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New Steps Forward
People used to ask me what would happen after 1957, what form the work would take then. I told them that work of this kind is not limited by time or place. To my mind gramswarajya, freedom for every village community, has in essence been achieved. My mind dwelt upon Ramadas Swami, and how he had foretold the end of the tyranny of his own times. ‘The forces of unbelief are fallen, destroyed,’ he declared, yet the oppressive reign of Aurangazeb did not end until twenty-five years after his own death. He looked into the future and saw the city of Kashi, which was under alien rule, restored to freedom. ‘Now,’ he cried, ‘is the holy water flowing freely for bathing and for the triple worship at sunrise, noon and sunset.’
I felt the same way about the freedom of the villages to govern themselves. Now was the time to set up a Shanti- sena, a Peace Army, to safeguard the freedom which had been won. I am an inveterate calculator, and I had reckoned that one ‘peace soldier’ would be needed for every five thousand of the population. On that basis, seventy thousand peace soldiers would be needed for our nation of three hundred and fifty million people. Let India raise such an army of devotees of peace. The task of the Peace Army was to prevent any outbreak of violence by being always alert for signs of tension. In normal times these ‘peace soldiers’ would work as servants of society, and get declarations of gramdan and so on; in an emergency, however, they would be ready to give their lives to restore peace.
I asked the people of Kerala to take the first step, and Shri Kelappan declared himself ready to act as Commander of the Peace Army. Previously he had been active in party politics, but he made his choice without hesitation and at once sent in his resignation from the party. The public of Kerala greatly respected him, and with such a man as leader many young men volunteered to join the army and act under his orders.
At one meeting eight or nine people stood up and pledged themselves there and then to join the Peace Army and give their lives if need be. It looked as if ten or twenty more were ready to follow suit. However, I stopped them. For the time being, I said, I did not want any more; it was enough to have a few tried workers with whom I was already in touch. In that way, in Kerala, the Peace Army was established (0n July 11th, 1957 at Kozhikode).
After the Shanti-sena was established, I said that it would need a Supreme Commander at the all-India level, and for that we must depend on God alone. I cannot speak in any other language than this, but nevertheless the indi- cations are that I will have to shoulder the responsibility of all-India leadership. If that be His will, I am mentally prepared to do it.
I have appealed to the people of India for seventy thousand peace soldiers. If I fail to get so many I shall no doubt become a laughing-stock. But then, I like being a laughing-stock ! Laughter adds flavour to life; it’s a good thing that people should get a chance to laugh.
I do my calculations and put forward figures of this kind to help us all to keep in mind the target we are aiming at. I asked for fifty million acres of land, and now that I have got only four million, people say, how about that? I have made myself a laughing-stock. If I had talked in terms of two or three million I should have exceeded the target by this time. I decided on fifty million, and those who laugh at me don’t understand how one must go about things in this country. As the saying goes, ‘Joy is in the large, not in the small.’ I set myself a target which looks impossible, and then try to make it possible. And it is this which lends wings to my feet.
At Guruvayur there is a temple, so famous that it could be called the Pandharpur of Kerala. Years ago Kelappan had fasted there; Gandhiji had come and joined him. He asked Kelappan to give up his fast, saying, ‘I will fast in your place.’ Gandhiji thus took the fast upon himself, and after that the temple was thrown open to Harijans.
When I reached Guruvayur I had with me some Christian fellow-workers. I asked the temple authorities if they would allow us all to enter together. No, they said, they could not allow that, but they would be very pleased for me to enter and would feel sorry if I did not do so. ‘I am sorry,’ I replied, ‘I do not understand how I could have any experience of God if I were to leave these Christian friends of mine outside. I cannot worship in that way.’ So I did not go in.
A great debate ensued in the Malayalam newspapers about my not being allowed in Guruvayur. Public opinion on the whole was against my exclusion. Only one or two papers criticised me for insisting that people of another religion should be allowed inside the temple. The rest, a score or more newspapers, said that I was right, and that it was a big mistake, which would do much damage to Hinduism, not to allow us to enter.
At other places my experience was quite the reverse. At Melkote in Karnataka there is a temple associated with Ramanujacharya, where Ramanujacharya1 himself lived for fifteen years. He was a very large-hearted teacher who devoted himself to the spiritual welfare of the world, and Melkote is known all over Southern India. I visited the place with my companions, some of whom were Christians. I went into the temple along with them, we were all allowed to enter, and I was very happy to see it.
