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PHILOSOPHY > THE MIND OF MAHATMA GANDHI > No Culture Isolation for me

 

No Culture Isolation For Me

I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any. I refuse to live in other people’s houses as an interloper, a beggar or a slave. (YI, 1-6-1921, p. 170)


Nothing can be farther from my thought than that we should become exclusive or erect barriers. But I do respectfully contend that an appreciation of other cultures can fitly follow, never precede, an appreciation and assimilation of our own.

It is my firm opinion that no culture has treasures so rich as ours has. We have not known it, we have been made even to deprecate its study and depreciate its value. We have almost ceased to live it. An academic grasp without practice behind it is like an embalmed corpse, perhaps lovely to look at, but nothing to inspire or ennoble.

My religion forbids me to belittle or disregard other cultures, as it insists under pain of civil suicide upon imbibing and living my own. (YI, 1-9-1921, p. 277)

Indian Culture A Synthesis

It stands for synthesis of the different cultures that have come to stay in India, that have influenced Indian life, and that, in their turn, have themselves been influenced by the spirit of the soil. This synthesis will naturally be of the Swadeshi type, where each culture is assured its legitimate place…
(YI, 17-11-1920, p. 6)


It [Indian civilization] is a mingling of the cultures represented by the different faiths and influenced by the geographic and other environments in which the cultures have met. Thus Islamic culture is not the same in Arabia, Turkey, Egypt and India, but it is itself influenced by the condition of respective countries. Indian culture is, therefore, Indian. It is neither Hindu, Islamic nor any other, wholly. It is a fusion of all and essentially Eastern. And everyone who calls himself or herself an Indian is bound to treasure that culture, be its trustee and resist any attack upon it. (YI, 30-4-1931, p.88)


The Indian culture of our times is in the making. Many of us are striving to produce a blend of all the cultures which seem today to be in clash with one another. No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive.

There is no such thing as pure Aryan culture in existence today in India. Whether the Aryan were indigenous to India or were unwelcome intruders does not interest me much. What does interest me is the fact that me remote ancestors blended with one another with the utmost freedom and we of the present generation are a result of that blend.
Whether we are doing any good to the country of our birth and the tiny globe which sustains us or whether we are a burden, the future alone will show. (H, 9-5-1936, pp. 100-1)


Either people of different faiths having lived together in friendship have produced a beautiful blend of cultures, which we shall strive to perpetuate and increasingly strengthen the shape [of] , or we shall cast about for the day when there was only one religion represented in Hindustan and retrace our steps to that exclusive culture.

It is just possible that we might not be able to find any such historical date and if we do and we retrace our steps, we shall throw our culture back to that ugly period and deservedly earn the execration of the universe. (H, 2-11-1947, p. 392)

Western Culture
Of myself, whilst I have freely acknowledged my debt to Western culture, I can say that whatever service I have been able to render to the nation has been due entirely to the retention by me of Eastern culture to the extent it has been possible. I should have been thoroughly useless to the masses as an anglicized, denationalized being, knowing little of, caring less for and perhaps even despising their ways, habits, thoughts and aspirations. (YI, 5-7-1928, p. 224)


European civilization is no doubt suited for the Europeans, but it will mean ruin for India if we endeavour to copy it. This is not to say that we may not adopt and assimilate whatever may be good and capable of assimilation by us, as it does not also mean that even the Europeans will not have to part with whatever evil might have crept into it.

The incessant search for material comforts and their multiplication is such an evil; and I make bold to say that the Europeans themselves will have to remodel their outlook if they are not t o perish under the weight of the comforts to which they are becoming slaves. It may be that my reading is wrong, but I know that for India to run after the Golden Fleece is to court certain death.

Let us engrave on our hearts the motto of a Western philosopher, ‘Plain living and high thinking’.

Today it is certain that the millions cannot have high living and we the few who profess to do the thinking for the masses run the risk, in a vain search after higher living, of mission high thinking.
(YI, 30-4-1931, p. 38)

Cultural Domination Of The West
I think that nobody else can protect our culture for us. We have to protect it ourselves and can destroy it by our folly. (H, 25-5-1947, p. 166)


Though we are politically free, we are barely free from the subtle domination of the West. I have nothing to say to that school of politicians who believe that knowledge can only come from the West. Nor do I subscribe to the belief that nothing good came out of the West. I do fear, however, that we are unable as yet to come to a correct decision in the matter.
It is to be hoped that no one contends that, because we seem to be politically free from foreign domination, the mere fact gives us freedom from the more subtle influence of the foreign language and foreign thought. (H, 2-11-1947, p.392)

Asia For The Asiatics
I so not subscribe to the doctrine of ‘Asia for the Asiatics’, if it is meant as an anti-European combination. How can we have Asia for the Asiatics unless we are content to let Asia remain a frog in the well? But Asia cannot afford to remain a frog in the well. It has a message for the whole world life only it will live up to it. There is the imprint of Buddhistic influence on the whole of Asia which includes India, China, Japan, Burma, Ceylon and the Malay states. I said to the Burmese and the Ceylonese that they were Buddhist in name, India was the Buddhist in reality. I would say the same thing to China and Japan. But for Asia to be not for Asia but the whole world, it has to relearn the message of the Buddha and deliver it to the world. Today it is being denied everywhere. I …have no message to give you but this –that you must be true to you ancient heritage. The message is 2,500 years old, but it has not yet been truly lived. But what are 2,500 years? They are but a speck in the cycle of time. The full flower of non-violence which seems to be withering has yet to come to full bloom. (H, 24-12-1938, p. 404)


I hope that all the representatives… from the different Asian countries will strive their level best to have only one world. They will have to think out ways and means for achieving this goal. If you work with fixed determination, there is no doubt that, in our own generation, we will certainly realize this dream… I will not like to live in this world if it is not to be one. Certainly, I should like to see this dream realized in my life-time. (H, 20-4-1947, p. 109)


All eyes are turned on her, India, in particular those of Asia and Africa … India has won a moral victory over Britain because she has fought non-violently and that is why Asiatic countries hope for proper guidance from her. It is the duty of every Indian not to believe their hopes. If Asia and Africa have the right lead given to them by India, it will change the face of the world. (H, 11-5-1947, p. 148)

One World
God has so ordered this world that no one can keep his goodness or badness exclusively to himself. The whole world is like the human body with its various members. Pain in one member is felt in the whole body. Rot in one part must inevitably poison the whole system. (H, 26-5-1946, p. 154)


Man should earnestly desire the well-being of all God’s creation and pray that we may have the strength to do so. In desiring the well-being of all lies his own welfare; he who desires only his own or his community’s welfare is selfish and it can never be well with him. (H, 27-10-1946, p. 375)


It is open to both the new States [India and Pakistan] to him at… a family of independent world States which necessarily rules out internal armies. I cannot visualize a dog-in –the-manner policy for India whereby it will become a menace to world peace….
It by India’s effort such a world federation of free and independent States is brought into being, the hope of the Kingdom of God, otherwise called Ramarajya, may legitimately be entertained.
(H, 13-7-1947, p. 235)

UNESCO
I am deeply interested in the efforts of the United Nations Economic, Social and Cultural Organization to secure peace through educational and cultural activities. I fully appreciate that real security and lasting peace cannot be secured so long as extreme inequalities in education and culture exist as they do among the nations of the world. Light must be carried even to the remotest homes in the less fortunate countries which are in comparative darkness and I think that, in this cause, the nations which are economically and educationally advanced have a special responsibility. (H, 16-11-1947, pp. 412-13)