Reflections on God
ANALYSIS, 28 Jun 2010
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).
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
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