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Home What Are Semioticsigns Articles of Interest Links J.I. (Hans) Bakker
 

CHAPTER I

GANDHIAN VALUES: TOWARD A JUST CIVILIZATION

MEETING A "SAINT"

When in India I had the opportunity to meet Acharya ("great teacher") Vinoba Bhave, at his ashram near Wardha. I cherished the opportunity. I knew that many peasants as well as urban professionals regarded Vinoba as a "saint" or "great soul" (like his spiritual teacher, M.K. Gandhi). I also cherished the opportunity because "Vinoba-ji" is aged and frail. (The suffix "ji" is added to denote respect.) It was clear he would not live a great deal longer. This would be my only chance to meet him. Mahatma Gandhi died in 1947. Jayaprakash Narayan died in 1979. I would be meeting one of the last great internationally known Gandhian leaders of non-violence (from the revolutionary generation of the 1930s and 1940s). It would probably be an important event in my life, I thought.

For Vinoba Bhave himself, of course, it was not that important. I was just one of many visitors who came either to pay respects or to gawk at the old man. A constant stream of Western visitors arrived at the ashram; many European women lived and worked there. A virtual torrent of Indian visitors arrived daily. So, I was just another visitor. Nevertheless, I did have an opportunity to speak personally with this saintly man a few times. Two incidents stand out in my mind.

The first day that I was allowed to have an interview with Vinoba-ji, one of his secretaries informed me that I could write down questions for him to answer. The secretary gave me a large sheet of paper, a pencil and a quiet place to sit. Since I had more than an hour to prepare, and since I was burning with enthusiasm, I quickly jotted down eleven questions, each of which was in turn based on a number of subsidiary questions. I asked about Mrs. Indira Gandhi and her Congress-I Party about M.K. Gandhi's views on celibacy, and many other topics. I gave the piece of paper to the secretary.

When I was ushered to where Vinoba ji was sitting, cross-legged, on a bench on the veranda outside, I saw that he was reading my sheet of questions, his eyes very close to the page. He seemed to be reading very carefully. All was quiet, except for the chirping of birds and the sound of wind in the trees. Vinoba-ji looked up from the sheet of paper and scanned the group of five people sitting on the ground near him. He focussed on me. There was a long silence. Then he raised both hands, fingers outstretched. All ten fingers were clearly visible. More silence... Finally he said, in English: "Do you know what this means?"

I felt my stomach tighten. I had come to have my questions well. There was a mischievous little "demon" in the makeup of this saint's answered; now I had to answer a question! My mind raced, but I could personality, and he used that little demon to good ends. not think quickly enough. "No...," I said, not even adding any term of respect. 

"It means I have only ten fingers..."

I still did not understand. The silence, though it lasted only a few seconds, was unbearable.

Vinoba-ji grinned mischievously, sensing that he had put one over on me, as he had intended.  "You asked eleven questions.  I only have ten fingers!"

Everyone laughed, except me.  They thought it was very funny.  I did not.  I felt duped.  I expected words of wisdom.  Instead, I got a joke...at my expense.

Then Vinoba-ji added the saving words.  He said, "You have asked so many questions.  I am an old man.  I am too tired to answer all of them now.  Work here in the garden.  This afternoon I will answer one of your questions."

I immediately felt better.  Yes, the joke had been on me, but it was a mild joke, a joke directed at my youthful over-enthusiasm and touch of egotistical, intellectual pride.  He was right to rib me about my pridefulness.  Yet, he left me with an opening and he treated my questions seriously enough to leave the possibility open that they would be answered, eventually.  He also mentioned that part of the reason he could not simply answer all the questions straight away was that he was getting older.  That implied that although my problem was my youth, he too recognized a limitation, his age.  He was not merely a condescending old man saying age and experience are all that matter.

As I worked in the garden and the fields I thought about the experience several times.  I could easily see why Vinoba-ji had been able to get village leaders in rural villages of India to voluntarily contribute parcels of land for re-distribution to landless peasants. (Usually they were lower caste or Untouchable-Harijan persons.) Yes, it is true, as some Marxist argue, that Vinoba Bhave's efforts had been aided by the underlying threat of violent take-overs.  If proprietors did not voluntarily part with some of their land, it might all be taken from them.  But, nevertheless, Vinoba managed it.  He did it, I could see, by penetrating to the heart of another person's immediate concerns.  In the same way he had poked gentle fun at my intellectualization, he had probably chided landlords perceptively as well.  There was a mischievous little "demon" in the makeup of this saint's personality, and he used that little demon to good ends.

A Core Truth

The second incident that especially stands out occurred the day my  wife and I were due to leave. Again I had an "audience" with Vinoba-ji. It was not private, but there were only half a dozen people there. He had already answered a number of my questions.  Now I had one which was especially important to me. I had written on a slip of paper:

Gandhi said, "Once I believed God is Truth.

But now I believe, Truth is God."

What do you believe?

After he had read the question he looked around to find me.  I had not signed my name, but he guessed who had asked the question.  I braced myself.

He said, "God is Love, Faith and Truth." There was silence.  The only sound I was aware of was the sound of a young woman spinning.  She sat cross-legged on the stone floor next to me.  I thought Vinoba had finished his answer.  Then he gave a little homily.

The Christian God gave us the concept of Love. The God of Islam is a God of Faith. Both Love and Faith are important. In Hinduism we believe that God is Truth. Christians say: Faith, Hope and Charity. Father, Son, Holy Ghost. The greatest of those is Truth.

That was the end of his message. My wife and I left the ashram that afternoon to return to Gandhi's old ashram, Sevagram, also near Wardha. We waited a long time for a rickety old bus, along with a peasant woman who was taking some vegetables to relatives. We discussed our views on Vinoba-ji. Was he a "saint"? 

I have often thought about Vinoba Bhave's answer to my last questions. Gandhi's statement that "Truth is God" is highly unorthodox and all-inclusive.  Vinoba chose not to polemicize with Gandhi's view; he chose instead to affirm it, extending the discussion even further.  Perhaps he was repeating a stock answer.  Vinoba-ji is a master dialectician.  He says, for example, in his collection of Random Reflections:

God is neither the source of good, nor of evil. Or alliteratively, He is the source of good as well as that of evil.  Or, again, He is the source of unadulterated good only.


All three conceptions are part of Vinoba's subtle metaphysics, in which intellectualizations much give way to compassionate understanding.  "God resides in every living being." 

God is true.  Religion is true.  The Saints are true.  For, Truth is reality.  Truth itself is God.  Truth itself is Religion and Truth itself is what goes into the making of a saint.

Although some of his statements may seem contradictory when taken literally, Vinoba, like Gandhi, is basically concerned with open-ended knowledge based on lived experiments.  Thus he writes, for example,

You say, "This is final and irrefutable because it is proved by experiment."

I say, "It is tentative and refutable for the very reason that it has been proved by an experiment."

In other words, there is the realm of "eternal verities" (Truth, Faith and Love; Father, Son and Holy Ghost) and there is the realm of "objective reality."  The two realms may meet in the experiments of a saint or Mahatma, but that coming together of the eternal and the mundane is and "experimental" and open to constant revision, not irrefutable. It is only the eternal verities themselves which are irrefutable.

The attempt to find practical applications for eternal principles is bound to lead to contradictions. It is not hard to point out places where Vinoba contradicts himself. If we read from the perspective of strict logic then we can find many superficially contradictory-sounding statements in Gandhi's speeches and letters as well. But all such apparent contradictions are eliminated in the practical concerns Vinoba and Gandhi lived for. The ideology is important, but particular statements are not what is important in the ideology.

