The purpose of this study is to understand the manner in which Gandhi interpreted the teachings of the Gita and stuck to its ideals all his life with utmost tenacity. According to Gandhi, the principal message of the Gita. is Anasakti or non-attachment to the fruits of one's actions and this appealed to him the most about the Gita? The principle of karma-phalatyaga (renunciation of the desire for the fruits of action) or nickname-karma occurs frequently in different Discourses of the Gita.
Though many people of eminence (like Gokhale, Rajchandraji, Tolstoy and Ruskin) and religious books like the Bible and the Holy Koran deeply influenced Gandhi, yet it was the Bhagavad Gita that permanently and completely changed his outlook on life. To quote him: "I lost my mother early who gave me birth long ago, but this Eternal Mother, Gita, has completely filled her place by my side ever since. She has never changed". Gita thus became an unfailing source of strength and solace to Gandhi in the darkest hours of his life.
He was earlier with the Indian Council of Historical Research where he played an important role as one of the editors of the reputed research journal, the Indian Historical Review. Apart from bringing out a number of volumes of the Indian Historical Review, Dr. Taneja also edited two monographs under the ICHR Monograph Series: Sufi Cults and the Evolution of Medieval Indian Culture (New Delhi, 2003) Breaking out of Invisibility:
Women in Indian History (New Delhi,
2002) He has also authored three books: Gandhi, Women, and the National Movement,
1920-1947 (New Delhi, 2005)
The Art and Science of Editing (New Delhi, 2006).
Influences that shaped the Gandhian. Ideology (New Delhi, 2020)
The Kalakosa Division of IGNCA concentrates on the research and publication of the traditional knowledge of India. Appropriate to their work they took up the task of bringing out a publication on the theme of Gandhi and Gita. At a time when the very existence of human life has been put into jeopardy because of the accumulation of nuclear weapons of mass destruction by different countries and when the negative traits of violence, hatred and mistrust among human beings have become widespread the world over, the present work entitled, Bhagavad Gita: Gandhi's Eternal Mother, focusing on the influences of the Gita that shaped the Gandhian ideology of universal love and brotherhood, is particularly a welcome effort.
In the light of the challenges posed by cultural and religious diversities and the threats of international terrorism that the 21st century is encountering, Gandhi's approach of nonviolence is being seen as a positive transient concept embodying the components of compassion, altruism and love. There is perhaps no other hope for the strife torn world but to welcome the Gandhian paradigm for establishing a qualitatively better social order which is sustainable nationally and globally.
We are grateful to Dr. Anup Taneja for preparing the present volume for publication by IGNCA. Written in a lucid style, it bears ample evidence of the painstaking efforts made by the author in delving into some of the primary sources like The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi and different commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita, in order to bring out the Gandhian ideology of Truth and Nonviolence in its various dimensions.
IGNCA takes great pleasure in presenting this publication to the readers. I am sure this will be a welcome addition to the existing literature on Gandhian Studies and will be found useful not only by the scholars engaged in research on Gandhian Studies but also by the readers interested in acquiring more knowledge about the Gandhian spiritual ideology and the manner in which the profound philosophy of the Gita completely transformed Gandhi's life.
Lastly, I would like to congratulate Dr. Advaitavadini Kaul, former Hood, Kalakosa Division, for choosing this compelling theme and for its successful culmination in the form of the present volume. I congratulate the entire team of Kalakosa Division for bringing out this edition.
Though much has been written about the contributions made by Gandhi to the cause of India's independence and also about the effective use of the weapons of Satyagraha and Ahimsa by him to fight the mighty British empire, yet what is lacking is a comprehensive study that is exclusively focussed on the manner in which the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita impacted Gandhi's life. No other book or scripture influenced Gandhi, shaped his character, and transformed his life as profoundly and permanently as did the Bhagavad Gita.
It is strange but interesting that Gandhi's first introduction to Gita was in England by two Englishmen, the Olcott brothers. Gandhi at that time was around and studying law. The brothers read the Gita regularly and asked Gandhi to join in. Perhaps they thought that they may get to know the text in Sanskrit better. But Gandhi felt embarrassed because despite being a Hindu, he had no command over the Sanskrit language. He read the English version of Gita by Sir Edwin Arnold as recommended by his English friends, and this marked a turning point in his life. From then on, Gita became an unfailing source of strength and solace to him in the darkest hours of his life.
I may take this opportunity to thank the Late Professor Aparna Basu who meticulously read my synopsis, and encouraged me to work on the said theme. I would also like to place on record my gratitude to Shri Annamalai, Director, National Gandhi Museum, New Delhi, for allowing me access to some rare photographs of Gandhi and his close associates. My sincere thanks are also due to Mr. Jayaprakash who did the typesetting and page-making job of this volume with utmost devotion and professional competence. I would be failing in my duty if I did not acknowledge the fact that, but for the patience shown by my wife-particularly during the periods when I was so deeply involved in my research work that I could not devote any time to my household responsibilities-the accomplishment of this work, in a relatively short period of time, could not have been possible.
His presence is found in all the corners of India, from north to south and from east to west; he is there on India's currency notes; hundreds of buildings and roads are named after him; and at some parts he is virtually worshipped like God! Such was his 7.7-Pound influence! The respect that he commanded both among literate common people and the illiterate was unprecedented. Albert Einstein rightly said: "Generations to come will scarce believe may such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.
Gandhi is known all over the world as an ardent seeker after Truth who had a unique faith in the ultimate goodness of man, a faith in the great potentialities of humanity and a faith that, notwithstanding all his limitations, weaknesses and violence in nature, he will someday rise to great spiritual heights. It was this belief that motivated him to render selfless service to humanity by pursuing the paths Truth and Nonviolence.
Truth and Nonviolence: Two Main Pillars of Gandhian Ideology
Elaborating on the concepts of Truth and Nonviolence, Gandhi writes: "With Truth combined with Ahimsa (Nonviolence), you can bring the world to your feet"; "Truth is my religion and Ahimsa is the only way of its realization". Truth is God and there is no way to find truth except the way of nonviolence. The person who believes in nonviolence does not use force, even though he has sufficient strength to do so. Gandhi believed that ahimsa could mould the mind of even the cruelest man. Thus, Truth and Nonviolence are the two main pillars of the Gandhian ideology.
"Devotion to this Truth is the sole justification for our existence", said Gandhi. All our activities should be centred in Truth; it should be the very breath of our life. When once this stage in the pilgrim's progress is reached, all other rules of correct living will come without effort, and obedience to them will be instinctive. But without Truth it is impossible to observe any principles or rules in life.
Purity of heart is essential for the perception of Truth. Gandhi said that for infallible guidance, conscience has to have a perfectly innocent heart, incapable of evil. In the march towards Truth, anger, selfishness, hatred, etc. should be strictly avoided. A humble man, who is "humbler than the dust", alone can see and realize the Truth. Where there is ego there is no Truth. Hence, the seeker after Truth has to become a cipher: "If you would swim on the bosom of the ocean of Truth you must reduce yourself to a zero", said Gandhi.
Explaining the transition from the notion of Truth to that of Ahimsa, Gandhi says: "Ahimsa and Truth are so intertwined that it is practically impossible to disentangle and separate them. They are like the two sides of a coin, or rather a smooth unstamped metallic disc". "Ahimsa is my God, and Truth is my God. When I look for Truth, Ahimsa says, "Find it out through me". When I look for Ahimsa, Truth says, "Find it out through me".
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