33. Renunciation and dedication its essence

[For the first time at the public meeting in Quilon Gandhiji summed up the credal belief of Hinduism in an Upanishadic mantra, and thereafter at every meeting gave lucid and simple commentaries on the numerous implications of that all-comprehensive mantra. The pure exposition without much of a commentary was given on the previous day at Quilon and is reproduced below :]

I have fixed upon one mantra that I am going to recite to you, as containing the whole essence of Hinduism. Many of you, I think, know the Ishopanishad. I read it years ago with translation and commentary. I learnt it by heart in Yeravda Jail. But it did not then captivate me, as it has done during the past few months, and I have now come to the final conclusion that if all the Upanishads and all the other scriptures happened all of a sudden to be reduced to ashes, and if only the first verse in the Ishopanishad were left in tact in the memory of Hindus, Hinduism would live forever.

Now this mantra divides itself in four parts. The first part is ईशावास्यमिदं सर्वं | यत्किं च जगत्यां जगत | It means, as I would translate, all I this that we see in this great Universe is pervaded by God. Then come the second and third parts which read together, as I read them : तेन त्यक्तेन भुंजीथा | I divide these into two and translate them thus: Renounce it and enjoy it. There is another rendering which means the same thing : Enjoy what He gives you. Even so you can divide it into two parts. Then follows the final and most important part, मा गृध कस्यस्विद् धनम् | which means: Do not covet anybody's wealth or possession. All the other mantras of that ancient Upanishad are a commentary or an attempt to give us the full meaning of the first mantra.

It seems to me to satisfy the craving of the socialist and the communist, of the philosopher and the economist. I venture to suggest to all who do not belong to the Hindu faith that it satisfies their cravings also. And if it is true- and I hold it to be true-you need not take anything in Hinduism which is inconsistent with or contrary to the meaning of this mantra. What more can a man in the street want to learn than this, that the one God and Greator and Master of all that lives pervades the Universe? The three other parts of the mantra follow directly from the first. If you believe that God pervades everything that He has created, you must believe that you cannot enjoy anything that is not given by Him. And seeing that He is the Greator of His numberless-children, it follows that you cannot covet anybody's possession. If you think that you are one of His numerous creatures, it behoves you to renounce everything and lay it at His feet. That means that the act of renunciation of everything is not a mere physical renunciation but represents a second or new birth. It is deliberate act, not done in ignorance. It is there­fore a regeneration. And then since he who holds the body must eat and drink and clothe himself, he must naturally seek all that he needs from Him. And he gets it as a natural reward of that renunciation. As if this was not enough the mantra closes with this magnificent thought: Do not covet anybody's possession. The moment you carry out these precepts you become a wise citizen of the world living at peace with all that lives. It satisfies one's highest aspirations on this earth and hereafter.

[It is this mantra that Gandhiji described at another meeting as the golden key for the solution of all the difficulties and doubts that may assail one's heart.]

Remember that one verse of the Ishopanishad and forget all about the other scriptures. You can of course drown yourselves and be suffocated in the ocean of scrip­tures. They are good for the learned if they will be humble and wise, but for the ordinary man in the street nothing but this mantra is necessary to carry him across the ocean: "God the Ruler pervades all there is in this Universe. Therefore renounce and dedicate all to Him, and then enjoy or use the portion that may fall to thy lot. Never covet anybody's possession."

Harijan, 30-1-'37, p, 405

At this meeting1 I would love to detain you for a few minutes on the message of Hinduism I gave to the meeting in Quilon last night.

In this verse the seer has chosen no other epithet for the Deity but that of the Ruler, and he has excepted nothing from His jurisdiction. He says everything that we see is pervaded by the Deity, and from that naturally the other parts of the mantra follow. Thus he says, 'Renounce everything', i.e. everything that is on this Universe, the whole of the Universe, and not only this tiny globe of ours, renounce it. He asks us to renounce it as we are such in­significant atoms that if we had any idea of possession it would seem ludicrous. And then, says the Rishi, the reward of the renunciation is भुज्जीथा: enjoyment of all you need. But there is a meaning in the word translated 'enjoy', which may as well be translated as 'use', 'eat', etc. It signifies, therefore, that you may not take more than necessary for your growth. Hence this enjoyment or use is limited by two conditions. One is the act of renunciation or, as the author of the Bhagawat would say, enjoy in the spirit of कृष्णार्पणमस्तु सर्वम् | (or offering all to God). And every day in the morning everyone who believes in the Bhagawat Dharma has to dedicate his thoughts, words and deeds to Krishna, and not until he has performed that daily act of renunciation or dedication has he the right of touching anything or drinking even a cup of water. And when a man has performed that act of renunciation and dedication, he derives from that act the right of eating, drinking, clothing and housing himself to the extent necessary for his daily life. Therefore take it as you like, either in the sense that the enjoyment or use is the reward of renunciation, or that the renunciation is the condition of enjoyment, renunciation is essential for our very existence, for our soul. And as if that condition given in the mantra was incomplete, the Rishi hastened to complete by adding : 'Do not covet what belongs to another. Now I suggest to you that the whole of the philosophy or religion found in any part of the world is contained in this mantra.

