It would not be an exaggeration to say that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was not born a saint but achieved it through readings and by leading a disciplined life.
Several political leaders and true Gandhians will gather today at Rajghat to pay floral and prayerful tribute to the Father of the Nation. As long as I was in Delhi, I used to be a part of the multi-religious prayer meeting that takes place at the samadhi of the great Indian saint. On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination, it is instructive to remember what Albert Einstein said on Gandhi’s 70th birthday. “Generations to come, it may well be, will scarce believe that such a man as this one ever in flesh and blood walked upon this Earth.”
What really shocked the world then and continues to remain a paradox even today is that a powerful advocate of peace and non-violence should have met such a violent end. Gandhi had once said, “I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.” His martyrdom brought to fore the result of unrestrained hatred.
While much has been written on and about the Mahatma and his own profound thoughts and inspirational writings make for commendable readings, the question is, if the lapse of 71 years after he last pronounced “Hey Ram” has blurred or even blocked our minds and hearts to his noble teachings?
It would not be an exaggeration to say that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was not born a saint but achieved it through readings and by leading a disciplined life. Gandhi was greatly influenced by Leo Tolstoy, through his book, The Kingdom of God is Within You, the title from Luke’s Gospel and his essay on “Christianity and Patriotism”.Tolstoy’s ideal of simplicity of life and purity of purpose influenced Gandhi deeply. In that book, Tolstoy speaks of the principle of nonviolent resistance when confronted by violence, as taught by Jesus Christ. When Christ says to turn the other cheek, Tolstoy asserts that Christ means to abolish violence, even the defensive kind, and to give up revenge. Three other important persons who influenced his life were John Ruskin through his book, Unto this Last; his personal relationship with Raychandbhai and Gopal Krishna Gokhle, whom Gandhi considered as his teacher.
Gandhi once told Millie Polak, a pastor friend’s wife in South Africa: “I did once seriously think of embracing the Christian faith…, The gentle figure of Christ, so patient, so kind, so loving, so full of forgiveness that he taught his followers not to retaliate when abused or struck…”
The Mahatma’s life continues to inspire and challenge us even today. His appeal to be truthful and to work for peace and to preserve the multi-religious fabric of India’s proud civilisation that he wrestled with till his last breath remains an unfinished task worth pursuing for all of us.