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GOD > Pathway to GOD > PART IV : SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCES > Some aspects of experiences
12. Some aspects of experiences
His path to Peace
Gandhiji has been rightly called a "Prophet of Peace". I am a fitting tribute to him, because all his activities had been actuated by, and directed towards the achievement of universal peace. The peace he tried to establish had two aspects: one internal and the other, external. He wanted to bring about internal peace in the lives of individuals and external peace in the affairs of societies and nations.
The lives of individuals are very often disturbed by internal conflicts, just as those of societies and nations are disturbed by external ones. In fact, these internal discords of individuals are projected outside in societies and bring about external discords. Hence, if the internal ones are satisfactorily resolved the external ones also could be easily lessened.
Each individual has his own internal conflicts — conflicts among his ideals and his thoughts, among his feelings and his tastes, among his thousand and one desires, as well as the numerous demands of his senses. He experiences clashes among them every day, nay, every hour, which undermine his peace of mind and throw him in the cauldron of eternal unrest. The smooth tenor of his life is violently disturbed and it becomes a prey to- terrible storms and whirlwinds.
How to resolve these conflicts and remove these discords is a very important problem. Eminent thinkers, both of the East and the West, after long and deep thinking, have hit upon only one remedy for their successful elimination viz. the integration of personality. People, nowadays, more than ever before, are suffering from divided personality. Their lives have lost old moorings, and have not secured new ones. Hence they are drifting aimlessly — they know not where. They are assailed by doubts at every step, which remain unanswered, as they have not developed any proper philosophy of life which is capable of resolving them. They thus become nervous wrecks, spend sleepless nights, and allow themselves to be assailed by imaginary nightmares requiring mental treatment.
Integration of personality is, thus, the only remedy to bring peace to our disturbed lives. Such integration required the inculcation of proper philosophy of life. A sound philosophy not only gives a correct view of life, enabling a person to formulate a proper goal for himself, but also shows him the correct way towards the goal. Thus it serves both as a science as well as an art of life, making a person well-versed both in the theory and practice of proper living. The spread of such a philosophy will soon bring about integration and automatically result in the descent of peace.
What was the philosophy of life that Gandhiji practised and preached, for the achievement of integration and peace? His philosophy had given him a clear idea about the nature of God, soul, and the world, as well as their relation with one another. This had enabled him to formulate and fix the goal of his life, together with the pathway leading to it. With the help of this philosophy and his Sadhana to reach the goal, he had succeeded in creating a sound integration in his life, which enabled him to enjoy undisturbed peace throughout his eventful life—even during the most critical period*. Gandhiji could thus leave behind him a well-formulated philosophy of life for the guidance of the future generations.
In our "Introduction" we discussed Gandhiji's path to peace internal—peace in individual life. Let us now turn to an understanding of his path to peace external, viz, peace in the lives of societies, nations, and humanity in general. Societies, like individuals, had also their own conflicts from time immemorial. No period of recorded history throughout the world was entirely free from such conflicts. The peace of every society was endangered and disturbed by a variety of conflicts. There were religious and cultural conflicts, political and economic conflicts; in fact, there were various kinds of conflicts in all walks of social life. These conflicts were, at times, of a moderate type. At other times, they assumed a terrible shape, so terrible that they resulted in bloody revolutions, shaking the very foundation of the social structure of the nation where they made their appearance. Such being the case, the imperative need of finding out ways and means for the proper resolution of such conflicts and introduction of peace in society has attracted the attention of all the great savants of all the times and climes.
In the beginning, these conflicts appear to have been resolved on the basis of superior strength—the strong subduing the weak and surviving by suppressing and eliminating his adversary. But as societies evolved culturally, brute strength appears to have given place to moral, intellectual, and spiritual strength. However, the principle that was followed by. these enlightened person also was the same, namely, elimination and substitution. In their respective spheres, these leaders tried to eliminate the conflicting factors by substituting a fresh one, which they considered to be all inclusive and capable of removing the conflict on account of its supposed all-inclusiveness. History tells us that such attempts not only did not succeed in eliminating the conflicting factors, but they added one more to the lot.
This unfortunate experience called forth new efforts on the part of leaders of humanity to find out fresh principles that would bring about better results and a lasting peace. The principle that was discovered by our seers, but neglected so far, attracted their attention; and they seriously tried to make use of it, because, after careful investigation, they found it to be scientifically correct and sound. This principle is the principle of harmony, which is nothing but an extension and application of the principle of integration to society. What is integration to an individual, that is harmony to society. Integration is harmony in individual life; while harmony is integration in social life. Though names are different on account of their different spheres of application,, they are one and the same.
