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Towards Non-Violence -
Happy Birthday Gandhi ji!
By D.K. Matai
(Courtesy of D.K. Matai and intentblog)
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on 2nd October 1869 and it is a great honor and privilege to remember his unique contribution to the cause of global humanity and India’s exemplary struggle for democratic freedom through non-violent means: non-cooperation and civil resistance. Albert Einstein wrote: "Mahatma Gandhi’s life achievement stands unique in political history..."
"...He has invented a completely new and humane means for the liberation war of an oppressed country, and practiced it with greatest energy and devotion. The moral influence he had on the consciously thinking human being of the entire civilized world will probably be much more lasting than it seems in our time with its overestimation of brutal violent forces. Because lasting will only be the work of such statesmen who wake up and strengthen the moral power of their people through their example and educational works. We may all be happy and grateful that destiny gifted us with such an enlightened contemporary, a role model for the generations to come."
In regard to Mahatma Gandhi and Philanthropy, Prof Einstein wrote:
"I am absolutely convinced that no wealth in the world can help humanity forward, even in the hands of the most devoted worker in this cause. The example of great and pure personages is the only thing that can lead us to find ideas and noble deeds. Money only appeals to selfishness and always irresistibly tempts its owner to abuse it. Can anyone imagine Moses, Jesus or Gandhi with the moneybags of Carnegie?"
In his letter to Mahatma Gandhi in September 1931 from Potsdam, Prof Einstein wrote:
Respected Mr. Gandhi!
I use the presence of your friend in our home to send you these lines. You have shown through your works, that it is possible to succeed without violence even with those who have not discarded the method of violence. We may hope that your example will spread beyond the borders of your country, and will help to establish an international authority, respected by all, that will take decisions and replace war conflicts.
With sincere admiration,
PS I hope that I will be able to meet you face to face some day.
In response, Mahatma Gandhi wrote from London in October 1931:
I was delighted to have your beautiful letter sent through Sundaram. It is a great consolation to me that the work I am doing finds favor in your sight. I do indeed wish that we could meet face to face and that too in India at my Ashram.
M K Gandhi
By way of remembering the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi, some of his famous quotations are reproduced:
1. Always aim at complete harmony of thought and word and deed. Always aim at purifying your thoughts and everything will be well. As long as you derive inner help and comfort from anything, keep it.
2. It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.
3. Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.
4. Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.
5. Victory attained by violence is tantamount to a defeat, for it is momentary. What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?
6. Honest differences are often a healthy sign of progress. Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress.
7. I believe in equality for everyone, except reporters and photographers.
8. I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.
9. It is better to be violent, if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on the cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence.
10. In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness. Our life is a long and arduous quest after Truth.
11. One needs to be slow to form convictions, but once formed they must be defended against the heaviest odds.
12. The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.
13. You must be the change you want to see in the world.
14. You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.
15. Hate the sin, love the sinner.
DK Matai is an engineer turned entrepreneur and philanthropist with a keen interest in the well being of global society. DK founded mi2g in 1995, the digital risk specialists, in London, UK, whilst developing simulations for his PhD at Imperial College. DK helped found ATCA - The Asymmetric Threats Contingency Alliance - in 2001, a philanthropic expert initiative to address complex global challenges. ATCA conducts collective Socratic dialogue on opportunities and threats arising from climate chaos, radical poverty, organised crime, extremism, informatics, nanotechnology, robotics, genetics, artificial intelligence & financial systems. ATCA has over 5,000 distinguished members: including several from the House of Lords, House of Commons, EU Parliament, US Congress & Senate, G10’s Senior Government officials and over 1,500 CEOs from financial institutions, scientific corporates and voluntary organisations as well as over 750 Professors from academic centres of excellence worldwide.