Gandhi's values are the product of a synthesis of some of the best aspects of Gnostic Christianity, Jainism, Buddhism and Hinduism.  Therefore, Gandhi is something of a heretic, a person who does not conform to traditional religion as it is traditionally observed and passed down.  A heretic is a person who does not conform to traditional religious teaching or practice.  Although he or she may accept most of what is traditionally handed down, not everything is accepted.  Just as Siddhartha Gautama was a heretic in relation to traditional Judaism, so Gandhi was a heretic too.  One clear sign of his heresy was his espousal of the human rights of untouchables, whom he called Harijans, the "children of God," just as all persons are children of God.  When Gandhi first went to Sevagram it was the issue of untouchability that most irritated the notables of the village: they said they could accept everything but Gandhi's teaching concerning the fundamental equality of non-caste persons.

For Gandhi, being a Hindu meant "freely assenting to the Truth within you," but for many orthodox Hindus there was much less stress on freedom of conscience than on birth into a particular caste and preservation of a rather rigid system of social stratification.  "In his own life-time Gandhi was abused in very harsh terms not only by the imperialists but also by orthodox Hindus and Jains, by the westernized upper class educated elite, by Muslim and Anglo-Indian leaders and, not least, by the Marxists."1 There was so much opposition to Gandhi from so many vested interests because he was an iconoclast who did not easily fall into any particular category.  When )in Hind Swarai) Gandhi has the Reader say "It is impossible that Englishmen should ever become Indianized" he has the editor respond "to say that is equivalent to saying that the English have no humanity left in them...." Hence, Gandhi uses the term "Indianization" in a very loose sense, to mean "humanization." It Is most definitely not impossible that the English should ever become "humanized." Gandhi's indictment of crass materialism and power politics should not be read as an argument in favour of traditionalism; such a simple dichotomy is quite misleading.

Gandhi respected his own religion and others, but he did not hesitate to follow his "inner voice" in interpreting every aspect of those religions. The basic principle he followed is "the conviction that morality is the basis of things, and that truth is the substance of morality." Truth was Gandhi's principle, not orthodoxy. Hence, he could not help but be-like Gautama the "Buddha" and Jesus the "Christ"-a heretic.

Gandhi's message is an integrated whole; all of the parts fit together. Even though Gandhi never "systematized" his views, there is a certain system, a certain worldview. As Mohinder Singh points out, "There is nothing (more) consistent In the views of Gandhi's critics than the accusation of inconsistency...." But Gandhi did have a firm centre. He was a man of religion who was his own guru. For Gandhi history has a goal; Gandhi's goal is the spiritual development of the individual towards Truth. He wants every person, man and woman, to be able to catch glimmers of the face of Truth. In other words, each person should be able to decide moral and ethical problems individually.

For Gandhi the aim of life is the development o f human potentialities. Fully aware of his own human, all too human, failings, Gandhi was able to identify. with the weakest of human beings. Perhaps partially as a result of the influence of Jainism, he felt an affinity with all living creatures. He had the same kind of compassion that Gautama had; it extended to all living things. That compassion, that warmth and all-embracing "motherly" love for struggling humanity, is Gandhi's Truth. Gandhi wanted to see people become what they, as human beings, potentially are. With his firm faith in the essential goodness of all persons he taught that we must hate the evil and not the evil doer.

This is clearly a belief in "development" on Gandhi's part. He did not see everything as remaining always and everywhere the same. In his mature work he had a universalistic outlook that was geared to the full development of all human beings, regardless of culture. Even in Hind Swaraj he is concerned with more than mere freedom from colonial domination; he is interested in self-liberation, the full development of individual selves. Gandhi argues in favour of a moral and psychological change in individuals.

The key point here is that Gandhi wanted to move towards a "just civilization," a just society. He saw that as an aim, a goal. It is very difficult to believe that he placed as much emphasis upon metanoia, at least as it was traditionally defined in what Saran calls "the non-eschatological, nirvanic Hindu-Buddhist tradition." Gandhi's view of "history" is not merely cyclic (not even in terms of ever-widening circles of justice). There is a clear notion of "progress" and social "development" in Gandhi's Truth which sets it somewhat apart from traditional, orthodox Hinduism.

Just as for Gandhi there is a universally valid social ethic, a conception of "human rights" based on some "natural law," there is also in Gandhi's thought a sense of human history as a "development" from an original state to a higher state.

We should understand that true development means a qualitative change, not merely a quantitative increase in goods. Much of the so-called "development literature" (i.e., the scholarly, academic writing on national development) is concerned solely with modernization and industrialization. Emphasis is placed on quantitative factors like the number of hospital beds per thousand and especially the Gross National Product (GNP). Where such an approach goes wrong is in its view of a human being as merely "a money-making machine" with a material body but no soul. True development would involve both expansion of material resources (e.g., indigenous production of basic needs like food, clothing and shelter) and intensification of human "soul force." It is essential to remember, however, that Gandhi was not against increased production of material goods, provided that increased production is accompanied by egalitarian distribution and does not involve exploitation of the poor by the rich. He was also not against construction of factories for steel and chemical production, etc. In our endeavour to provide for the religious needs of all people we should not forget to develop the means to provide for their economic needs. It is one thing to give up wealth voluntarily; but it is quite another to be lacking in basic needs like water and food due to poor distribution of goods and inadequate attention to basic, swadeshi-type production.

Gandhi's values are relevant today, not only in India but outside India as well, because Gandhi's values are truly universal values, based on a universally applicable standard of individual justice, personal choice and responsibility. For Gandhi the individual is what counts, not the caste group or the family or the sect or the class. Each person has to follow the still, small voice within and find his own path, his own soul.

ENDNOTES 

  1. J.D. Sehi, Gandhian Values and 20th Century Challenges (Publishing Division. Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, 1979), p. 2. 

 

Chapter 6

Gandhian Values, Human Rights and Development:  Towards a Just Civilization

Evie said 'She was a Hindu.'  She was speaking aggressively now and as if she were fighting us.  'Becoming a Hindu is not like becoming a Christian.  You don't have to take formal baptism or anything but freely assent to the Truth within you.'
Miss Charlotte said 'We must think of her family too'.
'What family?  She didn't have a family.  He was her family.'
'Who's he, dear?'
'Swamiji.' [1]

One belongs to a strictly birth-religion, like Hinduism, merely by being born to Hindu parents.  However, Hinduism is "exclusive" in the sense that no other way can the individual enter its community, at least the circle of those considered fully qualified religiously.  Hinduism does not wish to encompass mankind.  No matter what his belief or way of life, anyone not born a Hindu remains an outsider, a barbarian to whom the sacred values of Hinduism are in principle denied. [2]

"Non-Hindus Not Allowed." [3]

Introduction

Recent discussions in Gandhi Marg have centred on the question of whether or not M.K. Gandhi was a traditionalist, with a world-view rooted in traditional Hindu metaphysics and theology. [4]    In some ways this is a non-issue, since everyone thinks of Gandhi as a good Hindu and a good person who sought to understand the best of all religions.  But the question veiled by abstract language is really whether or not Gandhian values are relevant to India today.  There are those who believe that Gandhian values are irrelevant altogether or who only pay lip service to Gandhi while ignoring the values Gandhi taught and lived.  This discussion is not likely to interest such persons.  However,  there are also those who genuinely feel that Gandhian values are relevant today.  They may even feel that Gandhi's path is the only path.  However, they disagree among themselves exactly about what Gandhi's values were, how they fit in with traditional Hindu values, and in what ways they are likely to evolve.

