AUM — Vol. 4, No.11, 27 June 1969
Mahatma Gandhi1Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, better known as Mahatma Gandhi. "Mahatma" means "Great-Souled One". His followers and admirers adorned him with this significant title, but the Mahatma’s soulful humility vehemently disclaimed the title. To be absolutely correct, Mahatma Gandhi had two more names: Ahimsa, Non-Violence, and Satyagraha, Soul-Force.
Gandhi was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but both of his parents cared nothing for the so-called material wealth. They did care for something else and it was the inner wealth. In his life, his father’s indifference to material wealth, his father’s politically-oriented brain, tremendous will, his mother’s piety, purity, simplicity, sincerity, inner hunger and conscience of the soul and his wife’s inspiration, dedicated service and constant sacrifice loomed large.
He went to England to study law when he was nineteen years old. Three years later he returned to India and started practising law. Alas, in those days, in his legal practise, he received not the garland of victory, but of sad failure. Such being the case, he wanted to be a high school teacher in Bombay. Here too, God denied him this new career. Gandhi’s application to be a teacher was not favoured with acceptance. But in 1893, opportunity knocked at his life’s door. The heart of this young barrister cried with his fellow-countrymen, who were victims of ruthless injustice in South Africa. He left for Africa. He defended their case, their cause. He helped them and served them. There, in Africa, he gradually became a lawyer of the superlative degree. Mahalakshmi, the Goddess of Beauty and Plenty, blessed his heart with Her beauty and his outer life with plenty. Money, the bird, flew towards him and sweetly sat on his hand. Success, the dog, ran towards him and faithfully sat at his feet. Behind the bird and the dog, a human being from a far-off land came and inspired his aspiring heart and illumined his searching mind to fulfil life’s ideals. Gandhi’s life became the perfect expression of Tolstoy’s inspiration. With a view to practising his ideals, he cast aside the crown and throne of his outer achievements. He embraced Ahimsa, He embraced Satyagraha. He was one of those who awakened the slumbering nation and inspired the oppressed and depressed country to come out of the foreign yoke. He was successful. By this time, his frail body was no longer a stranger to inhuman brutalities. He had to undergo, several times, severe prison sentences. On being imprisoned for the first time, on 11 January 1908, he remarked:
His release from last imprisonment was on 6th May 1944. He spent no less than two thousand three hundred and thirty-eight days in jail.
His outer life suffered. His inner life triumphed. His life and his soul’s conviction became indivisible. His country’s independence became the object of his soul’s concern. His country’s ‘untouchables’ became the object of his heart’s concern. Bharat Mata placed her hands of Infinite Bounty on the head of her devoted son. His country’s untouchables discovered their haven in his boundless heart.
For the redemption of the untold sufferings of the untouchables Gandhi’s heart of supreme sacrifice voices forth:
We all know the supreme necessity of humility in a seeker’s life. No humility, no realisation of the Infinite Truth. One must needs be as humble as the dust. But Gandhi’s humility does not want to stop even at this point. He says: "The seeker after truth should be humbler than the dust. The world crushes the dust under its feet, but the seeker after truth should so humble himself that even the dust could crush him. Only then and not till then, will he have a glimpse of truth."
The world, especially the Christian world, is afraid of the consequences of sin. A Christian is more concerned about his sin than any other man on earth. The Indian heart in Gandhi speaks about sin: "I do not seek redemption from the consequences of sin, I seek to be redeemed from sin itself."
Again a Vedantin, a student of Vedanta, will proclaim that there is no such thing as sin. It is merely a play of ignorance.
Gandhi throws abundant light on conception and continence: "I think it is the height of ignorance to believe that the sexual act is an independent function necessary like sleeping or eating. The world depends for its existence on the act of generation and as the world is the playground of God and a reflection of His glory, the act of generation should be controlled for the ordered growth of the world. He who realises this will control his lust at any cost, equip himself with the knowledge necessary for the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of his progeny and give the benefit of that knowledge to posterity."
Mother Earth is truly proud of her son Gandhi’s sincerity. He said: "For me the observance of even bodily brahmacharya has been full of difficulties. Today (1929) that is to say, at the age of sixty, I may say that I feel myself fairly safe, but I have yet to achieve complete mastery over thought, which is so essential."