Now I should like to apply this mantra to present day conditions. If all that there is in the Universe is pervaded by God, that is to say, if the Brahmana and the bhangi, the learned man and scavenger, the Ezhava and the Pariah-no matter what caste they belong to-if all these are pervaded by Lord God, in the light of this mantra, there is none that is high and none that is low, all are absolutely equal, equal because all are the creatures of that Creator.

I would like the mantra I have recited to be enshrined in the hearts of all our men and women and children, and if this contains, as I hold, the essence of Hinduism, it should be inscribed on the portals of every temple.

Harijan, 30-1-'37, pp. 407-08

The seer to whom this mantra or verse was revealed was not satisfied with the magnificent statement that God was to be found everywhere. But he went further and said: 'Since God pervades everything nothing belongs to you, not even your own body. God is the undisputed, unchallengeable Master of everything you possess.' And so when a person who calls himself a Hindu goes through the process of regeneration or a second birth, as Christians would call it, he has to perform a dedication or renunciation of all that he has in ignorance called his own property. And then when he has performed this act of dedication or renunciation, he is told that he will win a reward in the shape of God taking good care of what he will require for food, clothing or housing. Therefore the condition of enjoyment or use of the necessaries of life is their dedication or renunciation. And that dedication or renunciation has got to be done from day to day, lest we may in this busy world forget the central fact of life. And to crown all, the seer says: 'Covet not anybody's riches.' I suggest to you that the truth that is embedded in this very short mantra is calculated to satisfy the highest cravings of every human being - whether they have reference to this world or the next. I have in my search of the scriptures of the world found nothing to add to this mantra. Looking back upon all the little I have read of the scriptures-it is precious little I confess-I feel that everything good in all the scriptures is derived from this mantra. If it is universal brotherhood-not only brotherhood of all human beings, but of all living beings-I find it in this mantra. If it is unshakable faith in the Lord and Master-and all the adjectives you can think of-I find it in this mantra. If it is the idea of complete surrender to God and of the faith that He will supply all that I need then again I say I find it in this mantra. Since He pervades every fibre of my being and of all of you, I derive from it the doctrine of equality of all creatures on earth and it should satisfy the cravings of all philosophical communists. This mantra tells me that I cannot hold as mine anything that belongs to God, and if my life and that of all who believe in this mantra has to be a life of perfect dedication, it follows that it will have to be a life of continual service of our fellow creatures.

This, I say, is my faith and should be the faith of all who call themselves Hindus. And I venture to suggest to my Christian and Mussalman friends that they will find nothing more in their scriptures if they will search them.

I do not wish to hide from you the fact that I am not unaware of many superstitions that go under the name of Hinduism. I am most painfully conscious of all the superstitions that are to be found masquerading as Hinduism, and I have no hesitation to call a spade a spade. I have not hesitated to describe untouchability as the greatest of these superstitions. But in spite of them all, I remain a Hindu. For I do not believe that these superstitions form part of Hinduism. The very canons of interpretation laid down by Hinduism teach me that whatever is inconsistent with the truth I have expounded to you, and which is hidden in the mantra I have named, must be summarily rejected as not belonging to Hinduism.

Harijan, 30-1-'37, p. 410

A follower of the Gita Dharma trains himself to do without things with happiness called equanimity in the Gita language, for happiness of the Gita is not the opposite of unhappiness. It is superior to that state. The devotee of the Gita is neither happy nor unhappy. And when that state is reached, there is no pain, no pleasure, no defeat, no deprivation, no possession.

Bapu's Letters to Mira, 1949, p. 250

We must learn the art of never grieving over death, no matter when and to whom it comes. I suppose that we shall do when we have really learnt to be utterly indifferent to our own, and the indifference will come when we are every moment conscious of having done the task to which we are called.

Bapu's Letters to Mira, 1949, p. 301

[1] From a speech delivered by Gandhiji at Haripad in Travancore on 17-1-'37.