In these pages the following propositions will be presented, discussed, modified and formulated in as exact a manner as possible:

a. Gandhi's values are the product of a synthesis of some of the best aspects of Gnostic Christianity, Jainism, Buddhism and Hinduism.  Therefore, Gandhi is something of a heretic, a person who does not conform to traditional religion as it is traditionally observed and passed down.

b. Gandhi's emphasis on Truth was a strong statement in favor of the human rights of individuals.  Gandhi was a fighter for human rights of all person, regardless of caste, creed, sex or other factors.

c. Gandhi's value-orientation strongly favored egalitarian development of human potentialities.  Gandhi's swaraj is "development" in the best sense of the term, personal, social and national, rather than simply freedom from colonial or other domination. 


Although these propositions would seem to be self-evident, there are many people who do not share these views.  Since it is particularly easy to misrepresent these propositions it is important to ask the reader not to be misled by a turn of phrase of a particular word but to search for the spirit behind the words.  The spirit in which this discussion is intended is affirmation of the continued relevance of Gandhian values today, both in India and outside India.

As a caveat to the reader, it should be mentioned that the discussion has the weaknesses and strengths of a viewpoint expressed by an outsider. [5]    While not being a part of the Gandhian organization, much less a true Gandhian, has the advantage of a certain measure of objectivity, it also has the great disadvantage of a certain amount of distance from the subject.  One could argue that only a true Gandhian can discuss Gandhi, but then it is doubtful if very many people would ever presume to tackle Gandhian ideas.  After all, who can call himself a true Gandhian today?  Even Gandhi himself felt that-to the extent to which the label was justified at all-he had a long way to go before he reached his own ideals.  In quite a different sense from which Marx said he was not a Marxist, Gandhi could have said he was not a Gandhian, and indeed Gandhi often expressed his dislike of any ideological labels.

The problem of objectivity is always there.  Who are we to believe?  The Buddhist parable of the blind men and the elephant is an apt one in this context, as in so many intellectual and spiritual controversies.  We are all partially  blind.  Yet, we all have our own light, our inner sense of how things are, and so we try as best we can to express that.  The truth is no doubt somewhere in between false extremes (in some synthesis only a genius of Gandhi's calibre can intuit) a synthesis which we today only partially grasp.  Perhaps the truth is not even some "golden mean," but a radical change of viewpoint.  There are certainly a number of bold new ideas in Gandhi's writings, concepts which are only today being widely discovered in the West. [6]

Gandhi has served as a Rorsach test for a wide range of commentators.  He has been praised and denounced, sometimes for opposite reasons; the same saintliness that some see as a mark of his simplicity is viewed by others as a veil for his desire for power.  It is a commonplace to point out that Gandhi's writings, like the Bible or any other compilation, can be quoted to reflect quite opposite opinions.  How can we be sure that we understand the meaning of any particular statement made by Gandhi in its true light?  Which expositor are we to believe?  Which beliefs of Gandhi can we select as representative of Gandhi's final word on any particular question when he himself did not aim to be consistent in every utterance.  What is the underlying and abiding message that Gandhi, in his most mature thought and work, has left for us?

There is so much room for disagreement on exactly what Gandhi meant or did not mean that there is much room for accepting parts of Gandhianism and defining away the rest.  It is easy to relegate that which we dislike to the chaff and accept only that which we can easily accept as the wheat.  Moreover, just as Gandhi himself developed during his lifetime, conditions have changed greatly in some respects-though not in others-since 30 January 1948.  We not only have to ask what Gandhi actually did say, we have to extrapolate that and ask, "what would Gandhi say and do today?"  Naturally attempts at such types of extrapolation open the door even wider to disagreements and controversies.  In the process, Gandhi gets talked away, even while he is being praised, and even the most basic of Gandhi's ageless truths is placed back on the shelf, awaiting a new Christ-Buddha-Mahatma charismatic leader to the rural masses.

But, nevertheless, we are reluctant to give him up.  He was, after all, very real.  While we can deny the historicity of Jesus or Gautama, we cannot deny the fact that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi walked the face of this troubled world, made many important statements ad provided guidance to a nation struggling to become politically free of colonial rule.  There are not many examples like him.  He is too precious to be simply put on the shelf, unread, unseen, unheeded.


A Gandhi's Heresy

As stated earlier, a heretic is a person who does not conform to traditional religious teaching or practice.  Although he or she may accept most of what is traditionally handed down, not everything is accepted.  Just as Siddhartha Gautama was a heretic in relation to traditional Hinduism, Jesus was a heretic in relation to traditional Judaism, so Gandhi was a heretic too.  One clear sign of his heresy was his espousal of the human rights of untouchables, whom, as everyone knows, he called Harijans, the "children of god," just as all persons are children of god.  When Gandhi first went to Sevagram it was the issue of untouchability that most irritated the notables of the village: they said they could accept everything but Gandhi's teaching concerning the fundamental equality of non-caste persons.

Traditionally, since the untouchables had no caste, they had no dharma either.  Max Weber explains how important this is.

In contrast to the orthodox sects, the heresy of the theophraties (i.e. open-door castes, sampradaya) consists in the fact that they tear the individual away from his ritualistic duties, hence from the duties of the caste of his birth, and thus ignore or destroy his dharma.  When this occurs the Hindu loses caste.  And since only through caste can one belong to the Hindu community, he is lost to it.  Dharma, that is, ritualistic duty, is the central criterion of Hinduism. [7]

Yet Gandhi taught that the untouchables were also Hindus and that they should be accepted in the temples.  That was a heresy.  Yet Gandhi's belief in the fundamental equality of all persons gave him the strength to oppose the traditional beliefs as they had been handed down for generations.

No doubt a learned scholar can show that untouchability is not a key factor in Hinduism.  For example, it is quite possible that the Vedas contain nothing about untouchability. [8]   But that is not the question at issue.  A heretic is often one who re-introduces the purest aspects of the religion he sets out to reform.  It is quite possible that in the Vedic age there was a greater degree of equality than in later ages.  No doubt complex factors were at work to make untouchability into the despicable thing it became (and, unfortunately, still is, in some regions).  The Mughal and British periods contributed to changing  Hinduism from its earliest forms.  Nevertheless, Hinduism, as Gandhi found it in the 1910s, 20s and 30s, was sorely in need of reform.  He did not hesitate to go where his "inner light" led him on this and many more issues.  Gandhi was "inner directed", a gnostic of sorts.  While still admiring all that was good in Hinduism, he nevertheless refused to accept that which he thought was bad.  He defied tradition and stood firm on the basis of a set of principles.

