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STUDENTS' PROJECTS > GANDHI - A BIOGRAPHY FOR CHILDREN AND BEGINNERS > Chapter 01
Chapter 01
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.