PART 4.03 [part of my book]
Mahatma Gandhiji Amar Rahe*
Principles and Practices of a satyagrahi
Velandy Manohar, MD
Distinguished Life Fellow
Past President Asian American Caucus
American Psychiatric Association
Past President Indo- American Psychiatric Association
Om! Om! Om!
I offer this invocation from the Mundakopanishad,
“May our ears hear what is auspicious, may our eyes perceive that. May we during the time we are allotted be blessed with healthy limbs and body that we may glorify the Lord our God. May the Almighty God bless us. May our Minds be still and at peace.”
The Katha Upanishad (6)-15 teaches us the lesson that is gloriously enshrined and illuminated by the incandescent life of service to all and sacrifice of oneself of Mahatma Gandhiji.
“When the knots of the heart are untangled, and the human being becomes freed from worldly attachments, then he or she attains immortality. This is the whole of the teaching.“
Verse (6) -17 provides us the basis for continuing to offer homage to our beloved Bapu and seek sustenance from his Immortal incandescent spirit as we try to walk in his footsteps and follow sublime and transcendent trajectory of his life on earth.
“Of the size of the thumb, the spirit is lodged in the hearts of all and is there at all times. With understanding, separate him from the mortal coil (the sheaths of the body) in which the self is shrouded even as you take off the blades of a reed plant. Know that the Spiritual- self is immaculate and deathless.” *(Amar Rahe: Remain alive forever)
This invocation from the Brihad Aranyaka Upanishad I,(3) 28 inspired and guided Mahatma Gandhiji’s thoughts, words and deeds as he shaped the minds and hearts of not only his countless admirers and followers but also of those who made themselves his adversaries.
“ From that which is not truthful at its essence lead me to the highest Truth. From the shrouds of darkness ( of identification of the Spiritual Self with the body) lead me to light. From the death( of attachments and aversions) lead me to Immortality of the Deathless and immaculate Spiritual Self)
Mahatma Gandhiji in a speech on December 20, 1926 said, “There is nothing on the earth I would not give up for the sake of the country excepting of course two things and two only, namely, Truth and Ahinsa(non violence). I would not sacrifice these two for all the world. For to me Truth is god and there is no way to find Truth except by the way of non-violence. I do not seek to serve India at the sacrifice of Truth or God. For I know that a man who forsakes Truth can forsake his country, and his nearest and dearest ones.” In 1936 at a meeting of the Gandhi Sevak Sangh Bapu said” I have nothing new to teach the world. Truth and non-violence are as old as the hills. All I have done is to try experiments in both on as vast a scale as I could do. In doing so
I have sometimes erred and have learned from my errors. Life and its problems have thus become for me so many experiments in the practice of truth and non-violence. By instinct, I have been truthful, but not non-violent. As a Jain Muni once rightly said , I was not so much a votary of Ahinsa, as I was of Truth and I put the latter in the first place and the former in the second. For as he put it, I was capable of sacrificing non-violence for the sake of Truth.
In fact it was in the course of my pursuit of Truth that I discovered non-violence. Our scriptures have declared there is no higher dharma than the Truth. But they say Ahinsa is the highest duty. ( The first two instructions of the first and perhaps only commencement address in recorded history is from the Taittriya Upanishad Shiksavalli , Satyam Vada, Dharmam Chara( Proclaim the Truth and embody righteousness in your journey through life.)
The Mundaka Upanishad teaches us [III-(1)-6], “Truth ever Triumphs. The road to the divine is paved with the Truth. On that road walk the Rishis (illumined souls) with desires quenched to reach the Supreme abode.” The first words of this teaching, Satyam Eva Jayate is on the seal of the Republic of India below the representation of the Lion Capital of Emperor Ashoka ( a great votary of Truth and Ahinsa)
Mahatma Gandhiji writes in his autobiography, “If I found myself entirely absorbed in the service of the community, the reason behind it was my desire for self realization. I had made the religion of service my own, as I felt God could be realized only through service. And service for me was the service of India, because it came without my seeking, because I had an aptitude for it. I had gone to South Africa for travel, an escape from the Kathiawad intrigues and gaining my livelihood. But as I have said, I found myself in search of God and striving for self realization.”
