Einstein was not the only one to see that Gandhi was a unique and incredible kind of human being. All those who came in contact with him including those who were ranged against him perceived that there was something unique about Gandhi. General Smuts whom he 'fought' in South Africa, successive representatives of the British Crown whom he 'fought' in India, the planters in Champaran, the mill-owners, the landlords, the orthodox fundamentalists whom he 'fought', on the question of untouchability or communalism,all saw this uniqueness. He fought, but he loved even those whom he fought. He did not fight them out of anger or hatred or jealousy; he fought them because he loved them, and did not want them to persist in doing what was harmful and injurious to themselves as to others.
Yet, he was felled down
by an assassin, by one of his own countrymen, one of his co-religionists. On
hearing that Gandhi had been assassinated, George Bernard Shaw, the
well-known British playwright and litterateur said that the assassination
showed how dangerous it was to be too good. Gandhi wanted to be wholly good.
To be wholly good one not only has to renounce what is not in the good of
all, but also be active in the defense of what is in the good of all,
through means that were
consistent with the good of all.
How can one be wholly
good? Ours is a world of attractions and temptations. One sees and
experiences suffering, and wants to seek freedom from suffering. One feels
tempted to believe that the easiest way to escape suffering is to seek
pleasure; to possess what can give pleasure: to seek the power that can
enable one to acquire and retain possessions; to dominate so that one may
forestall and thwart possible challenges to one's possessions.
Yet, Gandhi wanted to be
wholly good, wholly truthful, wholly loving. He did not seek possessions. He
did not seek power. What he wanted to do in life, what he wanted to do with
life was to "realize" the power that was latent in all human beings the
power to know or see god, or the law that governs the universe, or the truth
of the universe. He learned that he could see truth only by divesting
himself of ego- centricity, or by 'reducing oneself to zero', as he said.
One could move out of ego-centricity only when one began to love all else in
the universe animate and inanimate. It is only when one loves all that one
sees in the universe that one learns to identify oneself with 'creation',
and the Law or Truth or God that rules 'Creation'.
Gandhi never claimed
uniqueness. In fact, he protested against being described as unique. He
insisted that he was a common man; that there was nothing uncommon about
him. He was not a prophet, not a Mahatma. He believed, and said again and
again that there was nothing he had done which other human beings could not
do. He often said that he had nothing new to teach the world. The principles
of Truth and Love that he had placed before humanity were "as old as the
hills". All that he had done was to try to prove their value, the need for
them and their validity in every field of human activity in personal life
or social life.
It is easy to see that
Truth and love are the laws on which the Universe, and human society are
built. The laws of nature are unalterable. Since they are unalterable and
sovereign, what is in conflict with them will not endure. One has to conform
to the laws if one wants to build something that may endure, to achieve
something beneficial or enduring. The identification and pursuit of the law
or truth were therefore essential in all fields of life. It was the quest
for this truth, and the desire to live in the light of this truth that made
Gandhi what he became.
Gandhi felt the call of
truth even in his childhood. But it took many years and many ordeals and
experiments before he could learn to discover and apply it in all walks of
life. The story of his life is the story of his "experiments with Truth". It
reflects the way he grew with his experiments in his personal life, and in
the life of the society of which he was a member.
Gandhi claimed to be a
common man; the common man was at the centre of his concern. He wanted to
show what the common human being could achieve, and how. He wanted the
common human being to be free, since he believed that without freedom there
could be no self-fulfillment. He wanted a social, economic and political
order national and international order that provided the opportunity for
self-fulfillment, and preserved the right and power of the common man to
defend his freedom. It is this transparent love for the common human being
that made Gandhi what he meant to the common man. It was, therefore, no
wonder that when Gandhi died, human beings all over the world felt that
something had been wrenched off from them, that something in them had ceased
to exist, something for which they had yearned, and would continue to yearn.
How did Gandhi, the shy
young child from Porbander and Rajkot become the symbol of the hope of the
common man everywhere?
That is the story we
will read in the chapters that follow.