About the Book:
The book is a perceptive study of Gandhi's concern with religion, based on Gadgets abundant writing and remarkable practice of yamas and niyamas. It provide insightful material not only on humility which Gandhi valued so highly, and which has rarely received analytic attention, but also on the truth ahimsa relation which is frequently talked about, but seldom critically appraised. Ludidly written, the book is enriched by phenomenological analyses of Gandhi's religious experience and of his intensely god ward fasting.
About the Author:
Dr. Sushil Kumar Saxena was formerly Professor o Philosophy, University of Delhi, Delhi. His main areas of study are metaphysics and the philosophies of art and religion. Besides contributing a number of papers to eminent journals of philosophy, aesthetics, and music, Dr Saxena is the author of Studies in the Metaphysics of Bradley, The winged From: Aesthetical essays on Hindustani Rhythms, Aesthetical Essays Swinging Syllables: Aesthetics of Kathak Dance and Are and Phylosopy: Seven Aestheticians. He is currently a Senior Fellow of Indian Council of Philosophical Research and is working on a book Entitled Aesthetics of Susane K.Langer and Some Indian Art.
There is no dearth of good books on Gandhi. Yet full-length studies of his practice of religion are rare. Nor has enough attention been paid, I believe, to the text of his many essays and booklets on the subject. There is there room for a work such as the present one.
Living unto God is, however, no mere feat of the intellect. It is a whole, vast discipline of doing and suffering. So I have thought it fit to project some subtle details of Gandhi's religious living. But the meaning of his life is also rich material for thought, and I could not help relating it, where possible, to some perennial problems of religious philosophy.
My interest in Gandhi has grown with my routine work as a teacher of philosophy. I owe it, in part, to my students and research scholars who wrote dissertations or theses on aspects of Gandhi's concern with religion. I did not then foresee that my work with them could lead to the writing of this book. Now that it has, I here happily recall the names of Rama Rani Gupta, Pamposh Kaul, Meera Bharany, Dr Vimla Sena Bhagat, and Dr Suman Khanna.
I must also acknowledge the help received from Dr Margaret Chatterjee, Professor of Philosophy at Delhi University, and presently Director of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla. She read the whole manuscript carefully and made quite a few helpful suggestions.
Typing has been done by Mr V.K. Mahipaul; and copy-editing, to my grat benefit , by Mr P.K. Ghosh of Eastend Printers. Other technical details relating to the production of the book have been taken care of jointly by Mr Ghosh and Mr Buddhadev Bhattacharya, publication consultant of the ICPR, who is ever so alive to the aesthetics of printing. I am beholden to them all for their kindly interest.
Above all, I am grateful to the Indian Council of Philosophical Research for agreeing to publish this book. Its two younger philosophers, Dr Ashok Vohra and Dr V.C. Thomas, have also been very helpful to me all along. Mrs Satnam has kindly assisted me in preparing the index.
I am naturally happy to see the book appear, partly because of its relevance to the present. Abuse of religion is today a growing curse, and it seems difficult to curb it. But it may well be of some help if we take care to add a little more of truth and honest understanding to the tributes we so freely lavish on our great men of religion.
The book is not, however, expressly shaped by any such hope. I seek, in the main, to understand what so often intrigues us: the serene and deepening commitment of Gandhi to God in the ups and downs of an intensely active life.
Gandhi's own writing is quite large in extent. A good deal of it is also intense and insightful. Yet it is not difficult to determine its basic emphases. In fact, Gandhi himself tells us what these are. Commitment to Truth as God, he acknowledges, is 'a treasure beyond price'; and, in accordance with his avowed faith that ahimsa (or love as service) is the best means to Truth, he declares: 'I recognize no God except the God that is to be found in the hearts of the dumb millions. They do not re-cognize His presence; I do. And I worship the God that is Truth or Truth which is God through the service of these millions.'
But, one may wonder, whereas Gandhi's life and work may well be said to have both charm and value, is one likely to benefit from a study of his thought? He is not, to be sure, a philosopher in the current sense of the word; and he himself says that he is 'not at all concerned with appearing to be consistent'." But if this is so, a philosophical look at his thought may be quite unavailing.
I have been confronted with such doubting so often and so glibly that I have grown a little insensitive to it. But I must counter it with reason. And I think I easily can. It is true that Gandhi is not a philosopher by present-day standards. But is not philosophy eligible to concern itself with reflection, say, on the basic values of life, wherever it is found? Is it in any way obliged to confine itself to the study of philosophers? And would it be proper to regard Gandhi's way of thinking as being utterly dissimilar to philosophizing of the ancient Indian kind, if due notice is taken of his emphasis that 'philosophy without life corresponding is like a body without life'? His life too, I may add, appears 'philosophical' in the traditional Indian sense-that is, in so far as it aims at darsana, or direct experience of ultimate Reality through the observance of yam as and niyamas, the regulative principles of conduct which were for us once integral to the philosophic quest.
Further, it is hardly of help to complain in general terms that Gandhi is inconsistent. I find it difficult to believe that a man can be as good as Gandhi without being watchful, say, in his observance of truth in every aspect of life and behaviour. But if I am right, a kind of consistency must be at once granted to Gandhi. He is in fact ever anxious to see that his actions square with his principles," and that his handling of political matters does not give the lie to the faiths he professes to cherish in his personal life. What he disclaims, we may note, is only the concern to appear consistent; and if in his pursuit of truth he disclaims some old beliefs, does it not at once indicate the deeper selfsameness of the urge to be ever more truthful? Gandhi himself suspects that 'there is ... a method in [his] inconsistencies'? and indicates quite simply how one may avoid being misled by them:
Old as I am in age, I have no feeling that I have ceased to grow inwardly.... Therefore, when anybody finds any inconsistency between any two writings of mine, if he has still faith in my sanity
he would do well to choose the latter of the two on the same subject.
I may also here argue that if a man struggles like Gandhi to always behave in accordance with his insight into present truth, we can hardly deny that he pursues the bigger accord of act, understanding and attitude.
Further, we must remember that sometimes what appears rejectable to thinking ab extra is in truth a necessary feature of the life of religion. Consider, for instance, the moment that threatens to devour two cherished ideals of Gandhi: freedom for an undivided India and Hindu-Muslim harmony. The country's partition is imminent, and fratricide rages uncontrolled. Gandhi cannot help shedding his known desire for a long life. Further, he is forced to comfort himself by reasoning as follows-in anguish, yet with manifest detachment:
It is likely ... that I was good enough to represent a weak nation not a strong one. May it not be that a man purer, more courageous, more far-seeing is wanted for the final purpose? [But] this is all speculation. No one has the capacity to judge God.... The ideal thing would be neither to wish to live ... nor wish to die.
Clearly, such thinking is as such self-cancelling. But in the context of a godward life, as we know, it is but a necessary form of that basic 'recollection' which nourishes both faith and religious humility. It issues from prayerful living, and not from mere intellect. It is one with creaturely feeling, and is hence duly hesitant in seeking to fathom His ways.
However, Gandhi's thinking is not quite insupportable philosophically. In fact, he himself suggests that many of his seeming inconsistencies-such as his acceptance of both advaita (non- dualism) and dvaita (dualism)-may be explained by means of the Jaina doctrines of syadvada and anekantavada. And I would like to add that Gandhi does not really blur distinctions every time he seems to do so; that where he does not press a difference to the degree of fineness demanded by rigorous thought, there is often a fair reason for his half-heartedness; and that this reason may be found-and the mistiness dispelled-by reminding ourselves of his singular involvement with values, that is, in terms of a life of rigorous self-discipline. But let me illustrate.
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