Bhagavadgita Pages, Chapters 1 to 18
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The world according to Gandhi
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi: (2 October 1869 -- 30 January 1948)
Later known as Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa in 1914.
Subash Chadra Bose Addressed Gandhi as the "Father of the Nation."
School report card reads:
"good at English, fair in Arithmetic and weak in Geography; conduct very good, bad handwriting"
This essay attempts to use his own words and retain the message. Words are changed to American spelling.
Hinduism is my birth religion. Christian missionaries in India should lead a life enjoined upon them by the Sermon on the Mount and refrain telling India about Christ. I would not tell American friends about Hinduism. I do not believe in conversion. Faith is not telling but living. I would reject Hinduism if I find it inconsistent with my moral sense or my spiritual growth. Hinduism is the most tolerant, enjoys freedom from dogma and gives the largest scope for self-expression. It admires and assimilates the good of other religions. Non-violence is its best expression. Hinduism believes in oneness of humanity and oneness of all living things. Cow worship is an expression of sacredness of all life, and evolution of humanitarianism. The law of Varnasrama Dharma is ceaseless search for truth. These outstanding features keep me in its fold.
I call myself a Sanatani Hindu, because
1) I believe in Hindu scriptures, Avatars and rebirth (metempsychosis, transmigration of the soul).
2) I believe in Varnasrma Dharma in its Vedic and NOT in its present popular and crude sense.
3) I believe in cow protection as humanitarianism and NOT in the popular sense.
4) I do not believe in idol worship.
I refrain from saying that Hindu scriptures are of divine origin; they are divinely inspired as Bible, Koran and the Zend-Avesta. I do not accept every verse and word as divinely inspired; I have no first-hand knowledge of these wonderful books; I know their essential teaching. Moral sense and reason and not blind faith are the guiding principles in my acceptance of its tenets. It takes innocence (Ahimsa), truth (Satya), self-control (Brahmacharya), and renunciation of wealth to know Sastras. Perfect purity and perfect learning make a Guru; many have to go through life without a guru.
Varnasrama Dharma is not science but a law of heredity and refers to one's birth; one cannot change one's Varna by choice. Innumerable castes are unwarranted liberty taken with this doctrine. Varnasrama defines duties but does not confer privileges. It is against the genius of Hinduism to arrogate oneself to a higher status and assign to another a lower. Heredity and training are the determining factors. A Brahmin is predominantly a knowledge seeker, Ksatriya a protector, Vaisya a trader and Sudra a corporeal laborer. A Sudra can seek knowledge; his best service is with his body; he should not envy others for their special qualities. A Brahmin claiming superiority by the right of knowledge falls and has no knowledge. Varnasrama is self-restraint, conservation and economy of energy. Hinduism's prohibition of inter-dining and inter-marriage (this is not the law of the land at present) is not a test of Varna, but a rapid evolution of the soul and an extrication from the cycle of birth, and attainment of salvation. Birth is a fall (of the pristine soul) and marriage is a fall (from Brahmacharya-vow of celibacy). A Brahmin can dine with a Sudra, only if he remains a Brahmana in spirit (acquiring knowledge). If superiority is the determining factor in inter-dining, it is misrepresentation of Hindu Dharma. Inter-dining with Mussulman should not horrify anyone, as I have done. Abstention from alcohol, drugs, and meat helps in the evolution of the spirit but is not an end in itself. A god-fearing meat-eater is closer to God and freedom than a blasphemous vegetarian and teetotaler.
Apotheosis of the Cow and Apoptosis of the soul. Apotheosis = Glorification to a divine level. Apoptosis = programmed death or deterioration of a cell (the soul, in this instance).
Cow protection is a measure of man in his identity with all that lives. Cow is a poem of pity; it is a giver of plenty; it made agriculture possible; it is a gentle animal; protection of cow means protection of the whole dumb creation of God. Speechless lower order of creation tests man's humanitarianism. Cow protection is the gift of Hinduism to the world. Hinduism will live as long as there are Hindus to protect the cow. Cow protection has brought the Hindu against the Mussulman. Cow protection is love with which one can conquer Mussulman. Hindus are not good to the cows in the following instances. Hindus bleed them, starve them, deprive the calves of their milk, castrate the oxen cruelly, beat them, and overload them. If the cows, bulls and calves could speak, they will bear witness to our crimes which would stagger the world. Every cruelty to our cattle means disowning God and Hinduism. Causing misery to cattle is criminal negligence. Hindus are judged NOT by their Tilaks --forehead mark- (¾¢Ä¸õ), not by Mantra chanting, not by pilgrimages, not by observing caste rules but by their ability to protect the cow. I pray to God so he may change the heart of Mussulman and fill them with pity for their Hindu neighbors and the cows.
I feel for Hinduism with all its faults and limitations, as I regard my wife, an object of my indissoluble bond. Ramayana and Gita are the music of my life. Gita is my breath and solace. The failings of Hindu shrines do not deter me from my love for them. Idol worship does not excite any feelings of veneration in me, though it is part of human nature. No Hindu considers an image to be God. Idol worship is not sin, but a symbolism. Hinduism is not a missionary religion and has enough room for the worship of all the prophets of the world. Hinduism tells everyone to worship according to his faith or Dharma and this is in peace with all religions.
