Friday, March 27, 2009

Gandhi's Dharma

Gandhi and Indian Mysticism

It is unfortunate that an impartial estimate of the greatness of Mahatma Gandhi, done more than forty years ago by Amal Kiran in his book The Indian Spirit and the World's Future, has not received its due recognition. While an average Indian immediately links up Swaraj with Gandhi, the author of this exegesis wonders if the elements of Indian mysticism in the Mahatma's socio-political approach really draw nourishment from the rich and invigorating traditions of the land. - Editors

THE idealisation of non-violence at all costs serves also to throw into relief the precise meaning of Gandhi's saying: "Politics are to me subservient to religion." If religion primarily signified to him non-violence, then it is doubtful whether he can stand wholly as a representative of what India has historically understood by religion. In the golden age of spirituality, the Vedic times, the arts of war were not taboo. Even in the Ashrams of the Rishis archery was taught - surely not just to hunt animals (though that too would be contrary to non-violence). It was taught essentially in order to fit men for violence in a right cause. The emphasis was always on being right, not on being non- violent. The holiest figures in Indian tradition, Rama and Krishna, were mighty warriors and urged men to ..battle against the enemies of dharma. To explain away their fights as being allegories of inner struggle between man's higher self and his lower is to forget that in part of mankind the lower self is not only dominant but also aggressive against those in whom the higher self is more active and that the inner struggle must necessarily get projected into an epic of physical combat. Even Buddha who among India's spiritual personalities put the greatest premium on non-violence did not enjoin it on all and sundry: he restricted it to the class of monks and, while conjuring humanity to return love for hatred, never discouraged violence in
defence of a cause that was just. The absolute adherence to ahimsa was derived by Gandhi from Tolstoy: It does not reflect the flexible and many-sided spiritual wisdom of original Hinduism.
There is also another fact which leads us to question whether Gandhi, for all his veneration of the Gita, embodied vitally the soul of the Hindu religion. It was not only Swaraj that he deemed undesirable without unsleeping agitation and activity to demo- lish the barrier between the Untouchables and the rest of our population: Even Hinduism itself, the whole grand structure of spiritual aspiration towards the invisible Divine, was a mockery to Gandhi so long as that barrier was not torn down. One of his often-quoted utterances is that he would far rather that Hin- duism died than that Untouchability lived! Here is an hysterical rushing to extremes by a conscience hypersensitive to social inequalities. Here is deplorable forgetfulness of the truth that, though social reformism is a fine passion, it cannot be the centre and core of man's upward endeavour. The main purpose of true religion is a change of the merely human consciousness into a divine consciousness by a progressive practice of me presence of God. Only when that presence is inwardly realised can social pestilences like Untouchability be radically removed. Till then, sincere efforts must certainly be made to abolish them by means of brotherly social behaviour, but to believe that a sore like Untouchability renders all Hinduism corrupt and futile and that, without the help of the fundamental transformation of conscious- ness that is Yoga, me root and not only one or another outward form of social iniquity can be plucked out is to confuse morality with religion and to prove clearly that one lacks the burning essence of not only the Hindu religion ..SOURCE

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