Mahatma Gandhi: the heart of life

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Part I — Gandhi Award

Sri Chinmoy's acceptance remarks

Mahatma Gandhi, O luminosity-soul, O purity-heart, O sincerity-mind, O simplicity-life, to you I bow and bow.

Ahimsa, the non-violence-world-transformation-light, you had. Satyagraha, the truth-eagerness-manifestation-delight, you were. You were the invaluable voice of India's soul. You were the indisputable choice of India's heart.

Mahatma, you were at once India's hope-beauty-flower and India's promise-fragrance-garden. Your colossal soul will perpetually shine in India's gratitude-heart on the path of life. The transcendental greatness-life of the sun your outer name was. The universal goodness-heart of the moon your inner name was.

Mahatma, in you India discovered India's heart-awakening bells. In India you discovered India's world-beckoning trumpets.

Mahatma, to you I bow and bow.

Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, today you have blessingfully bestowed upon me — my heart of aspiration and my life of dedication — the Gandhi Universal Harmony Award. Indeed, this is not an award; this is a supremely hallowed and divinely precious blessing. My gratitude-heart-tears and my gratitude-heart-smiles are receiving this compassion-flooded blessing-light from you, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan: India's unparalleled culture-mountain-summit and wisdom-ocean-depth to raise high, higher, highest the aspiring consciousness of truth-seeking and God-loving humanity.

Part II — Discourses

Mahatma Gandhi

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was 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 announces: "The votary of non-violence has to cultivate the capacity for sacrifice of the highest type in order to be free from fear. He recks not if he should lose his land, his wealth, his life. He who has not overcome all fear cannot practise non-violence to perfection."

Gandhi proclaims: "Satyagraha is a force that works silently and apparently slowly. In reality, there is no force in the world that is so direct or so swift in working."

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. His father's indifference to material wealth, his politically oriented brain and his 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 all loomed large in Gandhi's life.

He went to England to study law when he was nineteen years old. Three years later he returned to India and started practising. Alas, in those days, in his legal practice, he received the garland not 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 his life's ideals. Gandhi's life became the perfect expression of Tolstoy's inspiration. With a view to practicing 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:

"We shall feel happy and free like a bird even behind the prison walls. We shall never weary of jail-going. When the whole of India has learned this lesson, India shall be free. For, if the alien power turns the whole of India into a vast prison, it will not be able to imprison her soul."

His release from the last imprisonment was on 6 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:

"I do not want to be reborn, but if I have to be reborn I should be reborn an untouchable so that I may share their sorrows, sufferings, and the affronts levelled against them in order that I may endeavour to free myself and them from their miserable condition."

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 the truth."

The world, especially the Christian world, is afraid of the consequences of sin. A Christian is more concerned about his sin than is 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."

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 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. Then a brilliant idea flashed through their minds. They hid 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 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. Gandhi's Gurudev, Rabindranath 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?"

Tagore once remarked:

"I differ with Gandhi in many respects, but 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:

"In India there came a man in our own generation who inspired us to great endeavour, ever reminding us that thought and action should never be divorced from moral principle, that the true path of man is the path of truth and peace. Under his guidance we laboured for the freedom of our country, with ill will to none, and achieved that freedom. We called him reverently and affectionately the Father of our Nation. Yet he was too great for the circumscribed borders of any one country, and the message he gave may well help us in considering the wider problems of the world."

Four days later, on 17 October, while addressing Columbia University, Nehru again spoke about his mentor, guide and master:
"The great leader of my country, Mahatma Gandhi, under whose inspiration and sheltering care I grew up, always laid stress on moral values and warned us never to subordinate means to ends. We were not worthy of him and yet to the best of our ability we tried to follow his teaching. Even the limited extent to which we could follow his teaching yielded rich results."

