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PHILOSOPHY > SELECTIONS FROM GANDHI > Religion and Morals
 

Religion And Morals

710. You must watch my life, how I live, eat, sit, talk, be-have in general. The sum total of all those in me is my religion. –H, 22-9-46, 321.

True Religion

711. There is no religion higher than Truth and Right-eousness. –ER, 49.


712. Let me explain what I mean by religion. It is not the Hindu religion which I certainly prize above all other religions, but the religion which transcends Hinduism, which changes one’s very nature, which binds one indissoluble to the truth within and which ever purifies. It is the permanent element in human nature which counts no cost too treat in order to find full expression and which leaves the soul utterly restless until it has found itself, known its Maker and appreciated the true correspondence between the Maker and itself. –YI, 12-5-20, Tagore, 1070.

True Morality

713. True morality consists, not in following the beaten track, but in finding out the true path for ourselves and in fearlessly following it. –ER, 38.


714. No action which is not voluntary can be called moral. So long as we act like machines, there can be no question of morality. If we want to call an action moral, it should have been done consciously and as a matter of duty. Any action that is dictated by fear or by coercion of any kind ceases to be moral. It also follows that all good deeds that are prompted by hope of happiness in the next world cease to be moral. –ER, 43.


715. How can I, the champion of ahimsa, compel anyone to perform even a good act? Has not a well-known Englishman said that to make mistakes as a free man is better than being in bondage in order to avoid them? I believe in the truth of this. The reason is obvious. The mind of a man who remains good under compulsion cannot improve, in fact it worsens. And when compulsion is removed all the defects will up to the surface with even greater force. –H, 29-9-46, 333.

Religion and Morality

716. True religion and true morality are inseparably bound up with each other. Religion is to morality what water is to the seed that is sown in the soil. –ER, 49.


717. I reject any religious doctrine that does not appeal to reason and is in conflict with morality. I tolerate unreasonable religious sentiment when it is not immoral.–YI, 21-7-20, Tagore, 173.


718. As soon as we lose the moral basis, we cease to be religious. There is no such thing as religion overriding morality. Man for instance cannot be untruthful, cruel and incontinent and claim to have God on his side.

–YI, 24-11-21, 385.


719. Our desires and motives may be divide into two classes—selfish and unselfish. All selfish desires are immoral, while the desire to improve ourselves for the sake of doing good to others is truly moral. The highest moral law is that we should unremittingly work for the good of mankind. –ER, 36.

Religion and Practical Affairs

720. Swaraj is synonymous with Rama Raj—the establishment of the Kingdom of Righteousness on earth. –YI, 4-5-21, 143.


721. Hanuman tore open his heart and showed that there was nothing there but Ramanama. I have none of the power of Hanuman to tear open my heart, but if any of you feel inclined to do it I assure you will find nothing there but love for Rama whom I see face to face in the starving millions of India. –YI, 24-3-27, 93.


722. Religion which takes no account of practical affairs and does not help to solve them, is no religion. And that is why I am putting a religious matter before you in a practical form. –YI, 7-5-25, 164.


723. If any action of mine claimed to he spiritual is proved to be unpractical it must be pronounced to be a failure. I do believe that the most spiritual act is the most practical in the true sense of the term.

–H, 1-7-39, 181.


724. Q. In your autobiography you have said that you cannot think of politics apart from religion. Bo you still hold that view? If so, how is it that in a country of many diverse religions like India you expect a common political policy to be adopted?

Yes, I still hold the view that I cannot conceive politics as divorces from religion. Indeed religion should evade every one of our actions. Here religion does not mean sectarianism. It means a belief in ordered moral government of the universe. It is not less real because it is unseen. This religion transcends Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, etc. It does not supersede them. It harmonizes them and gives them reality.

–H, 10-2-40, 445.