In that sense, Gandhi was much like the early Gnostic Christians.  We are only now beginning to learn about the Gnostics of the first and second centuries after Jesus' death.  A recent book has reviewed some of the scholarly studies, mainly by German theologians like von Campenhausen, which indicate that religious controversies in the early Christian churches often concerned practical questions of religious authority. [9]   Religious debates had clear social and political implications.  The basis of the Gnostic position was that each individual Christian had an "inner light" which made the church hierarchy unnecessary. [10]    The orthodox wanted to maintain the authority of the catholic church-not yet the Roman Catholic Church-but the Gnostics opposed religious conformity to the teachings of one bishop.  Varying beliefs about the nature of God usually carry with them different social, economic and political implications.  Those who are branded "heretics" are usually the ones who stand up for the right of each individual to interpret the religion in his own way. [11]

Gnosticism both borrowed from, and shared a common base with Hinduism, Buddhism, Platonism and mystical Judaism. [12]


In his emphasis on personal relatedness to God, therefore, Gandhi was something of a Gnostic Christian too.  He had his own vision of what Jesus meant for humanity and often spoke of the influence that the Sermon on the Mount had on him.  As is so often pointed out, there is a sense in which all religions meet.  The fact that is usually left out, however, is that it is not authoritative, dogmatic religions which meet.  All of the world's great religions meet, instead, at the level of personal conscience and private meditation, on the principles of Truth, Beauty, Goodness, Compassion, Justice and Love.  Gandhi was not a Gnostic Christian, of course; the term is properly applied in technical sense to a second century community; but, he shares a common characteristic with all iconoclastic religious thinkers.  Gandhi followed his own conscience rather than tradition.

Sometimes Gandhi's insistence on following his own views was highly exasperating to members of the Congress.  Gandhi's Mahatmaship may also have led to a certain amount of restriction of free debate.  Gandhi was always ready to marshal evidence in favour of his arguments; nevertheless his arguments sometimes rested on nothing but his intuition.

...among the political workers among whom he moved, there was no mystery about him except for the impulses and working of the mind, which he himself could not explain always clearly enough.  He was alone and he had to fight his way every step.  There was nothing which he did by mystic innovation, though he used the language of the mystic, when he called what he could not explain his "inner voice".  If it was often instinct, it was unique in its workings.  He was prepared to argue every moment and he was a keen logician... [13]

For Gandhi, being a Hindu meant "freely assenting to the Truth within you," but for many orthodox Hindus there was much less stress on freedom of conscience than on birth into a particular caste and preservation of a rather rigid system of social stratification.  "In his own life-time Gandhi was abused in very harsh terms not only by the imperialists but also by orthodox Hindus and Jains, by the westernized upper class educated elite, by Muslim and Anglo-Indian leaders and not least, by the Marxists." [14]   There was so much opposition to Gandhi from so many vested interests because he was an iconoclast who did not easily fall into any particular category.  In the discussion so far the emphasis has been placed on the notion that Gandhi was something of a heretic in terms of traditional, orthodox Hinduism.  The discussion has centered on Gandhi's "gnostic" heresy because of the debate that has taken place in the pages of Gandhi Marg on Gandhi's place in Hinduism.  But, as the quotation indicates, Gandhi's heretical disposition is not limited only to orthodox Hinduism.  Gandhi thought for himself on all issues, and thus maintained a measure of personal independence from all orthodoxies.

It is merely that "at certain points Gandhi deviates from traditional thought...", [15] it is that Gandhi was searching for universal values, humanity, human rights.  When (in Hind Swaraj) Gandhi has the Reader say "It is impossible that Englishmen should ever become Indianized..." he has the Editor respond:  "To say that is equivalent to saying that the English have no humanity left in them..." [16]   Hence, Gandhi uses the term "Indianization" in a very loose sense, to mean "humanization."  It is most definitely not impossible that the English should ever become "humanized."  Gandhi's indictment of crass materialism and power politics should not be read as an argument in favor of traditionalism; such a simple dichotomy is quite misleading.

If the words "heretic," "gnostic," or "iconoclast" are somewhat jarring, they can be dropped; it is not the words which are important but the meaning.  It is likely, however, that the words will be most abrasive to those who are unwilling to accept the radical element in Gandhi's religious convictions and who therefore seek to find a conformity to tradition, for the sake of tradition, which is simply not there.  Gandhi respected his own and other religions; but, he did not hesitate to follow his "inner voice" in interpreting every aspect of those religions.  The basic principle he followed is "the conviction that morality is the basis of things, and that truth is the substance of morality." [17]    Truth was Gandhi's principle, nor orthodoxy.  Hence, he could not help but be-like Gautama the "Buddha" and Jesus the "Christ"-a heretic. [18]

B Gandhi's Truth and Human Rights


Some people tend to consider the notion of "human rights" a Western notion, but while in certain contexts that may be somewhat correct [19] the manner in which the concept of "human rights" is currently interpreted is universal.  It is not an idea limited to any particular cultural tradition, regardless of its origin.  What needs to be emphasized more than it has been is that Gandhi's concept of Truth is very closely related to the concept of human rights.  In more than one context, we could substitute "justice" or "human rights" for "truth" in Gandhi's writings.

Gandhi's concept of Truth, for example, also included the human rights of women.  He felt that brahmacharya was the best way to secure greater individual and social freedoms for women.  One can debate the relative merits of celibacy versus birth control and present a strong case for one or the other, [20] but the essential part of Gandhi's position is that-given the socio-economic context of India in the early twentieth century-women would benefit from not having to be mothers.  The ideal marital relationship, according to Gandhi, is one where the husband and wife strive to be free of all sexual desire.  Only then would the woman be man's equal in every respect, free to follow her own conscience and develop herself as a person.  That was his reasoning in the case of Prabbavati Devi and Jayaprakash Narayan, for example, [21] brahmacharya is the conduct that leads to God for Gandhi, of course, but Gandhi extended the notion of self-restraint to include the equal development of women.  Vinoba Bhave's ashram in Paunar is a living example of an attempt to follow this idea of Gandhi's and apply brahmacharya to women.  Perhaps long ago women were also allowed to be brahmacharinis, but it is nevertheless true that for many generations only men could conduct themselves in that manner, free from the highest quest so that their most fundamental right as human beings-the right to search for their soul-was being denied to them.

Many people in the West who are advocates of women's liberation would not accept Gandhi's notion of brahmacharya, of course, but that would probably be because they would not understand the context in which Gandhi advocated the notion. [22]    Gandhi had to attempt to reconcile the traditional and the non-traditional; he did so by applying a traditional practice to an excluded group: women.  Had he tried in the 1920s or 30s to attain the goals which feminists in the United States are striving for in the 1980s he would have been completely misunderstood.  Hence, in that sense, human rights are somewhat relative to the historical and cultural context, even though they ultimately derive from universal principles.  The universal principle upheld by Gandhi in this instance is the right of women to self-determination, women's right to choose to be something other than mere child-bearing machines, completely dependent upon a husband and a family.  In his day that was radical enough.

even today the rights of women are not given as much attention in India as other aspects of "human rights" and the women's liberation movement is spoken of rather disparagingly, even by educated, urban women.  Yet Gandhi struggled to understand the manner in which society subjugated women and saw brahmacharya as a possible road toward equality of status between men and women.

"His own contribution to the cause of the emancipation of women," Pyarelal writes [23] , "had been to present for acceptance truth and Ahimsa in every walk of life.  In this woman could be the unquestioned leader.  She had only to extend her love to the whole of humanity and forget that she ever was or could be the object of man's lust."  In his own way, therefore, Gandhi strove for the human rights of women.  Gandhi's ideas on the ability of women to serve humanity are not all that different from those of a leading feminist-psychoanalyst, Jean Baker Miller.  Miller summarizes a vast body of current Western feminist thinking when she recommends that, "men struggle not against identification with the female per se in concrete sense, but that men do indeed struggle to reclaim the very parts of their own experience that they have delegated to women."  Gandhi struggled to reclaim the centrality of service to others.  it became central to his own self-image in a manner in which Dr. Miller feels it has traditionally been only for women. [24]   Against the materialistic view that mankind is basically aggressive, Gandhi emphasized the humanistic view that men should be more like women in their identification with the principle of ahimsa.