Krishnalal Shridharani, the well-known author of My India, My America, has something amusing but striking to share with us:
"Once I was invited by a decidedly liberal minister to address a church group. After my speech on Gandhi and his non-violence, we withdrew to my host's office. He was full of praise for Gandhi's character as a man, his high ideals, his conduct, but he sincerely doubted that Gandhi could ever enter Heaven until the burden of the Hindu saint's sins was delegated to Christ. I answered that according to my way of thinking, Gandhi's life had been the nearest approximation of the 'Christ's life', and I also expressed some fear about the chances of the rest of us modern mortals if Gandhi were to be denied Heaven!"

Now let us hear from Gandhi what he has to say about his own salvation or about his going to Heaven:
"It was impossible for me to believe that I could go to Heaven or attain salvation only by becoming a Christian. When I frankly said this to some of the good Christian friends, they were shocked. But there was no help for it."

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. 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 he will remain so down the sweep of centuries.

Satyagraha: the zeal for truth

There are two words, satya and agraha. Satya is truth and agraha is one's eagerness to follow the principles of truth, one's zeal for the knowledge of truth. If one is enthusiastic and eager to follow the principles of truth, then it is satyagraha. Sometimes in India, factory workers will go on strike because they are displeased with their bosses, or some individuals who are disturbed by government policies will fast for several days in order to achieve their ends. Then they will say that they are following satyagraha.

There are two words in Mahatma Gandhi's life: ahimsa and satyagraha. People are always confusing these two terms, but they are not at all the same. Ahimsa is non-violence. We always care for ahimsa, because God is all love. Inside us there are many things that we have to fight against. We have to fight against ignorance, doubt, fear, worries and anxieties because these things are inwardly standing in our way. But the outer fight, from the spiritual point of view, should be avoided.

Again, it may be the Supreme's Will that we fight outwardly, as when the Lord Krishna asked Arjuna to fight in order to uproot ignorance. But fighting is necessary only on special occasions, when it is the specific Will of God. In general, there should be no violation of authority, because it destroys our inner poise. Here I am not taking sides in politics, or referring to any particular conflicts in different places. No, it is from the purely spiritual point of view that I am telling you this.

When we try to follow the man-made truth, we feel that we have to justify this truth with our reasoning mind. Somebody will say that his salary is not high enough; so according to his truth, he feels he should go on strike in order to get higher wages. In this way, he will stick to his own truth. But who knows whether his demand is justifiable or not? But in the spiritual life, when we speak of satyagraha, it has a different meaning. It refers to the spiritual truth. Here we think of the divine seeker who, with constant inner joy, is walking along the path of truth and devoting his whole life to truth.

In ordinary satyagraha, we try to get the truth by hook or by crook. Either we will keep on fasting, or we will go on strike, and in that way we try to get the thing done. But true satyagraha, from the spiritual point of view, is not like that. There we want to see the truth through surrender to the Will of God. The seeker wants to pursue the truth, but while pursuing the truth he feels the necessity of surrendering to the Will of God. He feels that it is the Will of God that is giving him the capacity to follow the path of truth, and it is the Will of God that will give him the capacity to see the truth.

In ordinary satyagraha, the individual lives twenty-four hours a day without truth, but to satisfy the demands of his physical, vital and mind, he wants to show the world that he is following the path of truth and offering light to the world. This is not at all spiritual. But in spiritual satyagraha, one sees the truth and cries to be the truth itself; one wants only to be the torch-bearer of truth. Then one sticks to the truth and offers his life to the truth. He does not cry to God for the fulfilment of his own desires. He surrenders and says to God, "If it is Your Will, then do this for me. If it is not Your Will, then do not do it for me. I want only to fulfil You."

So in the spiritual life, satyagraha means total devoted surrender to the Will of Truth, and this Truth is God. God's name is Truth. How can we get the Truth? It is not by force, not by coercion, but only by constant aspiration and constant surrender to the Will of Truth, to the Will of God.