725. To practice nonviolence in mundane matters is to know its true value. It is to bring heaven upon earth. There is no such thing as the other world. All worlds are one. There is no ‘here’ and no ‘there’. As Jeans has demonstrated, the whole universe including the most distant stars, invisible even through the most powerful telescope in the world, is compressed in an atom. I hold it therefore to be wrong to limit the use of nonviolence to cave-dwellers and for acquiring merit for a favored position in the other world. All virtue ceases to have use if it serves no purpose in every walk of life. –H, 26-7-42, 248. 

The various Religious creeds

726. Religions are different roads converging to the same pint. What does it matter that we take different roads, so long as we reach the same goal? In reality, there are as many religions as there are individuals.

–IHR, 24, 23.


727. If a man reaches the heart of his own religion, he has reached the heart of the others too. –Polak, 41.


728.so long as there are different religions, every one of them may need some distinctive symbol. But when the symbol is made into a fetish and an instrument of proving the superiority of one’s religion over other’s it is fit only to be discarded. –Auto, 480.

Missionary effort and the State

729. The State should undoubtedly be secular. Everyone living in it should be entitled to profess his religion without let or hindrance, so long as the citizen obeyed the common law of the land. There should be no interference with missionary effort, but no mission could enjoy the patronage of the State as it did during the foreign regime.

–H, 24-8-47, 292.


730. ‘If I were a dictator, religion and State would be separate. I swear by my religion. I will die for it. But it is my personal affair. The State has nothing to do with it,’ remarked Gandhiji sometime back in answer to a question by a missionary friend who asked whether in Free India there would be complete religious freed and whether religion will be separate from the State. ‘The State would look after your secular welfare, health, communications, foreign relations, currency and so on, but not your or my religion. That is everybody’s personal concern.’ He then went on to describe his conception of religion. ‘You must watch my life, how I live, eat, sit, talk, behave in general. The sum total of all those in me is my religion,’ he said. –H, 22-9-46, 321.

Tolerance

731. I do not like the word tolerance, but could not think of a better one. Tolerance may imply a gratuitous assumption of the inferiority of other faiths to one’s own, whereas ahimsa teaches us to entertain the same respect for he religious faiths of others as we accord to lour own, thus admitting the imperfection of the latter. This admission will be readily made by a seeker of Truth, who follows the law of Love. If we had attained the full vision of Truth, we would no longer be mere seekers, but have become one with God, for truth is God. But being only seekers, we prosecute our quest, and are conscious of our imperfection. And if we are imperfect ourselves, religion as conceived by us must also be imperfect. We have not realized religion in its perfection, even as we have not rallied God. Religion of our conception, being thus imperfect, is always subject to a process of evolution and reinterpretation. Progress towards Truth, towards God, is possible only because of such evolution. And if all faiths outlined by men are imperfect, the question of comparative merit does not arise. All faiths constitute a revelation of Truth, but all are imperfect, and liable to error. Reverence for other faiths need not blind us to their faults. We must be keenly alive to the defects of our own faith also, yet not leave it on that account, but try to overcome those defects. Looking at all religions with an equal eye, we would not only not hesitate, but would think it our duty, to blend into our faith every acceptable feature of other faiths.
Even as a tree has a single trunk, but many branches and leaves, so there is one true and perfect Religion, but it becomes many, as it passes through the human medium. The one Religion is beyond al speech. Imperfect men put it into such language as they can command, and their words are interpreted by other men equally imperfect. Imperfect. Whose interpretation is to be held to be the right one? Everybody is right from his own standpoint, but it is not possible that everybody is wrong. Hence the necessity of tolerance, which does not mean indifference to one’s own faith, but a more intelligent and purer love for it. Tolerance gives us spiritual insight, which is as far from fanaticism as the north pole from the south. True knowledge of religion breaks down the barriers between faith and faith. –YM, 55.


