence is like radium in its action. An infinitesimal quantity of it embedded in a malignant growth acts continuously, silently, and ceaselessly till it has transformed the whole mass of the diseased tissue into a healthy one. Similarly, even a little of true ahimsa acts in a silent, subtle, unseen way and leavens the whole society.”


Questions:

1) How can we practice Ahimsa in our daily life?
2) How kind are our thoughts and words?
3) Do we try to be truthful without being hurtful?
4) Are we always ready to criticize but slow to praise?
5) Are we willing to suspend judgment on the actions of others?
6) Are we prepared to take a stand, against severe opposition, on an issue we truly believe in?
7) Are we prepared to learn to forgive others, even though they may be in the wrong?


Prayer:

O God, give me peace. Give purity to my heart.
May my speech be free of falsity and slander.
May the sentiment of devotion increase.
May there be no harm done to living beings through my words or my actions.
May the darkness of ignorance be destroyed.
May the lamp of knowledge be lit.



Mahatma Gandhi: Leading by Example

"It is better to allow our lives to speak for us than our words. God did not bear the cross only two thousand years ago. He bears it today, and he dies and is resurrected from day to day. It would be a poor comfort to the world if it had to depend on a historical God who died two thousand years ago. Do not, then, preach the God of history, but show him as he lives today through you." --Mahatma Gandhi


Whenever something appealed to Gandhi, even as a boy, his first impulse had always been to try it out for himself.


When he went to England, after the first few months he decided to become an English gentleman. He engaged tutors in French and proper speaking, bought expensive tailored clothes, invested in violin lessons and tried to learn the Foxtrot.


But the role of the gentleman failed to meet his needs. The gap, he sensed, between his inner and outward self was widening into a chasm. After about three months Gandhi awoke abruptly from this dream of grandeur. How could changing the way he dressed, make him anything more than what he already was? To change his life he had to change his way of thinking, and that was something that went deeper than any differences in custom or culture. Better to be true to ones self than to try and act like someone else, “If my character made a gentleman of me,” he wrote, “so much the better. Otherwise I should forgo the ambition.”


He began to experiment with the simple way of life. His impoverished state could have been a limitation: he turned it instead into an opportunity. He walked everywhere and these long walks kept him alert and strong even in the harsh London winter and formed a habit which he kept up throughout his life. Most important, there was a self reliance in these experiments which he had missed in imitating others. He found himself not only healthier but happier for the change.


Then he began to experiment with his diet. He tried all sorts of vegetarian combinations to see which worked best for him and began giving up whatever seemed harmful even if it was good to the taste. Gradually, deprived of the pungent spices of Indian cooking, he began to taste the food instead, and realized that he was relishing dishes which had been a torture to eat before. He had discovered that the sense of taste lies not in the tongue but in the mind.


When Gandhiji went to South Africa, the case he was called in on was a complicated one requiring real skill in accounting to unravel years of complicated business transactions with inadequate records. Gandhi’s job was to advise the company’s legal council, but he was even more ignorant of book-keeping than he was of law. Moreover, far from gaining any respect by his new move, he found himself in a land where the color of his skin alone was enough to mark him off for daily contempt and even physical abuse.


Gandhi was always a good observer of his own behavior. Every time he had run away from failure before, no matter where he went, the same situation always seems to recur in even more threatening proportions. This time he decided to try a different attack. If changing his environment did no good, why not try to change himself?


It was not something he reasoned out; it was something he felt so deeply that action was immediate. He took the challenge and threw himself into the work at hand. Almost immediately the self discipline he has learned in London began to pay off. He studied book-keeping on his own and found with increasing self-confidence that his intellect proved equal to the need. Exhilarated, he strained ever faculty of concentration in him to ferret out all the details of the case and find the truth. He acquired a deeper knowledge of the situation than anyone else on either side. Gandhi was not interested in making a profit out of legal briefs and empty arguments. He was determined to serve the best interests of both sides. With much talking Gandhi persuaded both sides to submit to arbitration and settle out of court and in the end, both sides were satisfied. Gandhi was ecstatic, “I had learnt,” he exclaimed, “the true practice of law. I had learnt to find out the better side of human nature and to enter men’s hearts. I realized that the true function of a lawyer was to unite parties riven asunder.”


Gandhi, without realizing it, had found the secret of success. He began to look on every difficulty as an opportunity for service, a challenge which could draw out of him greater and greater resources of intelligence and imagination.


In turning his back on personal profit or prestige in his work, he found he won the trust and even love of white and Indian South African alike.


The idea of Selfless Service had taken hold of Gandhi and caused rapid changes in every aspect of his life. The financial returns of a successful law career, the European style of living, the complicated household, all these fell away when they became obstacles in his path of community service. Each simplification freed new resources of time, energy and ability. Often, especially at first, it was painful to give up his time or pleasure for the sake of others’ needs. But the freedom that followed was exhilarating. Gandhi’s joy knew no bounds. Every where he began to see the possibility to choose between living for himself alone or living for the sake of others. He made time for volunteer nursing in the midst of a busy legal practice, started a weekly news magazine called Indian Opinion, and recruited an Indian Ambulance Corps to serve with the British Army when the war broke out with the Boer Colonies in 1899. It was an infectious example, and a little family community or ashram began to grow up around him in the country outside Durban where a handful of dedicated young men and women came to live with him and share his experiments in the art of living.


As his self-centeredness diminished his spiritual awareness increased. He began to study the scripture of all religions and test their teachings against his own experience. The domestic struggles he had in South Africa with his wife were the training ground where Gandhi learned the demanding art of living for others rather than himself. Later he would apply the same lessons on a global scale, so that in the end the whole world became his family.


When Gandhi simplified his life and household, Kasturbai has to unlearn all the western ways she had been forced to learn and go back to her original style of living. Then, for the sake of his convictions of social equality and the dignity of hard work, he made her tend the latrines of his own house – work that had always been done by the lowest class of Indian society. She accepted out of love, though not without bitter protest. Gandhi said, “One man cannot do right in one department of life whilst he is occupied in doing wrong in any other department. Life is an indivisible whole.”