I cannot reconcile with untouchability which is an excrescence on Hinduism as are the dedication of young girls to prostitution, and sacrificing goats to Kali. It is an anathema that a religion that venerates and protects the cows should treat human beings as untouchables. I love Hinduism dearer than my life and yet the taint of untouchability disgraces the noble religion and has become an intolerable burden on me. We deny God by denying equal treatment of the untouchables. If untouchability is part of the Hindu creed, I should decline to call myself a Hindu. If untouchability is integral to Hinduism, I would wander in wilderness; other religions do not satisfy my highest aspirations. Truth and nonviolence are my creed and Hinduism fits the bill. An atheist can still call himself a Hindu because Hinduism is a relentless pursuit after Truth. Its creed is all-embracing. The crowd of sectarians may invite me to show the truth. I say to them, 'not that, my friends, not that.' (Here Gandhi utters the Hindu divine principle Brahman is NOT THAT--NETI-NETI meaning that human mind cannot fathom, understand and characterize Brahman.)
Gandhi compares Hindu religion to a giant ancient tree with indivisible root and many seasons subject to growth, decay and laws of Nature. It does not depend on one authority or one book. It is like River Ganges pure at its source and polluted on its way to the ocean. Hindu religion is unaltered and yet its customs change depending upon the time. It accepts changes readily and what is customary at one time becomes extinct at another time. For example, animal sacrifice was prevalent once; it is gone now; it will not be revived again. Once upon a time Hindus ate beef and now that dietary habit is not prevalent among observing Hindus. Other examples of defunct customs are cutting off of the hands of the thieves, polyandry, child marriage.... Truth is one and eternal and customs are many. We cannot scan the entire universe; so also the self (soul). Life is a ceaseless pursuit of the pure heart which depends on Niyamas and Yamas (DOs and DON'Ts--the cardinal and causal virtues). It is not possible to practice Niyama and Yama without God's grace which presupposes Faith and Devotion. Dvadasamantra comes from Bhagavata. (Dva-Dasa-Mantra = 2 plus 10 syllable Mantra = 12 syllable Mantra: Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya (Om1 Na2mo3 Bha4ga5va6te7 Va8su9de10va11ya12. ) The Mantra means: Prostration to Bhagavan Vasudeva. Bhagavan = The One who has Bhaga. Bhaga = Auspiciousness, fortune, prosperity. Bhaga is cognate with Slavic bog for God.) A Hindu can recite this Mantra from the bottom of his heart and all else is bottomless pit. The Europeans look and study Hindu religion; that is the study of a critic and not the study of the devotee. Thus the study is faulty and cannot teach me religion. (Exegesis is in some ways meaningless cawing of the crows and yet a religion should stand scrutiny.) I discourage eating of beef by the so-called untouchables who should be weaned of beef by non-violent means. A meat-eating compassionate and truthful Hindu living in fear of God is a better Hindu than a hypocrite who abstains from meat. A person should see violence in meat-eating and thus should reject eating them. Such a man who loves man, bird and beast is worthy of adoration. He has seen and known God: he is His best devotee; he is the teacher of mankind.
All religions and paths lead to Eternal Truth (which is God). People should steer clear of conflicts and creeds and follow the straight path. God's Grace descends on those who do His Will and wait upon Him, not on those who simply mutter "Ram Ram."
Hinduism contains all materials of substance found in other religions. What is not contained in Hinduism is inconsequential, unnecessary and insubstantial. There is room for Satan itself in Hinduism. The Biblical conception of Satan is neither new or original. The Satan is the Ravana of Ramayana and the Asuras in Hinduism. Historical Ravana is as much as a myth as the historical Satan of Christianity is. Satan is a fallen angel as Ravana is a fallen god. Passions such as Kama (lust), Krodha (anger), Lobha (greed), Moha (infatuation), Maya (pride), and Matsara (envy) torment us as much as evil persons.
First Lecture: A view from the west.
Hinduism according to westerners is one of self-abnegation. An instance is quoted as follows. In the siege of Arcot, starvation faced the British Army. The Indian soldiers waived the claim for rice, drank the usually discarded rice water and gave the rice to the British soldiers. The Hindus claim that their scriptures are god-given and 10,000 years old. The west claims that it is 3000 to 4000 years old and they were put to the paper 300 years after Christ. Two westerners caught up in the magnetism of Vedas are Arthur Schopenhauer and Professor Max Muller. The key-note of Hinduism is Moksa or salvation, win which there is final absorption of the soul in the Infinitive Soul that pervades all things. Self-abnegation has the corollary in toleration (of other religions, creeds, mores...). Caste is predominant as the animal sacrifice (in the days of Gandhi). The Buddha preached against animal sacrifice, a form of decrepit spirituality and for extending tolerance, which was already present in Hinduism. Hinduism is not missionary as Christianity, Islam and to a certain extent Buddhism, which had a reformatory roll upon Hinduism as Protestantism had on Catholicism, but there was a great difference in the spirit underlying that reform. Hinduism bores no ill-will against Buddhism, a statement that could not be made in reference to Protestants and Catholics. Buddhism was slowly edged out to the neighboring countries (Tibet, China, Burma and Ceylon--Sri Lanka). Jainism does not claim any divine origin of its relgion, the most logical faith with its scrupulous regard for all things that lived.
