Friday, October 5, 2007

Mahatma Gandhi and other great souls - successful failures?

Gandhi, fighter without a sword
882 words
1 October 2007
Indo-Asian News Service
© Copyright 2007. HT Media Limited. All rights reserved.

Indo-Asian News Service Mumbai, oct. 1 -- Gandhi, the Mahatma, truly considered himself a citizen of the world though he worked for the freedom of the Indian nation from foreign yoke. "My religion has no geographical boundaries," he explained to Kakasaheb Kalekar. "If I have a living faith in it, it will transcend my love for India herself." It was that brand of religion that taught him to believe in the soul and rely solely on soul force to fight all the ills in human hearts.

Humanity was his religion. He believed that for victory, war was the most blunt weapon, and the sharpest one was obviously non-violence. He abhorred the concept of might being the right.

Gandhi's saying - "Most religious men I have met are politicians in disguise. I, however, who wear the guise of a politician, am at heart, a religious man!" - remains the key to the value system of the political philosophy he adhered to. Gandhi entered politics to fight irreligion. He also accepted the fact that he might not be absolutely accurate as regards his words used. This is the hallmark of a truly great person.

Truth for him was god. And non-violence, or soul force, was his only means of fighting the ills of life. He was not a nationalist in the narrow parochial sense. Gandhi was at pains to explain to American writer Jeanette Eaton that his nationalism in reality is intense internationalism.

"Our nationalism can be no peril to other nations in as much as we will

exploit none, just as we allow none to exploit us." In her book, "Gandhi: Fighter Without A Sword", Eaton narrates that the greatest influence of Gandhi on her was Gandhi's notions on oneness of the world.

Gandhi told C.R. Das: "How heartening it is to imagine that when there is One World and no militarised boundaries and all the natural and human resources, all the sciences and technology which are today marshalled and arrayed for destructive purposes, will be used for the elimination of poverty, ill-health and ignorance. They shall be used for promoting goodwill and for creating better conditions of life for the whole humanity. Though this rosy picture is today the privilege only of the poets and the utopian dream of idealists, there is no doubt that this is the cherished hope of everyone who strives for harmony."

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad in his "India Wins Freedom" states that Gandhiji is universally acknowledged as the greatest man of his age because despite affecting the destiny of the whole sub-continent, he held no high office nor did he rule countries. By sacrificing political gains, he bought peace like all true thinkers and philosophers.

He was above all the frivolities of political life, drawing strength from what he termed "soul force", an inner strength that comes only when one believes in non-violence and truth and has abiding faith in the innate goodness of fellow beings. It was this quality that made Gandhi a leader of the world leaders.

Maulana Abdul Waheed Siddiqui, a noted Islamic theologian and founder editor of Nai Duniya Urdu weekly, writes in Gandhi Number issue of Oct 2, 1953, on the importance that Gandhi laid on Hindu-Muslim unity. Gandhi told Siddiqui that India could never reach her goal if she were hit by Hindu-Muslim hostility.

He threw himself in the struggle to heal the breach between the two communities. He supported Muslims in the Khilafat campaign and agitated for the release from the prison of the Ali brothers. It was at this time too that the Khadi movement was inaugurated.

Because he possessed such an enlightened and secular world view, Gandhi unhesitatingly advocated the causes of Hindu-Muslim unity, social progress, religious tolerance, spread of modern knowledge, individual liberty and above all educational reforms. He had the courage of a statesman for initiating reforms. However, he did not live long enough to see his ideas implemented as the life of this saint who advocated non-violence was cut short by a most heinous act of violence.

Duty to Gandhi was of paramount importance. He said: "Duties to self, to the family, to the country and to the world are not independent of one another. One cannot do good to the country by injuring the world at large."

Tagore had feared that Gandhi would fail. Wrote Tagore: "Perhaps he will not succeed. Perhaps he will fail as the Buddha failed, as Christ failed and as Lord Mahavira failed to wean men from their inequities, but he will be remembered as one who made his life an example for all ages to come."

Will Durant, in an article in The Manchester Guardian, said: "Perhaps Gandhi failed as saints are likely to fail in this very hostile, selfish and Darwinian world. But these very failures are the eternal successes attained by saintly people as they can never stoop to the detestable levels of this materialistic world in which each one is running after god of Mammon."

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