Gandhi says he thought it was his right as a husband to impose his opinions on his wife. But as the years passed and the storms between them continued, he began to realize what anguish he was causing her by this rigid outlook. At last it occurred to him that rather than exercise his “rights” he could fulfill his responsibilities. With Gandhi, to know was to feel, to feel was to act, to act was to live. Immediately, instead of forcing Kasturbai’s obedience to his new-found beliefs and values, he began to try to win her over by his own example. It was a long painful process, and often Gandhi had to ignore his cherished likes and dislikes to see things from her point of view rather than his own. But gradually he began to see that there was no friction between them except what he has imposed and that Kasturbai has always been trying to win him over by love. It was one of the most radical discoveries he was to make in a lifetime of experimentation: in order to transform others, you have to first transform yourself.


Gandhi’s experiments were leading him into rarely travelled regions, deep below the surface level of living, where the ordinary values of buying and selling, prestige and pleasure held no meaning at all. Writers and philosophers before him had written thick volumes on truth and happiness but few of them had been able to change their lives.


Gandhi’s experiments were leading him into rarely travelled regions, deep below the surface level of living, where the ordinary values of buying and selling, prestige and pleasure held no meaning at all. Writers and philosophers before him had written thick volumes on truth and happiness but few of them had been able to change their lives.


The Bhagwad Gita had always been near him while he was a child. Ironically, he did not begin to glimpse its practicality until he was in England with English friends, reading an English translation. The first time he read it, he recalled, its words when straight to his heart. In South Africa, they began to penetrate his actions as well. There the Gita became what he called his “spiritual reference book,” the practical guide through the dangers and challenges he encountered as he deepened his search for the truth. He plunged himself deep into prayer and self examination in a fervent search for greater strength with which to serve.


“What effect this reading of the Gita had on my friends only they can say but to me the Gita became an infallible guide of conduct. It became my dictionary of daily reference. Just as I turned to the English dictionary for the meanings of English words that I did not understand, I turned to this dictionary of conduct for a ready solution for all my troubles and trials. Words like aparigraha (non-possession) and Sama bhava (equability) gripped me. How to cultivate and preserve that equability was the question? How was one to treat alike insulting, insolent and corrupt officials, co-workers of yesterday raising meaningless opposition, and men who had always been good to me? How was one to divest oneself of all possessions? ... Was I to give up all I had and follow Him? Straight came the answer: I could not follow Him unless I gave up all I had. My study of English law came to my help… I understood the Gita teaching of non-possession to mean that those who desired salvation should act like the trustee who, though having control over great possessions regards not an iota of them as his own.”


When Gandhi returned to India, one of the first steps he took to restore India’s self-respect and unity was to begin the liberation of the lower classes. He began to change their status over night by giving them a different title, Harijans – the children of God. Where ever he went he collected money for the Harijans. He took every opportunity to appeal to women to give up their gold bangles, earrings etc. to be sold for Harijan service. Not even children were safe from this prince of beggars. He was so irresistible that whenever his train pulled into a station, no matter what time of the day or night, great crowds of people of all ages would be waiting to press their money and jewelry into his outstretched hands. In India the third class compartments crowded dirty wooden benches were left for the vast majority of Indians – the poor. Gandhi, who dramatized his unity with the poor by sharing their way of life completely always preferred to travel third class on these campaigns. When someone asked him why, he answered simply, “Because there is no fourth.” When once an obviously well off missionary came to Gandhi to get his advise on how to help the outcast people of Indian villages. Gandhi’s answer challenged the very basis of his life. “We must step down from our pedestals and live with them – not as outsiders but as one of them in every way sharing their burdens and sorrows.”


This is the heart of Gandhi’s approach. He taught, above all, by personal example. He went and lived with the Harijans: and to encourage them to improve their health and sanitation, he himself became their servant. Hundreds of his followers made their homes in poor villages throughout India, living with the people, teaching and encouraging them by their own example to release themselves from the bondage of ignorance, squalor and their own superstitions.


When Gandhi returned from South Africa, India was seething with the threat of violent revolution. Gandhi was certain he could free India politically from British domination without war, without violence if the Indian people would accept his leadership and abide completely by the non-violent conditions he placed before them. “Select your purpose,” he challenged, “selfless, without any thought of personal pleasure or personal profit, and then use selfless means to attain your goal. Do not resort to violence even if it seems at first to promise success. It can only contradict your purpose. Use the means of love and respect even if the result seems far off or uncertain… If we can adhere to complete non-violence in thought, word and deed, India’s freedom is assured.”


When Nehru met Gandhi for the first time, he was completely disarmed. “You people are always talking of revolution.” Gandhi said, “I am making one. What is revolutionary about violence? If you really love your people, help me show them how to turn their backs on violence and throw off their fear.” The challenge went straight to Nehru’s heart. It did not matter that he and Gandhi were poles apart in many of their attitudes and beliefs. The man himself was too magnificent to resist.


It was in these early years that Gandhi attracted some of this closest friends and co-workers, men and women from very different backgrounds and nationalities, who shared one central experience: each had come to Gandhi to observe and had stayed to serve. Just to meet him was to run the risk of being turned into a hero and the lives of countless number of ordinary men and women and even children were transformed completely by this one little man, who demanded – and got – from everyone the highest order of selflessness and love.


Under colonial rule, India was required to export all its cotton at a nominal rate to England, where it was manufactured into cloth and sold back to the poor in India at many times the price they had been paid for growing it. Gandhi wanted all Indians, rich and poor to learn the craft of hand spinning so that the people of the seven hundred thousand impoverished villages of India could regain self-employment, self-reliance and self-respect. He himself began to make and use rough white home spun cloth called Khadi. Khadi became the symbol of independence and Indians from leaders to common men and women spent some part of each day spinning Khadi and no one who supported independence, rich or poor could dream of wearing anything else.