Second Lecture: A view from the west
After the reformation of Hinduism by Buddhism, it fell into idolatry and the Hindus worshipped stocks and stones. The Hindu philosophers worshipped God as the Purest Spirit. Many worship the moon, the sun, the stars, the stock and stone and yet the philosophical Hinduism has no difficulty in reconciling itself. Hindu life went on like this until the desert of Arabia will introduce revolutionary ideas and leave an impress on Hinduism. Rage seized Mohammad when he saw people of the desert were worshipping idols and took refuge in lust and liquor. Mohammad found Judaism prostrate and Christianity debased. Mohammad was a man with a mission, rather a messenger of God. To him, God was one, pilgrimage to Mecca is a must and a person should give to charity a certain percentage of his wealth. In its shadow, all are equal. The latter concept was alien to the caste-ridden India and thus the common man embraced that ideal, 900 years after Christ. The show of and severance by the sword converted masses to Islam when persuasion was not persuasive enough. There was the wild iconoclastic run on the temples of India. The Rajput valor stemmed this force to a certain extent. Kabir of Calcutta (Benares) made an unsuccessful fusion product of chief tenets of Hinduism and some borrowed tenets of Islam. As Punjab was burning, raging Islam produced Guru Nanak from out of the soil of Punjab and Sikhism in which he incorporated some of Kabir's doctrines in Militant Hinduism. Guru Nanak bore the olive branch on one hand for Islam and a sword on the other hand if olive branch did not work. Hinduism morphed the erstwhile Mohammedan into a tolerant Akbar, who appreciated with great insight the tolerance of Hinduism and practiced the tolerant spirit in his rule. The supreme tolerance, elasticity, suppleness and adaptability of Hinduism made it possible for it to survive intact and flourish, in spite of the invaders. The extreme result was the conversion of a certain percentage of the masses to foreign religions and the salubrious introduction and assimilation of certain tenets of the invading religions.
The West regards that Hindus and Europeans lived in Central Asia. Some went to Europe, some went to Iran, and some went to India. They started the Aryan religion in India. They lived by River Sindu and therefore were called Hindus. Vedas are the oldest scriptures (in the world) of divine origin. West thinks Vedas originated 2000 years before Christ. Tilak proves that it was 10,000 years old. Brahman is the Oversoul, Supreme Soul from whom the matter and beings come and to which all return. Moksa or liberation is a permanent escape from the cycle of birth and death and merger with Brahman.
The western scholars say that Hindus and most of the Europeans lived in Central Asia; some went to Europe; some went to Iran; some entered India through Punjab to India and spread the Aryan religion. They are called Hindus because they lived beyond River Sindhu (Indus River). The Vedas, the oldest scriptures, are of divine origin according to Hindus and without beginning. West believes that the Vedas originated before 2000 B.C. Tilak is of the opinion that they are at least 10,000 years old. Belief in Hinduism means belief in Brahman (Oversoul, Supreme Soul, Universal Self), ITS pervasiveness in all things, Moksa which is liberation or emancipation from the evil cycle of birth, death, and rebirth and merging with Brahman. (Brih = to grow or expand)
Theosophical University Press
Brahman: definition: "The Brahman is the impersonal, Supreme, and uncognizable Soul of the Universe, from the essence of which all emanates, and into which all returns; which is incorporeal, immaterial, unborn, eternal, beginningless and endless. It is all-pervading, animating the highest god as well as the smallest mineral atom."
Brahman: the spiritual evolving or developing energy-consciousness of a solar system, i.e., the Logos, deriving from Brahman. It should be pointed out that the Sanskrit word Brahman is both masculine and neuter, and therefore has two meanings: in order to distinguish these, in Theosophical literature the masculine is spelled Brahma (the nominative form), whereas the neuter is spelled Brahman (q.v.).
"Brahma, as 'the germ of unknown Darkness,' is the material from which all evolves and develops 'as the web from the spider, as foam from the water,' etc. . . . Brahma 'expands' and becomes the Universe woven out of his own substance." (Secret Doctrine, I, p. 83). (The following word is derived from the verbal root:) brih, to expand, to grow, also meaning to fructify.) (Bhagavad-Gita, W. Q. Judge, p. 56 -- where it should be spelled Brahman. See Bhagavad-Gita, W. Q. Judge, p. 61.)
Though humility and even-mindedness are the chief qualities of their ethics, caste reigns supreme in their temporal affairs. When Brahmins, out of selfishness, abandoned their true function of defending the Hindu faith, Buddha was moved to pity, renounced the world and started doing penance. It was Buddha's life-force that greatly affected the minds of Brahmins, and stopped to a great extent the sacrifice of the animals in the name of Hindu religion. It is not that the Buddha founded a new or different religion but his followers after his death gave his teachings the identity of a separate religion. Emperor Ashoka sent missionaries to Ceylon (Sri Lanka), China, Burma and other countries to propagate Buddhism; in this process, the distinct beauty of Hinduism was revealed. Buddhism did not resort to force for conversion; discussion, arguments, and pure living of preachers appealed to the masses. The fundamental principles of Hinduism and Buddhism are identical and so the religions are one. Buddhism had its impact on Hinduism as would Hazrat Mohamed, born ca. 570 CE in the city of Mecca in Arabia and his followers.
Mohamed: Various spellings: Muhammad, Muhammad; also Mohammed, Muhammed, Mahomet.