Gandhi married at the age of 13. He was blessed with four sons.
Fasting played a major role in Gandhi’s life. His sound advice is "eat only when you are hungry and when you have laboured for food." This reminds me of a Zen story:
The Chinese Zen master, Hyakujo, used to work very hard with his disciples, even at the ripe old age of eighty. He used to prune the trees, clean the grounds, trim the garden and so forth. His disciples were extremely shocked at these exertions. They knew well that it would be of no use to suggest to him to stop working, for he would turn a deaf ear to them. A brilliant idea flashed across their minds. They hid away his tools. The Master played his part. He stopped eating. This went on for several days. The disciples discovered why he was not eating. They returned his tools to him. With a smile, he took the tools and exclaimed, "No work, no food!" He began eating as usual.
Gandhi often fasted to get things done in his own way. Let me tell you two amusing but significant incidents in Gandhi’s life. His wife once saved up twenty-five rupees to spend for a special purpose. When Gandhi came to know about it, he brought his poor wife’s conduct to the attention of the public. He was furious. He exposed her in his weekly Young India under the caption, "My shame, my sorrow," and observed a three-day fast! He had taught his wife that there should be no personal belongings and no hoarding up of money.
On another occasion Gandhi took a vow that he would fast unto death. Tagore immediately said to his countrymen having realised the gravity of Gandhi’s vow: "He has come after a thousand years. Shall we send him back empty-handed again?"
Gandhi’s Gurudev, Rabindranath Tagore, once remarked:
"I differ with Gandhi in many respects, but I admire and revere the man highly." In one aspect of life at least, we see the difference between these two great souls. In renunciation, Mahatma found his deliverance, while Tagore found his deliverance in the fruit of fulfilment. Tagore sings, "Deliverance is not for me in renunciation, I feel the embrace of freedom in a thousand bonds of delight." The Upanishadic seers sing through the heart of Mahatma, "Tena tyaktena bhunjita" "Enjoy through Renunciation".
Prime Minister Nehru, during his speech to the Congress of the United States on 13 October 1949, spoke about the Father of the Indian Nation:
Four days later, on 17 October, while addressing Columbia University, Nehru again spoke about his mentor, guide and master:
Krishnalal Shridharani, the well-known author of "My India, My America" has something amusing but striking to share with us:
Now let us hear from Gandhi what he has to say about his own salvation or about his going to heaven:
Gandhi says about religion: "After long study and experience, I have come to the conclusion that (1) all religions are true; (2) all religions have some error in them; (3) all religions are almost as dear to me as my own Hinduism."
Each individual has the right to have a God of his own. He is competent enough to define God according to his inner receptivity and outer capacity. Gandhi’s God is nothing other than truth. He says: "There are innumerable definitions of God, because His manifestations are innumerable. They overwhelm me with wonder and awe, for a moment stun me. But I worship God as Truth only."
Some of the world figures have called him the Saint Paul, Saint Thomas and Saint Francis of Assisi of the modern era and I call him the Pacific Ocean of Heart’s Love and Soul’s Compassion. Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps I am right. But I am adamant in my assertion that Mahatma Gandhi is not the exclusive treasure of India, but a peerless pride of mankind and will remain so, down the sweep of centuries.
AUM 472. Sri Chinmoy was invited by Dr. Varma on behalf of the Ministry of External Affairs of the Government of Jamaica, West Indies, to address the public during Jamaica's Centenary celebrations of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi on 1 April 1969.↩
How to live in two worlds1
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain."
— Emily Dickinson"
My dear Sisters and Brothers: I have come here to serve you. Serve I must. If I can serve even one amongst you in her endeavour towards self-discovery I shall not live in vain, nay my life on earth will have its purposeful meaning. Sisters, you are entitled to cherish pride for being devoted students of this unparalleled college in the United States. And today God presents me with matchless opportunity to discover in you an aspiring heart.
The Sarah Lawrence College is for women, as we all know. I wish to say a few words about the Hindu women. I am sure by this time you have learned that I am a Hindu. I come from India. A Hindu woman is the living embodiment of sanctity, devotion and faith. Purity is the hyphen between her life and her deeds. Intellectual education she does not care for. Her heart cries for the inner education, the education of the soul. No hyperbole. Her life of spontaneous and unending sacrifice is the soul of the Hindu race. In the hoary past, it was a Hindu woman, Maitreyi, who said to her husband, Yājñavalkya, the peerless sage of the Upanishads, that nothing would satisfy her, save and except Immortality.