Gandhi did not expect those who came to him to make a transformation immediately or reverse overnight the conditions of millions of years of evolution and love their enemies more than they love themselves. He himself had failed countless times in his attempt to reach that highest state. “Start where you are” he used to tell them. “If you can’t love King George the fifth, say, or Sir Winston Churchill, start with your husband or your wife or your children. Try to put their welfare first and your own last every minute of the day and let the circle of your love expand from there. As long as you are trying your very best, there can be no question of failure.” This is the discipline by which Gandhi built his capacity for Satyagraha. It is the deepest motivation a human being can tap, for it answers directly the deepest human need – the need to love.


In the course of his life he created a number of communities or ashrams so people could learn from his daily example, how to make love and non-violence the daily basis of their life. For the first fifteen years he was at Sabarmati, which he gave over to Harijan service and then chose carefully the site for Sevagram seven miles from civilization in a part of India which is unbearably hot. Most Indians had to live in this climate and that is why he preferred it for his ashram rather than a cool Himalayan hill station or a fertile tract along the Ganges.


He may have hoped for isolation but in a few years there were so many people walking to the ashram that by their feet they made the road. He received so much mail that the government was obliged to open a post office there. So many telegrams came that a telegraph office was set up. Sevagram became a throbbing bee-hive of activity where all the world could see what it means to do even the smallest daily acts in love. “You must watch my life, how I live, eat, sit, talk, behave in general, the sum total of all those in me is my religion.”


Gandhi often said the welfare of children comes first. Their growth and development takes precedence over everything else. It means making minor sacrifices of small pleasures at times or saying no, gently but firmly more often then one wants to. Most important in Gandhi’s thinking is that the example set by the parents be true to their ideals. When Gandhi moved to Tolstoy farm in 1909, it was with a motley group of children whom he immediately took under his fatherly wing and in his eyes they were all one family. “I saw,” he writes, “that I must be good and live straight if only for their sakes.” The seeds of family Satyagraha were sown by Gandhi in the rich soil of Tolstoy farm and years of careful husbandry brought them into full bloom so that it became a natural, almost effortless attitude for him.


During the thirties a woman came with her son to Sevagram wanting Gandhi to tell her son to stop eating sugar. Gandhi told them to come a week later. When they came, he told the boy to stop eating sugar because it was not good for him. He then joked with the boy, gave him a hug and sent him on his way. When the mother asked why he hadn’t said that on their first visit, Gandhi smiled and said, “Last week, I too was eating sugar.”


He had not the slightest privacy….. everything he did was observed by strangers so that his life was beautifully transparent. After his morning prayers and meditation, every minute was given over to others. Gandhi gave all the same attention, fitting each person somehow into his own close schedule for the day, talking to them on his morning walk, or at breakfast or over the spinning wheel.


In the midst of all this apparent chaos, Gandhi kept order by an exacting attention to detail and to time. He was punctual to the minute and expected everyone who came to him, even the most important British minister, to measure up to his own demanding standards. “You may not waste a grain of rice or a scrap of paper,” he wrote, “and similarly a minute of your time. It is not ours. It belongs to the nation and we are the trustees for the use of it.”


Often in those turbulent years, it was common to see Nehru or other political leaders show up at Sevagram, burdened with problems affecting several hundred million lives. Usually it was minutes before such visitors found themselves chuckling in spite of themselves at one of Gandhi’s jokes, and when they left, by some alchemy of personality, they would be relaxed again, full of enthusiasm and inspiration ready to take on their problems with a clear perspective and deeper strength. Gandhi moved through all the trials of his public and private life with the grace of a dancer, always cheerful, always gentle, as serene and as deep as the sea of peace described in the Bhagwad Gita into which the most turbulent rivers empty and are still.


Questions:

1) When we are inspired by an idea or an ideal what practical steps do we take (if any) to bring these into our daily lives?
2) Do we really practice what we preach?
3) How do we be more loving towards others……starting with the family and then going out from there?
4) When we read scriptures or other powerful spiritual books what do the words say to us ….at the deepest level? Or do we just read like recitation?
5) How do we use each day……without wasting even a minute of it? And also all the resources we have?
6) As parents do we lead by example?


Prayer:

Asato ma sadgamayah
Tamaso ma jyotirgamayah
Mrityormah amrutam gamayah



Influence of Gandhi

It must take tremendous strength of conviction and intelligence to influence the mind of one such as Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. His revelations about his influences suggest that he never took anything at face value. He even called his autobiography ‘The Story of My experiments with Truth’, as he experimented with various ideologies to derive the best conclusion.


Gandhi’s mother Putali Bai exercised great influence on him as a little boy. It is from her that he imbibed the principles of bridging the Hindu- Muslim divide, condemning idolatry and abstinence from wine and meat.


Also her association with Jainism had a perceptible influence on him. Ahimsa explains the basis of Jain philosophy. Ahimsa for Gandhi meant active love, the opposite of violence and he said, “If anybody developed the doctrine of non-violence, it was Lord Mahavira”.


It was his wife Kasturbai, Gandhi admitted later, who taught him how to love. By her personal example she showed the way to root out the anger and competition eroding their marriage: not by retaliating and inflaming the situation more, but by constantly trying to support him and bear with him through his outbursts and mistakes, keeping her eyes always on what was good in him and encouraging him silently to live up to her respect. Gradually Gandhi began to see that she was practicing everyday what he himself had been admiring as a theoretical ideal. He took up her example, and each became the other’s teacher as Gandhi learned Kasturbai’s patience and inspired her with his own fiery enthusiasm in return.


Gandhi referred to Shrimad Rajachandra, a Jain householder-ascetic, as his spiritual mentor. Rajachandra asked Gandhi to look within himself when he expressed a desire to change his religion. It changed his life. His major convictions such as truth, non-violence and satyagraha were inspired by Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism. In times of crisis, Gandhi sought refuge in the Bhagavad-Gita. It provided him with perfect knowledge of truth and selfless action. He derived inspiration from Krishna’s message that a man must not be diverted from seeking the truth. Gandhi’s personal philosophy about duty and service combined with social justice coincided with this aspect of Hinduism.