Mohammed did not found any religion but restored the original pure monotheistic faith of Adam, Abraham and others. He was the last and the greatest in a series of prophets. He proclaimed that God is One, a complete surrender to HIM is the only religion acceptable to God and he was the messenger and a prophet of God in the same vein as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus.... The name Muhammad literally means "Praiseworthy." Within Islam, Muhammad is known as Nabi (prophet) adn Rasul (Messenger). Quran refers to Muhammad as Seal of Prophets and Ahmad (Arbic for "More Praisewothy." Wikipedia.
Ghazni invaded India many times in order to spread Islam. Hindu idols were broken and the invasions advanced as far as Somnath. Islamic principles of equality appealed to the lower Hindu classes which converted to Islam by hundreds of thousands. Kabir of Benares propagated the view that Hindu philosophy did not entertain any distinction between a Hindu and a Muslim. Saying that Idol worship is not an essential element in Hinduism, good work will take both of them to heaven. This synthesis of Hinduism and Islam was not widely accepted. Then came along Guru Nanak, accepting the synthesis of the two religions as proposed by Kabir. Along the way, he felt the need to defend Hinduism against Islam by the sword. That is the origin of Sikh warriors and Sikh religion. According to Gandhi, there is very little difference between a Hindu Yogi and Muslim Fakir.
While the Hindus and Muslims were vying with each other, the Christians landed at the port of Goa and set about converting Hindus to Christianity. They used force and persuasion for conversion of Hindus to Christian faith. The tender-hearted and kind missionaries like the fakirs made a deep impression on the lower classes of Hindu society. Western civilization as the thrust of Christianity did not appeal to the Hindus though the British were the rulers and therefore the conversion took a downturn. Christian missionaries contributed a great deal to education and pointed at the glaring deficiencies of Hinduism. Great teachers of Hinduism came along in the philosophical lineage of Kabir and appealed to the Hindu masses to remove the defects. The teachers, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Tagore, Keshab Chandra Sen, and Dayananda Sarasvati joined hands with Brahmo Samaj, Arya Samaj and the Madame Blavatsky's abhorrence of evils of western civilization. Hinduism came out unscathed from the three assaults from Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity. Hinduism's strength lay in the fact that it imbibed what was good in those said religions. Hindus should know their belief system: God exists; He is without beginning, immaculate, and without any attribute or form; He is omnipresent and omnipotent; His original form is Brahman; It neither does, nor causes to be done; It does not govern; It is bliss incarnate, by this all this is sustained. Gandhi further states the following: The soul exists, and is distinct from the body. It also is without beginning, without birth. Between its original form and the Brahman, there is no distinction. But it takes on, from time to time a body as a result of karma or the power of Maya, and goes on being born again and again into high and low species in accordance with the good or bad deeds performed by it.
Moksha or liberation is to be free from the cycle of birth and death and be merged in Brahman. The way to achieve this moksha is to do pure and good deeds; to have compassion for all living beings, and to live in truth. If liberation is not yet at hand, one would continue to enjoy the embodied existence. We should continue to act but not cherish any attachment to our actions. Action should be undertaken for its own sake, without an eye on the fruit. All acts are dedicated to God. We should not cherish any pride in our (good) actions. And always look at others equally.
Gandhi is Challenged on his beleifs and perceived contradictions and inconsistencies.
A Correspondent questioned Gandhiji on his beleifs.
Question posed to Gandhiji
You have often declared yourself a sanatana Hindu defining one as a believer in the Vedas, Smritis etc., and laid emphasis on the institution of castes by birth as legitimately following from the 'scriptures'... Now the fourth or, last in order of the 'fundamental'castes, is the Sudra, which is debarred 'by those very 'scriptures' a belief in which you regard as the sine qua non of a Sanatana... All Hindus as well as by their 'twice-born' professors, should be studying or reciting the Divine Vedas including the Gayatri, a recitation of which you mention as obligatory upon a Sanatana Hindu (without distinction of caste). How can anyone (e.g., a Sudra) be said to belong to a religion (viz., Hinduism as defined by you), if the mere reading, reciting or even the hearing of its scripture is tabooed to him (Sudra), as though it were a sacrilege?
I for one, a Brahmin by birth, cannot glorify in the name of 'Hindu' so long as an exemplar of real sanatana dharma like you permit the term to cover a bundle of contradictions like the one 1 have pointed out. Lastly, in view of your mention of Gayatri, . may 1 humbly inquire whether you have in your 'twice-born' life never omitted to include the Gayatrt in your daily prayers?"
Gandhi explains his beliefs as follows:
Ablation of the Stinger:
1 am not a literalist. Therefore, 1 try to understand the spirit of the various scriptures of the world. 1 apply the test of Truth and Ahimsa laid down by these very scriptures for interpretation. I reject what is inconsistent with that test, and I appropriate all that is consistent with it. The story of a Sudra having been punished by Ramachandra for daring to learn the Vedas I reject as an interpolation. And in any event, 1 worship Rama, the perfect being of my conception, not a historical person, facts about whose life may vary with the progress of new historical discoveries and researches. Tulsidas had nothing to do with the Rama of history. Judged by historical test, his Ramayana would be fit for the scrap heap. As a spiritual experience, his book is almost unrivalled, at least for me. It is the spirit running through the book that holds me spell-bound. I cannot myself subscribe to the prohibition against Sudras learning the Vedas. Indeed, in my opinion, at the present "moment, we are all predominantly Sudras as long as we are serfs. Knowledge cannot be the prerogative of any class or section. But I can conceive the impossibility of people assimilating higher or subtler truths, unless they have undergone preliminary training. even as those who have not made preliminary preparations are quite unfit to breathe the rarefied atmosphere in high altitudes, or those who have no preliminary training in simple mathematics are unfit to understand or assimilate higher geometry or algebra.