732. There is one rule, however, which should always be kept in mind while studying all great religions and that is that one should study them only through the writings of known votaries of the respective religions. For instance, if one wants to study the Bhagavata, one should do so not through a translation of it made by a hostile critic but one prepared by a lover of the Bhagavata. Similarly to study the Bible one should study it through the commentaries of devoted Christians. This study of other religions besides one’s own will give one a grasp of the rock-bottom unity of all religions and afford a glimpse also of the universal and absolute truth which lies beyond the ‘dust of creeds and faiths’.
Let no one even for a moment entertain the fear that a reverent study of other religions is likely to weaken or shake one’s faith in one’s own. The Hindu system of philosophy regards all religions as containing the elements of truth in them and enjoins an attitude of respect and reverence towards them all. This of course presupposes regard for one’s own religion. Study and appreciation of other religions need not cause a weakening of that regard; it should mean extension of that regard to other religions.

–YI, 6-13-28, 406.


733. Religion does not teach us to bear ill-will towards one another. It is easy enough to be friendly to one’s friends. But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy, is the quintessence of true religion. The other is mere business. –H, 11-5-47, 146. 

Gandhi’s Personal Attitude

734. After long study and experience, I have come to the conclusion that (1) all religions are true; (2) all religions have some error in them (3) all religions are almost as dear to me as my own Hinduism, in as much as all human beings should be as dear to one as one’s own close relatives. My own veneration for other faiths is the same as that for my own faith; therefore no thought of conversion is possible. The aim of the Fellowship should be to help a Hindu to become a better Hindu, a Muscleman to become a better Mussalman, and a Christian a better Christian, The attitude of patronizing toleration is false to the spirit of International Fellowship. If I have a suspicion in my mind that my religion is more or less true, and that others’ are more or less false, instead of being more or less true, then, though I may have some sort of fellowship with them, it is of an entirely different kind from the one we need in the International Fellowship. Our prayer for other must be NOT ‘God, give him the light that Thou has given me, ‘ BUT’ Give him all the light and truth he needs for his highest development.’ Pray merely that your friends may become better men, whatever their form of religion.
Nevertheless, your experience may become a part of their experience, without your knowing it. –
Sabarmati, 1928, 17-19.

To Christian Friends

735. Your work will be all the richer if you accept as settled fact the faiths of the people you come to serve, faiths which, however crude, are valuable to them. I want you to complement the faith of the people instead of undermining it. Make us better Hindus, i.e. better men and women. Why should a man, even if he becomes a Christian, be torn from his surroundings?

Superstitions and undesirable things go as soon as we begin to live the correct life. I concern myself not with belief but with asking to do the right thing. As soon as they do it, their belief rights itself.

–YI, 11-8-27, 250, 251.

True Preaching

736. It is better to allow our lives to speak for us than our words. God did not bear the Cross only 1900 years ago, but He bears it today, and He dies and is resurrected from day to day. It would be poor comfort to the would if it had to depend upon a historical God who died 2000 years ago. Do not then preach the God of history, but show Him as He lives today through you. –YI, 11-8-27, 251.


737. God has created different faiths just as He has the votaries thereof. How can I even secretly harbor the thought that my neighbor’s faith is inferior to mine and wish that he should give up his faith and embrace mine? As a true and loyal friend, I can only wish and pray that he may live and grow perfect in his own faith. In God’s houses there are many mansions and they are equally holy. --H, 20-4-34, 73.


738. I do not believe in people telling others of their faith, especially with a view to conversion. Faith does not admit of telling. It has to be lived and then it becomes self-propagating. –YI, 20-10-27, 352.


739. Even a lofty utterance, that has not the backing of sincerity and experience, will be inert and lifeless, and will utterly fail to penetrate and quicken the hearts of men,. While the speech that springs from self-realization and genuine experience is always fruitful. –H, 21-11-36, 322.


740. Learning takes us through many stages in life but it fails us utterly in the hour of danger and temptation. Then faith alone saves.

–YI, 22-1-25, 27.


741. Divine knowledge is not borrowed from books. It has to be realized in oneself. Books are at best an aid, often ever a hindrance. –YI, 17-7-24, 238.


742. Religion is a very personal matter. We should by living the life according to our lights share the best with one another, thus adding to the sum total of human effort to reach God. –H, 28-11-36, 330.

