Today is the birth anniversary of two prominent people who shaped up India:
Father of the nation: Mahatma Gandhi.
Farmer of the nation: Lal Bahadur Shastri.
Wishing you Happy Gandhi & Shastri Jayanti.
An article written as a tribute to Lal Bahadur Shastri can be read here:
Childhood anecdotes of Gandhi & Shastri:
The other side of Gandhi:
A lot has been said & written in schools & colleges about Mahatma Gandhi on his role in Indian freedom struggle. Few days ago, I had reviewed a well researched book (ruthlessly detailing even the darker aspects & shocking insights which usually are not taught in schools) & recommended it for those who wanted to know about the events (in 1947) leading to transfer of power and the aftermath in great detail:
Also, a lot has been said & written in internet & social media about Mahatma Gandhi’s personal affairs and his “experiments”, and it might not be a good idea to share such insights even in the name of quest for truth on this auspicious day of his birth anniversary. So, today I would like to share some insights which reveal the other side of Gandhi pertaining to religion & spirituality, which unfortunately has been suppressed by the Congress party due to secularism & vote bank politics.
Despite being born in a bania family in Gujarat and grown up amidst a business oriented environment, Gandhi surprisingly got himself involved in religion at a very young age, propagated the ideals of religion & spirituality and eventually went on to become a highly respected Hindu philosopher.
He was one of the few influential political leaders who promoted Bhagavad Gita to the world and his interpretation of Gita titled “Bhagavad Gita: According to Gandhi” (which was a consolidation of all of his discourses intended towards rural masses) is a highly recommended read due to its simplicity:
“I must confess to you that when doubts haunt me, when disappointments stare me in the face, and when I see no one ray of light on the horizon, I turn to the Bhagawad-Gita and find a verse to comfort me and immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming sorrow. My life has been full of external tragedies and if they have not left any visible and indelible effect on me, I owe it to the teaching of the Bhagawad Gita.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
Unfortunately, Bhagavad Gita, despite being hailed as the universal song & a guide by none other than the father of the nation himself, has been perceived as “communal” in India. For example, when the PM of India gifted a few copies of Gita to Japan, the seculars all over India made a big hue and cry over it for several days.
When it came to religion, Mahatma Gandhi was very proud to call himself a Hindu and believed that cows should be protected.
“I call myself a Sanatani Hindu, because I believe in the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Puranas, and all that goes by the name of Hindu scripture, and therefore in avataras and rebirth; I believe in the varnashrama dharma in a sense, in my opinion strictly Vedic but not in its presently popular and distorted crude sense; I believe in the protection of cow. I do not disbelieve in murti puja.
– Mahatma Gandhi (Young India: June 10, 1921)”
While the Western industrialized Christian world & Arabic world were intolerant towards those following idol worship, Mahatma Gandhi took charge and defended idol worship among HIndus and claimed that if treating a stone idol as God and respecting it is wrong, then even respecting a church or mosque is also form of idol worship, and similarly respecting a holy book like Bible or Quran is also a form of idol worship and hence must be wrong.
“Because I do not find a particular thing helpful for me, I may not be indifferent about others and not take the trouble of knowing whether it is helpful for them. I know that particular form of idolatry is helpful for millions, not because they are less developed that I am, but because they are differently constituted. What must not be forgotten about me is that not only do I not consider idol worship to be a sin, but I know that in some form or other it is a condition of our being. The difference between one form of worship and another is a difference in degree and not in kind. Mosque going or church going is a form of idol worship. Veneration of the Bible, the Koran, the Gita and the like is idol worship, and even if you do not use a book or a building, but draw a picture of it certain qualities, it is again idol worship. And I refuse to call the worship of the one who has a stone image a grosser form of worship. Learned judges have been known to have such images in their own homes.”
Such was his strong conviction towards Hinduism that when his son Harilal secretly converted to Islam, Gandhi & Kasturba were enraged!! Gandhi believed that his son’s conversion to Islam was forceful.
The following excerpt is from the book written by Rajmohan Gandhi (Mahatma’s grandson).
Throughout his life, Mahatma Gandhi was a staunch opponent & critic of religious conversions. While he had always respected all religions (and used to read holy books like Gita, Quran, Bible etc during prayers with his followers in ashram), he was thoroughly against religious conversions.
” It is impossible for me to reconcile myself to the idea of conversion after the style that goes on in India and elsewhere today. It is an error which is perhaps the greatest impediment to the world’s progress toward peace. Why should a Christian want to convert a Hindu to Christianity? Why should he not be satisfied if the Hindu is a good or godly man?
-Mahatma Gandhi (Harijan: January 30, 1937)”
Mahatma Gandhi detested missionaries and used to call them “Vendors of God”
” When the missionary of another religion goes to them, he goes like a vendor of goods. He has no special spiritual merit that will distinguish him from those to whom he goes. He does however possess material goods which he promises to those who will come to his fold.
-Mahatma Gandhi (Harijan: April 3, 1937)”
He was not only against religious conversions but was even of the opinion that there should be stringent laws which could stop conversions
“If I had the power and could legislate, I should stop all proselytizing (conversions). In Hindu households the advent of a missionary has meant the disruption of the family coming in the wake of change of dress, manners, language, food and drink .
-Mahatma Gandhi (November 5, 1935)”
Also, he was of the opinion that most of the conversions were due to force, threats, blackmail, exploitation etc and hence such repentants must be unhesitatingly be re-admitted back into their original faith.
“If a person through fear, compulsion, starvation, or for material gain or consideration goes over to another faith, it is a misnomer to call it conversion. Most cases of conversion have been to my mind a false coin. I would therefore unhesitatingly re-admit to the Hindu fold all such repentants without much ado. If a man comes back to the original branch, he deserves to be welcomed in so far as he may deem to have erred, he has sufficiently purged himself of it when he repents his error and retraces his steps.
-Mahatma Gandhi (Collected Works: Vol. 66, pp. 163-164)”
Just a quick glance into the collected works of Mahatma Gandhi would show several such statements & opinions which would suggest his strong conviction towards Hinduism & propagation of religious tolerance, anti-conversions & appraisals of Bhagavad Gita. But subsequent leaders of the Congress party, in the name of secularism have suppressed the whole religious & spiritual aspects of Mahatma Gandhi and have unfortunately reduced him to a political mascot to garner votes.
Let’s hope future leaders will take up Gandhi’s spiritual messages as well and promote Gita, & legislate anti-conversion laws.
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