Lastly, I believe in certain healthy conventions. There is a convention surrounding the recitation of the Gayatri. The convention is that it should be recited only at stated times and after ablutions performed in the prescribed manner. As I believe in those conventions, and as I am not able always to conform to them, for years past I have followed the later Saints, and therefore have satisfied myself with the Dwadasha Mantra of the Bhagavata or the still simpler formula of Tulsidas and a few selections from the Gita and other works, and a few bhajans in Prakrit. These are my daily spiritual food-my Gayatri. They give me all the peace and solace I need from day to day,
Who is a Sanatani Hindu? Gandhi's answer and interpretation.
It has been asked why I call myself an orthodox sanatani Hindu and why I regard myself as a Vaishnava. I think I should answer these questions.
The answer will cover the definition of a sanatani Hindu and include a complete description of a Vaishnava. According to my belief, a Hindu is anyone who, born in a Hindu family in India, accepts the Vedas, the Upanishads and the Puranas as holy books; who has faith in the five Yamas of truth, non-violence, etc., and practices them to the best of his ability; who believes in the existence of the atman and the paramatman, and believes, further, that the atman is never born and never dies but, through incarnation in the body passes from existence to existence and is capable of attaining moksha; who believes that moksha is the supreme end of human striving and believes in varnashrama and cow-protection. Whoever, besides believing in all these, has been born in a family belonging to the Vaishnava sect and has not forsaken the Vaishnava way; who possesses in some measure the qualities described in Narasinh Mehta's devotional song entitled" Vaishnavajana" and strives to cultivate these qualities in perfection is a Vaishnava. It is my firm belief that I possess in a large measure the characteristics described by me and I have been striving to strengthen them. I do not, therefore, hesitate to call myself with all firmness, though humbly, a strict sanatani Hindu and a Vaishnava. I believe that the most important outward form of Hinduism is cow-protection. I regard the Hindu world as impotent because at present not a single Hindu is capable of giving that protection. Among these impotent people, I believe myself to be the least impotent. I do not believe that there can be anybody else who has systematically exerted himself as much as I have done, and am still doing, for the protection of cows or who feels for the cow and its progeny as much as I do. As long as the Hindus in India show no kindness to the COW, as long as they themselves torture cattle in many ways, as long as they have not succeeded in winning the regard of Muslims and persuading them to stop, out of their regard, the slaughter of cows, and as long as they tolerate the killing of cows by the English and salute the British flag, I shall believe that the Brahmin and the Kshatriya spirit has vanished from Hinduism. Therefore, though born a Vaisya, I am ever active in the duties of both. I believe that the essence of Hinduism is truth and non-violence. I have not seen anyone among those whom I know respecting truth so scrupulously as I have been doing right from my childhood. The active manifestation of non-violence is love--absence of ill will. I firmly believe that I am overflowing with love. I have not felt ill will against anyone even in a dream. I entertain no such feeling towards Dyer, his wicked deeds notwithstanding. Wherever I have seen misery or injustice, I have felt troubled in my soul. The central principle of Hinduism is that of moksha. I am ever striving for it. All my activities are for moksha. I have as much faith in the existence of the atman and in its immortality as I am certain of the existence of my body and its transience.
For these reasons, I am happy to declare myself a staunch sanatani Hindu.
If anybody asks me whether I have made any, deep study of the shastras, I would say that I have and I have not. I have not studied them from a scholar's point of view. My knowledge of Sanskrit is almost nil; even of the translations available in modern Indian languages, I have read only a few. I cannot claim to have fully read even a single Veda. Nevertheless, I have understood the shastras from the point of view of dharma. I have grasped their real meaning. I know that one can attain moksha without reading the Vedas.
I have found the right method for reading--for understanding--the shastras. If any injunction in a shastra is opposed to truth, non-violence and brahmacharya, it is unauthentic, whichever the shastra in which it is found. The shastras are not above reason. We can reject any shastras which reason cannot follow. I have read through only the Upanishads. I have also read some among, them which my reason could not follow. 1 did not, therefore, accept them as having any authority. Many poets have told us in their poems that anyone who sticks to the letter of the shastras is a pedant. Teachers like Shankaracharya have given the essence of the shastras in single sentences, and the sum and substance of it all is that one should cultivate bhakti towards God and attain jnana, and thereby attain moksha. Akha Bhagat has said: Live as you please.
Attain God anyhow, somehow.
That shastra which teaches me drinking liquor, eating meat and wicked ways cannot be called a shastra.
Much that is the very opposite of dharma is going on in the name of the smritis. By trying to follow the letter of the smritis and other such works, we make ourselves fit for hell. Deluded by these, people who call themselves Hindus give themselves up to license and become ready to commit or make others commit rape on young girls.
