From the Jacket:
Here are essays and reflections on Mahatma Gandhi, one of the outstanding personalities not only of our time but of all times.
Since Buddha, Gandhiji was the greatest moral force in Indian history. For the accomplishment of liberty, justice, and peace, he rediscovered the old techniques of Ahimsa and Satyagraha. He revealed to the masses a power not of rifles and machine guns, but the power innate in each individual, a power which this war-haunted world can exploit fully in making wars impossible.
Gandhiji's whole life was an experiment with truth. His creed was the service of God, through that of humanity. To him God was Truth and Truth was God. His simplicity of manner and captivating. His devotion of duty was inexhaustible, sincerity of purpose infallible and sense of humour irresistible.
Those who read the different essays in this book will be impressed by the fundamental unity between Gandhiji's theory and practice which is his challenge and message to the contemporary world. Some of Gandhiji's most distinct and famous speeches are brought together in an appendix in this volume.
It was my desire to re-edit this volume and present it to Gandhi on his eightieth birthday, October 2, 1949. Fate decreed otherwise, and it has now become a memorial volume.
“No country but India and no religion but Hinduism could have given birth to a Gandhi,” said the editorial in the London Times on the day after his death. It is true that we see in Gandhi the qualities we regard as characteristic of India, i.e. characteristic of India at its inspired best. Yet he belonged by right to humanity’s greatest of all time. Asia has awakened under the touch of Europe, and Europe, in its present disordered and puzzled condition, is looking towards the East. To a world which is questioning the divine nature of the human spirit, Gandhi’s message of the life of God is the soul of man and of the way of non- violence in human conduct is of supreme value. In this hour of crisis India is proud to have made such an imperishable contribution.
A few extracts from the many and varied tributes to Gandhi after his death area reprinted in Appendix II.
Owing to the distracted condition of the world- a war in the East and a near war in Europe- and my absence from India since the end of last year, it has not been possible to get together all the persons who would have been glad to join in this world tribute to Mahatma Gandhi on his birthday.
The different essays and reflections, each with its individual characters, might be expected to make the book uneven and disconnected, but I hope that it has not done so. Almost every page is knit together by a central and never-forgotten theme, the challenge and message of Gandhi to the contemporary world. By general admission something is wrong with it. We are living in a singular moment of history, a moment of crisis, in the literal sense of the world. In every branch of our activity, material and spiritual, we seem to have arrived at a critical turning-point. Those who have surveyed the scene have given us different answers about the cause and cure of our ailing civilization. Gandhi tells us that we, who constitute the social order, are the disease and we must change, if civilization is to improve.
Those who read these pages will be impressed by the fundamental unity between Gandhi’s theory and practice, the exquisite harmony of his life and work, which is the very essence of sincerity. It marks him out as one of the outstanding personalities, not only of our time but of all time.
The contributions are arranged in alphabetical order. A few of Gandhi’s most distinctive utterances which are of more than local and temporary importance are brought together in an Appendix.
The Editor thanks Mr. Stephen Hobhouse for his kindness in reading the proofs.
In the illuminating pages of this handy book, the enlightened reader gets a splendid opportunity to come to close quarters with Mahatma Gandhi’s arresting personality and his spectacular activities.
It contains tributes to the Father of the Nation, from over a hundred great thinkers from different parts of the world.
Prominent among them are: C.F. Andrews, George S. Arundale, Albert Einstein, Stephen Hobhouse, C.E.M. Joad, Salvador de Madriage, Vincent Sheeam, J.H. Muirhead, G.D.H. Cole, Aldous Huxley, E.M. Forster, Romain Rolland, Upton Sinclair, President Truman, Eamon de Valera, General MacArthur, Clement Attlee, Lord Halifax, Lord Mountbatten, S.I. Hsiung, Thakin Nu, Moustapha El Nhas, Lin Yatung, Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, Sri Aurobindo and many others.
Dr.S. Radhakrishnan’s two enlightening essays further constitute a new interpretation of Gandhi’s life and mission. The entire collection is a veritable depository of the greatness of the man who has influenced the modern world.
Gandhi’s Religion and Politics
The greatest fact in the story of man on earth is not his material achievement, the empires he has built and broken, but the growth of his soul from age to age in its search for truth and goodness. Those who take part in this adventure of the soul, secure an enduring place in the history of human culture. Time has discredited heroes as easily as it has forgetten everyone else; but the saints remain. The greatness of Gandhi is more in his holy living than in his heroic struggles, in his insistence on the creative power of the soul and its life- giving quality at a time when the destructive forces seen to be in the ascendant.