Once the human rights of women are fully recognized in any society, then the human rights of other minority or subordinated groups are also quite clear.  That is revealed in the attention paid to the various human rights by women's journals.  The domination of women by men is part and parcel of domination of all subordinate groups by dominant groups. [25]

The concept of human rights is found not only in the Greek philosophers, the Roman historians and jurists, and theologians in the Judao-Christian tradition; it is also found in Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, and in all the "heretical" Hindu-based religions.  Eighteenth century Enlightenment thinkers as well as nineteenth century Romantics drew on all of the strands of human thought to weave a strong chord that would help draw up men and women to equality and fraternity.  A conceptualization of human rights is basic to any fight for greater democracy since the subordinate group will always need an ideology justifying its struggle for equal participation.  A complex variety of influences from both East and West produced in Gandhi an appreciation for universalistic values which transcend any particular religion, culture and society. [26]    That is why it is so valuable to try to understand the essence of Gandhi's approach and not define him too narrowly.

C Development

The third proposition, that Gandhi's value orientation strongly favored egalitarian development of human potentialities, flows from the previous two.  Gandhi's message is an integrated whole; all of the parts fit together.  Even though Gandhi never "systematized" his views, there is a certain "system", a certain world-view.  As Mohinder Singh points out, "There is nothing (more) consistent in the views of Gandhi's critics than the accusation of inconsistency..." [27]    But Gandhi did have a firm centre.  He was a man of religion who was his own guru. [28]    As this paper has attempted to argue, this made Gandhi somewhat of a heretic within any religious tradition and a strong advocate of the human rights of individuals.  The third point, however, is that for Gandhi history has a goal; Gandhi's goal is the spiritual development of the individual toward Truth.  He want every person, man and woman, to be able to catch glimmers of the face of Truth.  In other words, each person should be able to decide moral and ethical problems individually.  This point will require some clarification.

For Gandhi the aim of life is the development of human potentialities.  Fully aware of his own human, all too human, failing, Gandhi was able to identify with the weakest of human beings.  Perhaps partially as a result of the influence of Jainism, [29] he felt an affinity with all living creatures.  He had the some kind of compassion that Gautam had; it extended to all living things. [30]    That compassion, that warmth and all-embracing "motherly" love for struggling humanity is Gandhi's Truth.  Gandhi wanted to see people become what they, as human beings, potentially are.  With his firm faith in the essential goodness of all person he taught that we must hate the evil and not the evil does, that we must "turn the other cheek."  Potentially, for Gandhi, the possibility of goodness coming to the fore was always there.  Hence he was always ready to forgive.  He seems to have been inspired to nurse ailing humanity back to health.

This is clearly a belief in "development" on Gandhi's part.  He did not see everything as remaining always and everywhere the same.  In his mature work he had a universalistic outlook that was geared to the full development of all human beings, regardless of culture.  Even in Hind Swaraj he is concerned with more than mere freedom from colonial domination; he is interested in self-liberation, the full development of individual selves.  Gandhi argues in favor of a moral and psychological change in individuals.


What separates Gandhi from Marx in that respect is, of course, that Marx did not believe that the character of a class could change until the structural position of that class would change.  A true classless society is only possible with a fully communistic organization of the relations of production, not before, according to Marx.  "It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness," Marx said, "...the human essence is no abstraction inherent in each single individual.  In its reality it is the ensemble of the social relations." [31]   For Gandhi it was not that simple.  Or perhaps we should say, it was not that complicated!

For Gandhi the establishment of a classless society was an ideal which could be approached nonviolently.  The point in question here is not whether Gandhi and Marx are right concerning the possibility of nonviolent social transformation. [32]   The point is rather that Gandhi, like Marx, had a notion of the aim of human life as more than a mere continuation of the status quo.  Gandhi's aims and Marx's aims are not all that different, although the constraints which affect the possibility of ever achieving those aims are seen quite differently by those two great thinkers and men of action.

The key point here is that Gandhi wanted to move toward a "just civilization," a just society.  He saw that as an aim, a goal.  It is very difficult to believe that he placed as much emphasis upon metanoia, at least as it was traditionally defined in what Saran calls "the non-eschatological, nirvanic Hindu-Buddhist tradition." [33]   Gandhi's view of "history" is not merely cyclic (not even in terms of ever-widening circles of justice).  There is a clear notion of "progress" and social development" in Gandhi's Truth which sets it somewhat apart from traditional, orthodox Hinduism.

Just as for Gandhi there is a universally valid social ethic, a conception of "human rights" based on some "natural law," there is also in Gandhi's thought a sense of human history as a "development" from an original state to a higher state.

It would be difficult to expound on the differences between the concept of dharma and ritual offense, on the one hand, and "original sin" and "sinful action," on the other, without concluding that Gandhi tends to view evil in terms of sin and not merely in terms of ritual offense.  Everything that Gandhi wrote is permeated by a notion of justice, justice not merely in terms of outward acts (ritual) but in terms of inner conviction (sinfulness).  There is nothing in Gandhi's actions which would indicate that he believed in the concept of karma as a justification for rigid inequalities of status.  In many ways, once again, Gandhi is more like a heretic of Hinduism than a Hindu; the similarity of many of his convictions and Jainism indicates this; but then Gandhi was not purely a Jain either. [34]   He developed a highly complex synthesis of the best elements of several "gnostic" religions and included in that package a notion that the aim of human life is growth, seeking, development.

But, as Sulak Sivaraksa has recently pointed out, [35] we should understand that true development means a qualitative change, not merely a quantitative increase in goods.  Much of the so-called "development literature," (i.e. the scholarly, academic writing on national development) is concerned solely with modernization and industrialization.  Emphasis is placed on quantitative factors like the number of hospital beds per thousand and especially the Gross National Products (GNP).  Where such an approach goes wrong, as Ruskin points out, is in its view of man as merely "a money-making machine' with a material body but no soul. [36]   True development would involve both expansion of material resources (e.g. indigenous production of basic needs or "requisites" like food, clothing and shelter) and intensification of human "soul force."  This is not the place to discuss what modification of the pure, political economic model of what Marx called "capitalism" is best; but, those who have been inspired by E.F. Schumacher are searching for a suitable path. [37]   It is essential to remember, however, that Gandhi was not against increased production of material goods, provided that does not involve exploitation of the poor by the rich.  He was also not against construction of factories for steel and chemical production, etc.  In our endeavor to provide for the religious need of men we should not forget to develop the means to provide for their economic needs.  It is one thing to give up wealth voluntarily; but, it is quite another to be lacking in basic needs like water and food due to poor distribution of goods and inadequate attention to basic, swadeshi-type production. [38]