This harmony is not uniformity; it is not identity; it is not unity of diversity, but unity in diversity. It is not oneness without a second, but oneness with the second. It is a fine combination—a sweet intermingling of various things of the same class, without the loss of their special identity. It is well known that the word "harmony" has been imported originally from the province of music. A fine blending of different notes giving out enchanting music was called harmony in the beginning. Later on, the term was being applied to all delightful combinations. People began to speak about the harmony of colours, harmony of rasas, harmony of sentiments, thoughts, and relations. Not only that; they have recently realized the great potential blessing which this principle embodies, and have been trying to make the best use of it in straightening and improving the relation between individuals as well as groups of individuals.
Just as the principle of integration of personality plays an important part in Gandhiji's pathway to peace in the individual,, this principle of harmony plays a prominent role in his pathway to peace in society. Gandhiji's philosophy of God-realization helps in the integration of personality and consequently brings about internal peace. In the same way, his philosophy of Sarvodaya or Universal Brotherhood is capable of promoting harmony and peace in society. His Sarvodaya philosophy is mainly derived from the principle of the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of man. Hence we may even call it the philosophy of Universal Brotherhood. Gandhiji believed strongly that "the world is moving towards Universal Brotherhood, when mankind would be one nation". Gandhiji advocated "not the good of the few, not even the good of the many, but the good of all, as we are made in His own image". It is this broad, universal outlook, which Gandhiji had inherited from his philosophy of God- realization and Universal Brotherhood, that enabled him to find out fresh, effective remedies to solve the several problems in the different spheres of social, national, and international life. Let us try to have a glimpse at some of the details of his solutions.
Religion, which first made its appearance in the individual and social life as a messenger of peace and goodwill, later on proved to be, on account of its distortion, a source of eternal conflict, even of bloody wars. The great avatdras and prophets, saints and sages, who had given their message of love and peace through religion, must be looking with horror at the abominable use to which their benign blessing has been put by the erring, thoughtless humanity. Religious fanaticism has led men to hate one another, not to love one another. Love of one's own religion is now expressed in terms of hatred of others' religions. The very instrument meant for the spread of love has become an instrument for the propagation of hatred. Strange indeed are the ways of man!
Gandhiji had all this dire and rich experience to learn from. So he never attempted to introduce a new religion in place of the existing great religions of the world. He believed and declared that all these religions are God-given and necessary for the people for whom they were revealed. He discovered, after prayerful search and deep study, that all religions were true and also that all had some error in them. He found that all worship the same God, that the Spirit is the same, and that names and forms alone are different. "The soul of religion," he says, "is one. It is encased in many forms. The final goal of all religions is the realization of this essential oneness of Spirit." He asked people to follow their own religion—their own sevadharma—by understanding its spirit. At the same time, he wanted all to cultivate broad toleration based on the proper understanding of other faiths. "True knowledge of religion," says Gandhiji, "will break down the barriers between faith and faith, and cultivation of tolerance for other faiths will impart to us an understanding of our own. People of different faiths will be better by contact with one another, and the world will be a better place to live than today." Thus, through the spread of mutual understanding, toleration, and respect, Gandhiji hoped to create harmony in the sphere of religion.
In the matter of culture also, Gandhiji advocated "harmony and not a mere external unity brought by force". He aimed at a fine synthesis of the old and new cultures, both of the East and of the West. "Our new culture should be constructed", he says, "on the foundation of the past, enriched by the experience of the centuries. It should be a synthesis of the different civilizations which have influenced India and have naturalized here." "Wise assimilation and not thoughtless imitation should be our goal." Both the East and the West, he maintained, should mutually exchange what is good in them and reject the evil. Still he wanted all to love other cultures, but live their own. "I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any." Thus Gandhiji allowed other cultures to blow, but not to blow ours away.
Gandhiji's politics was entirely different from the politics of the current brand. It was based on truth and love, not on deceit and hatred. He wanted to build political States on the foundation of truth and love. He considered a State or a nation to be a big family, consisting of a number of self-governing villages. "In this structure," he says, "composed of villages, there will be ever-widening, never ascending circles. Life will not be a pyramid with the apex sustained by the bottom. But it will be an oceanic circle whose centre would be the individual, always ready to perish for the village, the village ready to perish for the circle of villages, till at last the whole becomes one life composed of individuals, never aggressive in their arrogance, but ever humble, sharing the majesty of the oceanic circle, of which they are integral units." At the same time, Gandhiji wanted to extend this "nation-law" to the whole world and consider it as a family of nations, as one indivisible, undivided family. The time is ripe for it, he says, because the wonderful inventions of science have reduced the distance of space and time and brought humanity closer.