Mahatma Gandhi: father of the Indian renaissance

Mahatma Gandhi's physical frame was very frail and weak, but his physical frame embodied inner light in abundant measure. His mental capacity was not on the same level with that of Nehru and others, but his soul's light guided India's fate and the leaders who were mental giants sat at his feet. Why? Just because he saw a higher light, a higher truth, which he wanted to express through his philosophy of ahimsa, or non-violence.

Ahimsa does not mean that one will not strike someone or fight with someone. Gandhi's non-violence was the vision of universal and transcendental Light in humanity. This is the vision that he had and embodied and wanted to reveal. That is why he became India's unparalleled and supreme leader.

A real leader is he who has inner light in boundless measure; it is he who represents the soul inside the physical, outside the physical and everywhere. He who wants to convey the message of the soul is the real leader.

Ahimsa: non-violence

What is non-violence? Heaven's soul-flower and earth's heart-fragrance.


Non-resistance is the supreme power that eventually conquers the disproportionate power of militarism.


The way patriotism is expressed in one country may be different from the way it is expressed in another country, but the essence always remains the same. The outer expression may not be the same, but the inner substance is identical.

India's main approach was ahimsa, non-violence. The father of our nation, Mahatma Gandhi, taught us non-violence. India thought that non-violence was the source-light. In silence, India fought against violence, and actually it was this source-light that brought about India's freedom.

Again, on the outer plane, millions of people sacrificed their precious lives for their country because their soul's light compelled them to.

In the outer life each country may approach patriotism in a different way, or patriotism itself may lead or guide patriots in a different way. But the essence of patriotism will always remain the same in the sense that one always has to depend and rely on the source, which is the soul of the country.


We have to have inner strength in order to start spreading peace. As Mahatma Gandhi said, it is one thing to strike someone; that is one kind of strength. Again, to bring forward inner strength and to refrain from striking someone is another kind of strength. It is one kind of strength to raise my hand and another kind of strength to keep my hand by my side. Strength comes not only in movement. Strength can also be found in remaining calm, quiet, silent. That is static strength.

9. God is Truth

Hinduism clings to the inner law of life which is the common heritage of mankind. So long as one is a Truth-seeker, it does not matter if one is a theist, an atheist or an agnostic. Each human soul has its own place in the Hindu ideal of spirituality. Significant are Gandhi's words: "Hinduism is a relentless pursuit after Truth. It is the religion of Truth. Truth is God. Denial of God we have known. Denial of Truth we have not known."

God is everything

To me, God is not only the most beautiful Golden Being or Spirit; to me, God is everything. Anything that is God's creation embodies God. Anything that can be seen in God's creation is of God and for God. Anything that you appreciate here on earth is not only an embodiment of God but God Himself.

When we think of God in Heaven, we have more faith in Him. But God is also here on earth — inside me, inside you, inside everyone. God can be above in any form, or formless, as infinite Light, infinite Peace, infinite Bliss. Again, He can be inside our hearts, where our real existence is. And if we open our eyes and look at nature, at the mountains and rivers, that also is God.

So no matter which way we appreciate the reality or want to identify ourselves with the reality, we have to feel that we are appreciating and identifying ourselves with Divinity; and this Divinity we call either God or Spirit or Being. If you don't want to call it God, you are at perfect liberty not to do so. But you have to call it happiness. Happiness itself is God. You can appreciate the beauty of nature and if you are happy, then the happiness that you are getting is God. In one word, if God has to be defined, then I wish to say God is happiness.

You can forget the word 'God' and say 'Truth'. One of India's great politicians and great saints, Mahatma Gandhi, said: "If you say 'God', immediately some people will object to the conception; but if you speak of 'Truth', everybody agrees with you." So if I speak of Truth, boundless Truth inside nature, then I am satisfied, because this Truth is giving me happiness. So anything that gives one happiness is God. It can be nature; it can be a personal being and also an impersonal being. God is everything.

Martin Luther King and Gandhi

Martin Luther King, beloved king of the heart-world, unhorizoned vision of the mind-world, hero-warrior of the vital-world, life-sacrificer of the body-world, to you my aspiration-dedication-life bows.