We now have before us the important question of what, in all the shastras, we should regard as interpolations, what as acceptable and what as deserving to be rejected. If there had not been, as I have stated above, a total extinction of the Brahmin spirit, we could have consulted a Brahmin who had purified himself by following the disciplines of yama-niyama and acquired a good measure of jnana. In the absence of such Brahmins, the path of bhakti rules supreme at present. When we have brought about self-purification by noncooperating with the present Government in which the sins of hypocrisy, pretension, pride, worldliness and so on, reveal themselves in numerous ways, then perhaps we shall get a cultured person who can give us the essence of the shastras.
Till then we, the common people, may cling to the essentials with a simple faith and live our lives in bhakti to God. I see no other way.
"There can be no jnana without a guru" is a golden maxim. But it is very difficult to find a guru, and it would not be proper to accept any person as a guru in the absence of a good one and so drown ourselves right in the middle of our voyage across. How can a man who knows no swimming save others? Even if such swimmers exist in modern times, they are not a common sight.
Let us now examine varnasharma. I have always believed that there are no more than four varnas. I believe that one acquires one's caste by birth. One who is born in a Brahmin family dies a Brahmin. If he becomes a non-Brahmin through his qualities of character, his Brahmin body does not cease to be such. A Brahmin who does not follow the Brahmin dharma may be born, according to his deserts (merits), as a Sudra, or even as an animal. A Vaisya like me who follows the dharma of a Brahmin and of a Kshatriya, if he has to be born again, may well be a Brahmin or a Kshatriya in the next birth. So far as this life is concerned, he will remain out a Vaisya, and rightly so. From time to time persons belonging to other faiths have been absorbed by Hinduism, but they were not known as Hindus during their lifetime. The Hindu world is like a sea. All refuse that finds its way into its bosom gets purified, settles down. This has happened again and again. People from Italy, Greece and elsewhere came in and were absorbed by Hinduism, but they were not converted by anyone to Hinduism. Merely in course of ages, the numbers have risen and fallen. Unlike Christianity or Islam, Hinduism does not invite persons of other faith to join its fold; it enjoins all to follow their own religions. Sister Nivedita, for instance, embraced Hinduism but we do not think of her as a Hindu, nor do we boycott or slight her in any way. There is no question of anybody embracing Hinduism. Everybody can practice Hinduism.
Varnashrama is a law. The practical question is the caste system. Castes are subject to increase and decrease (in number). They come into existence and they disappear. Only the man himself can leave Hinduism, though he may be expelled from the caste. Excommunication by the caste is a mode of punishment and ought to be available to every community.
It is certainly necessary that the numerous castes should become fewer, and this can be brought about by the councils of the various castes without injury to Hinduism. If the various divisions of Banias were together and their members marry among themselves, that will not harm religion in any way.
The rules which people observe in regard to food, water and marriage are not essential features, of Hinduism but, because self-control has been given special importance in Hinduism, restrictions have been laid down, even to the smallest detail in regard to these matters. I do not think that they deserve to be concerned, but at the same time, I would not regard a person who does not observe them as having transgressed dharma. Not to have water or food or enter into matrimonial alliance anywhere and everywhere, I regard as civilized behavior. This ensures preservation of health and purity. But I believe that not accepting food or water at anybody's place through contempt is opposed to Hinduism. It is my view, based on experience, that the prohibition as to dining with or marrying a person of another varna or another religion is as essential protective fence for its culture put up by Hinduism.
Why do I, then, dine even at the homes of Muslims?
I do so because, even when dinning with them, I am able to observe the utmost self-restraint. Among cooked articles, I go so far as to take bread, because the process of baking bread is absolutely clean and just as pop-corn can always be taken, no matter where roasted, similarly bread (not roti) can be taken wherever it may have been baked. But my co-workers do not observe even this restriction and eat any articles, otherwise acceptable, in the home of a Muslim or of a person belonging to a caste other than their own, if the articles are prepared hygienically. In doing so, they run the risk of being expelled from their caste, but they do not cease to be Hindus. The Ashram follows a kind of dharma appropriated to sannyasis. There a new caste or a new code of conduct, suitable to the present age and in conformity with Hinduism, is being formed. I look upon this effort as an experiment. If it succeeds it will be treated as worthy of adoption. If it fails, it will have harmed no one. Even those engaged in the experiment will not be harmed, because the basis of the experiment is self-control. The aim is to be able to carry on the work of service with ease and to see that unlike at present, when religion has come to be confined to rules about eating and drinking, the conventions in those matters are kept in their proper and subordinate place.
Now remains the issue of untouchability. Nobody can trace the origin of this practice. I have merely ventured guesses. They may be right or wrong. But even a blind man can see that the practice of untouchability is contrary to dharma. Only, in the same way as the atman's inhabiting (the body) for ages prevents us from knowing, it, the long existence of the practice of untouchability does not permit us to see the adharma inherent in It. To make any persons crawl on their stomachs, to segregate them, to drive them to live on the outskirts of the village, not to be concerned whether they live or die, to give them food left over by others--all this certainly cannot be religion. We are inflicting upon untouchables an outrage grosser than that in the Punjab against which we have been protesting. That an untouchable cannot live in our neighborhood and cannot own land, that an untouchable must, on seeing us, shout: "Please keep at a distance, do not touch me," and should not be permitted to sit with us in the train--this is not Hinduism. This is Dyerism. There is no self-control in the practice of untouchability. An analogy has been cited in justification of it, viz that a mother after removing stools, does not wish to touch anything without taking a bath. But in this instance the mother herself does not wish to touch anything, and, if we sought to enforce such a rule in respect of Bhangis, nobody will object. By treating Bhangis and others as untouchables, we only tolerate filth and breed diseases. If we look upon untouchables as touchable, we shall see to it that limb of ours remains clean.