The Acid Test

743. I would reject all authority if it is in conflict with sober reason or the dictates of the heart. Authority sustains and ennobles the weak when it is the handiwork of reason, but it degrades them when it supplants reason sanctified by the still small voice within.—YI, 8-12-20, Tagore, 616.


744. Scriptures cannot transcend reason and truth. They are intended to purify reason and illuminate truth. –YI, 19-1-21, 22.


745. Error can claim no exemption even if it can be supported by the scriptures of the world. –YI, 26-2-25, 74.


746. An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it. –YI, 26-2-25, 75.


747. I do not hold that everything ancient is good because it is ancient. I do not advocate surrender of God-given reasoning faculty in the face of dancing tradition. Any tradition, however ancient, if inconsistent with morality, is fit to be banished from the land. Untouchability may be considered to be an ancient traction, the institution of child widowhood and child marriage may be considered to be an ancient tradition, and even so many an ancient horrible belief and superstitious practice. I would sweep them out of existence if I had the power. When, therefore, I talk of respecting the ancient tradition, you now understand what I mean.

–YI, 22-9-27, 319.


748. We should cease to grow the moment we cease to discriminate between virtue and vice, and slavishly copy the past which we do not fully know. We are proud heirs to all that was noblest and best in the bygone age. We must not dishonor our heritage by multiplying past errors. –YI, 15-9-21, 292.


749. Intolerance of criticism even of what one may prize as life itself is not conducive to the growth of public corporate life. –YI, 5-3-25, 82.

On Hinduism

750. I can no more describe my feeling for Hinduism than for my wife. She moves me as no other woman in the world can. Not that she has no faults. I dare say she has many more than I see myself. But the feeling of an indissoluble bond is there. Even so I feel about Hinduism with all its faults and limitations. Nothing elates me so much as the music of the Gita or he Ramayana of Tulsidas, the only two books in Hinduism I may be said to know. I know the vice that is going on today in all the great Hindu shrines, but I love them in spite of their unspeakable failings. I am a reformer through and through. But my zeal never takes me to the rejection of any of the essential things in Hinduism. –YI, 6-10-21, 318.


751. Hinduism is a living organism liable to growth and decay, and subject to the laws of nature. One and indivisible at the root, it has grown into a vast tree with innumerable branches. The changes in the seasons affect it. It has its autumn and summer, its winter and spring. The rains nourish and fructify it too. Hinduism is like the Ganges, pure and unsullied at its source, but taking in its course the impurities in the way. Even like the Ganges it is beneficent in its total effect. –YI, 8-4-26, 131.

(A) GURUVADA

752. I believe in the Hindu theory of guru and its importance in spiritual realization. I think there is a great deal of truth in the doctrine that true knowledge is impossible without a guru. An imperfect teacher in mundane affairs may be tolerable, but not so in spiritual matters. Only a perfect gnani (a knowing one, a seer) deserves to be enthroned as guru.

–Auto, 113.


753. I must therefore warn all against accepting imperfect ones as gurus. It is better to grope in the dark and wade through a million errors to Truth than to entrust oneself to one who ‘knows not that he knows not’.

–YI, 3-12-25, 422.

(B) IDOL WORSHIP

754. I do not disbelieve in idol worship. An idol does not excite any feeling of veneration in me. But I think that idol worship is part of human nature. We hanker after symbolism. –YI, 6-10-21, 318.


755. Should we forget our humanity and return a blow for a blow? If some misdirected individual took it into his head to desecrate a temple or break idols, should a Hindu in return desecrate a mosque on that account? Did it in any way help to protect the temple or to save the cause of Hinduism? Personally, he was as much an idol-worshipper as an idol-breaker, and he suggested that the whole of the audience, whether Hindu, Musli9m or any other, were also so, whether they admitted it or not. He knew that mankind thirsted for symbolism. Were not masjids or churches in reality the same as mandirs? God resided everywhere, no less in stock or stone than in a single hair on the body of man. But men associated sacredness with particular places and things more than with others. Such sentiment was worthy of respect when it did not mean restrictions on similar freedom for others. To every Hindu and Mussulman, Gandhiji’s advice was if there was compulsion anywhere, they should gently but firmly refuse to submit to it. Personally, he himself would hug an idol and lay down his life to protect it rather than brook any restriction upon his freedom of worship.