The Saviour-Son gave humanity the lesson of compassion and forgiveness. India's Mahatma Gandhi, with his message of non-violence, proved to be an excellent student. In America the Absolute Supreme chose you to be His unparalleled student, to love divinely the soul of His creation and to serve unreservedly the body of His creation.

We, the members of the United Nations Meditation Group, bow to you lovingly, devotedly and soulfully.

Sri Chinmoy

29 November 1977

12. Tagore and Gandhi

A memorable event: we all know that Tagore breathed his last on 7 August 1941. In that very year, on 6 May, his 80th birthday had been celebrated all over the world. On this occasion Mahatma Gandhi’s greeting ran:
"Four score is not enough. May you finish five! Love."

Tagore’s immediate reply was: “Thank you for your message, but four score is impertinence. Five score would be intolerable.”

13: A patriot-saint

"Mahatma" means "Great soul" and so he was. But from the strictly spiritual point of view, Mahatma Gandhi was not a yogi. He was a patriot, a political leader, a martyr. But he was not a self-realised soul like Sri Ramakrishna, Lord Buddha and others. You can say he was a religious saint. Self-realisation he did not have, but he had boundless love for humanity and his interpretation of God is unique. He said, "Truth is God. Denial of God we have known. Denial of Truth we have not known." For him, religion was nothing but Truth. He lived the life of a saint. God gave him boundless love and compassion. This was Mahatma Gandhi.


Mahatma Gandhi was a saint who expressed his love in a patriotic way. A saintly patriot need not be a great spiritual Master. According to the spiritual Masters, Mahatma Gandhi was not an authority on the inner life or the spiritual life; he was an authority on what was decent, proper and necessary in Indian social life and Indian politics. He was a very great man and a very great soul. His illumining vision was much higher and wider than that of his fellow men. He showed his heart's deepest compassion and oneness for the simple Indian villagers who were downtrodden and neglected. He offered his whole life to help raise the condition of the Indian masses.

I have a great admiration for his complete identification with the Indian people in our India's Independence movement.

Part III — Stories

Gandhi passes his own examination

Gandhi would never tell a lie. Once the inspector visited his school class and gave a few words of dictation. The third word was 'kettle'. Gandhi's friends were able to spell the word properly, but unfortunately Gandhi did not know how.

The inspector began going around to each and every student to check the papers. The teacher saw that Gandhi's spelling was wrong, so with his foot he touched Gandhi's leg to draw Gandhi's attention. With his eyes he was telling Gandhi to look at somebody else's paper. But Gandhi did not want to copy from anyone.

When the inspector came to Gandhi, he said, "Here I have found a mistake. This boy does not know how to spell 'kettle'. He has written it 'ketle'."

The inspector didn't get angry, but he was sad that one person did not know the answer. Finally the inspector left.

The teacher was very angry with Gandhi. "I told you to look at your friend's paper, but you didn't listen to me. You are a disgrace to my class."

Gandhi said, "I may be a disgrace, but I can't tell a lie and I can't say anything that is false."

Gandhi was sad that he had made a mistake and had not been able to please his teacher, but he was happy that he had at least pleased himself by being honest.

The teacher was silent.

Gandhi's matchless sincerity

A friend of Gandhi's once needed money and asked Gandhi if he could help him. Gandhi first said, "I have no money." Then he conceded, "All right, I will try my best."

Gandhi stole a piece of gold from his brother and sold it. He then gave the money to his friend. Afterwards, he felt miserable that he had stolen something.

He always used to tell his father everything. He did not keep any secrets from him. Although his father was very sick and bedridden, Gandhi wrote him a note, saying, "I stole a piece of gold and I feel very sad and miserable. Please forgive me."

As soon as his father read the note, he immediately got up from his bed. Gandhi was afraid he was going to strike him. But there were tears in his father's eyes. Then Gandhi thought that his father was very sad that his son had stolen something from his own brother. So he felt even more miserable. Finally, his father tore up the note and there were more tears in his eyes.