The New Testament, in particular the Sermon of the Mount, appealed to him, because of its activist philosophy. Rabindranath Tagore’s correspondence with Gandhi also brought about a change in the latter’s thoughts. According to author Stephen Murphy, Gandhi’s adherence to reason has evolved out of western influences. This began with his contact with the Vegetarian Society in London where he was convinced to turn vegetarian.


Two thinkers greatly influenced his life: John Ruskin, one of the great Victorian moralists and social thinkers and Leo Tolstoy, Russian aristocrat and moralist. Gandhi read Ruskin’s “Unto this Last” while on a journey. He later mentioned, “I could not get any sleep that night. I was determined to change my life in accordance with the ideals of the book”. He later translated the book into Gujarati and called it Sarvodaya (the well- being of all). Ruskin’s book influenced Gandhi’s concept of soul-force as a substitute for physical fore and changed him as a person. From Ruskin, Gandhi learnt that the good of the individual is contained in the good of all. That the lawyer’s work has the same value as the barber’s, all have the same right of earning their livelihood. That the life of labour as a tiller of soil or the handicraftsman, is the life worth living. Of these he said, “The first I knew, the second I had dimly realized. The third had never occurred to me. I arose with the dawn, ready to reduce these principles into practice.” Gandhi distilled Ruskin’s concepts to develop his own, to realize that the creation of wealth, its consumption has to be limited.


Post-Ruskin, he developed the Phoenix Farm at Natal, an experimental community of Indians and Europeans, a precedent to the Tolstoy Farm. Gandhi and Tolstoy had much in common. They were no philosophers, but were teachers of humanity and practiced what they preached. Tolstoy manifested independent thinking, profound morality and truthfulness. Gandhi moulded his life according to the ideas of Tolstoy, but it was not blind following. Gandhi developed the Tolstoy Farm at Johannesburg that afforded him “spiritual purification and penance”. Gandhi read Thoreau as a student in London, and learnt civil disobedience from him. Like Thoreau, he believed people had the right to disobey unjust laws but that they should gladly go to jail when they break such laws. Studying various philosophies, religions as well as contemporary history, Gandhi was exposed to numerous influences. He never shied from accepting them, but he was not over-awed either. From here developed Gandhi’s concepts that gave a nation the power to fight for its freedom.


(Adapted from Making of a Mahatma By Nishtha Shukla)


The Influential Gandhi

Gandhi hoped to win people over by changing their hearts and minds, and advocated non-violence in all things. He inspired many national and international leaders throughout his lifetime and even after that. Is there anyone who grew up in the first half of the twentieth century who was not in some way influenced by Mahatma Gandhi?


Emerging leaders within the Congress--Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel, Rajendra Prasad, C. Rajagopalachari, Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, Subhas Chandra Bose, and Jaya-prakash (J.P.) Narayan--accepted Gandhi's leadership in articulating nationalist aspirations but disagreed on strategies for wresting more concessions from the British. Patel supported Gandhi's Non-cooperation movement and toured the state to recruit more than 300,000 members and raise over Rs. 1.5 million in funds. Rajendra Prasad, India’s first Prime Minister at a public speech said, “I know only this much that I am where Bapu has put me”. Vinoba Bhave is generally considered the greatest Gandhian. He is known as Gandhi’s moral or spiritual heir, someone who has taken Gandhi’s political philosophy in action into new areas and even to new heights, and is universally accepted as a saint. C. Rajagopalachari was held by Gandhi as his conscience –keeper. He epitomized the practical wisdom, religious tolerance and statesmanship that Gandhi brought to the nationalist movement. He articulated how Gandhi’s ideas and ideologies could be reconciled with the need and aspirations of a modern nation-state.


Gandhi influenced important leaders and political movements. Leaders of the civil rights movement in the United States, including Martin Luther King and James Lawson, drew from the writings of Gandhi in the development of their own theories about non-violence. Anti-apartheid activist and former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, was inspired by Gandhi. Others include Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Steve Biko,Aung San Suu Kyi and Philippine opposition leader during the dictatorship of Ferdino Marcos,Benigno Aquino, Jr.


Gandhi's life and teachings inspired many who specifically referred to Gandhi as their mentor or who dedicated their lives to spreading Gandhi's ideas. In Europe, Romain Rolland was the first to discuss Gandhi in his 1924 book Mahatma Gandhi, and Brazilian anarchist and feminist Maria Lacerda de Moura wrote about Gandhi in her work on pacifism. In 1931, notable European physicist Albert Einstein exchanged written letters with Gandhi, and called him "a role model for the generations to come". Lanza del Vasto came to India in 1936 intending to live with Gandhi; he later returned to Europe to spread Gandhi's philosophy and founded the Community of the Ark in 1948 (modeled after Gandhi's ashrams).


In addition, the British musician John Lennon referred to Gandhi when discussing his views on non-violence. At the Cannes Lions Internatioanal Advertising Festival in 2007, former U.S. Vice-President and environmentalist Al Gore spoke of Gandhi's influence on him. Finally, prior to becoming President of the United States, then-Senator Barack Obama noted that:


Throughout my life, I have always looked to Mahatma Gandhi as an inspiration, because he embodies the kind of transformational change that can be made when ordinary people come together to do extraordinary things. That is why his portrait hangs in my Senate office: to remind me that real results will come not just from Washington – they will come from the people.


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. read and absorbed Gandhi's teachings and applied the civil disobedience techniques to his fight for civil rights in the United States. "Gandhi was inevitable. If humanity is to progress, Gandhi is inescapable. We may ignore Gandhi at our own risk," said King.