–H, 30-3-47, 86.

(C) INCARNATION

756. In Hinduism, incarnation is ascribed to one who has performed some extraordinary service of mankind. All embodied life is in reality an incarnation of God, but it is not usual to consider every living being as an incarnation. Future generations pay this homage to one who, in his own generation, has been extraordinarily religious in his conduct. I can see nothing wrong in this procedure; it takes nothing from God’s greatness and there is no violence done to truth. There is an Urdu saying which means ‘Adam is not God but he is a spark of the Divine.’ And therefore he who is the most religiously behaved has most of the divine spark in him. It is in accordance with this train of thought that Krishna enjoys, in Hinduism, the status of the most perfect incarnation. –YI, 6-8-31, 205.

(D) BELIEF IN THE HEREDITARY TRANSMISSIBILITY OF CHARACTER

757. Children inherit the qualities of the parents, no less than their physical features. Environment does play an important part, but the original capital on which a child starts in life is inherited from its ancestors. –Auto, 381.

758. I believe that just as every one inherits a particular form so dies he inherit the particular characteristics and qualities of his progenitors, and to make this admission is to conserve one’s energy. That frank admission, if he will act up to it, would put a legitimate curb upon our ambitions, and thereby our energy is set free for extending the field of spiritual research and spiritual evolution. It is this doctrine of Varnashrama Dharma which I have always adopted. –YI, 29-9-27, 329.

(E) VARNA

759. I regard Varnashrama as a healthy division of work based on birth. The present ideas of caste are a perversion of the original. There is no question with me of superiority or inferiority. It is purely a question of duty. I have indeed stated that varna is based on birth. But I have also said that it is possible for a shudra, for instance, to become a vaishya. But in order to perform the duty of a vaishya he does not need the label of a vaishya. He who performs the duty of a Brahman will easily become one in the next incarnation. –YI, 23-4-25, 145.


760. So far as I know anything at all of Hinduism, the meaning of varna is incredibly simple. It simply means the following on the part of us all the hereditary calling of our forefathers, in so far as that traditional calling is not inconsistent with fundamental ethics, and this only for the purpose of earning one’s livelihood. You will realize that if all of us follow this law of varna we would limit our material ambition, and our energy would be set free for exploring those vast fields whereby and where through we can know God. –YI, 20-10-27, 355.


761. Varnashrama Dharma defines man’s mission on this earth. He is not born day after day to explore avenues for amassing riches and to explore different means of livelihood; on the contrary man is born in order that he may utilize every atom of his energy for the purpose of knowing his Maker. It restricts him therefore, for the purpose of holding body and soul together, to the occupation of his forefathers. That and nothing more or nothing less is Varnashrama Dharma. –YI, 27-10-27, 357.


762. Numerous verses from the shastras unmistakably show that mere birth counts for nothing. A person must show corresponding works and character to establish his claim by birth. Such verses also enforce the argument that
(i) a person loses varna by failing to exhibit its peculiar characteristics;
(ii) inter-varna marriage or interdining, whatever virtue the restrictions on them may have, does not affect a person’s varna, at least not so much as the failing to live up to one’s varna;
(iii) birth, while it gives a start and enables the parents to determine the training and occupation of their children, does not perpetuate the varna of one’s birth, if it is not fulfilled by works. –H, 15-4-33, 2.

(F) CASTE AS VARNA

763. Our existing caste organizations are really trade guilds.

–YI, 13-4-231, 114.


764. From the economic point of view, its value was once very great. It ensured hereditary skill; it limited competition. It was the best remedy against pauperism. And it had all the advantages of trade guilds. Although it did not foster adventure or invention there, it is not known to have come in the way either.
Historically speaking, caste may be regarded as man’s experiment or social adjustment in the laboratory of Indian society. If we can prove it to be a success, it can be offered to the world as a leaven and as the best remedy against heartless competition and social disintegration born of avarice and greed. –YI, 5-1-21, 2.