GANDHI’S NONVIOLENCE IS NOT COWARDLY PACIFISM
By Aneeta Chakrabarty
The calf in the Sabarmati ashram was suffering from an excruciating and incurable pain. The inmates watched helplessly unable to alleviate the pain, when Gandhiji advised that it should be put out of its misery as soon as possible. The mercy killing stunned and rocked the portals of orthodox Hinduism and set the high priests on a collision course with Gandhi. "This is not Ahimsa, this is not nonviolence", rang their accusing refrain from shore to shore.
Even then, Gandhi’s concept of nonviolence was misunderstood, and today that misconception continues as secular politicians pay homage to Gandhi while openly flaunting his most cherished tenets.
Gandhi’s concept of nonviolence that churned the soul of the then civilized world, as interpreted by the secular politicians and escapist Swamis, has come to mean pacifism, avoiding involvement, encouraging no action, enduring injustice, building an empire of materialism on the shifting sands of the loyalties of the mob, clothing virtues in rags and failing the litmus test of a true civilization which is providing for the poor. Gandhi would have considered all of the above as the form of violence, resulting from a lack of love in the hearts of men. Gandhi’s concept of nonviolence is an integral concept that was motivated by an all-absorbing love for all creatures, and not by a negative concept of abstinence that only stressed non-injury, or the idea propagated by Rasputin like Godmen that breathing and eating vegetables destroyed living organisms. The mercy killing of a cow was motivated more by the concept of love and less by the concept of non-injury. It is this concept of love and equality that established the dignity of labor and shaped itself into a movement to eradicate untouchability, and to fight for social and political justice.
The Ahimsa or nonviolence of Gandhi is the Gita in action. It is the Gita of fearlessness, ceaseless constructive work to uplift the masses of India and to liberate them from inertia, fear and superstitions. It is the Gita of non-possession of worldly goods, service without self and action without attachment. It is the nonviolence that liberates men from the rotten disease of ill-will, malice and hatred which have killed more men and caused more wars than guns, bombs or daggers. Unlike secular pacifism, it was an Ahimsa that transformed the black stares, the hopeless despair that haunt faces of rural poverty with the spinning wheel and village industries. It was an Ahimsa that exhorted people to give infinitely, not like the rich who gave little and cackled a lot, but to give with a heart full of love that embraces justice.
One gets glimpses of this giant concept through recorded snapshots in countless memories of this great man of action that has come down from the not too distant ramparts of time. One can vividly see moving scenes of quiet courage and daring fortitude against numerous tyrannies of his time. Gandhi pleading with orthodox Hindus to open their temples to harijans. Gandhi obeying and enforcing the caste boycott against himself for crossing the seas, Gandhi being marched to court in South Africa with handcuffs on his hands and manacles on his feet.
Gandhi being accused of "dragging the Europeans of Natal to the gutters and painting them as black as his own skin". Gandhi in prison, washing the wounds of an African bitten by a scorpion, and sucking out the poison.
Gandhi cleaning the chamber pot of a harijan, living in a one room hut, tending to a leper and wearing coarsest khadi spun out of his own hands. Gandhi instilling in his starved, oppressed, beaten and deprived followers hope that made their drudgery bearable, courage that broke the chain of their gaunt poverty and. wisdom that enlightened the gaping ignorance of their souls. Gandhi walking barefoot in the aftermath of the communal holocaust in Noakhali, on broken glass and brambles maliciously strewn in his path by the gleeful cohorts of Jinnah. Gandhi almost being lynched by Europeans in South Africa, yet dauntlessly fighting the arrogance and brute strength of the South African government with quiet courage and humble dignity, and finally, Gandhi fighting the brutal repression and scorn of the British. Such incidents in no way support the concept of impotent nonviolence of post independent India, but the fearless nonviolence of a crusading reformer.