Gandhi assured his father, "Father, I will never steal anymore. This is my first and last time. Please do not cry."

His father was so moved that he cried and cried. "I am crying, son, not because you have stolen something but because of your sincerity. You are always so truthful. I have never seen anybody as sincere as you. I am crying because of your sincerity, not because you have committed a theft. I am so proud of your sincerity and honesty."

Gandhi and the goat's meat

When he was thirteen, Gandhi got married to a girl of the same age. The two were extremely fond of each other. When Gandhi was about eighteen, he wanted to go to Europe to continue his college studies. By that time, his father had died and his mother was in charge of his life. Gandhi's relatives also wanted Gandhi to go to Europe and they requested his mother to send her son. But she was very worried. She said, "No, no. If I send him to Europe, he will be ruined. Now he is so close to me. There he will start drinking, eating meat and mixing with women."

Gandhi promised his mother that he would not drink, eat meat or mix with women, and he did keep his promise. After getting his degree in law, he came home. On his return he found that his mother had died.

Gandhi had a Muslim friend who always tried to persuade him to eat meat. "No," Gandhi would answer him. "Hindus don't eat meat, especially my caste. My ancestors never ate meat."

But the friend insisted. "If you don't eat meat, you will remain weak. You have to eat meat if you want to be physically strong."

Gandhi very much wanted to be physically strong. "Are you sure it will make me strong?" he asked.

"Yes," replied his Muslim friend.

Since Gandhi was very weak, one evening he tried some goat's meat. That night Gandhi saw that the goat was crying inside his stomach. The goat was so miserable.

Gandhi cried, "I can't eat meat anymore! I have seen the goat crying inside me." And he gave up eating meat forever.

But he was fond of goat's milk, and he used to drink it. "One can take goat's milk," he used to say, "but not goat's meat."

Gandhi's tie

Gandhi was once working as a lawyer in South Africa. He wanted to be economical, since everything was very expensive there. Since the washermen used to charge very high amounts, Gandhi thought of washing his clothes himself. He read a few books about how to wash clothes properly, how to iron and so forth.

One day, while he was washing his clothes, he used too much starch on a particular tie. Then he did not press it properly. That day, when he went to court, his friends noticed something funny about his tie and began laughing.

"What is wrong with you?" they asked. "Why is starch falling from your tie?"

Gandhi said, "You are making fun of me. I am giving you joy. It is not an easy task to give people joy. Right now I am learning to wash clothes. I badly want to save money and washermen are charging very high prices. Soon I will become an expert, but now I am giving you joy, so I am very happy. It is a difficult thing to give others joy, but I am doing it. Therefore, I am proud of myself."

Gandhi's self-sufficiency

One day Gandhi went to an English barber to have his hair cut. But the barber said to him, "You black man, I won't cut your hair! Go away."

Gandhi was unhappy, but he was, as always, forgiving. So he said, "He is right. If he cuts my hair, who knows what will happen? We are all the time fighting against the British. They feel we are inferior people. Perhaps his boss will fire him if he cuts my hair. After all, our barbers will not cut the hair of someone of a low caste. According to the British, we are inferior. That's why the British barber is not cutting my hair. What can I do? I shall not go to another barber for more insults."

So Gandhi cut his own hair. He stood in front of a mirror and started with the front. The front came out well, but the back was not so good.

The next day, when Gandhi came to court, everybody laughed and laughed. "Why didn't you go to a barber?" they asked.

"One barber has already insulted me," Gandhi said. "He is absolutely right. Why should he cut my hair? All right, make fun of me. One day I will learn to cut hair and wash things also. I want to be self-sufficient. When I am self-sufficient, I will be really happy. I am sure you are happy now because you are making fun of me and I am happy that I can give you joy. But a day will come when you will be proud of me. I will learn how to cut hair by myself. I want to be self-sufficient in all ways. Today my incapacity is making you happy. Some day my capacity will make you happy."