Gandhiji advocated a broad nationalism leading to internationalism. His conception of Swaraj was never narrow. It was prepared to undergo any amount of suffering for the benefit of the world. "In the Swaraj based on non-violence," he says, "no one should suffer for want of food and clothing. They should be freely available to all, as God's air and water are. Everyone from the king to the poorest citizen must prosper. Nobody is anybody's enemy. All can read and write, and their knowledge keeps on growing from day to day. Sickness and disease are reduced to the minimum." "I shall work for an India in which the poorest shall feel that it is their country, in whose making they have an effective voice; an India in which there will be no high class and low class of people; an India in which all communities live in perfect harmony. This is the India of my dreams." Such is the Swaraj which Gandhiji wanted to build for the welfare of the world.
Gandhiji's economy is based on ancient Indian traditions, which, if worked out in details, may give to the world a sound plan of peace, security, and progress. It is built on these four corner-stones: (i) simplicity, (ii) non-violence, (iii) sanctity of labour, and (iv) human values.
Simplicity in life is the first principle which Gandhiji advocates. Modern civilization makes bodily welfare the object of life. It increases animal appetites and goes to the end of the earth in search of their satisfaction. Gandhiji totally detests this mad desire. So he wants to set limits to our indulgence and advises us to lead a life of plain living and high thinking.
Gandhiji does not consider complexity to be the sign of progress. He discourages "wreckless pursuit of wealth", which undermines character and human values. He stresses the need of decentralization and localization of industries.
The second principle of Gandhian economy is non-violence. He wants India to develop along the bloodless non-violent way that comes from simple and godly life. Localization of industry, according to him, is sure to bring about this sort of development, which is at the same time not incompatible with wider nationalism and with still wider internationalism in the sphere of thought and culture.
Bread labour is the third principle which underlies Gandhiji's economy. Labour is the law of Nature. We are expected by Nature to earn our bread with the sweat of our brow. Our real happiness consists in the proper use of our hands and feet. "If all laboured for their food and no more," writes Gandhiji, "there would be enough food and enough leisure for all." Machine has its place in life, but it should not be allowed to kill man. Says Gandhiji with extreme regret> "We are destroying the matchless living machines, i.e. our own bodies, by leaving them to rust and trying to substitute lifeless machinery for them." "By using machines, men go on saving labour, till thousands are without work and thrown on the streets to die of starvation." Gandhiji detests this "lure of leisure". Leisure is good and necessary, according to him, up to a point, beyond which it becomes a veritable curse by turning the vacant mind into a devil's workshop. Gandhiji advised all to earn by labour and eat with pleasure.
Gandhiji substituted moral and human values in place of money values. He made no distinction between economics and ethics. "The value of an industry should be gauged," he says, "less by the dividend it pays to the sleeping share-holders than by its effects on the bodies, souls, and spirits of the people employed in it." The khadi-spirit meant to Gandhiji "a fellow-feeling with every human being on earth". It represented, according to him human values, while mill-cloth represented, metallic values.
Gandhiji advised the capitalists to regard themselves not as owners, but as trustees of their wealth and use it for the service of society. He also asked labour to organize themselves, develop their skill and gift of intelligence, and have confidence in their capacity to secure a fair deal. At the same time, he wanted the rich to learn and teach contentment, as happiness was largely a mental condition. The rich should not try to enrich themselves at the expense of the poor, and the poor should not envy the rich. They should constitute a great family living in unity and harmony and working in loving co-operation for mutual material and moral welfare. This is the ideal which Gandhiji tried to inculcate throughout his life.
In the social sphere, Gandhiji tried to remove caste-prejudices by explaining the correct significance and value of varnashrama. "Hinduism startled the world," he says, "by its discovery and application of the law of varna. When Hindus were seized with inertia, abuse of varna resulted in innumerable castes." So he considered the four divisions alone to be fundamental, natural and essential. However, Gandhiji considered untouchability to be a crime against humanity—a curse eating into the vitals of Hinduism—a sin of which the sooner Hinduism purges itself, the better it is for itself. Thus did Gandhiji want to establish harmony among the social groups of India.
Gandhiji also tried to introduce harmony in human relations, i.e. between man and man, man and woman, by giving them a correct idea about their respective places and duties in social life. The two misconceptions that have poisoned their harmonious relations are: (i) the conception of superiority and inferiority, on the one hand, and (ii) that of equality, on the other. The second conception was, in fact, introduced and advocated to counteract and remove the evil effects of the first. In God's universe, there is place for everyone and everything; there is none high or low. But narrow arrogance tried to assert its superiority by treating the weak as inferiors and introduced this poison in the body politic. Soon the conception of equality was powerfully inculcated to wipe out the dire effects of the former conception. But, unfortunately, this second principle also lost its proper significance in course of time. It was misunderstood, misinterpreted, and misapplied.