765. The vast organization of caste answered not only the religious wants of the community but it answered its political needs. The villagers managed their internal affairs through the caste system, and through it they dealt with any oppression from the ruling power or powers. It is not possible to deny of a nation that was capable of producing the caste system its wonderful power of organization. –Nat, 339.


766. I believe that every man is born in the would with certain natural tendencies. Every person is born with certain definite limitations which he cannot overcome. From a careful; observation of those limitations the law of varna was deduced. It establishes certain spheres of action for certain people with certain tendencies. This avoided all unworthy competition. Whilst recognizing limitations the law of varna admitted of no distinctions of high and low; on the one hand it guaranteed to each the fruits of his labours and on the other it prevented him from pressing upon his neighbour. This great law has been degraded and fallen into disrepute. But my conviction is that an ideal social order will only be evolved when the implications of this law are fully understood and given effect to.

Q. Do you not think that in ancient India there was much difference in economic status and social privileges between the four varnas?
A. That may be historically true. But misapplication or an imperfect und3erstanding of the law must not lead to the ignoring of the law itself. By constant striving we have to enrich the inheritance left to us.
This law determines the duties of man. Rights follow from a due performance of duties. –MR., 414.

(G) CASTE IN SO FAR AS IT IS DIFFERENT FROM VARNA

767. I consider the four divisions alone to be fundamental, natural, and essential. The innumerable subcastes are sometimes a convenience, often a hindrance. The sooner there is fusion the better.

–YI, 8-12-20, Tagore, 613.


768. The existing innumerable divisions with the attendant artificial restrictions and elaborate ceremonial are harmful to the growth of a religious spirit, as also to the social wellbeing of the Hindus and therefore also their neighbours. –YI, 25-2-26,77.


769. Varnashrama of the shastras is today non-existent in practice. The present caste system is the very antithesis of varna-shrama. The sooner public opinion abolishes it the better. __H,I6-11-35,3i6.


770.Caste has nothing to do with religion. It is harmful both to spiritual and national growth.—H.


771. Today Brahmans and kshatriyas, vaishyas and shudras are mere labels. There is utter confusion of varna as I understand it and I wish that all the Hindus will voluntarily call themselves shudras. That is the only way to demonstrate the truth of Brahmanism and to revive Varna Dharma in its true state. –H, 25-3-33, 3.

(H) INTERDINING AND INTERMARRIAGE

772. I do not believe that interdining and even intermarriage necessarily deprives man of his status that his birth has given him. The four divisions define a man’s calling, they do not restrict or regulate social intercourse. The divisions define duties, they confer no privileges. All are born to serve God’s creation, a Brahmans with his knowledge, a kshatriya with his power of protection, a vaishya with his commercial ability and a shudra with bodily labour. This however does not mean, that a Brahman for instance is absolved from bodily labour, or the duty of protecting himself and others. His birth makes a Brahman predominantly a man of knowledge, the fittest by heredity and training to impart it to others. There is nothing, again, to prevent the shudra from acquiring all the knowledge he wishes. Only, he will best serve with his body and need not envy others their special qualities for service. Varnashrama is self-restraint and conservation and economy of energy.

Though therefore Varnashrama is not affected by interdining and intermarriage, Hinduism does most emphatically discourage interdining and intermarriage between divisions. Hinduism is undoubtedly a religion of the renunciation of the flesh so that the spirit may be set free. It is no part of a Hindu’s duty to dine with his son. And by restricting his choice of a bride to a particular group, he exercises rare self-restraint. Prohibitiobn against intermarriage and interdining is essential for the rapid evolution of the soul. But this self-denial is no test of varna. A Brahmans may remain a Brahman, though he may dine with his shudra brother, if he has not left off his duty of service by knowledge. It follows from what I have said above, that restraint in matters of marriage and dining is not based upon notions of superiority. –YI, 6-10-21, 317.


