Archive | June, 2010

Reflections on God – by Negeen Sai Zinovieff

People sometimes say in this secular society that Gandhi was old-fashioned because he was deeply religious and spiritual. Yet his teachings are, for the most part, avant-garde. He believed, as did the Masters of Humanity, that Truth and God were synonymous and stuck tenaciously till the end, emphasising that Truth was that “spiritual inner voice” of those that practised Ahimsa and Satyagraha. In My Religion he writes:

‘There should be truth in thought, truth in speech and truth in action but truth is the right designation of God. Hence there is nothing wrong in every man following Truth according to his lights”.

But in practice we see many opinion leaders teaching from the pulpit of Truth which contradicts the Truth of other seekers. The theosophists such as Helena P Blavatsky have a slogan “there is no religion higher than Truth”. Gandhi always praised the theosophist Anne Besant for introducing true Hinduism to him and he took a step nearer to God by saying He alone is the sought-for reward for a true disciplined heart and educated mind. Then we see people swearing through their teeth that the gospel according to Truth is their slogan. Leninism and Maoism have captured the minds of reformists, scientists and academicians. These have done much harm to the Truth as God as practiced by Jesus or Zoroaster.

While Gandhi teaches nonviolence and passive resistance in response to the search for God, Marxism teaches brute violence and calls to arms those who labour and are exploited by the bourgeoisie and capitalists. All those teachings which have denied man as spirit have helped to create a cerebral humanity who avenges itself on the spiritual-cum-emotional self by denying that soul, God and heart exist.

When Gandhi insisted that “the small inner voice” was his authority, he also says that one must find this self through discipline and perseverance. What is discipline, the key to the door of ‘inner self’’? Gandhi believed asceticism, piety and chastity and life-long marriage with Haq (the Truth) was the basis for practicing Ahimsa (love) and well-informed reason for finding God. He says in My Religion (p 103):

“In such selfless search for Truth nobody can lose his bearings for long. Directly he takes to the wrong path he stumbles and is thus redirected to the right path.”

What the Sufis ascribe to the Spiritual Master, Gandhi ascribes to the educated self or ‘voice within’. Thus everyone is encouraged to practice self-effacement and search for God through himself. “Know yourself and you will know God.” This Gandhian teaching, in times when Spiritual Masters have arisen everywhere, capturing the hearts and minds of ill-informed people, is an elixir.

The New Testament which inspired Gandhi a good deal invites people to practice ocean-consciousness. In John 4, verse 24 we read

“God is spirit and all worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

In book 3 verse

“But whosoever lives by the truth comes into the light so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

In the holy Quran we see many references to truth seeking. In Surah 16 verse 36,

“so travel the earth and see what was the end of those who denied the truth. But he will be set right who selflessly seeks and observes the unfettered Truth.”

Zarathustra, the Persian prophet (1200 BCE) similarly called God Absolute Truth to be found by those who dedicate their lives in thought, word and deed to the pursuit of Divine Power, Ahura Mazda. While Gandhi and Jesus spread the gospel of love, Zoroaster sought help through reason from the archangels of God, in particular the ‘Good Mind’ or ‘Spenta Mainya’. He taught that once the spirit of Benediction has been found, the Good Mind, one can know God as the Father of Truth. It is with such a faith that the truth seeker practising Ahimsa and Satyagraha will reach the shores of peace in the whirlpool of existence.

One cannot hope to find the right ‘inner voice’ without asceticism and self-discipline. Gandhi believed “truth resides in every human heart and one has to search for it there and be guided by the truth as one sees it. But no one has a right to coerce others to act according to his views of truth (The Mind of Mahatma Gandhi, page 44). Again emphasising his commitment to Haq (God) he says in The Mind of Mahtma Gandhi page 43:

“But as long as I have not realised the Absolute Truth, so long must I hold by the relative truth as I have conceived it. That relative truth must, meanwhile, be my beacon, my shield and my buckle.”

These teachings have been practised for several thousand years and we have to find them again. Zoroaster, Buddha, Confucius have all had the taste for God, self-realisation and Fana (self-annihilation in God).  Yasna 46 v. 18 has:

“Oh Mazda I seek but to fulfil your will through Truth”.