When she said Immortality, she did not mean the prolongation of her physical body for millions of years. She meant that she wanted to have the immortal consciousness, the consciousness of immortality, within and without.
On behalf of women all over the world, Maitreyi’s soul tells us what a woman wants.
There are two worlds: One is the world of Truth, the other is the world of Falsehood. Who shall decide when Truth and Falsehood disagree? Acceptance. Their mutual acceptance. Truth will accept Falsehood to transform the life of falsehood. Falsehood will accept Truth to manifest the breath of Truth.
Two worlds: One is known as Acceptance, the other as Rejection. I accept. I accept with my deepest gratitude what God has for me: Illumination. I reject with adamantine determination what the world has for me: Frustration. Two worlds: Condition and Situation. Condition says: "God gives when you give." Situation says: "You are helpless. God alone can give and He does give."
Unlike others, my God has two names: Delight and Compassion. In the inner world, I call Him by the name Delight. In the outer world, I call Him by the name Compassion. My God has two souls: the soul that He has in the inner world embodies His Dream. The soul that He has in the outer world reveals His Reality. My God has two bodies: His outer body is my Inspiration. His inner body is my Emancipation. Heaven and Hell represent two worlds in our consciousness. Heaven surprises Hell with its boundless Joy, Hell surprises Heaven with its ceaseless cry. Heaven says to Hell:
Science and Spirituality are two different worlds. Science wants to shorten distances. Spirituality wants to unite distances. For me it is not enough. My vision wants to divinise and transform distance.
East and West: Two worlds. We must unite them.
The awakened consciousness of man is visibly tending towards the Divine. This is a most hopeful streak of light amidst the surrounding obscurities of today. This is a moment, not merely of joining hands, but of joining minds, hearts and souls. Across all physical and mental barriers between East and West, high above national standards, above individual standards, will fly the supreme banner of Divine Oneness.
The outer world is a world of reasoning mind. The inner world is a world of experience. Hard is it for the outer world to believe in the existence of God. In the inner world the existence of God always looms large. Sri Aurobindo said:
Can we live in two worlds? Certainly we can. If we have spontaneous inspiration we can successfully live in the outer world and achieve our outer goals. If we have soulful aspiration we can live in the inner world and achieve our inner Goal. The outer world is the body. The inner world is the soul. It is up to us whether we want to stay in the body, or in the soul.
If we stay in the body, then constantly we have to abide by the dictates of the soul so that the body, instead of being a blind tool of fate, becomes a perfect channel for the Supreme for His divine manifestation in the physical. And if we want to live in the soul, to experience infinite Light, Peace and Bliss, then we must not neglect the body, we must not destroy the body, for it is inside the body that the soul abides on earth.
AUM 473. This talk was given by Sri Chinmoy at the Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, New York, on 14 January 1969.↩
— Walt Whitman"
My heart of dedication echoes and re-echoes with Whitman’s throbbing utterance. At the same time, I wish to add something more to my own dedication. I give lectures. I give lectures not because I have something special to offer to humanity, but because I wish to expand my mind’s horizon, my heart’s love and my body’s service so that I can totally become one with God’s Divinity in humanity. Once I have done it, once I become one with God’s Divinity in humanity, I shall have to make no effort to offer myself to God’s children, for I become consciously one with them. We then sing the song of God’s unity in His multiplicity.
Princeton University, a flood-tide of enthusiasm and joy sweeps over me now. In 1902 Woodrow Wilson became the President of this University. For eight long years he served this University and carried out a good many reforms of this Institution. I am all admiration for him, for his heart cried for human unity. The world remembers him as the chief architect of the organisation known as the League of Nations, a potential step toward human unity. In his Inaugural Address, on his assumption of the Presidential Chair of the United States, he said, "This is not a day of triumph; it is a day of dedication. Here muster, not the forces of the party, but the forces of humanity." This message of his can serve as a safe harbour for humanity’s life-boat.