773. Correspondents have asked whether inter-dining and intermarriage are a part of the movement of untouchability. In my o0pinion they are not. They touch the caste men equally with the outcastes. It is, therefore, not obligatory on an anti-untouchability worker to devote himself or herself to inter-dining and intermarriage reform. Personally I am of opinion that the reform is coming sooner than we expect. Restriction on inter-caste dining and inter-caste marriage is no part of Hindu religion. It is a social custom which crept into Hinduism when perhaps it was in its decline, and was then probably meant to be a temporary protection against disintegration of Hindu society. Today those two prohibitions are weakening Hindu society, and the emphasis on them has turned the attention of the mass mind from the fundamentals which alone are vita to life’s growth. Wherever, therefore, people voluntarily take part in functions where ‘touchables’ and ‘untouchables’, Hindus and non-Hindus are invited to joint dinner parties, I welcome them as a healthy sing,. But I should never dream of making this reform, however desirable in itself it may be, part of an all-India reform which is long overdue. Untouchability, in the form we all know it, is a canker eating into the very vitals of Hinduism. Dining and marriage restrictions stunt Hindu society. I think the distinction is fundamental. It would be unwise in a hurricane campaign to overweight and thus endanger the main issue. It may even amount to a breach of faith with the masses to call upon them suddenly to view the removal f untouchability in a light different from what they have been taught to believe it to be. On the one hand, therefore, whilst inter-dining may go on where the public itself is ready for it, it should not be a part of an India-wide campaign. (Press statement of 4-11-32)—My Soul’s Agony, 5*


774. The question of food and drink has or ought to have no social value. –YI, 29-12-20, Tagore, 619.


775. In Varnashrama there was and there should be no prohibition of intermarriage or interdining.
Though there is in Varnashrama no prohibition against intermarriage and interdining, there can be no compulsion. It must be left to the unfettered choice of the individual as to where he or she will marry or dine. If the law of Varnashrama was observed there would naturally be a tendency, so far as marriage is
concerned, for people to restrict the marital relations to there own varna. –H, 16-11-35, 316.


*Regarding the above two passages and their apparent inconsistency, Gandhiji wrote in answer to a correspondent's question:

As I read them with a detached mind, I find no contradiction between the two statements especially if they are read in their full context. I still believe that restriction imposed by oneself upon interdining and intermarriage is an act of renunciation of the flesh. There is one word that perhaps I would change if I was writing the article of 1921 today. Instead of ‘prohibition’, I should repeat the expression used in the same article just a few lines before and say ‘self-imposed restriction against intermarriage and interdining is essential for a rapid evolution of the soul’.

–H, 29-4-33, 2.


776. When I said that removal of untouchability did not include the removal of restrictions on interdining and intermarriage, I had the general Hindu public in mind, not the congress workers or Congressmen. These have to abolish untouchability from every part of their life. –H, 1-2-42, 23.


777. There should be a breach in the double wall of caste and province. If India is one and indivisible, surely there should be no artificial divisions creating innumerable little groups which would neither interdine nor intermarry. There is no religion in this cruel custom. It would not do to plead that individuals can not make the commencement and that they must wait till the whole society is ripe for change. No reform has ever been brought about except through intrepid individuals breaking down inhuman customs or usages. And after all what hardships can the schoolmaster suffer if he and his daughters refused to treat marriage as a marketable transaction instead of a status or sacrament, which it undoubtedly is I would, therefore, advise my correspondent courageously to give up the idea of borrowing or begging and to save the four hundred rupees he can get on his life policy by choosing in consultation with his daughter a suitable husband no matter to what caste or province he belongs. –H, 25-7-36, 192.


