Relevance of Gandhi
We have been discussing ad-nauseam the relevance of Gandhi; but a far more pertinent question to my mind is, "Was man ever relevant in this country? or were only labels relevant?" never looked upon man as man without any label whatsoever; and if there was anything special about Gandhi, his distinctive characteristic is that Gandhi was an unlabelled man. You could not place him. His personality seemed to be elusive.
Lack of an All-India mind
We should ponder seriously over this sad lack, woeful lack of an all-India mind. We don't seem to have developed a multi-national mind. Localism is rife throughout the country. There is no nationality. Nationality in merely the love of land. Love of the country is essential, but it is not enough. Nationality consists in the will to live with each other. Whether the Bengali wants to live with the Assamese; whether the Assamese wants to live with the Naga; whether the Maharashtrian wants to live with the Kannada; whether the Kashmiri wants to live with the Keralite? This, to my mind, is the criterion which should be applied to our national integration: 'Whether the untouchable can live with the Brahmin'.
We have all been very good neighbours in this country, but never fellow-men. We have never been able to make our neighbour, our brother. Perhaps Gandhi for the first time laid his finger on true nationalism. We seem to have developed a sort of Indian citizenship, a negative Indian citizenship under the British rule, because we were slaves all alike. So, we had a common denominator-slavery. We were not men, but slaves who had no religion, who had no culture. Culture, religion, philosophy and spirituality cease to have any meaning in the context of slavery. Slavery is the dark-room in which all negatives are developed. So, we have all developed these negatives.
Meaning of Gandhi's Swadeshi
We had a Gandhi came with a new definition of Swadeshi. We had a definition but Gandhi gave it a more said, 'Swadeshi Production for is neighborliness.' You produce for your neighbour. Production for sale is capitalism; production for use is socialism; your neighbour is Gandhi's Swadeshi. That is his relevance now. Bengal will not produce only for Bengal itself, Maharashtra will not produce only for Maharashtra itself, but they will produce for each but they will produce for each other. Our eminent historian Arnold Toynbee has said, 'India is the whole world placed at close quarters' and Ravi Thakur (Rabindranath Tagore) defined it as 'an epitome of the world.' India is still one now threatened with emergent narrow regional identities. There is a Bengali identity; there is a Maharashtrian identity; there is a Kashmiri identity and perhaps these identities will sooner or later collide. We forget the whole country. So, let us forget Gandhi also.
Let us also ask ourselves-"Can we in this country evolve, not the politics of the candidate, but the politics of the voter, the politics of the citizen, because in a democracy the citizen is the sovereign." In the preamble: to the Constitution it is said, "We, the people of India, give unto ourselves this Constitution", not the Parliament, not " representative assembly hilt "We, the people of India." So we have to discover non-political roots of a free society. These we have failed to discover. That is why we are suffering from what is known as the hypertrophy of the state. The state has permeated almost the lowest stratum of our society.
Truth: The Unity of Life
Gandhi was not secular in the sense that he was not spiritual, but he was secular in the sense that he had faith in men as they live in this world. That was the basis of his faith. Faith in man was the basis of his faith in God. That is why he first said 'God is truth.' But he revised it and said, 'Truth is God.' And what is truth? Truth is the unity of life.
A World out-look
Let us at least begin with the unity of men. Let not my horizon be circumscribed by Calcutta or Bengal; let it not be limited to this country; because perhaps all problems are gradually becoming global and we are reminded that East and West are mere fiction because the Earth is round. There is neither the East nor the West. If you go towards the East beyond Japan you land in America, which you call the West and if you go beyond America, you come to Japan which you call the 'Land of the Rising Sun.' So that is another thing that Gandhi gave us. It is a very rich heritage he gave us with a world out-look, a human out-look. This is at present known as the new wholeness, New Wholism, Navin Samagrata.
God in the form of bread
Then there is another thing that Gandhi said in very unambiguous language. He said to the hungry, 'God must come in the form of bread.' The son of Varuna in the Upanishad asked his father, 'What is Brahma?' His father said, 'Find it out for yourself. Fast for 3 days and perhaps you will discover what Brahma is.' The son, fasted for three days, and could not think of anything but food and he came back and said "I have discovered what Brahma is." His father Varuna asked, 'What have you discovered, Son?' He said, "I have discovered that it is 'anna', it is food. That is the Brahma.'
All beings are born of food; they live on food and they die in food. That is the Indian mind today. So, the hungry man is either a beggar or a burglar. That has been of our country's bane. That is the basic defect in the Indian character which Gandhi wanted to overcome. So, he asked the hungry man neither to steal nor to beg, but to fast. This was something very unusual, asking the disarmed man to discard arms, asking the hungry to resort to fast: because fast is not hunger.
Hunger is a different thing. Fast is voluntary. It is this voluntaries that gave this country both inspiration and strength. This was Gandhi's distinctive contribution to our national life.
Gandhi did not say, "We resort to unarmed resistance because we are unarmed." He said, "We resort to unarmed non-violent use we have no arms, but because we have shed all fears of arms." All arms become powerless once a man has shed the fear of arms. It was Terence Macswiney who once said when he was dying after his 75 days' fast in jail-"One armed man can be conquered by 10, 10 by 20; 20 by 200; 200 by a legion; but not all the armies of all the empires of the world can conquer the spirit of one true man." That was Gandhi's message of nonviolence. It was not Buddha's nonviolence nor was it the nonviolence of Jesus Christ. It was positive, living, dynamic nonviolence which he wanted the citizens of India to resort to. That is Gandhi's contribution.
Above Geographical Limitations
Gandhi lifted nationalism from its parochial regional littleness to worldwide dimensions. I, his book on nationalism Ravi Thakur has cursed the 19th century nationalism because it was exclusive and aggressive. Gandhi's nationalism was not exclusive, nor was it aggressive, it was inclusive and comprehensive. So, he gave us not only an all-India out-look but a human out-look which transcended the geographical limitation of any country. He said, "My religion knows no geographical limitations." In 1919 after the Amritsar tragedy Dr. Annie Besant's colleague George Arundale wrote to Gandhi when Gandhi came out with his civil disobedience, "Mr. Gandhi, you are a religious man and a saintly person. Then, why do you turn to politics? You should have nothing to do with politics." Gandhi wrote back, "My bent is religious; but I take part in politics because politics touches the vital being of India." So, we have got to distinguish between the politics of freedom and the politics of power; the politics of the candidate and the politics of the power; Party-politics is collective candidature. The party takes part in an election as a candidate for power. So, it is a sort of civil war fought by other means than weapons.
Awake the consciousness of Freedom
The citizen is not a candidate. He is the sovereign, who appoints the government; who chooses his own government. This consciousness we have got to awaken in the citizen of India-in the common man. Unfortunately, we never set much more store by freedom. There was loyalty in this country. There were other virtues very valuable to man's life; but the love of freedom as such was never inculcated by our culture or our religion. Our religion inculcated the fear of God and obedience to the Guru (Teacher); but we have to go beyond this. We have to place Truth above everything else. And the truth of social life is the relationship of man with man based on no extraneous considerations, economic, religions, political or social.
Make others Your own
In the Upanishads we have a parable. Atma was born alone and what did he say: Ekaki na ramate. He could not enjoy life alone. So, dvitiyam me syat. He wanted some one else who is the other, our fear persists; but as soon as the other becomes me, then there is no fear. Door ke korile nikot bondhu; Porke Korile bhai. (I bought him closer, who was at a distance; I made him my brother, who was an alien to me.) That is the process of human progress as well as national progress and I think this way lies national integration.