Mentors and protégés


Gandhi inspired spiritually and emotionally many men and women like Kala Kalekar, Vinoba Bhave, Mirabehn, Mahadeb Desai, Narhari Parikh and Badshah Khan. Madeleine Slade (known as Mirabehn) was the daughter of a British admiral who spent much of her adult life in India as a devotee of Gandhi.Mirabehn had left England inspired by Gandhi's teaching and had come to live by his side, utterly devoted to her guru and his teachings. Mahadev Desai was a young lawyer who had abandoned his ambitions to become his most loyal secretary, gaining an insight into the Mahatma which countless historians would have loved to have. Narhari Parikh was the architect of many inspired revolts and battles in Gjarat against the British, and a close associate of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel himself. With the Kheda Satyagraha, Sardar Patel volunteered to head the movement with Gandhi, and abandoned his life of comfort and riches. Gandhi almost single-handedly inspired the re-birth of a proud, hard-charging barrister, who became the most aggressive and action-minded of all nationalist leaders, the undisputed leader of Gujarat, the paramount contributor state to the Indian Independence Movement and the "Iron man of India"; a man who single-handedly brought 565 princely states into the Union to form a united India by independence; led the charge to fight-back the communal riots in Punjab and Delhi and rehabilitate over 10 million refugees, and defended the young nation's unity and peace by swift action against the rogue state Hyderabad and Pakistan's invasion and claims over Jammu and Kashmir and Junagadh.


Badshah Khan was a Pathan leader, who in stark contrast to the common perceptions of his people, built an organization more committed to non-violent resistance than the Congress itself. Gandhi's open and humble nature also won him the admiration, mentorship and support of distinguished men who clashed with him ideologically on several issues at different times. Rabindranath Tagore, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Annie Besant, Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Motilal Nehru were all senior leaders of the Indian cultural conscience and the freedom movement before Gandhi came along. Besant and Tilak opposed the satyagraha of the early 1920s, and Tagore clashed with Gandhi from time to time. But he only fascinated them, despite the reality that he was dislodging a departing generation and ushering in a new era, far more different than their own.


Rabindranath Tagore wrote a poem for Gandhi, which famously and beautifully asked him to press forward, do the right thing and walk forth, even if it meant walking alone. Luckily, the hundred million followers of Gandhi made sure this encouragement was not necessary.


A human being is an immense spiritual force barely contained in a physical form. When all his hopes, all his desires, all his drive, all his will fuse together and become one, this force is released even in his own lifetime and not even the death o his body can imprison it again. Once, while Gandhi’s train was pulling slowly out of the station, a reporter ran up to him and asked him breathlessly for a message to take back to his people. Gandhi’s reply was a hurried line scrawled on a scrap of paper: “My life is my message”. It is a message that does not require the vast stage of world politics, but can be put into practice here and now, in the midst of daily life.



Satyagraha

With Satyagraha, Mahatma Gandhi ushered in a new era of civilian resistance on the political scenario of the world. The word was coined to aptly define the mode of non-violent resistance that the Indians at South Africa were building against the oppressive British colonialists. The word has been variedly interpreted, but literally it is a combination of two words, signifying truth and force. By connotation, it means an unshaken faith in truth, unwavering even in the face of adversity. Satyagraha for Gandhi was the only legitimate way to earn one's political rights, as it was based on the ideals of truth and non-violence. Satyagraha was the key aspect of all revolutions of the Indian National Movement in the Gandhian era of Indian history for more twenty long years, and its legacy was carried on long after him as Martin Luther King used it in his battle against racism. Satyagraha has not been free of criticism, but its methodologies have gained wide acceptance around the world as a more potent tool of resistance than armed violence.


Gandhi was in need of a term to connote the revolution against the British imperialists that he organized in South Africa. 'Passive resistance', his first perfunctory choice, was not only a foreign term that Gandhi had strong reservations about, but the connotations of the term was also inadequate to highlight the aspect of truth and moral courage that Gandhi associated with non-violent political resistance. Moreover, it put political ends at the forefront, dissociated from deeper ideological values. Gandhi needed an Indian name that could encompass all these aspects of the revolution within it. A competition was thrown open in the local newspaper, 'Indian Opinion', and 'sadagraha' was elected as the best entry. Gandhi took the term, but changed it to 'satyagraha' highlighting the aspect of 'truth' in it. 'Satyagraha' was based on the principles of non-violence, which was the founding principle of Gandhi's political ideology, that was based on as much as theological tenets of Jainism, Buddhism, Upanishads and the Bhagwad Gita, as on the political theories of Tolstoy, Ruskin and Thoreau.


Satyagraha in practice is a method for resolving conflict.


Traditionally conflict between opposed parties is “resolved” only by the acknowledged dominance of one antagonist over the other. The assumption is that one side can succeed only at the expense of the other.


Satyagraha challenges this assumption. Rather than trying to conquer the opponent or to annihilate his claims, Satyagraha tries to resolve the sources of conflict. As Gandhi states succinctly, it “seeks to liquidate antagonisms but not the antagonists themselves.”


This point distinguishes Satyagraha from other social action methods. The purpose of Satyagraha is not the redress of grievances; these are incidental to its ultimate aim, which is to resolve the underlying sources of conflict, the enmity, the distrust.


Satyagraha seeks to resolve conflict by persuading the adversary of the common value of its non-violent vision, that he-we-have much more to gain in harmony than in discord. Bringing about this conversion in an opponent is always the primary aim of Satyagraha. Rather than annihilate the enemy/adversary Satyagraha tries to win him over to the side of truth, to wean him from his error.


“This is in essence the principle of non-violent non-co-operation. It follows therefore that it must have its root in love. Its object should not be to punish the opponent or inflict injury upon him. Even while non-co-operating with him, we must make him feel that in us he has a friend and we should try to reach his heart by rendering him humanitarian service wherever possible.”


We are used to thinking of Satyagraha as a technique for social action, which Gandhi used to free India of British rule. This is true as for as it goes, but it falls short of Gandhi’s intent.