Everyone hence must strive to live a truth-inspired existence. Truth is like a vast tree which yields more and more fruit the more you nurture it, the deeper the search in the mine of truth, the richer the discovery of the gems buried there. In the awe-inspiring Proverbs (the Old Testament) we are reminded that love and faithfulness never leave you.

“Bind them around your neck and write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favour and a good name in the sight of God and man” (Proverbs 3 verse 3).

Let us conclude with the much quoted saying of Gandhi: “Without Ahimsa it is not possible to seek and find Truth. Ahimsa and Truth are so intertwined that it is practically impossible to disentangle and separate them.”(My Religion p. 106).

Bibliography:
My Religion M K Gandhi, Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad 380014
The Mind of Mahatma Gandhi, Compiled and edited by R K Prabhu and U R Rao
The Holy Bible New International Version, Hodder and Stoughton
The Holy Quran, Text, Translation & Commentary by A. Yusef Ali 1983.
The Ancient Gods, E O James, Phoenix Giant 1960
The Gathas of Zarathustra, Piloo Nanavutty 1999

MAHADEVBHAI: One man show about Gandhi’s secretary has London premiere

Working Title presents:
MAHADEVBHAI
Tue 6th Jul – Thu 8th July @ 7.45pm
Box Office: 020 8232 1010
Watermans
40 High Street
Brentford TW8 0DS
http://www.watermans.org.uk
Tickets: £10 (£8 conc.)
Written and Directed by Ramu Ramanathan
Performed and Produced by Jaimini Pathak

This is a sixty minute one man show that tells the story of MAHADEVBHAI  (1892 – 1942) who  was Gandhi’s personal secretary for twenty five years from 1917 – 1942.

As secretary and onlooker, Mahadev Bhai, kept a daily diary as he watched Gandhi’s struggles with Satyagraha, witnessed key political events and so jotted down the innumerable letters to and by Gandhi as well as conversations and banter, lecture and discourses.

The play explores the relevance of Gandhian principles and ideology to our times and turns the spotlight on a man whose diaries and translations of My Experiments with Truth have been so crucial to our knowledge of Gandhi’s life and works.

The form chosen is of lively storytelling, interspersed with humour where one actor plays out various historical characters in the struggle for Indian independence, reveals how Gandhi developed his philosophy of non-violence.

The notes of this self-effacing scholar and companion provide a valuable contribution to the mind of ‘The Great Soul’ but are also important as literature and history in their own right!

MAHADEVBHAI opened at the Prithvi Theatre Festival, Mumbai in 2002in November and has since completed 120 shows. The play has traveled extensively in India and has been performed at various theatre festivals such as the Rangashankara Festival in Bangalore, the Sangeet Natak Academy and National School of Drama Festivals in Delhi, The Other Festival in Chennai and many more.

Internationally the play has been to the Frankfurt Book Fair and Nepal upon the invitation of the Indian Consulate.

Working Title is a theatre company founded ten years ago by Jamini Pathak and is committed to performing unpublished scripts by Indian writers.  (He has appeared on television in serials, Swabhimaan and Kabhie Kabhie and he was a columnist for the Indian Express In 2000-1

For more information and images, please contact:
Suman Bhuchar e: suman@watermans.org.uk or 07930 101894 or
Angela Hinds e: angela@watermans.org.uk or 020 8232 1037

Peace and Security and Economics – by Eirwen Harbottle

George Paxton has persuaded me to share some thoughts on developing our Gandhi Foundation Trustees’ discussion on monetary reform. I am clearly no academic; merely an ordinary member of the public who has become increasingly angry over the financial mess that is causing so much misery and the injustice of handing on such toxic chaos to the rising generation.

18 months ago, I asked Canon Peter Challen whether he would allow me to attend the weekly meetings of his Global Round Table on Monetary Reform since when I have been listening and learning, grateful for his kind tolerance of my often childish questions.