Woodrow Wilson, once the President of this University, said something striking with regard to the University and its students, "The use of a university is to make young men as unlike their fathers as possible." It means that the past, no matter how grand and significant, must be surpassed, transcended. The message of yore need not be and cannot be the ultimate seal for humanity’s ever-progressing march towards the Absolute Fulfilment.
I hope it will not be out of place to say a word about his daughter, Margaret Woodrow Wilson. Before I invite her into the picture, let me invite first, Tolstoy. Tolstoy said, "To say that you can love one person all your life is just like saying that one candle will continue burning as long as you live." This is true in the case of a flickering candle and it may be true in the case of fleeting human love, but it was definitely not true in the case of Margaret Woodrow Wilson. In 1938 she joined a spiritual community, the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in South India. She sat at the feet of her spiritual Master, Sri Aurobindo. She declared, "Here is one on earth whom one can love all one’s life and in whom he can lose oneself." She received the name Nishtha from her master. He wrote about it: "Nishta — the name means one-pointed, fixed and steady, concentration, devotion and faith in the single aim — the Divine and the Divine Realisation." (5 Nov. 1938.) Both father and daughter embodied faith, the divine quality in full measure, the father in humanity’s cause, the daughter in divinity’s cause. Once when a physical ailment of hers tended to be serious and it was suggested to her to return to America and consult her family doctor, she flatly refused, saying: "They can take care of my body, but who will take care of my soul?" She passed away on 12 February 1944. The cemetery of Pondicherry, the small town in South India that is the home of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, bears the simple inscription in French:
Our topic for tonight is "The Beyond". Our faith in God, more so in ourselves can alone lead us in to the Life of the Beyond.
They say that they do not know the Beyond. I say that they have forgotten the Beyond. They say that the Beyond is stolen away. I say that they have unconsciously hidden the Beyond. They say that it is easier to realise the Beyond than to live in the Beyond. I say that God and the Beyond are One, indivisibly One. Once you have realised God, the Beyond itself will live in you, grow in you and be fulfilled in you.
The Beyond is for him alone who aspires. A man without aspiration does not see in the nights of ignorance. A man with desires does not see either in the nights of ignorance or in the knowledge-dawn. But a man of aspiration sees through and beyond the adamantine world of ignorance and the luminous windows of knowledge. He takes ignorance and knowledge as one. His is the heart that pines to imbibe the Nectar-Truth of the Upanishads with a view of entering into the fulfilment of the Beyond: Vidya Avidyascha… He takes Ignorance and Knowledge as one; through Ignorance he crosses beyond death; through Knowledge, he crosses the boundaries of Immortality.
Do you want to see the face of the Beyond? Do you want to know what the Beyond looks like? If so, then launch, sooner than at once, launch into the sea of spirituality. Spirituality is self-development. Self-development eventually leads man to his self-realisation. True spirituality is practical, extremely practical. It is not satisfied with the existence of God only in heaven. It wants to prove to the entire world that God’s existence can be seen, felt here on earth, too. God is the Life of the Beyond. Earth is the heart of God.
He who wants to live without air is a fool. He who wants to live without food is a greater fool. He who wants to live without the Truth, Light and Life of the Beyond is the greatest fool.
I know that I have to love God and be loved by God, since I wish to live in the Beyond. I asked God what He does with His love. God said that He protects me, He illumines me and liberates me with his Love. God asked me what I do with my love. I said that like a child I just bind Him, my Eternal Father, with my love. God cried with joy and I cried with gratitude.
When I see the Truth of the Beyond in me, I am something. When I see the Truth in others, I am someone. I wish to be both something and someone, if such is the will of the Supreme. If not, I wish to be nothing. I wish to be no one. I wish only to obey His express commands. To become one with the Will of the Supreme, to fulfil the Will of the Supreme, is to possess the breath of the Beyond. To live in the Beyond, is not to build castles in the air. The Beyond, the reality of the Beyond, can and does breathe in the immediacy of today, in the heart of now. Meditate! Let us meditate on the Beyond. Lo! Ours, forever ours, is the Beyond.
There is only one time and that time is the Eternal Now. There is only one truth and that truth is that we are God’s and God’s alone. There is only one realisation and that realisation is that we are everything, we are in everything and we represent everything, earthly human and heavenly divine.
AUM 474. Lecture given to the students of Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, 13 January 1969.↩