Satyagraha is actually a way to approach conflict and resolve it non-violently on many levels of human interaction. Its use begins with the individual and within the home and extends to the community, to institutions, and to countries. Wherever conflict arises, subtle or violent, Satyagraha has a place of importance. As Gandhi developed it, Satyagraha is not simply a technique or theory but a way of life.


Gandhi did not invent Satyagraha, he discovered it. Satyagraha, he said is “as old as the hills.” Gandhi developed Satyagraha with “simple” people in mind, so that its power would be accessible to the average man and woman. Satyagraha requires no higher degrees or special training and is founded on the most fundamental law of human nature – Love.


We all have the capacity for Satyagraha within us, Gandhi assured us but we do not know how to use its irresistible power.


“I will give you a talisman. Whenever you are in doubt or when the self becomes too much with you, try following expedient: Recall the face of the poorest and the most helpless man whom you may have seen and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he able to gain anything by it? Will it restore him to a control over his own life and destiny? In other words will it lead to……self rule for the hungry and also spiritually starved millions of our countrymen? Then you will find your doubts and your self melting away.”


Satyagraha is love in action. A Satyagrahi bids goodbye to fear. He is therefore never afraid of trusting the opponent. In Satyagraha it is never the numbers that count. It is always the quality, more so when the forces of violence are uppermost. Gandhi tested Satyagraha in South Africa for seven years and showed it even worked in a foreign land against a strong and hostile government. He returned to India a seasoned veteran of non-violent resistance, certain that he could free India politically from British domination without war, without violence, if the Indian people would accept his leadership and abide completely by the non-violent conditions he placed before them.


“Select your purpose” he challenged, “selfless, without any thought of personal pleasure or personal profit, and then use selfless means to attain your goal. Do not resort to violence even if it seems at first to promise success; it can only contradict your purpose. If we can adhere to complete non-violence in thought, word and deed, India’s freedom is assured.”


Evil, injustice, hatred, Gandhi argued, exist only in so far as we support them. They have no existence of their own. Without our co-operation, intentional or unintentional, injustice cannot continue. This is the great spiritual teaching behind non-violent non-co-operation. As long as a people accept exploitation, both exploiter and exploited will be entangled in injustice. But once the exploited refuse to accept the relationship, refuse to co-operate with it, they are already free.


The historian J.B. Kriplani said once, “Mr. Gandhi, you may know all about the Bible or the Bhagwad Gita, but you know nothing at all about history. Never has a nation been able to free itself without violence.” Gandhi smiled, “You know nothing about history,” he corrected gently. “The first thing you have to learn about history is that because something has not taken place in the past that does not mean that it cannot take place in the future.”


“Satyagraha is gentle, it never wounds, and it must not be the result of anger or malice. It is never fussy, never impatient, and never vociferous. It is the direct opposite of compulsion. It was conceived as a complete substitute for violence.”


Gandhi was the most bewildering opponent any nation ever faced. Every move he made was spontaneous and every year that past found him more youthful, more radical, and more experimental. British administrators were baffled and exasperated by this little man who seemed to be getting stronger day by day. His actions were always prompted not by stale calculations of what seemed politically expedient, but by a deep intuition that only came to him in the eleventh hour.


Never was this more evident than in the Salt-Satyagraha in 1930, which brought Gandhi and the Indian struggle to the attention of the world. The government had imposed a law forbidding Indians to make their own salt, making them dependent on a British monopoly for what is, in a tropical country, a necessity of life. To Gandhi it was a perfect symbol of colonial exploitation. He proposed to march with seventy eight of his most trusted ashram followers to the little coastal town of Dandi, some 240miles away where salt from the sea lay free for the taking on the sand. When he gave the signal, everyone in India was to act as if the Salt Laws had never been enacted at all. It was an epic march. Gandhi was 61 but he had never been in better shape. He marched with a light brisk step of an athlete covering about 12miles a day, stopping at every village on the way to preach the gospel of Ahimsa and the duty of non-violent non-co-operation. By the time he reached Dandi 24 days later, his non-violent army of 78 had swelled to several thousand.


Throughout the night of their arrival Gandhi and his followers prayed for the strength to resist the violence which might easily sweep away so large a crowd. Then at dawn Gandhi went quietly down to the water and with thousands watching every gesture stooped down and picked up a pinch of salt from the sand. The response was immediate. All along India’s coastline thousands of men, women and children swept down to the sea and gathered salt in direct disobedience of the British laws. Their contraband salt was auctioned at premium prices to those in the cities who could break the law only by buying. The whole country knew it had thrown of its chains and despite the brutality of police reprisal the atmosphere was one of nation-wide rejoicing.


After the Dandi March Gandhi along with 60 thousand Satyagrahis were imprisoned. Gandhiji was an example to them all. For him jail was not a hardship but a crown of glory for he knew that the capacity to suffer bravely for a higher ideal was the strength that would make every man and woman in India free. He embraced the prospect of imprisonment with such joy and good humour that people all over the country began to laugh off their own fear. British jails became the scenes of festive reunions as India’s imprisoned political leaders found themselves joined by their families and friends. Gandhi sent them telegrams of congratulations. He himself was arrested so often that he seemed always to be either in prison, just released from prison, or about to be imprisoned again.


“There is no time-limit for a Satyagrahi nor is there a limit to his capacity for suffering. Hence there is no such thing as defeat in Satyagraha. Joy lies in the fight, in the attempt, in the suffering involved, not in the victory itself.”


Gandhi had to pay for his ideals with his life, but he never veered from his innate faith in non-violence and his belief in the methods of Satyagraha. The significance of Satyagraha was soon accepted worldwide. Martin Luther King adopted the methods of Satyagraha in his fight against the racial discrimination of the American authorities in 1950.


Satyagraha is more than a political tool of resistance. It is a holistic approach towards life, based on the ideals of truth and moral courage. The similarity of the Satyagraha to some of the greatest philosophical and religious tenets of the world have been observed and much written about.