You have proved to be my real wife

Gandhi was returning to India from South Africa. Many friends and many lawyers came to his farewell party to say goodbye to him and his family. The family received very expensive gifts and Gandhi's wife and sons were especially delighted.

Gandhi was always renouncing things, so he said, "Why are they giving me these things? They only bind me, and I want to be free. I really want to give away most of these things; I want to give away anything that I don't need."

The wife and sons said, "We do need some things. Please do not give away everything."

Then Gandhi saw that someone had given some very expensive and beautiful jewellery to his wife. "I can't keep this," he told her.

"This jewellery was given to me," she said, "not to you."

But Gandhi said, "It is because of me that they know you. Otherwise, they would not have given you this."

The wife said, "Why did I come into your life? There are so many people on earth, but it is I who was chosen to be your wife. This kind of argument will never end. I won't give up this jewellery."

The children took the side of their father. "Because of Father you got the jewellery. Now you have to give it up."

The wife became furious. "I won't give it away."

But Gandhi said, "Tomorrow I will take this expensive jewellery and sell it, and put the money in the bank. The money will be only for those who love their country and serve their country. They will take money from that bank and spend it to liberate their country, but not for anything else."

The children again took their father's side. "It is an excellent idea, Father! Let us do it!"

The wife said, "You fools! You are siding with your father, but I need this jewellery for you, for your wives. Your father gives away everything. What are you going to have for your own families?"

The children laughed and laughed. "We don't have to think of that right now. It is too early."

Finally Gandhi's wife said, "All right, I don't need it either. Since your father has renounced everything, I do not need this either."

Gandhi said, "At last you have proved to be my real wife."

Gandhi's ashram

After he left Africa and returned to India, Mahatma Gandhi opened up an ashram at the request of his close friends. The immediate members of his family and a few friends went to live in the ashram. There they led a very simple, pious life and they prayed and meditated.

The ashram was supported by rich merchants who used to come on many occasions. So the ashram was doing well, and everybody was happy that such a good ashram existed.

One day, Gandhi received a letter from a schoolteacher. "I will be so glad and grateful if you allow me to stay at your ashram with my wife and child. I will do anything you want me to do." At the end of the letter the teacher wrote, "Only one thing I hesitate to tell you, but I must be sincere with you. I am an untouchable."

When Gandhi read this, he buried his head in his hands. "O God, I love the untouchables, for they are God's children. But now my family will be furious. How can I allow this man at the ashram? On the other hand, how can I refuse him? He has written such a soulful letter. My heart breaks."

Gandhi spoke to the members of his family about the matter. They were so nice. "If you want to have this man here, definitely invite him to join us," they said.

Still Gandhi hesitated. "The merchants who support the ashram are very fanatic. They belong to society, and they will worry about what society will think of them." Then Gandhi said, "No, I will allow this teacher to work and live here at the ashram."

The untouchable came to the ashram. As soon as the merchants heard about this, they stopped giving money to Gandhi. They said, "You are ruining society. You come from a good family, a good caste. How can you do this kind of thing? We will not give you money in support of such an unthinkable thing."

Gandhi told them, "All right, do not give us money. But if somebody sincerely and soulfully wants to serve this ashram, I will allow him. Untouchables are God's children also."

Soon Gandhi ran into financial difficulty. One day, while walking along the street, he saw a merchant with a carriage. The merchant approached him and said, "I am a rich merchant who used to help support your ashram. Since you let an untouchable into your ashram, I have been unable to help you, because I am afraid of what my friends might say. My heart is one with you, but I have to live in society. You are above society, so you can welcome an untouchable into your community. But I want to give you money secretly. Please promise me that you will not tell anyone about this."

Gandhi promised him, "I won't tell a soul about this."

The merchant said, "Then tomorrow come here and I will give you a very large amount of money."