Now I feel led to share this diagram with GF supporters. It shows how I suggest we might accept the inter-twining of peace and security in which economics is a crucial factor:

Over the past 60 years I have experienced global un-peace stretching from the dying months of the British mandate in Palestine, through WW2 and the violent birth of the Cyprus Republic, subsequent Greek/Turk conflict on that island, world disarmament and (working with my Michael) a reappraisal of the military role in peacekeeping/peacebuilding.

Now I can see with absolute certainty that the popular excuse “Oh, I don’t do economics…” is just a lazy cop-out. It is totally unacceptable because our inaction is threatening the very survival of our peerless planet.

So what to do ? I admire the 3 leading tenets of Jainism: we must recognise the ‘many-sidedness’ of our lives, act with ‘non-possessiveness’ and ‘do no harm’ (ahimsa). Were these not akin to the bedrock of Gandhi’s own thinking ? Would that it might also be that of all our bankers today !

If we are truly seeking financial ‘perestroika’, we have to educate ourselves on the history of money; the ethics of usury; the psychology of taking risks with no thought to the consequences of so doing; the rule of law to curb injustice; and ultimately to see all of this as the ‘many-sidedness’ of global wellbeing.

In his day, Buckminster Fuller often used the icosahedron 20-sided symbol to demonstrate wholeness. Perhaps we might use the same design now to present a Gandhian view of security and peace?

Eirwen Harbottle is a Patron of the Gandhi Foundation and a founder of Peace Child International. She received the first GF International Peace Award on behalf of her late husband Brigadier Michael Harbottle who founded Generals for Peace.

Mahatma Gandhi and Environment Protection – by Anupma Kaushik

Mahatma Gandhi never used the words environment protection however what he said and did makes him an environmentalist. Although during his time environmental problems were not recognized as such however with his amazing foresight and insight he predicted that things are moving in the wrong direction. As early as in 1909 in his book Hind Swaraj he cautioned mankind against unrestricted industrialism and materialism.

He did not want India to follow the west in this regard and warned that if India, with its vast population, tried to imitate the West then the resources of the earth will not be enough. He argued even in 1909 that industrialization and machines have an adverse effect on the health of people. Although he was not opposed to machines as such, he definitely opposed the large scale use of machinery. He criticized people for polluting the rivers and other water bodies. He criticized mills and factories for polluting the air with smoke and noise.

What he advocated in place of industrialism and consumerism was a simple life based on physical labour. He implored people to “live simply so that others may simply live”. For he believed that earth provides “enough to satisfy every man’s need but not any man’s greed”. So the rich must not only restrict their wants but must also treat their wealth as a ‘trust’ for the poor and use it for the welfare of the poor. This can be done only if people can distinguish between their real needs and artificial wants and control the later.

To him the real need meant to posses only what is absolutely necessary for the moment. To him this would not only help the unprivileged of today but would help protect the environment for the next generation as to him the earth, the air, the land and the water were not an inheritance from our forefathers but a loan from our children. So we have to hand over to the next generation at least as it was handed over to us.

He also believed that one must “be the change that one wants to see in the world” and hence he practiced what he preached. His life was his message. So he and his wife gave away all their property. They had nothing beyond the clothes that they wore and a change or two. He used scraps of papers to write brief notes and reversed envelopes for reuse to send letters. Even when he used to bathe with water of the free flowing Sabarmati river he consciously used only the minimum water needed for taking a bath. However he did not equate simple living with abject poverty. In fact he believed that to deny a person the ordinary amenities of life is far worse than starving the body. It is starving the soul – the dweller in the body. To him poverty was the most severe polluter. Hence poverty must be eradicated and that can be done only when everybody is taking their own share and not grabbing others’ share by limiting their needs and sharing their resources.

However his concerns were not limited to human beings alone as he had a very strong sense of the unity of all life. He believed that all creatures had the right to live as much as human beings and felt a living bond between humans and the rest of the animate world. He believed that humans should live in harmony with their surroundings.

The best part of Gandhi’s ideas was that they empower the individual. It is up to each and every individual to simplify his or her life; to share his or her resources and to care for his and her surroundings.

Dr Anupma Kaushik is Reader in Political Science, Banasthali University, Rajasthan, India.

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