However, in the specific context of India, Satyagraha was an immense influence. It went a long way in instilling among the Indians a dignity for hard labor and mutual respect. In the traditional Indian society torn apart by caste and creed based discriminations, Satyagraha stated that no work was lowly. It championed secularism and went a long way in eradicating untouchability from the heart of India's typically stratified society. Satyagraha glorified the role of women as an important member of the society. All in all, Satyagraha instilled in the Indian mind a dignity and a self respect that is yet unprecedented in its modern history.


Questions:

1) How can we use Satyagraha to sort out problems in our daily lives, with our families, in the work place?
2) How effective will it be?
3) What steps can we take to make it most effective?
4) What practical examples of Satyagraha are there in the world today?



Gandhi And Religion

Gandhi refers to 'God' as 'Truth' and this has very important bearings. The word 'Truth' has a much wider connotation than the term 'God'. There may be non-believers in God. But no one can deny 'truth' for even the atheist must accept the power of 'Truth'.


Gandhi's description about 'God', again, points out that it is something, which can be accepted by all men in the way they like. The following statement of Gandhi regarding God would make it clear. "To me God is Truth and Love. God is Ethics and Morality. God is Fearlessness. God is essence of life and light and yet He is above and beyond all these. God is conscience. He is even the atheism of the atheist. For in his boundlessness, God permits the atheist to live. He is the searcher of hearts. He is a personal God to those who need his personal presence. He is embodied to those who need his touch. He is the purest essence.... He is all things to all men. He is in us and yet above and beyond us."


Mahatma Gandhi's mission was not only to humanise religion but also to moralise it. He would reject any religious doctrine, which was in conflict with morality.


According to Gandhi religion and morality are inseparably bound up with each other. To Gandhi, "There is no religion higher than truth and Righteouness."


Morality is prized by almost all the great religions of the world. The emphasis on morality, by Gandhi helped his ideas to acquire a universalistic outlook.


“To see the universal and all pervading Spirit of Truth face to face one must be able to love the meanest of creation as oneself. And a man who aspires after that cannot afford to keep out of any field of life. That is why my devotion to Truth has drawn me into the field of politics; and I can say without the slightest hesitation, and yet in all humility, that those who say that religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion means.”


Gandhi's religion was a federation of different religious creeds, theological schools and sectarian faiths that have survived in India from ancient times. People belonging to different religions would go to him for his advice and blessings on different matters. All through his life Gandhi devoted much time and energy for the promotion of Hindu Muslim unity and also fasted for his cause on many occasions. In the wake of the partition of the country, hundreds and thousands of Hindus and Muslims were killed in Punjab, Bengal and Bihar.


Gandhi threw himself into a struggle to heal the breach between the two communities. Gandhi wanted communal harmony and peace not only between the Hindus and the Muslims but between all sections of the people who believe India to be their home, no matter to what faith they may belong.


Gandhi had the good fortune to have as his colleague's people belonging to different religions. Two important examples are those C.F. Andrews and Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad. The Ashram prayers of Gandhi had passages from holy books like the Gita, the Bible and the Koran. This tradition still continues in India in most of the public meetings and prayers.


Gandhi was inspired by the life and teachings of Buddha…He did not see Buddhism as a new religion, but historically as the most daring effort made to reform and revitalize the Sanatan Hindu tradition of India. He saw it as the most revolutionary attempt to propagate the doctrine of Ahimsa in its widest sense.


The first two books that he studied during his student days in London were Sir Edwin Arnold’s ‘The Song Celestial’ (the English translation of the Bhagwad Gita) and ‘The Light of Asia’ which depicted the life and teachings of Gautama Buddha.


Gandhi also maintained that a reverential study of the different religious tradition is necessary. He felt that it is the duty of every cultured man and woman to read sympathetically the scriptures of the world. To respect other religion, a study of their scriptures, is a sacred duty according to Gandhi. To understand the point of view of another faith requires tolerance, sympathy, broad mindedness, humility and willingness to recognize Truth wherever it is to be found. If we posses these qualities we can appreciate other's faith, traditions, customs, culture and way of life. The prophets and seers of different religions have brought to mankind the consciousness of the unity underlying the whole universe and a deep sense of brotherhood of man.


Gandhi therefore felt a need of the comparative study of religions to pave the way for unity and brotherhood amongst the followers of different religions.


Mahatma Gandhi was a Sanatani Hindu. His love for Hinduism was not blind love. Gandhi spoke about the lofty ideals preached by Hinduism. Hinduism, according to him is the most tolerant and liberal religion. He was deeply impressed by the ethical and spiritual outlook of Hinduism. Gandhi said, "The chief value of Hinduism lies in holding the actual belief that all life is one i.e. all life coming from one universal source; call it Allah, God or Parameshwara." Gandhi was also very much impressed by the teachings of the Gita saying, "when one sees Me everywhere and everything in Me, I am never lost to him and he is never lost to Me." The Gita became what he called his “spiritual reference book”, the practical guide through the dangers and challenges he encountered as he deepened his search for truth.


But Gandhi at the same time was very radical in his approach and he did not hesitate in criticizing those aspects of Hinduism which did not appeal to his reason. For example he was very much against the caste system that was prevalent in Hinduism. To quote Gandhi, "My religion is Hinduism ... I can no more describe my feelings for Hinduism than for my wife ... Even so I feel about Hinduism with all its fault and limitations ... I know that the vice that is going on today in all the Hindu shrines ... My zeal never takes me to the rejection of any of the essential things in Hinduism."


Hinduism according to Gandhi did not have one central book for reference, no particular God of worship nor one particular way of God realization. Whether he is a theist or an atheist, he is a Hindu.


Whether he believes in one absolute or many Gods, he is a Hindu. Whether he believes in Vedas or not, he remains a Hindu.


Gandhi was therefore liberal enough to take idol worship as a part of human nature, though he did not believe in idol worship as such.


Gandhi, was, however, deadly against untouchability, the greatest plague of the Hindu society according to Gandhi, which is the duty of every true Hindu or combat.