On another occasion during my pilgrimage in Karnataka the same question arose at the famous temple of Gokarna Mahabaleswar. There was with me a Muslim friend named Saleem, a loving soul of great piety. I asked the authorities and priests if they would allow this man to enter the temple with me; they said we might all enter, they had no objection whatever. I was very happy to be allowed to go into the temple along with companions of other faiths, and that the priests did not consider that the image of God was polluted by my doing so. And Gokarna Mahabaleswar is not just a minor place of pilgrimage.
If I do not insist on this principle of temple entry, Hinduism will forfeit the goodwill of the world. I have been very cordially welcomed everywhere, by Muslims in their mosques, by Christians in their churches, by Sikhs in their gurudwaras. And indeed, who would not welcome anyone whose heart is filled with nothing but love?
The first anniversary of the newly-united Karnataka State fell on November 1st, 1957. On that day I began using a new slogan, Jai Jagat, ‘Victory to the World’. A united Karnataka, I explained, was only a first step, which must be followed next by a united India, and then by a united world. Fifteen years earlier we had begun to use the slogan Jai Hind, ‘Victory to India’; now the time has come to move on to Jai Jagat. The mental outlook is changing all over the world, and very rapidly. Little by little the dividing walls between country and country will be broken down, and it will become more and more possible to create a united world family. The human spirit is being enlarged. So, from now on, our slogan should be Jai Jagat.
A long time ago, when I was still in Paunar, some soldiers of the Azad Hind Army2 visited me. They greeted me with Jai Hind, and I responded with my own form of greeting: Jai Hind, Jai Duniya, Jai Hari.3 I wanted to help them to understand that in these times Jai Hind alone is too narrow an ideal. I explained that it could only rightly be used in conjunction with Jai Duniya; victory for one’s own country must not mean defeat for another. Furthermore, the world as a whole might even become mad enough to forget God, and so I added the third slogan, Jai Hari. Jai Duniya is a broad ideal, Jai Hari is a deep one. Jai Hind alone is neither broad nor deep enough for today. That was what I said to those men seven or eight years ago, and now in Karnataka even the children are shouting Jai Jagat.
At the same time I had been thinking hard about the events of the past six years. Good work had been done; bhoodan had given birth to gramdan. But was all this just a crazy ‘fad’ of mine, or was there Truth behind it? I decided that the matter must be put to the test, so, through the Sarva Seva Sangh, I invited our national leaders to examine it dispassionately and give their opinion.
On September 21st and 22nd 1957 leaders of all the political parties met at Yelwal in Karnataka for a Gramdan Conference. Those who attended were people whose ability as practical thinkers was recognized by all.4 They gave their verdict, with one voice, in favour of the principle of gramdan, and the statement they issued is a kind of Magna Carta for it: ‘All should encourage the idea of gramdan since it would lead to moral along with material progress.‘ When I saw that phrase I asked myself whether any third kind of progress, apart from these, is possible for humanity? This endorsement was given, not merely by those who preach religion, but by leaders concerned with practical affairs. I, therefore, regarded gramdan as having been accepted by the nation. I also suggested to the conference that it should be looked upon as a ‘defence measure’.
I also spoke to the conference of my fundamental faith that in each human heart’s core there is a divine essence. The evils which appear on the surface are not found in the depths. We must find a way to penetrate the depth of each human heart and to draw out the goodness with which it is filled. My second point was that, by the grace of God, everyone in the world is a ‘have’, there are no ‘have-nots’ at all. Therefore whatever one has, whether land, or strength to work, or money, or intelligence, or affection, should be made available to the whole village community and not confined to one’s own home. Otherwise some people would have only a duty to give, others only a duty to receive, and that could not possibly work well, for moral duty is the same for all.
In Karnataka I first put forward the idea of Sarvodaya-patra, a ‘pot for Sarvodaya’ (at Dharwar, in February, 1958).