Gandhiji tried to correct both these conceptions. He told that there is both equality and inequality in life. "Equality," he maintains, "is of souls, not of bodies; of opportunities, not of capacity." Really, Nature abhors equality. Its beauty and grandeur consists in rich variety. Therefore Gandhiji wants us "to realize equality in the midst of this apparent inequality" and to feel kinship with everyone in the world and try to promote the happiness even of the humblest of human beings.
Gandhiji considered woman as a companion of man, gifted with equal mental capacities. "Man and woman are equal in status, but not identical. They are a peerless pair complementary to each other. Both are entitled to a supreme place in their own sphere of activities. Man is the bread-winner, woman is the keeper and distributor of bread. Man is active, woman is passive." "The art of bringing up the infants of the race is her special and sole prerogative. Without her care, the race would be extinct." "Woman is an incarnation of Ahimsa—infinite love, which means infinite capacity for suffering." "If nonviolence is the law of our being, the future is with women." Therefore Gandhiji advises women to transfer their love to humanity, consider spiritual union as the ideal of marriage, occupy a proud position by the side of man as mother, and teach the art of peace to the warring world.
To inculcate the above-mentioned principles among the people and to resist and eradicate evil tendencies in them, Gandhiji used two effective means, viz. education and Satyagraha. "If we are to reach real peace in this world," says Gandhiji, "and if we are to wage real war against war, we shall have to begin with the education of children. We shall then go from love to love and peace to peace until at last all the corners of the world are covered by them." But he says: "Our education must be revolutionized. The brain must be educated through the hands, and the brain should awaken the soul." "Useful labour," according to him, "develops a balanced intellect, which presuppses a harmonious growth of body, mind and soul. Literary education should follow and not precede the education of the hand." The religion of truth and Ahimsa should be imparted along with cultural education, especially through the examples of teachers' lives.
Gandhiji also wanted us to make full use of art, music, and literature for giving man a fine heart-culture. "There is an art that kills," he says, "and an art that gives life. True art must be an expression of the soul and must help the soul to realize its inner Self." "Life is greater than all art," he observed; and he considered the man whose life came nearest to perfection as the greatest artist. Noble life was, according to him, the foundation of art. He advocated the propagation of such art for giving proper culture to the hearts of all.
It is admitted on all hands that evil exists in this world. It is the real cause of so much misery here. To Gandhiji, goodness misplaced is evil, no doubt. Still his soul refused to be satisfied so long as it was a helpless witness of a single wrong. He also thought that he would never know God if he did not wrestle with and against evil, even at the cost of life itself. Hence he found it absolutely necessary to resist and supplant evil for the spread of peace and goodwill on earth. And the weapon he devised for this was 'the matchless weapon of Satyagraha'. Gandhiji called Satyagraha "truth-force, love-force or soul-force". "We may use this weapon," he says, "in any sphere of life and to get rid of any grievance. It purifies one who uses it as one against whom it is used." His Satyagraha presupposes self-discipline, self-control, self-purification, and a recognized status in the person offering it. It requires special training. Any Tom, Dick and Harry cannot and should not use it. "The purer he is and the more he suffers, the quicker the progress. The purer the suffering, the greater the progress towards freedom, God, and religion." The spirit of non-violence, which is the soul of Satyagraha, ought to take the form of purest love, ever fresh— an ever-gushing spring of life expressing itself in every act. Ill will cannot stand in its presence. "God is the shield of the nonviolent." "Non-violence is the summit of bravery—the greatest spiritual force that mankind has known."
"A Satyagrahi must never forget," says Gandhiji, "the distinction between evil and evil doer." He must hate the sin and not the sinner. He must always try to overcome evil by good, anger by love, untruth by truth, himsa by Ahimsa. There is no other way of purging the world of evil. "A Satyagrahi has no power he could call his own. All the power he may seem to possess is from and of God." "If I could popularize the use of soul-force," says Gandhiji, "which is but another name of love-force, in place of brute force, I know I could present you with an India that could defy the whole world to do its worst." "India is less in need of steel weapons; it has fought with divine weapons; it can still do so. . . „ India can win all by soul- force." Such was Gandhiji's firm faith in the supreme efficacy and value of Satyagraha in resisting and overcoming evil in life. This, in short, is the nature of the pathway to peace external chalked out by Gandhiji.