Not satyagraha but his spiritual strength bowed the British
Book Review by U. Mahesh Prabhu
M.V. Kamath, Gandhi: A Spiritual Journey, Indus Source Books, 199 pp, Rs: 195.00
Gandhi was a unique personality, indeed. A ?half naked fakir? who fought the mighty British empire with army that was seldom equipped with any weapon, antique or sophisticated. His words inspired and continue to inspire millions. When he returned from his enlightened and successful tenure in South Africa, Gen. Smuts was noted to have said smugly, ?The saint has left our shores,? adding, ?I sincerely hope, forever.? What made a man with no arms, to make the mighty military General to be scared off?
In the aforesaid context, it?s indeed worthwhile to recall a charming story of the encounter between Gandhi and Gen. Smuts, from the book Gandhi: A Spiritual Journey. Gandhi told the Boer leader gently but firmly, ?I?ve come to tell you that I am going to fight against your government.? Somewhat taken aback, Smuts said, ?You mean to say you have come here to tell me that?? And before Gandhi could answer, he added, laughing, ?Is there anything more you want to say?? ?Yes,? said Gandhi, smilingly, ?I am going to win!? Smuts was astonished. Dumbstruck! ?Well? he said at last, ?and how are you going to do that?? Back came the instant answer, ?With your help!? Years later, Smuts was to admit, and not without humour, that that was exactly what Gandhi did. Analyzing the situation writes the author, M.V. Kamath, ?It was not non-violence but his spiritual approach that won him battles.? Isn?t that true?
But Gandhi?s spirituality was very distinct and unique, as Kamath points it out very well in the book. Gandhi followed no particular religion, yet he was God bound, he followed no particular method of prayer nor insisted in any, for him Truth was God and Prayer was the source of peace. Gandhi did not deny the existence of Rama and Krishna but he did not worship them. To him Rama and Krishna were incarnations of God, synonymous with perfection. On Krishna he said: ?He is not a hero, who once trod the earth and has now left it, having spoken to his favourite friend and disciple, but is everywhere and in every one of us, as ready to speak to us now as he ever was to anyone else. He is not a bygone personality but the undwelling spirit, an object for our spiritual consciousness.?
Yet another wonderful recollection in the book is when a Christian Missionary named Coates pursued Gandhi to embrace Christianity, with his arguments on the nature of sin and surety Jesus gave in providing redemption to the sinner, which was totally unaccepted to him. He said: ?I do not seek redemption from the consequences of my sin. I seek to be redeemed from sin itself, or rather from the very thought of sin. Until I have attained that end, I shall be content to be restless.? It was not Christian Missionaries alone who sought to convert Gandhi. Even his Muslim friends made attempts to convert him into Islam. Gandhi obtained books on the subject and even purchased a translation of the Koran and read it completely. But no religion could imbibe him completely. Yet he stayed throughout his life close to all.
Reading this, one is certain to confuse as to whether Gandhi, by chance, founded any religion? To this rightly points Kamath in Gandhi?s words which read, in the last chapter: ?There is no such thing as ?Gandhism? and I do not want to leave any sect after me. I do not claim to have originated any new principle or doctrine; I have simply tried in my own way to apply the eternal truths to our daily life and problems? The opinions I have formed and the conclusions I have arrived at are not final. I may change them tomorrow.?
Of the countless books published on Gandhi, I have gone through at least 34 books, however, if at all I have read any book on Gandhi from the first word till last, with great enthusiasm and dedication, after My Experiments with Truth it is this MVK?s latest creation. This is just for the dimension and angle upon which he has written it. ?Spirituality? is mostly a very boring topic to the youth, but I am sure even they are going to love it. Reason: Known as the man with words, he has wonderfully crafted this work and is certain to make its mark as the authentic work on the legend and why not? He is only one of those few living to have seen and spoken with Mahatma.
(Indus Source Books, P.O. 6194, Malabar Hill PO, Mumbai-400 006.)