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THE SELECTED WORKS OF MAHATMA GANDHI > Vol. V - THE VOICE OF TRUTH > Part II- Section I: Truth, World and Man > An Ideal Man
An Ideal Man
One who renounces all the cravings which torment the heart and derives his contentment from within himself is said to be a Sthitprajna or Samadhistha (one stable in spirit). He is unruffled in adversity, and he does not hanker after happiness. Pleasure and pain are felt through the five senses. Therefore this wise man draws his five senses away from sense objects even as a tortoise draws in his limbs. The tortoise withdraws into his shell when he apprehends danger. But in the case of human beings sense objects are ready to attack the senses at all times; therefore their senses must be always drawn in, and they should be ever ready to fight against sense objects. This is the real battle. Some people resort to self-mortification and fasting as weapons of defence against sense objects. These measures have their limited use. The senses do not make for sense objects so long as a man is fasting, but fasting alone does not destroy his relish for them. On the other hand that relish may be heightened when the fast is broken, and a man can get rid of it only with the grace of God. The senses are so powerful that they drag a man behind them by force if he is not on his guard. Therefore a man must always keep them under control. This end he can achieve only if he turns his eyes inward, realizes God Who resides in his heart and is devoted to Him. One who thus looks upon Him as his goal and surrenders his all to Him, keeping his senses in control, is a yogi stable in spirit. On the other hand if a man is not master of his senses, he is always musing on the objects of sense and conceives an attachment for them, so that he can hardly think of anything else. From this attachment arises desire; and when the desire is thwarted he gets angry. Anger drives him nearly mad. He cannot understand what he is about. He thus loses his memory, behaves in a disorderly manner and comes to an ignoble end. When a man’s senses rove at will, he is like a rudderless ship which is at the mercy of the gale and is broken to pieces on the rocks. Men should therefore abandon all desires and restrain their senses, so that these do not indulge in undesirable activity. The eyes then will look straight and that too only at holy objects; the ears will listen to hymns in praise of god or to cries of distress; hands and feet will be engaged in service. Indeed all the organs of sense and of action will be employed in helping a man to do his duty and making him a fit recipient of the grace of God. And once the grace of God has descended upon him, all his sorrows are at an end. As snow melts in the sunshine, all pain vanishes when the grace of God shines upon him and he is said to be stable in spirit. But if a man is not stable-minded, how can he think good thoughts? Without good thoughts there is no peace, and without peace there is no happiness. Where a stable-minded man sees things clear as daylight, the unstable man distracted by the turmoil of the world is as good as blind. On the other hand what is pure in the eyes of the worldly wise looks unclean to and repels the stable-minded man. Rivers continuously flow into the sea, but the sea remains unmoved; in the same way all sense objects come to the yogi, but he always remains calm like the sea. Thus one, who abandons all desires, is free from pride and selfishness and behaves as one apart, finds peace. This is the condition of a perfect man of God, and he who is established therein even at the final hour is saved.
Discourses on the Gita, (1960), pp. 11-13
The ideal of Sthitaprajna (man whose understanding is secure), described in the Second Chapter of the Gita, is always before me and I am ceaseless in my efforts to reach that ideal. Whatever others might say of me, I know I am yet far from it. When one really reaches such a state, his very thought becomes charged with a power which transforms those around him. But where is that power in me now? I can only say that I am a common mortal, made of the same clay of which others are made, only ceaselessly striving to attain the lofty ideal which Gita holds before all mankind.
Harijan, 23-3-‘47, p. 74
If we accept that ideal of a Sthitaprajna i.e., “the man of steady wisdom” i.e., a Satyagrahi, we would not regard anybody as our enemy; we must shed all enmity and ill-will. That ideal is not meant for the select few—the saint or the seer only; it is meant for all. I have described myself as a scavenger having become one, not only in the name but in fact, while I was in Phoenix. It was there that I took up the bucket and the broom impelled by the inner urge to identify myself with the lowest of the low. As a humble fellow-toiler, then, let me bear witness that anyone, even a simple-minded villager who wants to and tries, can attain the state of mental equipoise described in the Gita verses. We all lose our sanity at times, though we may not care to admit it or be even aware of it. A man with a steady mind will never lose patience, even with a child, or indulge in anger or abuse. Religion, as taught in the Gita, is a thing to be practiced in this life. It is not a means for attaining merit in the next, irrespective of what you may do here. That would be a negation of religion.
Harijan, 14-4-‘46, p. 78
The lesson of Bhagwad Gita is meant not for those who have forsaken the world, but for every householder, irrespective of his birth and state. Everybody’s duty should be to attain the state described therein, and this can only be done if life is built on the rock of fearlessness.
Harijan, 5-1-‘47, p. 479
Is it too difficult an ideal to follow? No. On the contrary, the conduct laid down in it is the only conduct worthy of the dignity of human beings.
Harijan, 28-4-‘46, p. 111
I confess that, in spite of my trying to reach the state, I am far away from the condition of equipoise.
Harijan, 10-8-‘47, p. 270
No one can attain perfection while he is in the body for the simple reason that the ideal state is impossible so long as one has not completely overcome his ego, and ego cannot be wholly got rid of so long as one is tied down by shackles of the flesh.
Young India, 20-9-‘28, pp. 319
But it is impossible for us to realize perfect truth so long as we are imprisoned in this mortal frame.
From Yervada Mandir, (1957), p. 5
The goal ever recedes from us. The greater the progress, the greater the recognition of our unworthiness. Satisfaction lies in the efforts not in the attainment. Full effort is full victory.
Young India, 9-3-‘22, p. 141