Tag Archives: Ahimsa

The Mahatma’s Inner Voice

The voice of intuition is often overruled by the voice of reason, leaving one with a sense of regret.

When Sonia Gandhi turned down the offer to become Prime Minister in UPA 1 in 2004 and attributed her decision to an “inner voice,”  there was a sense of relief at her decision, yet many were intrigued over her choice of words. But then, cynicism crept in and most of us dismissed it as just a catchy turn of phrase.

Yet, the very same words when used in connection with the Mahatma assume a whole new dimension. I am certain that there was not an  iota of self-interest in Gandhiji’s decisions.

The “inner voice” that the Mahatma referred to, goes much beyond the intuitive voice that an average  person becomes privy to and is guided by. Being immersed in spirituality, Gandhiji submitted his physical body to a great deal of penance and perhaps it is this and his self-reflective meditative practices that honed his inner voice of consciousness to provide him the best possible counsel, which he applied  to  the service of the country.

The Dandi March was one such inspiration. The non-violent way  in which Gandhiji showed his followers to not retaliate in the face of great brutality set a tone for the rest of the Independence struggle. It provided India with a  path breaking moral supremacy and brought her closer to being able to achieve her goal of self rule.

Across the ages, there have been many prophets who were privy to this inner voice of wisdom.  I have concurred that from this wisdom has developed the term “prophetic words.” Mahatma Gandhi was certainly among the greatest apostles of peace, who walked this earth.  Who else but he could have chosen to keep away from Delhi when the Indian flag was unfurled for the first time on the 15th of August, to stay with those who were  affected by the riots resulting from the Partition of India. Horace Alexander, a Quaker who was closely associated with Gandhiji, wrote his biography, Gandhi through Western Eyes and was with him on that occasion, made these observations:  “What Gandhi did on that day was one of the most extraordinary happenings in his evening life. He brought peace to that great city of Calcutta, and to the whole of Bengal, where Hindus and Muslims had been killing one another almost daily for over a year.”

At every stage of his life, Gandhiji applied the principles of Ahimsa or non-violence towards all sentient beings and Satyagraha or the adoption of a higher consciousness of truth and morality.  His was a life of humility and self-effacement. He spoke of the Talisman that he employed in his decision-making – whether the action that he was contemplating would benefit the last man – Sarvodaya through Antyodaya, which is at the core of India’s formation as a country.

I have understood that to understand the Mahatma’s inner voice, his own words resonate greatly: “I do not know what you would call a vision, or what you would call prophetic.  When I announced my fast of 21 days in jail, I had not reasoned it. On retiring to bed the previous night, I had no notion that I was going to announce a fast for 21 days.  But in the middle of the night a voice woke me up and said, ‘Go through a fast.’ ‘For how many days,’ I asked? ‘21 days’ was the answer. Now let me tell you that my mind was unprepared for it, disinclined for it.  But the thing came through clearly as anything could be. Whatever striking things I have done in life, I have not done prompted by reason, but prompted by instinct, I would say, God. Take the Dandi Salt March of 1930.  I had not the ghost of a suspicion how the breach of the Salt Law would work itself out. Pandit (Jawaharlal Nehru) and other friends were fretting and did not know what I would do; and I could tell them nothing, as I myself knew nothing about it.  But like a flash it came and as you know, it was enough to shake the country, from one end to another.”

In the tradition of Yoga, all practices aim toward stilling the mind. Among other benefits, a mind bereft of thoughts can invoke  super-natural powers that can offer prophetic guidance and extra-sensory perception also known as Siddhi. 

Whilst great Yogic practitioners would use their powers for self realization, what makes Mahatma Gandhi different is his combining of the spiritual with the temporal; both in his single-minded quest to achieve independence for India and in wishing to wipe a tear from every eye. I am reminded of  the Buddha, who did not end his quest by achieving enlightenment under the Bodhi tree but used his wisdom toward alleviating the same suffering that led him to question the meaning of life.

There is not much to look forward to from muscular leaders who will have the Mahatma’s statues dusted and pay lip service to him on his 150th birth anniversary in the name of nationalism. If only Gandhi would resurrect now to solve the problems of modern times. At the least we could emulate his universal and eternal vision even in the smallest ways. May all that was good in the Mahatma light a spark in those who follow, so that they might act as beacons for the world.

Melanie P. Kumar has been an Independent Writer and contributing for more than 20 years now.  Married to a Gandhian scholar, she has had occasion to travel to many of the important places associated with Mahatma Gandhi. She has also attended innumerable seminars on Gandhi, which has prompted her interest in writing about the Mahatma in an effort to understand him.

How is Gandhi Still Relevant?

Dr. Rajesh Oza has created a profound and resonant work in Satyalogue// Truthtalk by allowing entry at multiple levels and providing ideas for growth. The book  is based on Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s life and autobiography, “The Story of My Experiments with Truth.”Oza’s writing draws us deep inside ourselves by providing questions and  answers to re-evaluate our lives. It indeed becomes a living text: one to interpret in multiple ways, revisit with increasing understanding and joy. It was in experiencing the same concept from multiple dimensions that I realized Oza’s book offers a never-ending journey of the self.

Oza uses Gandhi’s brilliant architecture that framed a path to India’s liberation in four concepts, Satyagraha, Swaraj, Sarvodaya and Ahimsa. He adapts this framework for living well in modern times. Satyagraha, the search for truth to give your life meaning, forcing differentiation between reality and illusion, lies and truth. Swaraj means self-rule: the capacity to discipline the self thoughtfully. As Oza points out, “Swaraj is…Gandhiji’s prerequisite for independent India’s self-rule movement.” He elaborates this as a moral governor  for rulers in any age. Too many world leaders are governed by ego, immorality, self desires and not by their constituents’ needs. Sarvodaya, understanding all world cultures, ensures we consider more options before choosing best life principles. Ahimsa, a concept of non-violence, the  author reminds us is to “be the change you want to see in the world.” The Scope of Gandhi’s principle spans beyond India’s Independence but resonates within our lives, even today.

While a lifetime is necessary to internalize these overarching principles, Oza also provides relevant examples. I was moved by the leadership section, since it includes daily questions of how to remain ethical in a  Nationalistic era. While effective leaders generally lead through thorny times, Oza wisely counsels us to remember that …”to be an effective leader, one must have self-rule (swaraj).”  But he also reminds us, “all that wealth does not belong to me.” He stresses the concept of “Stewardship,” which implies delayed gratification for long-term results; stewardship implies the benefit of all stakeholders – employees, management and community. After successes or failures, effective leaders learn the dance of moving forward and stepping back to create high-performing organizations. In the climate change section, we see the seriousness of the problem; he argues that “…the father of Independent India was also the father of modern India’s conservation movement. He powerfully spoke to our stewardship of the earth–not as a backward-looking inheritance from our forefathers that we can squander, but rather as a forward-looking loan from our children and our children’s children’s children.”

Oza’s work serves as a ray  of hope in dark times.

Satyalogue// Truthtalk: A Gandhian Guide to (Post) Modern Day Dilemmas.By Dr Rajesh Oza. Independently published (July 31, 2019). 296 pages Paperback $15.

 Dr. Jyotsna Sanzgiri, served as Program Director, Dean and Professor from 1989 to 2017 at Alliant International University.  She taught in the areas of Organizational Development and Change, often using principles from Gandhian philosophy for transformative change. Her parents worked closely with Gandhi and others for the Indian Independence movement, and Gandhi’s principles have shaped her life deeply.

Cover photo credit: A Creative Commons image by Eduardo Francisco Vazquez Murillo.