Gandhi believed the merchant and the following day he returned to the same place. The merchant did come and he gave him a very large amount of money. Gandhi did not even know the man's name, since many merchants had helped his ashram, and he did not know all of them personally. Gandhi asked him his name, but the merchant wouldn't tell him. "Please," the merchant said, "I can't give you my name. Yours is a noble cause and I fully agree with you. But I have to live in society, so this must remain a secret. You are doing the right thing; therefore, I am supporting your cause. But it is not necessary for you to know my name."

On that day, Gandhi's fate changed.

Tagore and Gandhi: both are right

Tagore and Gandhi are two immortals. They were extremely good friends and they had tremendous appreciation and admiration for each other. Tagore used to call Gandhi "Mahatma," which means great soul, and Gandhi used to call Tagore "Gurudev" — spiritual Teacher, Master of inner wisdom and light.

Once, in front of many people, they were having a simple discussion. Unfortunately, the discussion became very heated. Some people took Tagore's side, while others took Gandhi's side. A great artist named Nandalal Bose happened to be there, so people asked him which side he was on.

"We are taking sides," they said, "so you must take one side."

"I am sorry," the artist replied. "Please do not ask me to take sides."

Still, everyone wanted to hear his opinion. "You must be in agreement with either Gandhi or Tagore. We are curious to know what you are thinking," they said.

Again Nandalal Bose said, "I can't take any side."

"What do you mean?" they asked him. "Don't you have a mind of your own?"

Finally Nandalal Bose said, "I am an artist. If you ask me which colour I like most, I have to say that I feel that all colours are good; to me they are all excellent. Here, I have great admiration for these two, so for me both of them are right. I won't take either side. Both Tagore and Gandhi are right."

Gandhi Buri's supreme sacrifice

There was an extremely patriotic old lady who was 73 years old. She was the greatest admirer of Mahatma Gandhi; his very name used to give her a sea of inspiration. She wanted the British government to leave India, and she did many patriotic things that were extremely inspiring to the women of India. Because of this lady's deep admiration for Mahatma Gandhi, everyone used to call her "Gandhi Buri," "buri" meaning "old lady."

In 1942, Gandhi was arrested and all of India became furious. In many places people held processions, using the slogan "Quit India", which was Mahatma Gandhi's offering to his brothers and sisters of India. The day after Gandhi's arrest, Gandhi Buri was involved in a march to a police station. The people in the procession wanted to take down the British flag, the Union Jack, from over the police station and hoist up the Indian flag.

The police stood in the way and warned the protestors that if they came forward one more step, they would shoot.

All the marchers stopped except Gandhi Buri. She snatched India's flag from one of the young boys in the procession and ran towards the police station. The police first laughed at her. "Enough, enough! No more! Go away from here, old woman. We don't want to kill you," they shouted.

But Gandhi Buri cried, "Kill me, I am not afraid of you. I want to free my Mother India."

She ran towards the staircase that led to the top of the police station. Before she reached the stairs, the police shot her. With her right hand she was still holding the flag as she chanted a few times, "Bande Mataram, Bande Mataram, Bande Mataram" (Mother, I bow to Thee). Then she left the body.

This old lady of 73 years was so courageous that she gave her life for her beloved country. There were some young boys in the procession who were shouting and screaming things against the British, but when the time came for them to sacrifice their lives, they hesitated. But Gandhi Buri devotedly and proudly gave her life. From that day on, people who were in that procession became more inspired to dedicate their lives totally to the freedom of India.


Gandhi Award: On 28 October 1994, Sri Chinmoy and Coretta Scott King became the first two recipients of the Gandhi Award for their contributions to universal peace and harmony. The award was conferred by the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, India's foremost cultural institution.

Mahatma Gandhi: On 1 April 1969, 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.

The talk that he gave was subsequently printed in Mother India's Lighthouse.

Martin Luther King and Gandhi: Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King at the United Nations. The programme was attended by Mrs. Coretta Scott King.

Part III — Stories: Sri Chinmoy recounted the stories about Mahatma Gandhi in 1979.

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