There are other snapshots, other aspects of a giant movement embracing a gamut of issues such as rural poverty, untouchability, prohibition, industrialization, dignity of labor and economic exploitation which was quietly led by Gandhi. He fought rural poverty and famine through the currency of khadi. The khadi became the thread of destiny that burnt foreign cloth, provided employment to the starved peasantry, smote the conscience of the cities, conceived economics in terms of human welfare, and condemned the poverty and injustice of industrialization, reduced machinery to the terms of the masses, and laid emphasis on the culture of the heart. "The pauperism of India is coarser then the coarsest Chittagong chadder", he replied to fastidious students who complained of the coarse khadi. He fought the caste ridden Hindu society by practicing and preaching of labor. He washed his clothes, became his own barber, trained himself as a dispenser, acted as a midwife at the birth of his youngest son, cleaned his own plates and believed in making manual labor as part of education. His followers dug pits, felled trees, lifted
loads, learnt carpentry, shoe making and manufactured all kinds of items for use. From the Yeravda prison, Gandhi launched a fast to fight untouchability and to oppose the separate electorate for harijans put forth by the British to divide Hindu society. Even though an ancient tyranny could not be blasted overnight; it scrapped the idea of separate electorates and began the reform to end untouchability. In 9 months, he covered 12,500 miles penetrating the remotest part of the country and enlisted millions of men, women and children to become his fellow soldiers in the fight against untouchability. His heart bled for the poor peasant, the illiterate worker and the exploited laborer, which is why he insisted on prohibition, so that they would not squander their meager earnings on drink instead of milk for their scrawny, malnourished children.
Unlike secular politicians, Gandhi did not believe in separating politics from religion. His whole life was a dedication to bring the spirit of religion, of truth, charity and love into politics, and prevent the separation of the sacred and the secular. "I could not be leading a religious life unless I identified myself with the whole of mankind and that I could not do so unless I took part in politics. The whole gamut of man’s activity today constitutes an invisible whole. You cannot divide social, economic and purely religious work into watertight compartments," he said. His life was a living testament to this philosophy. His greatest genius lay in recognizing the fact that the farmers plough, the fritter seller’s ovens, and the working classes have always provided the blood and sinews for revolutions, that it is the voiceless millions who have established the major milestones in the barren landscape of history, and that a country can only be renewed from the unknown ranks from the bottom. He alone knew, that it is only the people’s power which can make the grain grow, the mightiest empires have succumbed to the erupting volcano of want, desperation and hunger and lost their flimsy thrones. From the ramparts of heaven, Gandhi’s distressed spirit sends this powerful message to his lost, beloved people on his birthday. It can be ignored only at our own peril.
Mahatma Gandhi: What he means to me
By P. Venugopala Rao
Gandhiji-Bapuji-Mahatama Gandhi-at the utterance of these words we visualize on our mental screens the serene figure of an old man, clad in white dhoti, half naked, often with a long walking stick in his hand, a flowing upper cloth covering his chest and shoulders, sometimes with folded hands, with eyes peering through an old fashioned pair of spectacles into the vast eternity of life. I have a cassette tape at home on which I have copied the voice of Mahatma which was once recorded by a Chicago based broadcasting firm. I can hear the high-pitched, but soft and persuasive voice of Gandhiji. I have always pictured him with eyes full of hope and a facial _expression that pleads for help - a compassionate frail human figure.
I had only one opportunity to see him in person (not counting all those views in documentaries and news films). That was when he passed through our hometown on a train on his way to attend a Congress working committee meeting in Madras. Standing on a crowded platform, I watched the special train come to a stop, a door open and two folded hands, as though in prayer, coming out. And then there was the darshan of the smiling face – an extraordinary moment. I do not remember anything he said. Maybe he did not say anything. But his smiling face is permanently engraved in my memory. I was there because Gandhi was already enshrined in my thoughts as a Mahatma. The passing away of Gandhi, at the hand of an assassin in 1948 was a traumatic event in the history of our nation of India. "The light has gone from our lives" - Nehru, our prime minister, almost wept that night uttering those words in a nationwide broadcast. I was afflicted too in some indefinable way. I did participate in the appropriate services at school open to someone like me, a student just about to graduate from a high school.