Religious Basis of Politics
Gandhi is known to the world as the one man more than any other who is mainly responsible for the mighty upheaval of the Indian nation which has shaken and loosened its chains. Politicians are not generally reputed to take religion seriously, for the values to which they are committed, such as the political control of one people by another, the economic exploitation of the poorer and weaker human beings, are so clearly inconsistent with the values of religion that the latter could not be taken too seriously or interpreted too accurately. But for Gandhi, all life is of one piece. “To see the universal and all pervading Spirit of Truth face to face one must be able to love the meanest of creation as oneself. And a man who aspires after that cannot afford to keep out of any field of life. That is why my devotion to Truth has drawn me into the field of politics; and I can say without the slightest hesitation and yet in all humility, that those who say that religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion means!” Again, “I have no desire for the perishable kingdom of earth, I am striving for the kingdom of heaven, which is spiritual toil in the service of my country and of humanity. I want to indentify myself with everything that lives. In the language of the Gita, I want to live at peace with both friend and foe. So my patriotism is for me a stage on my journey to the land of eternal freedom and peace. Thus it will be seen that for me there are no politics devoid of religion. They subserve religion. Politics bereft of religion are a death- trap because they kill the soul.” If man as a political being has not been much of a success, it is because he has kept religion and politics apart, thus misunderstanding both. For Gandhi, there is no religion apart from human activity. Though in the present circumstances of India, Gandhi happens to be a political revolutionary who refuse to accept tyranny or acquiesce in slavery, he is far from the uncompromising type of revolutionary whose abstraction forces men into unnatural and inhuman shapes. In the acid test of experience he remains, not a politician or a reformer, not a philosopher or a moralist, but someone composed of them all, an essentially religious persons endowed with the highest and most human qualities and made more lovable by the consciousness of his own limitations and by an unfailing sense of humour.
Religion as Life in God
Whatever opinion we may hold of God, it is impossible to deny that He means something of supreme importance and absolute reality to Gandhi. It is his faith in God that has created in him a new man whose power and passion and love we feel. He has the feeling of something close to him, a spiritual presence which disturbs, embarrasses and overwhelms, an assurance of reality. Times without number, when doubts disturb his mind, he leaves it to God. Was there a response from God? No and Yes. No, for Gandhi does not hear anything said even by the most secret or the most distant of voices; yes, because he has received an answer. It is indeed from the nature of the reply which is so eminently rational that he recognizes that he is not the victim of his own dreams or hallucinations. “There is an indefinable, mysterious power that pervades everything. I feel it though I do not see it. It is this unseen power which makes itself felt and yet defies all proof because it is so unlike all that I perceive through my senses. It is proved not by extraneous evidence but in the transformed conduct and character of those who have felt the real presence of God within. Such testimony is to be found in the experiences of an unbroken line of prophets and sages in all countries and climes. To reject this evidence is to deny oneself.” “It can tell you this- that I am surer of His existence than of the fact that you and I are setting in this room. I can also testify that I may live without air and water but not without Him. You may pluck out my eyes, but that will not kill me. But blast my beliefs in God and I am dead”.
In consistency with the great spiritual tradition of Hinduism, Gandhi affirms that when once we rise from the grossness to which the flesh is prone into the liberty of spirit, the view from the summit is identical for all. We have to climb the mountain by different paths, from the points where we happen to be, but that which we seek is the same. “The Allah of Islam is the same as the God of the Christians and the Isvara of the Hindus. Even as there are numerous names of God in Hinduism, there are many names of God in Islam. The names do not indicate individuality but attributes, and little man has tried in his humble way to describe mighty God by giving Him attributes, though He is above all attributes, Indescribable, Immeasurable. Living faith in this God means equal respect for all religious. It would be the height of intolerance and intolerance is a species of violence- to believe that your religion is superior to other religions and that you would be justified in wanting others to change over to your faith” His attitude to other religions is not one of negative toleration but of positive appreciation. He accepts Jesus’ life and work as a supreme illustration of the principle of non- violence. “Jesus occupies in my heart the place of one of the great teachers who have made a considerable influence on my life.” He appreciates the character of the prophet Mohammad, his fervent faith and practical efficiency, the tender compassion and suffering of Ali. The great truths emphasized by Islam- intense belief in God’s overruling majestry, puritanic simplicity of life, ardent sense of brotherhood and chivalrous devotion to the poor are accepted by him as fundamental to all religions. But the dominating force in his life has been Hinduism, with its conception of truth, its vision of the soul and its charity.
All religions, however, are means to religion. “Let me explain what I mean by religion. It is not the Hindu religion which I certainly prize above all other religions, but the religion which transcends Hinduism, which changes one’s very nature, which binds one indissolubly to the truth within, and which ever purifies. It is the permanent element in human nature which counts no cost too great in order to find full expression and which leaves the soul utterly restless until it has found itself, known its Maker, and appreciated the true correspondence between the Maker and itself.”
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