M.K. Kanetkar, until recently director of the Gandhi Bhavan, Nagpur University, put the matter succinctly in his short book, entitled 5,000 A.D.  Discussing what he calls "the three urges" (pursuit of money, sex, and leadership, or (we might say) class, status and power) he wisely declares "Everyone is first in quest of a good meal and minimum animal comforts...; his next need is sex, and these satisfied he insists on being somebody...  There is nothing wrong about this.  Everyone is richly entitled to them all, but wisdom lies in our devising an arrangement in which everyone will have an equitable share and there would be no occasion either for discontent of violence. [39]   Although one might quibble with his terminology, Kanetkar expresses in simple, often metaphorical language some basic Gandhian truths and concludes that the basic question is "whether you want to live on religion or for it," whether you will live up to the command to "Do unto others as you would be done by" or not. [40]   It would be misleading to assume that Gandhi wanted everyone to be like a mahatma; instead, we should remember that Gandhi chose to be a mahatma-like individual in order to lead the way to the fullest development of individual human capacities.  In all countries of the world today there is still much left to do in order to secure "an arrangement in which everyone will have an equitable share" and in which basic "human rights" are respected. [41]

Conclusion

This essay began with three quotations, one from a novel, one from a scholarly work, and one from personal experience.  The thrust of the quotations is that traditional, orthodox Hinduism is a "birth religion" and that "anyone not born a Hindu remains an outsider."  The painful experience of being an "outsider," not allowed admission to various temples, especially not the sanctum sanctorum in such temples, indicates that there is something wrong with the traditional notion of a "normal civilization."  What is basically wrong with that concept is that it is not based on a concept of "human rights," universally applicable, but on a notion of status rankings and responsibilities.  The true test of Gandhi's "traditionalism," therefore, is to what extent Gandhi accepted a principle of universal "justice," over and above the norms and standards of one particular religious tradition or culture.

Gandhi's values are relevant today, not only in India but outside India as well, because Gandhi's values are truly universal values, based on a universally applicable standard of individual justice, personal choice and responsibility.  For Gandhi the individual is what counts, not the caste group or the family or the sect or the class.  Each person has to follow the still, small voice within and find his own path, his own soul.  There are various arguments that can be advanced against such a view (e.g. that it is "reductionist,") but such intellectualized arguments are nothing compared with the living example that Gandhi provides of the application of that principle.

Moreover, it is contended that Gandhi applied the principle in order to redress wrongs, to change the balance of forces so that subordinate groups, like untouchables and women, could have a measure of self-determination, rather than accept refinements on the status quo as a "normal civilization."  Gandhi proposed radical changes and a constant striving after a perfection that is still far from our grasp.

It would be quite wrong to claim Gandhi for any religious tradition or any national culture.  Although of course Gandhi was born a Hindu and an Indian-which everyone respects-he is as universal as Jesus or Gautama.  Certainly Gandhi himself was never concerned that Jesus was not well within the orthodox tradition of the Jews or Israel!  It does not really matter whether Siddhartha Gautama was born in what is now India or Nepal.  Precisely because he is above simplistic and invidious distinctions between East and West, Gandhi is one of the "greater sons" of mother India.  He fully believed that what matters is assenting to "the Truth within you."



[1] .Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, A New Dominion:  A Novel (Quartet Books, London, 1976), p. 207.  Evie is a Western girl on a spiritual quest who accepts the teachings of Swamiji, as did Margaret, the young woman who has died.  Miss Charlotte is an old Christian missionary who had warned Margaret that she had jaundice.  Margaret did not seek medical help because Swamiji subtly prevented her.  Miss Charlotte recommends that they think of Margaret's ritualistic duty to her family. i.e. her dharma.

[2] .Max Weber, The Religion of India:  The Sociology of Hinduism and Buddhism (Free Press, New York, 1958), p. 6.

[3] .Sign seen on various temples in India (e.g. Trivandrum).  Sometimes this sign applies only to the sanctum sanctorum.  Occasionally it refers to the temple as a whole.  Of course there are many temples which freely admit non-Hindus, particularly the less important temples.  The test of whether or not one is a Hindu is the manner of dress or, even more often, color of skin.

[4] .For example, see Gandhi Marg, 11 (February 1980) in which A.K. Saran argues that Gandhian thinking, is "contaminated by modernism," purely material modern civilization.  He firmly rejects any effort to find alternatives to materialism in Western values; these would merely be variants" of Western modernism.  As A.K. Saran does not stand alone in his outright rejection of the modernism found in the West and in urban India, it is worthwhile to explore the issues.  In particular, it is important to distinguish between universal values (i.e. values which can be said to be the ideals toward which most persons strive today) and the values of any particular traditional religious faith.  Values commonly discussed in terms of "human rights" are basic human values and transcend any traditional metaphysics or theology, even though they may have been latent in the traditional religious faith.  Gandhi opposed excessive materialism and "modernism," but he did not oppose social and economic development, the sixteen articles of Gandhi's 1909 Credo notwithstanding.

[5] .Is it necessary to recall that when Gandhi spoke out in South Africa he too was something of an "outsider."  That truth is not a monopoly of any single group is a key aspect of Gandhi's outspoken opinions.

[6] .While E.F. Schumacher is not as popular today as he once was, he is still being read widely.  Many authors and workers are coming to similar conclusions, whether or not they have read Gandhi or Schumacher.  There is much talk of "meta-industrial culture" (a culture which goes beyond industrial values) in the United States.  There is a basic distrust of excessive economic growth among both liberals and conservatives in the US and Canada.  It is quite likely that more and more people in the industrialized nations will turn to Gandhi's thought in coming years.

[7] .Weber, op. cit., p. 24.

[8] .Ibid, p. 27.  Arguments concerning sacred texts are endless, of course, since "even the devil can quote scripture."

[9] .Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1980).  Excerpts can be found in the New York Review of Books.  For example, the 8 November 1979 issue of the NYRB discusses the question of the political meaning of the notion of resurrection.  The bishops of the catholic church had a literal view of Jesus' resurrection because it bolstered their authority; the Gnostics had a symbolic interpretation of the resurrection.  From the Gnostic perspective, every person is able to have a "vision" of Jesus.

[10] .As Pagels says, "George Fox, the radical visionary who founded the Quaker movement, was moved by his encounter with the 'inner light' to denounce the whole structure of Puritan authority-legal, governmental, and religious," NYRB, November 8, 1979, p. 45.  It is extremely interesting that Pagels links up Martin Luther, George Fox, and Paul Tillich as leading Christians whose transformed understanding of the nature of God led them to oppose the official hierarchy, and that Gandhi used George Fox's phrase so frequently to explain the innermost workings of his mind.  "A lifetime of meditation (including a whole day weekly) and prayer about non-violence based largely on the Gospels convinced Gandhi that hardly any organized Christian body except the Quakers really faced up to the implications of Christ's teaching and example on nonviolent war against evil," says Thomas Roberts in "Christian Comment on Gandhi" Gandhi Marg, vol, 3, no. 4 (October 1959), p. 300.  The same "inner voice" which motivated the Gnostics and George Fox also played an important role in Gandhi's world view.  It is not in any way limited to Christian heretics, of course, but is found in all reformers and revolutionaries who oppose orthodox dogma in favor of social justice and human rights.

[11] .The problem with such individualistic interpretations of Truth is, of course, that with each person shouting his own views no one will be able to lead, or if one person's vision is accepted by some group-there is absolution of individual responsibility in favor of the unorthodox views of the leader.  There is no way to get around this dilemma.  As soon as the authority of tradition is challenged it can be challenged by anyone and if one person seeks to organize the rebels he may in turn make them into followers of a new orthodoxy.

[12] .Quoted from a review of Pagels' book in The Economist (March 15, 1980), p. 103.  Apart from Gnosticism as a historical Christian movement, it is possible to speak of "gnosticism" in the abstract.  It is largely in that sense that Gandhi is here referred to as a "gnostic."  The common element in all of the "gnostics" within all of the great religions is a trust of the "inner voice," even against traditional religious authority.