The Gita says that in order to accomplish any kind of work we must take into account various factors, such as the field or base, the worker, and the means. For this work of revealing the spirit of non-violence the field or base has been found; it is bhoodan. Next comes the worker; assuming one worker for every five thousand of the population, there must be a Peace and Service Army of seventy thousand soldiers; intelligent, active people who would serve every village and every home, and would keep the peace through- out the country. In Kerala, a beginning has been made with a Peace Army of that kind.
The next step is to provide the various ‘means’. I have asked for two kinds of means, sampatti-dan and sammati-dan. Sampatti-dan means giving for the cause of non-violence a portion of one’s sampatti or wealth. God may have given us much or little, but whatever it is, let us give a portion of it to society, and so earn the right to enjoy what remains. We are enjoined in the Upanishads first to give, and only after giving to provide for our own needs. I therefore ask everyone to give, to give whatever he possesses, his labour, his property, his intelligence and so on. From such gifts great spiritual strength, and equally great material resour- ces, can be generated in India.
Sammati-dan means the gift of approval; it means to declare one’s belief in Sarvodaya, Shanti-sena, gramdan and khadi. Whoever desires to help forward this work to the best of their ability should show it by putting aside something every day towards the welfare of society. When I ask people for sampatti-dan, I ask for one-sixth of their wealth just as in bhoodan I ask for one-sixth of their land. But in sammati-dan I ask for a daily handful of grain from every household in token of their faith in the work of non-violence. Let every household give a daily handful of grain, and let the hand be the little hand of a child. More grain would be given for Sarvodaya, of course, if the handful were that of an adult, such as the mother; but that is just what I don’t want; I prefer that a little boy or girl should put a little handful into the Sarvodaya pot.
Why so? Because this is what will happen: When the child comes for the meal the mother will ask him if he has remembered to put his handful of grain into the pot, and if he has forgotten she will tell him to go and do it at once, before he sits down to eat. It seems to me that this would be very helpful in inculcating respect for the moral law. It would bring in some grain for Sarvodaya work, it would express the family’s sympathy with our aims, but more than that, it would be an education for the children. This should take place in every home and should be expected of every family, for it belongs to the religion of humanity. It is something in which the followers of every faith can take part, Hindu, Muslim, Christian and all.
In short, the Sarvodaya-patra has a triple purpose. First, it is a pledge not to have any part in acts which disturb the peace; second, it is a practical vote for Sarvodaya; third, it is an education for all Indian children.
The tradition of charity which prevails today certainly benefits society to some extent, but it does not bring about any change in social structures. Grain placed in the Sarvodaya-patras, on the contrary, will be used for the revo- lution, for creating a new social structure. To alleviate suffering a little, while allowing the old structure which causes it to remain, is just not enough. It is of course good to relieve misery, but relief does not strike at the root of that misery. The aim of the Sarvodaya-patra is to build a new society on a new foundation.
On the day when this idea of Sarvodaya-patra came into my head, I felt as though I had become a rishi, like the seers of old ! I had never felt like this with regard to bhoodan, but behind the idea of Sarvodaya-patra there is, it seems to me, a true vision. In one of the stories in the Upanishads a guru says to his disciple: ‘Bring a banyan fruit, break it open, and see what is inside it.’ The disciple sees a small seed in it. The guru says: ‘Break that open too and tell me what you see.’ The disciple does so, and says: ‘Now I can see nothing at all’. Then the guru says: ‘From such an invisible nothing has sprung this great tree. This seed-power, this power at the core of the seed, that is the Atman (the soul), and that is what you too are.’ In the same way, the great tree of the people’s power will spring from the invisible seed-power in that little handful of grain.
I told the friends in Karnataka that my feeling was that I should continue my travels. I would attend any camps or seminars which might be arranged, and that both in the camps and on my journeys I would continue to share my thoughts on Sarvodaya and allied topics. Nevertheless, I said, I would prefer to move about quite freely, without pre-arranged plans, from now onwards, since that would be helpful in giving the work a good shape.
Now that I am going on to Maharashtra and Gujarat, to the scenes of my birth and boyhood, I feel strongly that I should simply go like a naked child running to his mother, divested of all my ‘armour’ of bhoodan and gramdan. There is no further need, to my mind, of any acts which might ‘acquire merit’ for myself. It is true that whatever merit I may have obtained so far has not been individualist in intention, but it has nevertheless taken an individual form also. Now I want to abandon that form completely, and simply live, simply be.