“A variety of incidents in my life have conspired to bring me in close contact with people of many creeds and communities, and my experience with all of them warrants the statement that I have no distinction between relatives and strangers, countrymen and foreigners, white and colored, Hindus and Indians of other faiths, whether Mussalmans, Parsis, Christians or Jews. I may say that my heart has been incapable of making such distinctions.” Bapu said, “I am a staunch Hindu, but my Hinduism teaches me equal regard for all religions.”My Hinduism is not sectarian. It includes all I know to be the best in Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism. Truth is my religion, and Ahimsa is the only way of its realization. ”Mahatma Gandhiji.
These excerpts among many enshrines the noble concepts of the Upanishads and the Bhagvad Geeta that Mahatma Gandhiji sought to embody in his words and deeds and thus enshrine in his message.
The first two verses of the Isavasya Upanishad proclaims: “Everything in the universe abides in the Supreme Being. Realize this well, and realizing this, cast off the desires that arise in the heart, for example, the thought of possessing what is enjoyed by another. Joy comes only from giving up desires and attachments. You may live the longest life, doing work in a detached spirit and dedicating everything to God. Thus only can we escape the contamination of work and purify life.”
Bhagvad Gita offers us a synthesis of the highest spiritual effort of the individual with the most practical social cooperation. We need to be committed to the ideal that all we do in our life for our families and our communities and our individual selves belongs to God. Work done in this spirit will not impede our halting progress on the arduous journey to self realization.
Lord Sri Krishna teaches us, “He who has firmly realized unity of life forms and worships Me as abiding in all beings, howsoever he be engaged, is a Yogi and abides in Me. “ Chapter VI-V3:0.
Lord Sri Krishna teaches us, “When the understanding enables an individual to see an immutable oneness in all beings, and an undivided whole in all the manifold shapes, know that to be true Light. Chapter XVIII-V: 20
“He who holds his inner spirit unbound, whatever he may do, whose self is well controlled and who is free from desire, attains by such renunciation that supreme goal which is the aim of renunciation of action. Chapter XVIII-V: 49.
Mahatma Gandhiji emphasized the important of being committed not only to the achievement of noble and lofty goals but also of scrupulously adhering to the principle of Ahimsa in the process of achieving even these noble aspirations. He writes, “Man and his deeds are two distinct things. Where as a good deed should call forth approbation and wicked deed disapprobation, the doer of the deed, whether good or wicked, always deserves respect or pity as the case may be. Hate the sin and not the sinner is a precept which, though easy enough to understand is rarely practiced, and that is why the poison of hatred spreads in the world.
This Ahinsa is the basis of the search for Truth (Satyam or Sat). I am realizing every day the search for the highest truth is in vain unless it is founded on Ahinsa as the basis. It is quite proper to resist and attack a system, but to resist and harm the author is tantamount to resisting and attacking oneself. For we are all tarred with the same brush, and we are all children of one and the same creator, and as such the divine powers within us is infinite. To slight, or harm a single human being is to slight and harm not just that divinely embodied individual but to harm with that being all creatures in the world.
A. AHINSA ( Non Violence): “ I learnt the lesson of non-violence from
my wife,(Ba), when I tried to bend her to my will. Her determined resistance to my will, on the one hand ‘and her quiet submission to the suffering my stupidity caused cured me of my stupidity…in the end Ba became my teacher of non-violence.”
“The same inviolable connection exists betweens means and ends as exists between the seed and the tree.”