[13] .M. Chalapathi Rau, Jawaharlal Nehru (Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Delhi, 1979), p. 39.

[14] .J.D. Sethi, Gandhian Values and 20th Century Challenges (Publications Division.  Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, 1979), p. 2.

[15] .A.K. Saran, 1980, op, cit., p. 692.  Also cf. p. 683.  Saran sets up a false contradiction between "the traditional Indian theory of politics" and "contemporary Western Civilization," and then argues that Gandhi-despite some seeming aberrations-basically belongs in the first camp and shunned the second.  But that is an unnecessarily rigid polarization.  As Gandhi's credo of 1909 says.  "1.  There is no impassable barrier between East and West."  Read carefully, and in context, Gandhi's 1909 speech does not imply all that Saran attempts to draw from it.  Moreover, much has changed in the "West" since 1909!  There are far more "Europeans" today who, as a matter of principle, wish to escape "modernism."  But, "modernism" is not equivalent to "Western" (i.e. Judaeo-Christian) civilization, just as "traditionalism" is not equivalent to "Eastern" (i.e. Hindu-buddhist) civilization, and therefore the common struggle in both industrialized and industrializing nations  is the struggle against the evils of "modernism."  However, this issue would require a whole paper in and of itself in order to explain the meanings of these terms (e.g. what is "industrialization without modernization"?).  The main point to be made here is that Gandhi did not merely "lack intellectual rigor" and therefore have certain "modernistic strands" in his thought; Gandhi was a rigorous thinker whose ideal was Truth and who therefore necessarily included "non-traditional" aspects in his thinking, since those "non-traditional" beliefs (e.g. abolition of untouchability) were necessary for Truth.  Saran is therefore incorrect in his central premise that "Gandhian thinking remains essentially traditional..."  (p. 683).  Gandhian thinking is neither essentially traditional nor modern but ageless, a distillation of the finest in both the Hindu and the Christian traditions.  As Vinoba Bhave has said, "God is Truth, Love and Compassion; Hinduism stressed Truth; Christianity stressed Love; and Islam stressed compassion."  Only Gandhi might have added, "Truth, Love and Compassion are God, and the greatest of these-all things considered-is Truth."  In that sense, and in that sense alone, Gandhi was a "traditional Hindu."  If that is what Saran means then he is quite correct and the problem is merely a verbal one.

[16] .Part of the possible semantic confusion is due to Gandhi's highly metaphorical use of terms in a very early speech.  no one would dispute the fact that all the world should become "Hinduized" if in substance the speaker meant that all the world should become "Christianized" or "Islamicized" as well.  At this highly abstract level of discourse the words are interchangeable and do not refer to a tradition except in the most theologically pure sense.  Incidentally, this speech shows that Gandhi's abilities as a theologian should not be under-estimated; but, his words should be understood as "god language," not the language of the street corner or the market place.

[17] .M.K. Gandhi, An Autobiography (Navajivan, Ahmedabad, 1940, tr. Mahadev Desai), p. 25.

[18] .Two examples of Gandhi's heretical leanings can be cited briefly here.  Many others will easily come to mind to readers.  First, Gandhi was made an outcaste by the Sheth of his own Modh Bania caste because Gandhi decided to go abroad and the Sheth felt his "religion forbids voyages abroad."  Although one section of Gandhi's caste group later accepted him back; the other, more traditional section, apparently never did.  Gandhi disregarded the others of the caste to which he belonged on the basis of advice given by a learned Brahmin, Mavji Dave, and by his brother.  One could argue that the brother's authority could be regarded as higher than that of the Sheth, but the second example will make it clear that Gandhi also did no always heed his older brother's advice either.  Gandhi relates that through reading the Gita he decided that "trusteeship" required a change of behavior, as well as of attitude.  he decided to give his brother all his savings up to that moment, but henceforth utilize all his savings for the benefit of the community in South Africa.  "I could not easily make my brother understand this.  In stern language he explained to me my duty towards him.  I should not, he said, aspire to be wiser than our father.  I must support the family as he did."  Clearly, Gandhi goes against traditional, orthodox Hindu conception of dharma by widening the meaning of "family" to include the whole Indian community and thereby specifically excluding his own family, which was not South Africa at the time.  The point is that Gandhi followed his own conscience in these matters, not the traditional teachings of his religion, as traditionally interpreted.  Whether he was "wiser" than his father is, of course, another and entirely separate question.  Even if, in interpreting his dharma in universalistic terms, Gandhi was reverting back to the purest form of Hinduism at its highest, one can hardly identify that pure distillation with traditional orthodoxy.  These examples, therefore, illustrate Gandhi's iconoclasm.  See M.K. Gandhi, Autobiography, 1940, op. cit., pp. 29-30, 65-66, 198-99.

[19] .A.K. Saran, 1980, op. cit., p. 708.  Principles 1.53 "The Theory of Fundamental Human Rights."  Saran places this under Principle 1 "Empirical and experimental science of Nature and Man."  he contrasts it with Sophia Perennis, Human Rights are not so much an aspect of the "empirical and experimental science of Nature and Man" as they are an aspect of what Saran calls "Egalitarianism," to be contrasted with "Hierarchy."  Again, however, the polarization of "East" versus "West" is too black and white.  In the normal use of the term, "human rights" refer to something universal, especially when we discuss that aspect of human rights which is not tied to "civil rights" (or, "civil liberties").

[20] .See Leo Tolstoy's short story "The Kreutzer Sonata" (reprinted in John Bayley, ed., Great Short Works of Leo Tolstoy,  Harper & Row, New York, 1967) for an eloquent statement of the worst excesses of "love marriage" in a situation where men an women are basically unequal economically, socially and sexually.  It is interesting to compare Tolstoy's views with those of Gandhi.  Both believed in the importance of observing brahmacharya even with one's wife.  Tolstoy took the Bible (Matthew v 28) as his inspiration; Gandhi found the same path within Hinduism.  Especially revealing is the following passage in Tolstoy's story:

"...Why should it (life) continue?"

"Why?  If not, we should not exist?"

"And why should we exist?"

"Why?  In order to love, of course."

"But why live?  If life has no aim, if life is given us for life's sake, there is no reason for living.  And if it is so, then the Schopenauers, the Hartmans, and all the Buddhists as well, are quite right.  But life has an aim, it is clear that it ought to come to an end when that aim is reached..."  An exegesis of that dialogue would require pages; but, suffice it to say that Tolstoy and Gandhi both had a similar picture of the aim of life.  Through control of the senses in thought, word and deed, one attains a realization of Truth (God).  For materialist modernism the aim of life is happiness through pleasure, the satisfaction of the senses; Tolstoy and Gandhi opposed that modernism in favor of a view of life in which the aim is not happiness but Truth.  See Gandhi's Autobiography, 1940, op, cit. pp. 153-59, 273-39, 247-50.

[21] .Gandhi did not force Prabhavati Devi and Jayaprakash Narayan to live as brahmacharis of course; but, the force of his authority must have prevented the young couple from seriously considering other alternatives.  See Allen and Wendy Scarfe, JP: His Biography (Orient Longman, New Delhi, 1977), pp. 48-49.  It should be mentioned that perhaps the Scarfes have not fully understood the full implications of brahmacharya, since it is not merely "something akin to the principles upon which the Catholic Church maintains a celibate clergy..."  Celibacy in the Catholic Church is an ideal for the clergy only; for Gandhi and Tolstoy it was an ideal for all married couples.  The ideal is that husband and wife  be like brother and sister, completely abstinent.  Sexual intercourse is viewed by both Gandhi and Tolstoy as a faltering from the ideal.