I have found the homes of Bhangis far cleaner than many Vaishnava houses. I have been astonished at the truthfulness, simplicity, kindness and such other qualities in some of them. It is my conviction that we have fallen because of the entry into Hinduism of the demon of untouchability, and have, in consequence, also become powerless to ensure the protection of mother cow. So long as we have not rid ourselves of this Dyerism, we have no right to ask that we should be freed from the Dyerism of the British.
Duty of Hindus
I draw the attention of all Hindus to the touching letter given below which I have received from the Antyajashram at Godhra.
Every Hindu should hang his head in shame on reading this letter. We, and not the boy's parents, are responsible for the beating which he got. We have despised Antyajas, given them our leftovers and rotten food to eat, persuading ourselves that we were doing a virtuous deed. We paid them as little as possible and drove them to begging. Not only have we made them carry our filth, but we have also made them eat filth. We have been giving them our discarded garments to serve as finery. The result is that the Antyajas now like begging and feel proud when they get leftovers. When parents return home with rotten grain, the children dance with joy. The master whose slaves rejoice in their slavery has sinned beyond measure. This is the position of the Hindus.
The child who got a beating for his reformed habits and for refusing to eat leftovers was our child. After reading this article, let all parents look at their children and ask themselves how they would feel if the latter were in the same plight as the other child. And how pure was that boy! Though beaten he refused to eat meat! What must be the mental condition of those who regard such a child as untouchable? Will they be able to enjoy swaraj? Will they protect others?
At the moment, however, I do not wish to say anything about untouchability to the caste-Hindu parents. Will they not have even simple compassion on their "untouchable" brothers? Is it also in the Shastras to give them dirty, leftover food and pay them as little as possible? I request all parents:
1. Not to give Antyajas cooked food;
2. to live them only uncooked grain;
3. not to give them garments of foreign cloth or worn-out and dirty clothes;
4. to raise their wages, if they are low; and
5. whatever they give, to give it with love.
I urge those Antyajas who may read this article to resolve that they will not accept or eat rotten grain or leftover food or meat and advise them to send their children to the national schools which may be started for them.
What may Hindu do?
I have received many communications on the Hindu-Muslim statement, but there being nothing new or striking in them, I have not published them. But 1 gladly print Babu Bhagwandas's letter and answer his questions.
Regarding the first two questions, the writer has answered them himself. In my opinion, they are only partly true. Though the majority of the Mussalmans or India and the Hindus belong to the same 'stock', the religious environment has made them different. 1 believe and I have noticed too that thought transforms man's features as well as character. The Sikhs are the most recent illustration of the fact. The Mussalman, being generally in a minority, has as a class developed into a bully. Moreover, being heir to fresh traditions, he exhibits the virility of a comparatively new system of life. Though, in my opinion, non-violence has a predominant place in the Koran, the thirteen hundred years of imperialistic expansion has made the Mussalmans fighters as a body. They are therefore aggressive. Bullying is the natural excrescence of an aggressive spirit. The Hindu has an ages-old civilization. He is essentially non-violent. His civilization has passed through the experiences that the two recent ones are still passing through. If Hinduism was ever imperialistic in the modern sense of the term, it has outlived its imperialism and has, either deliberately or as a matter of course, given it up. Predominance of the non-violent spirit has restricted the use of arms to a small minority which must always be subordinate to a civil power highly spiritual, learned and selfless. The Hindus as a body are, therefore, not equipped for fighting. But not having retained their spiritual training, they have forgotten the use of an effective substitute for arms and, not knowing their use nor having an aptitude for them, they have become docile to the point of timidity or cowardice. This vice is, therefore, a natural excrescence of gentleness. Holding this view, I do not think that the Hindu exclusiveness, bad as it undoubtedly is, has much to do with the Hindu timidity. Hence, also, my disbelief in akhadas as a means of self-defense. I prize them for physical culture but, for self-defense, I would restore the spiritual culture. The best and most lasting self-defense is self-purification. I refuse to be lifted off my feet because of the scares that haunt us today. If Hindus would but believe in themselves and work in accordance with their traditions, they will have no reason to fear bullying. The moment they recommence the real spiritual training the Mussalman will respond. He cannot help it. If I can get together a band of young Hindus with faith in themselves and, therefore, faith in the Mussalmans, the band will become a shield for the weaker ones. They (the young Hindus) will teach how to die without killing. I know no other way. When our ancestors saw affliction surrounding them, they went in for tapasya--purification. They realized the helplessness of the flesh and in their helplessness they prayed till they compelled the Maker to obey their call. ‘Oh yes ,’ says my Hindu friend, 'but then God sent someone else to wield arms.' I am not concerned with denying, the truth or the retort. All I say to the friend is that as a Hindu he may not ignore the cause and secure the result. It will be time to fight when we have done enough tapasya. Are we purified enough, I ask? Have we even done willing penance for the sin of 'Untouchability, let alone the personal purity of individual? Are our religious preceptors all that they should be? We are beating the air whilst we simply concentrate our attention upon picking holes in the Mussulman’s conduct. If our professions are true, we should find it infinitely less difficult to conquer the Mussulman than the English. I say to them, ‘If you have no hope of the Mussulman, your hope of the Englishman is foredoomed to failure.