Gandhi was also against animal sacrifice though prescribed in the Vedas as it went against his concept of non-violence. Instead he advocated the sacrifice of animality in us in the form of lust, greed, anger, hatred, ill-will etc.


Though deeply religious by nature, Gandhi did not believe in rituals, customs, traditions, dogmas and other formalities observed for the sake of religion.


Like Swami Vivekananda and Rabindranath Tagore, Gandhi's religion was not confined to Temples, Churches, books, rituals and other outer forms. Thus Gandhi's concept of religion was not bound by any formalities.


His God may be a personal God to those who needs his personal presence. He may be a law to those who concentrate their minds on the orderliness of the universe. He may be an embodied being to those who need his touch. According to Gandhi God may have a thousand names as Ishwara, Siva, Vishnu, Rama, Krsna, Jehovah, Christ, Allah etc. according to the traditions in which a man is brought up. In the words of Gandhi, "Is there one God for the Mussalmans and another for the Hindus, Parsis, and Christians? No, there is only one Omnipresent God. He is named variously, and we remember him by the name which is most familiar to us”.


Amongst religions, other than Hinduism, no other religion inspired, impressed and influenced Gandhi as Christianity. In the concept of Satyagraha, Gandhi was deeply influenced by the teachings of Jesus particularly the sacrifice Jesus had to undergo during crucification for a noble cause.


The teachings of the New Testament specially the Sermon: "You have heard that it hath been said: An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you not to resist evil; but if one strikes thee on thy right cheek, turn to him thy other also" impressed Gandhi very much. Satyagraha, in the hands of Gandhi had been a weapon of conquering evil by good. Gandhi said that he had the same liking for the Sermon as he had for the Gita. To use Gandhi's words, "Today supposing I was deprived of the Gita and forgot all its contents but had a copy of the Sermon, I would deprive the same joy from it as I do from the Gita." Gandhi loved Christianity because of its absolute emphasis on love as the most ethical virtue.


But Gandhi disliked the claims of Christianity as superior over all other religions of the world. Though Gandhi had a deep respect for the different religions he was against proselytisation. He was against certain forms of missionary activities specially those relating to conversion. Gandhi was not opposed to conversion if it was based on one's will but he was against any use of force or propaganda in the matter of conversion.As he remarked, "A rose does not need to preach. It simply spreads its fragrance. The fragrance is its own sermon. The fragrance of religion and spiritual life is much finer and much subtler than that of a rose."


From the comparative study of religions, Gandhi was convinced that a mere doctrinaire approach in the field of religion does not help to create inter religious fellowship. Dogmatic religions do not help to promote creative dialogue. The religions dogmas directly or indirectly breed an attitude of dislike towards other religions. Such an attitude does not help to provide any meeting grounds for religions. Gandhi realized that true religion vitalizes and elevates the inner life of human beings. The progress of any religion depends on how effectively one has been able to realise the inner spirituality and convictions in his day to day life. The rituals, the symbols, the churches, the temples or the mosques are aids so long as they help to nourish and fertilize the inner spiritual life of their followers. In their true aspects all religions call for peace and brotherhood amongst man. The great religions of the world should strive, according to Gandhi, in promoting a life of self control, sacrifice, harmony, peace and understanding amongst its followers so as to create a heaven on earth. “Call it then by whatever name you like, that which gives one the greatest solace in the midst of the severest fire is God.”


Gandhi was born a Hindu and practiced Hinduism (specially meditation and repetition of the mantra) all his life, deriving most of his principles from Hinduism. He has this to say about Hinduism:


“Hinduism as I know it entirely satisfies my soul, fills my whole being...When doubts haunt me, when disappointments stare me in the face, and when I see not one ray of light on the horizon, I turn to the Bhagwad Gita, and find a verse to comfort me; and I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming sorrow. My life has been full of tragedies and if they have not left any visible and indelible effect on me, I owe it to the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita.


Later in his life, when he was asked whether he was a Hindu, he replied, "Yes I am. I am also a Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist and a Jew."


One American journalist who had been following Gandhi for years with mounting admiration finally asked him,” Can you tell me the secret of your life in three words?” “Yes,” chuckled Gandhi, who could never resist a challenge, “Renounce and enjoy.”


Gandhi was quoting from the Isha Upanishad, one of the most ancient of Hindu scriptures. For him the whole of the Bhagwad Gita was only a commentary on these three simple words, which encompass the summit of human wisdom.


Gandhi identified so completely with this message; everything he did embodied what he believed.


He did not have to plan speeches or stage events……often people asked how he was able to speak so well for such a long time without any preparation, without any prompting or notes?


His secretary Mahadev Desai replied” What Gandhi thinks, what he feels, what he says and what he does are all the same, He does not need notes. You and I, we think one thing, feel another, say a third, and do a fourth, so we need notes and files to keep track.”


We may conclude here, in the words of Swami Vivekananda, one of the greatest champion of peace and understanding of religions, which Gandhi also supported: 'Brother, yours is an impossible hope.' Do I wish that a Christian would become a Hindu? God forbid. Do I wish that a Hindu or Buddhist would become a Christian? God forbid ... The Christian is not to become a Hindu or a Buddhist, nor a Hindu or a Buddhist to become a Christian. But each must assimilate the spirit of the others and yet preserve his individuality and grow according to his own law of growth."


The world does not need a new religion. What it does need are the people who, discovering the eternal and universal truths in their own religion are bold enough to live in accordance with those truths. When it is done, the dry outer forms of religions, which divide the entire human race into several groups, will crumble before the radiance and power of the mighty human spirit. The power of the human soul, knows no bounds, no limits and if religion is its vehicle then that vehicle will surely participate in transforming the human society on its journey towards the Divine Being.


Gandhi has been killed. Physically he is no more with us. But his spirit lives amidst us and within us, with all its glory than ever before.


Questions:

1) What do we know about our own religion?
2) What have we read or learned about the other religions?
3) How do we practice our own religion?
4) As parents what efforts have we made to teach our children our religion?