“Nevertheless Ahinsa is the means and Truth (Satyam) is the end. Means to this to be effective must always be within our grasp. If we take care of the means, we are bound to reach the end sooner or later. When once we grasped this point final Victory is beyond question. Whatever difficulties we encounter, whatever apparent reversals we sustain, we MAY NOT give up the quest for the Truth.”
“It is the acid test of non-violence that in non-violent conflict there is no rancor left behind and in the end those who were regarded as enemies are converted into friends. That was my experience with General Smuts. He started with being my bitterest opponent and critic. Today he is my warmest friend.”
This is General Smuts’ tribute, “It was my fate to be the antagonist of a man for whom even I had the highest respect. That clash on a small stage brought out certain qualities of Gandhiji’s character, which have since been displayed in his later large-scale operations in India, And they show that while he was prepared to go all out for the causes he championed, he never forgot the human background of the situation, he never lost his temper or succumbed to hate, and preserved his gentle humor even in the most trying circumstances. His manner and spirit even then, as well as later, contrasted markedly with the ruthlessness and brutal forcefulness, which is in vogue today.”
B. The Eleven observances promulgated by Mahatma Gandhiji are taken from the Constitution of the Satyagraha Ashram founded by Bapu. Originally drafted in 1915, the form that is presented here is from a revision completed in 1928.
The Object of the Ashram is that its members should qualify themselves for and make a constant endeavor towards, the service of the country, but not inconsistent with universal welfare. These Observances were developed to help the residents of the Ashram to meet the goals of their life in the Ashram. These were deemed essential for the fulfillment of the object of the Ashram
1. Adherence to Truth
4. Control of the Palate
7. Physical Labor
10. Removal of Untouchability.
11. Tolerance of all faiths and creeds.
C. The seven social sins formulated by Bapu are:
1. Politics without principles.
2. Wealth without work
3. Commerce without morality
4. Education without Character building
5. Pleasure without Conscience
6. Science without Humanity
7. Worship without Sacrifice.
D. Besides the Ashrams of Mahatma Gandhiji were established there were noteworthy experimental communities committed to Utopia, life based on specific ideals. In North America, in 1681 a Quaker by the name of William Penn and his followers started an extensive utopian experimental community based on Quaker principles on what is modern day Pennsylvania. This vast territory was administered by Quaker legislators until 1756 when the last of the Quaker legislators threw in the towel during the French and Indian War of 1756. The relationship of William Penn in the Seventeenth Century with the Delaware Native Americans were exemplary and couldn’t be imagined in any century between a conquering race and a conquered race. “ I am very sensible of the unkindness and injustice that hath been exercised towards you, by the people of these parts of the world,” Penn wrote to his indigenous subjects,” But I have great love and regard toward you, and I desire to win and gain your love and friendship, by a kind just and peaceable life. There was no army in this vast territory. Criminal Justice system was shifted from a punitive to a restorative character. Work houses were based in every county instead of prisons. Religious tolerance was extended to all sects and creeds. Capital punishment was drastically reduced. History knows this seventy- year oasis of reason and amity as the Holy experiment a name which would apply to the Ashrams of Mahatma Gandhiji founded on Satyam, Swadeshi, Ahinsa and Sarvodaya.
May the wicked become virtuous
May the virtuous attain tranquility
May the tranquil be freed from their bonds
May the liberated help make the shackled go free.
May peace pervade the three spheres
Asato ma Sadgamaya
Tamaso ma Jyotir gamaya
Mrityor ma Amritam gamaya
Om shanti, shanti, Shantihi.
Lead us o! Lord from untruth of our senses bound existence
To the Truth that abides in our essence
Lead us from the darkness of our mundane existence to the glorious illumination of the transcendental experience
Lead us o! Lord from death of our passions and attachments to the immortality of the liberated soul.
Lead thou me on
May peace prevail in the three spheres of experience.
Velandy Manohar, MD
Distinguished Life Fellow and President, Asian American Caucus [at the time this essay was written]
American Psychiatric Association.