[22] .The question is central to "human rights," however.  As Marx and Engels point out, it is through the manner in which women are treated in any society that we can know the extent to which that society has become fully civilized; the subjection of one sex by the other indicates various forms of subjection outside the male-female relation as well.  See Frederich Engels, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (Progress, Moscow, 1948), pp. 154-75 for one statement of the view.  See Harijan, 31 March 1946, for Gandhi's "communism."

[23] .Pyarelal, Mahatma Gandhi:  The Last Phase, Volume 1, Book One (Navajivan Ahmedabad, 1956), p. 308. Also cf. pp. 305-12.

[24] .Jean Baker Miller.  Toward A New Psychology of Women (Penguin, harmondsworth, 1976), p. 13.

[25] .Miller, 1976,. Ibid.,  "Domination-Subordination," pp. 3-13.  Dr. Miller distinguishes between "temporary" and "permanent" inequality.  The first is situational while the second is a matter of social structure and not easily changed.  Human rights violations are part and parcel of a relatively permanent societal order which can be changed only with difficulty because so many things have to change at once.  The dominant groups will always try to suppress such change.  However, individual members of the dominant groups may break away from the prevailing standards and work for social change.

[26] .See the exchange of opinions between Russell Kirk (a conservative), Max Lerner (a liberal) and Michael Harrington (a socialist) in Span. Volume 20, no. 11, pp. 14-19.  The disagreements among the three centre on the means more than the ends; all are agreed on certain fundamental human rights, like right to subsistence income, right to freedom of religion, right to enjoyment of family, political freedom, and so on.  The rights of subordinate groups and minorities are still violated to a certain extent in every nation of the world today, but some nations take the goals of "liberty, equality, fraternity" more seriously.

[27] .Mohinder Singh, "Truth in Autobiography:  Gandhi's Experiments with Truth,"  Gandhi Marg, Number 12 (March, 1970), p. 752.  Singh goes on to list a number of so-called "inconsistencies" of which Gandhi has been accused, including his being both "a Western activist and an Eastern mysticist."  Gandhi was an Eastern activist who was, in Singh's words, "as truly Indian as its greatest sons had been and yet imbued with the quintessence of Western civilization and Christian virtues."  The present essay is an attempt to make that more explicit since, in their haste to criticise "modernism," some writers denounce all of "Western" values and romanticize "Eastern" (i.e. Brahmanical) values.  Gandhi's life is a testimony to the falseness of such simplistic Manicheanism.

[28] .Singh, 1980, po. cit., p. 753.

[29] .C.D.S. Devanesen, The Making of the Mahatma (Orient Longmans, New Delhi, 1969), pp. 6,29-33.  Also see Max Weber, 1958, op. ctt., pp. 193-204.  There are, of course, several types of Jainism, including a Hinduized version.

[30] .M.K. Gandhi, Autobiography, 1940, op. cit., p. 120.  Gandhi's rhetorical argument about Jesus' shortcomings shows his independence of mind.

[31] .Karl Marx, "Theses on Beuerbach" in Marx and Engels, Selected Works (Progress, Moscow, 1969), pp. 13-15.  Also see K.G. Mashruwala, Gandhi and Marx (Navajivan, Ahmedad, 1951), pp. 64-70.

[32] .Mashruwala, 1951, op. cit., p. 69, footnote.  There is much confusion in all of the literature on Marx between what Marx thought and wrote during various periods of his life and what later expositors, including Engels, wrote about Marx's ideas.  Furthermore, there is usually no clear distinction made between Marx himself and later aberrations or modifications of Marx's ideas in practice, like "Marxist Leninism" or "Maoism."  Here the discussion is limited only to Marx himself.  Saran recognizes the affinity between Gandhi's vision and Marx's hope for a new age of man; see Saran, 1980, op, cit., pp. 708-710.

[33] .Saran, 1980, op. cit., p. 717.  Also, pp. 696 and 713 on metanoia and "normal civilization," Saran quotes Foucault, Illich, Roszak and many others appreciatively in this respect, but especially A.K. Commaraswamy.  But he tends to neglect the critics of those writers.

[34] .For example, Ahimsa was a much wider concept for Gandhi than for the early Jains, who felt that only the trader could practise ahimsa.  See Max Weber, 1958, p. 200.

[35] .Sulak Sivaraksa, "Buddhism and Development-Is Small Beautiful?", Gandhi Marg, No. 12 (March, 1980) pp. 765-79.

[36] .M.K. Gandhi. Ruskin ('s) Unto This Last: Paraphrase (Navajivan, Ahmedabad, 1956, tr. V.G. Desai), pp. 3, 6.

[37] .Cf. footnote 6.  Also, E.F. Schumacher, Roots of Economic Growth (Gandhian Institute of Studies, Varanasi, 1962).  Irving Kristol, co-editor of the American conservative journal Public Interest, has commented "Looking at various parts of the New Left-the Schumacher book, all those other books coming out of California on the beauties of the pastoral life, the extreme environmentalist movement...and the 'Naderites' in general-you'll find a basic distrust of economic growth."  To this Arthur Schlesinger, a liberal historian, comments, "I would regard Schumacher as a conservative, and I think the whole 'small is beautiful' movement is a conservative movement, not a liberal movement.  Again that shows the difficulties of terminology."  Quoted in American Review, vol. 24 (Winter, 1980), pp. 47-48.  The reason this dialogue is quoted here is not to determine which view is correct-there are arguments for seeing Gandhi and Schumacher as either radical or conservative-but to indicate that the "small is beautiful" notion is a significant social movement in the US and Canada today.  Incidentally, a basic distrust of "economic growth" is not the same as a rejection of all forms of socio-economic and personal "development."  The thrust of the argument here is that while "economic growth" per se is neutral, it can only be "good" if it is part of true swaraj, true "development" or "freedom."

[38] .Sivaraksa, 1980, op. cit., pp. 772-73, mentions the "items" (indicators) listed by the UN Social Development Research Institute, including "long life," "sufficient diet," etc.  These are basic needs which must be met equitably.

[39] .M.J. Kanetkar, 5,000 A.D. (Udyama Commercial Press, Nagpur, 1973), p. 14.  The title is interesting.  Kanetkar dates the beginning of "civilization" around 5,000 B.C.  He is basically asking, what will life on earth be like in 5,000 A.D.!

[40] .Kanetkar, Ibid., pp. 36-38.

[41] .There are many violations of basic human rights in the United States today, especially with respect to minority groups like Blacks, Puerto Ricans, native American Indians, and Mexican migrant labourers.  Human rights problems supersede socio-economic development, although material wealth and political organization may help to mount any determined effort at social change for greater justice.  The fullest development of individual capacities in a "just civilization" will require a cosmopolitan and universalistic attitude in which no particular religious or cultural tradition claims to have all the answers and in which every individual will attempt to understand alien religions and cultures sympathetically.  It is that aspect of Gandhi's Truth which will make him relevant for many years to come.  As stated by Pyarelal, while "fundamental assumptions cannot be proved or disproved," and "perfection is impossible," still "perfectibility is always possible."  (Interview, New Delhi, 6 February 1980).

 

 

 

 
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