778. Q. Does the congress programme for the abolition of untouchability include interdining and intermarriage with Harijans?
A. So far as I know the Congress mind today there is no opposition to dining with Harijans. But speaking for myself, I have said that we have all to become Harijans today or we will not be able to purge ourselves completely of the taint of untouchability. I, therefore, tell all boys and girls who want to marry that they cannot be married sat Sevagram Ashram unless one of the parties is a Harijan. I am convinced that there is no real difficulty in this. All that is needed is a change of outlook. –HS, 5-1-46.

(I) UNTOUCHABILITY

779. Hinduism has sinned in giving sanction to untouchability. It has degraded us, made us pariahs. Even the Mussalman have caught the sinful contagion from us. –YI, 27-4-21, 136.


780.The ‘touch-me-not’-ism that disfigures the present-day Hinduism is morbid growth. It only betrays a woodenness of mind, a blind self-conceit. It is abhorrent alike to the spirit of religion and morality. –H, 20-4-34, 73.


781. Untouchability is not only not a part and parcel of Hinduism, but a plague, which it is the bounden duty of every Hindu to combat. It has received religious sanction in India, and reduced lakhs and crores of human beings to a state bordering on slavery.
The observance (of the vow of the removal of untouchability) is not fulfilled, merely by making friends with ‘untouchables’, but by loving all life as one’s own self. Removal of untouchability means love for, and service of, the whole world, and it thus merges into ahimsa. –YM, 47, 49.


782. I do not want to be reborn. But if I have to be reborn, I should be born an untouchable, so that I may share their sorrows, sufferings, and affronts leveled at them, in order that I may endeavour to free myself and them from that miserable condition. I, therefore, pray that if I should be born again, I should do so not as a Brahmans, kshatriya, vaishya or shudra, but as an atishudra. –YI, 4-5-21, 144.


783. Q. How can the cast-Hindus look after the interests of the Untouchables? How can they realize the feelings of the classes who have suffered so long at their hands? Is it not then better to entrust the interests of the Untouchables to men of their own caste?
A. Gandhiji was of opinion that the caste-Hindu owed a sacred duty to the so-called Untouchables. He must become a bhangi (sweeper) in name and action. When that happened the Untouchables would rise at a bound and Hinduism would leave a rich legacy to the would. If that happened, the system of cleaning closets would undergo transformation. In England real bhangis were famous engineers; and sanitarians.
That could not happen in India so long as society was sluggish and slothful. –H, 23-3-47, 78.

(J) ANIMAL SACRIFICE

784. It does not matter, that animal sacrifice is alleged to find a place in the Vedas. It is enough for us, that such sacrifice cannot stand the fundamental tests of truth and nonviolence. I readily admit my incompetence in Vedic scholarship. But the incompetence, so far as this subject is concerned does not worry me, because even if the practice of animal sacrifice be proved to have been a feature of Vedic society, it can form no precedent for a votary of ahimsa. –YM, 77.

(K) RELIGIOUS INSTITUTIONS

785. The hoards rotting in the name of religion in the various parts of India have made many of these religious institutions a shame, where they have not become hot-beds of corruption. –YI, 6-7-25, 209.

(L) REINTERPRETATION OF TERMS

786. As the world progresses the same terms acquire new values.

–YI, 7-5-25, 161.

787. I have come to feel that like human beings words have their evolution from stage to stage in the contents they hold. For instance, the contents of the richest word—God—are not the same to every lone of us. They will vary with the experience of each. –YI, 11-8-27, 250.

788. Yajna is a word full of beauty and power. Hence with the growth of knowledge and experience and with the change of time, its meaning is likely to grow and change. Yajna literally means worship; hence sacrifice; hence any sacrificial act or any act of service. And in this sense every age may and should have its own particular Yajna. The principles of religion are one thing, and practices based on them are another. The principles are absolute and irrespective of space and time. Practices change with place and time. –YI, 13-5-26, 179.

789. ‘Satyam bruyat priyam bruyat ma bruyat satyam apriyam’: -In my opinion the Sanskrit text means that one should speak the truth in gentle language. One had better not speak it, if one cannot do so in a gentle way; meaning thereby that there is not truth in a man who cannot control his tongue. –YI, 17-9-25, 318.