“The manner in which the Gita has solved the problem is, to my knowledge, unique. The Gita says: ‘Do your allotted work but renounce its fruit – be detached and work – have no desire for reward and work.’ This is the unmistakable teaching of the Gita. He who gives up action falls. He who gives up only the reward rises. But renunciation of fruit in no way means indifference to the result. In regard to every action, one must know the result that is expected to follow, the means thereto, and the capacity for it. He, who, being thus equipped, is without desire for the result, and is yet wholly engrossed in the due fulfilment of the task before him, is said to have renounced the fruits of his action”. —MK Gandhi, The Gita according to Gandhi, by Mahadev Desai (Navajivan Publishing House, August 1946), pp. 123-31
The Ministry of Culture, Government of Bharat, on June 18, 2023, announced the conferring of the prestigious Gandhi Peace Prize on the Gita Press, Gorakhpur. This award is given to individuals or institutions for “outstanding contribution towards social, economic and political transformation through non-violent and other Gandhian methods”. There could not have been a more appropriate recipient of the award other than the institution celebrating a centenary year of low-cost publications for the common masses. Unfortunately, Congress, the main opposition party, chose to turn this into another political controversy. There are many reasons why Gita Press should be regarded as the true inheritor of the Gandhian legacy.
First of all, it is one of the few iconic institutions that came up during the freedom struggle as a social initiative. Gandhiji believed in the positive and constructive aspects of Satyagraha. Gita Press, Gorakhpur, which started operations in 1923, has been the largest publisher of Hindu religious texts. Since then, Gita Press has been true to its objective of promoting and spreading ‘the principles of Sanatana Dharma’ through its publications in fifteen languages at highly subsidised prices. The founding fathers, Jaydayal Goyandka and Ghanshyam Das Jalan, followed the Gandhian principle of trusteeship in letter and spirit and built an institution to give back to society. As per the advice of Gandhiji, the institution neither solicits donations nor accepts advertisements in its publications. The surplus from other departments of the organisation, which render services at a reasonable cost, supports the printing press. Under the able editorship of Hanuman Prasad Poddar, popularly known as Bhaiji, those values are also reflected in the content policy. No wonder Gita Press trustees humbly accepted the award but decided not to receive Rs one crore cash reward as part of the Gandhi Peace Prize as per the institution’s policy. Isn’t it in line with the true Gandhian ideals?
Bhagavad-Gita and its teachings are the most significant connecting factor between Gandhiji and the Gita Press. Gita Press embarked on the mission to spread the message of Bhagavad-Gita to the masses, in multiple languages, at an affordable cost. When Gandhiji said, “Gita is not only my Bible or my Koran, it is my mother…my ETERNAL MOTHER”, he also articulated a similar mission for him. Bhagavad-Gita is an eternal and universal text not meant to be read in old age. If introduced at an early age, one can opt for the right path of Karma-yoga, Bhakti-Yoga, Jnana-Yoga etc., as per the temperament. Both Gandhiji and Gita Press seem to agree on this.
Unfortunately, after appropriating ‘Gandhi’ surname, the Congress leadership completely drifted away from the essential Gandhian teachings. Congress under the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty has turned Gandhi’s Anasakti Yoga (philosophy of detachment) into lustful Asakti (attachment) for power by the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. Hence, the role of institutions like the Gita Press is tough to comprehend for them. Misappropriation of the Prime Minister’s residence as Nehru’s Memorial, imposition of an Emergency to save the Prime Ministership of Ms Indira Gandhi, institutionalising corruption to amass wealth and alignment with the external forces to target our democracy are all symptoms of the same syndrome. The mindless attack on the Gita Press, the unique brand of Bharat that connects individuals with the Sanatana Dharma, irrespective of language and region, is another sign of ideological bankruptcy in the Congress party. The Congress leadership perhaps should get hold of some books published by Gita Press and read them to reconnect with Gandhiji.