At home there were subdued and whispered conversations and occasional display of anger at that still unknown assassin. While I felt sorry along with others at that time, it was not the time to ask myself profound questions like "What does Gandhi mean to me?", "Did he have any impact on my thinking or mode of behavior?” Those came later. We reach a stage in life when we define for ourselves what and whom we have come to care for, what one cares to do well and how one plans to take care of what one has started. That is when one asks the basic questions and looks for answers. One begins to seek help from others who are wiser, from experiences in one’s own past and from the history of other’s lives. Born and living in the times when Gandhiji was alive, it is not surprising that one looks at his life for guidance. I have read his words
in his autobiography. I have read his biographies written by others. I was not looking for details of his life. I was trying to find what it is that an individual, who developed great respect and reverence for Gandhi, can obtain from Gandhi’s life, to use in his own life as a guiding principle. How can one translate what he has done for an entire nation into a private action suitable for an individual?
During the independence movement many adopted the so called Gandhian style of living. Some had actually gone to live in his presence at the place where he used to spend his time. Some had chosen to wear khadi garments, others would daily devote a chunk of their time to spin cotton thread in a portable `charakha’ – a ritual which Gandhian followers were proud to adopt. I was not looking obviously for such demonstrable signs of my veneration for him. I was looking for something more subtle, something which I can feel within myself and adopt as my own with no extra effort.
It was years later, after I left the shores of India, that I began to encounter the faint glimmer of a light that would guide me. In 1969 Erick Erikson published his book on Gandhi’s truth. The year was an exceptional year, a busy year for me in many ways as life began to take the full dimensions of a grhastha. There was a sense of looking forward in all directions, new friendships; new opportunities were weaving a web of relationships. I borrowed the book from the library, as soon as I could. At first it was not so exciting. I began to read it with no expectations. And then as I began to read, in between the lines, I found the answers that I was looking for.
Gandhiji absorbed from the Indian culture, or my culture, a concept of truth which he tries to imbibe in all compartments of human life, and he recommended it to others whole heartedly. For Gandhiji, as Erickson writes, God appears not in person but in action. This means that the full measure of a man - and that includes his non-conscious motivation -can never be comprehended in isolation from his most creative action. And the truth we know, to the extent we can hope to know, can only be revealed in our action. We know the truth, the `Satya’ to the extent we can be true to ourselves and to others. His prescription to his fellowmen is to be truer than action." His concern was not with the indefinable, unknowable, absolute truth; but the relative truth, the truth that is accessible to us, to you and to me. We all know how Gandhi often appealed to his "inner voice" as the final authority for recognizing the truth. When he heard that voice, he would commit himself with irreversible firmness to the course of action he discovered. He was successful in some sense “to transform the absolute truth of the philosophical "Satya" to the relative truth of ethic principle" capable of being implemented in the political and social arena.
Can we not use the same principle of listening to the voice of truth inside us to guide our ordinary lives? It was not a question any more for me. It was more a problem of how to implement it. Yes, it can be implemented through action, which is creative and through commitment which is totally honest, To be always willing to test our commitment to truth in our actions is what Gandhi would have asked me if I ever had an opportunity to receive private advice from him. While we consider Gandhi a Mahatma, I resist the temptation to conclude that he alone can practice such lofty principles and produce results. I regard him as a human being like all of us who has shown that such principles can be practiced by ordinary people like us. To the people who say in a sarcastic way that everybody cannot possess the same kind of "inner voice" my answer is that in need the Inner Voice in all of us is the same. Our egos and attachments play tricks on us. A bit of detachment, a tiny bit of spirituality, may be a touch of kindness and a sense of adventure to be creative is all that is needed to become eligible to receive the advice of one’s inner voice. I write this to celebrate the birth of a man who has passed on this wisdom to us.
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