The other questions can be briefly answered. The goondas came on the scene because the leaders wanted them. The leaders distrusted one another. Distrust never comes from well-defined causes. A variety of causes, more felt than realized, breeds distrust. We have not yet visualized the fact that our interests are identical. Each party seems vaguely to believe that it can displace the other by some kind of maneuvering. But I freely confess, as suggested by Babu Bhagwandas, that our not knowing the kind of swaraj we want, has also a great deal to do with the distrust. I used not to think so, but he had almost converted me before I became Sir George Lloyd's guest at the Yeravda Central Prison. I am now a confirmed convert.
The 'points of contact' referred to by me is a phrase intended to cover all social, religious and political relations alike as between individuals and masses. Thus, for instance, instead of accentuating the differences in religion, I should set about discovering the good points common to both. I would bridge the social distance wherever I can do consistently with my religious belief. I would go out of my way to seek common ground on the political field.
As for the referee, I have named Hakim Saheb's name undoubtedly for the universal respect that it carried with it. But I would not hesitate to put the pen even in the hands of a Mussalman who may be known for his prejudices and fanaticism. For, as a Hindu, I should know that I have nothing to lose even if the referee gave the Mussalmans a majority of seats in every province. There is no principle at stake in giving or having seats in elective bodies. Moreover, experience has taught me to know that undivided responsibility immediately puts a man on his mettle and his pride or godfearingness sobers him.
Lastly, no proclamation or any such thing will avail unless some of us begin to act up to the proclamation even though we may be the fewest possible.
I see that the Hindus have still mental reservations about going all out to make sacrifices on the khilafat issue. I decided many years ago that India's good lay in unity of heart between Hindus and Muslims. That is why on the Satyagraha Day, i.e., April 5, special stress was laid on Hindu-Muslim unity.
I attach far more importance to Hindu-Muslim unity than to the British connection. This latter is not indispensable for the prosperity of India, whereas Hindu-Muslim unity is. Three-fourths of India can never enJoy freedom if they remain hostile to the remaining one-fourth. Extermination of seven crore (Crore = 10 million) Muslims is equally impossible.
Many Hindus believe that British rule serves at any rate to protect Hinduism, and, therefore, whatever other harm it may do, the protection of Hinduism is a sufficient compensation. I can think of no more humiliating idea, which can occur to a Hindu. If twenty-three crore Hindus are not strong enough to defend themselves against seven crore Muslims, either the Hindu religion is false or those who believe in it are cowardly and wicked.
I would rather say that the Hindus and the Muslims settled their accounts by means of the sword than that the British Government maintained artificial peace between them.
If, however, we do not wish to fight it out with the Muslims, if we wish to live with them as with our own brothers, if we would ensure protection of cows, of our temples and our women by winning over their hearts and through a friendly approach, we should welcome the opportunity we have today. The like of it will not come "again for a hundred years.
It is wrong to believe that Muslims and Hindus can never get along together. To be sure, you will find in history cases of injustice done by Muslims. But their religion is a noble one and Muslims are a noble people. I do not believe that they have no respect for people of other faiths, or that they have no compassion in them. They know how to repay obligations. I, therefore, advise every Hindu to place full trust in his Muslim brethren. Man by nature is pure in his heart and Muslims are no exception to this law.
So far, we have made no sincere efforts to bring about unity. Such an attempt expects no reward. Sincerity is not a matter for a shop-keeper's calculations. To help Muslims on certain conditions is as good as not helping them. The hearts of seven crores cannot be changed by making conditions. Their trust and their respect can be won only by helping them in their time of need. Reward should be asked only of God. My Hindu religion teaches me not to expect a reward while doing any good deed and to trust that good always produces good. Knowing that this is an unalterable law, if we come across an instance which seems to contradict it, we should think that, without limited understanding, we are unable to explain the contradiction. We have no ground for taking it to be an exception. God always puts man to a severe test. He helps him who does not forget Him in the direst adversity, i.e., who keeps up his faith in truth. That is why He has been called the Protector of the weak.
But suppose that Muslims betray Hindus despite the latter's generous behavior. Will Hindus, in that case, remain cowards? Are they not strong enough to protect their religion? If Hindus want to acquire strength to protect their religion, this too they will acquire by helping Muslims because, in the process, Hindus will have to display the great qualities of determination, courage, truthfulness, capacity for self-sacrifice, unity, organizing ability, etc.
I do not mean that Hindus should help because of their own weakness, but rather that it has become our duty to help the Muslims as neighbors since their case is just and the means they are employing are also just. If they do not do this duty, they will strengthen their bonds of slavery and lose forever the opportunity of winning the friendship of Muslims. Doing it, they will shake off slavery and win over Muslims.
Looking the matter in this way, (we see that) it is the highest duty of every Hindu to help Muslims since, in doing so he will be saving India and protecting his religion. There can be no thought of reward or fear in discharging such a duty. Bringing about so good and great result requires a yajna--a supreme yajna, Offering up, in this yajna, our titles, our practice and our education for material gain is, in my opinion, but a small sacrifice. Whether the Hindus make this sacrifice or not, very Hindu should try and understand the true meaning of this war.